Hidden Metaphors and Function of the Berserker Armor

Berserker Armor is probably the most badass object in the Berserkverse. It’s mysterious, powerful and driven by the individual inner beast of the wearer. It turns good men into literal monsters by taking over their bodies and minds, unleashing chaos and slaughter among enemies and allies alike. But how does it work exactly? What function does it serve in the story?

In order to understand these questions, we must take a look at the beginnings.

Miura did a lot of preparatory work to introduce the Berserker Armor. As I will show you soon, the astral wounds induced by Slan are key to make the armor work in the first place. To elaborate, let’s take a look at what actually happens.

This article is based on a couple of tumblr posts I created about this topic before. You can find them here:

Table of Contents

  • A Wire to the Astral World
  • The armor as plot device for Guts’ character development
  • Analyzing the instances of Guts using the Berserker Armor
  • Comparing the instances Guts has used the Berserker Armor

A Wire to the Astral World

We know that Guts and his companions enter Qliphot, an astral realm of darkness, in order to save Casca and Farnese, who were taken hostage by trolls. As Guts is slaying the trolls to save some time, he notices there is a beast inside of him, waiting to be unleashed. This alone is foreshadowing already! Soon, it’d get a chance to materialize through his astral wounds and the Berserker Armor.

After Guts has butchered enough trolls in a 100-man-slayer-manner, Slan enters the scene and materializes from the troll remains.

On seeing one of the God Hand members, Guts is going nuts, attempting to attack her in a fit of rage.

While Guts is charging at her, Slan is snatches him midair with her wings, and then pushes him down to dunk him into the puddle of blood beneath them.

And as soon as he gets back up, she is then wrapping her arms around his neck.

She is going on how she has felt his presence during all the nights of agony he has been through.

She notes how his soul fits to Qliphot with his anguish and pain. Then at some point she rips his armor apart completely, injuring Guts’ chest and back. This is a carefully planned setup by Miura, as these fateful wounds will later pose fuel for the Berserker Armor just a couple of chapters later!

Afterwards, while heading back to Flora’s mansion, Schierke notes how his wounds were not only inflicted to his physical body, but also to his ethereal body:

With this, Miura has laid out all the events, feelings and motivations necessary to introduce Berserker Armor, which enables Guts to fight astral beings more efficiently.

The armor as plot device for Guts’ character development

What happens when Guts dons the Berserker Armor the first time?

Guts first slays a couple of apostles before he notices something is up with this armor: the pain from his wounds is gone.

You can also see that his astral wounds have also reopened. That is because he was fighting with Grunbeld before this.

In the next page, Guts also notices the roar of the beast – which through the astral wound now has access to the real world (whether said beast is a separate astral being or part of him is a different question worthy of its own article: What is the Beast of Darkness?).

As he is giving in to the od and allowing the armor to take over, the astral wound on his chest visually transforms into the typical Z-shaped eye of the Beast of Darkness in the next page.

Also notice how his pupil is gradually fading, a symbolism Miura uses to show that Guts is losing his consciousness and clarity of thinking. This is absolutely NO coincidence. It’s also interesting how the panel cutout of the eye is positioned on the chest wound turning into the z-shape.

To further reinforce this point, let’s take a look at this page from the same chapter. Why is the wound on his back glowing? Is it because the armor is using it to give Guts incredible strength?!
You will see this type of depiction whenever Guts is using the powers of the armor (I remember seeing this in the sea god chapters, too).

Guts’ astral wound glowing as he is cutting down his enemies as the Berserker (Volume 26 page 216)

The way this is visually represented makes it seem like Guts’ astral wound is used as fuel to keep the armor’s od strong and going, like a wire to not only the astral world, but also Guts’ physical and ethereal body, where the armor poses as some kind of catalyst or medium of transmission. It basically amplifies Guts’ existing ferocity and takes it to the extreme.

The interesting part is, that Schierke has also noted a couple of times that Guts may draw some of his strength from the astral world during the Enoch village incident – which was even before Guts’ acquisition of the Berserker Armor! At the time, she speculated that his sword or will power may be the cause of this. Well, he has armor like this now, too.

Schierke making her observations in Volume 25

All of this is also coherent with what Miura mentioned in various interviews: the pain and agony is Guts’ fuel and source of incredible rage and strength. The setup for Slan’s encounter with Guts shows this extremely well. The astral wounds he has and the Berserker Armor are both symbols of Guts’ agony, transformed into strength to overcome foes stronger and bigger than himself.

Now that we understand the events and prerequisites that surround Guts’ acquisition of the Berserker Armor, we can take a look at the other occasions the armor was put into use.

Analyzing the instances of Guts using the Berserker Armor

One thing essential in understanding how Berserker Armor works is being aware what it does to Guts’ consciousness.

Does Guts lose control completely when inside the Berserker armor?

Guts’ control over himself in the armor varies greatly. It may look like he completely lost control, but if you pay attention to the visuals and the order of events, he is still retaining some degrees of sanity and parts of himself. At least it’s enough to return to his human state (which for now is protected by Flora’s amulet engraved in the armor). That also means the armor has yet to fully take over him (duh).

The best part is that as the story continues, you can see Guts struggling more and more and gradually gaining more consciousness when he is in the armor – while at the same time, the powerful od in the armor increases as well, the harder he resists; Which is possibly why in volume 37 Schierke eventually has troubles getting through him at all –  but we’ll get to that later!

There is A LOT of character development going on for Guts, so in order to show how much he has actually grown, let’s examine the process:

How does Guts lose himself in the armor and how is he brought back to sanity?

In the next few pages, I will examine the following instances Guts has used the Berserker armor:

  • Floras Tree Mansion
  • Crocodile Beach
  • Vritannis
  • Sea God Pirates
  • Sea God Final Fight

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