Berserk Manga Review (Part 18): Arms Tournament – Comrades in Arms

We’re back, ladies and gents!

After a nice long, refreshing break, I’m ready to come back to Berserk! And hark! What’s this? Some of the best chapters in the series? But Christmas was last month!

Today, we’ll be covering the following chapters:

  • Arms Tournament
  • The Fugitives
  • The Fighter
  • Comrades in Arms

A year has passed since Griffith fell. Guts, completely unaware that the Band of the Hawk fell, enters a tournament to test his skills. But his world is rocked to the core when the host reveals to him the true purpose of the tournament: to gather together a force strong enough to take down a fugitive army led by a female soldier named Casca.

‘Arms Tournament’ is just that. A tournament. Not a whole lot of actual substance happens here beyond the introduction of Silat. While he becomes a major character in later arcs, he really doesn’t play much of a role here. Not unless you count him getting his ass beat by Guts.

Silat is such a cool character. I really hope he gets more time in the spotlight in the new chapters.

Speaking of whom: let’s talk about is Guts. Not just because his new design is sick. But also because of how much more jovial he seems in this setting. The dude is noticeably more amiable and friendly than he’s ever been, cracking jokes, taunting his opponents, he even throws his arm around a total stranger like they’re best buds. Guts seems truly happy here.

Which makes it kinda sad when the fat little noble tells him about how his friends are all suffering and dying. Speaking of which!

‘The Fugitives’ gives us our first glimpse of how rough the Hawks have had it since Griffith was captured. Right from the first panel, you can tell this is no longer the mighty military force it once was. Everyone is wounded and tired and, from the looks on their faces (and from what Corkus has to say on the matter), utterly defeated.

At the heart of it all is Casca. Weary, tired, lonely, but still pushing forward. She puts on a strong front for Judeau and the others, but the moment she’s alone? The weight of the world crashes down on her shoulders. Its a gut wrenching scene.

But forget that! It’s time for fighting!

Casca VS Silat is a fight that I wish went on for a lot longer than the few pages we got. For such a brief exchange, it’s really god damn cool. Seeing these two high-speed highly agile fighters go head-to-head is pretty badass. If Casca weren’t tired enough to drop, it might’ve become a highlight of this chapter.

But then we get Guts coming back. And this might surprise you: I don’t like this scene.

Me when my girl texts me to come over:

To the characters, this is a big deal. After a year of hardship and struggle, Guts is back to save the Hawks! But for us, the audience, it’s only been a few chapters since Guts left. There hasn’t been nearly enough time between him going and him coming back for this return to have any real emotional impact. It reads like your friend logged off Discord only to log back in five minutes later!

Although what follows is pretty substantial. And no, I’m not talking about Silat’s rematch with Guts, cool as that fight is (it also takes up the entirety of ‘The Fighter’, so that’s all I’ve got to say on that chapter). Rather, I’m referring to the events of the next chapter: ‘Comrades in Arms’.

In this chapter, Guts has to face the consequences of his actions. He chose to leave the Hawks and now this is the price. Some of his friends are overjoyed to see him again! But others? Not so much.

Regardless of how the individual members may treat him, one fact remains: Guts isn’t a member of the Hawks anymore. More than that, he’s confronted with the possibility that Griffith’s downfall, and therefore the Hawks’ downfall, was a direct result of his leaving.

But despite it all, his friends are all still there. Still fighting. Still planning to rescue Griffith.

I love Guts’ expression when Judeau tells them this. He’s smiling, but there’s a noticeable bead of sweat on his cheek. Like he knew the Hawks would survive no matter what, but the fact that they did still left him stunned. It’s a smile that says he’s remembering just how amazing and terrifying his friends truly are.

At this point, we’re given a little sneak-peak and what Guts was up to over the last year. He was training in the mountains. More than that, he continued his search for meaning. And he’s more or less found what he wants to do: keep on fighting people with his sword.

Is it as world-shattering a dream as Griffith’s? No. But it’s his. And that’s more than enough.

Yes ma’am. Sorry ma’am. Whatever you want.

But now he has to overcome a real challenge: facing Casca again after all this time. As much as I’d love to talk about that, however, it’ll have to wait until next time. I was going to cover the next few chapters here, but then I realized they’re simply way too big and way too important to cram into an article that’s already this long.

These three chapters are still really good. Sure, a massive chunk of them are just action scenes, and Guts’ return doesn’t have the triumphant feeling that I think Miura wanted it to have. But the character stuff we do get, with Guts catching up with the others and Casca’s struggles, are more than enough to make up for these shortcomings.

Besides, they make the way for one of the most iconic scenes in the whole series. If that ain’t a point in their favor, I don’t know what is.

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