Author Topic: Berserk the Manga Re-read Thread Vol. 1 (Spoilers) 9/25/08 - 10/2/08  (Read 15780 times)

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Offline willowhugger

Welcome to the first thread in the Berserk Manga re-read project.  The Berserk Manga re-read project is meant to basically spark discussion about the Berserk Manga. It's meant to allow fans of the series to discuss things that are foreshadowed along with gain a greater appreciation for what's come before.  We'll be handling one volume every week until we reach the limit of the American release of the series (and maybe we'll go on from there).



This week's subject is Berserk Manga Vol. 1.

Basically, the rules for this thread are simple.  Crank out your copy of the book and then read it from cover to cover again and write down your comments on it and how well it holds up.  This isn't a thread meant for causal fans and you are welcome to spoil anything up to the American release in terms of character development and so on.  Talk about what strikes you in retrospect and what you think is different.  Share how well you think the work holds up.

Feel free also to discuss the points brought up by other readers.

Offline willowhugger

Re: Berserk the Manga Re-read Thread Vol. 1 (Spoilers) 9/25/08 - 10/2/08
« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2008, 01:40:35 AM »
Berserk Volume One: Review

I'll be handling my review of the various parts of the manga in sections.  This is a rather schizophrenic story with one small story at the front then another small story then part of a much longer arc.

The Black Swordsman Arc

Berserk makes a stunning first impression on a reader, when it opens up with our (anti)hero in the throws of a graphic sex scene with a naked woman.  The link between sex and violence is often commented on in the media and it's a major component to Berserk's success.  In this case, Guts is making love with a Demoness and it does a nice reversal where instead of our hero being terrified and horrified at the sex act being violated; we discover its a double reversal with it actually being a trap set for the Apostle that he kills.

Guts Apostle Kill Count: 1

In retrospect, honestly, the opening scene of Berserk doesn't really make all that much sense with what we know of Guts character.  While it would be wonderful to think of Guts as a sexual tyrannosaur (thank you, Jesse Ventura) that will use whatever methods necessary to bring down an Apostle; it does seem rather peculiar that a man with such severe psycho-sexual issues as Guts would allow himself to have his second sexual act be with a monster like the one that we discover had earlier killed a close friend.

The scene then cuts to the first of Guts hunts that we saw in the anime replicated fairly faithfully (only minus Puck and instead a young woman, which all my reviews will more or less say is an improvement).  Basically, Guts strides in to a bar where a bunch of scum are oppressing the elf and then proceeds to massacre all of the humans inside as a warning to the Baron that rules the region.

The obvious Western influences of this scene are pretty clear with Guts taking on the role of the Clint Eastwood style character that comes in to call out the local oppressors.  It's moved to Medieval times but this only results in a largely dead genre becoming fresh again.  Guts as the rugged and murderous bounty hunter/gunfighter being a swordsman is still a very powerful image.

Our introduction to Dragonslayer also occurs in this section.  The ridiculously large sword is something that gets laughed at in Final Fantasy but works extraordinarily well because of the visceralness of the slaughter.  Unlike Final Fantasy, they at least try and justify wielding such a ridiculous weapon.  It doesn't work for the Arm-Cannon, but the sword is something that I can't imagine Guts anymore without the sword.

Puck becomes Guts sidekick in this part and I confess, my reaction to the Fairy as a reader has never been very positive.  In retrospect, it's lampshaded that Puck helps pull Guts back from the utter insanity he's degenerated into at this point but I'm never terribly sure about that.  I think that Berserk is the best manga I've ever read but I confess that I've never quite cared for the man's comic relief.

Guts capture by the locals is a major mood setting piece for the manga, however.  The horrible deal between the Mayor and the Snake Baron (who I mentally name "Baron Philip" in honor of Berserk Abridged) goes a long way to highlight that the world of Berserk is a Crapsack world.

Television Tropes: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CrapsackWorld

A powerful dynamic that remains thorughout most of the Post-Eclipse dynamic is the fact that the people in Berserk Earth (or whatever we want to call the world) are just plain awful and not worthy of being saved.  Genuinely good people exist but they are almost always slaughtered in the end.  Not even Warhammer is this unrelentingly grim (unless we mean Warhammer 40,000K).  It part of what makes Berserk so appealing in my mind. It's cynicism and nihilism is a breath of refreshing vile air in fantasy.  The Demons aren't so much Extraplanar horrors but regular humans allowed to unleash their depravity.

Our introduction to the Snake Baron is also very well handled.  The idea of playing him as anything other than an unrelentingly evil monster is discarded immediately and it works very well because we see how such individuals can arise in the setting.  Too often Black and White Morality is considered cheesy but Black and Gray morality is perfectly normal.  This definitely falls into the later.  The Snake Baron gets off on murder and has no reason not to in a land where children are sold to cannibals.

"Baron Phil" gets a very good line when he basically says that the Mayor's collaboration with him and selling of hostages has earned him no respite or consideration.  This is actually a disturbingly accurate summation of how real life occupiers and monsters treat their associates.  Cooperation under duress earns no friendship and usually the occupiers consider the collaboraters to be cowards that can be abused as they like (and they would be right).

Guts prison time is something that establishes some of the world that our hero is going to.  At this point, the backstory is mostly opaque and a lot of the important elements here are either refined or discarded.  The Demon Fetus, for example, never really takes off in my opinion.  It can't communicate and thus just is a creepy image for the Hell of it that freaks out Guts.  The Brand on the other hand and Puck's Empathy are important.  Also, we start my favorite part of Puck/Guts interaction in Puck being verbally abused by Guts.  That never gets old.  We also learn that his Sacrfice Brand also bleeds in the presence of Apostles and gives him a way of tracking them down.

The fight between Phil and Guts is unrelentingly brutal and makes a mockery of the Shounen fights which are mostly special abilities and posturing.  Guts goes for whatever he can against the Snake Baron and still loses until he uses the arm canon.  It's brutality and the skin of the teeth victory that Guts achieves (still far better than against the Count next issue) is one that helps establish that Guts is fighting an extraordinarily uphill battle here.

We also get a rare moment where Guts goes utterly nuts at the end and Puck watches on in mute horror.

Guts Apostle Kill Count: 2

This story definitely sold me on the manga.

Offline Walter

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Re: Berserk the Manga Re-read Thread Vol. 1 (Spoilers) 9/25/08 - 10/2/08
« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2008, 01:51:52 AM »
When I make my full review of the volume I won't be commenting so verbosely I don't think, but I wanted to get my two bits in about one of your first comments.

In retrospect, honestly, the opening scene of Berserk doesn't really make all that much sense with what we know of Guts character.  While it would be wonderful to think of Guts as a sexual tyrannosaur (thank you, Jesse Ventura) that will use whatever methods necessary to bring down an Apostle; it does seem rather peculiar that a man with such severe psycho-sexual issues as Guts would allow himself to have his second sexual act be with a monster like the one that we discover had earlier killed a close friend.
You have to keep in mind this was one of Guts most desperate stages of his life. He was alone for 2 years and lived only for revenge, with no one and nothing holding back his violent urges but his own spiraling conscience.

I think it's actually a perfect way to set the tone of the series: it pulls no punches, and it shows how the main character will employ any desperate means to take his revenge - even fuck a demon just to get an opening for his point-blank CANNON SHOT. Miura doesn't have to set Guts up for the sensitive guy we know right from the get go. There's more to accomplish here, in the first scene of the entire series, than hinting at the true depth of the main character. This is about setting up the raw, atmosphere for the rest of the show.

I'll post the rest of my review here when I finish it.

PS: I love this idea  :serpico:
:femto: :slan: :ubik:

Offline willowhugger

Re: Berserk the Manga Re-read Thread Vol. 1 (Spoilers) 9/25/08 - 10/2/08
« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2008, 02:13:44 AM »
I'll be honest, I don't actually think that the re-read needs to sound like English Lit like I posted above.

However, I wanted to give people a good lead in with plenty to reply to.

I figured it was the polite thing to do when I was the one starting this whole thing.

Quote
I think it's actually a perfect way to set the tone of the series: it pulls no punches, and it shows how the main character will employ any desperate means to take his revenge - even fuck a demon just to get an opening for his point-blank CANNON SHOT. Miura doesn't have to set Guts up for the sensitive guy we know right from the get go. There's more to accomplish here, in the first scene of the entire series, than hinting at the true depth of the main character. This is about setting up the raw, atmosphere for the rest of the show.

I agree that it really helps set the tone and something less graphic and eye catching would work not nearly as well.  It's just kind of strange to see Guts having full on sex with a demoness in the woods only to then complain about Puck touching him just a few dozen pages later (or maybe one thing explains the other).

Really, his act of sex with the demon is as much self-hatred as it is about the trap I think.  Especially, given he's bound to be frustrated with what's happened to Casca.

Edit:

The Brand

I don't have quite as much to say about this section of the Manga as I do about the rest.  However, it's an excellent mood piece that manages to accomplish nearly as much visceral slap in the face as the initial sex scene with a demon.  Honestly, it still annoys me we never got Berserk Reloaded with the Post-Eclipse stories because this would have been an episode that I would have loved to have seen animated.

The biggest import of this storyline is the fact that it shows us that Guts has no friends or family or hope.  On a fundamental level, anyone that Guts travels with for even a moment has the potential to bring horrifying demons down upon them and die horribly.  We this illustrated graphically with the fact that an innocent holy man and his daughter are slaughtered nightmarishly because Guts let his guard down just for a few hours to travel with someone.

I confess that I always have liked the Brand Ghosts because they provide an easier enemy for Guts to face down than the Apostles.  One of the main problems with the series is the lack of mooks that can challenge guts but not to the level that facing a genuine Apostle might.  It's sometimes interesting to speculate on what is and isn't an Apostle in the setting based on how difficult it is for Guts to kill them.

One thing that I credit the artist with that I wish we'd see more of is the fact that he draws cute girls exceptionally well.  One of my favorite parts of the series is the cute designs that certain characters have that contrasts so sharply with the setting as a whole.  Charlotte, the Count's daughter, and others are such a wonderful contrast to the hardened features of other characters.  I wish we had more cute girls in the series.

The interaction with Puck is also nice here as Guts continues to berate Puck like there's no tomorrow but Puck continues to flutter around Guts.  It's interesting to speculate whether Puck knows something is underneath Guts exterior or if he just thinks his actions belay his words.
« Last Edit: September 26, 2008, 04:36:31 AM by willowhugger »

Offline Walter

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Re: Berserk the Manga Re-read Thread Vol. 1 (Spoilers) 9/25/08 - 10/2/08
« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2008, 01:12:49 PM »
This required some preparation. So I waited until the wife was asleep, grabbed a bottle of vodka and some root beer (was terrible), locked the door to my office and cranked Susumu's Berserk Anime OST. Since my DH version of 1-2 hasn't shipped yet, this reading was done the old-fashioned way: text translations and a Japanese tankoubon.

I made notes as I read, and I'll approach my comments with each paragraph serving as one point I noticed during my read. Most of my review was done from the perspective of comparing what we know now, and how we perceive Guts and Berserk's world, versus how they were originally represented - not to point out flaws, but just to show choices Miura made then, and now.

  THE BLACK SWORDSMAN
Ive already made my comments known about the first scene. I think it's a good way to open a series about a brutal world infested with demons. Desperate times, desperate measures and whatnot. What's interesting about Guts throughout this volume is that there seems nearly no bottom to his depravity --until of course, Collette. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

We get a lot of face-time with a real Berserk town in the first episode, especially the townspeople. This is a rare glimpse of commoners in a common town in Berserk, rivaled probably only by the one we get in Vritannis hundreds of episodes later, and Miura handles it well. He even focuses on the little bar sign in the middle. I kind of miss that focus and attention to mundane detail, especially the way this is paneled - we get it every so often, and it's always effective. These days Miura tends to show everything on the page, without paneling it to focus the reader's attention.

Once we're in the bar, I don't think I ever noticed how paradoxical it was for city people to be toying with an Elf, since elves are normally only seen by children and people otherwise not distracted by the civilized world. Maybe there's some other justification I haven't thought of though.

Anyway, when Puck is introducing himself, he mentions he was in a group of traveling performers (how did Dark Horse translate that BTW?), using the same kanji Judo later uses to explain where he got Elf Dust from. Of course, there's even a little silhouette of Puck drawn in that scene, alluding to this being the same, but I've never really considered the implications that Guts primary traveling companion had once encountered one of his closest friends from the Hawks. They need to have a chat and drop some goddamned names. And suddenly, Guts is ambushed. With such a successful history in fighting groups of soldiers, I'm a little surprised Guts is taken prisoner without a struggle.

The Snake Baron is sure a snappy dresser for an Apostle. He took an interesting route from the other apostles, at least initially. He's wearing the skin of a civilized man, right down to how he eats his food. But in the end of course, despite the trendy clothes and utensils, he can't hide what he is - I can see this kind of conflict rearing its head soon, and I can't wait.

All I noted about the big fight was the way Guts handles the DS early on is certainly impressive. One-handed slice!   :isidro: This is clearly a scene, and a time in his life, in which the Beast was working in tandem with Guts, before they came at odds with each other. Oh yeah, and the burning house that falls on the snake apostle in the end covers up what would otherwise be our first glimpse of the Vortex.

   THE BRAND
My first note is about these long, personal shots of Guts traveling. It's very refreshing. Especially when it starts raining, it's interesting that Miura uses 3-4 panels showing Guts covering up, whereas these days, he would likely use 1 max. It's more efficient certainly, but I miss that dwelling on the moment that these early volumes have. Maybe I just like Guts too much, and don't want to spare any detail.

I don't think I'd considered the symbolism of Guts' nightmare before. He's running down a long corridor with only one way to travel, on a fixed path. With a giant, supernatural eye watching his every move. It doesn't take a scholar to see where Miura is heading with this metaphor, and it gives us an exclusive  look at Guts' state-of-mind after the Eclipse. He's seen the demon lords that rule from behind the curtain, and was told how his life was predetermined. And now, he's fighting against the knowledge that he can't escape the inevitable.

These possessed skulls certainly have that Skully look in their sockets. Seeing them sent me off thinking up a wild tangent of a theory that's not grounded enough to post, but it was a fun ride anyway  :badbone: Only other note about this episode is the similarity of the two-page shot to Frank Frazetta's work. I consider it an homage. But maybe there's only one effective school of art when it comes to a lone man fighting a horde of undead?


   REVENGE 1: DESIRE'S GUARDIAN ANGELS
Man, this is getting longer than I'd anticipated, but these first episodes are LONG.
(I'll append this entry with more as I write it. Taking a break.)
:femto: :slan: :ubik:

Offline A.C

Re: Berserk the Manga Re-read Thread Vol. 1 (Spoilers) 9/25/08 - 10/2/08
« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2008, 04:27:59 PM »
Anyway, when Puck is introducing himself, he mentions he was in a group of traveling performers (how did Dark Horse translate that BTW?)

DH translation:

Y'see I was in a troupe of travelling performers but we were attacked by those bums.

Xem

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Re: Berserk the Manga Re-read Thread Vol. 1 (Spoilers) 9/25/08 - 10/2/08
« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2008, 06:13:50 PM »
Going to have more to add once my girlfriend re-reads the volume, but ironically having read it just 2 days ago, I guess I'll comment.

Having made the mistake of not starting off with volume 1, my perspective may be a bit warped, but that's exactly the perspective I took on it. Guts fucking an apostle seemed out-of-character to me, the Guts' I've grown used to wouldn't "wait for the right moment" to swing his weapon on an apostle... and is it me or is this the same apostle that killed Corcus?

Another awkward moment for me was him giving in and getting on the wagon with the old priest the young girl. While it seemed natural that he didn't like priests, Guts' never seemed willing to have people around him until he literally felt he couldn't do it alone (when he was dragging Casca and losing his sanity). I also was quite surprised to see him hesitating to kill the possessed dead girls body. In the Lost Children Arc, we see that he has absolutely no problem risking a child's life, as he used one as bait for the evil bug-elves, but he allowed himself to be stabbed by this demon... just seemed off.

And the art, well, let's just say it really shows how Miura's ability as an artist has evolved.

I also don't see why he let his presence be known in the bar. It seems to me it would've made more sense for him to simply go into the castle and kill the Baron without making a big scene. I also agree with Walter about everyone seeing Puck, it took Farnese quite a while, for example. Maybe it was their continued sightings of an apostle that opened their perception up to this, who knows.

edit: Forgot to mention how Guts being captured didn't seem quite right as well, as stated earlier he could have, and should have,  easily avoided capture... was it on purpose? Well that doesn't make sense, perhaps it was to allow an opportunity for Puck to enter his story, as he obviously needed to forcefully do so. I'll chock that up to story development, and not so much character accuracy.

I tried as hard as I could to take a clean look at the volume, ignoring what I already knew about the series, and from that perspective both the brand and the demon child struck me as quite mysterious and interesting. Guts yelling "You again!" would've really made me curious as to what kind of relationship these two beings had, and how the brand ties in as well. Those were probably some of my favorite parts of this volume.

Another fun part for me was getting to actually see Guts put on his repeating crossbow, we normally just see it already equipped and firing, and then in the next scene he's put it away and swinging his sword again.

All and all I wish I could've been lucky enough to start the series off from the true beginning, but being as how I saw the anime first, and then wasn't smart enough to pick up from volume 1 after that, I can only guess how this volume really would've impacted me as a new reader to the story. Honestly, I'm not sure if it would've sucked me in like it did most of you.

Offline Walter

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Re: Berserk the Manga Re-read Thread Vol. 1 (Spoilers) 9/25/08 - 10/2/08
« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2008, 08:23:25 PM »
Just a couple comments after reading the above post:

and is it me or is this the same apostle that killed Corcus?
It sure looks like it.

Quote
I also was quite surprised to see him hesitating to kill the possessed dead girls body. In the Lost Children Arc, we see that he has absolutely no problem risking a child's life, as he used one as bait for the evil bug-elves, but he allowed himself to be stabbed by this demon... just seemed off.
That's totally different. Using a child as bait is one thing, being forced to slice one in two is quite another. He also probably felt regret for even involving them in the first place.

Quote
I also agree with Walter about everyone seeing Puck, it took Farnese quite a while, for example. Maybe it was their continued sightings of an apostle that opened their perception up to this, who knows.
While I agree, I think Farnese is a special case and isn't a great basis for comparison. From childhood, she was heavily indoctrinated by the Holy See's teachings and her rich upbringing. She's not just some average city girl - she's like the ULTIMATE city girl.

Quote
edit: Forgot to mention how Guts being captured didn't seem quite right as well,  ... I'll chock that up to story development, and not so much character accuracy.
I'm not sure character accuracy works here as a phrase, since as far as when this was published, it was 100% accurate for the character  :guts: Character consistency maybe.

Quote
I tried as hard as I could to take a clean look at the volume, ignoring what I already knew about the series,
It's tough. I tried the same and abandoned it halfway through. Im as indoctrinate by Berserk as Farnese  when she was torching "witches."
:femto: :slan: :ubik:

Offline m

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Re: Berserk the Manga Re-read Thread Vol. 1 (Spoilers) 9/25/08 - 10/2/08
« Reply #8 on: September 26, 2008, 08:35:25 PM »
In retrospect, honestly, the opening scene of Berserk doesn't really make all that much sense with what we know of Guts character.  While it would be wonderful to think of Guts as a sexual tyrannosaur (thank you, Jesse Ventura) that will use whatever methods necessary to bring down an Apostle; it does seem rather peculiar that a man with such severe psycho-sexual issues as Guts would allow himself to have his second sexual act be with a monster like the one that we discover had earlier killed a close friend.

At first it seemed out of character to me as well but I'm not so sure anymore, Guts setting everything up to get closer to the apostle makes sense. In trying to decide if that's the case I was looking for blood coming out of the brand but in the panels where the brand would have been visible Guts' neck is blurred.

That first apostle must have been weak compared to others we've seen since all it took to defeat him/her/it was a single cannon shot (at least that's all I think it took)

Offline Scorpio

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Re: Berserk the Manga Re-read Thread Vol. 1 (Spoilers) 9/25/08 - 10/2/08
« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2008, 11:01:57 PM »
My own reasoning for why Puck was visible in that first volume is that the traveling group of performers would explain the nature of the fairy, and once the audience would open their minds a little he would appear.  It would also make sense that a band of thugs might want to "play" with their new discovery.

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Re: Berserk the Manga Re-read Thread Vol. 1 (Spoilers) 9/25/08 - 10/2/08
« Reply #10 on: September 26, 2008, 11:24:20 PM »
That's totally different. Using a child as bait is one thing, being forced to slice one in two is quite another. He also probably felt regret for even involving them in the first place.

Here's a new thought I had after re-thinking the scene. Perhaps because the impact of killing the young lord Adonis is what made him hesitate. That scene obviously had an impact on Guts and I think if we were given these in the "correct" time-lime, we might've even gotten a flashback to that after he sliced her in two... definitely a feeling of regret there.

We also know that these events took place before the Lost Children Arc, so perhaps by then his emotions would've numbed even further, making it more understandable for him to put more children at risk.

Quote
While I agree, I think Farnese is a special case and isn't a great basis for comparison.

You're right, it was just the first example I could think of, probably because there was a bit more emphasis on it compared to others.

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I'm not sure character accuracy works here as a phrase, since as far as when this was published, it was 100% accurate for the character  :guts: Character consistency maybe.

Again I agree, consistency works better here, I'm sometimes bad with words. ._.

Quote
It's tough. I tried the same and abandoned it halfway through. Im as indoctrinate by Berserk as Farnese  when she was torching "witches."

It'll be interesting to see where discussions go when we eventually get closer to being caught up, that's for sure. That's what.... 2-3 years from now, by Dark Horse publications.




I would also like to throw out that I love the concept of this thread, discussing the episodes one by one is wonderful, but overall we'll get to have a better outlook on the manga with these volume discussions. Thanks willowhugger.  :serpico:

Offline Walter

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Re: Berserk the Manga Re-read Thread Vol. 1 (Spoilers) 9/25/08 - 10/2/08
« Reply #11 on: September 26, 2008, 11:30:05 PM »
My own reasoning for why Puck was visible in that first volume is that the traveling group of performers would explain the nature of the fairy, and once the audience would open their minds a little he would appear.  It would also make sense that a band of thugs might want to "play" with their new discovery.
That's a great point, and I hadn't even considered the possibility that Puck was introduced to the bandits by the troupe.

I would also like to throw out that I love the concept of this thread, discussing the episodes one by one is wonderful, but overall we'll get to have a better outlook on the manga with these volume discussions. Thanks willowhugger.  :serpico:
Yeah, Im hooked, but after writing most of my first review, I have to say, this is a HUGE PROJECT. It didn't take that long for me to review the manga, probably about 1 hour of time spent reading, and 1 hour spent writing, but around volume 17-18, its going to be a very large undertaking.
:femto: :slan: :ubik:

Offline willowhugger

Re: Berserk the Manga Re-read Thread Vol. 1 (Spoilers) 9/25/08 - 10/2/08
« Reply #12 on: September 27, 2008, 12:22:19 AM »
Quote from: Walter
Yeah, Im hooked, but after writing most of my first review, I have to say, this is a HUGE PROJECT. It didn't take that long for me to review the manga, probably about 1 hour of time spent reading, and 1 hour spent writing, but around volume 17-18, its going to be a very large undertaking.

Oh absolutely, this is something that will take the better part of a year's time at the comparatively swift rate of 1 volume = 1 week.  That's not including any discussions that people may want to continue past the original week's time.

Still, I think this is definitely something that is worth doing.  Hey, Mister Moderator Man, how about we Sticky each week's Topic in this forum?

Offline Walter

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Re: Berserk the Manga Re-read Thread Vol. 1 (Spoilers) 9/25/08 - 10/2/08
« Reply #13 on: September 27, 2008, 12:48:06 AM »
Agreed. I've sent this thread to the top floor, then threw a monkey wrench in the gears so it stays put.
:femto: :slan: :ubik:

Offline willowhugger

Re: Berserk the Manga Re-read Thread Vol. 1 (Spoilers) 9/25/08 - 10/2/08
« Reply #14 on: September 27, 2008, 01:06:58 AM »
I'll be dividing my commentary over the story arcs.

The Black Swordsman

Quote from: M
That first apostle must have been weak compared to others we've seen since all it took to defeat him/her/it was a single cannon shot (at least that's all I think it took)

Yeah, that seems to be the case.  There's a definite variance in the power levels of the Apostles we encounter.  The first Apostle killed in the series is easier to kill than the Snake Baron while the Count is ridiculously difficult to kill (I'm going to comment on this more at length in my review of that story).

Quote from: Walter
Ive already made my comments known about the first scene. I think it's a good way to open a series about a brutal world infested with demons. Desperate times, desperate measures and whatnot. What's interesting about Guts throughout this volume is that there seems nearly no bottom to his depravity --until of course, Collette. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I think that the author is making a very good choice that this is Hardcore fantasy.  Hardcore is something that you rarely honestly get in most fiction.  People are afraid to drive the audience away with unlikeable heroes or too much shocking violence or attitudes.

Kentarou Miura takes the opposite track by deliberately blasting us with as much reprehensible behavior as Guts as possible without crossing the Moral Event Horizon.  Basically, Guts manages to fight some truly monstrous creatures in this world and displays enough courage that we aren't totally turned off of him as a protagionist despite the fact he's constantly doing things that no other hero would ever do.  This is a secret of his appeal to me, because Hardcore Guts is a big change from otherwise generic fantasy.  Shock value has a strong effect and helps keep a reader interested.

Quote from: Walter
We get a lot of face-time with a real Berserk town in the first episode, especially the townspeople. This is a rare glimpse of commoners in a common town in Berserk, rivaled probably only by the one we get in Vritannis hundreds of episodes later, and Miura handles it well. He even focuses on the little bar sign in the middle. I kind of miss that focus and attention to mundane detail, especially the way this is paneled - we get it every so often, and it's always effective. These days Miura tends to show everything on the page, without paneling it to focus the reader's attention.

Yes, I confess that Berserk is (to me) always best when we're down amongst the little people.  It helps ground the setting to show that Guts and his war against the forces of the God Hand are not totally being handled apart from the rest of the world.  I do confess, sometimes, it becomes a little overwhelming as the horrific fate of the Mayor is well deserved but Berserk occasionally may suffer from too much darkness with every single character not Guts having some nightmarish secret (Gambino, The King, Griffith obviously, etc).

But that's part of the appeal though.  The hardcore element.

Quote from: Walter
And suddenly, Guts is ambushed. With such a successful history in fighting groups of soldiers, I'm a little surprised Guts is taken prisoner without a struggle.

Given Guts doesn't really care about Puck's "rescue", my take was that Guts is actually luring the Snake Baron out into the open rather than attempting to assault his castle.  I'm not sure this really goes off as a great plan, given it results in the town being burned to the ground, but I think that was his general idea.

Quote from: Walter
The Snake Baron is sure a snappy dresser for an Apostle. He took an interesting route from the other apostles, at least initially. He's wearing the skin of a civilized man, right down to how he eats his food. But in the end of course, despite the trendy clothes and utensils, he can't hide what he is - I can see this kind of conflict rearing its head soon, and I can't wait.

The inhuman nature of the Apostles is kept pretty consistent.  They actually remind me a bit of H.P. Lovecraft and the fact that the evil nature of Mythos infected humans is shown upon their faces.

Quote from: Deci
I also don't see why he let his presence be known in the bar. It seems to me it would've made more sense for him to simply go into the castle and kill the Baron without making a big scene. I also agree with Walter about everyone seeing Puck, it took Farnese quite a while, for example. Maybe it was their continued sightings of an apostle that opened their perception up to this, who knows.

Yeah, the plan of Guts in this case is one that sucks on pretty much every concievable level.  Of course, I'm a believer that we shouldn't necessarilly assume long term strategic thinking is something Guts excells at in his current state of near-total insanity.

The Brand

Quote from: Walter
My first note is about these long, personal shots of Guts traveling. It's very refreshing. Especially when it starts raining, it's interesting that Miura uses 3-4 panels showing Guts covering up, whereas these days, he would likely use 1 max. It's more efficient certainly, but I miss that dwelling on the moment that these early volumes have. Maybe I just like Guts too much, and don't want to spare any detail.

An odd comment, I know but I love the image of Guts traveling in the rain.  It just adds mood that the world of Berserk filled with rainy and overcast moments.

Quote from: Deci
Another awkward moment for me was him giving in and getting on the wagon with the old priest the young girl. While it seemed natural that he didn't like priests, Guts' never seemed willing to have people around him until he literally felt he couldn't do it alone (when he was dragging Casca and losing his sanity). I also was quite surprised to see him hesitating to kill the possessed dead girls body. In the Lost Children Arc, we see that he has absolutely no problem risking a child's life, as he used one as bait for the evil bug-elves, but he allowed himself to be stabbed by this demon... just seemed off.

Yeah, this is a pretty horrific lesson for Guts here in that he can't be allowed to have people around him for the terrible fate that befalls them.  It's a contrast to the adventuring party that he eventually develops around him.

And while Guts uses the child as bait in a later arc, he's fairly confident that he'll be able to handle all of the faeries and its easier to save the child's life oddly with him around him than it is to just let him wander off (bizarre as that may sound).  Here, he's directly responsible for a little girl being possessed and killed.

Other

Quote from: Scorpio
My own reasoning for why Puck was visible in that first volume is that the traveling group of performers would explain the nature of the fairy, and once the audience would open their minds a little he would appear.  It would also make sense that a band of thugs might want to "play" with their new discovery.

Another possibility is commented later on by Puck when they meet our Inquisitor Gal.  Basically, Puck mentions Rural priests can see him.  It may only be that very civilized city-dwellers and very specifically the most indoctrinated "Don't believe in faeries" to quote Peter Pan.  Certainly, the Count's daughter does.

It's also possible the author just changed his mind about the rules governing faeries in his world.

It's bizarre but given Farnese's reaction to the monsters on both occasions, it's clear her problem isn't so much believing in faeries as she doesn't believe in the supernatural (an odd thing for a priestess-knight).

The Guardian Angel of Desire

Part 1


The Guardian Angel of Desire is something that I'm keeping my review seperate from the rest of things because it's one that I had to mull over a few times.  Really, it's my favorite story in the entirety of Berserk.  Kentaro Miura knocked one out of the ballpark with this one and it''s really a standard that I think is damn near impossible to follow.

Honestly, my reactions to this section of the story were not at all that favorable at the start.  Our first impressions of the Count are really him coming off as little more than a warmed over and slightly tougher looking version of the Snake Baron.  Much like "Phil", the Count never actually gets a name in the manga as far as I can tell.  He's defined by his office rather than his actual perosonage.  For humor's sake, I will name him Count Robert or Bob.

The story opens much like the Black Swordsman as well with Guts just wandering into town and then picking a fight with the local lord/bully in a manner that I thought would actually define the series in the way that most of the manga I follow would (the fact it didn't shows why the Berserk manga is not just a awesome manga but an awesome story). 

I had originally thought that the manga would take the form of something like Samurai Deeper Kyo or something basically where we would see a lot of repetitive "hunts" where Guts would go after a new monster each week while we eventually become more immersed in the man's storyline.  The upcoming divergence from that for so many books where we end up flashbacking to Griffith's corruption totally threw me for a loop (and also allowed the manga to escape the repetitiveness that it could have been afflicted with).

Really, despite the set up for the best story ever, this section is really just a lot of Guts beating up people in particularly bloody ways.  I'm rather fond of this section because it's one of the few times we get to see Post-Eclipse Guts get to tear into regular human beings with Dragonslayer rather than just monsters.

Zohn Dark is also a reasonably decent opponent for Guts, even as a regular human that its clear he's no match for him.

We also recieve the introduction to Vargas.  What's hilarious about their meeting is that Vargas is meant to be Guts informant in the traditional role that such character's play in the story but its quite clear that Guts knows far more about the situation and what's going on than Vargas does himself.  It's a nice subversion.

Oh and Puck's reaction to seeing a pickled fairy was hilarious.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2008, 02:44:05 AM by willowhugger »

Offline Vampire_Hunter_Bob

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Re: Berserk the Manga Re-read Thread Vol. 1 (Spoilers) 9/25/08 - 10/2/08
« Reply #15 on: September 29, 2008, 12:38:16 AM »
I really like the idea behind this thread and glad it's being done, that said...

Another awkward moment for me was him giving in and getting on the wagon with the old priest the young girl. While it seemed natural that he didn't like priests, Guts' never seemed willing to have people around him until he literally felt he couldn't do it alone (when he was dragging Casca and losing his sanity). I also was quite surprised to see him hesitating to kill the possessed dead girls body.

Thought I would throw my 2 cents in just for the hell of it. I think that has more to do with Guts just not expecting them getting possessed. I'm personally not very clear on the time table from the eclipse up to this point, but at this point [yeah I'm most likely wrong, sorry everybody!] Guts is fairly new to hunting down apostles and dealing with ghosts. So at this point he was looking at this as a free ride to his next destination and didn't know they would get possessed.

I also wanted to mention it's really interesting to see the level of detail Miura was able to put into his earlier work. Almost surprising [for me at least] how he was able to improve so much more over the years in his artwork.

Offline Walter

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Re: Berserk the Manga Re-read Thread Vol. 1 (Spoilers) 9/25/08 - 10/2/08
« Reply #16 on: September 29, 2008, 12:45:59 AM »
I'm personally not very clear on the time table from the eclipse up to this point, but at this point [yeah I'm most likely wrong, sorry everybody!] Guts is fairly new to hunting down apostles and dealing with ghosts. So at this point he was looking at this as a free ride to his next destination and didn't know they would get possessed.
Well its not clear how much he knew of ghosts' abilities, but there's a small panel in which we see him thinking that its not his responsibility what happens to the priest and the girl. Pretty irresponsible, really. But it's left as just that. Guts took the ride knowing what COULD happen - and it did, which makes it that much more painful for him when Collete is ultimately possessed.
:femto: :slan: :ubik:

Offline willowhugger

Re: Berserk the Manga Re-read Thread Vol. 1 (Spoilers) 9/25/08 - 10/2/08
« Reply #17 on: September 29, 2008, 01:15:04 AM »
Quote from: Vampire_Hunter_Bob
Thought I would throw my 2 cents in just for the hell of it. I think that has more to do with Guts just not expecting them getting possessed. I'm personally not very clear on the time table from the eclipse up to this point, but at this point [yeah I'm most likely wrong, sorry everybody!] Guts is fairly new to hunting down apostles and dealing with ghosts. So at this point he was looking at this as a free ride to his next destination and didn't know they would get possessed.

I gotta agree with you Vampire_Hunter_Bob.  While it's possible there's adventures that occurred in-between the events, I tend to assume that it went from Guts encounter with the First Post-Eclipse Apostle at the Forge where he got Dragonslayer to the Succubus (for lack of a better term) that Guts killed in the opening pages.  That would mean that Guts has never seen anyone possessed before that time.

Quote from: Vampire_Hunter_Bob
I also wanted to mention it's really interesting to see the level of detail Miura was able to put into his earlier work. Almost surprising [for me at least] how he was able to improve so much more over the years in his artwork.

I don't think the initial art is bad by any stretch of the imagination.  I do, however, think that it is a great deal more 'cartoony' versus the more realistic style that will come later.  Oddly, even very Manga looking characters like Schierke are very detailed.

Quote from: Walter
Well its not clear how much he knew of ghosts' abilities, but there's a small panel in which we see him thinking that its not his responsibility what happens to the priest and the girl. Pretty irresponsible, really. But it's left as just that. Guts took the ride knowing what COULD happen - and it did, which makes it that much more painful for him when Collete is ultimately possessed.

True, on the other hand, there's a difference between Guts encountering monsters and knowing for certain that they would be vulnerable to possession (pretty much an instant kill right there).  Still, it is tremendously irresponsible for Guts and a sign of him letting his guard down.  I think its mostly a case of him being tremendously weary by this point.

One could also point out that a dearth of human interaction could make him a lot more callous.  In which case, Puck's presence may actually help explain why he starts acting more human later on.  Though Puck doesn't qualify for "human" interaction.

Odd question; is Puck adding his magic to help Guts heal?  I forget from earlier manga but it might explain Guts rapid recovery between issues.

Offline Vampire_Hunter_Bob

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Re: Berserk the Manga Re-read Thread Vol. 1 (Spoilers) 9/25/08 - 10/2/08
« Reply #18 on: September 29, 2008, 01:25:35 AM »
True, on the other hand, there's a difference between Guts encountering monsters and knowing for certain that they would be vulnerable to possession (pretty much an instant kill right there).  Still, it is tremendously irresponsible for Guts and a sign of him letting his guard down.  I think its mostly a case of him being tremendously weary by this point.

One could also point out that a dearth of human interaction could make him a lot more callous.  In which case, Puck's presence may actually help explain why he starts acting more human later on.  Though Puck doesn't qualify for "human" interaction.

I think it's a mixture of immaturity and him just being callous. I think after all that Guts has been through he would have to be just that callous in order to deal with his circumstances at this point. Puck had a lot to do with him being the person he is now, if Puck hadn't been there to help Guts along the way he would be a whole other person.

Offline Walter

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Re: Berserk the Manga Re-read Thread Vol. 1 (Spoilers) 9/25/08 - 10/2/08
« Reply #19 on: September 29, 2008, 01:30:29 AM »
I gotta agree with you Vampire_Hunter_Bob.  While it's possible there's adventures that occurred in-between the events, I tend to assume that it went from Guts encounter with the First Post-Eclipse Apostle at the Forge where he got Dragonslayer to the Succubus (for lack of a better term) that Guts killed in the opening pages.  That would mean that Guts has never seen anyone possessed before that time.
I call complete bullshit. His reputation as the Black Swordsman who slays apostles is already known by the Snake Baron and Snail Count (such prestigious titles these dweebs have) when he enters their respective towns. There's clearly a significant portion missing from between his departure from Godot's to the opening of volume 1.
:femto: :slan: :ubik:

Offline Vampire_Hunter_Bob

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Re: Berserk the Manga Re-read Thread Vol. 1 (Spoilers) 9/25/08 - 10/2/08
« Reply #20 on: September 29, 2008, 01:32:15 AM »
I call complete bullshit. His reputation as the Black Swordsman who slays apostles is already known by the Snake Baron and Snail Count (such prestigious titles these dweebs have) when he enters their respective towns.

Augh I forgot about that. Yeah see I knew I was wrong.  :serpico:

Offline willowhugger

Re: Berserk the Manga Re-read Thread Vol. 1 (Spoilers) 9/25/08 - 10/2/08
« Reply #21 on: September 29, 2008, 01:34:18 AM »
I think it's a mixture of immaturity and him just being callous. I think after all that Guts has been through he would have to be just that callous in order to deal with his circumstances at this point. Puck had a lot to do with him being the person he is now, if Puck hadn't been there to help Guts along the way he would be a whole other person.

One interesting thing to speculate on is Guts two plans so far have been to kill large numbers of regular humans in the service of the Apostle (The Snake Baron's goons and now Count Caterpillar's forces).  This is apparently to draw them out.  Later, we don't encounter any real human servants of the Apostles Guts faces but I was curious if he might have softened against this later on.

While Guts kills some Iron Chain Knights when they try to nab him, I tend to note that he kills far less than he might have normally.  Of course, he might not have killed them just because he was wounded.  I like to think that Guts realized that indiscriminate slaughter of a bunch of guardsmen, even ones serving monsters like Count Caterpillar, isn't going to do much good.

Quote from: Walter
I call complete bullshit. His reputation as the Black Swordsman who slays apostles is already known by the Snake Baron and Snail Count (such prestigious titles these dweebs have) when he enters their respective towns.

You could be right, Walter.  OTOH, there's also another possibility.

At this point, Guts was present at the Eclipse ceremony.  If the Apostles interacted with their fellow creatures in any way after it, they would remember the Black Swordsmen who tore several Apostles a new one (we'll have to do a count of how many Guts potentially kills) before escaping.  In fact, given no one else believes in the Apostles, it's entirely likely that this is the only time that Snake Baron and Count Caterpillar could have heard about him.

The Apostles don't seem like the type to exchange letters or go to many socials together, being seemingly hermit like creatures.  Also there's no cults or secret organizations.  As the Iron Chain Knights indicate, the reputation of the Black Swordsman is of a crazy killer rather than a Demon slayer as well.

Offline Vampire_Hunter_Bob

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Re: Berserk the Manga Re-read Thread Vol. 1 (Spoilers) 9/25/08 - 10/2/08
« Reply #22 on: September 29, 2008, 01:40:48 AM »
One interesting thing to speculate on is Guts two plans so far have been to kill large numbers of regular humans in the service of the Apostle (The Snake Baron's goons and now Count Caterpillar's forces).  This is apparently to draw them out.  Later, we don't encounter any real human servants of the Apostles Guts faces but I was curious if he might have softened against this later on.

I can't really think of any other Apostle besides the Snake Baron and Snail Count having cannon fodder. The other Apostles I've seen used demi-apostles instead.

Offline Walter

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Re: Berserk the Manga Re-read Thread Vol. 1 (Spoilers) 9/25/08 - 10/2/08
« Reply #23 on: September 29, 2008, 01:47:28 AM »
Quote
At this point, Guts was present at the Eclipse ceremony.  If the Apostles interacted with their fellow creatures in any way after it, they would remember the Black Swordsmen who tore several Apostles a new one (we'll have to do a count of how many Guts potentially kills) before escaping.  In fact, given no one else believes in the Apostles, it's entirely likely that this is the only time that Snake Baron and Count Caterpillar could have heard about him.
Nope, that doesn't work either for a variety of reasons. First of all, Guts certainly wasn't the Black Swordsman during the Eclipse. Also, both the Baron and the Count are surprised when they finally see Guts' brand. Check vols 1-2 again. As for this being the first time they'd ever heard of him, the Baron specifically says "So you are the Black Swordsman, the one hunting us Apostles..." And I'd mention another thing, but it's a spoiler for vol 26. Point being - all apostles are surprised Guts is still around and they don't know he's the Black Swordsman.

As for how many Apostles he may have killed during the Eclipse, I counted them all in the Kill Roster. It's ~14 on-screen. Of course, they could have just regenerated so who knows. For the purposes of making sure I covered all angles, I included anything that even remotely looked like a kill shot.
:femto: :slan: :ubik:

Offline willowhugger

Re: Berserk the Manga Re-read Thread Vol. 1 (Spoilers) 9/25/08 - 10/2/08
« Reply #24 on: September 29, 2008, 01:53:37 AM »
Nope, that doesn't work either for a variety of reasons. First of all, Guts certainly wasn't the Black Swordsman during the Eclipse. Also, both the Baron and the Count are surprised when they finally see Guts' brand. Check vols 1-2 again. As for this being the first time they'd ever heard of him, the Baron specifically says "So you are the Black Swordsman, the one hunting us Apostles..." And I'd mention another thing, but it's a spoiler for vol 26. Point being - all apostles are surprised Guts is still around and they don't know he's the Black Swordsman.

As for how many Apostles he may have killed during the Eclipse, I counted them all in the Kill Roster. It's ~14 on-screen. Of course, they could have just regenerated so who knows. For the purposes of making sure I covered all angles, I included anything that even remotely looked like a kill shot.

I stand corrected then.  I'm trying to get a running Apostle Kill Count, which I'll be handling across the Manga Re-read Project.  But yeah, that pretty much shreds that theory there.  One must presume that Guts has apparently dealt with more than just two Apostles then at the point that the man encounters the Snake Baron.  Otherwise, his reputation must have been rather exaggerated to a large extent.