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
- during the beach scene before reaching Vritannis, he almost killed his companions in Berserker form. As a result, he pushed even further resisting the Berserker Armor/Beast of Darkness.
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.