by Anne Lauenroth,
How would you rate episode 15 of
Berserk (TV 2017) ?
It's recruiting time on Berserk, and whether his heart is truly free or not, Griffith is doing a much better job at attracting useful companions to his new Band of the Hawk (how dare he!) than Guts' fellowship of lost souls and comic relief characters. Flocking to the White Hawk's re-hoisted banner are a selection of assorted legendary heroes from all the required classes, ready to showcase their impressive talents at inflicting almost comical amounts of carnage on the Kushan invaders of Midland.
While the demon army's allegiance begs the question of why liberating Midland would be on their agenda, we also learn more about some of Griffith's human followers: Sonia, a young seer sitting somewhere on the sliding scale of innocent hero worship and psychotic dedication, and Mule Wolflame, a refreshingly upstanding Midland noble whose healthy mix of gratitude and doubt evaporates when he finds himself offering his sword to Griffith, overwhelmed by tears without knowing why.
I'd offer a small sacrifice to the God Hand to know what kind of thoughts our spooky yet cheerful telepath Sonia can pick up from her idol, but Mule's reaction to Griffith is even more interesting. With the original Band of the Hawk, Griffith's motto was pretty much “do what you want.” People followed and idolized him because of his charisma and what they hoped he would give them. Is what happens to Mule simply proof of the same allure Griffith always had—amplified by some supernatural mojo from beyond the physical world—that causes even otherwise reasonable people like Mule to be overcome by feelings of destiny? Or did Griffith, by embracing his own fate in the Eclipse, bring something back with him that goes beyond giving people a sense of purpose?
While his new Lancer and Archer follow him based on their belief in prophecy and divine revelation, the people of Midland once again gather around the one who shines the brightest out of their need for a savior, someone to give meaning to their existence in a sad and violent world. Before acquiring his charisma upgrade (along with powers of flight and invulnerability), pre-Eclipse Griffith was willing to embody what people projected onto him. Now I'm delightfully unsure who's enabling who in this savior worship contract, but I'm almost certain that no one in Midland has any idea of the scope this “tale beyond comprehension” they're so happy to nurture truly entails.
While Griffith is busy sending the souls of the fallen off to a place we might want to stay ignorant about for as long as possible, Guts and his yet-to-become-friends are fighting off ghastly creatures in the night, already desperate for a break after barely getting started on their journey. Farnese might cling to what she perceives as someone else's fire to survive the darkness, but she didn't simply exchange one frame of worship for the next. She's willing to accept and face her own weakness, which is traditionally where characters in Berserk have been able to find strength over time.
Guts might be the biggest obvious fire to gather around for Farnese and Serpico now, but while he's falling back on Griffith's old credo of “do what you want”, Griffith was also able to realize that the physical strength gained from his killing spree didn't make him strong enough to keep his own rage demons in check. He doesn't need inferior fighters to watch his back from demons, but he does need someone to watch him, and luckily, it might not be too late for Casca to regain her smile one day. On the opposite end of growth, Isidoro's purpose seems to be pure comic relief so far, and since his chibification works even less in animated form than Puck's, he still has to earn his keep in the narrative.
Despite some odd off-model shots of Griffith (compare this one to how his face looks like here), the lack of facial expressions in the animation isn't actually doing his character much disservice at this point. The more enigmatic Griffith is, the better, which is also why the sparse dialogue works in his favor, reinforcing his untouchable existence. Episode 15 also delivered my favorite musical moment so far when, after a few stranger and more obnoxious choices, Griffith rode (and then flew) into battle accompanied by ominous, otherworldly humming, almost invoking memories of Susumu Hirasawa's ethereal “Earth” from back in the day. When a supposedly lively camp bursting with positive energy barely moved at all (and only awkwardly when it finally did start moving), the troubles this production has been plagued with since last year once again got in the way of the immersion we deserve from a series as rich and rewarding as Berserk. At least the show didn't compulsively cut away or dissolve from all the good stuff within split seconds, which is an improvement.
Berserk is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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