The episode begins with Guts having a vision. Or is it a prophecy? He sees Casca (who is thankfully less white than in the earlier flashback) burning on a stake. When Guts awakens, he sees a deformed creature hiding under a rock. It warns Guts that Casca is in danger and that he must hurry to save her. Guts takes the creature’s words to heart and immediately returns to where he left her: with Godo, Rickert, and Erica.
When Guts arrives, Erica and Rickert are both extremely happy to see him. In the two years that he’s been gone, Erica has grown up a little and Rickert has become stronger as well. Guts’ first concern is about Casca, but she is no longer there. Erica dissolves into sobs, saying it’s her fault because she took Casca along with her when she went to gather nuts, and Casca got away from her. Guts doesn’t blame her of course, but angrily asks Rickert why he did not go after Casca. Erica launches herself at Guts, accusing Guts of abandoning Casca and angrily protesting that Rickert did go look for her. Rickert sadly admits that there’s a reason he can’t leave: Godo is dying.
Guts heads up to the attic to have a few words with the old man, who says he’s not infected with a disease but rather is just dying from old age. Godo asks to see Guts’ sword and false hand, and by the condition they’re in Godo is able to accurately claim that Guts has been using them pretty much nonstop. Godo goes on to ask Guts that isn’t he essentially always running away to do battle with someone or something? Isn’t Guts just giving in to his hatred, rushing to get vengeance for the people who died?
Guts replies that Godo has no right to say that because he doesn’t know what happened. No one knows what happened except for himself and Casca (since Rickert had been injured at the time and did not participate in Griffith’s rescue, which preceded the Eclipse). Guts’ grief, anger and feelings of loss run so deep in his psyche that he cannot wrap his head around how they died. His extended family, the people who meant everything to him, they died like rats. For no reason. Nevermind that he watched Casca get raped by one of his closest friends.
Godo however is having none of Guts’ excuses. He correctly points out that in leaving to get his revenge, Guts left behind the remaining irreplaceable people: Casca and Rickert. His lover and the other last surviving member of the original Band of the Hawk. And this is the epiphany of the episode, Guts’ great realization: in leaving Casca, who had already suffered great abuse, he cast upon her more pain. He left her alone, and she suffered. Godo says that since Guts essentially abandoned Casca, regardless of what his reasons were, does he have the right to speak of getting vengeance for his friends who died? Godo describes Guts as a half-broken blade with a lethal crack, covered in rust and blood.
Later Erica and Rickert take Guts to see the cemetery of swords which Rickert has been slowly constructing. Each sword represents one of the members of the Band of the Hawk who died in the Eclipse. As he looks upon the swords, Guts reflects on the differences between himself and Rickert. In the two years since the Eclipse, Rickert has come to accept the deaths of his comrades and worked to make a new life for himself, while not forgetting what was lost. Guts on the other hand has been so caught up in his own pain and hatred that he has not been able to move forward.
Later that night as Guts rests in a cave, the same cave where Casca had lived after Guts left her, Guts tries to work through his convoluted feelings. He maintains that he didn’t run away, or rather that he can’t run away because those feelings are burned into his missing right eye. And if he can’t run away from that pain and that hatred, then he must use it to burn his enemies.
And here is where we see the Beast for the first time, a creature previously only hinted at in the first and last episodes of the original Berserk anime. This red-eyed, toothy dog-like creature is a manifestation of Guts’ inner demons. The Beast coaxes Guts to keep bathing in his enemies’ blood because he will always be alone.
After the Beast dissipates, Guts has his second epiphany: that Godo was right. He indeed has no right to speak of revenge and vengeance after abandoning Casca in her pitiful state. As he looks around the cave, he sees visions of his former Band of the Hawk comrades who rip into him for leaving them and Casca in the past. Guts reluctantly admits that he started this war of his own choice, and the fragile fires in his memory are probably the only thing still keeping him sane, keeping the Beast from taking him over from within. Guts realizes that in abandoning Casca he may have repeated his past mistake (when he originally left the Band of the Hawk), and Guts becomes determined to find Casca and never lose her again.
While Guts is resting, Godo drags himself out of bed in the main house and starts to work on Guts’ massive sword. He asks Rickert to take care of Erica, who is his adopted daughter, and tells Rickert to tell Guts to not become like Godo himself.
The next day Guts leaves, complete with new armor and upgraded weapons. He asks Rickert if there is “holy ground” nearby, and Rickert says there’s a monastary nearby by the name of St. Albion, but it’s also known as the Tower of Conviction. There are many refugees staying there and it’s rumoured that heretics are hidden among them, so the Holy See are sending a grand inquisitor to investigate and Rickert says there will probably be a witch trial too. The deformed creature’s words flash through Guts’ mind and he knows where he must go.
Meanwhile the Holy See army is much closer to St. Albion. Serpico and Azan discuss the recent Kushan invasion of Windham, the capital of Midland. In the wake after the king’s death, Princess Charlotte and many other retainers are now missing. So the Holy See have a full plate at the moment. Farnese interrupts their conversation to remind them of their current task, and Serpico remarks that Farnese is in a worse mood than usual. We see why: she can’t stop thinking about the horse spirit which almost raped her, nor her behavior towards Guts while she was possessed. Serpico’s inner monologue reveals that after Guts left the manor, Farnese was demoted and removed from the pursuit of the Black Swordsman. As a result she was recruited to help escort the grand inquisitor, along with Serpico and Azan.
As the massive army winds through the rocky passes towards St. Albion, a large group of rebels attacks the Holy See. The grand inquisitor, Mozgus, is a man who tortures and kills people under the guise of religion, and he is hated by many. Mozgus emerges from his metallic carriage and questions one of the men who participated in the attack, who answers Mozgus’ questions before being tortured to death along with several other people.
Amongst the crowd watching the spectacle unfold, there is a long-haired brunette named Luca who introduces herself to the young woman standing next to her. She has long, messy brown hair and is nonverbal… it’s Casca. Luca coaxes Casca to come along with her, and they leave for St. Albion together.
My thoughts: I know there are all sorts of parallels between religion in the world of Berserk and religion in reality, and I don’t think I can articulate them the way I want to, so I will just say that it’s royally fucked up how the Holy See kill people under the guise of “doing the right thing” and bringing God into it. Ugh. The torture scene was hard for me to watch; evil creatures and people being sliced in half and dying quick deaths are one thing, but drawing out someone’s death with as much pain and anguish as possible is a whole different ball game.
Going by the preview we’re going to see the return of a certain energetic young boy next episode. This next story arc definitely isn’t my favourite, but as long as we get more Casca I can tolerate it.
* Susumu Hirasawa song of the week: I want to explore some non-Berserk-related music, so this week I have for you “Aurora“. It’s from Hirasawa-san’s 1994 album of the same name.