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.