Griffith is the Hero of Berserk

A look at Berserk.

If there is one thing that I think annoys me about the anime/manga community it’s the belief that anime should simply be viewed in a bubble onto itself. Digibro, (someone who for the record I respect a lot and enjoy his content) has often stated that anime is a very incestuous medium. While that I think is very true it’s also overstated and ignores a lot of influences that anime take in from other sources. For example EVA in addition to referencing many anime also references tons of stories from the New Wave of Science Fiction with End of Evas iconic final image being a straight up reference to a cover of a Sci-Fi short story compilation book.

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This unfortunately leads to an environment where many people tend to view anime only within the context of its medium and not its wider genre. At best people view the influence on anime by other mediums as solely skin deep references. Which to me is a bit of a shame as there is so much anime that when viewed in a broader context say a lot about wider genres.

One of these in particular is Berserk which when viewed in the broader context of fantasy delivers some incredibly cogent statements on the genre and more specifically the concept of the hero. Berserk tears down the fantasy hero through the simplest and most effective way possible, by making the hero the villain.

Griffith is the true hero in Berserk. He is not the protagonist but he fits all the tropes of a classical fantasy hero straight up to going through the heroes journey. He gets a call to action from an old character with implied spiritual connections, a mystical boon in the form of the Behlit, and is tempted by women through his encounter with the Princess of Midland (though in Berserk the temptation is not one of sexual gratification specifically rather it is of Griffiths need to reclaim his feeling of control). The Eclipse is an example of what the greeks called the katabasis, the journey into the underworld. Usually the protagonist journeys into the underworld to gain some boon such as knowledge in the case of Odysseus, or a lost love on in the case of Orpheus. It also can be seen as a metaphorical rebirth of the character.

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In the case of Griffith its both metaphorical and literal as he gains mystical powers, knowledge about the true nature of the universe (though this was somewhat retconned out later), and transforms from a battered, shell of a man into a horrific godlike being. While the Band of the Hawk and by proxy we, the audience may view this as a waking nightmare through the lens of the heroes journey it clearly places Griffith as the “Hero”.

While this is a fun bit of trivia, many may ask “what does it all mean”. Well in my opinion Berserk tries to deconstruct and tear down the classic ideas of Heroism in the fantasy genre. It points out that things like government, religion, and heroes are all corrupt things that we put our faith in despite the fact they will always let us down. It’s a warning sign that tells us to not trust cults of personality like the one that surrounds Griffith. This stands in contrast to something like Lord of the Rings were monarchy is upheld and lauded, religion and mysticism is something that always has our back, and heroism and cults of personality about great men are justified.

This is also shown through how Berserk treats on of the most prominent aspects in many fantasy tales, Fate. For the Greeks fate was an inescapable thing, it was to them the driving force of their legends for good or ill. It was unchangeable and no matter how much Oedipus struggled he would always fall to it. In more modern fantasy fate is seen as a force that will put the righteous back in charge. Aragorn being the true king of Gondor will reclaim his throne and all will be right with the world. But in the world of Berserk it shows just how truly terrifying fate can be with Guts being accosted by Apostles constantly, all seeking to kill him as he is fated to die. But despite all that Guts still fights on at one point compared to a fish trying to swim upstream. It may be a losing battle but it’s one that Guts is determined to win.

Berserk is the story about how one should not put their faith in any outside forces but only in themselves. No matter the odds we are the arbiters of our own destiny and through sheer force of will can overcome what is ailing us. Berserk pulls no punches on how this is a very, very, tough struggle but it also shows how we can achieve these goals none the less. It shows that while our heroes may let us down but we can never let ourselves down, if we put the determination and effort into it.

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Everybody wants Edgy

A look at why edginess appeals to people

For any critic on the internet edgy is an essential buzzword ready to be sprung like Bat Shark repellant from there Critic copter. Some have argued that it has become overused to a meaningless extend but for my money’s worth it still is a useful term. That being said I’m not here to ask whether it’s a good term but try and explain why I think edgy material appeals to many people.

To start I think its worthwhile to define what I consider edgy material. The best answer that I could come up with is material that uses controversial subject matter without fully understanding the ramifications of what using such subject matter entails. For example take a look at say The Boys by Garth Ennis’s use of violence vs the use of violence in Miracleman by Alan Moore. Both are used to produce a sort of gut reaction of shock from the reader but Miracleman underscores the violence with a real sense of weight. The first death we ever see in the series is of a woman named Stephanie. In here very short appearance she is humanized so we truly understand the absolute horror of what has occurred.

This idea of understanding the true pain and effects of violence lasts all the way until issue 15 of Miracleman which to this day stands as the most violent issue of a comic I have ever read. After some truly horrific panels detailing the true destruction that would be caused by a superhuman in reality it ends not on some brutal act of violence but on a sad reflection on those who have died and a reminder that one should not forgot horrific and tragic acts.

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On the other hand we have Garth Ennis whose sense of gore is based around pure shock value. It stems from a juvenile desire to see how fucked up one can go and we know little about the victims of said violence.

The point both are trying to get across is the same. A truly vile superhuman would be someone who would not care for people he perceived as weaker than them. But the difference is Garth while viewing these superhuman as despicable really doesn’t care about the people weaker than the heroes. Moore on the other hand does. It all comes down to not what is shown but how what is shown is contextualized in a larger work. That’s what makes something edgy.

Now that we determined what makes a work edgy we can start to look at what makes edginess appealing to a certain group of people. Freud theorized that human behavior is based of two drives Eros the sex drive, and Thanatos the death drive. Eros was in the broader sense was a desire to create and Thanatos was a desire to destroy (For the record this is an incredible oversimplification). While in modern psychology these like much of Freud’s work are largely considered bunk I do think on some level most humans have some fascination with both sex and death.

For teenager’s especially teenage boys this fascination is at its height. They’re at the perfect sweet spot where they are aware sex and violence, but do not truly understand them. With that mindset they can look at edgy art and appreciate it. They, like the works that I define as edgy lack context.

When I was a freshman in highschool I was a pretty big fan of a manga that was called Freezing. Its plot was basically EVA met Sekerei but dosed with more sex and a ton of gore. The characters frequently lost limbs in combat and the female characters were constantly shown in various modes of undress. It tried and failed pretty miserably to add sexual assault in the backstory of one of its characters and resolved that sexual assault in probably the worst way possible. It’s a work that I think I am more fascinated with because of what it said about me when I read it than the work itself. Out of all the terrible early anime and manga that I consumed I think it’s the one I think about the most looking back on it with a sense of nostalgia for ignorance I had. Its rather funny how much I thought that Freezing was some great mature work of art for all of its violence in sex when it was really my own immaturity that made me like it.

My point is twofold, that there is a reason why edginess appeals to a certain group of people and that for many people an interest in edgy material is just a phase.