The list of loathsome Berserk characters is almost as long as the series itself. Griffith. Wyald. The Count. The Snake Lord. Guts.
So why is it that this girl gets so much more hate than they do?
For those unfamiliar with her, or those who have simply forgotten, Nina was an important side character in Berserk’s ‘Conviction’ storyline. She was one of the prostitutes who found Casca among the refugees, a girl sick with a disease that is more than likely going to kill her at some point. Unlike the other girls, who were shown to be tough but kind, Nina was tied in to some pretty fucked up shit. Most of which I won’t get into for the sake of avoiding spoilers.
Also, I’m fairly sure my blog would get shut down by WordPress if I tried to post any panels of it on here. So I’ll just leave it to your imagination.
Nina’s personality essentially boils down to two words: spoiled and cowardly. Whenever she’s put under even the slightest bit of pressure, her first instinct is to throw someone else underneath the bus and run for the hills. When someone confronts her on this flaw, she tends to grow violent and verbally abusive. She says and does cruel things to those who love her and drag those who she is responsible for into progressively deeper trouble.
It’s easy to see why people get so frustrated with this character. She isn’t outright malicious (often), like the actual villains of Berserk. But her cowardice and selfishness is just as much a cause for conflict within the story as the actions of the demons or the evil priests. Plus, it just isn’t all that fun to read; you can only handle so much whining or sniveling or crying before you get fed up with it.
However, while I do understand why people may hate Nina, I do think there’s more to her than some people think. Yes, Nina is a coward who does nothing but whine and throw other people into danger to save herself. But she knows this just as well as we do and she hates herself for it. She wants to be brave.
But be honest with me: do you think you could be brave if you had to deal with the shit she does?
Berserk is a messed up story. If you know anything about the series, it’s that. It’s the kind of world that chews people up and spits them out broken and bloodied. It is so bleak and hopeless that even the shortest moment of rest and reprieve feels like a monumental victory for our characters.
Said characters each respond to that world in different ways in order to survive. Guts spent his whole life getting hit, so he started hitting back really fucking hard. Griffith relied on his natural charisma and his devilish cunning. Farnese used violence and religion to escape her miserable life as a noble. Isidro learned to fight dirty in order to survive. So on and so forth.
But all of those guys are our main characters. Nina is a side character. She isn’t some cunning genius or some all-powerful badass. She’s basically just a normal person, beaten down and scared of the world. Her disease is going to kill her sooner or later, she knows that, but that doesn’t mean she’s not terrified of dying. She’s basically meant to show us how a normal person would react to being sucked into the waking nightmare that Guts has to live through every single day.
In the end, Nina doesn’t have some grand revelation. She doesn’t miraculously become brave and get a new lease on life. She understands that, deep down, even after all the horror, she’s still the same person that she was at the start of it all. But now, she has the will to actually try and change. After being confronted with the worst sides of herself, she decides to finally put in the effort to try and become the person she wishes she was. Does she succeed? Who knows? But the point is: she’s willing to try.
Reading a story, it’s easy to think of yourself as the badass hero. That’s what we all want to be. But in that scenario, we wouldn’t be the awesome, fearless hero. We’d be the average Joe sitting in the corner, pissing themselves and hoping beyond reason that the monsters just ignore us until they go away.
Does that excuse Nina’s actions? No. The girl still does some pretty messed up shit. But it does go to explain why she did those things.
Nina isn’t a hero. Nor is she a villain. In the end, she’s just a side character who is all too aware of her role in the story. One who doesn’t learn to conquer her flaws, but simply gains the will to try and do so. And to me, there’s something so relatable and beautiful about that.
I still prefer Luca, though.