[Podcast] Chatty AF 15: Berserk watchalong – episodes 1-6

Part 1 of the four-part watchalong of Berserk with Amelia, Peter, and special guest Kara Dennison!

WARNING: Due to the nature of Berserk, sexual assault, abuse and violence will be discussed in this and future episodes. 

Berserk Watchalong – Episodes 1-6

00:00 Intro
03:33 Past experiences with Berserk
07:22 Why not watch it before?
08:52 Hopes and expectations
11:31 Farnese
12:52 Episode 3
17:47 Differences from the manga
19:30 Visuals
25:42 Casca
31:38 Luca
34:58 Guts and Griffith
38:12 Portrayals of masculinity
42:29 Farnese and Griffith
45:39 The next six episodes
52:22 Peter’s expectations
55:01 Farnese’s virginity
57:31 Nina
58:51 Outro

Recorded Sunday 25th June 2017

Music: Open Those Bright Eyes by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

 

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  • GreyLurker

    One of the things the manga describes well that the anime really didn’t is how Farnese’s reacts to fear. Ever since she was a child when something frightens or terrifies her she reacts by throwing herself into it. Her reasoning is that if she is a part of what terrifies her then it can’t hurt her. That is why she reacts the way she dose to things like
    stake burnings and torture. Without that information it’s very easy to misinterpret her reactions (which most people around her do, Serpico is probably the only one that really understands her on this level).

    Also the evolution of Franese as a character over the course of the series is amazing and a lot of her character growth is directly tied to Casca. At the same time Farnese (and another character who gets introduced later in the anime) is vital to the restoration of Casca.

    • Peter

      That is explained during her backstory episode after the Tower of Conviction, which is the same place it comes up in the manga. It comes up in part 3.

  • Blusocket

    I’m definitely really interested to see how this watchalong goes. I watched all the Golden Age films and was so devastated by what happens to Casca at the end of that arc–no one warned me about that scene and the fact that it’s shown /explicitly/ on-screen was horrifying, on top of it being done largely to demonstrate the depth of Griffith’s evil and to motivate Guts, and then the film just ends! It just ends, and I cannot describe how betrayed I felt, not only by the narrative itself, but in a way by the internet as a whole. I’ve seen a lot of praise for Berserk and significantly less discussion of its treatment of women, Casca in particular, beyond general notes that it’s “dark” and sometimes has period-typical misogyny.

    Sexual violence is something that happens in our world and I do want to see more and better representation of survivors in fiction; I want there to be room for narratives that examine and critique how patriarchy can so completely strip women of power, what it looks like and what it means to be a traumatized woman in a male-dominated society, but it’s so often done in cruel and lazy ways. I feel like whenever I see survivors depicted in fiction, sexual violence is simultaneously framed as The Ultimate Evil and kind of prurient or darkly titillating, which is so, so disappointing. The watchalong almost makes me want to give the series another shot, but some of the stuff I saw on the wiki just googling to try and figure out if the manga handled that plot point any better–or was at least less explicit–was not especially encouraging. I’ll definitely be following along with the podcast, though, and I hope it’s a good experience for the team.

    • GreyLurker

      I don’t know how much of it the older anime touches on but there are very few characters in Berserk not touched by sexual violence. Guts as a child was sold out by his father to be raped and Griffith sold himself to noblemen in order to raise money for his mercenary band. Neither character walked away from those events whole. Guts had nightmares for years into his adulthood about the trauma he suffered as a kid(only to have those dreams replaced with real demons after the eclipse) and there is a scene where Griffith tells Casca about the things he’s had to do, clawing his own flesh bloody at the memories of it, that is very powerful.

      What happened to Casca broke her, and even now in the manga they are only just finding a way to help her heal. I think most of us reading the series are hoping that we will get the real Casca soon, but at the same time, if something goes wrong, I’m terrified we could loose the two who are healing her instead.

      That said the current manga chapters are unbelievably fascinating. The two characters healing her are literally in her mind, putting her back together a piece at a time. The visuals and metaphors of Casca’s
      mindscape are just incredible, terrible and heartbreaking all at the same time.

      • Blusocket

        Yeah, for sure, just the complete unexpectedness of/silence around Griffith raping Casca really got to me, on top of the fact that (from what I remember of the films, correct me if I’m wrong) what happens to Guts isn’t sexualized and is a traumatic experience that shapes /him/ in /his/ story, whereas Casca’s trauma is a primary motivating factor for /Guts/ and /his/ quest.

        I haven’t read the manga so I don’t know if it gets to the point where Casca has agency again, or to where her lack of agency is important to /her/ character first and foremost, and if it does I’m really glad! But to be clear, my concern isn’t like, the fact of the trauma itself, but how it’s depicted, especially as compared to the male characters’ trauma. Why does Guts get to be angry where Casca is only hollow? Or, on the flip side, is Casca’s hollowness and its implications or consequences for /her/ ever examined in the narrative as uniquely gendered? Is she ever ugly, unsexy in her brokenness?

        It’s really cool to hear that the audience gets insight into Casca’s mind in future chapters, although hearing that other people are coming in from the outside to heal her has me a little wary re: all those questions I asked above. I do believe the people saying that this is a well-written story, and there are clear reasons for the praise it gets that I saw even in the small amount of the narrative that the films covered! This specific flaw is just a really, really big one for me.

        • GreyLurker

          I think one of the key things is that Guts can’t heal Casca. He solves problems by killing them with violence and that isn’t going to help her. He simply has no idea what to do and that is really painfully apparent as the 2nd season begins. He won’t abandon her but he doesn’t know how to help her and every solution he comes up with is utterly wrong.

          Which is where Farnese comes in. The relationship between Casca and Farnese is something Guts couldn’t achieve and caring for Casca helps Farnese grow as a person. Ultimately the key to healing Casca comes from the female characters of the series not the men.

        • Peter

          Unfortunately she is sexualized even in her infantilized state quite a lot during the two arcs that the current anime covers. It’s a rough ride through these 24 episodes.

          There seems to be a broader context to her rape than simply the use of her as a weapon by Griffith to hurt Guts as its later revealed that the unborn child of Casca and Guts is used as raw material for Griffith to birth himself anew and whole in their world, not that Casca being used as an unwilling incubator is any less horrific.

          I have found that much of the discourse around the rape frames it as a betrayal against Guts rather than against Casca herself. Often leaving out that she had idolized and even loved Griffith longer than just about anyone else in the band of the hawk.

          At the current point in the manga we may be at the point where Casca will return (after Miura takes a 6 month hiatus). She is getting healed from without rather than within but the characters venturing into her mental landscape are both female. There have been some foreboding mentions that Guts may not recognize the Casca that emerges after her traumatic experiences however.

    • Peter

      Berserk is rough and I really can’t sugarcoat it. It has some of the most fascinating characters I’ve ever seen in manga, a great setting and story, an some of the best art out there, but often the art is used to portray sexual violence against women as part of its gothic horror. It stays bad this way for a while and never really gets entirely better. Near the end of the current anime I think it stops happening to central characters but its still shown as an activity that evil characters participate in large scale. Miura conceptualized Berserk when he was around 15 and he’s been at it for 30 years. I’d like to say he’s matured a lot as a writer but certain visuals I’m not sure he’ll ever let go of.

      One of the reasons I wanted to do this watch along so badly was because of the absence of discussion regarding its treatment of women, especially since I personally read the manga for its female characters.

      You get a bit more context in regards to the end of the Eclipse by the end of the first story arc but I know that’s cold comfort for most.

      • Blusocket

        I’m definitely glad AniFem is talking about this–I really think it’s a valuable, necessary conversation, and I’m looking forward to following the podcast and hearing everyone’s thoughts.

  • Meghen James

    Im here because i stopped at episode 3 as well…

    • Guilherme Souza

      Have you watch the films or 97’s anime before watch this ? Also don’t watch this anime without watch one of those or just read the manga.

      • Meghen James

        Well I’ve watched the 97 anime, and
        ***SPOILER***
        the only really horrible part comes at the climactic ending.
        It’s a little different then a horse rape scene by episode 3—

  • rugose-appendage

    Is this season of Berserk watchable without seeing the previous seasons/films?

    • Guilherme Souza

      No.. You need to watch 97’s and/or the films to watch Berserk 2016/17 but i recommend to read the manga instead.

  • anony

    I’m happy to see this. I watched all of the new Berserk and the Golden Age films, having never read the manga or watched the older anime. The first season had a ton of stuff that repulsed me, like constant nakedness and demon rape and licking and torture and the portrayal of Casca which I think is pretty awful. However I enjoyed the second season much much more. If Berserk is meant to criticize or deconstruct Guts’ hyper-mascunility, I don’t feel that comes across in this first season at all.
    I do adore the skull knight though.

  • Blusocket

    Although most women in anime are absolutely not white, even relatively dark-skinned women are still rare, so characters who look like Casca can be exciting to see. There’s also conversation in academia/critical race theory about whether ‘people of color’ is a useful term to describe non-white people living in countries without a white majority, as ‘poc’ was popularized specifically in the US in large part because it encouraged solidarity between racial minorities on the basis of a shared experience of racism. Japanese people in Japan, for example, are the ethnic majority in their country and so experience racism in a very different way from Japanese people in the US, UK, etc, so there’s some debate over whether ‘poc’ is applicable to them. I hope that makes sense! But yes, it is good to remember that most anime characters are Japanese, not white.

  • rugose-appendage

    Ok, so it sounds like I’d have to watch the films first.