Guts faces off against the Count and the secrets of the Behelit are revealed!
Artist/Writer: Kentaro Miura
What They Say:
The evil Count uses his dark powers to transform a defeated guard captain into an inhuman horror to combat Guts, the Black Swordsman. Puck, Guts’ pint-sized fairy sidekick, is captured when he attempts to stop an old doctor’s execution, and he is given as a gift to the count’s daughter, a sweet girl in a gilded cage, imprisoned by her father in her own room. Guts, determined to make mincemeat of the Count, assaults the castle and carves a swath of blood-soaked destruction through the Count’s minions. Face-to-face with the Black Swordsman at last, the Count reveals his true form, and even Guts’ super-sized sword may not be big enough to contend with this demonic monstrosity!
When we left off at the end of Vol.1 of Berserk, Guts and his adorable yet often annoying elf companion Puck had just been taken in by a disfigured doctor who formerally served the deranged and demonic Count. He revealed to Guts that he was in possession of a Behelit, an artifact that is revealed to be a sort of key to another dimension, and is a critical piece used in summoning the Godhand, the band of demons that Guts hunts relentlessly. How it works remains a mystery to everyone, and even the doctor is only able to reveal that the Count received it several years ago from a group of traveling merchants, who themselves did not know much about it, and that they had simply traded for it somewhere to the East.
The Count sets into motion a plan to capture the Black Swordsman by empowering one of his strongest soldiers with a demon spawn that makes him nigh immortal, and who hunts Guts ruthlessly throughout this volume before finally meeting his end within the keep of the Castle. Meanwhile, Puck is capture in a feeble attempt to save the doctor that rescued them before he is beheaded, and given to the Count’s daughter as a gift, and we learn that the Count didn’t used to always be this way, but something changed after his wife died. Puck finds a lot of similarities between the Count’s daughter, trapped in her room and forbidden to leave, and the cage that she’s kept in. The Count’s daughter eventually lets Puck out, who is desperate to find Guts and help him, and promises a return to rescue the captive woman.
The volume ends when Guts faces off against the true demonic form of the Count, a massive, slug like horror with extreme regeneration capabilities. Guts is caught off guard and left in a defenseless position as the volume closes out.
The themes that will become constant for the series are more explicitly laid out in this volume. Arrogance is a quality that both demons and humans share in equal measure, as we listen to the arrogant rants of the Count on how humans are weak and helpless juxtaposed with Guts belittling comments to Puck about how the feeble, disfigured doctor is too weak to save himself, and Guts doesn’t have time for people who can’t save themselves.
It becomes more apparent in this volume that Guts is deeply conflicted internally, and his self-doubt and hatred hint at a very dark and complicated past. Miura does a great job of showing us the mental state that Guts is in, as his eyes adopt a dead, hallow feel when the whirl of blood and gore fills him, and no matter how much punishment he takes, his hatred of these demons sustains him when other humans would be crushed and killed instantly.
One of the biggest problems with this volume in particular comes in the art. The details are vivid, the violence intense, but there are several panels during fights where it is unclear exactly what action is being shown. Mirua uses so much detail and uses the full spectrum of ink and pencil colors to create very vibrant, flowing artwork, but some of his action panels are so filled with detail, speed lines, and depth that it becomes difficult to easily distinguish what exactly the scene is showing, and the panels surrounding these few standouts help to give context to the somewhat muddy pictures.
In spite of a few poorly framed and angled panels, Mirua advances the plot at a decent clip, with great and gritty artwork and dialogue. This volume is in many ways very much like the first – we learn more about Guts and Puck, and that the now demonic Count is somehow connected to the Godhand that Guts hunts through his possession of the Behelit. All of this points towards a world and a story much deeper than we’re initially given though – Guts in particular is a fractured, incomplete man. He is driven and stronger than anyone else we’ve seen in the world, but mentally he is broken and damaged. It’s clear Miura has a plan to tell us more about Guts, the Godhand, how he got the Brand and the world they all inhabit it, but he is deliberate in his structure, and we’ll just have to wait for the next volume to see what questions we have answered – and what new questions we ask.
Join us here at Fandom Post for next week as we dive into Volume 3!
Content Grade: B
Age Rating: 17+
Released By: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: January 14th, 2004