Hoo, boy! I finally get to talk about my favorite chapter! I’m bouncing up and down like a little boy on Christmas, I’m so excited!
Having survived their ordeal, Guts and Casca have returned to the Band of the Hawk. With magic medicine in hand, Casca meets Guts on a hillside overlooking the army’s camp. Together, for the first time, they have a civilized discussion in which he reveals his thoughts and desires to her.
That’s all this chapter is. A simple conversation between two characters. And it may be my favorite moment in all of fiction.
It’s a beautiful display of how far these two characters have developed with each other. Just a few chapters ago, they were snapping at each other like bloodthirsty cats. Now, they sit together and have a calm discussion on their desires, their beliefs, and their struggles. Guts opens up to her in a way that he never has with anyone else, and Casca finally sees just how kind and thoughtful he truly is.
Guts’ opening to his monologue hits like a sack of bricks every time I read it. In any other story, the protagonist defeating a hundred men on his own would be heralded as a legendary event. But Guts doesn’t see it that way. He sees it as a meaningless act, done purely because that’s just what he does. When he compares that to the dreams Casca and Griffith devote themselves to, he can’t help but feel like his grand accomplishment is nothing more than a hollow event. Just another battle.
Which flows smoothly into the next part. Here, Guts opens up about some select members of his Raiders, discussing their own hopes and dreams. You can just feel how much he loves his men and how much he admires them. Plus, it explains why he always acts so recklessly; he always puts himself at risk so that they don’t have to risk losing their dreams.
Side note: the little confused expression Casca has for this part is just so adorable.
At this point, we get one of my favorite exchanges in all of Berserk.
Maybe the’ve all brought their own individual little flames together here. You could scatter them just by blowing, so all those little flames throw themselves into the biggest bonfire. The blazing inferno named Griffith.
This one little paragraph says it all. It highlights how much Guts loves all of the Hawks, then perfectly shows just how highly he views Griffith. Accompanying this is an absolutely stunning panel of the man himself, his long white hair blazing like a glorious flame. We see exactly how brilliant Guts thinks they all are.
Then we get to see how lowly he thinks of himself in a truly devastating monologue.
But y’know… my flame ain’t here. As for me, maybe I’m just warming myself by that campfire for a bit. Maybe I just stopped in by chance.
As long as I have this, I’m confident that I can survive any battle. That’s how it’s been up till now. Even before I joined the Band of the Hawk… no matter how badly the battle was lost, I myself was sure to survive. Like this time…
But still… it don’t really mean much. I’ve been on battlefields as far back as I can remember. The mercenary leader who raised me taught me nothing beyond how to wield a sword. I had nothin’ but this!
I don’t wanna die… But just because I didn’t want to die… Just because I didn’t know more than how to use this… I kept on fighting in battles. And maybe… more than anything I’ve always tried to leave the most essential reason for fightin’ up to other people.
Ah hell, too much talkin’ for me. What was I ramblin’ about? And why the hell’d I tell you all that? Pathetic.
For the first time, Guts voices the worries that have plagued him all this time. He opens up to someone else about everything that’s been eating away at him. And when he’s finally done, he tries to downplay it, even going so far as to make a self-deprecating comment to underplay it.
But Casca doesn’t reprimand him. She doesn’t make fun of him. She doesn’t even let him insult himself. She simply giggles and makes a comforting retort. He didn’t mock her when she opened up to him, so she returns the favor here.
Then, to shine a spotlight on just how close the two have finally become, we see Casca figure out what Guts is considering. She realizes he plans on leaving the Hawks. And when she asks him about it, he doesn’t deny it. He just says he’ll see the war through to the end.
At which point Griffith returns. Here, at the end of the chapter, we’re treated to one last bit of fun character growth for our two protagonists. Casca tries to take responsibility for everything rather than putting the blame on Guts, as she has so many times before. But Guts ain’t having that. He nearly died to make this reunion happen, so he shuts her up by giving her a helpful – if painful – push. It’s cute, it’s fun, and it puts a simple smile on your face.
So long as you can forget about everything that comes later. What eclipse? What are you talking about?
My only real gripe with this chapter is the ending. After all that spectacular character writing, we’re treated to a teaser for the next big battle our heroes will have to face. It’s a necessary addition; this is still a story about war, after all. But the chapter would’ve been much more powerful if it had simply ended on the panel of Casca looking after Guts as he leaves. The tease of the Rhino Knights should have been saved for the beginning of the next chapter.
Despite that ending, I still love Campfire of Dreams. It’s a beautifully drawn moment of peace and kindness between these two characters that shines like a beacon of warmth in a series full of horror and carnage. This is the chapter that really made me fall in love with Berserk.
And the Memorial edition of the Golden Age films is going to add it in, thus fixing the biggest mistake those movies made. So all is well in the world.