What, you might ask, is Qliphoth? It’s the territory of darkness in the astral realm, and going by the episode’s title, it’s been corrupted with lots of monsters and evil things. Lots of stuff for Guts to swing his massive sword at basically. In the physical world, Qliphoth is a forest.

So Casca and Farnese have been kidnapped by trolls and taken into Qliphoth, though they can’t be harmed because of the silver link shirts they received from Schierke back when Serpico and Isidoro received their weapons. After the two women wake up, Schierke is able to telepathically communicate with them.

Farnese freaks out at all of the horrors around them, and she encourages Casca to climb with her further into the trolls’ lair. However what awaits them is even worse than what they left behind – they come to a ledge overlooking a clearing where trolls are raping women. Any who die are tossed into the waters below to be eaten by other, lesser monsters. A woman crawls up to Farnese begging for help, but it’s too late as the women rolls over in agony and a squirming, deformed troll fetus bursts from her womb. Yeah, if you’re reading that with a disgusted look on your face, you definitely aren’t the only one.

Farnese screams, which clues the trolls in to their presence and it’s only moments before Farnese and Casca are surrounded. Farnese is able to slash at some of the trolls when they get too close… until they knock her dagger from her hand. Thankfully Guts shows up right at that moment and starts slaying trolls. Close by are two pits, one full of women and the other containing many children. Together Schierke helps Farnese evacuate the women and children, while Isidoro brings up the rear.

Schierke and Isidoro’s group is almost to the exit when a mysterious force rushes overhead and kills all the trolls which had been surrounding them. With their exit now open, Isidoro and the others are able to flee once more. Even though Guts is still fighting inside, Schierke seals the entrance to the cave with a time-delayed spell. Hopefully Guts can make it out in time!

As Schierke casts the spell that will seal the cave’s entrance, Isidoro uses the bombs given to him by Guts to keep the trolls at bay. He faces off against the troll “leader” for the grand finale, and is able to kill him using a combination of a bomb and physical attacks.

Back inside the Qliphoth, Guts seems to have killed most of the trolls for the time being. But suddenly an awful feeling washes over him, something he hasn’t felt since the night of the Eclipse. Slowly from the pool of blood and troll intestines, a demonic female form takes shape. It’s Slan – one member of the God Hand. Inside the pouch on Guts’ hip, the grey Behelit starts to shake.

Slan is all womenly wiles and seductive smiles, the way she holds Guts to her naked form and tempts him with innuendo. Then the Skull Knight shows up, and Slan confirms that the physical and astral realms have started to merge due to Griffith’s rebirth. That would be why more supernatural creatures are showing up around the land.

Guts blows a hole in Slan’s stomach, and attempts to kill her by thrusting his sword through the hole. It’s not enough to kill her though, as her current form is only a manifestation. Like a hologram in a way, no? She disintegrates back into blood and guts, saying that one day she and Guts will meet again.

All around Guts the cave starts to fall apart. This is because back at the cave entrance, Schierke has successfully managed to summon the Lord of Rotting Roots, who uses its magic to purge the trolls from its tunnels. Guts is thrown onto the back of the Skull Knight’s mount, and the Skull Knight creates a magical sword from the behelits it has consumed from Apostles. With this sword the Skull Knight cuts a whole in space to travel between two points very quickly; he saves Guts’ life yet again.

After the trolls have been killed and the Lord of Rotting Roots returns to its dormant state, the Qliphoth returns to normal. Guts and the others return the women and children to Morgan’s village, where Farnese and Serpico have a happy reunion. As Guts looks at his new comrades, he muses to himself that he would never have imagined that he’d ever find his dead friends again in this new Band of the Hawk.

My thoughts:
This episode was really big for both Farnese and Isidoro. For Farnese, it was a humbling lesson to realize she’s completely responsible for Casca’s wellbeing when Guts is fighting demons. She’s never before been in charge of another person, and she doesn’t take this new responsibility lightly. To give him credit, Guts makes sure to thank Farnese. He knows that if she hadn’t been with Casca when his lover fell into the water and was picked up by trolls, she’d probably be dead.

As for Isidoro, the retreat from the trolls was an opportunity to redeem himself in Guts’ eyes. After failing to protect the villagers and his comrades from the trolls back at the church, Guts is now trusting him to protect the rest of their group, plus a whole gaggle of brutalized women and children. Even when he’s outnumbered, Isidoro is learning to step up and do what’s needed, even if he’s scared or unsure of himself.

The contrast between Griffith and Guts’ respective new Band of the Hawks is interesting, albeit not overly surprising if you’re familiar with Berserk and its characters. In Griffith’s group, he is the undisputed leader and everyone serves him because they’re “under him.” Whereas in Guts’ troupe, everyone works together as a team; they’re all equals.

It looks like in the next episode, we’re starting to see the convergence between Guts and Griffith’s storylines. Plus we’re finally going to see the Berserker armor!