WARNING: Due to the nature of Berserk, sexual assault, abuse and violence will be discussed in this and future episodes.
0:01:37 Hopes from last episodes
0:09:50 Relationship with Jaochim
0:32:00 Griffith’s return
0:35:51 Religious imagery
0:39:45 Farnese’s future
0:42:48 Jerome made good
0:45:39 Guts’s masculinity
0:48:20 Next six episodes
0:57:15 Peter’s surprises
Recorded Sunday 9th July 2017
Music: Open Those Bright Eyes by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
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AMELIA: Hello, everyone, and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. My name’s Amelia. I’m the Editor-In-Chief of Anime Feminist, and I’m joined today by Peter Fobian and Kara Dennison. If you’d like to introduce yourselves?
PETER: I’m Peter Fobian. I’m an Associates Features Editor at Crunchyroll, and a contributor and editor at Anime Feminist. Unfortunately, I don’t have a unique thing to say for each episode like Miles does. [Laughter]
KARA: And I’m Kara Dennison, contributing writer for Crunchyroll and Viewster.
AMELIA: Excellent. And I’m joined by you guys today to do the second part of our four-part watchalong for new Berserk.
So, a watchalong is where we watch six episodes of a slightly older series–at least, it’s not out right now–and we watch six episodes in a row, and then we talk about those episodes. Some of us have watched them; some of us have not.
In this case, Kara and I have not seen this. We’ve seen the original 1997 Berserk series a long time ago. We talked about that last episode. We haven’t ever seen these ones before. Whereas Peter has been watching Berserk, gallantly keeping up with it, and we guess what’s going to happen and Peter can’t tell us. No spoilers allowed.
We picked Berserk because it has a lot of topics of feminist interest even if it doesn’t always handle them in the most feminist of ways, and I think that’s very true of these episodes in particular. So, just to kick it off: Kara, what did you think of these particular episodes? This set of six?
KARA: Well, the bright side is there wasn’t anything quite as distressing from certain angles as episode three last time. Unless you went back and watched episode 12.5, in which case they decided–
AMELIA: Which I didn’t.
KARA: Yeah. They decided, “Well, we’re gonna cut out an entire character, but we’re gonna remind you about the house and the horse.” Because that’s what’s important, apparently.
AMELIA: [Laughter] Oh, yeah.
KARA: I saw some character development from angles I wasn’t expecting, which was fun. Few surprises along the way. As we got close to the end of this cour, I also saw us going back towards the same just plain “what the hell is going on” that I expect from my Berserk.
AMELIA: Of course.
KARA: And not in the “what the hell is going on? I need to look away or I’ll be sick,” but just: “Okay, but seriously, what?” Which is what I’m here for.
AMELIA: Exactly. I…There was nothing quite as horrible as episode three, as you said, but this one did open with Casca’s attempted rape and flashing back to previous rapes. That was…I messaged Peter at that moment and said, “I had forgotten about this ’cause it’s been two weeks since I last saw the episodes.”
And he was like, “Yeah, I thought this one would be a rough transition.” It’s…That was pretty unpleasant to jump back into.
KARA: Yeah, the goat, and–
AMELIA: I understand completely why people drop Berserk.
KARA: Yeah. Just the goat and, oh, look, a snake. You know?
AMELIA: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, it was…That was a tough one to get back into. And there was still some kind of torture-y moments, but it wasn’t as bad as one to six.
Let’s look at some of the characters. So, I think my big sticking point in these episodes has been the amount of attention given to Nina, who is a character I find really difficult. I don’t like her at all and I don’t understand the story purpose that she serves. And now it seems like she’s gone and I’m really pleased.
AMELIA: What did you think of her, Kara?
KARA: The thing is, I saw moments where she was used interestingly, but it wasn’t anything about her story. Honestly, one of the most powerful things I saw, where I was like, “Boy, I wish I thought to use this for a character myself.” Not so much, “Boy, this tells me a lot about Nina and she’s amazing,” but sort of: “Boy, that’s an interesting piece of visual storytelling” was when she goes in for torture and she leaves and it’s just one fingernail that’s kind of bloody.
And, to me, that was…That was one of the most subtle pieces of storytelling I’ve ever seen in Berserk.
AMELIA: The way you qualified that: “In Berserk.” [Laughter]
KARA: Yeah, in Berserk. But for such a big, crazy, violent, gory show, it was surprisingly subtle, and it tells you so much. But it’s like…I’m not…I’ve had a really hard time following her character arc, and I was hoping that would change, and I was hoping it would become…But I just don’t get it.
AMELIA: Yes. Exactly.
KARA: I mean, every ten seconds, she changes. Now, granted, in a crisis situation, that can be understandable that you’re gonna have these very dynamic, changing emotions, especially in the kind of world she’s in. But this is the kind of thing where she’s screaming at Casca, and everything’s terrible, and then she falls on her and hugs her, and then she screams and then she’s hugging, and…I can actually understand Casca just sitting there staring blankly for this one point in the series, because that’s what I was doing. I’m like, “I don’t even understand…I don’t get it.”
I wanted to understand Nina. I wanted to like Nina because I saw so many people writing her off as the quote-unquote “syphilitic hooker,” and I was like, “ugh!” And I was like, “I really want her to be good!” It’s like: No. I can’t support her. I can’t help you there.
AMELIA: She’s just so inherently unlikable. There is not one single trait she’s given that is likable. And I know likability is subjective, but I’m really struggling. I’m thinking from all angles.
KARA: I feel like the only reason they had her dying was so that maybe you’d like her.
Maybe you’d feel…I feel terrible for saying that–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] Oh, wow.
KARA: –but it’s like, “Wow, she sucks. Okay, what if she’s dying?” It doesn’t help.
PETER: The point of sympathy.
AMELIA: It doesn’t help. Peter, is there any way that she’s kind of…we can view her in a more positive way? Is there anything at all?
PETER: I hope so. I’ll do my best. I actually…I liked Nina, but I pretty much read Berserk almost straight through. So, maybe I have some larger…I think the reason I like her is very narratively based, because I find her to be sort of a disempowered version of Guts, and her relationship to Luca, I think, is very similar to that of Guts and Griffith, because Luca has the same sort of certitude that Griffith has, and leads others naturally, which I think is why Nina was attracted to Luca in the first place.
And, of course, her story arc ends with Nina finally deciding that she will be unable to grow so long as she continues to rely on Luca, because whenever…She can always trust Luca to prop her up, and she thinks that makes her weak, which is similar to Guts’ own reasons for leaving Griffith way, way, way back–because he felt like he wouldn’t be able to personally grow and attain his own dreams and actually become an equal to Griffith while working under Griffith.
AMELIA: Okay. That is a much, much more generous interpretation than I could have come up with myself. But, yeah, that does make her more interesting. You’re right.
KARA: Out of curiosity, was there much cut from Nina’s story between the manga and the anime?
PETER: I think I remember, when I first watched it, being fairly impressed, because I thought that they would try to “backseat” her while they were focusing on Guts. A lot of the impressions I got from the production was that they were going to really focus on Guts to the exclusion of some other things, which I think is one area where the anime actually did a really good job of not doing that and actually keeping up with all of the side characters, which are probably the most important part of the series for me, personally.
So, I think they followed it along, which is good, ’cause in addition to her relationship with Luca, I think it’s really important to get that almost hypocritical kind of attraction to both death and life that she has–which I also found similar to Guts, as well. She kind of finds herself wanting death a lot of the time, or to just get her suffering to end, in the same way that Guts throws himself into fights in an almost suicidal manner. But then when it comes down to it, in both situations, when they’re faced with death, they do everything they can to escape it.
So, I guess that…Those similarities shine through in the anime as well.
AMELIA: That’s a really interesting way to look at that.
PETER: At least for me, I think.
AMELIA: Kara, does that resonate with you?
KARA: I think, with that spin on it, if I watched it through that lens, I could potentially see it. I just…I get that and I can see where he’s coming from, and I don’t necessarily disagree. I think a lot of it was…It may have been in the directing; it may have been in the acting. I don’t know. It just…She seemed so all-over-the-place, I think.
And I think…I think what maybe threw me a lot was her relationship with Joachim, because that was just all-over-the-place, too.
PETER: Yeah, that was weird.
KARA: That was really weird. I mean, that’s what kind of threw me and made me feel that it was really odd. ‘Cause it’s like, “Yeah, you dragged me into this weird demonic ritual, but I still love you, baby.” You know? And he’s just kind of there all the time. Nothing against him as a character, but it’s just magic: boom, he’s there. And I don’t know. Maybe it’s that relationship that made the whole thing feel a little off, because I was very ready to like Nina and go on this trip, and then the further I went along, the more I kind of just was confused.
AMELIA: Yeah. I think that’s fair. And–is it Joachim?–yeah, he…The difference between, “I love you and I want to be with you together. Let’s run away together” and “Let me shop you to people who want to kill you,” that…The fact that he kind of wavered between them like there was some fine line between those two states of being was very…Again, it was just kind of off-putting and unlikable. And the fact that she put up with that was unlikable, unrelatable. How on earth do you forgive something like that without a word? It just seems to be real–
KARA: [Crosstalk] Even his character design made me not like him. His face. I mean, it’s not often that I see a side character and come in, and just look at your face and go, “Oh, I hate you.” And I feel like I’m supposed to, and I’m just gonna roll with it because–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] It’s like Nina’s hair, right? Nina’s hair.
KARA: Oh, god. Nina’s poodle hair. Bless her.
AMELIA: Nina’s poodle hair. It’s terrible. The animation…I’m not gonna knock it too much, but the animation of her hair was just…[Laughter]
PETER: Yeah. It looks better in the manga.
AMELIA: Does it? [Laughter]
KARA: The whole story probably looks better in the manga, honestly.
PETER: I mean, it definitely does. Miura is probably one of the best illustrators in the manga industry right now, so…I thought her hair was weird, but it was kind of endearing. It was [12:05] hard to translate to CG, for sure.
AMELIA: Yes. And there was…So, she was naked for part of the episode, and there was that moment where she coughs while she’s naked, and her breasts jiggle–
KARA: [Crosstalk] Oh my god!
AMELIA: –and I was like, “This is what gets the attention? Not her hair?” [Laughter] It was just…yeah. It was an unnecessary moment. But it was for the joke, right?
KARA: We must have had episode three’s key animator on that one.
PETER: Key animator. Yeah. [Laughter]
KARA: I’m assuming there’s this one guy in the studio, and you can just tell when it’s him working on the show.
AMELIA: Yeah, that…It was just really uncomfortable. And, again, they still have no nipples, and so that all feels…It all feels a bit weird and “Ken doll,” and her hair is just so “Lego minifig” and it just all feels very uncomfortable as a representation of nakedness.
So that was….Yeah. Nina’s arc, I was just very pleased that it came to an end, quite honestly. That was the best part about it: it ended, and she walked away. And I like to think that even if Guts reunites with Luca at any point that Nina won’t be there. She’ll be…She’ll have moved on.
KARA: How long do you think Luca waits before she just gives up?
PETER: Oh, that.
AMELIA: I don’t know. It’s quite sad, but…
KARA: I think she gives her ten minutes and goes, “Eh.” [Laughter]
AMELIA: Hardly. She threw herself in front of a riot to throw this girl in a barrel.
KARA: No, I know. Luca’s a lot more caring about Nina than any of us.
AMELIA: Yeah. Let’s talk about Luca, because she turns a little bit…I really liked her, but she turns a little bit kind of “strong female character.” A little bit kind of “Hollywood action heroine,” which I wasn’t entirely expecting.
She just seemed completely unfazed by anything. She didn’t react badly to anything that Nina said or did, and she accepted death, and it was just…She was kind of a bit too intentionally perfect. So, she’s kind of the opposite of Nina, I think.
KARA: I…You know, weirdly, for me, that endeared me…that endeared her so much because it was so strange. Because she drops off and is like, “Oh, hey, you’re death.” Yeah, probably. “Oh, hey, giant egg.” Yeah, why not?
And I just…I don’t know. For some reason, it was so strange…I mean, and usually that would turn me off, but it’s Luca and I love her, and so–
AMELIA: Yeah. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t dislike her. I really liked her. But I found it a little big jarring, I guess.
KARA: It was very jarring, but I’m just kind of looking…I want to see the day when I walk up to a giant egg, and go, “Yeah. Yeah. You poor thing.” [Laughter]
AMELIA: I think it was the moment when she chooses to let go and drop of the side of a building.
KARA: That one did…That bothered me.
AMELIA: And that bothered me. Because, at that moment, we had Nina going through quite an interesting moment, where she’s thinking, “I have your life in my hands. I can just drop you and let you go.” And I have no idea where that…where they would’ve gone with that had Luca not jumped. And it felt kind of like a copout, actually.
KARA: That was some hella intrusive thought going on for Nina. That was, you know…That was…I mean…I understand it was probably not intrusive thought, but it was totally intrusive thought. [Laughter]
AMELIA: Can you just explain what you mean?
KARA: Intrusive thoughts are…They’re this horrible little thing where your…Robin Williams described it once, where you’re looking over the edge of a building and this little voice in the back of your head goes, “Jump!” You know? And there’s no reason for it. So, I mean, yeah, there was some potential emotional stuff going on for her, but at the same time, it was just so blatant that I’m like, “Man, this feels like when I’m driving toward a river and that little voice in the back of my head goes, ‘You could totally coast that car into that. Go.'” But…
AMELIA: But in this case…
KARA: It was–
AMELIA: “Yeah, you should totally murder this person.”
KARA: Yeah. It’s like, “Yeah! Do it! Go for it, hun! Just drop her. You totally could!”
AMELIA: But they didn’t go anywhere with that whole–
KARA: [Crosstalk] I know!
AMELIA: It was just…And that was a real shame. It felt like that was…I mean, when that happened, those thoughts went through her head, I was actually really engaged. I was like, “What is she going to do next?”
KARA: Also, the directorial choice confused me there. The visual confused me, because for a second I thought she had let go. There was something about the angle.
AMELIA: Oh, okay.
KARA: Maybe it was just me, because like, “I could let her go! I could let her go! Oh my god, I let her go! …Oh, wait, no. Luca did.”
And I had this second where I was like, “Wait. Who did what? Whose fault is this?”
KARA: So, I was very confused by the whole thing. And then I went, “Oh, Luca did it. Okay, now I’m really confused.”
AMELIA: Yeah. It seemed like it came out of nowhere. I know she’s self-sacrificing, but to chastise Nina for not fighting to live while, at the same time, so quickly and easily resigning herself…And I know she gives this explanation of, “Oh, well I thought I might get away with a broken leg.” We see how far she falls. She’s not stupid.
KARA: Yeah, she’s–yeah.
AMELIA: She knows what’s ahead, even if she doesn’t want to acknowledge it, because that’s the right and humble thing to do. So, I have real issues with that moment.
KARA: Yeah. I liked the moments after, though. So, that bothered me, but for some reason, her being chill, riding with Death and chatting with the Egg…
PETER: She thought she was dead.
KARA: Yeah. “Oh, okay. Welp. Okay then.” [Laughter]
AMELIA: [Laughter] Yeah. Yeah, no, I really enjoyed that sequence, actually. It was a really odd way to approach that sequence.
PETER: Yeah, I think he…Maybe Miura wrote himself into a corner there. I feel like the reason he set up that scene was because he wanted Nina…She has a lot…She harbors a lot of resentment toward Luca, and I think it sort of calls back to Luca’s comment about resenting people who have more or less than you. She feels like Luca is the same is her, but Luca’s got such a more powerful and responsible and caring personality than Nina. I think she resents the fact that she’s weak and Luca’s strong, even though, essentially, they’re the same…they’re the same social status.
So, I think he wanted that scene to show how much she actually resented Luca, that she was harboring thoughts about killing her. But he also needed Luca to fall to set up the next scene. So, Nina couldn’t end up overcoming that and pulling her up…So, I guess Luca took it into her own hands and that’s how that scene resolves itself is my theory.
KARA: Also, just for fun, I…A lot of times when I really like a character, it turns out I like the voice actor in something else. She is played by the new voice of Fujiko in Lupin the Third.
PETER: Oh, cool.
KARA: I love me some Lupin the Third, so…I was like, “I really like her, and her voice is familiar–Oh, that’s why.”
AMELIA: That makes sense. Okay. The next character to look at is Farnese.
She didn’t have as much of a role in these episodes, but she was still very much going through her own character development. And I’m quite interested with where we’d left her. I say that. I thought she’d kind of previously had to face up to the fact that things she thought weren’t real are real. They are in the world. And her religion doesn’t explain everything.
And now it seems like she really has to face up to it. So, I don’t know. It’s interesting that she’s now walking away from her opportunity. Not her opportunity. What’s the word? Her position. She’s walking away. I’m not sure what she wants to do, but it’s probably good that she’s leaving that regiment, or whatever it is.
KARA: I actually liked the moment when she saw Puck because that was such…Again, nice shorthand. Nice visual storytelling, that it’s finally clicked for her. As mixed as my feelings are on Puck the character…I mean, after he started whacking people over the heads, I started liking him more.
AMELIA: Yeah, he’s grown on me a bit these episodes, too.
KARA: He’s grown on me, but I also love him as this visual shorthand for people accepting that they don’t know everything. It’s…
AMELIA: Yes. That’s a really good way to put it.
KARA: But, yeah. We get to the point of literal angels, and that whole scene was wild for me, so…But, yeah. Yeah, she did kind of…She didn’t recede into the background. It wouldn’t be fair to say that. But as compared to Nina and Luca…
AMELIA: Yeah. Another reason to resent Nina. I think Farnese is a far more interesting character.
KARA: I’m really–this is a small thing. I’m really hoping Farnese gets her hair out of the pigtails, because she looks like she has such a bad headache with those little tiny things. Not just me, then?
AMELIA: She puts a helmet on. How does that even work?
KARA: That hairstyle looks like it hurts so much. And maybe that’s why she’s so upset all the time, and she just…
AMELIA: That’s definitely it.
PETER: Maybe it’s a form of self-flagellation, that hairstyle.
AMELIA: [Laughter] Yeah.
KARA:We figured it out. We figured it out.
AMELIA: That’s it. She’s torturing herself.
KARA: I was gonna say: I do want to see her character develop more now that we have had the actual sign that, yeah, she is…Not only is she acknowledging, she’s accepting. She’s willing to work within that construct of the world. And I’m really looking forward to that because, as much as I enjoyed her as a character, there was only so much she could do until she stepped outside of that.
AMELIA: Yeah. Absolutely. It kind of reminds me a little bit…I don’t know if you’ve seen Avatar: The Last Airbender. So, you’ve got Zuko, right? And he spends the whole first season just in the military, basically. And then, from the second season, when he starts to break away from that, things get very interesting and his character actually has a chance to develop. And I hope…I’m sure that’s the first and last time anyone’s gonna compare these two properties, but I hope that now we see similar growth from Farnese and we really get the depth that she’s completely capable of. We’ve really seen the surface, and we’ve seen a lot of interesting stuff. But, like you say, I think she reached the limits of what we could actually explore with her in the circumstances.
So, very interested to see where that goes. And she’s got…She’s still got Serpico with her, and we haven’t got any more indication of his motivations.
KARA: We have seen him fight, though.
AMELIA: Yeah, that was really good.
KARA: I was really waiting to see what Serpico could actually do, because it’s like, “Well, he’s around for a reason. I’m waiting to see the reason.” And so we got to see it.
AMELIA: Well, I mean, we saw what he can do. We’ve not necessarily seen his reason to exist. He hasn’t served a story purpose yet.
KARA: Well, no. I mean within the construct of the story, within the canon. It’s like, “Okay, if she’s keeping him close by, it’s got to be because he’s good with a sword, ’cause I can’t see anything else.”
AMELIA: Yes. Yeah. And his way of fighting is obviously polar opposite to Guts.
KARA: Oh, yeah.
AMELIA: That was great, seeing them face off.
PETER: Yeah, he’s never gonna fight Guts fairly, ever.
AMELIA: Right, why would you?
KARA: Yeah, can you? [Laughter]
AMELIA: Guts is fair to a fault. You know exactly what you’re in for. There’s gonna be no surprises there.
KARA: Check out his big sword. That sword is big.
PETER: On a Serpico note, I mean…It’s not just that Farnese keeps him around. It’s that he, specifically, follows her. She basically said, “I’m going,” and then he just turns toward them–
AMELIA: And he’s like, “Bye.”
KARA: He’s like, “Ciao.”
PETER: “Well, see ya.”
KARA: [Laughter] It wasn’t even…I enjoyed that it wasn’t…It was even a little background. She was in the front, and he was like, “See ya,” and just follows her.
AMELIA: Yeah. But we don’t know, yet, why he has such loyalty for her. They haven’t shown us that, yet. So that’s got to be in the next…Well, maybe not the next six, but the next twelve episodes for sure.
KARA: Yeah. Looking forward to that, hopefully.
AMELIA: Yeah. I really hope we get some joining up, ’cause it really did seem like she kind of took a break for these six episodes. She didn’t really do anything that she hasn’t done before. I guess the new thing…Apart from seeing Puck, she seems to have started acknowledging Guts from a different perspective. So, he’s no longer just “The Black Swordsman” and needs to be killed, and needs to be shamed.
She was saying, “Actually, the way he’s speaking is reassuring to me and I don’t know why,” and she seems to be starting to maybe build up some trust in him. Like: “Okay, he knows something that I don’t. And he’s strong enough to fight there.”
PETER: I love Guts’ advice that he gives to people. It’s really great.
AMELIA: Yeah. It’s surprising, coming from the source.
PETER: Yeah. It’s sort of hard to describe, but I feel like every time that someone comes to him and asks him for something, or when he just decides to offer advice on his own, which is a little more rare, it comes…It sort of approaches this idea of personal freedom every single time, where whatever you…or whatever anybody comes towards him with, he’s usually…in reference to their obligations versus their personal desires, he pretty much just says, “Well, you can only do whatever you feel like you can live with.”
So: “Whatever that means or whatever your perception of your obligations are, that’s sort of irrelevant. You should just do what you want.” And I feel like that’s a really consistent part of his character that I really started enjoying, especially starting at the Tower of Conviction moving forward. He…That’s the rock-solid base of his character.
AMELIA: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense, actually.
Okay. Let’s do it. Casca.
KARA: [Disgruntled noises]
AMELIA: Casca. She continues to be frustrating because we remember what she was, right?
AMELIA: I don’t…I don’t know where this is going. She was just…I think the worst part was the opening of episode seven, when she was…We had this attempted rape. We had a flashback to her rape. We had her cut…I mean, her voice is very “baby voice.” It’s very infantilized. It’s not “cute” infantilized. It’s genuine “this-is-baby-babble.” And that’s really unpleasant when you put it on the imagery that we get with her.
But then later on, she is kind of…She’s able to protect herself. Not really herself, but she’s surrounded by things that are protecting her. She comes across as a little bit more powerful, and then she damsel-ed a bit, and the angels are carrying her.
So, she has…She kind of hits multiple awful tropes for women in these six episodes.
KARA: She did use Puck as a chew toy, though. That was funny.
AMELIA: Oh, I’m so fed up with her chewing thing. And especially since we just finished KADO, where one of the characters chews stuff because she’s so clever. And then we’ve got Casca doing it in what is a more realistic context, where she chews stuff because she’s not conscious enough to not do it.
KARA: What I noticed with her–and I’ve noticed this in a lot of other shows I watched—but in the other shows I watched, I’ve seen it subverted so beautifully is: Casca’s role in Berserk at this point is less about who she is and more about who everyone else thinks she is. Whether it’s a witch or a goddess or, you know, the end goal of a quest. Everything about Casca is what someone else thinks of her, and I have seen that turned on its head in other TV shows, and turned into a very wonderful, very powerful lesson about individuality and stuff like that, but that ain’t happening here.
AMELIA: Exactly. It’s like the opposite. It’s like they subverted the character that she originally was. You know, fooled you. It feels…
KARA: I feel like she’s just a cutout. She’s like a Casca cutout that they’ve put into the show so everyone can sort of pass her around and call her what they want and I just sit, and I’m like, “It’s okay. It’s okay. The real Casca is off somewhere else.” This…I really want to rescue her from this show. You know? Which sounds terrible, but, just…ugh.
AMELIA: [Laughter] Yeah. She’s in a position where it’s almost impossible for her to express agency. And that’s baked into her character as her character is now. She doesn’t have the intelligence at the moment to be able to control her own fate, even really small things. The most control she shows over her life is what she chews next. And that’s…That’s depressing when you compare to what she has been.
KARA: Yeah, and from a writing standpoint, speaking as a writer, it’s not saying, “Never write a character with no agency,” because you can do things with that. You can turn that into a story. My problem is not: They took away a character’s agency. My problem is: They took away a character’s agency and then just kind of left it there. They didn’t turn it into…I mean, maybe I’ll be wrong in the next twelve episodes. I pray…I hope…
AMELIA: There’s always that risk in a watchalong.
KARA: They’re really making me work for this, if it’s even there. But, you know, the thing is not “Don’t ever write the thing.” The thing is if you’re gonna write the thing, at least make sure you’re saying something with it, because, like I said with other stuff last episode, when you write something a certain way, and when you continue to present it a certain way, you make me start to think that you’re not telling a story; you’re just putting it in there ’cause you like it.
That’s what bothers me. I don’t feel…I feel like it’s in there because they wanted to subjugate Casca because, you know, “Tough Girl,” and “Wouldn’t it be fun if…”
And it’s like, “Please show me your reasoning for this before I lose all faith ’cause I’m sad.”
AMELIA: Yeah. Exactly. And they had this moment at the end of the episode where Griffith shows up, and I had this moment where I thought, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if Griffith showing up unlocked whatever is an issue with Casca?” and that was it? And, so, Guts gets her back as he wants her to be, but it’s because of Griffith. It’s because he’s back now. I thought that would be an incredible way to end this cour, but it did not do that.
But can we just talk about Griffith for a moment? So, he’s shown up. He’s there. Is he real? Is he…I don’t know. I don’t know what he’s going to do. I don’t know what his goal is now. I have no idea. He’s just shown up.
And it was very exciting, because I wasn’t expecting to see him at all. And we talked about this last episode. We said, “Well, when he shows up, that’s kind of spelling the end of the series.” It looks like that may not be the case.
KARA: I don’t know, man. I’m weirded out. And I’m digging it. ‘Cause that was…You know, Griffith arrives on the scene–fabulous and naked as only Griffith can–and it was such a cool scene. I’m like, “Man, you’re gorgeous. You’re back. I’m so happy. Now what though?” And then he rides away. And–like, what?
AMELIA: Exactly. So, we’re not getting our confrontation just yet.
KARA: Yeah, it was…Well, I mean, the whole lead-up to it was so strange. The baby and the egg and the, you know…Again, we’re going back into weird eldritch Berserk which…
PETER: Yeah, I don’t know if this was as clear in the anime as it was in the manga. Did you get the implementation by which Griffith made his return?
AMELIA: Not really.
KARA: Giant egg eat baby?
PETER: Yeah. The Egg of the New World and that ghost infant that had been following him around–which, in the manga, is pretty heavily implied to be someone’s child.
KARA: Okay. So, giant egg eat baby. I wasn’t missing anything. Okay.
AMELIA: Yeah, I mean…We all know this. I’m not very good with surreal imagery, so I don’t…If it doesn’t make immediate sense to me, I tend to just ignore it until there’s an explanation. So, I just…I’ve overlooked a fair amount of these last six episodes because of that. So, yeah. I was just like, “Okay, Griffith’s back. I don’t really understand how it happened, but he’s back and I can understand that. That’s concrete. Okay.”
KARA: I mean, I was pretty with it. I was digging it. I don’t understand every…You know, now with Peter’s explanation, it’s like, “Alright. I can sort of symbolically piece things together in my own head, how I assume that all worked out.” Still, it’s kind of wild. I don’t know what it means, you know?
I don’t mean the symbolism, I mean…Okay, you know, Griffith’s back, and it was kind of weird. What now? Is he gonna be the same? You know? Is…That’s my thing. How Griffith is Griffith going to be?
AMELIA: Yes. It was interesting seeing that Casca reacted to him. I should’ve expected nothing else. So, Guts, Griffith, and Casca–how is that going to work now? ‘Cause Casca is no longer herself. Griffith, I’m gonna assume is no longer as he was. I guess Guts is the only consistent one. So, that’s…I have no idea where it’s going. Exactly. I have no clue what they’re going to do with Griffith now that he’s around. What does he want? What is he going to be working towards? Is he going to be working towards anything? Or is he going to chill out for a few episodes and then show up for a minute and then leave again?
KARA: Yeah, I don’t…I don’t know.
AMELIA: But it was really great to see him again, actually.
KARA: Oh, yeah.
AMELIA: That moment–like you say–was a beautiful scene when he turns from that fetus into Griffith, and then, again, a moment later when he turns and makes eye contact with them and Guts is furious.
KARA: There’s not much I can say for the animation in this series, but I will vouch for that. They spent absolutely all their money on those five seconds and…If you’re gonna spend it on anything, go with that.
AMELIA: Yeah. You mentioned earlier the angel scene. What did you think of that?
KARA: Oh! Well, you know, I love my weird, so I was just going, “Yeah! This is cool!” I mean, everything’s getting shot to hell but it sure looks neat. It also explains a lot about…I can’t remember his name…Nutcracker Macy’s Float.
KARA: Yeah, him. I can’t remember his name. He just…It explains a lot about the absolute strangeness of this character, which is saying something within Berserk, but it’s like…There was just this level of weird, and I’m just sitting there, going, “Well, he’s not human. I know this.” Because I can appreciate that some characters are gonna be stylized for weirdness for humor, but I’m looking at him going, “No, he’s something else.” He almost looks like an idol in some ways, the way his face looks. The way the construction of him looks. So, it makes a lot more sense to know about him now what he is.
AMELIA: Yeah, his eyes kept changing. I found it very…Is that tied to a change of state in any way? I don’t know. But then sometimes his irises–not irises–sometimes the whites of his eyes were black, sometimes the whole thing was blue. It was…
PETER: I think that was kind of stylistic. The whole thing with the angels was…The Egg of the New World did something to them so that they grew their wings.
KARA: Yeah. They were wild.
AMELIA: Yeah, it was interesting to see angels in a show that, now, quite heavily features religion. And the idea that the angels would show up and they wouldn’t be on your side. That was…And how. A bunch of torturers turning into angels. I grew up Catholic, and that instinctively felt really uncomfortable.
KARA: Yeah, I grew up orthodox, so similar. It’s like, “Oh boy. Alrighty.” The other–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] Yeah, it was–Oh, sorry. Go ahead.
KARA: The other thing that got me–and I was mentioning this on Twitter–was that possessed blood was just…I mean, it looks so happy.
PETER: Oh, the goo.
AMELIA: It was really odd, ’cause it had kind of a Doug Funnie nose.
KARA: It just rolls up to the door like “Hey, guys.”
KARA: I had the worst time going, “I know this is horrible. I know something really bad is gonna happen. But he just looks like he wants to be friends.” “It’s me, Mr. Blood Face! I’m back!” I just…you know? [Laughter]
PETER: It’s also a bit more horrific in the manga as well.
KARA: I believe you.
PETER: Yeah. I do think that scene was…I liked how it was that juxtaposition, though, with the tortures and the de-facto villains, at least in reference to Casca, having all the trappings of religious angels, whereas Guts is the black swordsman, thought of as evil, and even considered by the general populace…And I mean, Mozgus even goes…He does save some of the people–by breathing fire, of all things–and Guts is not concerned with the populace so much as he is specifically about Casca.
But their struggle as Farnese is viewing it gets a lot of religious context in addition to the moralistic differences between the two characters. Because over the course of the Tower of Conviction, I got the feeling that it was kind of like Mozgus and Guts’ influence is sort of at war in Farnese, and she’s deciding what to do with this new information she’s been given about the world.
KARA: Yeah, I can see that.
AMELIA: Yeah, absolutely. Do we think that Griffith and Farnese are going to interact at all?
KARA: I’d like that. I don’t know if they’re going to, but I would really like that.
AMELIA: Because he is very “Messiah,” isn’t he? He’s risen from the dead, effectively. And he showed up…The way he was presented was glorious. It was: “This is the second coming” kind of thing. And for him to…As someone who is that charismatic as we know he is, someone who appears that god-like, to interact with Farnese, who is in a moment of doubt, but she is very religious herself, I think that could lead to some really interesting outcomes.
KARA: Because in the position she’s in, from a faith standpoint, she’s just lost a lot. She’s gained a lot of knowledge, but she’s lost a lot of what she thought she knew, and the question becomes: Is she going to expand her horizons, or is she going to go seeking a replacement for something to have faith in? That’s the big question. Is she gonna look to fill that void with some other being that is more tangible?
PETER: Well, Guts would fit into that same context at the moment, wouldn’t he?
KARA: That is true, and so…Guts versus Griffith, that’s…That’s kind of wild. So, there’s a lot going on there.
AMELIA: You said, “Guts versus Griffith.” You mean in terms of who Farnese…
KARA: In Farnese’s mind. Like, if she encounters…’Cause she’s already with Guts. If she encounters Griffith…Again, we talked about his two sides…two sides of masculinity and it’s like, “But how is she gonna view that?”
AMELIA: Yeah. Who do you think she would be more likely to be…Who do you think she’d be more likely to latch onto?
KARA: It’s hard to say because we haven’t seen much of her in this arc, so I don’t…I know she’s changed, but I don’t know quite what’s going on in her head. I think we’ve missed a lot of that, unfortunately. We’ve missed a lot.
AMELIA: Thanks, Nina.
KARA: [Laughter] It’s all your fault.
AMELIA: Yeah, we have missed a lot. It is…She’s onscreen a lot. Is she that much of a character in the manga?
PETER: Yes, absolutely. I did…I mean, I liked her subplot, but I was surprised how much time she got over the course of it. It seems like Miura was trying to do something with her that maybe he didn’t necessarily achieve. I can say that–since this isn’t going to come into context during our watchalong–Luca is an important character later on, or at least a recurring one.
PETER: So, I think he wanted to take some pains to fully establish her before moving onward.
AMELIA: I’m so glad Nina’s gone, though. I hope she stays gone. But Luca ended up with Jerome, right? That was a surprise.
KARA: Yeah. He came on back and he made good. I was like, “Oh, I was wrong.”
AMELIA: They had that moment where she’s like, “I’m really sorry I dragged you into this.” And he’s like, “No, no, no. It’s fine. Throwing everything away for the woman I love is perfect for a prodigal son like me,” or something. And she’s really…She seems really moved. And then the blood comes up, and I thought, “That’s it, you’re dead. That’s the kind of thing you say right before you die.” And then he lived.
It was really surprising to me.
PETER: He wasn’t exactly a fan of the church, before. He didn’t like…I think he got two or three scenes where he’s just like, “I don’t like what we’re doing.” And that conversation with Serpico. So, I think he was on the outs with the church, anyway. So, why not chase after the lady you love who’s also a good leader?
AMELIA: Yeah. Yeah, she did great in these episodes. A little too great, I think. But, yeah. I would rather have her than Nina, who is the opposite, and does nothing. Kind of positive, I think.
There’s one more character we should probably discuss before starting to wrap it up. Isidro.
PETER: “Droppy,” I think that’s what Puck calls him.
AMELIA: Is that–? Yeah, “Droppy.” He was very…He was an interesting character in these ones, I thought, because he’s so desperate to be Guts’ disciple because he wants to be able to earn his keep with his sword, and Guts is his masculine ideal, I think. But he’s so goofy. And he has so many moments where his face slips, and it’s not quite super-deformed, but it’s…Him and Puck interacting when they’re doing that…There was one moment where even Nina’s face went a bit askew.
KARA: Yes! [Laughter]
AMELIA: And that was just so jarring. I was like, “Look around you. Take stock of your context. This is not appropriate.” I’m assuming it showed up in the manga, but there’s just no excuse to put it in the anime as well.
PETER: Isidro and Puck are kind of like the more lighthearted, comedic characters that drag you out of the darkness from time to time in the manga.
AMELIA: And he did. And he did. Give him credit. I haven’t been totally off him. I thought it was interesting to see that he actually stuck around and confessed to Guts that he’d lost them, which I…I’m not sure I would’ve done. Guts is terrifying. So, it was a sign that he really does maybe have what it takes to follow Guts, I guess.
PETER: A sense of responsibility, at least. Also, that is something I was hoping we’d bring up is: have you noticed a change in Guts over the course of the arc? Specifically in reference to that scene, as well.
PETER: Earlier on…’Cause Rickard loses her as well, and Guts sort of goes a little ballistic, but in this one, you could see him biting back when he…’Cause you could tell he was furious. And he was trying to yell at him. But he literally just, I don’t know, clenched his teeth until the wave of anger had passed, and then he just said, “Well, let’s do what we can in this situation.”
AMELIA: Ah, I didn’t pick up on that, but you’re absolutely right. Good for you, Guts.
PETER: I think it also…There’s definite…You brought up the differences in masculinity between Guts and Griffith. I think there are also some pretty distinct changes in the way Guts’ masculinity is portrayed over the course of the season, or even the greater series as well. Which is…I think that…I don’t know if I noticed it the first time, but after the second or third time, I’ve really noticed these really small scenes where it seemed like there was a distinct difference in the way Guts approached the same situation.
AMELIA: Are there any others in the episodes we’ve seen so far? Any moments like that?
PETER: Let’s see. I want to say in regards to Farnese, but I’m not sure if that’s true. ‘Cause when they meet again, I wouldn’t say he takes a gentler hand with her. Although, in the beginning, he is pretty disdainful of her religion, and he still doesn’t really mollycoddle her later on. But he seems more apt to…I think she asks him a couple questions while she’s following him around, and he feels willing to entertain her and explain very briefly, in his own way, certain things about what’s going on. He’s not dragging her into a bad situation without any sort of explanation about the dangers or the circumstances of what they’re getting into. Whereas, before–
AMELIA: He doesn’t drag her any way at all, does he? He says to her, “You can go now.” And she chooses to follow him.
PETER: And at that point, he could have ignored her, right?
AMELIA: Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. Instead, he let her come along.
PETER: And I think he gives her…He talks to her a little bit as well, which is something he absolutely didn’t need to do. And something that might have distracted from what he was trying to do. ‘Cause, until then, she’d pretty much been a roadblock for him, as well.
AMELIA: That’s really true. I kind of wanna rewatch that scene now.
Okay. Let’s look at where we want to see it go from here. So, Kara–next six episodes, 13 to 18, what do you want to see in them?
KARA: Well, I’m gonna stop asking for Casca to get better.
AMELIA: Yeah,we know that’s not gonna be a thing.
KARA: But one thing that was brought up last time was that Farnese’s value in the military was in her purity, and I’m looking forward to seeing whether now that she is in a new group, if she is going to discover her own personal value in other things. How is she gonna grow in that direction? How is she gonna start to reevaluate herself now that the way she was rated before is probably gonna be a non-issue with these people.
Because she’s…Yeah, she’s in this group where it’s not about things like that. It’s more about who you are, what you can do, and what you fight for, and I’m wondering, also, how she’s going to adjust to that. Because, you know, as rough as this group is, I imagine she’s gonna be treated a bit better.
AMELIA: She is. But at the same time, she has some awful moments where she’s really cruel to other people. And that’s…Those interpersonal skills aren’t gonna work in this environment.
KARA: Yeah, I wonder if those are gonna get addressed. And when I say…Is she gonna try them and then go, “Oh, that didn’t work?”
AMELIA: Yeah. Well, I mean, she has a habit of lashing out, quite literally. She whips people when she’s frustrated with them. She did that to Guts and she did that to those two soldiers in one of the episodes. And she has had other people tie up the person and incapacitate them, and then she makes them feel pain. And she absolutely can’t do that in this environment. So, how is she going to assert herself? And if she doesn’t manage it…I mean, is it just Serpico looking after her? How is…Is she going to be diminished by that, or is she actually going to strengthen and take on more of the charisma and leadership that she actually could have used in the military?
KARA: Yeah, that’s what I’m looking forward to seeing is not only how does she go, but how do other people deal with her? Are they going to shut her down? Are they going to say, “Hey, this is a thing that she was sort of…that she learned worked where she was?” Are they gonna just retaliate, or are they gonna “tough love” almost? Go, “Oh, that’s not gonna work here, but you’re with us and we’re gonna bring you around.” So, that could go a couple ways.
AMELIA: Yeah. Very interesting to see. I think I would like to see more about Griffith. I’ve got a horrible feeling that he’s going to just not be around now. That he’s just shown up to give us a great season finale, and then he’s gone. And actually he’s not gonna show up again until episode six of the next season or something. That’s just to kind of keep you interested. It’s not actually because he’s doing anything and nothing gets revealed.
So, that’s my worst case scenario for how he’s used. What I’d really like to happen is to understand what he wants. Because we don’t get a sense of that at all in where he is now. Although, I don’t know, maybe that’s something that’s covered in the earlier part of the story: that we do know what he wants, and that’s just something I’ve forgotten, in which case, I hope the show reiterates it at some point, in some way that makes sense.
PETER: Well, you know what his dream was, right?
KARA: Well, if you forgot it, so did I. So…
AMELIA: I’ve forgotten. I’ve totally forgotten.
PETER: Oh, his–
AMELIA: This is kind of what I meant when we were talking earlier for the “End of Spring 2017” wrapup podcast. It’s got some really high barriers to entry. If you want to watch Berserk, you have to have already seen Berserk. Caught up to at least the ’97 series, but ideally, the films. And if you don’t have them fresh in mind then there’s stuff that you miss. I’ve completely forgotten what he wanted. I haven’t watched it since–I don’t know–2006.
KARA: Yeah, me earlier than that. So…
AMELIA: Yeah, I…did I watch…It was a while ago. It was a while ago. So, I haven’t got a clue what he wants. He’s just shown up and flown away on this giant troll thing.
PETER: Well, that was…Did you not recognize who that was? That was Nosferatu Zodd.
KARA: Eh…I was like, “It looks familiar. Why does it look familiar?”
PETER: Yeah, yeah. He–
AMELIA: I’m so bad with faces.
PETER: Well, and…He beats up Guts and Griffith and almost kills them both in the Golden Era. The Golden Age arc.
AMELIA: Ah…yeah! When they go into that dungeon?
AMELIA: A dungeon?
PETER: Yeah. They fight Nosferatu Zodd and then Zodd warns Guts about being friends with Griffith since he spots that they were–
AMELIA: Yes. Ah, I do remember that.
PETER: And now he’s acting as Griffith’s horse, so.
AMELIA: I wish they had found ways to make this a smoother viewing experience for people who haven’t watched the rest recently. There are ways that you can imply this. I mean, they do it to Casca all the time. They flash back to her attempted–no, actual–rape all the time. But they can’t find a four-second flashback to remind us about Zodd warning Guts? Like, come on. You’re already using the device, but only to sexualize this woman and remind us of her trauma.
PETER: Yeah, and I don’t know if it’s considered necessary viewing for them. When I spoke to the producer, he had said that they didn’t want to go over that stuff because it’s been told twice now. And they wanted to really focus on Guts’ journey. I do feel like some of the stuff…At least in relation to the stuff that they’re doing, I guess Griffith’s overarching goal and past experience is maybe not that important. But it does really help contextualize a lot of the events that happened.
I mean, this is definitely an important part of the series, but I don’t know if that is directly relevant to some stuff that happens anytime soon.
AMELIA: Why did we not get any kind of flashback, or anything reminding us who Zodd was? I mean, it just feels like they’re using flashbacks in specific ways.
PETER: Yeah, I certainly wish they’d focus on some scenes less than others.
AMELIA: Nina! No.
PETER: Yeah. In reference to Griffith, I think the movies handle it better than the tv series, since they kind of had a dream sequence, but basically, his dream is the castle on the hill. As a kid, he always saw the castle on the hill over the rooftops of the buildings and the alleyways he played in since he was a commoner child. And he always wanted to be a king on a castle. So, that was kind of his aspiration. The thing that led him to creating the Band of the Hawk, and was sort of the dream…It was Griffith’s dream that all of them were falling in behind to make it reality.
AMELIA: Yeah. It doesn’t really connect with where we are right now, but one day…
PETER: Well. That’s also why he–probably why he–took the deal during the Eclipse was because he was obsessed with making his dream a reality.
AMELIA: Yeah. That’s quite overkill, really, isn’t it? [Laughter] “I want to live in this particular house.” Deal with the devil.
PETER: Well, I mean it’s about…it’s more about being a king and rising above your status. I don’t think he cares about that specific castle so much as what it represents.
AMELIA: No, I know. I was teasing.
So, it’s…I feel like it’s not filling in the gaps very effectively, as someone who hasn’t seen it for a while and hasn’t read the manga. It’s not providing that context. But it’s providing plenty on context for Casca’s rape. It does flash back to Guts and Griffith’s relationship, actually. There are a few moments where you see montage moments of the two of them together, or just Guts looking at Griffith. So…
PETER: In the manga, I can tell…When I got to that point, I was like, “Well, what happens now?” I’m in pretty much the same space as you. I didn’t know…I mean, I figured I knew Griffith was still gonna…He was never going to betray his dream, but I had no idea how he was going to act upon it or execute his plan or why he was with Zodd or any of that stuff. So, you’re definitely in near the place of surprise as somebody reading the manga.
AMELIA: Okay. Well, that’s good to know. But speaking of surprise–Peter, has anything surprised you about our discussion today, or is it pretty much as you expected it would go?
PETER: Hmm…Maybe I was hoping you’d like Nina a bit more. But that’s okay.
PETER: I can tell you: I brought up the whole Nina thing a couple of times, and usually people just go, “Oh, that awful thing? I don’t wanna talk about that.”
AMELIA: Oh, no.
PETER: I guess–
AMELIA: That kind of makes me want to defend her, but not really.
PETER: The only thing I thought that we’d possibly touch on that we didn’t really get into–I mean, it came up with the other things, but–was sort of the way Griffith was brought back. I guess that could just speak to how well the anime portrayed it, but the vehicle that Griffith came back with.
First of all, the Egg of the New World being heavily implied it was a male, but he’s the one that gives birth to “New Griffith,” and the nature of the child itself, which is heavily implied to be Casca’s. ‘Cause you remember the infant appears and then Casca reaches out for it. And I think also at the end of the movies, they show the infant, and there’s also a bit more information on what the infant could be. Yeah, I don’t think they explained it too well in the anime, so maybe that could be why.
AMELIA: Yeah, that feels like something that, again, kind of gaps that I was just waiting to be explained–to be filled in. So…You think we will get some explanation?
PETER: I don’t think they…There’s really no touching on it after that. Basically–this is pretty well agreed-upon–the infant–the fetus–was the product of Casca’s rape, but since it was…Since Griffith was a demon at that point, it exists between worlds, but it was used as kind of a material since it was part-Griffith for Griffith to make himself again in the new world. Which, come to think of it, I guess might have been the reason that he raped her in the first place, as opposed to just spiting Guts and betraying his own lieutenant.
AMELIA: That actually makes a lot of sense. It’s horrible, but it does make sense.
PETER: Yeah, I don’t…I think I might like that explanation more than him just randomly torturing one of his lieutenants meaninglessly and attacking Guts. Even though, I guess, I mean, if he really hated Guts that much maybe he should’ve killed him. Or something different from what he did.
But then he used this Egg of the New World, which used to be a man, to give birth to him again back into the world.
AMELIA: Okay, that’s really interesting. I didn’t pick up on that at all.
PETER: Yeah, they did some weird stuff. The Egg of the New World was the thing that made the angels by jumping in, and I know they gave him his backstory moment when the Skull Knight was chasing him down trying to stop Griffith’s rebirth, but it was probably handled better in the manga.
AMELIA: Maybe. Okay, I think that about wraps it up for this one. That was an odd few episodes. I’m hoping that the next six are…feel a bit more–well, Nina not being in them will help–feel a bit less subplot-driven, I guess. If that makes sense. It seems like this was a lot of subplots and the main story didn’t really advance very far because the whole point was to get Guts and Casca back together, and that took the six episodes.
So…Maybe I’m wrong on that, and please do feel free, listeners, to correct me on that one, if you’d like. That’s not a problem.
So, yeah. We’ll wrap that up here. Thank you very much for joining me on this. A little bit of housekeeping. You can find our work at www.animefeminist.com. We’re on Twitter, @animefeminist. We’re on Facebook at facebookcom/animefem. We’ve got a Tumblr, animefeminist.tumblr.com. And we have a Patreon, which is patreon.com/animefeminist.
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So, thank you so much to Kara and Peter, and we will be back next time with episodes 13 to 18.