Guts from Berserk is my all-time favorite character. Sure Guts may not be perfect but then again the world of Berserk isn’t too kind. This line explains a lot about him. Spoilers ahead for those who have just started the manga or the anime of the said title.
All this time Guts has eluded death because he is a relentless swordsman, and this dialogue defines him.
“He is still alive. He contested with fate and survived it”
In my analysis, I’ll be using a lot of references and manga spreads to break down his character. And try to understand what goes on behind the mind of the BLACK SWORDSMAN.
Guts has one of the most tragic stories of all time. He was born beneath a corpse on a battlefield and a band of mercenary took him in. Thereafter, he grew up as a mercenary trainee, training on different battlefields. The only person who ever came close to be a father to him was the leader of the band, Gambino. Guts longed for his affection and love but instead got harsh treatment and suffering in return. For instance, Gambino blamed Guts for the death of his lover Shisu, who was kind of an adoptive mother to guts. A subordinate of Gambino by the name of Donovan paid him 3 silver coins to rape Guts. Later on, he ended up killing them both and in his own way, freed himself. But the event scarred him for life.
Then he spent his childhood roaming from battlefield to battlefield. One day he met the charismatic and mysterious Griffith, leader of the mercenary group Band of the Hawk// Taka no dan. That was the beginning of the end for him.
Guts Life Before and After the Eclipse
During his early days, after joining Taka no dan, Guts was at odds with almost everyone. Time passed and he became friends with them and got the one thing he always longed for, “Companionship”. He rose through the ranks and became the raid commander. Although at this point his relationship with Casca was still rough. But that also changed when he saved her from the 100 Tudors. This led to her admitting her true feelings for Guts and they both had sex. That definitely triggered a lot of bad memories for Guts, but Casca took care of him. It is actually ironic, that the major character development of Guts involved either Casca or Griffith. As if both are the true authors to his pain.
Guts before the eclipse
Later on, Guts overheard Griffith say that he can only consider someone a true friend if they have their own dream. Guts left the band after the war ended. Griffith did not accept that instead, he dueled with him just like the first time when he let Guts in after being the victor. But eventually Griffith lost and Guts left in order to become a more strong swordsman.
“I want to stand beside him by attaining something of my own.”
Our leader couldn’t cope with Guts leaving and made a lot of bad decisions which screwed him and the band for the worse. After a year or two when Guts returns he gets to know about the Behelit. Then he gets in a relationship with Casca. He gets to know that his best friend Griffith is imprisoned and decides to save him.
In a turn of events, Griffith accidentally activates the Behelit when he is saved during the solar eclipse. Thus sending the rescue party to a different astral plane. According to the prophecy, Griffith must sacrifice his closed ones in order to realize his dreams. After marking the hawks for sacrifice and donning the persona of “Femto” his first act towards ascension involved raping Casca in front of guts. Guts ended up losing his right eye and sacrificed his left arm to stop the man who he once considered a friend. Now how can anyone be not traumatized by such an event?
Berserk After the Eclipse
The mysterious skull knight saved Casca and Guts. After that, Guts left a mentally broken Casca in care of Rickert and Godo, to hunt the apostles responsible for the events that happened during the eclipse. Both Casca and Guts now have a brand of sacrifice which attracts evil. At the present time in the manga, Guts has found new friends. He has a strained relationship with Casca. As seeing him triggers the memories of Eclipse for her. This dialogue sums it up well:
“Even if we painstakingly piece together something lost, it doesn’t mean things will ever go back to how they were “
Guts resists his harsh fate while contending with his sworn enemy and protecting the ones he loves. This one eyed one-armed swordsman clads himself in a jet black suit of armor as he travels the interstice. He is on a journey to protect Casca. But at the same time, he harbors an immense hatred towards Griffith for plunging the hawks in a nightmare and a stream of unending complicated emotions.
“I’ll never Lose her again.”
During the millennium falcon arc, this single panel is the most amazing way of showing his character developing. Further, his “bonfire of dreams” speech in the 7th volume cemented Guts as the one of the greatest characters in fiction.
Other than that, Guts has a lone wolf tendency and is a very stubborn man. At times his relentlessness is that one thing which can actually put everyone in danger. Guts has violent emotions concealed behind reticence. He will usually distance himself from others by saying or doing things in a nihilistic fashion. Although, that is just his outer appearance. Inside, he harbors violent and combative emotions which enable him to face even the toughest of opponents. He can stand up to all kinds of hardships despite the danger. Sure he comes up with some ingenious plans but he literally relies on his sword aka THE DRAGONSLAYER. This is where his strength shines.
Guts Personality after Eclipse in Berserk
Post eclipse it was his extreme willpower and battle prowess that allowed him to struggle against his own destiny of dying at the hands of demons. I think it’s this aspect of Guts, the fact he’s willing to go and live life by his own rules despite literally going to hell and back, is something worth noting and being appreciated. Practically no fantasy protagonists are written this way. Simply because of this unwavering humanity Guts shows that he philosophically stands out from other protagonists and separates himself from the abundance of generic fantasy cliches.
Guts is haunted by the Beast of darkness. It is the manifestation of wrath and blood-lust born from the trauma of his experiences from the eclipse and his intense vindictiveness towards demon-kind. As an amalgamation of the swordsman’s malice, it relentlessly attempts to overtake his mind.
Character Design in Berserk
Despite the most important factors that make Guts a unique character being his personality development and philosophy. One should note that his physical appearance or his character design is obviously far removed from the typical protagonist we see in modern-day shows. There we predominantly have a younger protagonist with a slim body. But even then guts is still distinguished from those protagonists.
Take any panel of guts and show it to someone who’s never went berserk before they will most likely believe he’s the villain of the story. Except this one because, well, that’s just cute though. His dark, brooding and towering appearance as the black swordsman all work to give off this effect. On a closer look, his face and body is weather-beaten and contains countless scars. Further is his iconic expression differing from any normal protagonist.
Okay, last thing. It is expected from an anti-hero that they should give off an unwelcoming but friendly vibe. But, looking at Guts, his eyes portray something different. Guts is rarely friendly. Later in the manga, he gives off a peaceful but cold look. And when he’s smiling there’s always an underlying sense of sadness and tragedy. Well, that’s when he is in a good mood. His character design body language, specifically his eyes all act in service to perfectly encapsulate the absolute whirlwind of emotions he possesses.
Equipment and Skills:
Guts is a 6 foot 8 inches tall hulking monstrosity. He is a human per se with a high tolerance to pain. His ample physique was honed through many years of combat while growing up on the battlefield. After the eclipse, he fights at par with the Apostles. Now that he knows his enemies are going to be non-humans he has made himself a walking weapon.
Dragon Slayer: A large sword which was crafted by Godo, now that he has used it to defeat a lot of denizens of the astral world it has become more effective against them.
Berserker Armor: Cursed armor that draws out the strength beyond the wearer’s limit. Warriors who wear this armor are called Berserkers, as they possess superhuman strength and durability. For Guts, this suit comes with a drawback because it draws out the darkness inside him. And in turn, the beast of darkness tries to take over his mind, only the witch Flora’s talisman helps him narrowly avoid it. Prosthetic Arm: The last surviving member of Taka no dan, Rickert made it for him. It has a built-in canon which he often uses to combine with this insane sword slashes to produce the “spin slash”. The magnets which hold together the entire arm allow him to grasp his sword properly.
The world of berserk and our struggling protagonist, Guts are both very dynamic. We can conclude this analysis with this dialogue from Kung fu panda 2, “Your story may not have such a happy beginning, but that doesn’t make you who you are. It is the rest of your story, who you choose to be.” He thought he will never find any meaning in his life but fortunately, he did. Guts’ birth was a mistake in itself. However, he still took birth and lived. Guts has always escaped Death even though it was his destiny. And has since fought everything. He is a hero no one can become. The only thing accurate in his life may just be his name. And that is the only word that could summarize his life.