Something that always bothers me about a character’s design is wasted space. Plenty of characters in anime and manga have bits and pieces to their looks that are simply a waste of space. Why does Deku have those little red pouches if he never reaches into them?
Then there are characters like Guts, who don’t waste so much as a single line of space on the page.
Every inch of Guts tells a story and works into the story. From his scars to his equipment, all of it serves a purpose. Better yet, they’re not just glimpses into past events of his life. Each one plays a role in the story going forward, as each one is an active part of Guts’ life even now.
Guts isn’t a flashy person. His design is simple, yet detailed. He wears all-black armor with a cloak to match. Every inch of him you look at, he’s got a weapon. From throwing knives to his prostetic arm to the iconic Dragonslayer resting across his back, this man is a walking human militia.
You might think the Dragonslayer is just a cool oversized anime sword. Which it isn’t; it is the cool oversized anime sword. But it also has direct ties into Guts’ past and his future. He grew up in a mercenary band and had to learn how to use a sword at six years old, when every sword he could use was as large as he was. Giant swords are just what Guts is used to. Moreover, the Dragonslayer itself is the only weapon in the world thick enough to take a hit from a demon without shattering. It really is the perfect weapon for Guts.
Not that it’s his only one. He’s got his knives and a dagger and his arm-cannon and a crossbow. All of which are used at every opportunity! Those knives are often thrown, the dagger used to hold children hostage (more than once), and the cannon and crossbow are both effective long-range weapons. Hell, even Guts’ pouches serve a practical service in the story!
Then there’s his armor. Whether it be the black armor or the Berserker armor (which is its own ball of wax that I want to talk about in its own article), the same purpose is fulfilled. Guts spends most of his nights fighting off monsters in the dark. Wearing black armor is a necessity for him; it’s camoflauge!
As for his pre-Eclipse armor, it tells a different story. That armor is cobbeled together, none of the pieces matching with the others. It has a makeshift feel to it, perfectly communicating Guts’ life style at that point in his life; he went from battlefield to battlefield, simply taking and using whatever he could get his hands on. Even after joining the Hawks, his armor is never completely uniform.
Speaking of pre-Eclipse, a lot of Guts’ design is meant to be a mirror of Griffith’s, since the two are total opposites. Guts has short black hair, Griffith has long silvery hair. Guts wears makeshift armor while Griffith has a full suit. It’s a small detail that plays well into their totally opposing personalities, ideals, and abilities.
But it isn’t just his weapons or his armor. No matter what point of Guts’ life you look at, the man is covered in scars. None of them are too large or too deep. But they all communicate that Guts has been through some shit in his life. This is a man who has been in his fair share of battles.
Of course, there are his scars that he got in the story itself. The scar across his nose was a gift from his abusive adopted father, Gambino. His missing eye and arm, his two biggest injuries, were both from the Eclipse, when he all but tore himself apart to save Casca. But going into specifics on his wounds doesn’t really mean much, given the sheer number of them. Especially since they all mean just about the same thing.
Although I will point out his having only one eye. Mostly because that aspect is often used in the story. Whenever Guts gives in to his anger and throws down, a shadow falls over his face, with the only point of light being his one eye. It’s an incredibly effective way to make Guts look intimidating. Not only that, but it serves to show just how much of his humanity he is shoving away each time he fights. Think about it; the face is where humans express the most emotion, yet Guts’ is covered in shadow each time he goes berserk.
Also, Guts is swole. Like, this dude is huge. He’s built like a fucking mansion. Is that especially important? Not really. It’s just refreshing, since so many anime protagonists are just skinny boys who are strong just because. Guts ain’t strong cause he has anime blood, he’s strong cause he’s been swinging a giant fucking sword around his whole life and he got huge doing it!
Sorry. I’m just really tired of scrawny anime protagonists.
Guts truly has one of the best character designs in manga. It fits perfectly for the narrative as well as the character himself. Not to mention that it just looks so damn cool! If ever there was a perfect character design, this would be it.
Although Griffith’s is really strong. So is Casca’s. And… just about everyone’s, really.