As I’ve talked about before, I’m a huge fan of ultraviolent dark fantasy tale Berserk. Needless to say, I am enjoying the new series. However, there is one thing I wish would have been put into the anime: Guts’ encounter with a monstrous fairy.
[Note: This article contains spoilers from chapter 110 to 133 of the Berserk manga]
In the new season of Berserk, we jump directly from the aftermath of the Eclipse (the end of the first series/movies) to two years after when Guts encounters holy knight Farnese for the first time.
In the anime, Farnese and her men are able to capture Guts thanks to a battle the night before. In the manga, however, Guts is coming straight out of a massive, volumes-long adventure, one that makes his apparently easy capture all the more understandable.
But that arc is far more than a simple excuse for why Guts is captured. It actually sets the tone of the story and world for dozens of volumes to come.
The story begins as Guts rescues a young girl, Jill, in the forest as she is attacked first by bandits and later by the demons that hunt Guts from dusk till dawn. Upon taking her home, the villagers react in fear to the sight of Guts’ (unwanted) fairy companion Puck–going so far as to attack the Black Swordsman as they rant about the the “elves” that kill their livestock and kidnap their children.
After hiding away in an abandoned mill for the night, Guts returns to the town to find it under attack by the so-called “elves.” But unlike Puck, these “elves” have a decidedly insect-like appearance–and razor-sharp teeth.
Of course, Guts being Guts, he lays about the “elves,” eventually trapping the swarm in a barn and setting it ablaze. It’s there that the shocking truth is revealed. In death the “elves” revert to their original form: that of the missing children.
Of all the messed up moments in Berserk, Guts standing among the charred corpses of dozens of children, dead by his own hand, is by far the most disturbing.
It is also a character-defining moment for him. In the two years since the Eclipse, Guts has become a harder person than before. He only finds joy in the moments when he is lost in the slaughter of the evil demons he encounters throughout the world. Yet, despite this–and the knowledge that there had been no way to turn the children back regardless–he questions himself and his mission. This in turn shows that Guts is still human underneath and that all his harsh words to Jill are simply his attempts to get her to return to her normal, safe life. But that doesn’t mean he won’t eliminate all the fairies–and their queen.
Soon after the massacre, Jill is taken away by the “Queen of the Fairies,” her old friend Rosine, who has traded her parents lives in a dark pact for her new form. Rosine then offers for Jill to join her as an “elf.”
In this section of the story, we learn more about the darkness of the world–not the supernatural darkness that Guts fights against, but the darkness found in everyday life. Jill herself has grown up in an abusive household with a veteran father who misses the respect he was afforded during the war and takes out his inadequacies on his wife. Moreover, his best friend has at least attempted to rape Jill (hence why she ran away in the first place). Rosine’s life before her transformation was little different, with beatings by her father.
Rosine’s “elf” kingdom seem a paradise in comparison. Fruit all but falls off the trees year round and the “elves” play happily. It is only when Jill sees the “elves” “play war”–slaughtering each other for real–that she sees how far her friend has fallen. Whether by upbringing or transformation, Rosine is a monster. She has a child’s grasp of morality (i.e., what hurts me is bad and what I choose to do is good) along with a child’s understanding of death (i.e., none).
Of course, it is about that time that Guts reappears to finish off the transformed children and their queen in a battle of blood and fire. When the scene is done, it’s obvious why Farnese and her knights hunt Guts so doggedly–and why they are able to capture him at all.
With all that this arc teaches us about Guts, the world, people in general, and monsters he now faces on a nightly basis, it’s a shame it didn’t get a place in the anime adaptation. Especially as it sets the high bar for how messed up Berserk is prepared to go.