I love this section of Berserk! It’s a perfect microcosm of everything I love about Berserk. You’ve got horror, you’ve got action, you’ve got spectacular character writing, this section of the story has it all! And to top it all off, it introduces one of the best demon characters in the series!
The Band of the Hawk are taking part in a siege. Despite victory being practically guaranteed, something is holding back Guts and his raiders. Rumor has it that a battlefield legend is fighting for the opposite side, a seemingly immortal warrior named Nosferatu Zodd. Turns out, those rumors are true, and Zodd is in fact an immortal demon. Can the young and inexperienced Guts survive against his inhuman foe?
The horror of this section is done perfectly. Guts’ slow descent down into the tunnel is eerie, and only grows more so when he stumbles upon the dead corpses of many of his men. Then things go from eerie to grotesque and disturbing when we see just how many corpses have been piled up.
Then we see him.
Nosferatu Zodd is one of my favorite demons from Berserk. His design is simple compared to the others, but that works well for his personality. Unlike the Apostles we met in the Black Swordsman saga, this guy has no weaknesses. No pride to take advantage of, no loved one to use against him. Zodd well and truly abandoned his humanity in search of power. He is a true, genuine monster.
So, how does Guts react? Does he pull a miracle out of his ass? Unlock some new technique? Push beyond his limits to defeat the demon?
Nope. He is frozen in fear, completely helpless and terrified. The man we have seen as an unstoppable force of death up to this point is rendered utterly helpless. If not for Griffith and the other Hawks coming to his aide, Guts would have died.
This is where we get my favorite part of the fight: Guts and Griffith working together. Seeing these two combine forces to fight a seemingly unstoppable foe is amazing! Sure, it only lasts for a single blow. But that one blow is enough to hurt Zodd, which is a monumental achievement in it of itself. It even has a layer of tragedy to it; considering where the relationship between these two goes, seeing them risk their lives for each other is so damn heartbreaking.
Then, when all seems lost, Zodd sees it. The Crimson Behelit. Then everything goes full foreshadowing mode as the demon laughs, drops some cryptic hints, then leaves. Motherfucker just sweeps through Guts and Griffith, drops some hints, then dips. What a badass.
In all seriousness, this is a perfect scene to add to the mystery and dread of the Golden Age. Going into it from Black Swordsman, we already know some shit is going to go down between Griffith and Guts. Now this monstrous demon is laughing like he knows exactly what is going to happen. Your first time through, you can’t help but wonder: just what the hell is going on?
Oh yeah, did I mention how insane the art is in this section? There are so many full page spreads, and all of them look remarkable! Miura went all-out on making Zodd look truly chilling in his human form and monstrous in his demon form. The man was an absolute legend and this chapter proves it even more than most of the rest of the series.
I say most, because the artwork only gets crazier as it goes on.
This small section of the Golden Age is absolutely incredible. It’s the perfect balance between horror, action, and narrative drama. It pushes all of the established characters in ways that will shake them for the rest of the Golden Age and it introduces a character who will be huge in the story for ages well beyond it. I love it.
But it pales in comparison to what comes next.