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Episode 11 -- No Entry
Or: Oh, You Thought This Wasn’t About Capitalism Being Bad?

Content Warning: Misae Ikari refers to herself using ableist language, and not as a form of reclamation but as though she has internalized society’s view of her.

Okay, okay, outside of the previous episode touching on unhealthy work culture, there isn’t anything specific pointing to Capitalism as the cause of Paranoia Agent’s ills like there is with, say Planetes, so it’s perhaps a bit misleading to say specifically, “Paranoia Agent is anti-capitalist.” But, at the same time, the show is a thematic deconstruction of the systems within which it was created, and it’s not like the system just started being exploitative towards its labor force after the show aired in 2004.

The reason I bring the topic up now is that this is the episode where all the subtext finally becomes plain text. Misae Ikari spends half the episode explaining exactly why Shonen Bat, by all rights, should strike her down, from her poor health giving her a low life expectancy and rendering her effectively infertile, to her husband’s constant absence (not to mention his own troubles as a detective), to the new financial troubles placed on both of them. And yet, Misae escapes with only a cut on her face by laughing at the easy out presented by Shonen Bat, reaffirming her right to life. In fact, the solution is eerily similar to something out of Planetes. Life is hard, but we must keep on living, holding onto the connections we have with each other at all costs, because isolation is how resignation sets in.

All this could be an episode in itself. If it were, I probably would have spent my time breaking down Misae’s monolog in finer detail rather than just waving at another anime I’ve blogged about and saying, “You watched that one too, right?” But there’s an alternate throughline at play here. I said Misae spends half the episode talking to Shonen Bat -- what, then, is the other half about?

Well, it’s about the other Ikari, obviously, the one formerly known as “Detective Ikari,” now stripped of that title and left with “Security Guard B.” Now, if the episode was simply a parallel, of Ikari learning to accept his new position, this half wouldn’t be that interesting, so it’s not. In some ways, Ikari has already accepted his new position, and rather well. Some might say too well, even. A phrase echoes throughout this episode from the last time we saw him: “This world has no place for a person like me.”

It’s not just him saying it either. Ikari has a chance encounter with a former arrest of his, an old-fashioned burglar who has also turned to construction security as a way to make an honest living, and he says it too. The world is hard, and they’d both rather wax nostalgic about the good old days. This is also where the Rising Sun matches come back into play, as a significant portion of their discussion comes while eating at the bar that provides them. We’ve tried to slowly unpack their meaning before on this blog, but it’s here that their meaning finally becomes clear.

After accepting the box of matches, Ikari leaves the bar to find a much simpler world than the one he left behind. This is implied to be Maromi’s doing -- Misae even draws that connection in her own speech, calling Shonen Bat “exactly like that dog.” -- which furthers the description I gave of that particular metaphor last week. “You’re tired, take a break,” the burglar says too, just before this two-dimensional world is introduced, as if it couldn’t get any more clear.

This portion of the show’s symbolic messaging is both something that I find obvious and something that I know is going to be examined more later, so I won’t dwell too much on it now, but I will make mention of the fact that even in this world, Ikari was still unable to catch his “classic burglar with a burlap sack” that he so often dreamed about. We also need to talk about what Maniwa is doing about all this, as he’s coming back into focus as well, just not quite in the way we left him.


Next time: We’ve gone from detective drama to isekai to anthologies within anthologies, it’s time to see Paranoia Agent’s final form: a superhero story.

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Edited by radio414

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Episode 12 -- Radar Man
Or: The Mystery Is Solved, Now It’s Time To Put Up Or Shut Up

Content Warning: There are some flashing lights at the start of the episode, an episode that also is primarily shown through the perspective of Maniwa who has lost his grip on reality, so there’s a significant amount of unreality throughout. There may be a bit of body horror in the doll scene and the fight scene as well.

Also, I was having trouble getting Funimation to play the Japanese audio again, so keep that in mind when clicking on any links this post might offer you; you might have to find your own again.

What does it mean that Maromi and Shonen Bat are the same? That’s the overarching question asked by this episode, and it’s something we’ve touched on before in this very blog. But we only really touched on the generalities, the way the two contrast with each other, not the actual connection keeping them together. We can guess at some of that even without the additional context provided by the episode -- Tsukiko Sagi created both of them, and they both have a unique relationship with her because of that (remember the first episode where Shonen Bat all but says, “Hello again?”) -- but it’s time to explore that further in the show.

First is the reveal that Maromi is based on Sagi’s childhood pet dog, a fact that surely would have been well-known in the show’s universe, but it’s okay because the show simultaneously gives us a deeper reveal: so was Shonen Bat, to the point that when Maniwa goes to Sagi’s childhood home looking for answers, he finds both the doghouse and an old baseball bat that immediately in his eyes manifests as a weapon to surpass him. So we can revise the connection to this: Shonen Bat and Maromi are connected by Sagi’s childhood, and we can start to imagine from the newspaper articles and Maniwa’s interview with Sagi’s father the exact point of connection then.

The episode also gives an insight into the nature of the two’s surreal actions -- why either of them might have manifested in the first place. Maniwa has lost himself in the search for Shonen Bat, but that does mean he’s able to see the underpinnings of our collective consciousness a bit better. For example, because he treated Makoto Kozuka’s game as real way back in episode five, that’s what allows him to manifest these weapons in the first place, and commune with the ancient master in the meantime. Similarly, because the otaku treated his dolls as real way back in episode three, Maniwa can now interact with them and they help him on his quest. And because people treated Shonen Bat as real, because there’s practically a cargo cult surrounding Maromi, well…

Because Maromi was Tsukiko’s dog, though, and has manifested again as such, Maromi only really acts in service of his master, and when Tsukiko needs to escape Shonen Bat, Maromi disappears from the world to bring her into Ikari’s fake one. Now, remember, Maromi represented a willful ignorance of one’s problems, the good cop to Shonen Bat’s doomer resignation. Maromi’s disappearance represents that ignorance is only able to last for so long, but, then again, the show posits by the episode’s ending, so it goes for that resignation as well. This is something each victim from the previous episodes faces. Harumi Chono has started becoming Maria once again. The ancient master dies, putting more financial pressure on Akio Kawazu. Yuichi’s bullying starts up again.

With Maromi gone from this world, the only escape from one’s problems is a visit from Shonen Bat. But Shonen Bat has gotten a whole lot more destructive since we last saw him.


Next Time: It’s literally called “Final Episode” so, I mean…

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Edited by radio414

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Episode Thirteen -- Final Episode
Or: Wait, was this just the plot of Larry-Boy and the Fib from Outer Space?

Content Warning: A dog gets run over by a car, the camera only just cuts away in time to avoid depicting the actual impact, and even then, the aftermath is still shown.

We’re not done with this blog series just yet, but we are wrapping up this anime, so it still feels prudent to give my thoughts on the whole thing. It’s difficult though, because -- how do I put this? -- while Paranoia Agent is a really good show, this was also probably my least favorite rewatch so far. I’m not really sure why that is, though. It could, for example, just be a result of the weekly routine going stale. I don’t think that’s the case, though, and rather than lay out my own personal issues, I’d rather try and explore the qualities of the anime.

I can’t help but wonder if putting the movies at the end was setting myself up for failure. Perfect Blue, Millenium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers, and Paprika are some of my favorite movies of all time, while Paranoia Agent is just “a good show.” Superb, yes, but not a favorite. And don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret any of my time doing this or anything, but there were also times I just kept thinking “can’t wait until I get to talk about Millenium Actress.” 

There’s also the fear of repeating myself. I just wrote about Planetes, a show using its realistic yet fantastic setting of future space work to critique the systematic issues of the present, and now here’s Paranoia Agent, a show using its realistic yet fantastic setting of Tokyo to critique many of the same issues. I even made fun of myself last week for it. It really could just have been a timing thing. To a lesser extent, because each episode spends its time examining one singular faction of people, I might have run into danger crossing paths with Utena as well, though, with Utena, the thirty-nine episode length means each character gets multiple episodes, and multiple episodes translates to more depth.

I think that last point has the greatest chance of being “it” now that I’m writing it all down because now I’m thinking of other symbolism-heavy anime that gets hampered by its own runtime in similar ways. Some of Kunihiko Ikuhara’s other projects, Yurikuma Arashi and Sarazanmai have thirteen and eleven episodes respectively, and while symbolism can condense down a lot, that still breaks down the central core to a single thesis and maybe some surrounding elements.

That’s the weird thing about Paranoia Agent. It is at once a police drama, an anthology of character studies, a structural critique, and a monster story. Remember, this is a show that came out of all the disparate ideas Satoshi Kon had, forced together. Packed together like this, it can start to buckle under its own weight. And again, it’s beautiful, I really do like it, and I would recommend it to anyone who can get past the darker elements that necessitate the content warnings at the top of basically every post. I don’t know what I would change even if I had the hubris to think I could even try changing things. It’s entirely possible I just wish I liked it more.

Or maybe it’s just because Satoshi Kon media doesn’t have good memes.

Two things need to happen for Shonen Bat (or whatever the memetic mass is now since Maromi is gone there is nothing holding him back) to be defeated. The first is that Tsukiko Sagi needs to return to the real world, having fled into Ikari’s fantasy world the last time Maniwa tried to approach her. This may be the more difficult of the two tasks. While the world proves to be incredibly fragile given any sort of scrutiny, there’s also no reason to scrutinize it. Tsukiko is under Maromi’s protection (and the reveal confirms that every Maromi in the world is working to keep the illusion going) and sees Ikari as a sort of father figure that she never had in the real world, meanwhile, Ikari now has the daughter he never got to have and the “good old days” world he so desires.

This is solved the same way the rest of the conflicts of the show have been. Deception, even self-deception can only get you so far; reality will always find a way to seep back in. In this case, it takes the form of Misae, Ikari’s dying wife, who was taken to the fake world at the end of the last episode for the express purpose of saying goodbye to her husband. Even before Ikari’s revelation, then, this is what starts the scrutiny. “How did you get here?” he asks. A better, if sadder, way to phrase this, is if this is “his world” as Maromi puts it, then why wasn’t his wife here already?

“The world I belong in doesn’t exist anymore,” Ikari says. And even still, despite knowing this, he rejects the next best alternative, tearing down the fake world and returning to reality, ready to face whatever might be there for him.

The second thing that needs to happen is that Tsukiko Sagi needs to accept what happened to Maromi. Here, I don’t mean “Maromi, the mascot she created,” but “Maromi, the dog she had when she was little.” Because that is where Shonen Bat sprung from. Unable to face the consequences of her distraction, she drops her leash and Maromi wanders into traffic, but the story she tells instead is of a boy with inline skates and a golden baseball bat. “In this way, you could become the victim,” Maniwa tells her.

This is resolved in flashback, as once she is overwhelmed by the scale of her lie, Sagi is transported back to the inciting incident, but changes her actions from “immediately concocting and deluding herself into a lie,” to realizing what she’s done and embracing her lost pet. “I’m sorry, Maromi,” she says. In taking responsibility, her creation is unmade.

And yet, the effects of the disaster linger. Ikari’s arc gets an epilog where he sees the ruined city and compares it to the aftermath of World War Two, finally cementing his realization that his beloved “good old days” never existed in the first place, and then there’s a two-year time skip, where Tokyo’s rebuilding is nearing its completion.

Here’s the thing: The final shots of the show are a recreation of the opening shots of episode one, which in itself symbolizes a cycle. There are some different readings you can take from this. An easy one is that “no matter the consequences, life goes on,” a rather touching ending that attempts to make one’s problems trivial but in a good way this time. Another is that it’s supposed to pair with the after-credits stinger, where a now insane Maniwa invites the viewers to watch the series again and see what clues they missed the first time around. My favorite, though, is this one:

The show presented its systematic critique, but, by the end, there was just a monster going around wrecking Tokyo. If changes were enacted, they were on a personal level (and we can get at some of them thanks to Tsukiko’s meaningful haircut and wardrobe change, which I’ll leave as an exercise for the viewer). The ending then, is a warning, that this will happen again. It must. After all, the final shot is of Maniwa taking the old man’s place in the parking lot, doing calculations scrutable only to him, and just like at the beginning, he widens his eyes in fear, aware of what will happen next.


Next time: Darren Aronofsky bought the rights to this movie so he could replicate, like, two shots from it. okay update it's a little more complicated than that but the shots are there

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Edited by radio414

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Movie One -- Perfect Blue
Or: No, Seriously There Are Side-by-Side Comparisons Of This Movie And Requiem For A Dream Check Them Out (also i updated the last bit there check that out too)

Content Warning: The plot of this movie involves a retired idol trying to break into TV acting while being hounded by an obsessive, murderous stalker. As stresses begin to pile up, her sense of reality begins to fray. There are gory murder sequences, multiple sexual assault scenes (one simulated rape, one real, and, depending on your interpretation, the photoshoot counts as well), and a bit of slut-shaming besides. There’s also a brief throwaway line in the first Double Bind scene that could be construed as transphobic, directly harkening to The Silence of the Lambs.

This movie is regarded as one of those “animation isn’t just for kids here’s an example” movies that rank alongside Akira and Ghost in the Shell, and yeah, just look at that list of content warnings. I’m writing this paragraph before I’ve even rewatched the movie and it’s still pretty sizeable just based on my memory. But there are other reasons for that besides the movie’s graphic nature. It would be a mature story even without that; without the stalker and reality-bending, it’s still a story about the give-and-take of the Japanese entertainment industry, about a woman who is coerced into situations she’s uncomfortable with to keep her career alive. It’s interesting, then, that this is not the only Satoshi Kon-directed movie about a star, but is the only one interested in these themes, but, then again, Millennium Actress has its own themes to deal with and he’d already made Perfect Blue.

Another reason the movie isn’t for today’s youths is just that the movie is set in the present of its production, which was around 1998-1999, and it shows not just in the technology being used, but how it is portrayed. Many early scenes are simply Mimi being introduced to the internet, something the more internet-savvy generations have a bit more trouble relating to. It is prescient, though, or at least the problems brought up by the movie -- that the internet as a whole is an anonymizing force for those who wish to do harm while expanding the spotlight of public personae to even their most intimate, private moments, thereafter keeping them in a nigh-indelible record; that -- never really went away, and are frequently seen as features of the system rather than bugs. In that way, a modern interpretation of Perfect Blue starts to ask questions about what we might have left behind in the transition to a digital world. To be clear, there’s no judgment here; the story ends happily (and, if you watch it with the English dub, even unambiguously so), but they are things that people tend to treat as trivial when they absolutely are not.

Just a week ago at time of posting, for example, the main story on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver was about data brokers, how easy it is for one’s personal information to be obtained, bought, and sold, whether that’s to corporations for the sole dehumanizing purpose of generating future capital, or for malicious individuals to track their targets. The internet is even more public than we imagine, and yet still many treat it as a private comfort.

It’s this blurring line that Perfect Blue explores most of all. The Mima that appears in CHAM performances, the Mima that has a recurring role in hit detective drama series Double Bind, the Mima that haunts her nightmares wondering if staying as an idol might have been better (after all, CHAM starts doing much better very soon after Mima graduates), none of these are the real Mima Kirigoe. Satoshi Kon hadn’t directed much before this, but he demonstrates this here by already experimenting with his match cut-heavy style, comparing two personae directly through the change in the scenery surrounding them. She’s drawn from those things, of course, but the point is obsessing over a single, unchanging image is what starts the conflict. 

To provide examples would start to spoil the movie, and I do want people who’ve made it this far to watch the movie as blind as possible (though you’ll have to find exactly where by yourself), so to speak in the vaguest of terms, ask yourself while watching: what does each character see Mima as? Why do they think that? Some of this is easy; there are several scenes where characters say it out loud. The most important question, then, is what are they not seeing? And remember, this applies to Mima herself as well. The film references a metamorphosis, a change in herself, so it is as much a self-actualization story as it is the psychological horror it is billed as.

Honestly, I went into the rewatch of this movie expecting something good (obviously, I mean, I remember it being good the first time too), but not as spectacular as it’s hyped up online, but that’s changed now. I still don’t think it’s my favorite part of the Satoshi Kon canon (the list of content warnings a mile long certainly doesn’t help) but it is an important one, and definitely worth celebrating as we start the next step in this rewatch series.


Next time: I have literally started crying just thinking about this movie before.

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Edited by radio414

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Movie Two -- Millennium Actress
Or: For How Much I Love This Movie, You’d Think I’d Learn How To Spell “Millennium” Properly First Try

Yup, still a blubbering mess by the end of that.

Oh, but there are some content warnings to get through first: The main plot is set off by a schoolgirl developing romantic feelings for a man whose age is not described but is definitely in adulthood, though the actual relationship is ambiguous and never even close to sexual. In the Feudal Japan film, the main character discovers her lover is dead and immediately goes to commit suicide. I’d also put a flashing light warning during the post-war montage from all the photography bulbs.

Last week, I made an off-hand observation about the base similarities between this movie and Perfect Blue and noted that, despite that, none of the same themes made it over. Today, I would like to revise that statement. It’s not that Perfect Blue and Millennium Actress are two entirely separate movies tied together only by their production staff, it’s that Millenium Actress serves as its predecessor’s spiritual antithesis. If Perfect Blue argues that fictional stories, fictional representations of oneself, are a precipitous slope that one’s sanity might not come back from, Millennium Actress argues that it’s these same stories we tell ourselves that keep us going.

I’m about to spoil the entirety of this movie, partially because the movie spoils its biggest twist about ten minutes in (an not in a “technically just foreshadowing it, you know, like a good narrative would” way but in a “Genya has the key that means the artist obviously never got it” sort of way), but mostly because the central theme of the movie is futility, that, despite knowing that it’s not worth it, that it can only end badly, it’s still worth it just to press on. The literal actual final line of the movie is Chiyoko saying, “After all, it’s chasing after him that I really love.” If I’m going to talk about this movie, I want to do it in a way that exemplifies those themes. That being said, if you’d still rather go in blind (and weren’t, ah, blindsided by that quote a sentence ago), you have my blessing. If any of that pontificating interested you, give me a few more paragraphs.

Millennium Actress tells the story of Chiyoko Fujiwara, from her early life in 1930s Japan up until the modern-day. A chance encounter with a political dissident turns into a friendship (this is the romance listed in the content warnings) but before she knows it, he is forced to flee, leaving behind only a key, one that unlocks “the most important thing in the world.” Determined to find him, Chiyoko becomes an actress, with the hope that in her travels throughout the world and in film, she might find that man again and return to him what is his. In true Satoshi Kon fashion, it's a fictional biography (though the story was inspired by the life of Japanese film actress Setsuko Hara) told through the lens of a documentary, which itself is depicted in the blurring reality between Chiyoko's real-life quest and that of the characters she portrayed on the screen. It's not just her quest, though.

Every character in this movie besides maybe comic relief character Kyouji Ida has a dream, an ideal they want to achieve, and each of them fails in that dream. Chiyoko obviously never meets the man who gave her that key. Genya, in turn, never even gets to profess his love to Chiyoko, Eiko views Chiyoko as an obstacle keeping her from starring roles, Otaki’s marriage to her is based on a lie, and so on down the line. On the face of it, that makes for a pretty depressing movie. However, I said the principal theme was futility, and futility requires one extra ingredient: In the face of a hopeless situation, the futility comes from knowing it’s hopeless, and that’s really what matters here. That’s the twist that Millennium Actress throws at people, that they all know.

Now, this may seem contrary to the actual text of the movie. After all, the only ones who knew exactly when and how the man with the key died are Genya and the man who killed him, something Genya only reveals privately to Ida (and the audience) later. But I counter that argument with the final conversation, where Chiyoko talks about finding the man with the key in the afterlife. She knew he was already dead by then, and it didn’t matter. Why? Because that willful ignorance is more fun or, to use a more positive term, that suspension of disbelief, is more fun.

This is what I mean when I say I want any viewers I encourage to see this movie to know about it going in. That’s why I audibled to that specific term, one that has a history of use in media criticism. The audience can probably guess from moment one what “the key used to unlock the most important thing in the world” is, just as Chiyoko can. But it’s more fun to treat it as a MacGuffin, a thing the plot needs to keep moving forward. It’s not special until the audience makes it so. Is the lie worth it? I mean, yeah, this is one of my favorite movies.

“These things are still worth doing.” Yes, it’s one of those blog posts again. Part of me wonders why we keep running into this theme. I assure you, it’s not intentional. This one falls more closely to a sub-category that we haven’t quite explored on the blog, though: Why would you watch this knowing that it doesn’t end the way you want? Why would you want to experience the futility that I’ve already told you is there waiting for you by the end?

There are two common answers to this. The first is simply that of catharsis. This is the argument that says that we do these things to experience the emotion in a safe space -- in the case of movies, a dark, hopefully silent room. I may have been a blubbering mess by the end of Millennium Actress, but I knew I would be, and, to be honest, it was a good cry. To provide the second reason, and perhaps the more thematically cohesive one in this case, I’m going to point to another piece of media, this time a musical called Hadestown, which was written by Anais Mitchel and directed by Rachel Chavkin. Now, the story in Hadestown is literally that of Orpheus and Eurydice with a sprinkling of Hades’ kidnap of Persephone thrown in there for good measure. I can’t spoil these, they’re literally older than the written word. The show asks this question of itself, though, in its opening and closing numbers. “It’s a sad song,” sings Hermes. “It’s a sad tale -- it’s a tragedy!” And the question is answered, “We’re gonna sing it anyway […] Maybe it’ll turn out well this time.”

And that’s the key point, for both that show and the characters in Millennium Actress. Knowing how things are surely going to go does not deny them the fantasy that they might not. To draw on another Greek myth, I’m also going to draw a parallel to the myth of Pandora. After releasing the evils of the world from her box, Pandora finds one final thing left at the bottom: hope. In Millennium Actress, the almost-full moon is a recurring motif, drawn attention to by one of the few lines the man with the key has. “When the moon is full, there is nowhere else for it to go but to wane again. But on the fourteenth night, there is still tomorrow, and hope.” And that’s the comfort that keeps the world moving, that keeps Chiyoko’s search going, that pushes Genya to help her despite knowing more than anyone else the search’s true nature. It’s why I watch this movie. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll turn out for the better.


Next time: The best Christmas movie don’t @ me.

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Edited by radio414

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Movie Three -- Tokyo Godfathers
Or: Everything Is A Coincidence, There Are No Coincidences

Content Warning: One of the three main characters, Hana, is a trans woman, and while it’s super cool and she’s super cool, there’s also a lot of misgendering. This is particularly prevalent in the subtitles of languages where pronouns are more gendered, like, for example, English. This is very much a “depending on the translator, and most translators are wrong” sort of thing. I understand when this movie was on Netflix many insults became outright f-slurs. Make no mistake, there are actual moments of characters expressing transphobia, but yeah, also keep an eye out for that. The movie also features a suicidal woman overcome with grief after a miscarriage, a dialog description of domestic abuse, and, in the scene where Miyuki and Gin are fighting in the trash heap, a brief instance of sexual assault.

I’d say this is a “love it or hate it” sort of movie, but that’s not really true. There’s basically one sort of person who hates this movie (that is, one sort of person I’m going to talk about here, dismissing the rest off-hand like the flippant amateur movie critic that I am), and that’s the person that sees this movie as nothing but a string of coincidences. In defense of this strawman argument, it is right. Very few actions in this movie are brought upon by a principal character making a decision -- the biggest one I can think of off the top of my head is Hana insisting that they keep the baby Kiyoko in the first place -- and if your reaction to the events of the ending is anywhere near “Come on!” then it’s entirely likely the other eighty minutes of movie were equally interminable.

It is, however, not the point of the movie. Instead, by loosely stringing together a series of vignettes, Tokyo Godfathers starts to ask questions about family and the redemption (and, because the events hardly matter and the character motivations do, light spoilers ahead!). The first is rather obvious. Hana, Gin, and Miyuki are basically a family of homeless people, with the former two being like an old married couple and the latter the child they’ve been raising for the past six months. At the same time, of course, each of them has a family they’ve left behind for their own reasons. The question is asked: Which of their families is the real one? I’ll answer this, but first, let’s talk about the other theme.

The reason these three are left wandering the streets of Tokyo is because of their past, which they find irredeemable. Gin left his wife and child in financial ruin, having racked up drinking and gambling debts. Hana and Miyuki both assaulted someone. But the feeling of irredemption is entirely one-sided. This is something introduced incredibly early on -- Miyuki and her father cross paths and never once is he enraged at the sight of her, instead desperately trying to get her attention -- and continues even after all three of the protagonists have started to get their acts together when Sachiko is introduced as well. Part of this plays into the setting; I called this a Christmas movie last week, and I meant it. The story starts with a Christmas Eve mass. “1225” is an arc number, for crying out loud, appearing basically any time there’s a number important to the plot.

This redemption does not come without work, of course. In one of the many times this movie states its thesis out loud with a character looking into the lens is in the hospital, where a doctor tells Gin, “All anyone can do is their best.” Now, there are a couple of different interpretations of this line. Perhaps the most obvious is a discussion of karma, the classic “What goes around comes around,” but that feels a bit lacking. Instead, I lean towards a more personal affirmation; by “doing one's best” no matter the consequences, one can continue onwards with their head held high. It doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the movie, but only at a first glance.

The trick is to view the character actions and the events of the movie as wholly separate, only occasionally overlapping (and really only near the end). Remember, that’s what we were doing anyway since the whole movie is one coincidental encounter after another. Even then, each character slowly learns to do the best they can. It takes some doing. Gin struggles with his alcoholism, Hana’s desire to be a mother kickstarts the whole plot, and Miyuki frequently stops herself short, but it’s there all the same.

And now we circle back to that first theme, that of a family of blood compared to the family you choose, and which one is more valid than the other. It’s tempting to say that it’s the former. After all, the whole movie was about returning Kiyoko to her rightful parents, and each of the protagonists has made up with their family. But there are three pretty big cracks in that armor, and all of them are rather obvious once they become apparent. The first is that Hana, Gin, and Miyuki still end the movie together, despite making up with their respective other families. The second is that Hana’s “traditional” family doesn’t exist; she was abandoned by her mother and her husband is dead.

The last one, though, is that by the end of the movie, all three are indeed related through Kiyoko. By the end of the movie, they’re asked to become Kiyoko’s godparents. In this way, it’s an odd subversion of both “A person always belongs with who birthed them,” and “your family is yours to create.” Neither are invalidated by the movie’s conclusion, which is simply a heartfelt, “Whatever a family is to you, you need one. Your family is whoever is always there for you.” And that’s a nice Christmastime message, I think.

Even if I’m posting this in April.


Next time: Imagine Inception but, like, good

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Movie Four -- Paprika
Or: I Dreamt Of A Butterfly Who Dreamt It Was Me

Content Warning: Aside from the obvious feeling of doubting one's own reality that permeates the movie, there is one moment I would like to point out specifically. There is a massive sexual-assault warning after Paprika gets captured by butterflies. Also, one of the main characters is overweight and spends a good portion of the movie dealing with fatphobia. I have seen people get (reasonably!) turned off of stories for less, so fair warning there as well.

This is obviously not Satoshi Kon’s first foray into dream logic -- again, quite the opposite, unfortunately, as this would be his last -- but it is the first time it is dealt with so directly as to actually be dreams causing the surreality. Instead, Kon takes advantage of the decade of cultural change since Perfect Blue’s release in 1997 to go back to the well his first movie introduced and dig a little deeper. In this way, Paprika asks its questions: “How do we see ourselves? Through what lens?”

Even without the characters spelling it out in the middle of the story, the fact that the movie brings them into such close contrast would be evidence enough. On the internet of 2006, you can be anyone you like, just as people often become other things in their dreams. But in both cases, that doesn’t make these creations “not you,” merely another facet. And this is true even when you try to deny it. To put in the perspective of a modern (at time of writing) meme trend, it would be like reading something you posted in some other character and being like, “This is nothing like me!” “My friend in Christ,” comes the reply, “You typed the words.”

Or, for those who’ve played those games, I guess it’s like the Persona series.

This is all probably getting a little complex, though, to be fair, we’ve dabbled in Jungian topics such as these before. Even still, it’s possible to pull back a bit and just enjoy the movie for what it is: a murder mystery straight out of Ghost in the Shell combined with a psychologist double-life story with a healthy dose of Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut thrown in there for good measure. That still makes it sound more complicated than it is, and, to be fair, I was being a little smarmy coming up with that combination, but really there are only three key themes at play here and we’ve already started talking about one of them. 

The murder mystery turns out to be part of a philosophical battle. The chairman is introduced with a long-winded monolog about how science is intruding on something sacred, with the culprit taking their own stand against what they perceive to be the natural order of things. This is especially apparent when it’s revealed that the machine in question, the DC Mini, was designed by genius inventor Kousaku Tokita for function first and safety… never. Given that this is a Japanese movie and similar circumstances led to the creation of the atomic bomb, well, I’ll leave the viewer to draw their own conclusions on the ending there. Suffice it to say, the nature of dreams and reality is the second key theme. To match the question motif I’ve been asking, this question would be “How do we see the world?”

Finally, then, is “How do others see us?” The initial motive suggested is that the culprit was jealous of Tokita’s genius, which Tokita himself seems difficult to see, but, then again, he doesn’t fare well in social relationships anyway. Meanwhile, Doctor Osanai outright says that he’s jealous of our lead, Atsuko Chiba, but she doesn’t think anything of it until much later in the movie.

I’m trying not to spoil this one because it is a mystery worth solving. Like with the Perfect Blue post, I’d like to just ask the questions to keep the viewer thinking throughout the movie. I will also add that the movie’s dream logic means it uses recurring motifs to draw the connections. When Detective Konakawa comes through that door or turns that hallway, he always moves the same way, for example, or how the parade always introduces itself with the same appliances at the front. Again, you can tune out and enjoy the gorgeous animation -- Kon and Madhouse were once again at the top of their game for this one -- but I would encourage you to keep thinking.

In terms of a finale, I don’t have much for this one because I spent most of that at the end of Paranoia Agent. I don’t even have a happier ending besides enjoying myself much more in these movies than I did with the show. I don’t have a happy ending in real-life, either; Kon remains dead, his final unfinished work remains in development hell, and, to tell the truth, these movies did not make that much money in the theater anyway. They were successful, sure, and obviously they’re good or I wouldn’t be talking about them, but not to the degree that investors might have hoped.

And yet, we remember them. Maybe that’s a happy ending enough.


I don’t know what’s going on next. I’m definitely taking a month-long break again, but after that, I don’t know if I have something in mind or if I’ll throw up another poll. If anyone has suggestions, I may as well listen, but otherwise, keep on the lookout for any of that.

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Episode One -- The Black Swordsman
Or: They Thought They Could Stop A Demon I’m Back

In this world, is the destiny of mankind controlled by some transcendental entity or law? Is it like the hand of God hovering above? At least it is true that man has no control, even over his own will.

Content Warning: I’m going to put a broad one up at the top of this series and then reiterate parts of it as the episodes require. Berserk is a dark series. It is perhaps “the” dark fantasy manga, for all that that phrasing implies, and occasionally uses elements such as (but not exclusively) gore, sexual violence, and derogatory language as part of its story. I would argue that some of it is necessary for the story being told, which I will get to in a moment, although other parts of it, especially earlier in the series, are wholly extraneous and largely for shock value. Mangaka Kentaro Miura has admitted as such in interviews. There’s a reason Wyald has been adapted out of every adaptation of The Golden Age, for example. This is a link to a Reddit post with a timestamp and description of every sexual assault in Berserk (1997). I will be referencing it for the warnings here.

Episode One opens with a young girl harassed by a group of armed men in a bar. It is largely through implication but it does set the tone for the entire series, including what happens when Guts makes his appearance. I know this was a lot of reading already, and I apologize for that. I wouldn’t be talking about this show if it wasn’t worth it.

By the time I was into Berserk, Kentaro Miura was already dead.

It was actually a pair of eulogies that introduced me. I had known of Berserk before this -- it’s difficult not to with something this influential -- but it was these two that convinced me that firstly, someone like me (an Utena-watcher) could enjoy what I always thought was a gorefest and little else; and second, that it was still worth watching despite knowing it would likely end up incomplete.

The second point is something we’ll get back to later. It’s important to note here at the start that these are not unique qualities to Berserk. My introduction to Satoshi Kon was Tony Kon and Taylor Ramos’ eulogy retrospective on his editing style, and a tweet by Kon later directed me to then-free access to Millennium Actress. Kon even has leftover work that will likely never be finished. Nobody is going to direct Dream Machine despite how many people might want Studio Madhouse to work on it. But there is something that does make Berserk special, and I would like to broadly outline my thesis here for the rest of the show.

I have made a decent amount of hey regarding shows that depict the will to live and love as the cure-all for the systemic oppression the world inflicts upon us. Berserk is one of those. I will not deny that. But also, most if not all of these shows depict this theme as a revelation, something to work to reveal to its audience. Not so here. It is a stated theme in the opening of the manga and the show. Notice the question at the top of the post. To paraphrase it in a way that makes Void look less pretentious, it’s “What do you do when nothing you can do matters?” Hell, one character exclusively refers to our main character Guts as, “The Struggler.”

But even if you don’t get that, Berserk has more to offer. It has to. Each new character introduced asks more questions about both the world they exist in and ours as readers. Both Griffith and Casca have arcs running in parallel to Guts, not to mention Rickert’s development throughout the manga or the members of Guts’ party and their growth. These are questions like, “What does it mean to be trusted wholeheartedly by someone else? Does that make you their friend or their leader?” Void continues to ask questions like this at the end of each of these episodes. Yes, they’re broad and nebulous, but they are touched on.

Because of the lens I am using to introduce Berserk as a whole -- I’m not covering the 2016 anime lmao -- these may dip into the background from time to time, but I will bring up the other arcs where I can, and I invite anyone reading this blog, if any of this sounds interesting to you, to follow the manga as well. It’s certainly more available to purchase online than a Blu-ray that only this year got out of rights hell, that’s for sure. I’m sure you can find other ways to watch or read Berserk too, but I won’t say what those are. It’s there if you go looking, though.

Again, see those content warnings and there is no judgment if it’s not for you, but I do hope you enjoy.

One thing to know about the 1997 adaptation of Berserk is how low-budget it is. I don’t mean this as disparagement, just that it is the reason for much of the show’s aesthetic, especially for an episode that isn’t technically part of the arc of the show. Matte paintings paired with camera pans to simulate frenzy, cheating on even basic framing such as hiding mouth movements, and a transformation that takes place entirely off-screen. On the one hand, I respect it for this episode specifically. The Black Swordsman is already probably the worst arc in the series (mostly by being the first, before Miura had figured out what it was even about yet, and it’s still not bad. We’ll get to this later too), and The Golden Age is where people started paying attention, and is also the arc the rest of the show will be adapting. On the other, it is the first episode of the show. First impressions matter, and they didn’t even adapt the good parts of The Black Swordsman.

But speaking of first impressions, what do we have to work with?

The Black Swordsman is Guts at his lowest point. He is a lone wanderer, going from town to town and fighting both demonic creatures in human form called Apostles and specters haunting him because of a cursed brand on his neck. He is missing his right eye and his left hand, even if he has a nifty brace that doubles as both a repeating crossbow and a cannon. He has a massive hunk of metal strapped to his back, much too big to be called a sword. If you ask a random person to describe an edgelord, the result would likely not be too far from Guts as described here. But what’s important, then, is even with all of this brooding, there are still moments of benevolence. The very first thing Guts does after walking into town is save a girl from a sexual assault. His big nihilistic speech as he wails on the Snake Baron is still one in defense of humanity.

In terms of the world, the world of Midland is in ruins. More importantly, it is in ruins because of the supernatural. I have already mentioned the Apostles, each of whom has a magical artifact called a Behelit, but there is also mention in the opening pub scene of a “Lord Griffith,” a name Guts later associates with one of the five monstrous figures of his hallucination. It’s important to point out the magic, I think, because it’s about to become increasingly hard to find. This is one of the main adaptational changes the show makes from the manga. As much supernatural as possible has been excised from the Golden Age. Magic is a violent and disruptive force here, and its return signals the age’s end. Put a pin in that for later too, though.

By revealing itself to be an in-medias res opening episode, The Black Swordsman leaves us with a question: How? How did things get to be this way? What connection does Guts have with Griffith to drive him berserk at the mere hallucination of his presence? And who are those other people in the ending credits?

Oh, I suppose I’m jumping ahead of Void here to ask it the episode’s way. See you next week,


Next time: For what do humans come into being? What goals do they set for themselves in life? And why do they meet those destined to become important to them? Everything may rely solely on fate.

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Episode Two -- The Band of the Hawk
Or: Introducing the Love Interests. Yes, I Said Interests, Plural

Content Warning: After the midcard break is a surreal dream sequence where a young boy relives a sexual assault. Just after that, a woman is ordered against her will to lie naked with a man to share body heat. Above the break, I’m going to describe a scene involving encouraging someone to commit suicide.

It’s a bit early to be going too deep into the manga when I want to be focusing on the arc laid out before us here, but given we just finished all of what the show is going to give us of the Black Swordsman arc, I thought this would be a good place to talk about this arc in the manga and what you might have missed. For example, Puck!

Puck is an elf, of the androgynous, faerie-looking sort, who Guts saves in the tavern instead of that village girl and he continues to follow Guts around as he goes on his one-man campaign against the Apostles. While Guts outwardly rejects Puck’s company, elf pixie dust is a potent cure-all in this universe, so Puck’s presence becomes outright necessary if Guts is to continue moving. Puck is important because his nature contrasts against the rest of the world thus far. Kindness is possible in this world, even if Guts doesn’t want to admit it. It’s Puck who states the thesis of the series instead of Guts, leaving Guts’ belief in the indomitable will of the human spirit to survive mostly to subtext.

But what subtext it is! The only other major battle in the Black Swordsman arc is against an apostle only referred to as The Count. Unlike the Snake Baron, where Guts simply walks into town and calls him out of his fortress (or the first apostle fight that’s not canon don’t at me on this), the fight to get to The Count involves asking an important question: What even is an apostle?

The big reveal is that an apostle is a human who has made a demonic bargain for power and seeming immortality, but you must sacrifice whatever you most hold dear to do so, dooming the sacrificed to an eternity in Berserk’s version of hell. Behelits act as conduits for this sacrifice, and they only call the necessary powers when you are at your lowest point, so perhaps apostles could be seen as this: In the choice to either die or give up everything that made life worth living, apostles have chosen the latter. When you put it that way, all apostles are, in some twisted way, sympathetic creatures. Nobody wants to die, after all, and one can only imagine the point that many apostles were driven to before taking the bargain. But this is dulled by how terrible the sacrifice is, and the fact that most of them are, to put it lightly, terrible people. The Snake Baron eats children. The Count cares for his daughter and is depicted as truly caring for his wife (again, you can’t sacrifice someone you don’t truly love), but he’s a knight templar for his religion and has used his powers since becoming an apostle to inflict a reign of terror, executing anyone who even dares look at him funny.

Remember, Guts got a vision of demonic figures in the anime’s first episode, and he called one of them Griffith. This is our first inkling of what is doomed to happen by the end of the show.

But back to Guts and human life for a moment, because this is something I think gives a better introduction to Guts and asks a better “How did it come to this?” than anything that came before. The Count’s daughter Theresia finds out about her father’s demonic nature and is already disillusioned, but The Count’s dying declaration of love for her leaves her truly broken, wholly uncertain if there is anything worth living on for without him. Guts steps in and acts like the sort of edgelord that we have seen for three volumes of manga now, insulting her and going so far as to encourage her to kill herself if she really doesn’t see anything worth living for.

Theresia doesn’t kill herself, though. Instead, she proclaims her new purpose in life is to get revenge, to kill Guts in any way she can. Guts says he is glad to hear it, turns his back, and walks away. Puck, horrified by all this, flies after Guts and tries to confront him to his face but he stops when we see Guts finally breaking down himself. In the final panels of the Black Swordsman arc, Guts starts to cry.

Remember what Guts said in the anime. Humanity will always find a reason to live. It will make it up if it has to. But that doesn’t mean it will never hurt.

This is the episode that introduces Griffith properly into the story, and there are three quotes of his that I want to highlight throughout this episode, each so packed with meaning that we’re going to be spending the next twenty-some episodes unpacking all of them. Here they are in the order that they appear.

“Do as you will”

These are Griffith’s first words in the manga as he allows Corkus and the members of the Band of the Hawk under his command to attempt to rob Guts of some bounty money. It is a very simple statement that asks an implicit question: What do you even want to do? These days, if you’re a little pretentious, it calls to mind a specific quote by Robert Caro: “When you have enough power to do what you always wanted to do, you see what the guy always wanted to do.” In this instance, Corkus only has power over his men and is portrayed as ambitious to a fault. He says he wanted to challenge the same warrior Guts had and use that to attain his glory. Much of The Golden Age arc is a power struggle, and it’s what that power means and what the principal characters are using to get it or hold onto it that are the driving thrusts of the arc.

Then again this paragraph dances around the issue of Griffith being the one to say it. Griffith as a character has been debated over and over since the nineties, and some of the weight of this line is technically spoilers even to people who have read every published volume of Berserk, so I just want to point it out and put a pin in it for later.

“I believe you don’t have a purpose in life and put your life on the line as a way to try and find it.”

Much of this is covered in the preamble to this post (side note, I think I really like talking about Berserk), but let’s also get into specifics. Guts is a loner mercenary, traveling from battle to battle. His backstory, covered more in the manga but depicted in a dream sequence here, is that he was unwillingly taken in by a mercenary named Gambino who trained him from birth to earn his keep the only way one can in a mercenary camp: by fighting. After years of such abuse, Guts kills Gambino in self-defense and flees the camp. He fights in battles like he has a death wish, but a key character trait of Guts’ is his absolute refusal to die. Even when he has nothing worth living for, it is better than the alternative. This is why Guts is called “The Struggler.”

Griffith brings up Guts’ fight at the beginning of the episode with Basuzo, a man who, legend tells, fought off thirty men at once and fights bears on the regular. Guts was very lucky to not die in that fight. Then again, maybe it was fate.

“No matter what, I will get what I want.”

We ask again, what is it exactly that Griffith wants? In this specific instance, he wants Guts, though it’s not shown exactly what that’s supposed to mean. In the manga, Guts implies that Griffith might be the sort of person who wants to exploit him sexually (and in the Dark Horse translation, uses a homophobic slur I’m not going to repeat here), and there are certainly homoerotic undertones to Guts and Griffith’s relationship -- we haven’t even gotten to the water fight -- so maybe that is part of it, but that’s only one facet of what Griffith wants. It could be that Griffith wants what he currently has -- an adoring mass of people willing to fight and die for him as the Band of the Hawk. But that’s only one facet as well.

I’m beating around the bush. We saw Griffith last episode in Guts’ vision. We know how this is going to end. This line here is one of those “when you meet the character who is going to betray you” lines.

It’s also important to mention Casca’s introduction here. Although it’s difficult to get into Casca’s whole deal without a few more episodes under our belt, we can get a few inklings here, largely of her absolute loyalty to Griffith. She is the one who follows Guts and Griffith to witness their first duel and calls out out of concern for Griffith’s safety. Of all the members of the Band of the Hawk, her story is the one we’re going to spend the most time on, which is good because you can probably guess what happens to everyone by the time The Black Swordsman arc rolls around.

Next time: The story has begun. While they are entwined with strings spun by fate, the boy cries out, and the girl is stirred by emotion -- “It’s you who I want.” He does it to survive… That is why the boy wields his sword. Where will destiny take him?

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Episode Three -- First Battle
Or: We Love A Good Double-Meaning, Don’t We Folks?

(i hate how the berserk wiki goes between the japanese title cards and the english title cards seemingly at random. i'm going to keep doing this to match the previous aesthetics, but wow do i hate it)

I would like to talk about Berserk’s general music composition here because this is the first time it is made prominent in the show after the main menu screen of my Blu-ray. It has been present since episode one, but this is where the song Forces got lyrical subtitles, both in Romanji and in English. If you click that link, you’ll see a familiar name: Susumu Hirasawa. In addition to being the go-to composer for Satoshi Kon, he did all of the music for Berserk 1997 and has contributed a song to every following Berserk anime project to date.

To make an overly general statement about a broad genre of music, fantasy music seems to conform to the instruments of its time period, or at least “time period” in the way that the past seems to all get flattened together -- several variations on the words “classical” and “orchestral” all lump together to create the idea of old music with modern sensibilities. Fantasy is a melodramatic genre, and the heightened emotions are represented by the music cues as well. Big brass ensembles for triumphant moments, woodwinds and strings for the downswings, etcetera. But the Berserk score, meanwhile, is synthetic, unashamedly so. In using a different soundscape, Berserk 1997 creates a different vibe from the expected orchestral score. What does that mean?

One could argue it is intentionally dissonant. Forces is a triumphant theme, yes, -- indeed it plays in this episode as the Band of the Hawk tramples through the enemy camp, setting enemy gunpowder ablaze, but perhaps it still should not exist in this world. Even though the arc is called “The Golden Age,” perhaps the world is not as golden as it seems. Alternatively, the more modern score could be reminding us of more modern times. This is a flashback arc, after all. The manga never reached the point of synthesized music, but then again you don’t tend to listen to manga.

This is, of course, ignoring the fact that it was the Nineties. Berserk 97 is an anime that is old enough to still have some small flashing lights in its OP. They could have just wanted something that sounded cool. We will have to talk about the OP and EP at some point during this blog (imagine I just did a big sucking air through my teeth noise here), but they do kind of justify that point. They’re very much a 90s affair as well. Perfect Blue was also released in 1997. Susumu Hirasawa was a known quantity. And hey, from a production standpoint, it sure is unique, isn’t it?

If I were to just give a play-by-play of this episode, I would describe the two “First Battles” that make up this episode and that would be that. But that’s really what the episode is about, just the events. The episode is actually about neither of those things, it is an introduction to Casca first and foremost, with a small emphasis on Corkus.

Each member of the Band of the Hawk is following Griffith for a specific reason. This is something that Berserk is very interested in. Some of these reasons are more specific than others. Corkus is the most obvious, even with the few moments we have spent with him so far, so I will start with him:

Corkus is about as personally motivated as one can be. In any given situation, Corkus will choose the most hedonistic option. And this is true of all forms of personal pleasure, from money and women to status and power. He will also not take an option that promises more hedonism later over the one that promises some now. He is demonstrably a reasonable warrior given his status within the Band, but he also cowardly chooses to send someone else to assassinate Guts in his sleep. He’s not going to change, but then, he doesn’t exactly have a reason to.

Casca, as mentioned previously, is absolutely devoted to Griffith, acting against her own interests if Griffith says but a word. Through her personal thoughts watching Griffith interact with Guts, we can start to get an idea of why. In my opinion, it is clear that she is jealous of Guts and the special treatment Griffith is giving him. Infatuation is not the only reason, however. Casca is a woman in a dark fantasy world, and her relationship to The Band of the Hawk does give her some amount of status. This is something that is going to be explored in later episodes, so we won’t delve too much deeper into this at this point. Put yet another pin on the board.

We notice, however, a parallel. After Guts has been dragged into camp for a welcoming party, we see Casca has taken his spot at the top of the wall, looking down on Guts specifically. I should stress how much of a pun “Looking down on” is here. It is both literally true just by a factor of the location and figuratively true -- Casca will be one of the last people to trust Guts on any level. But we continue the parallel, perhaps Guts is already up there with Casca, at least in spirit. Last week, I said “Love Interests, plural,” and this is what I meant. Casca being placed up here is foreshadowing for that.

Next Time: In this world, there is a flow of time that can never be recovered. Only by learning to suffer the sins of one’s past can one move forward. The sorrow in the furthest reaches of one’s memory… The sorrow just beyond one’s memory… Which is more heartbreaking?

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Episode Four -- The Hand of God
Or: Featuring A Homoerotic Water Fight Just In Time For Pride Month

Content Warning: This episode features an extended flashback of Guts’ backstory, largely centered around his relationship with his adopted father, Gambino. Gambino was physically and emotionally abusive to Guts, culminating in a scene where Gambino breaks into Guts’ tent and tries to kill him. Also in this episode, the King of Midland calls an enemy army “black devils” which in context is a reference to their dark armor, but also, given that the leader of this band of knights has darker skin (among other Tudorian dark-skinned characters), it feels derogatory enough to warrant a mention here.

We talked about the general sound design last time, with only an offhand mention of Berserk’s Opening and Ending songs, so let’s talk about those while we’re still on the topic: They’re bad, thanks for reading.

Okay, okay.

When I made mention of Penpals’ “Tell Me Why” and Silverfins’ “Waiting So Long,” it was in reference to a sort of “90s-ness” that Berserk 1997 carried with it, a defense of hiring Susumu Hirusawa for the dark fantasy anime. In the week since then, I’ve found myself reckoning with the idea that fantasy in the popular consciousness did not have such grand reference points. The Ralph Bakshi-directed Lord of the Rings animated movie nearly had a rock opera, for example (“nearly” is doing a lot of heavy lifting here, the rock opera was in John Boorman’s United Artists script before Bakshi got a hold of the project and replaced the script with one written by Peter S. Beagle (yes that one), which is a story for another blag but the point stands). This also ignores that the Lord of the Rings is an American production of a British book directed by a Kiwi in his native country of New Zealand and that Fellowship of the Ring would not be in theaters for another four years. There were a lot of reasons to not even see any dissonance with an artificial soundscape in 1997, even if I do maintain it means something to the story that Berserk sounds like it does.

At the same time, the reason that I’m inclined to factor in a little bit of nineties cheese into the decision is, well, the opening and ending songs are peak nineties cheese. Tell Me Why sounds like it was recorded in a garage (I mean this with as much appreciation for garage rock as can translate onto a web page), with such nonsensical lyrics as “Put your glasses on, nothing will be wrong. There’s no blame, there’s no fame. It’s up to you.” Meanwhile, Waiting So Long is, by some nebulous definition of the genre, a shoegaze song with a chorus that is just the line “I’m waiting so long” repeated four times. Both are full of non-fluent English, which means I get to note that the online Berserk fanbase near-universally refers to the “glasses” lyric as “grasses,” and I hope you can hear the derision in my words as I type that.

But okay, let’s put some analysis glasses on and try and figure out something that aligns these songs with the rest of the text. An interpretation I’ve seen elsewhere is that these songs are somehow in-character to someone in Berserk, and I don’t hate that Idea. I have already come up against the question of “why are you following Griffith” in my own analysis, and so there’s a lot that can be done with that. It’s a question we’re still answering in the series proper, though, so we’ll be following this pin later. More distressing are the final lines in the OP, “It’s too late. It’s too late.” Although we are already vaguely aware of the tragedy coming around the corner, this repetition serves as a constant reminder, especially when we get to the darker parts of The Golden Age Arc. There’s some animation that reinforces this as well: a white flower consumed by flames.

“Waiting So Long” as an in-character piece is also interesting to analyze at this point in the series because it is a song about death and loss and an inability to move on. We have seen Guts begin the healing process from his own traumas, but again, we know how this ends up. This one is emphasized by its visuals. The credits play next to a montage or slideshow of the named characters, evoking an in-memoriam. That’s a smaller touch, I think. It could just be as a reminder of who these characters even are, as the story focus narrows to its core three, but the two together certainly feel meaningful, even if the majority of the depicted characters don’t even die.

I guess that’s spoilers, sorry. Feel free to guess which ones!

This episode is a lot prettier than the past three. Maybe it is because I was watching this episode late at night, maybe it was because of the soft morning light spread across the first half, maybe it was just because Griffith is naked in it, but I felt there was a notable animation quality bump going on here. There’s nothing that would break a budget going on, just all these little touches that take a little extra time to draw. During Guts and Griffith’s gay water fight, for example, they didn’t have to include the frames of both figures from behind the water that’s about to splash onto them, but they did, and the show is better for it.

The meat of the episode is again split into two areas of focus -- Guts gets his backstory even more fleshed out and the two scenes with Griffith warning us of his fated destiny in the form of his behelit and how his ambition to have his own kingdom plays into that. We’ll start with the former.

When Griffith made the assessment that Guts was fighting to find a reason to live, it was a guess based on how Guts carried himself in battle. Here, we find out that that guess was accurate. Guts was found under the corpse of a hanged woman, and all sources indicate that he was indeed born under this cursed sign. He was found adopted by Cis (or Sisu depending on the translation, but I prefer Cis because it demonstrates that Berserk is very gay), and when she died soon after, Guts was raised by her husband, the mercenary Gambino. Not only has Guts been fighting for a reason to live, he has been doing this all his life. In the beginning, Guts is fighting simply for his father’s approval -- I mentioned in the content warnings how this relationship is abusive. The pivotal moment comes, though, when, after running away from the camp, Guts finds himself injured and surrounded by a pack of wolves. Even after accepting that he is likely to die here, Guts fights onward.

At the beginning of the episode, Judeau notes that Guts might have found his reason in Griffith, just like everyone else who follows him. It has not been officially established yet, but given what we have heard from nobility talking about him, and the fact that he’s leading a mercenary band at all, we can infer that Griffith is of common birth. Perhaps the best piece of evidence from this episode, though, is how he talks about nobility. Griffith wants a kingdom for himself; the big selling point for fighting for him is the reward for meeting that goal. But he also talks in this episode about how even a king must on some level meet the expectations of his subjects. A person is still a product of the system they are born into. He makes the point also that you can’t choose to be born a king even if you want to, it’s just the guiding hand of fate.

A natural question then arises: What is Griffith’s fate? We the audience already know from Guts’ hallucination during the Black Swordsman episode (and even more if you read the manga). That can lead into a postmodern take on storytelling where a character finds their fate laid out on the page and is really interesting, but in the moment within the story, Griffith is fighting to find that out. He has set his ambitions high and counter to his birth because that, he believes, will demonstrate what Fate with a capital F has in store for him. He is exploring the boundaries of what it means to be Griffith. In a way, this also circles back to the comment at the opening of each episode by Void, wondering if even this personal rebellion is preordained.

For now, though, we have established another parallel between Guts and Griffith, both fighting to find out what the world has in store for them. Guts has, even at this point in the story, already rejected what Fate has in store for him. His utter refusal to die is his defining character trait. Griffith, meanwhile, has a fate more nebulous. It seems he has been dealt the role of a mercenary leader, but then again, he’s had his behelit since he was a child, which has its own dreadful fate attached.

We close the episode with exposition about the actual war all these mercenaries are trying to make a living on. The Band of the Hawk has allied itself with the Kingdom of Midland in their hundred-year war against the Tudor Empire. We have already heard rumblings of what Griffith’s success on the battlefield might mean for them politically, but this is the first time Midland’s king has caught sight of their activity. Three years have passed since the start of the arc. Guts is one of Griffith’s most trusted companions. We have yet to see what that means, though, outside of offhand remarks, but there are another twenty-ish episodes ahead of us for that.


Next Time: People gaze upon others for different reasons -- to protect one’s own happiness, to fulfill one’s own dream, and to simply survive. Is there ever a time where one can live his own dream without inflicting a wound on someone else’s heart?

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Episode Five -- A Wind of Swords
Or: A Game Of Thrones At Home

This episode introduces a lot of what Berserk’s Golden Age arc is going to be about, which means it’s just about time to talk about some of Berserk’s inspirations. Some of them are obvious. If I say there is a character named Ubik and he’s one of several characters named after science fiction stories, that gives a general idea of what Kentaro Miura was reading during Berserk’s creation. Ubik is a deeply psychological novel by Phillip K. Dick about filling in knowledge gaps with the divine with an extra dollop of examining the very human problem of inability to move on after the death of a loved one. Berserk has both of those things. We could also talk about Berserk’s artistic influences. Kentaro Miura trained under George Morikawa and helped work on the boxing manga Hajime no Ippo, for example, and the Fist of the North Star comparisons write themselves. But there is one manga Miura attributes to influencing The Golden Age specifically that stands out above the pack. Amidst all this genre fiction and shonen manga, the work that influenced The Golden Age the most is a shojo manga called The Rose of Versailles.

This is why I feel confident in pointing out the homoeroticism in The Golden Age’s primary relationship between Guts and Griffith. The Rose of Versailles is, despite what more literal and/or conservative-minded commentators might tell you, a deeply queer text. While it is largely a tale of the rise and fall of Marie Antoinette as Queen of France -- a story about how nobility, despite its power and decadence, is still beholden to the will of the people they rule -- it tells this story through a fictional perspective character named Oscar François de Jarjayes, a woman raised as a man to inherit her father’s estate. A good portion of the manga is Oscar trying to resolve this contradiction within herself. She is in a position of power as commander of the Royal Guard but is also under constant pressure to prove herself because of her outlier status. And wouldn’t you know it, Berserk has one of those too in Casca. Casca doesn’t get into this on the same level Oscar did (partially for some real shitty reasons), but there is a particularly famous line in a few episodes where she says, “I didn’t ask to be born a woman!” which I think speaks for itself if her appearance in the show so far hasn’t been evidence enough.

Oh, and The Rose of Versailles in general and Oscar in specific is also a noted influence on Utena of Revolutionary Girl fame, because everything comes back to Utena.

But this is not to downplay the political aspect, which as much as it would be funny otherwise, is where Berserk takes much of its inspiration. This is something Griffith shares with Oscar, someone who is always shown as being measured in her actions, accepting every possible outcome of a chaotic situation because she has thought it through to the best of her ability.

Here’s an example: Early on in Rose of Versailles, Oscar is tasked with becoming an attendant to Marie Antoinette, but doing so would put her in the crosshairs of Madame du Barry, King Louis XV’s favorite, who has been exercising the political power of her position to torment Antoinette. This is a conflict that the Jarjayes family had been staying neutral over, but that’s not an option here. It’s a simple choice when laid out like this, a question of present versus future returns. Marie Antoinette doesn’t have nearly the amount of power in the court as du Barry, but she is first in line to be Queen of France. Whatever hardship Madame du Barry can throw her way can easily be swept away by the ravages of time, but that hardship still has to be taken into consideration.

Griffith and the Band of the Hawk officially join Midland’s army in the middle of this episode, which stirs dissent among the gentry. We’ll get to that after the break, but suffice it to say that the next half of The Golden Age is about Griffith’s rise to power, how he applies a mind demonstrated to be a master of the battlefield to a different but no less tactical puzzle.

As mentioned at the end of last week’s post, three years have passed since that fateful duel on the hill, which means a lot of this episode is playing catch-up to those three years. The biggest question among all of this is: How has Guts changed? It’s an interesting question to ask because the answer depends on who you are talking to. If you’re talking to Casca or Corkus, the answer is no. To them, Guts is still that same reckless person who cares only about himself and the glory of the battlefield. I should note, though, that they think this for two different reasons. Corkus thinks so because he can only see things through his ambition. It’s one of those “he can’t conceive of anyone else being any different from him” situations. He’s a pretty simple character to get, the “problematic uncle” of the named Band of the Hawk characters.

Casca, meanwhile, is a character I’ve been dancing around for the past few episodes. I’ve called The Golden Age a love triangle, yes, but I haven’t really gone into the specifics of that dynamic. Your standard love triangle with a main-character Guts would involve both Griffith and Casca pining after him, but that isn’t really what’s happening here. The focus of the love triangle is Griffith. Casca is so devoted to Griffith because she is loves him. It’s an obvious fact, and one she’ll open up about eventually, but yeah it’s not blind loyalty to the cause that causes Casca to lash out when Guts does something gutsy. What Casca has picked up on, another pin i’ve had in the board for just this moment, is how Griffith is providing a lot of the emotional support for Guts that Casca has been pining for. “Griffith has never said anything like that to me,” she’s thought. In a word, she’s jealous. And the fact that Guts doesn’t seem to reciprocate Griffith’s feelings fuels that jealousy all the more.

Speaking of this unrequited love are hints that Griffith is going to be good at the political game he’s about to be thrust into here. He gets Guts to apologize for his reckless charge from the beginning of the episode with barely a word, instead acknowledging the lapse in judgement with “I plan my battle strategy around your tendencies.” More importantly, when Casca and Guts are given the undesireable task of working together, he placates Casca with a very specific phrase: “I need you to do this.” So it’s not that Griffith is somehow oblivious to his own magnetic charisma, just that returning Casca’s feelings in any greater measure than that would not benefit his grand ambition of his own kingdom. There’s tragedy in that, but there will be time for Casca to explore that in more detail.

Let’s return to the main question, then. Has Guts changed in his three years of service to the Band of the Hawk? I feel like this is a bit too leading of a question because the answer is yes, obviously. Casca accuses him of not caring about his men, and not only is that a false accusation -- the reason for his reckless solo charge is all but stated to be because the only person Guts wants to place in danger is himself -- but Guts reacts strongly to it, seizing Casca by the wrist and daring her to say it again. The Guts of three years ago would not have acted in the way he did in the supply raid, warning off Griffith from charging into Adon Coborlwitz’s trap. Guts used to want Griffith dead, remember.

And it’s this last point that begins the reconciliation between Casca and Guts. When the dust from the explosive trap settles, Casca approaches Guts and apologizes for trying to head him off. “You were only desperately trying to protect Griffith,” she says. It’s the highest compliment she can give right now.

But speaking of Adon Coborlwitz, we’ve got a whole swath of new characters to introduce. Adon’s introduction is actually a little early compared to the manga, but in a way that reinforces him as an arc miniboss, a lackey a bit too big for his britches below General Boscogne and the Governor. We’ll get to those in time, but it’s more important right now just to recognize that they exist. On the Midland side meanwhile, is the first appearance of Minister Foss and Count Julius, the two most outwardly antagonistic towards Griffith’s rise to power. The seeds of further conflict are sown, we just have to fight through a demon to get there.

Next Time: In this world, there are certain things that exist beyond human knowledge. Humans worship such things as gods, or fear them as devils. And when one encounters such fear and agony, is this, too, simply fate?

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Episode Six -- Zodd the Immortal
Or: I Can Make Either A General Zod Reference Or An Immortan Joe Reference Take Your Pick

Content Warning: This episode comes off as one of the ones they spent less time on, what with all the dramatic zooms on matte paintings instead of motion (they don’t even bother animating Zodd’s mouth most of the time), but in all those mattes is probably the second-most gore in the Golden Age. It isn’t that much further than what you’ve already seen in the Black Swordsman episode, but still feel free to take a break if you get squeamish.

I do want to cover the rest of Berserk even if the anime is only about a fifth of it because I don’t know when I’ll get the chance to do so again. The problem is that there’s the inherent spoiler of the Eclipse in the way, meaning I can’t talk about motivations as much as I would like, but that sounds like a writing challenge for future radio to figure out. Let’s talk about the Lost Children arc.

Lost Children isn’t so much an arc as it is a continuation of the Black Swordsman story and transitioning that Guts into the one about to go through the Conviction arc that follows it. It’s one more story before we introduce the characters who will be following Guts around with the added bonus of Miura having five extra years of storytelling experience under his belt and a stronger idea of what Berserk is at this point. It’s here that Berserk starts to interrogate its central thematic premise a little bit more. How can you face reality when reality is so bleak? The Lost Children arc deals with this in a threefold manner. The most obvious is in the arc villain, Rosine.

Rosine’s character is probably best described as a Changeling, that classic fable trope of being a mystical creature swapped at birth with a human and forced to live in a culture that she is neither a part of nor welcomes her. It's an ugly duckling scenario, but there are two twists. The first is that the duckling knows the story, and just can’t wait to become that beautiful swan creature that was promised to her. Rosine is obsessed with fairy tails. In one of the funniest panels in the manga, Rosine poses (nude, because Berserk) and declares “This is a fairy tale for children.” The second twist is that despite all the other fantastic elements that make up Berserk’s world, changelings don’t seem to exist, or, at the very least, Rosine isn’t one. She’s just a sad, abused girl who wished on the wrong rock that she was something else. Like the Count before her, Rosine’s apostlehood is a tragedy. Even if she has done monstrous things since that require Guts kill her, we can lament that things led to this.

Mirroring Rosine is her childhood friend Jill, a girl in a similarly abusive situation but has managed to hold onto her humanity despite both that and Rosine’s “Elves” constantly attacking the village. Jill is also a mirror to Theresia, the Count’s daughter from the Black Swordsman arc. If you remember my description, Guts had to force upon her a reason to live, even if it was the self-destructive goal of revenge. Jill is stronger than Theresia in that aspect, given she has been enduring for so long already, but she does want to use Guts as an escape, demanding to follow him even if it means her death because she prefers it to the alternative. Her arc through this story is realizing through both Guts and Rosine that she’s doing the exact same thing they are, and life is better spent confronting her problems.

If you’re very clever, you’ve probably figured out the third aspect of Lost Children’s thematic throughline already. It’s Guts, obviously. He is the main character of Berserk, after all. Guts is running from something too, using his quest for revenge as an excuse to not think about what he’s leaving behind. This is something he has to realize about himself as he fights onward, eventually being told outright by a blacksmith named Godo how much he is wasting his life. It’s an important turning point in Guts’ life. Once again, he realizes just what it means to have something worth fighting for. This leads into an arc aptly titled “Conviction,” which pushes the question further and finally introduces most of the deuteragonists we’ll see for the rest of Berserk. But that’s a story for another time.

If I say the words, “Nosferatu Zodd is an apostle,” that probably gives a good idea of where this episode is going already. Guts and Griffith are ill-prepared to deal with supernatural forces despite how superstitious the common mercenary is to have heard of Zodd’s exploits already. Zodd the Immortal is the first sign (chronologically) that the world of Berserk even has supernatural elements that need confronting. If it weren’t for the Snake Baron (and the Count and the one from the first pages of the manga we don’t talk about), Zodd would have been a good introduction to the Apostle concept. After all, his apostle form is literally the Western conception of a demon, with horns and cloven hooves and an absolute lust for power in his battlefield domain. It is difficult to be even more direct about what these things are. At the same time, by having the Black Swordsman already under our belts, we can skip over all of the exposition that would otherwise be necessary for such a scene. If I were being cynical, I would say Miura was trying to have his cake and eat it too.

But let’s actually buckle down and talk about the episode. It’s actually a close follow-up to the one before -- Guts charges ahead to protect the men under his command, and Griffith follows after him. Before, this was a considered part of Griffith’s strategy, but now we see that he would have done so regardless. It was in this episode that I noticed just how often the shots of Griffith wordlessly receiving information are framed through Casca’s eyes. It’s two reaction shots in one, really. This plays into the ending, which may seem like a step backward from the relationship change Guts and Casca had at the end of the last episode, but it is in fact an escalation. In the previous episode, Casca was commending Guts for keeping Griffith from harm, but now his “antics” (as she might call them) have directly led to Griffith being in mortal danger, protected only by the prophecy of his Behelit.

And this is the core of the Zodd encounter. Zodd delivers an omen of doom to Guts: “If you and this man truly regard each other as friends, be mindful of this: When his ambition crumbles, you will be destined to face your death!” He also names the stone “The Crimson Behelit of the God Hand,” which, like, the fact that it has a name is ominous, right? Even without getting into the specifics of what that name even means which can probably again be inferred through context clues from The Black Swordsman, it’s proven twice now to be a spooky rock.

But the moment it opened its eye in Guts’ hand could be dismissed as a trick of the light. Here, the Behelit falling out at just the right time is what stops Nosferatu Zodd’s rampage in the first place. The way Zodd acts, it is more like the will of Fate with a capital F. This is not the last time the Behelit acts like this. If Fate with a capital F does exist, it is certainly looking out for Griffith. We’ll get to that when we get to that.

The last thing I want to mention is someone Guts talks to early in the episode: Gaston. Gaston is important to Guts as his second in command within the Falcon’s raiders, but there isn’t much to say about him besides “He exists. He’s his own person.” That being said, it’s very important to me to point him out when he shows up because he is frequently forgotten about. He barely shows up in other adaptations, to the point that a friend of mine asked “Who’s Gaston?” when Guts finally said his name aloud in one of them. Gaston isn’t very important in the grand scheme of things, even when contained to Berserk, but please remember him, at least for me.

Next Time: Providence may guide a man to meet one specific person. Even if such guidance eventually leads him to darkness, man simply cannot forsake a cherished goal. When will man discover a way to control his own soul?

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Episode Seven -- The Sword’s Owner
Or: The Love Triangle Becomes A Love Square

Content Warning: This episode introduces Princess Charlotte, a sixteen-year-old girl who adult-aged Griffith is attempting to woo throughout the story. This is treated as normal by Berserk and, aside from naïveté on Charlotte’s part, is going to go completely unexamined. I mention it now in this otherwise tame episode in anticipation of it getting worse.

Let’s take a brief moment to talk about the team who worked on Berserk ‘97. It won’t be too long, because I’d just end up reading off Wikipedia for half of it and cribbing from video essays for the other, but I wanted to do it so here goes.

It takes a real nerd to know anything about Japanese animation studios, but I guarantee that anyone reading this has heard of something produced by an Oriental Light and Magic studio, which is an impressive guarantee for a name that Google says is inspired by Industrial Light and Magic (aka the Star Wars effects team) without any sources backing that up. It’s extra impressive given that it’s no longer their name now: it’s just OLM Incorporated. In recent years, they’ve had reasonable success over here in the English-speaking world with the “Komi Can’t Communicate” adaptation and a season of “Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro,” and if you’re a nerd like me, they did the Deltora Quest adaptation and have a unit dedicated to following Takashi Miike around. There’s Berserk, obviously, which is why we’re talking about them, but the reason they had the experience to adapt such a dark and twisted fantasy manga is because they had prior experience with similar material: Pokémon. That joke is cribbed from the Lady Emily video essay on Berserk but it’s too good not to repeat here.

Perhaps the joke is backwards, because the production team that worked on Berserk wouldn’t work on Pokémon until 2006, but it does mean you get some pretty funny credit portfolios. The Chief Director of Berserk, Naohito Takahashi, has a key animation or storyboard credit on ten Pokémon movies and a few episodes to boot. But we can find some more connections by digging into specific episodes. Episode One of Berserk, The Black Swordsman, was directed by Kazuya Tsurumaki, a very prominent member of Studio Trigger and Studio Gainax before that, directing FLCL and the first half of End of Evangelion. Because everything ties into Utena, he apparently found time to do key animation on Episode Thirty-Seven of Revolutionary Girl Utena as well.

On the writing side, the job of adaptation was split roughly equally between five screenwriters, including the current head writer of the One Piece anime, Shoji Yonemura. In fact, a majority of the screenwriters have a double-digit number of writing credits for One Piece, and one of the ones that doesn’t, Yukiyoki Ohashi, has several dozen Fist of the North Star episode credits instead.

I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me when I find these connections. The American film industry has a large amount of crossover as well, to the point that there’s a memetic number linking actors to Kevin Bacon -- and there’s no reason not to include the rest of the crew as well when drawing those connections besides some nebulous “sharing a camera with” definition. So many people work on a project, it’s not surprising that some number of them have done other well-known things. Perhaps what I should be doing instead is giving shows an Utena number. I don’t hate that idea. I generally want to give the credits that I can anyway. It’s never just one person, especially for something as massive as Berserk.

Which reminds me, I should probably talk about the other people who drew the manga. Next time, then.

The meaning behind the episode title takes a bit of work to get to, though, at the same time, we’ve done a lot of the groundwork already because it’s going to be drawing many of the same conclusions we already have been in previous posts. Which is good! It means I’ve been following along and properly relaying the facts to you as well. In fact, on my watch of this episode, I nearly missed the conclusion it was getting at because it felt like old knowledge at this point. But it’s good to reinforce it.

Let’s start with the facts of the episode in sequential order. Griffith, thanks to his continued success on the battlefield post-knighthood has been causing quite a stir amongst the nobility of Midland’s court. Rumors include that he even fought a demon (though of course, magic isn’t real in Berserk, so that’s obviously fake) and that he is about to be made a member of the peerage (a notion so insulting to the existing gentry that it must be stopped at all cost). Despite the negative conspiracy that is a minor focus of the episode, this is still a net good in terms of Griffith’s goals. He is even developing a small contingent of favors, people within the court who are trying to ride the coattails of his rise to power.

Of course, all of that excitement means Griffith has less time to spend with the people who got him as far as he has. When the Band of the Hawk commanders all try and visit him, they are barred entry. Griffith even laments this to Guts, though given how we’ve seen him pull everyone else’s strings to keep them complacent, he may be using a similar tactic here. “Oh, if only I could, but alas,” is a common excuse, after all. At the same time, when Guts does finally get time with Griffith, there’s a pretty big hint that this isn’t the case. When Guts asks Griffith why he charged in to fight Zodd, putting his life on the line to save Guts, Griffith hesitates. “I thought we settled this three years ago,” he says. “Do I really need a reason?” And, like, we know he has a reason, but this is a nineties anime adaptation of a late eighties manga, so…

As much as I’d like to continue speculating on the sexuality of these fictional characters, I have already made the joke about a love square and I’ve already said who it’s with in the Content Warning. This episode introduces Princess Charlotte, who is Griffith’s best chance at seizing the throne. Her hand in marriage is the ultimate goal, and Griffith is very good at making you fall in love with him. The King notes that she is normally afraid of the warrior-types that have been populating the palace, but Griffith demonstrates a softer side of himself that endears him to her. To the Band of the Hawk, that’s one extra person competing for Griffith’s attention, and sure they might understand on a logical level why he is doing what he’s doing -- and some of them might even encourage it -- but that’s still going to matter emotionally. You know, like a love triangle.

It is despite all of this that the meaning of the episode title becomes clear. Guts, reflecting on the events of the episode, including a moment of Casca lashing out that I didn’t deem necessary to cover (it’s mostly following through on the end of the previous episode, you can imagine what happens), finally resolves that yes, he is going to help Griffith get his kingdom, defying Zodd’s prophecy, not out of any sense of obligation to the Griffith who defeated him three years ago, but to the Griffith that has saved his life twice now. He has internalized Griffith’s invisible message, and now believes they regard each other as friends. In the words of another fantasy story, he is telling Griffith, “You have my sword.” The Sword’s Owner is Griffith.

Also in this episode is General Coborlwitz, making another anime-only appearance to extend his mini-arc, but also a brief discussion about what Nosferatu Zodd even was. We know the answer is Apostle, but Guts and Griffith don’t have that language yet. The rumors say he is a demon, and Guts seems to agree, but Griffith instead calls him a “God.” Now, this is a dichotomy that’s going to run through basically the entirety of Berserk the manga, so I can’t get into too many specifics here, but because this is the start of the narrative throughline, I do want to point it out for those starting on that particular journey. I’ll try to talk more about it when I can. Until then,


Next Time: Every man makes sacrifices for his ambitions. Especially when he possesses a young heart, he is unable to suppress the consuming hunger. Achieving glory for oneself, and crushing the dreams of another… Is this an unavoidable result of causality?

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