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A life as a martyr to his dream

Episode 10 of Berserk is amongst the finest episodes of anime I’ve ever seen. From the moment Guts kills the boy Adonis, we’re forced to re-evaluate the righteousness of Griffith’s conquest and whether it’s worth its price in blood.

“But there is one other thing more precious to a man beyond all else. Something one pursues for one’s own sake and not for that of any other. A dream. Some dream of ruling the world, dedicating their entire life to forging the perfect sword. While some can be pursued alone, some are like storms, blowing apart hundreds or thousands of other dreams as they go.” –Griffith

There’s a split second of doubt that flashes across Guts’ face just as Adonis enters the room. He’s assassinated Julius, Adonis’ father, in his own house. Adonis enters the room and sees Guts’ face, therefore, he has no choice. It’s kill or be killed, and with hardly a moment’s hesitation, Guts drives his sword through the boy’s heart and watches him die, holding his hand.

Until now, the many conquests of the Band of the Hawk had been fought on the battlefield, and there’s a certain honesty to the combat there that’s lacking in this dirty work. Griffith compares his dream to a storm, “blowing apart hundreds or thousands of other dreams as they go.” The boy was just another sacrifice for the sake of that, another stone in the road towards ultimate glory.

“They are my able soldiers. They are important comrades who devote themselves to my dream. However, they are not necessarily my friends. In my eyes, a true friend is someone who never clings to another’s dream. Someone independent who can find his own reason to live and follow that path without guidance. And if anyone tries to crush his dream, protect it heart and soul. Even if that person happened to be me. For me, a true friend is someone whom I consider my equal.” –Griffith

This is the defining moment of Berserk. Guts overhears Griffith’s speech on true friendship and, ultimately, resolves to become more than just a sword; to become Griffith’s friend. Fresh from murdering Julius and Adonis, he needed reassurance from his friend, but owing to his shoddy appearance, Guts is unable to approach him. Instead, he listens to Griffith talking to Princess Charlotte.

It’s a moment that Griffith will come to regret. Truly, I believe he sees Guts as a friend. His closest friend, even, but shaken by having to kill a such a young boy and his father in their home, Guts has grown uneasy with his place in the world. For what reason does he exist? What’s his dream? He feels so far below Griffith at this point that few options remain. The conclusion is obvious: to grow, he must leave the Hawks.

“A dream can fortify a man’s life, or it can bring suffering upon it. A dream can make a man feel alive, or it can kill him instead. Even if a man is abandoned by that dream, part of it will remain smouldering in his heart. Every man has envisioned his life in this way, at least once. A life as a martyr to his dream, his God. To simply exist just because one’s been born is the sort of notion that I hate. I can’t stand it.” –Griffith

To what ends will Griffith go to attain his dream? In 2012, Berserk is an old anime series and it’s likely you will already know the answer to that question. Do you have a dream? What are the limits of your ambition? 10 years later, I still don’t have the answers. This is the first time I’ve re-watched Berserk and, quite frankly, it’s a masterpiece.

Comments

schneider says:

This part of Berserk has been sitting on my mind for a while. Griffith is one of my favorite characters and I really love his pure-minded pursuit of his ambition. I also believe believe in the conceit that friends are people who are my equals, not ones who make my dreams their own. Truly this was a turning point in the series.

Vucub Caquix says:

I just want you to know, that this is the post that’s finally convinced me to stop being lazy and to watch Berserk already. Fantastic piece, Bateszi!

bateszi says:

I hope you like it, vuc.

Pax says:

I enjoyed reading this, too bad that Miura was not able to keep this level of storytelling in the later arcs.

And the new movie was just fansubbed and it contains the scenes you talked about in this post, I am curious to see what you’ll think of this new version, supposedly that kid scene is more emotional in the movie.

bateszi says:

I must admit, I’m worried about the new movie. To say the CG animation looks awkward would be an understatement, and the lack of Susumu Hiraswa’s music is disappointing. I just really hope it’s good and lives up to what a great story the Golden Age arc of Berserk is.

kauldron26 says:

You’ve convinced me to plunge into a rewatch. Berserk is undoubtedly a masterpiece. I know people incessantly complain about the abrupt ending. But personally that has been what made it so great to me. The entire 26 episodes focus on a specific aspect of Guts growth and character Arc. Its about the birth and death of a friendship. The beginning and end of one man’s idealism. The opening and closing of a premature love story. And that soundtrack is still as haunting as ever. Bateszi did you ever do a top 10 article? I’d love to see where it falls on your list and others as well.

bateszi says:

Nope to a top 10 list, but I can tell you now, Berserk would be high on it :)

Renato says:

” What are the limits of your ambition? ”

You may as well read the Dragonlance series, especially the Legends trilogy (first book: http://www.amazon.com/Time-Twins-Dragonlance-Legends-Volume/dp/0786918047/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1339677647&sr=8-1 )

This is the second trilogy of the series, but can be read alone as well, I think.

Harry Drake says:

Great write-up. The depth and complexity of Guts & Griffith’s bromance during the Golden Age is personally the most compelling aspect of Berserk, and of course the catalyst for everything that follows afterwards.

However, at the beginning of the article you seem to be suggesting that Guts knew he was murdering Adonis? When Guts heard someone enter the room, he only had a split-second to react and charged at the silhouette before him, but he was visibly shocked when he realized what he had done and it sickened him afterwards. Maybe the anime just failed to convey this? It’s been awhile since I watched it.

Raxah says:

Great piece. We saw the same things. Thanks and good luck.

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