Remember when in my first review I said that this series was very violent, graphic and fucked up? Yeah, that’s pretty much the vibe of this episode.
So Puts, Guts and Farnese are escaping on horseback, with Farnese’s blond companion Serpico trailing them on a horse of his own. He’s about to fire on them but suddenly senses an immense evil presence around him as it soars past him towards Guts.
Puck meanwhile has realized that the old adage is in fact true: people with closed minds (in Farnese’s case, because of her religion) usually can’t see creatures of the fae. This is why Farnese was ignoring him at the end of the previous episode. So far she hasn’t asked Guts who he talks to when he’s not talking to her; maybe she’s just assuming he’s crazy.
The evil spirits catch up to Guts and he starts hacking at them with his sword. Farnese can’t see them, but when one creepy looking old man starts touching her face, she can sense something and freaks out. Guts tells her to keep her eyes open, for these spirits are “miracles” sent to them by her god, miracles she can’t see because she worships an idol. That’s certainly an odd way to describe an evil being.
Then in the distance a large manor appears; Guts says that has been his intended destination all along. Serpico, back on his horse and still trailing Farnese, has an inner monologue revealing that it is the estate of Count Lansdown, the man who governed Midland’s western territory. He died in a fire five years previously, so the manor should be abandoned. Should be.
Once they arrive at the estate, Guts and Farnese are thrown to the ground by their horse, which has become temporarily crazed. The spirits coalesce into hellhounds with purple eyes and surround the two. Now that the evil has materialized into a physical form, Farnese can see the dogs too. Guts calls the monster hounds “miracles” as well, because they should not exist, but they do. Guts tells Farnese to stick with him if she doesn’t want to be eaten, so Puck, the horse, Farnese and Guts run into the mansion, and Guts blocks the exit by breaking the stone doorway. They’re trapped, but they’re safe for now.
As they explore the mansion, they can see that the Count was a big fan of hunting. There is a realistic human sculpture at the top of the stairs, and as Puck approaches he’s able to tap into some of the lingering energy in the household. Suddenly hounds burst through the front door and Farnese panics and runs off.
Down the hall she encounters a wrinkled, creepy-looking old man. Guts shows up moments later and the old man becomes very upset, screaming at Guts that he’ll be punished for hurting the hounds. Guts asks this creepy man if he killed the Count, and the squat little man says no, he ate the Count. o_o Guts reveals the man to be one of the Apostles he is hunting.
While Guts fights as best as best he can given that he soon becomes lodged halfway into the Apostle’s mouth, Puck approaches the portrait of the young girl and proclaims it to be the real thing. Puck touches the portrait and is able to see that the young girl of the manor was someone who’d been nice to him when others weren’t. As far as I can tell, the ugly man had a Behelit and used it to summon the God Hand, and at some point the young girl was sacrificed. The Apostle felt guilty and made the portrait as a result.
Puck’s act distracts the Apostle and Guts is able to slice off part of the Apostle’s face and escape. Guts interrogates the Apostle, torturing him to get information about the God Hand. Farnese cannot stand to watch and she runs off again. Guts finally kills the Apostle when it won’t give him the information he needs and follows Farnese.
[Trigger warning for attempted rape]
Farnese comes across a random horse in a room, and thinks she can use it to escape… until it turns around and it too has crazy, demonic purple eyes. In a weird stop-motion-type sequence the horse chases Farnese and pins her to the ground, saying it will be the one to ride her as it bathes her naked torso with her tongue. The whole scene is extremely discomforting, and Guts’ reaction as he bursts into the room explains why: the posing is meant to flashback to Casca’s rape by Femto (what Griffith transformed into on the night of the Eclipse), and that is exactly what Guts sees. He slices the horse in half and his sword lodges in the floor about two inches away from Farnese’s body. Guts reminds her again not to run around if she wants to live, and this time she listens.
Guts, Puck and Farnese slowly explore what’s left of the manor. Farnese is beating herself up, thinking she is weak because in the heat of the battle she couldn’t even pray to God for help. Slowly another voice inside her head emerges, taunting her with one of her darkest secrets: she finds pleasure in pain, in hurting people. Farnese experienced it when whipping Guts with her flail, and she felt it later when she gave herself lashes too. This presence says that she is powerless because she is such a perverted, twisted person that even God will not help her. Ouch.
Moving as if possessed, Farnese breaks the rope binding her wrists and removes her clothes. Stark naked, she approaches Guts and pushes him to the ground. She acts as if she’s attempting to seduce him, but then she winds a cord around his neck as she literally straddles his giant sword with her bare body (pun not intended). Then the sun comes up through a window and the demonic presence leaves her body, and Farnese has a breakdown when she realizes what she’s done.
Outside, Serpico gives his coat to Farnese and attempts to get her to calm down. She demands that Serpico kill Guts but he refuses, saying that Guts is too strong for him. Farnese has no time for his excuses and slaps Serpico before starting her return journey alone. Left behind, Serpico says his farewells to Guts, but out of nowhere both men suddenly draw their swords and strike out at each other. Guts’ face is cut, and the part of the bottom of Serpico’s shoe is sliced open. Serpico leaves for good this time, acknowledging Puck in his goodbyes. Hmm, maybe he doesn’t believe in God like Farnese does?
After the credits, we see that the King of Midland is on his deathbed, asking to see his daughter. His country has suffered immensely since barely surviving the war with the neighbouring kingdom of Chuder. General Laban passes Minister Foss, who appears to read Laban’s mind and tells him that yes “the hawk” will return. Fans who have seen the original season of Berserk know that this refers to Griffith (because of the helmet he used to wear in battle, shaped like the head of a hawk).
General Laban reaches Princess Charlotte’s chambers but she will not open the door, not even to see her father. All she can think about is Griffith and wonder where he is, since she has the necklace she gave him but he has not returned. The king dies, and as the bell is tolling to announce his passing, an army is advancing ever closer to Midland. Who are they?!
My thoughts: So Japan has this weird attitude about sex. Some background context: in naughty magazines or other media, you will never see male genitalia, nor will you ever explicitly see penetration (unless you’re reading/watching hardcore material). Female nudity seems to be somewhat accepted, although anything below the waist is (from what I’ve seen) hit or miss. So naked breasts and the like are ok, but anything phallic is out. Go figure. There’s no sex (yet) in Berserk (2016), but I’m guessing that because this is a mainstream anime, the producers are trying to avoid an adult-only rating and that’s why Farnese simply has no nipples for basically the entire episode (aside from the scene with the evil horse creature), and why Puck is shown as being rather androgynous. Puck’s depiction doesn’t bother me, but I feel that Farnese’s lack of nipples just looks strange.
I’d also like to point out that this episode highlights for the first time that Guts is not simply a maniacal, evil-slaying swordsman. There are moments when we see that he does genuinely care for Farnese’s wellbeing, even if she pisses him off. Like he catches her after the horse throws them, or all the times he chases her through the mansion so that he can protect her. Never once does he just let her run off and leave her to die. Guts isn’t like that. He’s a soldier and a warrior; he has honor, respect and integrity, even if he has no respect for Farnese’s religion.
I think Puck is my favourite character next to Guts and Casca. There’s an ongoing joke where Puck makes Guts thank the horse, literally, for carrying them on their journey, and fuck if Puck is just so cute when he’s lecturing Guts. ≧◡≦ Serpico intrigues me too, because there’s so much more to him that’s only seen during battle.
[Trigger warning for discussion of rape]
Also, the reason Charlotte does not go to see her father is that in the manga, her father had attempted to rape her earlier in the series while in a depraved state. He considered Charlotte his only comfort in life, and the assault was his twisted way of trying to keep her close to him. Charlotte managed to fight him off and she stopped acknowledging him as her father. As we see briefly at the end of this episode, the King is shown to be extremely wrinkled and emaciated, and this is because the king’s health had declined due to his festering guilt over what he’d almost done.
After watching the preview for next week’s episode, I’m SO EXCITED. We’re going to see some people from Guts’ past, including Casca! Yay!
If you’ve read this review to the end, thank you! Have a cookie. ヾ(＠＾▽＾＠)ﾉ I will try to ensure that future reviews are not all this long. (I just love Berserk so much ~ )
* Susumu Hirasawa song of the week: “Aria” from the first Berserk movie OST. Fun fact: there is no actual translation for this song. Hirasawa-san created the lyrics using a mix of Japanese and a couple other languages. You can read an interview where Hirasawa-san describes his process for creating “Aria” here.