Berserk: How The Antihero Guts Is A Perfect Symbol For Our Times (2023)

Warning! Spoilers forBerserkbelow

Rage. It’s a problem that seems less like a personal one and more like a societal one nowadays. It’s a force that is by its very nature a destructive one, both to one’s self and to others. And perhaps no better work of fiction serves as both an emblem and a path through our collective anguish than Kentaro Miura’s long-running manga epic, Berserk, told through the life and times of its tortured hero, Guts.


Though it’s been over 30 years since he killed his first demonic Apostle, Miura’s Guts is more relevant than he’s ever been, not only as a symbol for the struggles those who come of age must face in these tumultuous times but also in offering a possible solution to those of us living in the midst of the continuous social upheavals caused by the fury and anger within our cultural climate. Always an ironically relatable character despite the auspicious nature his larger-than-life circumstances often generate, Guts is notable for the stark nature of his battle against evil both in his bleak determination and the ultimate redemption he finds through the comradery of his companions in their mutual cause: healing themselves and others. In this way, Guts may perhaps represent an enduring and palpable symbol of our times, not only in the emotional challenges he faces but in the allegorical nature of how he manages to return from the brink of destruction despite the disheartening obstacles he faces.

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Berserk is set in a dark fantasy world in which demons, servants of the so-called God Hand, run amuck on an earth ruled over by a seemingly evil god. A controversial and often disturbing narrative, the story follows Guts, The Black Swordsman, from his earliest childhood, an abusive and terrible existence rife with heartlessness and violence. When we’re first introduced to Guts, he is a sadistic, single-minded madman, conditioned by years of trauma and torture to take out his rage on those deserving of it: the hellish “apostles”. Hell-bent on performing the seemingly impossible task of wiping out every demon in the world with hisgigantic sword, the Dragonslayer, Guts is a broken man whose only solace comes from killing monsters, a task he seems unusually suited to. Constantly bringing himself to the very edge of death in his battles, he often gives the air of a heartless monster, no different from the beasts he slays.

Berserk: How The Antihero Guts Is A Perfect Symbol For Our Times (1)
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In the second story-arc, the “Golden Age”, the episode which most fans are familiar with, we see the younger Guts and his tragic path into the inescapable misery and rage he finds himself in. A sexually abused child raised quite literally on the battlefield, Guts is in many ways an unforgivable protagonist despite his tragedy by the time the famous “Eclipse” occurs, already long-damned from his life of violence. Constantly forced to perform acts he finds abhorrent and compromising, Guts is endlessly confronted with his own helplessness, helplessness he can seemingly only ward away with the swing of his sword. Even his mercenary band leader and supposed best friend, Griffith, only seeks to use his skill in violence, feigning respect while secretly disparaging his blind obedience. However, despite his often objectively evil deeds which gnaw at his conscience, including the inadvertent murder of a child, Guts is slowly able to heal himself from the abuse he faced as a child, even managing to open up to his lover, Casca, and commiserate in their shared experience of abuse.

In what is by far the most well-known event of the series, a crippled Griffith reveals his true colors during “The Eclipse”, and sacrifices his entire mercenary band, The Band of the Hawk, to the world’s demons in order to restore himself and attain “godhood”, culminating in a vicious and senseless attack on Casca which leaves her dissociative and mentally broken, a shell of the strong woman she once was. Now completely disconnected from everything and everyone who once gave his life meaning after years of searching, Guts throws himself heedlessly into violent conflict with the apostles, giving rise to the cynical Black Swordsman we’re introduced to at the start of the series.

Berserk: How The Antihero Guts Is A Perfect Symbol For Our Times (2)

It would be a sad, weighty tale indeed if Guts remained on this path, likely resulting in his death even with the assistance of the elf Puck who joins him and heals him with magic after these violent travails, but this is not the tale Miura weaves for Guts. Instead, reminded of his responsibilities, Guts returns to search for Casca, and it is here that the true shape of Miura’s story begins to form. A stalwart swordsman who, despite his savage brutality, fights unyieldingly against his inner desire to give in to his animalistic rage (sometimes failing, with particularly nasty results), Guts becomes a beacon of inspiration to those who witness his selflessness. Initially, out of a need to take care of Casca, Guts gradually begins allowing himself followers, slowly building a party of companions around him as he journeys in search of a cure for Casca’s illness.

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Already hurt, already having lost and regained and lost again his faith in others, Guts’s bravest action may indeed be this simple gesture, and it is one which ultimately leads him to redemption. Rather than being a lonesome, embittered wretch driven by anger, Guts becomes a calm and confident leader who learns once again that it is okay to rely on other people, people he can call friends. Even after acquiring the Berserker Armor, the use of which turns him into a true ravening beast, he becomes only more deeply indebted to his friends, like Shierke, the young witch who helps him return to himself, and determined to fight against his beastly impulses.

And in the end, after countless battles, he finally succeeds in at least one of his impossible goals: seeing Casca returned to sanity, with the help of his friends of course.

The story of Berserk is dark, violent,and incredibly disturbing, with danger around every corner and little to no time to prepare and regroup to meet these threats. The very world is inhabited with countless monsters, who unaccountably enslave and murder huge swathes of people with the protection of evil godlike beings who revel in the delirium and fury they propagate. It is a world gone sick and mad, where even simple things like a hot meal and a good night’s rest are a luxury many can never achieve. Guts himself may be one of the greatest victims of this cruel world, having witnessed violent atrocity after violent atrocity and trapped in a constant struggle simply to maintain a semblance of sanity. After The Eclipse, it seemed he might never be anything other than a mindless, sadistic slasher.

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Berserk: How The Antihero Guts Is A Perfect Symbol For Our Times (3)

But, if he can be called a hero, then perhaps the most heroic part of him is his ability to come back from this depression and see that the world, despite its flaws and evil, can have good as well. In this way, the true significance behind Guts is revealed: despite his incredible and at-times all-consuming darkness, Miura has crafted Guts as a symbol of hope, true hope unlike his archenemy Griffith. A man who, despite losing everything in a world beset by chaotic and uncaring evil, still had the ability to come back and be the good man he always wanted to be.

While likely Guts and his party will meet some kind of dark tragedy in the near future of the series, once again testing Guts’ resolve, it will be his will to persevere that keeps him strong. And that is why, despite his darkness, Guts is a perfect symbol of our times, an antihero who, despite years of torture and being forced to become a weapon of darkness, had the courage to come back to the light.

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Why is Guts considered an anti hero? ›

Guts has been praised for the themes he embodies as a result of his tragic backstory and how he becomes an anti-hero in the process, to the point of being of one of the most iconic characters in manga and anime.

What does Guts symbolize Berserk? ›

The Left-hand is that of ego-deifying, and the right is one of submission to God or fate. Guts being rid of his left is a symbol of his quest to live only for good, whether he knows that or not.

Why is Guts such a good main character? ›

His biggest power up- the Berserker Armor puts great strain on his body and if he uses it for too long, Guts could end up losing himself. He has the mentality to survive in the toughest of situations and face any kind of adversity head-on.

Why Guts is an inspiration? ›

Guts never gives up, he has been through hell and back. He has his ups and downs, he became a cruel man hungry for revenge. But he learns to live and love again.

Who is the true villain in Berserk? ›

Griffith is the main antagonist of Berserk. He is the founder and leader of the mercenary army known as the Band of the Hawk. As a mercenary, Griffith fought in the Hundred Year War and restored peace to the wartorn Kingdom of Midland and was once a close friend and ally of Guts.

What mental illness does Guts from Berserk have? ›

He suffered from PTSD long before the Eclipse, flinching into a violent episode whenever a man so much as grazed his arm. As a child, he was raped, and in adulthood, he struggles to process the betrayal by the man he adopted as his father.

Why Guts suffered the most? ›

It just so happens that this mercenary was a homosexual pedophile. Hence, Guts was forever psychologically scarred by Donovan and this began as early as his pre-pubescent boyhood days. Guts learned early on how to be vengeful, killing Donovan as revenge and later on, Gambino for selling him out.

Is Guts a tragic hero? ›

The story of Guts is all about tragedy. Literally nothing good has happened to this man since birth. Born from the womb of a dead woman hung from a tree, Guts was picked up by a Mercenary leader named Gambino.

What archetype is Guts? ›

With his massive size and strength, Guts is an obvious pick for the Tank archetype.

What was Guts hardest fight? ›

Fight With Wyald

Due to the Apostle's size and strength, Guts' struggled to kill Wyald, and even after Guts thought he had killed him, Wyald came back.

What is Guts main goal in Berserk? ›

Possessing inhuman strength and wielding an extremely large sword capable of cutting down demons, dubbed the Dragonslayer, Guts has two objectives: to heal the shattered mind of his beloved companion Casca and to seek revenge against the one who caused her trauma, Griffith.

Why is Guts sword so special? ›

For Guts, his weapon is unique to him for a more mundane reason - it's simply too big and heavy for anyone else to use in battle. Guts is the only Berserk protagonist with the necessary strength and endurance to swing the Dragon Slayer around, and most people who meet him are shocked that he can use it at all.

Is Guts the most powerful human? ›

7 Guts Is The Strongest Human

And while having the Berserker Armor was a big cinch in him keeping up with some Apostles, he's still not ready for Godhand.

What animal does Guts represent? ›

Thematically, Guts can be represented by a dog just as easily as Griffith is by the falcon. Guts as a low, trudging figure and Griffith as a soaring falcon is a natural comparison, one made by Miura himself.

Who is God in Berserk? ›

The Idea of Evil, also known as God, is the overarching antagonist in Berserk. The Idea of Evil appears briefly in the last panel of Chapter 82, "God of the Abyss", heavily hidden in shadow, addressed only in question by Griffith as "God...?" The Idea of Evil lies deep in the Abyss, weaving its web of causality.

Who broke Zodd horn? ›

Albion, Zodd is defeated within a dream by Griffith which cost him his left horn.

Does Clay have a mental illness? ›

Dr. Ellman confirms that Clay is dealing with dissociation, which, according to Mental Health America, is a "mental process that causes a lack of connection in a person's thoughts, memory and sense of identity." Though Dr.

Why does gut hair turn white? ›

His hair turned white due to the stress of the armor on his body.

What eye is Guts blind in? ›

The last thing Guts sees with his right eye before it is punctured by an Apostle's claw is the sight of his lover, motionless on the ground. He howls with rage and agony.

What trauma did Guts go through? ›

Guts was born from the corpse of his lynched mother underneath a hanging tree, where he was left to die alone in a mire of blood and afterbirth. A mercenary group lead by a man named Gambino eventually happened upon the grisly site, presuming the infant to be dead.

Is Guts the most tragic character? ›

Guts, also known as the Black Swordsman, is arguably the most tragic character in all of the anime and the one who has suffered the most. Even as a child, Guts was not safe from the horrors of the Physical World. Before he was even born, his mother was murdered and he became an orphan.

Is Guts weaker than Griffith? ›

While Guts' physical strength is very impressive, he cannot compete with someone like Griffith. He did receive the Berserker Armor, but it isn't enough either. At best, Guys can defeat Griffith's generals in combat. However, there is one more thing that Guts could use— the Behelit.

Is Guts colorblind? ›

After using the armor once, Guts lost some of his sense of taste, became slightly colorblind, and the stress of using it caused a patch of his hair to turn white, among other things.

Who is the main villain in Guts? ›

After being tortured, however, he used the eclipse to sacrifice his entire army and later was reborn as Femto, the fifth, newest, and final member of the God Hand. He is the arch-nemesis of Guts.

What are the themes of Guts? ›

Guts is the story of a girl plagued by stomachaches and the self-perpetuating cycle of anxiety and discomfort they create. The story is more than just a product of Telgemeier's imagination, however. It's her story. It's a memoir of her struggle with anxiety and the havoc it has wrought on her guts and her life.

Is Griffith a better swordsman than Guts? ›

For a long time, Griffith was the best swordsman in the Band of Hawk, until he was finally supplanted by Guts. Griffith's style of fighting was elegant and he was able to stop the attacks from Guts' broadsword without any problems.

What is the most brutal chapter in Berserk? ›

1 Casca's Fate At The Hands Of Griffith & His Apostles

Berserk is known for traumatizing its readers, and Casca's fate during the Eclipse is the manga at its most terrifying and heart-wrenching.

Why is Guts story so sad? ›

Guts' life was destined to be miserable from the get-go. After all, a mercenary band found him under the corpse of his mother, who had given birth to him after he had presumably died. While he was adopted by one of the women in the group, she also died of the plague shortly after.

Could Guts become an apostle? ›

If Guts became an Apostle, then it'd ruin any chances he'd have against Griffith/Femto and the rest of the God Hand. Currently, he still doesn't have much of a chance, but Ganishka has shown it doesn't matter how powerful you are as an Apostle, you're still a servant to the God Hand.

Does Guts sword have a name? ›

The Dragon Slayer is the massive sword Guts has wielded as his signature weapon since surviving the Eclipse.

How tall is Guts in Berserk? ›

25yo| 6.8ft | 253lbs. Guts, famously known as The Black Swordsman, is the main protagonist of the manga series Berserk and its anime adaptations.

Who is considered an anti-hero? ›

An anti hero is a narrative protagonist who is defined by their own self-interest. The anti hero often feels rejected by society, and veers down a self-destructive path that results in isolation or death.

Is Griffith anti-hero? ›

Griffith is the main antagonist of the manga series Berserk and its anime adaptations. He is the founder and leader of the mercenary army known as the Band of the Hawk.

What makes up a anti-hero? ›

Antiheroes are ambiguous protagonists—complex characters who have a dark side. Despite a flawed exterior, a history of bad decisions, and even a questionable moral code, an antihero is ultimately guided by good intentions.

Does Guts become a hero? ›

It the beginning of the manga Gut's wasn't a hero in any way, shape, or form. He was nothing more than a protag with a drive for revenge. But slowly as the manga goes on, his acts (while they can be perceived as self protection) have almost always helped the greater good.

Who is the most badass anti-hero? ›

The Best Antihero Characters in Literature
  • Jay Gatsby. The protagonist of The Great Gatsby by F. ...
  • John Yossarian. John Yossarian, the protagonist of Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, is a bombardier in the U.S. Air Force in World War II. ...
  • Lisbeth Salander.
  • Changez.
  • Zhu Chongba.
  • Harley Quinn.
  • Sula Peace.
  • Tom Ripley.
Sep 21, 2022

Who was the first antihero? ›

An early antihero is Homer's Thersites. The concept has also been identified in classical Greek drama, Roman satire, and Renaissance literature such as Don Quixote and the picaresque rogue.

Why is Griffith so obsessed with Guts? ›

He aspired to be the ultimate being and saw Guts as a rival, a challenge to overcome. As Griffith explained, Guts is his ultimate friend because he is also his ultimate threat and rival, and thus opposition and friendship are paradoxically intertwined.

Why Griffith is the perfect villain? ›

Having his flawed human side keeps Griffith a bit grounded and makes him well-rounded, too. He can be petty, jealous, or impulsive, all of which makes him more eerie and compelling as a villain. A good example was when he threw a silent tantrum after Guts left the Band of the Hawk in the Golden Age story arc.

Why is Griffith a god hand? ›

While many people would have had trouble sacrificing even one of his allies, Griffith sacrificed most of his army and friends. This allowed him to be reborn as Femto, the fifth member of the God Hand. Each member of the God Hand represents a finger on the actual hand, and with Femto's induction, the set was complete.

Is anti-hero good or bad? ›

Answer: An anti-hero is a type of character in literature who lacks the qualities of a traditional hero, like morality or a clear interest in rules. Anti-heroes are not the villains of the story because there are reasons to cheer for them, despite their complex motivations and questionable actions.

Is anti-hero better than villain? ›

Choosing Between Your Anti-Hero And Your Villain

Ultimately, the anti-hero does the right thing, but not necessarily for the right reasons. Whereas the anti-villain does the wrong thing, but their reasons are often understandable. And the villain is there to make life hard for your protagonist every step of the way.

Is Guts the most powerful? ›

Without a shadow of a doubt, Guts is among the strongest characters in Berserk. From a very young age, Guts was involved in wars. He practiced with his sword as he moved from one battlefield to another. Over time, Guts' swordsmanship reached new levels.


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