I’ve stated in the past that the Troll Arc is my favorite arc in the Berserk manga and that I have been somewhat concerned that this recent anime adaption of Berserk might botch it. Thankfully the story seems to have survived the adaption. Similar to the role Aliens and Hellraiser 2 played for their respective franchises, much of the information revealed within this arc cracks the door on the wider universe that Berserk inhabits. The events in this episode in particular, also contains some key progression for many of our main characters and it serves as a climax to the Troll invasion of Enoch village.
The Corruption of Qliphoth
This episode begins hot on the heels of the previous one, with Casca and Farnese swept away by the currents and then dragged off into the den of the Trolls. Schierke, Guts, Isidro, and the elves leave a wounded Serpico behind and make haste to rescue them. Farnese and Casca awaken unharmed and unattended (this has always been a bit of a plot-hole for me, but I chalk it up to magic silver shirts holding trolls at bay and press on). Schierke finds that the troll den connects the human realm to that of Qliphoth, a realm in the interstice. She is able to locate Casca and Farnese via magic as Guts and crew rush to retrieve them. While this is happening, the gruesome fate of Enoch’s captured women and are revealed (the anime while not omitting the horror of the manga, does not linger upon it). When the pair are discovered, Farnese steps up to the plate and defends the hapless Casca as best she can. As she is about to be overwhelmed, the rescue party shows up in the nick of time.
Gathering the Enoch village survivors, the group begins their retreat. Guts stays behind to hold off the bulk of the troll horde while Schierke leads the way and Isidro is given rear guard duties. As Guts fights off the horde of trolls, a pair of mysterious beings also approach the struggler. One, a familiar knight in skull armor, lends the fleeing party a helping hand on his way. The other, Slan, a member of the Godhand, manifests herself on this plane to “encourage” Guts to cut a deal. Meanwhile, Schierke finds the number of Trolls overwhelming and begins to cast another dangerous possession spell to close the connection to Qliphoth. This leaves Isidro to step up, holding off a band of trolls that wield human weapons, which Schierke’s magic has no defense against. Schierke successfully finishes her spell, feeding the trolls to the Lord of the Rotting Root and closing this gate to Qliphoth. Both Guts and Isidro prevail against their opponents, but with the connection between worlds collapsing, the Skull Knight uses his newest weapon to get Guts to safety.
The Berserk Cosmology
I did want to discuss this a little bit, as I sort of love this aspect of the Troll arc, and think people might find that it increases their enjoyment of the series. Now my opinions are not authoritative and perhaps there are more learned Berserk Otaku out there, but feel free to leave any corrections you like in the comments. There is a diagram which I’ve run across in the internet, and I’m sorry I don’t have a source or the original creator, but thanks to him or her. With a little background info, I do find the image to be a helpful illustration of the “framing” of the Berserk universe.
Now I don’t want to give away many spoilers for events that come after this episode, and I don’t want to overburden people with a too metaphysical discussion (I’ll save those for the comments), but this is the cosmology that Miura has seemingly set up. Three worlds, the World of Ideas, the Astral World, and the Mortal World. Between each world there is overlap, and that creates five basic layers. Each layer may contain separate realms. For example the spirit tree realm where Flora the Witch lives and Qliphoth the realm of darkness where the trolls originate from both occupy the Interstice. Even the Vortex, where the god hand normally reside, also contains the Four Elemental Kings which Schierke is fond of invoking for protection spells, she even describes them as cardinal angels written in the book of the Holy See, much as the God Hand are described as angels by their apostles.
Normally only adjoining layers can be traversed, and only then at specific points. During a behelit’s usage, the Eclipse, and events like it, the Mortal Realm is connected to the Vortex at the Nexus, allowing the God Hand access to the physical plane. The faux eclipse at St. Albion allowed Femto to be reborn on the Mortal realm, weakening the barriers between the worlds. Even the Skull Knight was surprised to find Slan able to manifest herself in Qliphoth without use of a behelit. The events later in the manga delve into it a bit more, but that’s about all I probably should mention at this point of events.
The New Companions
So many of our characters take nice steps forward in their personal arcs in this episode. Farnese, perhaps for the first time in her life is able to fight back what she fears on her own. And despite her exceptionally troubled back story, she finds that the only thing that has given her to strength to do so this time, is to protect someone that is weaker than herself. This episode pulls this scene off quite nicely I think.
Isidro, who has been feeling very ineffective lately, uses the lessons and gifts from two older “fatherly” figures to actually defeat a legitimate monstrous threat. The smaller, lighter, saber given to him by Morgan allows him to finally pull off a tactic he’d never successfully used, and the small bombs given to him by Guts allowed him to complete his duty of rear guard as well. There is a nice remix of “My Brother” used in this scene’s soundtrack, which put a smile on face.
Perhaps the most meaningful step shown taken this episode was Guts himself. At the beginning of the series, as well as in this anime, we see Guts as an lone, almost feral, fighting machine who is driven by rage and desire for revenge. During the flashback of the Golden Age, we see young Guts in a somewhat similar (though not as extreme) place. He was a loner with a troubled upbringing that lived only to fight. Only through his experiences with the Band of the Hawk was he able to change, growing into a person who would still throw his life into danger, but for the sake of his comrades. The Eclipse destroyed all that. In the first cour of the 2016 series, we see Guts regain his senses somewhat, finally coming to the realization that protecting and helping Casca was more important to him than throwing his life away for revenge on the God Hand. At the end of this episode, we hear Guts speak to himself as images of the Band of the Hawk segue into his new companions. He recognizes that however unlikely, he’s found comrades again.
I didn’t tear up, you teared up.