Updated: Aug 4
Guts and Griffith are the two lead characters of the ongoing Manga (Japanese comics) – “Berserk”, written and illustrated by Kentaro Miura.
The manga’s backdrop is inspired with elements from European dark ages and folklore (with bits from Hindu Mythology). It contains very basic elements of fantasy such as dragons, elves, demons; but the creator has very smartly focused all the background upon relationship shared among humans and God. The illustrator has shown beautifully the confusion and conspiring events arising from questioning god's existence. But never fully answers, whether the almighty exists or not.
The whole manga is filled with gruesome yet jaw-dropping elements of fantasy. it contains a lot more than heroism and destiny. A whole lot of alive and interesting characters. Yet, the whole focus of the readers are concerned with two characters in the whole manga.
1. The white hawk - Griffith
In the Manga, Griffith starts as the leader of a a mercenary group (band of the hawk). Being a commoner, he aims to be king one day. To become a king, he fights lots of battles alongside his comrades (including Guts). Fights for the nobles who hired them. He bleeds along with his comrades, for glory and justice.
He is praised by common folks for participating and bringing an end to the 100 years war. The character starts as with a very basic human aura of charisma, later his aura gulps in a little bit of mysticism and inhuman bliss.
I am not going to cover the whole story. But, there are incidents after the war, which leads to his downfall. He goes very weak; from a charming leader to a frail prisoner.
Before I spill the beans, let us look at his present condition.
He is the king of a very prosperous kingdom - 'Falconia'. Has a massive loyal army. He fought off the demon king ‘Ganishka’ and saved the common people from his wrath. He protects people in danger and offers refugees a home to live in. And most importantly, he has brought control over the Apostles (demons) and leads an army where human kind and Apostles fight side-by-side.
People consider him a true Hero.
He is the epitome of societal heroism.
“What is societal heroism?”
Let me speak simple. When you work for the welfare of society, and then people recognize your efforts and results carried forward by it. Then you are declared a hero. Hero who stands for a social cause; praised and liked by everyone.
But, there is foreshadowing (plus a plot twist) in “Berserk” that I haven’t discussed yet. Before that big reveal, let us look at the main lead.
2. Black Swordsman – Guts
A regular berserker, who started his life in a mercenary camp. He lived a life as a mercenary from a very young age. Kills his alleged father. Follows a path of incidents that leads him to take allegiance under Griffith, and becomes a member of the band of the hawk.
Fighting battles alongside Griffith, he becomes his most trusted ally. He gets himself a lover named, ‘Casca’. Whom he protects from a 100 soldiers, while fighting them all alone and surviving.
Guts had been following Griffith’s cause and orders. He believed in him and his destiny of ruling over a kingdom.
During a conversation in the manga, Guts overhears Griffith saying that – “A friend would not just follow another’s dream… a friend would find his own reason to live.”
He feels devastated and goes through a mild existential crisis. Then he decides to tread on his own destined path.
As soon as the war ends, he parts ways with the band of the hawk. He leaves on a journey to find his destiny. Which leaves Griffith in a state of loss, depression.
Let’s look at his present condition.
Guts, has lost an arm, an eye, his taste and is slowly turning color blind. He has lost his comrades of band of the hawk. He wields a massive sword, a supernatural armor (berserk armor). He is branded by death, which means…he is always in trouble with apostles, demons, pisachas, ghosts…
Incidents occur accordingly and he finds himself in turmoil and distress, time and again. He ends up fighting alongside people who antagonized him once. The people get scared by his appearance and the way he acts. His seclusion is a formidable choice, but he knows that he is destined to bring trouble along with him.
Each night is horror and a duel with death, yet he never gives up on his life. He destines to kill all apostles and end the ‘god hand.’ He has faced the loss of loved ones before, so he keeps his company to minimum to avoid losing people to his cause.
His fights lead him to be recognized. And his cause drives him to fight.
He is an epitome of a causal heroism.
What is ‘causal heroism’ ?
It’s very simple. When you are driven by your cause/destiny, you might get into some severe difficult conditions. Overcoming them and becoming stronger, and resume fighting against the growing severity; that makes you a causal hero.
You only get recognized when you display your feats to gain conformation from the society. In case of Guts, he likes being lowkey.
The manga narrows down on a plot line i.e, “Existence of God”. The world created in manga is driven by “Causality”, everyone’s life is pre written and everything will fall into the place where it has to fit. But who has made this “Causality”?
We, as readers believe it to be an entity present in their world – “God”, most possibly. But Kentaro Miura never appreciated the simplicity that weighs around with the existence of god. He simply excelled in creating the plot and added a cult of god like beings, called ‘the god hand’; they basically rule the world by changing the tracks of causality.
As a reader, causality pushed Griffith from being leader of a mercenary to become a noblemen, then a count, then being branded as a traitor and being imprisoned. Then it was his cause, that made him sacrificed all his comrades to the god hand. Where all the Apostles, tore each of them to limbs and ate them.
Griffith evolved into a demon called ‘Femto’; and along with all the apostles, they rape Gut’s lover ‘Casca’ in front of Guts.
Guts survives and escapes. All being a part of a cause.
Presently, Griffith poses as a pious god like king of Falconia. People praise him for bringing peace and prosperity to them. They are astonished by the apostles fighting alongside them. Without knowing the reasons behind his charisma, strength and his true form.
Guts, on the other hand knows Griffith’s true form, the god hand and has seen Apostles at their best. His cause for vengeance against Griffith has made him berserk. Pushing him to go on a killing spree.
Yet, he’s not all good of a guy.
Griffith is a villain. But Guts is not a hero either. He can be pursued as an anti-hero. Since, the white hawk is a hero through the perspective of a commoner living under his rule, anyone pursuing against him has to be defined as an anti-hero.
“Homelander” from The Boys, is a perfect example of societal heroism. He shares a great similarity with how Griffith behaves. While “Billy the Butcher” from The Boys can be pursued as another example of causal hero.
Kenturo Miura presents us with an amazing story which challenges readers, as a human, to question our approach towards heroism. With these two strong leads in his Manga, he simply goes around and says, “God is dead, Conscience is dead. Everything is wrong, yet everything is rightfully at its place.”
Safety & Peace
- Nikhil Ranjan
I rarely read books. And when I do. It’s either Chekhov’s short stories or a good Manga.
I recently read “Attack On Titan”. Such a bad mess. I will cover that, only if the creators give it a good climax.
Recently, I had watched Berserk. Never heard of this anime from any of my friends. They generally go around recommending anime, mostly Jojo and Death Note. But they never mentioned this dope tank created by Kentaro.
It’s depressing in its run, oddly I find it very interesting. Even with a very basic and predictable setting, it kept me engaged through its run.
It’s all Guts, he’s the main show runner.
If there’s anyone who can beat Batman off my favorite list, that’s Guts. It was like the hero every kid wished to be. Massive in size, a sound mind, a huge sword, an enigmatic personality…overall Badass.
It's not only his appearance that makes him badass, but the way he treats his fear and depression. He simply looks depression in the eyes, and says "Fuck Off".
To catch more manga related content, check our post on Bakuman.