It’s time for the big one, boys and girls!
At first glance, Guts seems like a pretty poor, one-dimensional character. He’s a very angry and violent man with a vile personality. If you don’t read beyond the first few chapters, you may think that he’s just an edgelord for the sake of being an edgelord.
But as the story moves on, Guts becomes a far more interesting and likable character! We learn where he came from, what he gained and what he lost along the way, and what he aims to do with his life! He transforms from a hatable bastard to a sympathetic dark hero! A wildly complex one at that!
Sit down and buckle up kids! We’re gonna be here for a while!
The Wound: Where do I start?!
Hoo fucking boy! This one is gonna be tough! Trying to find one specific traumatic event that drives his character along can be a bit difficult! So let’s quickly wind down the list and find out which one was the most important!
First and foremost is his childhood. From the moment he was born, Guts was in the shit! He was born from (get ready for this, people who haven’t seen/read Berserk) the corpse of his mother, who had been hanged from a tree. The baby was then raised in a band of mercenaries by one of the whores, who died to plague a few years later. From there, Guts was raised by his abusive father, who forced him to fight and sold him as a young sex slave. When Guts killed him during a drunken rage as an act of self-defense, he was chased out of his caravan and forced to live on his own.
Yes. I’m only just getting started.
This trauma does a lot to Guts as a character. The trust-issues that would plague him for basically his entire life all started here! He is afraid of having a place to belong to or even being touched by others! This chunk of his backstory is what forged the outline of Guts as a character: a rough, powerful, and lonely man.
But even with that, that’s not where it ends. As traumatic as that was, that isn’t the one that drives his character arc. That would come later in life.
His time in the Band of the Hawks was the happiest time in his life. For the first time, Guts had friends, a place to stay, and a goal to work towards. Granted, it wasn’t his goal; it was Griffith’s. But after a lifetime of suffering, Guts was finally on the way to happiness! He had a lovely and powerful girlfriend, lots of friends that he could trust, and something to strive for!
Then Griffith turned into a demon, murdered all of his friends, tore off Guts’ arm and gouged out his eye, branded him a target for demons for life, and raped Casca right in front of him. Casca’s mind was then shattered, leaving the only person Guts had ever loved on the same level as a helpless newborn. Yeah… That’s probably the important one.
The Want: Sweet, Gruesome Vengeance
After… all that… Guts swore to claim his vengeance against Griffith. No matter how hard it may be, no matter how close to death he must push himself, nothing could stop Guts from murdering his former friend. Pretty simple, right?
Well, it is. In fact, that’s the only aspect of Guts’ character that is simple! And even then, it’s still wildly complex! All thanks to this next part!
The Lie: I’m Doing This For Them
Most revenge-driven characters have a lie like this one. That somehow, if they claim revenge on someone who wronged them, the people they lost will somehow be at ease. Despite being… you know… dead. Very few characters hunt for revenge for their own personal satisfaction. Guts is not one of these characters. But he is a bit more unique than a character like Sasuke Uchiha.
On his trek for vengeance, Guts never did much to consider how the few friends he had left would feel about his new goal. Granted, he couldn’t ask Casca, for… obvious and depressing reasons. But never once did he tell Rickert what he intended to do. In fact, it wasn’t until Griffith stood before Rickert that he even told him what had gone down between them!
Speaking of which, let’s talk about what Griffith did when he got his physical body back! With an army of demons at his side, Griffith became king of a great and powerful kingdom. One that, oddly enough, has proven to be incredibly peaceful and prosperous! Through Griffith’s actions, a great era of peace has been brought about!
Even if he still did a lot of stuff wrong and no one can convince me otherwise.
Guts isn’t willing to accept that he’s being selfish. That maybe hunting Griffith down wouldn’t be the best thing to do. Yes, Griffith took away everything that Guts had loved in one fell swoop. But at the same time, he did establish peace without becoming a tyrannical dictator!
This is the moral dilemma of Guts and Griffith. Guts is an unstoppable killing machine with a heart of gold. Meanwhile, Griffith is a peace-bringing king with a heart of coal. Both of them have done a lot of bad and a lot of good. Who here is the better person? Who’s right? Who’s wrong? There is no right answer.
Only a wrong answer. Griffith.
Ultimately, Guts does not know whether or not what he’s doing is right. It’s likely that he doesn’t care. He doesn’t realize that murdering Griffith would only bring pain to the few friends he has left. That it would ruin the lives of all those who are protected by Griffith. That, in doing so, he would create thousands of more people just like him. Guts has convinced himself that the only way for him to move on is to kill Griffith, no matter the consequences.
What Guts needs is not revenge. For characters like this, it never is. The answer is always simple. And in Guts’ case, it’s one that he’s already found before.
The Need: An Open Heart
When Guts first joined the Band of the Hawk (or the Falcon, if you’re Japanese), he was about as open as a locked chest at the bottom of the ocean. But as time went on, he became close to them. He became friends with his fellow soldiers, got close to Casca, and was highly respected by those under his command. For the first time in Guts’ life, he was truly happy.
You can probably understand why he went back to his old ways when Griffith took all of that away.
Thankfully, Guts soon found himself with new friends. Puck, as annoying as he may be, has definitely proven both useful and friendly to Guts, sticking with him through his darkest days and always patching him up when he most needs it. Shierke, Serpico, Isidro, and Farnese all help fill the hole left behind by the Band of the Hawk, each in their own special way. They help Guts and Casca numerous times in numerous ways, proving to be invaluable to him both practically and emotionally. Whether he realizes it or not, he’s come to depend on them just like he once did with those in the Hawk.
They give Guts everything he needs. A reason to fight. Not for vengeance, but to protect. Guts doesn’t need to perpetuate the cycle of vengeance that he’s become trapped in; he needs to find a way to end it. And with the help of his friends, he more than likely will.
Or he’ll just murder all of the Apostles, the God Hand, and Griffith. But Berserk’s storytelling is a little smarter than that, so I have hope for the future.
Guts is one of the most compelling characters I’ve ever seen! He’s a perfect anti-hero, one with just enough of both the light and darkness to make him distinct and memorable! His character arc has been one of the most incredible things I have ever witnessed in any fiction!
If only Berserk chapters came out more frequently than once every twenty years.
I’ll definitely need to get back to this series later down the line. Each and every one of its characters are worthy of their own analysis! Sure, I’ve already gotten my favorite out of the way by talking about Guts, but I love this story and everyone in it! I need to go over everything about Casca, Rickert, Isidro, Farnese, the list goes on forever!
But I think I’ll do Griffith next. I need to break down exactly what he did wrong. Because he kind of did everything wrong.