4) Sea God Pirates Or: when the biggest character development happens
Now the context of this event is that Guts and his companions landed on the Sea God island to repair the Seahorse after the first encounter with the Pirates. They are being lured into an inn where they wanted to get some food, but it turns out to be a trap.
Guts has mostly recovered from getting electrocuted by Ganishka and burned by Schierke’s fire spell that tore the Kundalini apart. Given the comments he has made on the voyage, he should have most of his fighting strength back at this point.
Faced with the tentacle offspring of the Sea God, Guts is taking on them with some effort. Note how this is another step up from the whale familiars.
After this, it is being debated whether Guts should use the Berserker Armor. Farnese is clearly against this: Guts cannot use the armor, especially with Schierke not being present (she was out to find Isidro, who ran off).
Again, things change the moment the pirate ship climbs up the cliffs and the party is faced with many, large enemies.
Surrounded by plenty of sea monsters and the apostle pirate ship, the situation has become an emergency:
Guts realizes he has no choice other than to once again become the Berserker if him and his companions want to survive this.
Guts is calling the Beast of Darkness. Note this important detail. For the first time in the manga, The Beast of Darkness is in chains as he invokes it. When Guts was having his nightmare on the ship, the beast too was in chains there.
As Guts enters the armor, he looks at Casca. He is doing it for her.
Then the carnage begins.
The fact that Guts used the Berserker Armor without Schierke will turn out to make things impossibly difficult for her.
She cannot go through him anymore, most likely because the ods involved are way too powerful. And they are because Guts is increasing his own od, struggling with the beast’s od to retain his self – but more of this later!
Cutting through the squid-like creatures like a knife through butter, Guts in this state is a total savage, completely void of himself or any self-control. Or… is he?!
Now watch what happens now: Casca senses a presence and runs off!
Berserker Guts NOTICES that someone is moving. Miura literally used 3 panels to show us this. Guts appears to be observing the events that are about to unfold!
Then, Farny is going after Casca and in an act of bravery, fends off a tentacle spawn with her tiny dagger.
Casca at this point has reached the figure (the moonlight boy) she was going after, but THEN a huge squid monster appears before her…
…just to be slain by Berserker Guts moments after.
Ummm wait a minute…
Did he just save Casca and the Moonlight Boy here?!
For Guts to perform this action, he HAS to recognize the figure he saw as Casca and UNDERSTAND what was going on (e,g, understanding that Farnese wouldn’t have been capable of fending off THAT thing).
And he’s in his damn Berserker form, that is not *supposed to* tell friend from foe!!
Remember when Guts used the Berserker Armor the first time and Schierke was talking sense into him, he still recognized Casca even while his perception was warped? This instance is basically the same, except Guts started to act on it, too!
This goes even so far that even Farny wondered about this. If a character in the world already comments on the subject at hand like this, that’s basically Miura presenting facts before your very eyes.
The funny thing is that Miura is answering this very question in the following pages.
At first, Farnese wanted to get closer to Guts, but Schierke tells everyone to stay away from him. Following this, another very interesting thing happens:
Guts sees his companions…
…and is struggling with the beast…
“Enemy” – “No” – “Fear. Madness.” – “Sanity” – “Violence” – “Peace” – “SLAY” – “Protect” – “KILL” – “NO!“
Note how his thoughts seem on a very basic, sub-conscious level.
Guts is defying the negative mantra of the Berserker Armor and is creating his own positive mantra to fight it.
This is exactly why the Beast of Darkness was in chains before he entered the armor!!!
The Beast of Darkness continues being in chains, and demands that GUTS SURRENDERS TO HIS OD.
That can ONLY mean that GUTS so far is IN CONTROL! (well at least, to a degree he is!)
Guts, on a very subconscious level, is learning a huge lesson here: He is preserving some of his gentle and well-meaning self while going Berserk.
The moonlight boy interferes, giving him affirmation for what Guts just has learned and done! Let me just tell you how beautifully written this is, given the symbolism in the following pages:
The boy is telling him to focus his gaze, then touches the spikey front of his chest armor, under which Guts’ heart is resting…
The touch and his words seem like he was saying…
…”Focus your gaze here, deep into your heart – that’s right.”
“You know this. You mustn’t lose it. You mustn’t destroy it.”
The Moonlight Boy is reaffirming what Guts had already known deep down being the Berserker, as proven by the fact he 1) recognized and saved Casca in Berserker form and 2) is fighting the armor’s od even more on seeing his comrades. What happens visually is that the boy shows him the faces of his companions, which were obfuscated by the armor’s vision before!
And y’know what?
Guts listened. His inner struggle transforms into a physical struggle as he attempts to get out of the armor all by himself.
Guts is physically forcing the armor back by his extreme power of will. Still, it keeps on snapping down on his head as it struggles for control.
However, it still required a daring Schierke pouncing on him, performing a spell and pulling back the helmet for Guts to return to his human form.
While Schierke is away, Guts invokes the Beast of Darkness, which is depicted in chains. He retains enough sanity to be able to naturally recognize and save Casca in Berserker form. Not only that, we see him recognizing his companions later as well! Schierke attempts to reach him with her astral projection but cannot, possibly because Guts and the Beast of Darkness are struggling over control and the ods are running high. Casca runs off to the Moonlight Boy, and Berserker Guts notices this, saving her from a tentacle monster. Farnese is wondering whether Guts is to his senses. You see Guts’ consciousness in the Berserker Armor actively fighting the Berserker Armor’s od and The Beast of Darkness is displayed in chains, demanding Guts to yield himself. Eventually, the Moonlight Boy enters the scene and touches Guts’ heart, reaffirming what Guts has already known and done (like keep on telling himself that Casca and his companions are friendly and to be protected, as a way to fight the armor). This triggers Guts fending off the Berserker Armor all by himself, to the point he is able to force the helmet back, but it keeps on coming down on his head. It still needed Schierke to cast a spell and physically pull back the helmet to get him back completely.
In the following chapters I can totally picture a scene like this: Guts appears to be full savage, but the strength and pureness of his heart has grown so strong that it is shining through even then. Imagine a mad Berserker still doing acts of kindness (e.g. saving others) despite of his appearance (he’s technically already doing this). Then, the degree of control he has over the armor has become so strong that Casca or any of his companions only have to touch him in order to get him back completely. Well, this is completely ignoring the fact the Beast of Darkness will explode in a storm of hellfire, like it has mentioned in Guts’ nightmare on the ship – but a fan can dream at least!
Now: What happens when Guts fights the Sea God? To find out, see the next page!