Berserk
Episode 23

by Anne Lauenroth,

How would you rate episode 23 of
Berserk (TV 2017) ?

Let's do something different today and start with things that worked: Guts using his bandages to tie the sword to his still-injured hand so he could hold on to it during the fight; the Berserker POV shot, with Serpico's fiery silhouette ready to fight Guts just moments before Schierke got through to the raging black swordsman; Farnese discovering an alternative path to seeking the world's truth and bringing light into the darkness; the image of the sea as a point of no return, evoking memories of the abyss and unspeakable terror closely intertwined with the notion of new beginnings on the other shore; Guts briefly allowing himself to cherish the possibility of hope, this raised the specter of the terrifying questions "what if?" and "what then?"

After the events of the Eclipse left Casca broken beyond the capacity to process her pain, Guts is the only one of the Golden Age trio still holding on to his suffering, since losing the ability to feel pain would, after putting on the Berserker Armor, now very literally make him lose his humanity. Does he even have the right to make Casca suffer like him? Will she end up sharing his way of dealing with the pain, and – perhaps more frightening – what if she doesn't?

With Skull Knight ready to up Berserk's growing meta ante ("It would be as if the character in a story challenged the story's author. If any can challenge the hawk and stand a chance, it is another who is placed outside the story as well."), and Serpico and Isidoro's very nice contribution to the fight against Kushan's monstrous familiars, this episode was off to a not-shabby start. Sure, I could turn into a broken record and talk about unmotivated camera panning getting in the way of emotional delivery, about the predictable use of the show's soundtrack (Hai yo for no-longer-as-epic-after-ten-repeats normal badass Guts, Ash Crow for can-you-hear-the-darkness Berserker Guts), about the god-awful animation of pre-transformation Guts fighting a (once again purple) whale-elephant-sea-monster-thing that breaks the shack to pieces in a single non-animated cut, but none of these are really worth getting flustered over at this point. It's become boring to look at, boring to write about, and most certainly boring to read.

Instead, let's play a game where I ask you which of these two pictures is better for conveying some emotion. The problem with the second one isn't the replacement of detail with more shades of purple. In fact, it wouldn't even be possible to appreciate more detail if there was any, because someone in charge decided it was a perfectly reasonable solution to put the episode's dramatic high point underneath the rolling credits.

Sometimes, using the credits for epilogues can add emotional punch – the story ends, but the fight continues, that sort of thing. But this isn't an epilogue. No one's departing for new shores just yet. Guts's fight against his inner beast and the fact that he would lose if it wasn't for the comrades he just wanted to attack is the culminating moment of this whole companionship vs. Berserker Armor conflict. But it's covered in credits, making it really hard to focus, let alone feel anything. This isn't a deliberate use of end credits, but the result of running out of screentime and halfheartedly hoping things will work out anyway. They don't. I don't even feel like trying to care anymore. It's time the credits rolled on this production altogether, leading to the one question I'm still interested in at this point: are we simply going to run out of episodes next week, or will there be an actual conclusion to this cour?

Rating: D+

Berserk is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Anne is a translator and fiction addict who writes about anime at Floating Words and on Twitter.


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