It’s finally happened: Berserk has officially turned the corner and is winning over more fans of the manga with each passing week. The last two episodes have been some of the most action-packed, with meaningful development among the core characters and some steady progress in developing the larger story. Let’s take a look at what we’ve missed, shall we?
Following Schierke’s impressive summoning spell that constructs a large shield around the church, more trolls emerge, as well as a new threat: an ogre. The ogre is smart enough to figure out that the shield only protects against beings from the astral realm, and so it hurls large chunks of debris towards the church to try and disrupt Schierke and kill the humans inside. While Schierke prepares her next spell, Guts steps up to challenge the ogre, surprising everyone except the viewer – who definitely knew it was coming.
Guts fares incredibly well against the monster, impressing the shocked villagers, as well as his comrades. Just as he’s about to go in for round two, another threat shows up.
The green horse-looking thing is a “Kelpie”, which can manipulate water and is rumored to drown travelers who trespass on their territory. Of course, since Berserk can’t do anything unless it’s a worst-case scenario, the fact that it’s raining makes the Kelpie far more dangerous.
At this point Serpico decides that Guts shouldn’t be left to have all the fun, and engages in combat with the Kelpie – a battle of wind vs water!
After struggling against the Kelpie, Serpico discovers some alternative uses for the wind spirits and lands a mortal blow with his sword – unfortunately, he’s also distracted during the attack and leaves himself open to a counter from the Kelpie, leaving him worse for the wear. Just as both Guts and Serpico seem to be up against the wall with their respective foes, Schierke’s latest invocation completes, and she reminds everyone just how much of a badass she is.
Channeling the greater water spirit of the local river, Schierke summons a torrential wave to cleanse the town of the trolls, ogre, and the kelpie. The monsters are washed away. Good news! However, in the midst of the chaos Casca and Farnese are swept away as well. Bad news!
Schierke eventually pulls back from the depths of her spiritual invocation, distraught that her overuse of power caused Casca and Farnese to be lost in the flood. Despite her mistake, Guts thanks her for her hard work and recognizes her ability. Schierke offers the villagers some tips on how to respect the river spirit, and even gets the local reverend to commit to constructing a shrine to worship the river.
Guts and the others quickly pivot to find Casca and Farnese as soon as possible. Unfortunately, Serpico needs to stay back and recover, so Schierke, Isidoro and Guts leave the town, hot on Casca and Farnese’s trail. Good thing too…because they’re being hauled off by a group of trolls!
Things get a bit…freaky in the latest episode of Berserk. After following Casca and Farnese’s magical energy into the trolls hideout, Guts, Schierke and Isidoro discover that the captured women from Enoch village have been brought here and used as sexual slaves for the trolls to produce more deformed offspring. Unfortunately for the women, giving birth to these creatures kills them as they burst from their stomachs like an ill-tempered Alien. The place where these horrific events are happening is known as “Qliphoth”, as Schierke explains:
Confronted with the traumatic sight of women being violated and birthing hideous beasts, Farnese still haplessly defends Casca to the best of her ability until Guts and the others arrive to secure their escape. The women that are left, as well as the children who had been stolen away, all eagerly follow Schierke and the others once they realize that freedom is near.
Guts, on the other hand, has some work to do.
As always, Berserk really shines when Guts is allowed to tear into nasty demons with reckless abandon. I particularly appreciated his brief reference to his 100-man slaughter from the Golden Age arc…which remains one of my favorite anime scenes of all time.
Isidoro also gets a chance to shine (finally!) as he acts as the rear guard for the retreating villagers. With a sack full of Guts’ mini grenades, he does well battling back the demon hordes, and even takes a stand against the boss-troll near the end of the episode. Slowly, but surely, he’s making himself more useful to the group.
As Guts fights the army of trolls, things take a turn for the terrible when a member of the God Hand arrives. Slan, the “Whore Princess of the Uterine Sea”, emerges in a physical form made up of troll intestines, and proceeds to taunt Guts about piercing her with his big, thick sword.
Completely outmatched, things look bad for Guts until the Skull Knight arrives and encourages Guts to fight back. There’s something special about his blade, after all – having been coated with the blood and spiritual energy of thousands of fiends so far, it is now uniquely suited to battle evil. Seeing this distinction, Guts makes a brutal attack on Slan, impaling her on his, erm…thick sword.
Though not defeated (it takes way more than that to defeat a member of the God Hand), Slan retreats away from the mortal realm as the dark womb of Qliphoth disintegrates. The villagers are led back to safety, and Guts reflects on the value that his new comrades have in his life – revealing a sensitive side of the black swordsman that we hardly get to see.
Berserk is getting really good. Seriously. It’s beginning to make some serious progress into the larger story, which is definitely exciting after a relatively slow first season in comparison. This season has kept the action and plot moving steadily, while also making some important strides in character development. We’ve had the chance to take a peek into each of the key characters backstories, if just for half an episode, while also witnessing the gradual coagulation of these haphazard heroes into a cohesive group.
In addition, the animation is really hitting its stride now as well. While the early episodes were certainly a jarring example of mediocre 3D animation and cel-shading, they’ve definitely made some adjustments to the aesthetics, resulting in a well-balanced series that accurately reflects the weight and darkness of the manga.
As usual, I look forward to the next episode with bated breath!