The sights and sounds of the world of Berserk can be downright cruel, rotten, and disturbing. If you think you can barely stomach some of the blood and gore, it must be even more difficult then for some of its characters who are less battle-hardened than protagonist Guts.
This is particularly evident in the 2016’s Berserk, with gruesome visions like monstrous horses and a berserker priest running rampant. Some might say the CG artwork is a disquieting sight all on its own, but that’s a story for another day.
This 12-episode season introduces us to Lady Farnese de Vandimion, a member of the Holy Iron Chain Knights. A young, pale woman with blond pigtails, she’s a proud and righteous soul who’s long lived a life of worship and piousness…or so it seems when you first meet her. When she joins Guts’ troupe of followers, that changes very quickly, because it has to.
As a child, Farnese never really received the kind of attention most receive from their mother and father, and instead learned horrible truths about herself during her youth that would end up forcing her to question everything she’s ever known. In fact, her upbringing and lack of real empathy for those around her due to a lack of parenting sent her down the path of searching for and burning “witches” at the stake.
However, after meeting up with Guts and having been introduced to the horrors that surround him on a daily basis by way of God Hand and the terrible brand Guts finds himself carrying, she’s forced to accept a whole new reality beyond the sheltered one she’s lived in since childhood.
In this, Farnese can be seen as a substitute for the viewer, a surrogate through which the audience can experience the bizarre happenings and unsettling occurrences that happen right before her very eyes. One day after another, her faith is shaken to its very foundation–something the audience experiences as creator Kentaro Miura weaves such a wicked tale that viewers must suspend nearly all belief to become entrenched within his dark fantasy world.
Farnese can hardly believe that a demonic horse spirit could rise to defile her or make advances toward her until she sees it with her own eyes. She can’t possibly accept that a man could grow to enormous size and eat another man whole until it happens in front of her. Even after taking it all in, it’s difficult for her to process, much like the viewer, who likely jerked away from the screen to look at something much more pleasant as both of those things threatened to occur (or actually happened) onscreen.
That’s why Lady Farnese is such an important addition to the cast of 2016’s Berserk, as well as an integral part of Guts’ traveling party going forward. She lends a sense of empathy (ironically enough since she seemes to have always lacked hers) to a series that often goes unchecked by those living within its bounds. While personally I’m unbothered by gore and disturbing visuals (bring them on!) Farnese’s constant reaffirmation of her own morals and what she knows to be true and righteous and good about life offers a brand new perspective for the franchise.
And while I’m not particularly a Farnese fan, having her around is deeply impactful, even if you don’t realize it just yet. If you haven’t read all the manga, stick around for next season and you’ll see what I mean.
Berserk (2016) can be viewed with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.