Berserk (manga)


Berserk (manga)

Infobox animanga/Header
name = Berserk


caption = Cover of "Berserk", Volume 1
ja_name = ベルセルク
ja_name_trans = Beruseruku
genre = Action, Horror, Low Fantasy
Infobox animanga/Manga
title =
author = Kentarō Miura (三浦 建太郎)
publisher = flagicon|Japan Hakusensha
publisher_en = flagicon|United States Dark Horse Comics
publisher_other = flagicon|France Samourai Editions Glénat
flagicon|Italy Planet Manga
flagicon|Spain Mangaline
flagicon|South Korea Daiwon
flagicon|Germany Planet Manga
flagicon|Taiwan Tong Li Comics
flagicon|Brazil Panini Comics
flagicon|Thailand Vibulkij Comics
flagicon|Hungary Delta Vision
demographic = Seinen
magazine = Young Animal (Hakusensha)
first = 1989
last = ongoing
volumes = 32
Infobox animanga/Anime
title =
director = Naohito Takahashi
studio = OLM
network = flagicon|Japan Nippon Television, Animax
network_other = flagicon|Italy Italia 1
flagicon|Sweden ZTV
first = October 7, 1997
last = March 31, 1998
episodes = 25
episode_list = List of Berserk episodes
Infobox animanga/Other
title = Video games
content =
* ""
* "Berserk Millennium Falcon Hen Seima Senki no Shō"
Infobox animanga/Other
title = Collectible card game
content =
* "Berserk Trading Card Game"

nihongo|"Berserk"|ベルセルク|Beruseruku is a long-running dark fantasy manga by "mangaka" Kentarō Miura.

"Berserk"'s setting is inspired by medieval Europe. It centers around the life of Guts, an orphaned mercenary warrior, and Griffith, the leader of a mercenary band called the nihongo|Band of the Hawk|鷹の団|Taka no Dan. As he ages, Guts changes from a solitary boy to a man who realizes the value of camaraderie. The story contains elements of both fantasy and horror, as it explores both the best and worst of human nature. Both the manga and anime are noted for their heavy violence.

Plot

Golden Age Arc

Guts was born from a corpse hanging from a tree. He was saved from starvation by Shizu, a female who accompanied a mercenary leader named Gambino. When Guts was age 3, Shizu died from the plague, leaving Gambino to care for Guts. As Guts aged, Gambino taught Guts swordplay. He began to earn his keep by fighting alongside Gambino, although Gambino kept most of Guts' pay. When Gambino was crippled during a skirmish, Guts became the family's sole provider. Gambino allowed another mercenary to rape Guts for money. Guts later killed that mercenary during a skirmish, but he forgave Gambino for his part in what had happened. However, one night when Gambino was drunk, he attacked Guts due to his belief that Guts should have died instead of Shizu. Guts was able to fend Gambino off, and he accidentally killed Gambino by slashing him across the throat. Other mercenaries overheard them, and not understanding what happened, they chased Guts from the camp. Guts was shot by an arrow and fell down a ravine, and the others gave him up for dead. When Guts awoke, he was attacked by wolves, but he was able to defend himself with his sword.

For the next few years, Guts wandered from mercenary band to mercenary band, earning his keep. When a call was made for soldiers to fight a fearsome mercenary named Bazuso with a reputation for killing thirty men, only the young Guts answered the challenge. Guts cracked Bazuso's axe with his sword, and when each went for a killing blow, Bazuso's axe shattered. Bazuso cried for mercy, but Guts gave none. Guts was offered a position by the noble that gave him his reward, but he refused the offer. Looking on was the leader of the Band of the Hawk, Griffith.

As Guts left the scene of the fight, he was attacked by the men of a greedy commander named Corkus, who was an associate of Griffith. He killed one man and wounded a second, and Griffith responded by ordering Caska, his top commander, to fight Guts. Guts had the female warrior on the brink of defeat, when Griffith himself intervened. Unlike the others, Griffith defeated Guts with the swiftness of his blade. Guts fell unconscious for a few days, and when he awoke, Griffith challenged him to a fight. Griffith insisted that if he won, Guts would have to join the Band of the Hawk and serve under his command. The Hawks' leader won the fight by pinning Guts' arm behind the back.

Guts served the next few years under Griffith as the commander of a raider unit. Griffith's exploits helped the king of Midland gain territory from the kingdom of Chudor. In one battle, Guts found himself face to face with a demon (an Apostle) named Nosferatu Zodd. Zodd proved to be too much for Guts, and Griffith came to his rescue. Zodd managed to defeat both of them, but stopped when he saw that Griffith wore the Crimson Behelit, the Egg of the Emperor. He declaimed that he understood the situation, and laughed. He prophesied that when Griffith's ambition crumbled, Guts would meet a death that he would not be able to escape.

Griffith was awarded with knighthood by the king. Jealousy arose among others in the court, and the king's brother Julius sought to kill Griffith. A minister named Foss conceived of a plot to kill Griffith during a hunt, by launching a "stray" arrow at him. Griffith had taken an interest in the king's daughter Princess Charlotte, and her horse took fright and charged off. Griffith chased after her and calmed her horse down. Julius' archer took advantage of the situation to launch a poison arrow at Griffith. Griffith was saved from certain death because the arrow hit the behelit instead of his heart. Griffith spotted Julius in the woods, and deduced after an investigation that Julius was behind the plot. He sent Guts to assassinate Julius. Guts accomplished the deed, but was forced to kill Julius' young son Adonis as well to prevent the discovery of who was behind the murder. Guts managed to escape into a drain.

The king ordered Griffith to take the castle of Doldrey. Caska fought with an arrogant commander named Adon but was hampered by a fever. Guts had to come to her rescue, and he defeated Adon. Caska began to fall over the cliff, but Guts caught her. Adon took advantage of the moment to pull out a crossbow and shoot Guts, causing both Caska and Guts to fall over the cliff and into the river. Guts dragged Caska into a cave to get her time to recover. After she woke up, she told Guts the story of how she and Griffith met, that Griffith gave her a sword so that she could fight off the advances of a noble. After Guts and Caska left the cave, a search party of a hundred men led by Adon found them. Guts and Caska began to fight them, but he convinced Caska to leave in search of Griffith. Caska was followed by several men herself and was almost overcome before being saved by a search party of Griffith's led by the knife throwing commander Judeau. Caska and Judeau hurried back to rescue Guts, only to find that he had killed all one hundred men. Adon, however, had escaped in the confusion.

Griffith, reunited with his commanders, plotted to capture the fortress. He sent half of his soldiers to fight the numerous forces of General Boscogn, and the other half, with Caska in charge, to take the castle. Guts dueled with Boscogn and was nearly killed when his sword broke. However, Zodd was nearby watching the battle and threw his sword down to Guts. With Zodd's sword, Guts defeated the general. Caska had hoped to have an easy conquest with Boscogn's forces otherwise engaged, but Adon had been sent to the castle for the shame of his earlier defeat, and his forces stood in opposition to Caska's. Caska defeated Adon in a duel, and she managed to achieve her mission. With the fortress in hand, Griffith loudly announced victory. With their general killed, Boscogn's forces dispersed in confusion. Griffith then dispatched the army's financier Governor Gennon.

The king awarded Griffith the position of general. The queen had become angry at Griffith because of his conspiracy against her secret lover Julius and his advances toward her stepdaughter Charlotte. Thus, she too plotted with Foss to kill Griffith. However, Griffith had become suspicious of Foss and had the minister's daughter kidnapped. He used his leverage to force Foss to help Griffith turn the tables on the queen. When the queen plotted to poison Griffith's wine, Griffith replaced the poison with a substitute that made him only appear dead. When she assumed that Griffith was safely dispatched, she became overconfident and met with her advisers in a room well above the ground. Foss made an excuse to leave and bolted the door behind him. Only after did the queen realize that the building was on fire. After the queen's death, Griffith had Foss' daughter returned and declared that there would be no more enmity between them.

Guts had grown tired of fighting for Griffith and decided to set out on his own. Griffith declared that Guts could only leave if he defeated the Hawks' leader in a duel. Griffith resolved to take out Guts with one strike, but Guts shattered Griffith's sword. Guts spent most of the next year with the blacksmith Godo and his daughter Erica. He entered a tournament and fought against a strange Bakiraka warrior named Silat. He defeated Silat, only to discover that the prize was to lead an attack on a renegade band led by none other than Caska.

Meanwhile, Griffith became distraught after losing to Guts and sought an encounter with Charlotte. He broke into Charlotte's room and had sex with her. A maid spotted them and reported the act to the king (who was in love with his daughter). When the king's forces came to arrest Griffith, he could not fight his way free because he no longer possessed his sword, since it had been broken by Guts. The king had Griffith taken to his dungeon and had him tortured. He ordered a surprise attack on the Band of the Hawk, which was saved in part only by the resourcefulness of Caska. A year later, as Caska plotted Griffith's rescue, the remaining Band came under attack by a force led by Silat. Silat dueled with Caska, and as she was about to be killed, Guts reappeared. Guts defeated Silat, and the Band was once again victorious. Caska asked Guts to take control of the Band, and tried to throw herself over a cliff, but Guts saved her. They declared their love for each other, and made love.

Caska, Guts, Judeau, and strongman Pippin formed a team that went on a mission to rescue Griffith. They were joined by Charlotte, who had information about Griffith's location. When they found Griffith, they discovered that his body had been broken beyond any hope of healing. The torturer locked them in Griffith's cell, but Guts smashed the door with his sword and killed the torturer. They fought their way free, but were pursued by a group of Bakiraka the king sent after them. One of them aimed a poison dart at Griffith, but Charlotte blocked it with her body and was poisoned in his place. The last remaining Bakiraka assassin took the unconscious girl back to the king, who promptly put the female assassin to death due to her group's failure to complete its mission to kill Griffith and to rescue Charlotte unharmed.

The king sent a band led by a soldier named Wyald after the escaping Griffith next. Unknown to the king was the fact that Wyald, like Zodd, was an Apostle. Guts dueled with Wyald, and wounded him. Wyald grabbed Griffith and questioned why they would fight so hard to save a broken man. Zodd appeared and declared that he would not allow Wyald to kill Griffith. Wyald asked Zodd why he would want to stop him, since the only command to the Apostles was "Do as you will." Zodd pointed out that the command applied to both of them, and then he killed Wyald and left.

A group of wounded Hawks including the boy engineer Rickert was waiting separately for the healthier Hawks to bring back Griffith. When Rickert was sent to get water, he spotted an elven shape in the sky. He returned to the camp to find it under attack by Apostles, including the humongous Count and the elven Apostle Rosine. Rickert ran for his life, and he was saved by a fortuitous encounter with a strange figure known as the Skull Knight, who prevented the Count and Rosine from killing Rickert. Afterwards, Rickert met up with a group of nomads. The elf Puck was also there, and he gave Rickert a bag of medicine.

Griffith oversaw an intimate moment between Guts and Caska, and became jealous. He was confronted by an image of a healthy Griffith, who informed him that the path to power was still open, and that he could still reach the figurative castle. Griffith commandeered the reins of a carriage, and proceeded down a hill. Guts, Caska, and a group of Hawks gave chase. When Griffith reached the bottom, he laughed maniacally, and then impaled his neck upon a pointed rock. His blood touched the behelit, and it began to rearrange into a face. Guts ran down the hill to Griffith, who mentally urged Guts not to touch him. When Guts laid his hand on Griffith's shoulder, the behelit began to scream, and the world changed around them.

Apostles began to appear all around them, and the four faces of the God Hand appeared: Slan, Conrad, Ubik, and Void. Conrad raised an earthy altar high into the air, which carried Griffith to the top and Guts part of the way up. Once there the Hand of God informed Griffith of the meaning of their presence, they told him in order to become a God he should sacrifice all of his men. Griffith was at first reluctant to do it but he was manipulated by visions created by Ubik about all the people who have died because of his dream and how the only way to honor them was to continue trying to fulfill his dream. After that Void urged Griffith to agree to sacrifice his comrades to get his wish, to become emperor of the world. At that moment, Guts reached the top of the altar. Griffith cursed Guts, and declared the swordsman to blame for derailing his dream. He then agreed to Void's demand.

All of the present Hawks were then marked with the Brand of Sacrifice. The Apostles swarmed all around them, and killed them all but Guts and Caska. Griffith was cocooned and he learned that a very powerful entity created of the collective feelings of the humans has been manipulating the fate of mankind and that this entity created Griffith himself through the manipulation of fate during many generations. Griffith then was told by this entity that he is free to choose what to do and what to become; after hearing this Griffith replied "I Want Wings" and he was granted a new body with raven black wings, Godlike powers, and immortality, and he was given a new name, Femto. Caska was brought to Femto for his pleasure, while Guts was pinned down and forced to watch. While Femto raped Caska, her mind was broken and she was left in a vegetative state, no longer able to speak. Guts lost an eye and a hand trying to reach her, but to no avail. Slan reveled at the maelstrom of evil.

Zodd had been left to guard the gateway to hell. The Skull Knight cast him aside, and opened a gateway. He attacked Void, rescued Guts and Caska, took them on his horse, and escaped through the gateway. He brought them to Rickert, who had medicine from the elf Puck, and he commanded the boy to heal them. Rickert brought Guts and Caska to Godo's cave.

Black Swordsman/Conviction Arcs

When Guts awoke, he found that Casca's mind had been destroyed. Her ordeal caused her child to be born with deformity merely four days after the incident as Guts had been unconscious. Enraged at what the Apostles had done to his companions, Guts sought to kill them all, and he particularly wanted revenge on the newest member of the God Hand, Femto. He left Caska with Godo, Erica, and Rickert, and set out to search for them a month later, killing an apostle who'd followed the scent of the brand to their mine. He hunted down a number of Apostles including the Baron, the Count, and Rosine. He acquired the elf Puck as a companion while inquiring about the Baron, eventually letting him use his satchel as a "nest." When the Count used his Behelit to summon the God Hand, Guts shot Femto with his cannon, but Griffith's godlike form seemed unharmed.

Meanwhile, a group called the Holy Iron Chain Knights set out to solve the mystery of what had happened that had caused all the problems in the world. They followed a trail of blood that appeared to point to a man known as "The Black Swordsman". They caught up to Guts during his fight with Rosine. Guts initially escaped when Jill's father shot him in the torso with a bowgun, but they found him once again. Guts was captured when their leader Farnese stabbed Guts with her sword as a piece of wood struck the arrow embedded onto his leg, effectively knocking the injured Guts out from his battle with Rosine, resulting in a heavy wound to the arm that later opened even after Puck's treatment. Farnese had him brought to her tent and interrogated him. Guts told her a little of the truth, doubting that she would believe it, and she did not, whipping him madly and then having him locked in a cage outside.

That night, Guts escaped from his confinement due to Puck's help of getting the keys. He knocked Farnese unconscious and kidnapped and used her as leverage to escape. During his flight, Guts was attacked by some of the creatures that continually plagued him since he got the Brand. Farnese got an inkling that Guts may have been telling the truth, but her faith made it impossible for her to really believe, effectively rendering her unable to detect Puck's presence. Farnese's half-brother Serpico arrived on the scene to rescue her after she'd been posessed by one of the spirits who were left from Guts' massacre after one of them overshadowed a horse and attempted to rape Farnese, and Guts gave her up to him after Serpico wounded Guts slightly to the cheek as payment for the kidnapping and to appease Farnese's bloodlust.

Puck led Guts to an area blessed by elves, and as Guts slept, Caska's child gave him visions warning him of danger to her. He rushed back to Godo's cave in a panic, only to discover that she had wandered off while she was with Erica a month ago. Guts described some of his visions, and they decided that she was probably at Albion. Guts, after having his dragonslayer renewed and his armor changed to a set that Godo had for when he came back, left with Puck for Albion determined to find Caska with a new bowgun and set of miniature bombs that would prove to be useful.

Midland was in turmoil due to a plague unleashed by Conrad. The king died, and Charlotte became queen.

Caska was taken in at Albion by a group of prostitutes led by a woman named Luca. When Guts and Puck arrived, they met a boy thief named Isidro who was determined to help Guts so that the swordsman would teach Isidro "secret techniques." When a prostitute named Nina took her boyfriend Joachim to a goat-worshiping cult, she was followed by Luca and Caska. Joachim had second thoughts about the cult and ran. When Caska was spotted by a cult member who attempted to rape her, her child briefly appeared to save her. This event convinced the cult that Caska had magical powers, and they began to worship her. Luca took advantage of the situation to lead Caska and Nina away.

Guts discovered that Luca knew about Caska, and the prostitute leader agreed to take him to Caska. However, Caska had been taken by Nina back to the cult. Their goat-head leader decided to mate with Caska and sacrifice Nina. Isidro and Puck found them, and Isidro threw rocks at the cult members from above while Puck dashed off to get Guts. Joachim helped Farnese to find the cult, and she ordered the arrest of all the cult members. Guts arrived to stop the Goat-leader from raping Caska after he'd been posessed and altered to a pseudo-apostle, and he ordered Isidro to lead Caska away while he fought the goat leader and killed him with the help of the bombs Rickert gave him prior to setting out. When Guts tried to catch up with Isidro, he was delayed by an ambush by Serpico. Isidro was forced to lower Caska and Nina down a ravine with ropes, and before he could follow them down, Farnese's forces arrested both Caska and Nina.

Farnese took the two women to the leader of Albion, the priest Mozgus, and she told him that the Black Swordsman had tried to rescue Caska. Mozgus placed Caska in a iron maiden, and when it touched her skin, monsters were summoned, killing all who did not or could not flee. Guts, Puck, Isidro, and Luca went to the tower to find Caska. Luca attempted to buy their way in, but Guts impatiently rushed ahead. While Luca rescued Nina, Guts located Farnese and demanded that she tell him what had happened. Farnese, still in disbelief, told him what she knew, and she followed him after he rushed off. Puck located Caska, but he could not stop the monsters from carrying her away. He went to Guts and reported that despite the carnage, Caska was unharmed.

The monsters delivered Caska into the waiting arms of Mozgus, who resolved to burn the "witch" Caska at the stake. Guts fought Mozgus and his torturers, while Isidro used a rope to rescue Caska. Luca fell down a ravine and met a strange hermit in the shape of a behelit, who had been promised that he would be the vessel of a new world. The hermit appeared to have been behind much of what had happened, helping the goat leader and Mozgus with his powers, altering them into pseudo-apostles to combat Guts. He took Caska's child and disappeared. The frenzy of desire for Caska's death summoned a plague of evil monsters, and most of the denizens of Albion were killed. The ceremony enabled Griffith to be reincarnated with a new body in his old form, that of a white haired man with elven features and an aura that bedazzled those all around, and he was flown away from Albion by Zodd.

Hawk of the Millennium Empire Arc

Guts, Puck, and Caska returned to Godo's cave. Godo had died in the interim, and Rickert, Godo's apprentice, had taken over as blacksmith. Griffith found them, and offered Guts and Rickert a position in a new Band of the Hawk. Guts angrily rejected the offer and attacked Griffith, but Zodd now served as Griffith's protector, and he fought with Guts until Griffith decided to leave. In the ensuing fight, Godo's cave was destroyed. Rickert in anger asked Guts what really happened to the Hawks. Guts told him the full story. Rickert wanted to join, but Guts declined, telling Rickert not to follow in his path and to protect Erica. Rickert and Erica both left to live their lives together.

Puck proposed that Guts take Caska to Puck's kingdom, Elfhelm, in the hope that the king would be able to heal Caska's mind. After they left, Puck encountered Isidro, who had agreed to tote Farnese and Serpico's baggage but had stolen it instead. When Farnese saw Guts, with her faith shattered by the events at Albion, she swore to follow him, in order to learn what Guts understood about the world that she did not.

The newly formed party entered a strange wood. With Guts and Serpico elsewhere, Isidro was attacked by a group of trolls. Unable to fend them off by himself, he was rescued by a mysterious young witch named Schierke, who was accompanied by the elf Evarella.

Traveling further into the forest the party was attacked by a group of golems. While the golems were seemingly invincible at first, the party began to destroy them once a flaw was found in their design. Schierke's mistress Flora ordered the attack stopped, and Guts and his party were invited into her home. An old man also arrived and asked Flora for help saving his village from a plague of trolls. Flora made a deal with Guts that if his party helped the town, she would provide a means to nullify the power of Guts and Caska's Brands. She ordered Schierke to accompany Guts on this mission. She gave artifacts of power to each member of the party, but Guts refused to take the axe she gave him, saying that he needed to stick with the sword Godo made for him.

When the party arrived, they gathered the townspeople into a church. Guts and Serpico fought off the monsters while Schierke erected a magical barrier from the top of the church. This task completed, she then called upon a water spirit to wash away the monsters. Farnese was so impressed with Schierke's display that she asked and received permission from Schierke to become her student in witchcraft. Caska fell off the church, and when Farnese attempted to catch her, she too was pulled into the water.

With Serpico injured, Guts, Isidro, Schierke, and the elves went to find Caska and Farnese. They tracked them to a cave that seemed to be a base for the trolls. While Schierke and Isidro fought with the trolls to save Caska and Farnese, Guts went further into the base and found that Slan was there. Slan destroyed Guts' armor, and he was unable to escape her tentacles until the Skull Knight arrived to help. The cave was collapsing, but the Knight provided a way out with his behelit-sword.

The town saved, the party returned to Flora's wood. Only, when they arrived, Flora was under attack by Griffith's Apostle minions, including Zodd. The Skull Knight held off Zodd while Guts' party took on the rest of the Apostles. Guts was in trouble without his armor, and Flora commanded Schierke to take him into her home and give him the Berserker's Armor. This armor greatly aided Guts, and they were able to fend off Griffith's minions, but Flora was killed. Schierke decided to leave her home and accompany Guts on his quest.

Griffith began making plans to defeat the Kushan Empire, led by the Apostle Ganishka, who refused to follow Griffith. Ganishka had kidnapped Charlotte, and Griffith mounted an all out attack with the sole purpose of rescuing her. Griffith and Zodd broke into Charlotte's bedchamber, and Zodd flew them all away. With Griffith's objective achieved, he ordered a retreat. Charlotte made Griffith Midland's top general, and placed him in charge of all of Midland's forces.

Guts and his party arrived at the city of Vritannis. Farnese believed that she could procure a ship for Guts, and she went to her family for help. Her brother Manifico arranged for her to marry a man named Roderick who could provide them a ship. The deal was struck, but Guts became concerned when Farnese did not return to his group. He sent Puck and Evarella to investigate. They discovered that Farnese had become trapped in an arranged marriage, and Guts decided to go to try to talk her out of it. However, Serpico challenged Guts to a sword fight because he wanted Guts to stop interfering in Farnese's affairs. Guts defeated Serpico but spared his life. Roderick agreed to captain a ship for Guts, and he and Manifico agreed to accompany the party on the voyage to Elfhelm.

An attack by Ganishka's forces provided a complication, and Guts and his group had to fight their way through monsters to get to the ship. Ganishka himself appeared in the sky, and Guts and Zodd had to work together to drive him away.

With Guts safely on his way to Elfhelm, Griffith launched his final attack against Ganishka. Ganishka has taken increasingly risky steps to get the power he hopes will defeat Griffith. The outcome of the battle is currently unknown.

Characters

All subsequent names should be taken from the Dark Horse Comics translation when the relevant volumes are available.
*
Guts is the protagonist of the story: a tall, muscular man with a huge sword called the Dragon Slayer, and a prosthetic left forearm that has a magnetic grip and also conceals a cannon & repeater crossbow. Guts is a byronic hero: he is born as one who may be able to struggle against Causality, but is seemingly unable to affect it on a large scale. The Golden Age story arc of the series revolves around Guts' turbulent childhood and adolescence in a mercenary band after reluctantly being adopted by the band's leader Gambino at the behest of Gambino's lover, Shizu, and his subsequent joining with, and departure from, the Band of the Hawk. The dynamic relationship between Guts and Griffith, the leader of this group, forms the primary focus of the manga for the first thirteen volumes. After the events of the Eclipse, in which he loses his left forearm and right eye, Guts seeks revenge on Griffith. Upon doing so, he is subsequently reunited with Casca after a one year separation to attempt to have his own dream realized. After the Incarnation Ceremony at Albion, Guts now travels with a new group of companions. He currently possesses the Berserker's Armor, an ancient, cursed suit of armor that allows the wearer to overcome his physical and mental boundaries in combat greatly increasing his fighting strength. Doing so damages his body, however, and allows his inner beast, a feral, dog-like demon, to take over and endanger everyone in the vicinity, friend or foe.
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Griffith is the founder and leader of the mercenary army Band of the Hawk. Extraordinarily charismatic and handsome, his tactical skill gave him and his army the reputation of invincibility, and the favored choice of the Midland King, who was locked in a century-old war with the Empire of Tudor. Griffith was willing to sacrifice everything for the dream of his own kingdom, believing that he is destined for things greater than the average man. After he won the war for Midland, Griffith engaged and lost to Guts in a duel which stipulated that Guts remain in his service should he lose and freed if he wins. This loss results in Guts' desertion from 'The Hawks'. Stunned and filled with betrayal, Griffith sought comfort in a one-night stand with the king's daughter, and sole heir to the throne, Princess Charlotte. The affair was discovered, after which Griffith was imprisoned and tortured for a year. He was rescued by Guts along with the primary members of 'The Hawks', but was already physically crippled with the tendons in his wrists and ankles cut, and mentally broken. Despairing the loss of his dream at Guts' influence, he was driven to a state of madness that coincided with both the reappearance of his lost Behelit, and a solar eclipse. The God Hand appeared, and he sacrificed the Band of the Hawk to them to become the fifth and final God Hand: Femto. Only Casca, Guts and Rickert, who was outside the Occultation, survived, all having been rescued by the Skull Knight. Two years later, Griffith was reincarnated as a human in the city of Albion, where he now leads a newly formed Band of the Hawk, still in pursuit of his dream to obtain a kingdom, only now he has sanction from 'God'. He is considered the antagonist of the series.
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Casca was the only female soldier in the original Band of the Hawk and is behind only Guts and Griffith in swordsmanship. She is also notable for having a dark skin tone, which is rare among the principle cast. Her ambivalent relationship to both Guts and Griffith makes her moody and capricious. Casca joins the Band of the Hawk after Griffith saves her from a sexual assault by a nobleman. After Griffith is imprisoned, she becomes the leader of the Band of the Hawk and, along with Guts, leads the mission to rescue Griffith. The trauma of the Eclipse, especially her rape at Femto's hands, has cost Casca her memory. In addition to being Guts' lover, she also gave birth to a child, which had become tainted by Femto's rape. During her travel with Guts, the strain of watching over her in her state and fighting against evil spirits for nights on end drove a possessed Guts to succumb to his inner beast and nearly rape her. Due to this, she now detests Guts and has found comfort in the only adult female traveling with them: Farnese. Casca travels with them completely oblivious to her surroundings, with Guts and company keeping close watch over her. Casca's well being is the driving force for Guts to keep himself from reverting back to a revenge-obsessed wanderer. It has been revealed outside the city of Vritanis that her mental state may be cured at their final destination, Elfhelm, by King Hanafubuku.

Behelit

A Behelit is a small, oval object resembling an egg, with a set of human facial features scattered randomly across its surface, giving the thing a rather disconcerting appearance. In fact, reference is often made in the story to the fact that the Behelit looks to be a living thing, and it emits a certain aura of unspecified dread. On occasion, it seems as though one of the Behelit's eyes opens and stares at the examiner, though this is usually quickly disregarded as merely an illusion.

In the anime series, only two Behelits are expressly shown, but one is more significant: It is the crimson Behelit owned by Griffith, leader of the Band of the Hawk. It is also called the Egg of the Conqueror or Egg of the King, and was given to Griffith when he was a child by an old fortune teller. It is believed that any one possessing this Behelit is destined to someday rule the world, and as this is very much in line with Griffith's ambition, he continues to hold on to it. It comes with the price of offering one's flesh and blood (and/or the flesh and blood of others) for their dream.

The origin of the word comes from the Syriac word "Beherit", a Great Duke of Hell — the r turning into an l is an often-made mistake in localization.

Purpose

The Behelit is actually a key used by mankind to summon the God Hand, a group of immensely powerful, god-like demons, themselves the servants of a dark God that governs the "Berserk" universe. A Behelit is not truly found or kept by someone, rather it finds its way to the one fated to possess it through the manipulation of causality, and tempts the person with the opportunity to be free of their pitiful situation and have their innermost desire realized.

The Behelit Griffith found reached him, for it was his fate to become a new member of the God Hand. In this regard, his Behelit was also unique, for it was meant to be used by the one new mortal to transcend and become a member of the God Hand. The other Behelits seen in "Berserk" are minor compared to Griffith's: meant to transform the one who possessed it at the right time into Apostles. Apostles, which are humans who have offered their most precious possessions in exchange to escape their horrendous fate, can transform into hideous creatures (a bizarre manifestation of their ego) and bow down to the God Hand, though there are a few exceptions in the manga.

The Dream and The Sacrifice

In all cases, the ritual involved with the creation of a new Apostle or a new addition to the God Hand, happen under the same circumstances. The mortal possessing the Behelit must feel an intense desire to be free of their ill-stricken situation prompted by the manipulation of causality that created this scenario. This in turn "awakens" the Behelit (either by being nearby or through blood contact), the human features rearrange themselves into a face: the eyes open and bleed, and the mouth opens to scream. The God Hand hears and comes, opening a rift to their dimension and invites the mortal into their fold; tempting him or her with supernatural power and to be rid of their dire circumstance in return for a sacrifice.

In order to properly complete the ceremony, the mortal must agree to sacrifice something (or someone) infinitely precious to him or her. Only in such a case, the members of God Hand explain, will a high enough price be paid for a mortal to receive the chance to having their dream realized. Generally, the sacrifice will be family, friends, loved ones, or loyal followers. Normally, the one possessing the Behelit wouldn't sacrifice his or her loved ones, but will when the Behelit is in the bearer's hand at the right time. That usually happens when the person is under such emotional distress, he or she will give up anything to escape it. The sacrifice will then be devoured by the denizens of hell while the one who summoned the God Hand is reborn as an Apostle with a monstrous new form and abilities to match. Amazingly enough, some apostles are able to maintain at least one remnant of their former humanity despite their transformation such as the Count who refused to sacrifice his daughter in exchange for the God Hand restoring his former demonic power.

The Brand of Sacrifice

Those marked for sacrifice are branded with the God Hand's Brand of Sacrifice, a laceration marked into their skin, which bleeds and hurts the victim when in the presence of a demon or demigod. As part of the ceremony, the God Hand calls forth innumerable Apostles to feast upon the sacrificial offering. None are meant to survive the ritual, but any that do are forever branded, and wherever they may go, they will never know true peace, as, when night falls, local spirits attempt to overwhelm and reclaim the branded as of their own.

Themes

Camaraderie

At the chronological beginning of the story, Guts is a lonesome and solitary figure who is afraid to work together with anyone due to his rocky relationship with his foster father, Gambino. Only when compelled by Griffith does he begin to realize the value of comrades. Ironically, the lesson seems to have been lost on Griffith himself. Griffith is faced with the same dilemma as Oskar Schindler, choosing between sacrificing his dream and the people who had helped him try to achieve it. Unlike Schindler, Griffith chooses to make his dream paramount. Betrayed, Guts leaves his remaining companions Caska and Rickert with Godo, choosing yet again to be a loner. Only the tenacity of Puck, an inspiration by Farnese, and the planning of Flora remind Guts that a person is better off with a few loyal companions.

Humanism

At Albion, Guts demonstrates his belief in the tenets of humanism. Faced with unspeakable horrors and not knowing to whom to turn, the people of Albion rely on faith, prayer, and human sacrifice, hoping that they will be saved by divine intervention. Guts, however, trusts only in his sword, and he would much rather rely on himself than hope for a miracle. The situation the author sets up with Caska being tied up for a sacrificial burning also seems to suggest that the wishful thinking associated with ritual sacrifice is both futile and immoral.

Historical references

Guts(1480–1562) Götz von Berlichingen, a German knight, was the leader of a band of mercenary soldiers and had a reputation as a Robin Hood figure. In 1504, his right arm was struck by an enemy cannon fire, and a prosthetic iron arm was developed to replace it. Guts' iron arm in his original character concept is very similar to Götz's iron arm kept in the Nürnberg Museum.

Miura stated in an interview that he created Guts independently and that he did not find out about von Berlichingen until after several volumes of the manga had been published.

Emperor GaisericThe Emperor Gaiseric alluded to in volume 10 was based on the actual King Gaiseric who ruled the Vandals' kingdom in Europe in the 5th century. He was famed as a brilliant general who even had the Roman Empire worried about his might. In the manga, Gaiseric is said to have created a vast empire similar to the Romans that was destroyed by God's wrath. He banded together his small tribe and brought them great fame as a kingdom that exercised its authority in the Mediterranean region.

It is hinted that Emperor Gaiseric has somehow survived his fallen empire in the form of The Skull Knight, a recurring character who aids Guts and stands in opposition to the God Hand.

Emperor GanishkaThe Emperor Ganishka working as Griffith's enemy in "Berserk" was based on King Kanishka, who ruled over the actual Kushan Empire, a vast empire in India and Central Asia during the 2nd century. He was also a profound Buddhist and adorned his empire with its respective figures and promoted it vigorously. Like his real-life counterpart, Ganishka also decorates his palace with famous Buddhist and Hindu figures, but has demonized them to suit his nature.

Media

Manga

Miura first premiered "Berserk" in 1988 with a 48-page prototype, which won a prize at the Comi Manga School where he was enrolled at the time. On 26 November 1990, the first volume of the manga was published by Hakusensha in its Jets Comics collection. Three more volumes appeared until "Berserk" was serialized by Young Animal (Hakusensha) in 1992, and new episodes are still being released in the biweekly (every second and fourth Friday of the month) magazine. Volumes are still published biannually in Japan by Hakusensha (Jets Comics collection), and contain 8–11 episodes depending on the release. As of November 2007, 32 "tankōbon" of the manga have been published in Japan.

In America, the manga is translated and published by Dark Horse Comics, which has released 23 volumes so far, the first in October 22, 2003. As with other Dark Horse manga releases like "Hellsing" or "Trigun Maximum", the Japanese reading format from right to left is preserved in the English release and the sound effects are left untranslated in the earlier releases, but are translated in later books starting from volume 12.

In Europe, the manga was introduced back in 1996, first in France (Samourai Editions), then in Italy (Panini Comics, under its Marvel Manga – later Planet Manga – imprint) a few months later. The manga has also been translated and released in Germany (Panini Comics/Planet Manga) and in Spain (MangaLine Ediciones) since 2001. In France, after Samourai Editions' bankruptcy, the comic series is now published by both Dynamic Visions (since 2002) and Glénat (since 2004), the latter edition being a larger format. A two-books-in-one "Max" edition (400+ pages) is also published in Germany and Italy since 2006 (Panini Comics). In the Netherlands, Glénat has been translating and publishing the manga since 2008.

Among the other markets that Berserk has been available in include South Korea, where it has been published by Dai Won since 1999, and Brazil, where Panini Comics has published the series in a demi-sized (120 pages) edition in Brazil (2005).

Anime

Produced by OLM, the 25-episode anime adaptation nihongo|"Kenpū Denki Berserk"|剣風伝奇ベルセルク|Kenpū Denki Beruseruku first aired in a post-midnight slot from October 7, 1997 to April, 1998.

It covers the first thirteen volumes of the manga including the first two arcs (Black Swordsman & Golden Age). It chronicles how Guts served Griffith in the Band of the Hawk (Golden Age Arc). The TV adaptation made many changes and although the story was taken largely intact, some characters, and the most violent or brutal scenes, were modified or removed. The anime covers volumes 5 through 8 of the manga most accurately, other volumes were changed, and some material, such as volume 11, was removed completely due to the graphic depictions of content that would only build upon themes that were to be continued after the storyline in the anime had concluded. Another example of omitted content is the battle against the count in volumes 1–3, where Guts and Femto are reunited for the first time since the eclipse. These changes were approved by the series creator Kentarō Miura. Due to the elimination of key characters in the manga, the anime focuses on developing and emphasizing themes of friendship and ambition more so than causality and the supernatural.

Release

In America, the anime series has been dubbed/subtitled and published by Media Blasters in 2002. Both dubbed and subtitled versions were released in VHS for only the first 3 volumes. The English and Japanese soundtracks were included in the DVD release that was made available as six volumes and as a "TV series season one complete collection" standard (slim) box set. By the time of the series' launch, a volume one "War Cry" was bundled with an empty "Box of War" 6-disc case as a special edition. In 2003, the "Box of War" containing all volumes was released as a collector box set. While fans have suggested that Cartoon Network air the series, one of a series of Adult Swim "bumps" claimed that censorship requirements would butcher it.

In Europe, the series has been published as seven subtitled single DVD in France (Manga Distribution) and six single disc in Germany (Panini Video) both from 2003 to 2004. With its dubbed soundtrack added to the original Japanese one in its 6-DVD Berserk "Radical Edition", Spain (Jono Media, 2003) is the only European country to not release a subtitled edition. Italy is another exception with being the only country to have broadcasted the TV series (via "Italia Uno" public channel) under the same conditions as it was done in Japan, with uncensored episodes aired at night (2001). The 24th episode "The Sacrifice" (aka "The Great Eclipse") was aired only at a later hour (as usual habit in the Italia 1 management policy for late night shows), so many Berserk fans missed it and assumed it wasn't aired due to its gore content. The entire series was released in 2002 as a dubbed 13-VHS and 5-DVD editions (Yamato Video).

In Asia, Vap Video has released thirteen VHS and twelve VCD including two episodes each (a single one in the last VHS and three in the last VCD) from 1998 to 1999 in Japan. The seven discs "DVD-BOX", using Audio-CD cases, was released in Japan in 2001 (Vap Video). In the same country, the seven volumes were later re-released, this time in individual DVD regular cases, in 2003 (Vap Video). Abroad, the anime series has been subtitled and published as a 6-DVD box set standard edition and a 7-DVD collector box set in Korea (Mania Entertainment) in 2004. In Thailand, thirteen Thai dubbed VCD volumes including two episodes each, later re-released as three VCD boxsets ("Prosperity:I", "Declination:II" & "Disaster:III"), were published by Tiga in 2004. A Thai dubbed/subtitled complete series "War Box" 8-disc DVD boxes et, including a collector beherit necklace, was released by the same company in 2005. A Traditional Chinese subtitled 5-DVD box set was released in Taiwan in 2005 (Catalyst Logic).

In Oceania, the American dubbed/subtitled DVD version was converted to PAL standard and released in 2003 as six single volumes and, in 2004, as a 6-disc collector "Box of War" in both Australia and New Zealand (Madman Entertainment). The same year, the "Box of War" case, which is graphically different than the American version, was also sold separately in these countries.

Music

Susumu Hirasawa composed the anime's soundtrack. All tracks are instrumental except the last three. The music genre is rather eclectic with various instruments such as piano, violin, harp, flute, classic guitar, electric guitar, drums, harpsichord or synthesizer.

Theme songs

;Opening theme
* "Tell Me Why", by Penpals

;Ending theme
* "Waiting So Long", by Silver Fins

Video Games

The "Berserk" games are not explicitly linked with each other, but are both set within the continuity of the manga series, more specifically its "Millennium Falcon" arc, which begins in volume 22.

Despite taking place during the "Millennium Falcon" arc, the first game was actually released during the publishing of the previous arc, giving Japanese players a taste of the things to come. In America, it was released two years before the TV series DVD (2002), and even before the comic book series' own introduction (2003). As a consequence, its original title was altered overseas.

The second game is roughly based on volumes 22 up to 27. It was released a few weeks before the publishing of the fifth American volume (Golden Age Arc). Set a while later within the manga's storyline and introducing new characters and intrigues not even mentioned in the TV series, the game was not released in America.

Game soundtrack CDs composed by the TV series' very same Susumu Hirasawa were sold in the Japanese market, and a "Berserk Millennium Falcon Hen Wasurebana no Shō Visual & Story File" game artbook was published by Hakusensha under the supervision of Kentarō Miura.
*1999-12-16:
**ASCII (Dreamcast NTSC/J) JPN
*2000-03-15:
**ASCII/Eidos (Dreamcast NTSC U/C) USA
*2001-05-19:
**ASCII/Eidos (Dreamcast PAL E) EUR
*2004-10-07: Berserk Millennium Falcon Hen Seima Senki no Shō
**Sammy (PlayStation2 NTSC/J) JPN

Merchandise

In addition to video games and game guidebooks, "Berserk" has spurred on a range of different merchandise from lighters to keyrings to kubrick sets (6 cm Lego alike). Statues and action figures are produced by Art of War. The original soundtrack of the anime series and video games by Susumu Hirasawa are available on CD. A [http://www.konami.jp/th/card/berserk/ Berserk trading card game] released by Konami is available in Japan.

Reception

External links

* [http://www.art-of-war.co.jp/english/index.php Official Merchandiser of Berserk related products. (Art of War)]
* [http://www.younganimal.com/berserk/ Berserk's Official Website (Young Animal)]
* [http://www.berserkchronicles.com/englishpage.php BerserkChronicles.com] Very detailed site full of information and essays. Languages: English and Italian
* [http://berserkrealm.altervista.org/english/home.php Berserk Realm] Language: English and Italian.
*imdb title|id=0318871|title=Berserk
* [http://skullknight.net/final.html SkullKnight.NET Berserk Encyclopedia]
* [http://www.theblackswordsman.com/ The BlackSwordsman] Berserk Fansite Community


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