We all know that Guts has a soft spot for kids. As he changes and grows as a person, he goes through hell and back multiple times, but he always kept his true heart even amidst despair and insanity.
On his lowest, he hated himself for being soft and gentle and pushed himself to be brutal and merciless. Edgy black swordsman all the way!
On his best, he is supportive, emotionally responsive and even resorts to subtle flattery.
In the following, we will take a look at how his attitude towards his own softheartedness changes throughout his life.
Pure, but self-loathing
In the chapter “Spring Flowers of Distant Days” you see him being comforting and assuring towards Chitch, while in his mind, he is resenting himself for it: “Great, I’m talking to a hallucination”.
As you can see, he’s pretty self-aware of it, too:
Since Chitch is helping him and also mentioned she has been feeling rather lonely and ignored by other prisoners, Guts decides to take her to the other flowers he has seen at the castle:
That’s him being in his purest form!
Later, Chitch disappeared because she pluck all her own leaves, being eager to heal Guts. Again, he notes how he probably was wrong about her being a form of his soft-heartedness, to which he refers to as “worthless”.
Guts still kept his promise and took her flower with her, despite of not truly knowing whether she would actually live to see it.
All of this happened in a time when Guts was still sometimes edgy, but still had most of his softheartedness intact. At this moment in his life, he has seen the harshness of the world, but deep in his heart, he was still the young boy trying to get praise from his adoptive father.
Harming kids? Excuse me for a little…
Whenever Guts would harm a child later on, you see him vomit shortly after the heinous act. What’s also noteworthy about these instances is him throwing up isn’t solely for the fact he harmed a child, but also for an entirely different reason (injury, hacking away at a half-rotten corpse, poison). Still, it’s interesting these things always seem to go together every time it happens.
Morals? Ain’t nobody got time for that
However, during the Lost Children Arc he pushed himself to ignore this soft spot for children in general – and kill them instead. He did this so he could take down the fire children that were brought back by the demon child and Rosine, who has the appearance of a child or young teen.
After encountering Rosine and Jill together, and Rosine flying off with Jill because she is telling her to stop, Guts ponders whether he has been holding back, most likely due to the fact they are both children. He does this as he looks at the antennas of Rosine laying on the ground, which he cut off just seconds before. He basically missed her.
What a messed up way of thinking, too! Imagine you were just about to cut down two kids and the only thing you worry about is how you held back. Jeez.
The funny thing is he also misses when he shoots Rosine with his canon later during the big fight too! I always thought that was weird and thought he was too exhausted to aim properly, but this explanation makes total sense as well. Knowing Miura, it maybe is a bit of both.
Guts pushed himself to be ferocious, brutal and merciless here. Despite of being an utter jerkhole, he cared enough for Jill to save her life a few times too.
For a period of time, he basically became the monster he swore to protect himself (and later others) from by becoming stronger: Donovan, Zodd, Wyald just to name a few. The fact he is fighting himself was also shown to us before this: at the beginning of this arc, he was fighting a possessed tree, which I identified to be a metaphor for Guts’ state of mind. For more details on this, see this article:
Read more: The tree as metaphor for Guts’ mental state
It’s funny how Guts is fighting himself throughout the manga, but what part of himself he is fighting is changing: in the Lost Children Arc, he pushed himself to be more brutal and ferocious and with the Berserker Armor he’s struggling to keep his consciousness and humanity – but I feel that’s worthy of another article!
After Guts has killed Adonis more or less on accident in the Golden Age, his dream he has after he passed out in the sewers is most interesting in this context.
While Conviction Arc Guts had zero inhibitions to kill children (at least – tried not to have inhibition), Golden Age Guts detested himself for it. In his dream, you see Guts sparring with Gambino, only to be interrupted by a monster. Both Gambino and his younger self are killed by said monster, who in the end of the dream, turns out to be him (notice the nose scar!).
Guts was hit with the realization that he has become what he swore to fight against. Funnily enough – just shortly after that he heard Griffith’s fountain speech, making him rethink his old ways. After all, you have to burn down a character in order to make him question his beliefs and invoke change, which was carefully planned and done here by Miura. Only much later in the story he would be pushed to protect those he loves, which took the form of protecting Casca.
Redemption for a Heart of Gold
Thankfully, with him being in a much better state of mind in the following arcs, he has mostly embraced his gentle side and stopped hating himself for it. Judged by the interactions between him and his companions, you can tell that deep down he is very sweet, caring and emotionally responsive: when someone feels down or when something is bothering them, he tries to make them feel better.
Additionally, he is also concerned about the safety of strangers, as he cannot save them and fight apostles at the same time, like here when he is telling Luca to stay back. He doesn’t want another vulnerable person to get killed because of him, like it happened plenty of times in the past. He says similar things to Isidro throughout conviction for the same reason.
The fact that we have one of the most badass and strongest characters be this gentle is pretty amazing. This dude here (at least, when he is at his best) is the role model we always needed.