Why did Guts leave the Hawks?

Assassination of General Julius and Adonis

The first event that was necessary to make Guts rethink his ways was the assassination of General Julius and Adonis. After there was an attempt on Griffith’s life, he decided to get rid of the danger and tasked Guts to kill General Julius.

Before he infiltrated General Julius’ chambers, he saw him sparring with Adonis. Guts is reminded of the days when he sparred with Gambino. What you can also see here is Julius taking out his anger and frustration on Adonis because Griffith’s failed assassination.

Guts was wondering why he would remind this just now. He ignored his empathy for the both of them and continued doing his job.

He infiltrated Julius’ chambers and did the deed.

What is interesting on this scene is the fact Guts did not behead him or cut off one of his limbs. Instead he struck his torso with a downward cut, which did not cause an instant death. The fact Julius was grabbing onto and recognizing him before he died takes his death to a personal level for Guts.

This is different from the battlefield. For once he was directly faced with the consequence of his actions: namely bloody and painful death – without the usual armor concealing it.

And then, the door opens. He could not afford to get seen. He charges at the figure to impale them – and as it turns out, he struck Adonis.

Guts did not mean to kill Adonis. Just after he impales him, it dooms on him that he just fatally wounded a kid, piercing his heart.

Miura used multiple panels to express Guts’ shock and also Adonis’ pain. You see the boy crying as he passes away, he clearly didn’t understand why this was happening. The least Guts could do for the kid was to grab him by the hand as he reached out to him before he died. As death overcomes the boy, Guts grabbed his face in shock: “What have I done?”

But there isn’t much time to think for Guts because he has to escape. He fights his way through the guards. After falling down the walls and getting injured by an arrow, he manages to escape into the sewers.

In the sewer, he hits his head against a rock and passes out. Then, because the guilt was still lingering in his subconsciousness, he has a nightmare.

The nightmare enters with Guts contemplating about Gambino: “That’s right… I was always desperate, always trying to get you appreciate me”.

Then we see a creature that resembles Zodd first striking down Gambino, and then impaling young Guts as he begs the monster to stop. At the end of the nightmare, the monster turned out to be him: note the typical Guts eyebrows and nose scar in the last page where the face of the monster is shown.

The entire act of his monster self killing his younger self can be interpreted in multiple ways:

  • it is metaphorical for Guts forming a new identity and self-perception, which is done just one chapter later (in order to make a character do this, you have to shake or destroy them first)
  • it is a parallel to Zodd slaughtering the Hawks in the same fashion as Guts slaughtered Julius and Adonis
  • by striking down the one he was always craving appreciation from, Guts no longer wishes for this from anyone (at least, this would have been true, had he not decided to find his own dream to get Griffith’s appreciation and friendship later on)

Either way, something inside of him broke.

After Guts woke up in the sewers, he is absolutely disgusted by it, which is why you see him vomit shortly after. The interesting thing is he vomits every time he hurts an innocent child. This is further detailed in the article Embrace Your Softness under the headline “Harming Kids? Excuse me for a little…”.

You also have to consider that an assassination is different than killing someone on the battlefield. On the battlefield, people are usually prepared for battle and to eventually die: It’s a natural occurrence, it’s to be expected (but honestly, doesn’t make it less fucked up). Here, the situation is so much more casual and personal. It is also made very personal by the fact Guts saw both Adonis and Julius sparring. This and the condescending attitude Julius has towards Adonis reminded him of the old days with Gambino.

Guts must have felt very conflicted about this as a result. He just killed father and son that will never get a chance to reconcile or find resolve in their tense relationship – just like him and Gambino.

The interesting thing is, Guts’ realization what atrocities he is capable of comes to him multiple times, which is then utilized to drive the narrative forward:

  • when he killed Gambino on accident he is being expelled from the mercenary group he initially served in
  • when he sexually assaulted Casca, he decides to stay away from her and let Farnese, Serpico and Isidro join him as a result
  • he also agrees on helping the witch Flora in exchange for an amulet which he perceived to help against sinister thoughts and actions

It’s as if this entire situation made him pause and wonder: is this what I want to keep doing for someone else, just to be a tool for someone else’s dream? Do I want to continue to be Griffith’s pawn and do horrible things on his demand and for his dream or do I want to be a master of my own?

He refused to both continue living without a purpose and become/continue to be a monster (pick one) doing the wet work for Griffith.

Guts later was disposing of the shifty bandits that rescued Minister Foss’ daughter Elise on Griffith’s command (in exchange to burn his opponents as they celebrate his fake death). Guts even wonders whether that wasn’t too cruel of Griffith, but we also see how Guts is reassuring him. This may have played a role in his decision of leaving, because it showed how Griffith intended to make him keep doing the dirty work.

6 thoughts on “Why did Guts leave the Hawks?

  1. Another great article, it changed my mind a lot. In the first place I want to point out how the hell loyal Guts is, he’s loyal to the extreme. He entered the hawks against his will but once in and even wanting to leave he stays just because they need him. He waited to leave when all the work was done and apparently he wasn’t needed anymore, the Hawks were in a good situation and all was rolling so good. No one could expect Guts leaving there could cause such a disgrace or at least I’m pretty sure Guts didn’t thought that.

    I used to be one of those who think Guts leave “just” because of the fountain speech, and I’m still pretty sure Griffith was bluffing there to princess Charlotte, but now I see how Guts had his own reasons indeed.

    I think Griffith was bluffing because I believe Griffith indeed blame himself for the whole thing, his lack of empathy and egocentrism doesn’t let him see Guts’ reasons to leave the Hawks. (Now I’m not sure if Griffith was aware of Guts listening him at the fountain, I believe at least he suspects that. I ought to reread the whole manga honestly). Once Guts leave and Griffith suspects it has something to do with his speech to Charlotte he runs to rape her, he’s making her pay the price. If he didn’t try to bluff her at the fountain Guts would have not leave.

    Your text also makes me think about how Guts resembles her inner beast and if he has a Goal yet in his life or not. I think not, he still is a loyal stray mad dog and he just want to serve someone. Now he’s serving “his” own band but I put “his” because he’s just the big guy who chop the enemy into pieces, he’s not the leader of his band. In a way he still plays the same role he played in the Hawks, the role he plays the best in fact.

    I mean it’s kinda weird, the band exist because of Guts, all of them are there following him and admiring his might and that makes his ties to all his companions much more solid but it’s hard to me to say Guts it’s the leader. For instances in the battle against the trolls it was Schirke who was in command, that was magic lol.

    In the Hawks he felt also needed but not in the same fashion, the band was still Griffith’s band and all the Hawks would put Griffith above him, now his responsibility is much bigger, he can not die, he must live, not for him but for his beloved ones.

    It’s poetic, Griffith made a band to pursue his own dream, Guts it’s making a band to help others pursuing their own dreams.

    Since I believe Skull Knight was a person much like Griffith, who has his own dreams and big goals, he doesn’t understand Guts will be fine whatever Casca’s decision is.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the insightful comment!

      Honestly Guts’ loyalty is admirable but also his greatest weakness. He gets attached to people and losing those he values affects him a lot. E.g. see the Eclipse, or see how hard he struggles to keep his current companions.

      I personally think there was some truth to what Griffith said to Charlotte during the fountain speech, but I also think it probably was also bluffing in part. I want to believe Griffith didn’t care too much about someone having a dream to be his friend in reality, because obviously, Guts was very important to him. Towards the end of the Golden Age, he actually did see him as friend (Zodd kind of implies it in his warning to Guts when they first meet: “If this man considers you a friend, death awaits you”, paraphrased)

      Griffith actually did know! Remember how he eavesdropped Guts and Casca’s conversation when he was resting in the carriage after he was rescued? Casca did mention the fountain speech there and how Guts had to leave because of this. I think knowing that it was him that made Guts leave just because he was trying to impress the Princess actually made him run away in the carriage in volume 12. He couldn’t bear it was his own fault, so he just tried to focus on his dream in despair.

      Yes, it is entirely correct that Guts flourishes most when he can serve others. He finds values in people instead and making them happy, or at the very least, giving them comfort. I think Guts is capable of leading, but his lead is different: I think it’s more like a leading on a deep, “spiritual”-level, pushing those he values closer to their true purpose in life. Through him, people find out who they really are and what truly matters to them.


    1. Hello Abiola, there are different pages on this article. You can browse through them clicking the page numbers on the bottom of the article.


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