Berserk Manga Review (Part 21): Thousand-Year Fiefdom

We return once again to the final acts of the Golden Age. This week, we’re covering:

  • Thousand-Year Fiefdom
  • Reunion in the Abyss
  • A Way Through
  • Bakiraka 1-2
  • Flower of the Stone Castle
Behold! The page responsible for the god damn tower level in Demon’s Souls.

Buckle up, ladies and germs. Cause we’re covering a lot today.

With Princess Charlotte as their guide, Guts, Casca, Judeau, and Pippin make their way into the Tower of Rebirth to rescue Griffith, blissfully unaware of the horror that had befallen Rickert. However, things quickly take a turn for the worse, as Griffith has been reduced to a horrific state and the king’s men are soon after them. With a small army and the legendary assassins known as the Bakiraka on their tails, will the Hawks be able to rescue their leader?

‘Thousand-Year Fiefdom’ treats us to some fairly interesting exposition/foreshadowing. Here, we learn the tale Midland’s origin and of Emperor Gaiseric (who totally isn’t Skull Knight, trust me) as well as the ‘angels’ who brought his kingdom to destruction.

And at the bottom of the seemingly endless pit, we’re treated to a horrifying, yet familiar sight.

I’m sure that’s nothing to worry about.

Aside from that, it’s a fairly uneventful chapter. Unlike ‘Reunion in the Abyss,’ which is just… damn, dude. This shit is gruesome, even by this series’ standard.

Griffith’s fate is a genuinely horrific one. Once he was beautiful, powerful, and demanded respect. Now, he’s a nearly lifeless husk, his body torn to pieces, his limbs useless, and his tongue gone. What’s even more horrifying is the simple fact that we never see what happened to his face beneath the helmet; all we get is the utterly stunned reactions from Guts and Judeau. The rest is left to our imaginations.

What a horrifying happy reunion!

Then he wakes up and sees Guts. His only true friend, there to save him after a whole year. And how does Griffith, unable to speak and barely able to move, react? He tries to strangle him! Yet when Guts tearfully embraces him, he can’t help but give up the effort. Despite Griffith’s newborn loathing, traces of his affection for his friend still remain.

Meanwhile, poor Casca is having a panic attack. The one thing that gave her strength in the year before Guts’ return is torn away from her in the most brutal way possible. It’s all she can do just to keep standing as her whole body shakes and her heart hammers against her chest.

But what about Guts? Well, he does what he does best: he gets pissed. He brutally murders the tortur master in one of the most grotesque yet satisfying deaths in the whole series. After that, he goes on a full-blown rampage.

Our hero, ladies and gentlemen!

We’ve seen Guts gradually becoming stronger and stronger throughout the Golden Age. But now, here, in this moment, we see just how close he is to the unstoppable killer we met back in the Black Swordsman arc. The man is a genuine monster, and his overwhelming wrath is portrayed beautifully in the artwork. Just look at this, man!

‘A Way Through’ is dedicated entirely to furthering this point. My man is so brutal that even his friends are scared of him (though his outburst does help Casca pull herself together, further cementing them as the ultimate power duo). Guts is a blender of death.

In this chapter, we also get to catch up with the king of Midland. This scene only serves two purposes. One: to show us just how withered and deprived the king has become in the past year. Two: to establish the new threat for the coming chapters: the Bakiraka. Which leads us into the chapters of the same name.

But before we get to them, we need to catch up with Guts. Dude is so exhausted he can barely even stand, yet he’s still hungry for blood. It’s only when Casca reaches out to comfort him that he finally calms down. It’s an incredibly sweet moment.

And Griffith watches the whole thing with an expression of pure hate.

Even Charlotte gets a moment to shine in the spotlight! The once innocent and coddled princess is picking up a bit of a tomboyish side! All in order to keep herself at Griffith’s side.

Pretty badass panel for a bunch of characters that last less than three chapters.

Unfortunately, the Bakiraka have other plans. Speaking of whom, let’s talk about them. They’re… fairly underwhelming, if I’m being honest. They have some pretty cool and creepy designs. But in terms of personality, they’re basically nothing. Their presence in the story here is basically just foreshadowing for their role later on in the Conviction and Millennium Falcon War arcs.

Though, to be fair: the fight scene in the sewers is fucking awesome! Each member of the Bakiraka poses a unique challenge, to which each member of the Hawks responds with their own unique skills and knowledge. Everyone chips in, making our heroes feel like a truly unstoppable team! Even Griffith plays a part! The band is back together, everyone!

Meanwhile, the king is being angry and creepy again. So much so that he summons the worst part of all Berserk! But we’ll get to that next time.

Abandon all hope, ye who know this character.

While not perfect, this stretch of the story is still pretty damn good. We get some cool fight scenes, incredible character moments, and some genuinely jaw-dropping panels! It’s all solid stuff!

And now it’s time for him. Buckle up, everyone. This is where things get really divisive.

All because of one monkey. Thanks, Miura.

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