Warning: before you continue to read, beware of mentions of rape!
Note: because Miura does not emphasize Casca’s ethnicity or skin color in any shape or form, I will not do that in this analysis either. Maybe some other time!
Throughout the Golden Age, Casca was first and foremost written as woman, her struggles mostly centering around her femininity.
I am personally not bothered in particular by this because this is a romantic setup from the start. But you could argue that the way she is written is very traditionalist, borderlines sexism, or is even pretty sexist — that may be the case by modern standards. In fact, being a woman myself, I think even though Kentaro Miura emphasized on her gender (which can be perceived as sexist in nature), he still did a good job portraying it. To me, her problems and struggles are very relatable.
Miura’s writing still was way ahead of his time. The Golden Age was written in the middle of the 90s. To put it into perspective, let’s take a look at women’s rights and the cultural hemisphere during that time. Consider that:
- Kentaro Miura was a man growing up in Japan of the 80s/90s
- Knowledge of the other gender’s issues were NOT widespread during those times
- Japan has a very traditionalist culture and very high expectations of women in general: A good woman is supposed to stay at home from work while her husband is working and this point of view is still widespread to this day. Often, the wife was left to do chores and take care of the children all by herself, while the husband contributed little to nothing due to long work hours (and possibly other reasons as well).
- Because of the liberation of women in the recent years, the modern Japanese man struggles with the assertiveness of many Japanese women. (Guts is also struggling with Casca’s assertiveness, so it looks like Miura wrote about an issue before it became very widespread)
- Women’s rights in Japan have always been critical: e.g. to battle domestic violence, the Protection of Victims act to was passed in 2001 (other countries did the same in that year); Japan signed and ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1985, but still failed to adhere to its guidelines; With the Eugenics Protection Act (1948), artificial abortion was considered a crime and only allowed under certain conditions, until these strict conditions were loosened sometime in the 90s; In 1958, 1.1% of married women were sterilized and the numbers were growing because contraception was not a effective birth control method back then.
- Curiously enough, Japan has a very low rape incidents per capita. However, only about 13.3% of sex crimes are reported at all. This statistic only surveyed people above 16 years old, so crimes directed against minors are not even included. Additionally, 20% of sex crime victims were assaulted as minors. I suppose this explains why depictions of minor or young characters in sexual contexts or suggestive poses is culturally accepted in Japan.
I hope I don’t have to point out how fucked it is to even generally accept this as part of your culture
Everything considered, it only makes sense how Casca was written: a struggling woman, misunderstood, lonely, assaulted as a child, and always putting the need of the family (Griffith & the Hawks) above her own. The harshness of her environment has made her strong.
Now you have to consider this: amidst all of these high-expectations towards Japanese women, and the fact many women were left alone dealing with kids and household, while men are basically absent working all day; what Kentaro Miura did was to paint a picture of a supportive, emotionally responsive male protagonist who truly cares for their romantic interest, while not attempting to strip off their independence. It is most fascinating and also impressive that Kentaro Miura managed to pull this off.
Naturally, Kentaro Miura’s writing matured more over time, if we just take a look at the immense growth Farnese has been going through. But here I wish to cover why Casca is an amazing character, despite of the outdated ideas behind the way she was written.
Casca is independent
Whenever I encounter the “Casca always has to be saved” argument, people tend to simplify what happens in the manga. I don’t blame them, brains simplify information so it sticks in your memory for longer. I think what happens is more along the lines of Casca relying on others, rather than be passively saved by them. Casca always contributes and never sits by idly, even if she is being saved or given a hand. This is not a bad thing at all. It’s why I don’t think she’s a damsel in distress: someone in distress is usually incapable of acting. At the same time, Casca is indeed capable of doing things on her own if needed.
There is one situation that looks like she would be able to deal with it by herself before someone ends up “saving” her. It’s when she is being pursued by Adon’s men after the 100-Man-Slayer scene.
Here, she is being pinned down by a mercenary, but manages to break free by ramming a branch into his eye. Then, she lunges towards her sword to grab it when a volley of arrows interrupts the confrontation.
So this is how being “saved” by Judeau and the Hawks looks like. Just, what she is being saved from? Grabbing her sword and proceeding to kick ass…?! After all, one was almost out of the race because of the eye injury, leaving only two mercenaries as active threats. It looks more like the Hawks put an end to fight so the story could progress more quickly.
That being said, in volume 23 it is made clear to us that Casca can deal with 3 men (bandits) all by herself. And she dealt with them as potato, too.
That being said, Casca getting “saved” is also more of community effort with many people contributing to her escape, including Casca helping herself out. During the Eclipse, Judeau and Pippin both sacrificed themselves to keep her safe and she also attempted to defend herself. During the 100-Man-Slayer Scene it was Guts, Judeau and herself who ensured she could escape. When she falls off the Seahorse, Guts first dives after her, then she was lifted into the boat with his comrades. This is the only exception on this lineup because… potato.
Casca also does not back down towards Guts when she took the lead for Griffith’s rescue. She’s not too shy to confront him and doesn’t take any shit from him, either.
However, at the same time, Casca needs others to help her: during the 100-Man-Slayer scene, she fought at Guts’ side and could deal a significant amount of damage by herself.
But I doubt she could have taken on so many men alone, even if she were at the peak of her strength. Adon’s brother alone, Samson, could have been too much for her.
She also involuntarily relied on Guts when they fell from the cliff together.
After Guts left the Hawks, it appears that Judeau was a big support to her, encouraging her to exercise self-care. She was very thankful for it as well. She is exercising gratefulness and that is super precious. Consider for a moment how long it took Guts to be able to do the same: just think about the 2-year-rampage and how he basically ran away after the Birth Ceremony instead of maybe… thanking Isidro for saving Casca.
Current Guts has been slowly learning what Casca has been doing all this time: relying on others.
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Casca is strong & fierce
Who was the person who took down Adon? Was it Guts?
It was Casca by her own strength and sword!
What makes this achievement remarkable is that she was handicapped because of Adon’s poison dart that made her woozy and unconcentrated. She did not appear as weak as during the 100-Man-Slayer scene, given the moves she could still pull off.
On that note, apparently periods are worse than poison darts (then again, sometimes… they can be this debilitating indeed).
At the same time it is true that we do not actually see Casca fight at the top of her strength.
But to be fair, we haven’t seen Guts at the peak of his strength for a very long time either:
- The 100-Man-Slayer scene that left Guts in a pretty bad shape, was closely followed by the Battle of Doldrey. The only reason Guts could fight at all was thanks to Puck’s elfin dust that was administered to him by Casca.
- After getting beaten up by Wyald and breaking a couple of ribs doing so, the Eclipse happened just a couple of days or hours later, where he slays multiple apostles with a mere horn. Eventually he loses his arm and eye, falling into coma for at least a week. He spurts out into the wilderness in despair, mourning his comrades. Consider for a moment this is the physical (and mental) state Guts was in when he went on his 2 year rampage against the God Hand.
- First Guts slayed the trolls and ogre at Enoch village, later at Qliphot slayed more trolls. Slan injured him severely, his astral wounds putting him into mind-deafening pain. Then in this state, Guts fought Grunbeld, who basically just threw him around using him as punching bag. Then AFTER all this happened in this moment of great weakness, Guts obtained Berserker Armor and mindlessly charged at the apostles, risking his life and well-being (think of the blood loss that is caused by the Berserker Armor). All of that put such strain onto Guts’ body he had to lay down for a month or two. Even after resuming traveling, Guts was weakened while fighting the whale familiars at the beach on Vritannis. And was still weakened when he fought Daiba and Ganishka, too, considering he was bed-ridden with high fever just a couple of days before that. Let’s not even talk about what followed after that (namely the Sea God and its spawn).
So what we can conclude from this is that strength does not necessarily come from being “strong” or being physically or mentally at your best. It comes from dealing with a dire situation with wit and pragmatism, even if you are at disadvantage in some way or the other, e.g. being sick, disabled or weakened. With the right mindset, the right strategy and some resilience you can overcome almost anything. That is the case with both Guts and Casca. This leads us to the next heading:
Casca against all odds
During the Middle Ages, it was not typical for women to take on the sword and fight in an army. Not even today it is very common for women to do that, even though the amount of women in combat has increased overall. In addition to her role as warrior, despite of being a woman she managed to work herself up to a leading position, which is also very atypical for the time and setting.
Women only make about 10% of leading positions in modern day Japan. Consider for a moment this was written about 25 years ago. A woman being a warrior and commander at the same time? ABSOLUTE HERESY! — a Japanese boomer, probably
Casca’s situation was and still is very difficult: She was still a young teenager, growing up in a mercenary group. All she ever knew was the battlefield. Being a very emotional person she is left without support or someone that understood her or her problems she faces as a female. Of course, the Hawks do treat her with respect, like a member of a family, but that sense of respect or family does not necessarily replace closeness or intimacy (this is when Guts’ responsiveness towards her comes into play as means to hook them up). Naturally, she relied on Griffith first for emotional support, but that support was dwindling ever since Guts joined the Hawks. Besides this, she also has to deal with unwanted attention by men or sexist prejudice, e.g. Adon insinuating she slept herself way up the ranks.
But even facing those harsh conditions, she stood strong and never backed down, getting herself a commander spot in the Band of The Hawk and fighting for Griffith’s dream while he was imprisoned and tortured for a year.
Casca is loyal
Casca is loyal to the point she would give up herself for the sake of others.
She has been battling with her unrequited feelings for Griffith for quite some time and still endured a full year of relentless persecution together with the Hawks for his sake.
Her loyalty to Griffith also comes in the way when she is about to sleep with Guts, because she feels like she is betraying him, as if everything she felt was a lie. She is also terrified of being weak or acting cowardly.
This also implies that Casca is sincere and has a high moral standard. She does not appear to be the kind of person to take advantage of others, as proven by how she reacted to Guts’ flashback during the waterfall scene.
Casca is competent & caring
How Casca deals with vulnerable people shows how just, honorable and caring she really is.
Casca takes responsibility for tortured Griffith and does not hesitate to give him the care he needs. She is welcoming him warmly, like she is viewing him both as family member and commander-in-chief.
How Casca dealt with Princess Charlotte during Griffith’s rescue was very thoughtful and considerate. She respected her wish to see Griffith and let her come with them. A more detailed breakdown of this you can find on my tumblr here and here (until I polished this up for an article)!
At the same time, she didn’t forget The Hawk’s reputation, which would be irreversibly destroyed if the Princess was taken hostage on her own will. She is very considerate and strategic.
How she handles and leads the utterly distressed Hawks during the Eclipse is also a sign how good of a commander Casca is.
What I find fascinating about Casca is even amidst her power displays and professionalism, once she trusts someone, she reveals vulnerability and gentleness.
During the Campfire of Dreams chapter, she does take care of Guts’ wounds with (Puck’s) elfin powder as way to repay the help he has given to her during the 100-Man-Slayer scene. Remember how Casca held Guts warm when he was unconscious after the fight with Griffith? Guts did the same to Casca when they fell off the cliff together, keeping her warm, away from the rain. It’s give and take here.
From a writer’s perspective
If we from a writing perspective, there are a couple of passages that stand out as good writing in regards to Casca.
Character points out things about another character
Having another character (Princess Charlotte) point out the change Casca went through after the waterfall scene is a powerful and effective writing-tool. A more detailed breakdown of this you can find on my tumblr blog!
We also have multiple instances that reveal how the Hawks think or deal with Casca. Just look at them:
They admire her:
They will die to protect her:
And they are worried for her:
Casca appears to be well-respected by other characters in the universe. For a good reason, too.
Casca all in all is an amazing and well-written female character. Especially during Griffith’s rescue, she is being humanized a lot, where the better side of her character shows through. That only makes what happens to her during and after the Eclipse even more heart-breaking.
I think you are free to criticize the ideas and views expressed through the way she is written and it is indeed valid critique. But: it still does not change the fact that Casca is a complex character with multi-faceted feelings and motivations. How these things are delivered to the reader was finely and carefully crafted by Miura — something that makes her a well-written and timeless character in the first place.