Part 3 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 13-18
24:47 Griffith’s charisma
32:44 Continued portrayals of sexual violence against Casca
45:03 Next six episodes
47:28 Peter’s suprises
50:23 Guts’s masculinity
51:39 The rage dog
Recorded Sunday 15th July 2017
Music: Open Those Bright Eyes by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
AMELIA: Hi, everyone, and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. My name’s Amelia and I’m the Editor-In-Chief of Anime Feminist, joined today by Peter Fobian and Kara Dennison. If you guys would 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.
KARA: And I’m Kara Dennison, contributor for Crunchyroll and Viewster.
AMELIA: Okay. We’re doing our third episode in our watchalong of new Berserk today, which is episodes 13 to 18. We have previously watched six episodes at a time as part of our watchalong format. Watch six episodes, get the three of us behind microphones and talk about it from a feminist perspective. So, that’s been an interesting journey so far. I’m really pleased. But we seem to have turned a corner in these six episodes. I think the last six would’ve stopped me from continuing to watch, in all honesty. It was a bit much for me. But these six–I really got back into it, I think. I’m looking forward to watching episode 19, whereas if you’d asked me around episode 12, if you asked me if I wanted to watch anymore, I’m not so sure I would’ve said yes.
What was it like for you, these six, Kara?
KARA: No, I definitely felt it. It’s like…As soon as episode 13 started, I remember Peter was saying, “I can’t wait for you guys to watch episode 13.” And I turned it on, like, “Oh my god, Berserk!”
KARA: I felt like I was watching what I came for, you know? It was…I mean…
AMELIA: It’s been a while, hasn’t it?
KARA: I mean, there were moments. There were moments from the first cour where I’m like, “Yeah, no.” But when this kicked off, everything felt familiar. And I don’t just mean the story and the way characters were treated. I mean: even the pacing, even the look of it. I mean, yeah, it’s still weird animation, but I felt a lot more at home.
AMELIA: Yeah. Absolutely. So, for context, Kara and I have seen the 1997 series. You’ve not seen any of the films, have you, Kara?
KARA: I have not yet. Once we’re done here I may go back and watch.
AMELIA: I was thinking that. It’s given me a bit of a taste for it now. But I haven’t seen the films, either. Whereas Peter is kind of our in-house expert.
PETER: I encourage you to watch the films, yes.
AMELIA: Okay. Good. So, you’ve seen the films, you’ve seen the 1997 series–right?–you’ve seen all of currently-airing Berserk, and you’ve read the manga. Is that right?
AMELIA: And you were looking forward to getting us to these six episodes, I think you said.
PETER: Yeah. Personally, when I was reading the manga–which was before the original 2016 series came out–I felt like this was the point in the story where I got really engaged in the post-Golden-Era part of the story.
After that, there’s a lot of Guts wandering and it felt kind of directionless, but this is where the story comes back into focus again for me.
AMELIA: What do you mean by “Golden Era?”
PETER: The Golden Era, Golden Age. I guess it’s technically “The Golden Age.” That’s the period, the backstory, with Griffith’s Band of the Hawk, which ends with the Eclipse and you actually have this and, I think, one or two other story arcs where it’s mostly Guts wandering on his own before the party forms up again during these episodes.
AMELIA: Right. Okay. I think I’d agree with that. This is the first time that I’ve really felt quite engaged in the story. The first 12 episodes were a bit of a slog. So grateful Nina’s not here anymore. I think that instantly has helped, for me. And the new characters that we’ve got are actually quite interesting. So, we had Schierke. Is that how you pronounce it?
PETER: Schierke, yes.
AMELIA: I quite like her character. She’s a witch’s apprentice turning into a fully-fledged witch, and she seems to know her stuff but be quite unwilling to use it in the real world, which I thought was a quite nice little character beat. She’s not super capable; she’s not incompetent. She’s kind of at a stage of her training where she’s technically able to do more than it seems she feels comfortable doing.
PETER: I always felt like she’s kind of the…maybe the opposite of Farnese, because she’s less certain of herself but hypercompetent. Or, I guess, when you first meet Farnese. And very…Whenever she ends up deciding to do something, she very quickly comes up with a strategy and executes on it. So, I guess “hypercompetent” is the best word, yeah.
AMELIA: What did you think, Kara?
KARA: She’s my beautiful new daughter. I love her. I mean, the minute I saw her in the opening…I saw this character sort of drifting around. I think we saw her briefly beforehand, just as sort of a background thing. I went, “I don’t know who she is. I don’t know what her deal is. But just her character design tells me I’m probably gonna love her.” And then when she shows up, it’s like, “Yeah. I love her.”
She’s entertaining. I love how she deals with this strange group of people, with their own set of dramas, and she just sort of wades into it and keeps her head all through this. And I almost feel like she’s from a completely different show. Does that make sense? I feel like she wandered into Berserk from a magical girl show—which is not an insult–but I feel like she wandered in from a completely different show and is somehow managing to keep her wits about her better than any of the others do in the midst of all this insanity.
So, yeah. What Peter said. Her ability to put up with stuff….I like, also–and I don’t know if this is gonna make any sense–I like that her attitude, her personality, seems to have created a shield around her where I am–I’m gonna regret this, but–I get the feeling that I’m not gonna have to worry about how she ends up as much as I–
KARA: I know! I know I’ve cursed it. I know I cursed it. But–I know I’ve cursed it because everything bad happens to women in this show, but it’s like she just seems to be in this nice bubble of competence, and I’m praying it stays that way.
AMELIA: I’m not gonna challenge you too hard on that, because what was really striking for me is that with this development, we’ve actually had witches introduced into this world of demons, and we finally got some kind of magical force for good.
AMELIA: It has been so negative the entire time. It has been destructive. It has been gory. It has been gruesome. We finally have somebody who says, “Well, I can protect you with chants. I can protect you with spells.” It seems like magic has finally balanced out…The way that magic exists within the Berserk universe has been balanced out. And it’s been balanced out with this very feminine power. And I’m not sure, yet, if they’re gonna do anything with that idea, because we’ve seen two witches and one of them is this older woman who doesn’t seem to age very quickly nearing the end of her life, and she’s got this apprentice, Schierke, who is currently–well, she’s very young-looking…As we know, because part of her character introduction was being groped.
KARA: Yeah. And then she turned him into a monkey for half a day, so, I mean…
AMELIA: She did turn him into a monkey for half a day, but I just wish that we didn’t have to do this every time. It was such a slapstick moment that’s utterly not in keeping with what I think Berserk‘s primary tone is. I know we occasionally drop into the silly faces with Puck and with Isidro, but it was just not a good beat for Berserk of all things. When it sexualizes Casca so often, when it sexualizes Farnese so often, and then to have amongst those quite serious assault moments, to have this casual accidental grope that then turns really purposeful, it was…It was just…It just felt like a really cheap way to introduce what I think, as you say, is gonna be a really satisfying character.
KARA: It felt like something out of a highschool comedy. It’s almost like, “We gotta have stuff like this in here so people will watch.” I don’t know, but yeah.
AMELIA: You really don’t.
KARA: I do, though…You were mentioning “the force for good.” I love seeing benevolent witches. I just…One of my other big areas of fandom and study is Arthurian legends, and it was very sad to sort of follow the trail of Arthurian legends from “Oh, Morgan le Fey is one of nine totally nice ladies who doesn’t really do anything bad,” to “Oh my god! She’s incestuous and evil!” And it’s like, “What?”
So, whenever they have…Whenever a work in general has benevolent witches, I am so happy because it’s just nice.
AMELIA: Yeah, it is. It is just…It was something quite nice in the midst of Berserk, which I wasn’t really expecting. And I’m really pleased that she’s part of the team. It has felt a bit unbalanced with quite a lot of grief, quite a lot of sexual assault, and just quite a lot of darkness, and to have someone who is…She’s not all sunbeams and cheerfulness, but she is a positive force for good.
And having someone like that in the party to balance out Guts, who is probably the most powerful of the others, and he’s quite a dark force for…not even good really, he’s fairly…There’s the D&D grid, isn’t there? I’m not too familiar with it. But he’s fairly neutral. He’s fairly driven by his own personal motivations. He only actually agrees to help the villagers once he’s established he’s gonna get something out of it, and it’s not gonna derail him for nothing. Whereas you’ve got Schierke, who’s been…I mean, she’s been told to do this. She doesn’t particularly want to. But you get the feeling that once she’s caught up in it, she probably will do the right thing. Whereas, Guts…I’m not so sure. He’s pretty focused.
PETER: They do have that conversation on the bridge in regards to her willingness to be helping those people, right?
AMELIA: Uh, yeah. Can you recap that?
PETER: She basically, after….I guess the priest of the town is not very happy with Schierke showing up, because she’s obviously a witch. She wears the uniform. And she sort of catches a lot of hate. And then she’s talking to Guts, and says, “I don’t really feel like these people deserve help. They are…They believe in this church which is basically just, “Build a monument over what used to be an area for spiritual energy,” and they get something out of that because of the pacts that were made with the spirits a long time ago, but they don’t actually respect the spirits in any way. So, to her, it’s kind of like sacrilege, based on her own…I don’t wanna call it “belief”…understanding of metaphysics, and Guts says, “Well, if you don’t want to, you don’t need to. Nothing’s making you do that.”
AMELIA: Yeah, and she basically still feels like she’s obligated to, right?
PETER: Yeah, she didn’t really like that answer. It comes back to Guts’ kind of…”You can only make decisions you think you can live with and you shouldn’t be a slave to the choices of others” kind of ideal, where she feels a strong obligation to her teacher.
AMELIA: Yeah. Absolutely. I’d forgotten about that, so thank you for bringing that up.
Isidro in this…I don’t know how I feel about him as a character. He’s…I liked him a lot more before he ended up groping Schierke. I think that’s put me off him a little bit. I thought they did quite a good job of balancing his more slapstick-y humor this time.
There was one moment where they’re actually fending off the trolls in the village, where he was running into the fray and then a bunch of trolls come piling at him and he just runs straight back, and it did actually make me laugh. I was really amused by his responses to things. But it’s just…I don’t know. It reminded me…You know, Peter, when we were going through the SHIROBAKO and Tarou–every week, Tarou–I’m like…I feel like maybe Isidro is turning into a bit of a Tarou for me, where every week he’s getting a little bit more…Like, I understand him a bit better, but he’s not getting any better as a person. I’m not enjoying him.
PETER: Yeah. Actually, rewatching this, I was wondering when the comparison would be made.
AMELIA: Oh, really?
AMELIA: Oh, he’s just…Like I said, right up until the point where he groped Schierke, I had a lot more time for him, because until then, he kind of kept his distance a little bit. You could kind of see the moments where he’d get comedy boners at naked ladies, but they didn’t do anything with that…He didn’t act on that in a creepy way until these episodes, so…[Sarcastically] Thanks for adding that character beat in, Berserk. Much appreciated.
PETER: I think he gets better, at least. His whole story arc is him growing up a lot, learning to respect…Him and Schierke have kind of an interesting relationship–
AMELIA: I thought they might.
PETER: –because she’s so much more useful than she is and he wants to be useful.
AMELIA: [Laughter] Yeah, there was that beautiful moment where he sees her magic once she’s done her chanting and she’s cast the spell, and he sees her magic, and he’s clearly just stunned, like, “Wait, this is from…She’s capable of this?” And he’d been making fun of her and belittling her so much up until that point, and I hope now he learns a little bit of respect. I guess we’ll find out next episode.
Let’s move on to Farnese, who I’m really excited to talk about, because we got some actual character development for her this time.
KARA: And we got a lot of it–background, too.
AMELIA: We got a lot of background, and we got quite a lot of about-faces from her as she’s facing up to some pretty hard truths about herself, which I thought was fascinating. But I’m not sure how I feel about it. Because, last episode, we talked about the fact that she has a lot of development from here, and we talked about the potential of her growing into the leadership role that she previously held but hadn’t really earned and wasn’t really very good at. We talked about her growing potentially in that direction. And, actually, she’s gone down a more maternal path. So, she’s now kind of Casca’s caretaker. And it’s really nice to see her building empathy, which she has now extended to people like Serpico. She can say, “I actually treated you really badly. I’m sorry.”
KARA: I loved that scene because he just drops the thing he’s holding. [Laughter]
AMELIA: He has no idea how to react. He’s never experienced this before. And it was nice. He’s like, “I’m really pleased to see this and I’m sorry that I couldn’t be the one to make it happen,” basically. So, she’s getting something out of that relationship, and that’s good. I don’t want her character arc to end there, I think.
KARA: I mean, I sort of see the same thing. I saw that she was willing to change. Then we have that quote-unquote “Is it comedy or is it just uncomfortable?” sort-of reverse-training montage where she just realizes how bad she is at stuff as opposed to…And I’m like, “I get this. I get this. She is in a situation now where everything’s different.” Until the point where they finally go, “Okay, guys. She can babysit the vegetable.” And it’s just like, “Ugh.”
I get it. And one thing I will say for that, though, is it’s nice to see someone actually spending some dang time with Casca, because I…Everything has been about her…”Don’t touch that. Don’t eat that. Don’t wander off.” And now you see her sort of unable to look after herself and you see Farnese go up and: “Oh, is this what you’re doing? We’ll both do it.”
AMELIA: Just kind of playing with her. There’s that moment where she’s playing with the leaves and Farnese just stops gathering firewood and she goes over and she plays with them with her and it was just such a sweet little moment.
KARA: That’s the exact moment I’m thinking of.
AMELIA: Yeah. It was just a lovely development from Farnese, but also, as you say, giving Casca some time…making her more than just a burden.
KARA: Yeah. It’s nice to see someone treating her as a person rather than a prop.
AMELIA: Yeah. And when she protected her. And Serpico makes this big deal about, “I’ve never seen her protect anyone with her life before.” It almost doesn’t matter. She could have a track record of doing that. But the fact that she did it for Casca when, actually, Casca is somebody she hasn’t known for very long and she doesn’t….and she’s got nowhere to connect with her as a friend, really. She’s very definitely caring for her. And that has inspired her to this point. I think it’s wonderful.
KARA: I am happy to see a little more humanization of Casca. Not only that, but the very small thing with Schierke, with…using the hair telepathy. That very small thing of, “‘Why are we putting it on her? She can’t speak.’ ‘Well, Schierke said so.'”
AMELIA: Yeah. Speaking isn’t the only way to communicate with people. Yeah, absolutely.
PETER: Yeah, there’s also…There’s been a redemptive element, too, I think, because she was previously basically gonna burn Casca at the stake, just assuming she was a witch or something like that. So, she’s sort of…This is another way she’s confronted with where her faith and belief in the church have really failed her.
AMELIA: And that was another great moment for the…from the witch side of things, actually, where the older witch–I can’t remember her name–she says to Farnese, “You have not burned a single one of my family. But, if you had, the blame would not sit with you alone.”
And that was really validating, I think, for Farnese, to take some of that off her shoulders. I mean, shes cut her hair, which…That moment was…Anyone else just watch that and be like, “That is not the way that that haircut would fall.” [Laughter]
KARA: I just love Guts’ reaction, like, “God, she’s so dramatic. What?” [Laughter]
AMELIA: And then Puck’s like, “You can’t say anything more now. You would be the villain in this scenario after that.”
But, yeah, I think there was a missing in-between frame where Serpico just runs up and slices her hair off evenly so that she’s not embarrassed.
PETER: Because of course he knows how to do that. [Laughter]
AMELIA: Of course he does. Just swipe the sword.
Kara, what did you think of her backstory?
KARA: Of Farnese’s? It’s…It explained a lot. That’s the main thing. When you come into a character like this, it’s like, “Well, can’t really judge this morally.” You get to a point where it’s like: she is what she is now. And I’m looking at it and I’m going, “This explains absolutely everything on so many levels.”
Especially Serpico, because that had been the main thing I was wondering about. And it’s like, “Oh, oh okay. I gotcha.” But I thought…It was a very interesting place to place the backstory, because the second cour, we’re talking about her becoming a better person, and at the time that we are encouraged to embrace her, we are shown all the weird stuff. It’s like, “Please like this person. By the way, here’s the crazy stuff she did.”
AMELIA: I guess that gives you your context for how far she’s come, which is something we really need to bare in mind.
KARA: Yeah, and also her family. A lot of family issues, and a lot of what was going on there, it’s like, “Yeah, this explains a lot. This explains why she would become this sort of person.” Not only why she’d become that person, but why she would still feel conflicted as that person. If that makes sense. Because you could see these moments where she wasn’t quite sure, and I can see now…It’s like, “Yeah, there’s a reason why she wasn’t 110% staunchly puritan about everything.” That, and also the little firebug aspect of her I had always wondered about.
AMELIA: Yeah, that was hard to see Serpico confronted with his mother.
KARA: Yeah, that was…Yeah.
AMELIA: That was really hard.
KARA: Talk about going through a lot, yeah.
AMELIA: And the way Farnese wasn’t…This was kind of difficult. I kind of wanted her to be like, “I know this is probably true, but we need to save you. We need to focus on protecting you now. And to do that, you have to light this flame” rather than “Prove to them that it’s not true and that you wouldn’t betray me like that.”
That was not a good Farnese moment. But I guess it was, because it does show us how far she’s moved on. Within that episode or and episode around it is where she says, “I realize now how badly I treated you.”
KARA: It really does give, like you said, a whole lot of context, and it also shows why now she would be just as down on herself as she is, ’cause she is super way low down on herself. She’s gone from being in charge to having enough self-awareness to look back at herself. That’s the hard part. There’s a difference between going, “These things happened,” and then there’s the self-awareness to go, “I did these things and they were bad and I can’t justify them even if I can say why I did them at the time. I can’t justify them in any way.”
AMELIA: She’s gone completely the opposite way in terms of how useful she thinks she is as well, where she just sits there and thinks, “I’m useless. I’m worse than useless. I let Casca run away.” The fact that she was found again doesn’t really mitigate that.
KARA: Yeah, and now my question is…Looking after Casca, connecting with her, seems to have helped her some, but where is…You know, you don’t have a character be that high up and fall that far down without, at least in most stories, bringing them back up again in a better way. The rebirth.
AMELIA: This is the hope, right? This is the hope, because if she does, it would be an amazing arc.
KARA: Yeah, but there’s that rebirth element that I hope they really do bring in. The question now being: where is that gonna come from? Is it gonna come from Guts passively, because he’s like, “I don’t care what you do. I guess you can follow me.” Or is it gonna come from him actively, after a time? Is it gonna come from within? Is it gonna come from another character that we don’t expect? Is it going to be there at all?
AMELIA: I…Yeah. I’m really interested to see where her character goes, ’cause at the moment, she’s not really training for anything.
KARA: No, she’s just kind of feeling bad.
AMELIA: So, she’s…I mean, yeah, she’s feeling bad. I guess she’s training in empathy, through her work with Casca. But where Isidro is actually…He’s studying swordfighting. He is practicing. He’s probably getting a bit better. Farense isn’t really doing anything to work towards a different path, and I’m not entirely sure what she wants to get out of following Guts, either. It just seems like she had a feeling about him, and wants to be part of that journey, which is interesting, ’cause that’s obviously a kind of charisma we’d associate with Griffith, who very clearly inspires loyalty instantly just through pure charisma, which is not something Guts has.
KARA: Oh, boy. Especially in these more recent episodes where you’re looking at who follows him. You’re going, “What? This guy? This guy? This guy? This weird monster thing?”
AMELIA: Yeah. Okay, let’s talk about Griffith, ’cause he’s back. He’s probably back as a character. I really wasn’t expecting that. I thought he’d be mostly gone, a touch here from time-to-time, and then we’d kind of have a proper finale with him, or something. But he’s really around. He’s started Band of the Hawk again. He’s got a whole new following.
PETER: Picking up right where he left off.
AMELIA: Yeah, absolutely. And I was not expecting that at all. Guts kind of talks about him as: “he was a human.” When he came back, he wasn’t a demon anymore–he was a human. But at the same time, he has these kind of otherworldly powers to show people their newly-dead loved ones. I assume that came from him. But, at the same time, we get inside his head for a moment, don’t we? When he looks at Guts and he says, “He looks exactly like the moment I first saw him.” So, he does seem to still have his human memories, his human perspective, so I don’t know what he’s doing. I don’t know where he is. But I’m fascinated by him because that’s just the way Grifith is. He is always fascinating.
PETER: Well, he said he wanted to be free of Guts, but it turned out that wasn’t the case. Same with Casca, when he protected her.
KARA: Yeah. I was also–and I don’t know where she’s gonna go, if anywhere–that girl, Sonia. The priestess. The psychic, whatever.
KARA: Seer, yeah. She…I don’t know if we’re gonna see her anymore because she was like: there, there, there, there, and then, boom, she’s gone. And I don’t know if she’s gonna be a thing. I’m interested. I don’t know if I’m interested, because if she does stick around she may become another Nina, so I’m worried about saying I’d like to see her again. But her…The way she smiled, I think…Just how enraptured she was, which I think might be a really, really appropriate adjective in a lot of ways, with him and with the Band of the Hawk and with everything…I mean, there is something up that’s beyond…I mean, yeah, Griffith is hugely charismatic, and if this had been any other character and this had happened, I would have been like, “Really?” But it’s Griffith. So, I can actually kind of believe people throwing themselves in front of him going, “Yeah, me! Me! Me!”
But there is still definitely something above his usual leadership and charisma going on here, and the question is: is it good or is it gonna turn?
AMELIA: I agree with you. He’s…He has something above and beyond the previous charisma. His previous level of charisma brought in people like Casca, right? She was already on her own as a pretty fierce warrior, or she was kind of learning to fight. She wanted to learn to fight. And she already kind of had that mentality, whereas Sonia is…She’s looking for something to follow. She says, “I’ve seen that this person is coming.” And she wanted to respond to that rather than Casca’s situation, which was: she just wanted to become stronger. She wanted to be with Griffith. And that has elevated…It seems like Griffith always has someone around him who’s completely devoted to him. There was Casca, there was Charlotte, there’s now Sonia. And every time it goes kind of up a step in what they give him or what they can give him, and what he wants to take from them.
I’m not sure yet where she’s gonna go, but I’m pretty sure she’s a fixture, ’cause she’s in the opening credits.
KARA: Oh, yeah. You’re right. She is.
AMELIA: Yeah, so I think she’s gonna be around. I think she’s gonna be doing things. I thought it was really interesting when she’s walking through the woods, and she’s just completely unfazed by the idea that she could be killed. She’s like, “No, no, no. I’m protected.”
AMELIA: Yeah, that one scene…That one scene where I was like, “Oh, god. Here we go again,” and they were…Stop having giant monsters lick girls, please. Just stop. Stop.
But it was such a counter to the first half of the series where it was very terrifying, disempowering, disgusting. This time, it starts happening, and she’s like, “Uh, no. Griffith will be mad.”
AMELIA: “We’ve had this conversation. You’re gonna be in trouble.”
KARA: And he’s like “No, no, no!” Yeah, so, on the one hand, it’s like, “God, I have to see this again?” On the other, the way it’s handled, what it results in, was so interesting.
AMELIA: I think it’s good that it’s not just Sonia who is devoted to Griffith this time. We see it in action with that guy, Mule, Lord Mule. Terrible name. And he…Just as soon as he meets Griffith, he’s completely swallowed up, and he has no idea how or why, but that’s it. He’s devoted instantly. And, yeah, that’s a supernatural level of power. It’s not charisma anymore. We’re into some kind of power from somewhere else.
KARA: Yeah, and there’s nobility. There’s people who walk by, and it’s like, “You? Really? This guy?” And then monsters…Whatever that thing was with the mask or whatever.
PETER: Oh, Rakshas?
KARA: Rakshas, yeah.
AMELIA: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. That guy who’s like, “I’m going to cut off your head and eat it and until that moment no one else can have you.” Was that…?
KARA: Yeah, that was wild.
AMELIA: That was an amazing moment. I loved that. It was so creepily done.
KARA: And that’s just…To me, that sort of solidified: this is the level of devotion that he inspires just by stumbling into his area of effect.
AMELIA: Even Guts, right? We have that moment where Guts says, “When I looked at him, for a moment I forgot my hatred of him. And I couldn’t forgive myself for that.”
That’s amazing. To make Guts forget this grudge that he’s been carrying around with him this whole time, it’s…Their relationship has always been fascinating. It continues to be so. I’m really impressed at how they’ve not reduced it to just battling an old grudge.
KARA: Yeah, there’s so many levels to it and I’m enjoying it. And now it’s gotten even weirder, so.
AMELIA: Indeed. Okay, just–
PETER: [Crosstalk] You–
AMELIA: Oh, sorry, go ahead.
PETER: You get the feeling that all those people kind of felt Griffith was around and had been headed toward him for a while, headed in that same…They’d all been on their own journeys headed for that specific town where they felt like he was going to appear, or something.
So, there was this element of karmic pull toward Griffith appearing there.
And also Rickert, I think, sort of had the same experience, ’cause he finds out the truth after Griffith leaves, and he’s not sure what to do with that, because I think the…What did Griffith say to him? “I didn’t betray my dream. Nothing more.” Something like that. And now Rickert has to decide…And he says, “If you want to come back to me after knowing what happened then I have no reason to deny you.” So, Rickert has to make that decision on his own.
AMELIA: But that decision of Rickert is between Guts and Griffith. That’s…Because he says, “I want to come with you” to Guts, but he also, when Griffith shows up, of course he’s instantly drawn into Griffith’s magnetism.
So, again, we have these two in opposition and Rickert’s kind of the neutral ground, because he’s had no…He’s not had the same experiences that Guts had. He wasn’t in the Eclipse, so he’s just…He has his history with Griffith. He has his history with Guts. And he values both of them extremely highly. And even after finding out, as you say…It’ll be interesting to see if that goes anywhere. I was absolutely expecting him to go with Griffith, so I’m impressed that they haven’t done that yet.
Alright, finally, I just want to look at Casca and Guts. This was really unpleasant. Casca’s whole character, for me, has become completely unpleasant. Not quite unbearable, but I really…As soon as she’s on screen, I’m just gritting my teeth because we have now seen her raped, we’ve seen attempted rape, we’ve seen metaphorical rape, or supernatural rape, we have seen other forms of sexual assault that aren’t quite rape but still really hard to watch. We keep seeing this in real time, in flashback, in demonscapes, in the contemporary world. It’s unpleasant. I’ve had enough. And they’re not doing anything with her. They’re not doing anything with that. Instead, she’s become completely just a tool for Guts to feel bad about himself because he gets caught up on the whole sexual assault train with her in these six episodes.
That was really, really hard to watch. He’s been her protector for so long, and then suddenly he’s lost himself to this supernatural force that I don’t recall seeing previously. Maybe I just missed it. But, it seems like all of a sudden he’s just got this dark side that’s forcing him to try and rape Casca, so…Kara, how was your experience of this?
KARA: I…Same, basically. I was extremely bothered. I was like, “What? No. Come on.” There was that moment of, “You too? Why? Cut it out.” And I just…I’m to the point of being genuinely upset, where…Here’s the thing for me: even with the way things have been, it’s like there was still a part of me that could go, “Heh, oh, Berserk!”
You know? I could hang in there. But I’m just going, “Why? Why? What does this accomplish? What does this add to the plot?”
AMELIA: Exactly. What is the justification for the repeated going to the same well every single time with this one character who has very little characterization at this point. Her defining characteristic is sexual assault. And that’s appalling. We now have this pattern where she wanders off or she escapes, she encounters some men who apparently have absolutely no self restraint whatsoever and are all inherently rapists…I find it hard to believe that every single man you would encounter in this European-style fantasy land would not have a single problem with raping a woman who clearly doesn’t have the capacity to consent. I…Maybe I’m being overoptimistic. I’m not being overoptimistic. There’s this #notallmen thing. Like, seriously. Feminists believe that too. Come on. We do not need to see this happen every single time.
KARA: Yeah, no, it’s…It really is getting to me, and it’s something that I hate in day-to-day life, where it’s like…”We’re gonna show you a show where it is true.” It’s like: no. Don’t.
AMELIA: Exactly. We see this in everyday life in things like dress codes where you’ve got to cover up, ’cause the men around you, they just can’t control themselves.
KARA: Yes they can.
AMELIA: No! They absolutely can and do, every single day. So, Casca wandering off and every single time encountering groups of this men. So, this isn’t just–“just”–one-on-one rape, this is gang rape. So, these men are quite happy all assaulting her together. Every single group of men that she encounters feels that way. It’s been frustrating.
KARA: Yeah, I’m about done with it. And I’m sitting here, and I’ve done this to a degree with a lot of different properties where I’m just like, “If you are going to drag me over and over through this weird stupidity, then every time”…”You’re basically adding to a debt to the viewers” is a way a friend of mine put it that was wonderful, and it was about a different property entirely. But it was like: every time you do something like this, you’re essentially asking your viewers for a loan. You’re asking your viewers for a loan, and every time you ramp it up, you are taking out a bigger and bigger loan, and it’s like, “What in the world kind of ending will pay this loan off?”
AMELIA: Exactly. That’s such a perfect way to put it.
KARA: A friend of mine put it that way with something else, and it’s just like…That’s how I feel about things like this. And I have nothing. I have absolutely nothing. I’m trying to think of an ending or a character arc or a revelation that could make everything we’ve seen happen to Casca worth it. No. I’m like, “You guys are gonna have to completely blow my extremities off.”
AMELIA: And it’s almost like, at this point, if Casca as we knew her did return, I don’t know. That’s starting to feel uncomfortable now. Does that make sense? It’s starting to feel like the things that she has gone through…If she comes back as she was and remembers a fraction of them, that’s gonna be deeply traumatizing for her. And obviously she’s been through traumatic experiences already, hence her being where she is now. But it wouldn’t get any better.
So, even if she regains her sense of self, she regains her consciousness as we knew her to have it…I don’t know what future there is for her. And it feels like…To me, it feels like the time to give Casca back was the end of the first cour. And if she hadn’t come back to herself then, you could do things with her this arc. You could build her back up to a character that we…That would serve a story purpose that would be a fully realized character. But, it’s just…It’s hard to see how they would manage that now.
KARA: And, I mean, if somehow they do–which, I don’t know how they will, but if somehow they do–then I will happily go, “Boy, I was so wrong” if they do.
AMELIA: Gladly. Gladly. I would love to have Casca back. But the character she’s become…I think there were ways…We talked about that in previous episodes. There were ways you could have written her character differently to the choices that they’ve made. And the choices that they’ve made are just sexual assault, all the time, from everyone possible. And it’s not getting any better.
And we have that moment where they’re in the witch’s house and she’s in the bath with Farnese, and she’s being so sexualized. Just the framing of it and the way that she’s drawn…And then she runs out naked, because of course she does! And then Farnese is trying to pull her back, and…why are we still doing this. Why are we still doing this? Is it for comedy? It’s not a very funny joke at all.
And I think, at this point…Who is still laughing at that stuff? She’s so clearly unable to consent to these things. It can’t be pleasant. This is the one piece of feedback we get constantly around fanservice through AniFem is people saying it’s the lack of consent that bothers them. And this is across genders. This is across age ranges. This is across different anime tastes. People are consistently bothered by fanservice that involves lack of consent. And we are getting that consistently with Casca. And they are seriously wearing thin on goodwill.
Peter, is there any possible context or way of framing this that will make it remotely bearable for us in the coming six episodes? Or do we just have to stick it out?
PETER: Well, I didn’t want to really…
AMELIA: Don’t spoil us.
PETER: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Two directions I’ll go with this. The first one is: I think that–I’m not defending it, but this is something that I think has been attached to Casca’s character for quite a while–I think there was two attempted rapes in the Golden Age. I don’t know if the TV series had the scene where she first met Griffith as a child, but he saved her from an attempted rape basically. Well, actually, he let her save herself. He gave her a sword and then she killed the guy. And then the scene where Guts kills a thousand men or whatever.
So, this has been a constant theme with her character, I guess. Although, I’ve been wracking my brain as you’ve been talking to try to think of if it happens again after the scene with Guts, because…There’s definitely scenes where they do the wandering-around-without-clothes-on thing, although they’re somewhat limited. It’s at this point–
AMELIA: Probably not limited enough for my tastes, but yes.
PETER: This one…Approaching this episode, I was figuring that this would be…this episode section, I thought this would be the best and the worst it gets because there’s obviously some horrible stuff that happens with Casca, but some great stuff that happens with other characters. And I think this is literally the worst it gets for Casca during this period.
AMELIA: Fingers crossed.
PETER: Yeah, yeah. I…Well, at least definitely for the rest of the series, but I also think for the manga going forward. So, I can’t really…I obviously can’t say that that makes it any better, because it happens, of course. I don’t mind giving this away as a spoiler because we wouldn’t be talking about this for four or five years, assuming the anime continues and assuming Miura doesn’t take anymore breaks, but the last chapter of the manga before it went on hiatus for six months was….I think the next chapter is them reaching into Casca’s mind and pulling her out.
AMELIA: Okay. Years.
PETER: And obviously this is far in the future, because Miura’s been making this comic for 30 years and I think this is maybe around the middle, so there’s definitely a lot of questing they go on to…At that point, it sort of becomes the focus: getting Casca out. And I think we’re on the edge of that happening in the plot. But, again, that’s quite a ways in the future. Even in the manga, he went on hiatus for six months literally the chapter before it probably happens. I don’t know if just to torture us because that’s what Berserk is all about, but…
AMELIA: That reminds me. He went to see a witch, right? He stood in front of this powerful witch. Did he say anything about, “Can you help my friend?”
PETER: I believe so. Yeah, I think so.
AMELIA: Did he?
PETER: This is…He gets pointed in the direction…I think during this six-episode cour…I can’t remember where they conversation is…where they would have to go next. I think it’s Puck that brings it up.
AMELIA: I don’t remember it being brought up, and I’m not sure if I missed it. Kara, do you remember?
KARA: I can’t remember either. I would feel like…I feel like that would be something that sticks out, you know?
AMELIA: Yeah. Yeah, it’s…I mean, she brings up the brand and she brings up the ward for the brand. And I thought that would have been a good time for Guts to say, “Is there anything you can do?”
PETER: Well, I know Puck mentioned his homeland, which I think is just called “Avalon” or something like that.
AMELIA: “Elfheilm,” or something like that.
PETER: Yeah. And that’s the place, basically. So, I don’t…I think it kind of consolidates, but that’s…I thought I remembered that conversation. I could be wrong.
AMELIA: I don’t think he asked. I don’t think he asked, and that really bothers me.
Okay. Let’s start wrapping this up. Kara, where do you want to see it go from here? What do you want the next six episodes to hold?
KARA: Well, I want more of our new characters. I love them. I want Farnese to be confident again. I want her to keep moving forward with Serpico by way of making their relationship a healthy one. Their friendship, their whatever-it-is.
AMELIA: “Friendship” is a bit of a strong word.
KARA: Yeah. Maybe…I don’t know. But their whatever-it-is. I’d like to see it become a healthy thing as opposed to a forced thing.
PETER: Well, maybe not strong enough depending on who you’re talking to, either.
KARA: That’s fair.
AMELIA: [Hesitantly] Hmm.
KARA: But, yeah. I want to see that become a healthier thing and I want to see her have a better view of herself. I also out of morbid curiosity…I really want to see just how far this new charisma of Griffith’s goes. I want to see just what people are willing to do for him.
AMELIA: Makes sense. I think I’m thinking on similar lines. I’ve given up on any kind of development as a character for Casca, whatsoever. It’s all about Farnese for me, I think. I’m completely bought in to her arc, but I don’t want it to stop here. She’s built up…She has really improved in terms of empathy, and I think that’s huge on a character level. I really want to see her move in to more of a leadership kind of position, I think. But she needs way more skills than just empathy to get there. She does need to be capable and competent in terms of strategy if not actual combat.
So, I don’t know how she’s going to get there at this point. But I would really like to see some steps in that direction, where she takes what she’s built through caring for Casca and she turns that into a path where she can be a leader in some context. ‘Cause the idea that she started off as a kind of figurehead leader, and it’s just all downhill from there, and now she’s raised herself up to the point where she’s got caring responsibilities, but that’s where her arc ends…That’s not as rewarding an arc as it could be, I think, for me.
Okay. Peter. Has anything surprised you about our discussion today? Or is it more or less as you expected?
PETER: I think it hit a lot of the points I thought it would. I did think…I mean, there were a lot of points to cover, so I thought there were some interesting scenes that were sort of looked at, but maybe…I’m not sure if I got quite your impression of it. The fire scene with Serpico and Farnese, you thought was kind of…It didn’t go far enough? Or…?
AMELIA: The fire scene where he burns his own mother? I just thought it showed Farnese in the worst possible light. Kara, what did you think of that one?
KARA: The fire scene? I just…ugh. It’s a rough one.
AMELIA: Yeah. Just kind of hard to watch.
KARA: Yeah. That’s the main thing. Just hard to watch.
AMELIA: Yeah. As was a lot of Berserk these past six episodes.
PETER: Maybe it’s just a difference in interpretation. I felt like that scene and a couple of the other ones were very complex. ‘Cause the way that she was talking was definitely like…Well, at that point, I guess they were at a fissure in their relationship, because the last time she had seen Serpico was when he had rejected her, basically. So, that was kind of her attempt at making him follow her again. But at the same time it was kind of a…I think maybe the only way she knew how to show compassion at that time. And also they’d sort of established her burning things as something she wanted to do alone, and that was very sacred to her, so doing that together with him was almost like an intimate act, even as disgusting as that is.
AMELIA: I picked up on that, because the way that she holds his hand as she moves toward the fire with him together and is kind of helping him through that, even though the thing that she’s helping him through is something she is forcing him to do, which is deeply inhuman, almost.
PETER: Well, I mean, you get the impression that if he doesn’t do it, he’s gonna end up being on the stake next, just based on the way they’re talking.
AMELIA: But just…See, yeah. That’s my sticking point. Because she doesn’t say that. She doesn’t give any impression that this is for his own protection. She gives the impression that this is more for her protection. That it would be so embarrassing for her, should one of her team, her subordinates, be related to a heretic. That that’s what she’s doing is saving face. Whereas, had she been doing it to save his life, effectively, then I would’ve found that a bit stronger, I think. I would’ve found that a more compelling character moment. But, at the same time, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with showing Farnese as cruel as she actually was. We’ve seen her be cruel multiple times. That was just the peak of it, I think.
PETER: Yeah. And in a similar scene, where she kind of lost Casca and then it turned out Casca had wandered back, it sort of…This is another point I was talking about, where Guts shows character growth. Because remember when Isidro had lost Casca, he’d been basically restraining himself from knocking his head off. And that time, I think, he was even more composed.
I mean, the outcome wasn’t as bad, but she definitely held the group up and he…I feel like he had successfully–is “repudiated” the right word?–hurt in any way. He didn’t outwardly make it apparent that he was very unhappy with her at that moment. Although, she still picked up on it, of course. So, that was sort of a moment for both of them where he restrained himself even further but she, of course, still picked up on it and felt bad that she had failed the group she was trying to help.
It’s like one of these stepping stones, I’ve noticed, with Guts. Although–and this was something that you briefly touched on, which I thought would become more of a topic of discussion– Guts’ rage dog thing.
AMELIA: Yes. Tell us more about that.
PETER: So, I’m…It does sort of just come out of nowhere here, although it does go to an interesting place later on. This kind of separation of rage. But at the same time, I think it’s a really useful narrative device, and it does sort of take on this supernatural aura that’s later tied to something else that comes up. But I feel at the same time it was also maybe–I don’t know if this was intentional or unintentional–a way to absolve Guts of the responsibility of the actions he took. ‘Cause it was like the rage took over and then he did what he did, and it was outside of his control. But as he becomes more restrained in his anger, his anger kind of separates from him and becomes its own entity.
AMELIA: Oh, I don’t like that.
AMELIA: I find that a really disturbing device, actually. The idea that the more he manages his anger, the more the women around him are going to be harmed. Well, Casca, specifically. The more Casca is going to be harmed physically. That’s a horrible message to send. That’s a really horrible character note.
PETER: Well, I don’t think it’s…The way it comes up later is more…I guess you’ll just have to…It comes up in the next season.
AMELIA: We’ll see. We’ll see. Okay.
PETER: Yeah. So, it’s kind of like…In that context, it’s better. But the way it was brought up initially is kind of uncomfortable, yes. So, I don’t quite know how the dog came into existence this early on, to be honest. It makes sense later. Maybe we should touch on this in the next cast, but as it stands, yeah. It just felt like, “Oh, it was the dog doing that, so whatever. That wasn’t Guts trying to do that, right?” Which I…Yeah, that sucks. I don’t like that at all.
AMELIA: And, in a way, I think, had it stopped at him kissing her…That was already unpleasant. That was already horrible. And then for him to bite her breast so hard that it bled…That…Oh my goodness. Human teeth aren’t that sharp, right? You have to be pretty damaging. We’re gonna have to put a content warning on this one, because the stuff we’re discussing today is just awful.
But, yeah. It felt like…To go from those…to that extreme, and then to suddenly have this fairly convenient excuse. I know that’s not how it’s intended necessarily, but, oh boy, is that how it comes across. It’s like, “Oh, no. Guts is still a good guy. He’s still a good character. You can still root for him because it wasn’t his fault.” I’m not so sure. Though, I guess it sounds like we’ll have more firm opinions on this next watchalong.
KARA: Yeah, probably.
PETER: It goes…The last four…The fourth that we’re doing. The last six episodes are probably…I feel like it’s got a lot of the good stuff from this set, but it also…It kind of moves away from a lot of the bad stuff that happens with a lot of the primary characters, but it’s got some weird stuff in it, too. So, I’m not quite sure what it’s going to…how it’s going to come out.
AMELIA: You don’t know how we’re gonna take it.
PETER: Yeah, basically.
AMELIA: That’s entirely fair.
Okay, let’s wrap that up then for these six episodes. Thank you so much for joining me.
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So, thank you again so much to Kara and Peter for joining me for this. We will be back next time with episodes 19 to 24.