by Anne Lauenroth,
How would you rate episode 16 of
Berserk (TV 2017) ?
When Farnese momentarily abandons her unglamorous task of babysitting to prove herself more useful to the group, she not only potentially endangers Casca (and everyone who'll then have to look for them), but shows how much soul-searching she still has to do. Unlike her, the talents Serpico cultivated as the Vandimion family's servant add some lovely domestic comforts to the ragtag party's roadtrip through demon forest territory, while his quick wits and perceptive nature will surely continue to come in handy. As docile as his demeanor may be, we've seen that Serpico isn't blindly obedient and effective in combat on his own when he felt Farnese's safety to be compromised at Albinion. Guts takes him seriously enough to answer Serpico's almost-challenge, which unfortunately gets cut short by an adaptive choice of troll attack. It's a nice reminder for manga readers to kindly make generous use of spoiler tags whenever discussing details the anime chooses to omit. Anime-only viewers have the right to be surprised at things I would look forward to seeing animated. If only they were prettier.
Returning to the events of episode 16, Farnese is far less useless than she gives herself credit for. Even if she contributes very little in terms of fighting prowess and food procurement, she managed to make Casca smile again, and for that alone, I want to hug her. Self-flagellation is no longer a valid outlet when the consequences of failure involve someone else's safety, and Farnese is forced to confront her sins and failures with crushing intensity, first by being entrusted with looking after the most precious person to her guiding leader (someone Farnese's Holy See intended to burn at the stake), and then by meeting actual witches, who receive her with confusing kindness. With Flora and Schierke, Guts might finally acquire his own supernaturally gifted allies, and for once, things seem to be looking up for him and his travelling party. No one got raped or even more than half-heartedly abducted this week! The fact that those CGI trolls lacked visceral repulsiveness probably (involuntarily) helped make the world feel just a little less hopeless than before.
Even Guts' more brat-sized companions are contributing to the party beyond comic relief (which is still sadly hit-or-miss due to sloppy timing and lack of character expressiveness). For viewers still remembering the kind of training Guts received from his own childhood mentor, Gambino, seeing Guts respond to Isidoro's efforts with honesty, patience, and even a Guts-flavor of kindness will surely be heartwarming. Even if Isidoro suffers a lot of bruises (that give fellow comic relief character and resident healer Puck the chance to be useful), there are no patterns of abuse. Even after his time with the Hawks ended so traumatically, the years he spent with them enabled Guts to nurture his skills beyond swinging a giant sword, and it's wonderful to see that he didn't lose his leadership or humanity as Captain of the Raiders along with everything else that was taken from him in the Eclipse.
From a character development standpoint, both teacher and student benefit from their brief and comedic fighting lessons. The world won't wait for the monkey to grow into a master swordsman, and Isidoro has been far more successful when he wasn't trying to be someone he's not, using the talents he already possesses instead. In his eyes, Guts might be the epitome of strength, but when Guts relied on nothing but his own strength and endurance, he only hurt what he wanted to protect, still lacking the strength to be with the person who constantly reminds him of what he lost. He temporarily escaped his inner monster through accepting human company, but it's no longer just external demons that chase him.
For the world at large, things aren't looking up. The allied lords are too busy fighting Kushan forces to be bothered by their subjects petty troll problems. As important as these large-scale war maneuvers are to them, their subjects' lives will go on no matter who nominally rules over the lands they happen to live on. Human needs don't change with the faces and customs of their rulers, and even if our travelling party's encounter with the shepherd is a little on the nose, I'm glad we still have time for some thematic reflections on our speed run through what once was Midland, a place Guts now refuses to acknowledge as his former home.
I'm looking forward to more time with Flora and Schierke that will surely bring us some more fascinating lore, now that episode 16 has already offered one intriguing revelation: not all elves are naked.
Berserk is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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