Berserk Episode 361 is out! Read it here at mangadex.
In this episode, lots of world building happened mostly in form of revealing small little details to us readers. We get to see how Elfhelm is a real place and how the relationships between its inhabitants are, especially in regards to Morda. In this episode, the creator of both Skull Knight’s armor and the Berserker Armor is being introduced. Through multiple interactions, we are presented more evidence that Skull Knight is in fact Emperor Gaiseric.
This episode is well-paced and impresses with great environments and intricate art. I really love the little banter between the characters so it was quite a fun read as well. What exactly happens in this episode? Read further!
Guts and Skull Knight meet again close to the cliff! He’s not surprised by his appearance anymore. Skull Knight says them meeting again is dictated by causality. Guts tells him he isn’t any less mysterious than usual and proudly proceeds to ask him what he thinks of him arriving in Elfhelm in one piece. I really love his smile here, he seems very proud of this achievement. The best part is that Skull Knight is affirmative, calling it a good thing, and Guts even thanks him for it. At the same time, Skull Knight warns Guts not to let his guard down, because “causality has yet to converge”.
What this probably means is that the outcome of Guts’ arrival has not “manifested” yet. Causality is defined as a chain of events, and to a degree, the chain or elements of the chain can change depending on someone’s actions. What Skull Knight means is probably that it is not decided which of the possible (sub-)chain of events is about to unfold. These different smaller chains may or may not play in the God Hand’s schemes.
Guts seems upset about the knight’s assertion and asks him what he is supposed to mean by that. Just then, Gedfring gives them a visit and interrupts them.
Gedfring is addressing Skull Knight as “your Majesty”, then directly after that corrects himself: “Or rather, I believe you go by Skull Knight these days”. This is the first undeniable evidence we have that Skull Knight and Emperor Gaiseric are one and the same person. Before this, Slan did call him majesty before
Skull Knight recognizes Gedfring and identifies him as son of Vid. Gedfring introduces himself and states that he and his father were granted many audiences with Skull Knight. That implies that Gedfring and his father were both nobles in the nobles’ court back in Emperor Gaiseric’s days. Bone dad notes that Gedfring has grown up from the insolent child he once was. Sounds like a bit that Gedfring in his younger days was a lot like Isidro.
It seems that Guts is a bit overwhelmed witnessing the banter, but appears to understand what’s going on. Consider for a moment that Guts knows about the myth of King Gaiseric, he also knows that Gaiseric lived at least 1000 years ago, as he was told about the myth during Griffith’s rescue in volume 11. This is why Guts asks Gedfring how old he really is.
Gedfring notes that Skull Knight’s connection to Guts was unknown to him this far.
The old wizard then suggests that Skull Knight accompanies him and Guts to visit Hanrarr, the dwarven spirit of smithing, who forged the Berserker Armor and Skull Knight’s armor. Skully eventually agrees on going together, because his armor needs some repairing, too. This is kind of funny because there are some inconsistencies regarding Skull Knight’s armor, but we’ll get to that later.
We’re switching perspectives now!
We see how Morda has fallen asleep on the tree branch. I like that characterization of her, it seems like typical mage lessons are boring to her. As she wakes up, she miraculously notices Guts, Skull Knight and Gedfring in the distance and later instantly goes into snooping mode.
On the ground, Schierke is being taught how to use the broom. It’s interesting to note that magic usually involves about imagining, manifesting things into existence, in this case, sweeping away heavy Barytes that are responsible for “heaviness” or, y’know, gravity.
Dannan states that handling Barytes might be hard to someone who is a little tense and serious like Schierke. Which only makes sense, because Morda, who is a rebel through and through, is the one who easily masters broom flight really well, as we will see later. One of the mages (I forgot her name!) says that she still hasn’t mastered flying.
Then as Schierke attempts to fly on her own, suddenly Morda appears behind her, pushing her own broom below her (see the double handle on the panel?). She’s taking off together with her, presumably to take Schierke to Skull Knight and Guts (remember how she saw them earlier?). It feels a little bit like Morda is a curious and snoopy kind of person who likes to stick her nose into other people’s business out of sheer boredom, and being able to fly does help her with that. This page here actually bugged out on mangadex as I write this paragraph so I’m retelling you this by memory. If necessary, I will update this paragraph as soon as it is reinstated.
We see Schierke and Morda flying on their brooms, and naturally, Schierke is absolutely terrified of it. This is too far out of her comfort zone!
Morda asks her why she is so afraid now: using astral projection, she is able to fly as well, after all. To which Schierke replies, that this right here is different, because now if she falls, she might actually die. Eventually, Morda opens up Schierke’s eyes in a forced way, and quite the impressive sight of Elfhelm from above is presented to her. Props to Miura for drawing such a superb landscape!
Then we see a very nice double spread of Morda and Schierke rushing through the air. Side note: The paneling Miura has used on this page is insanely well done, I particularly like the panorama view on the bottom left which was cut into two panels to depict movement.
I really like how Morda is being characterized. She seems smart, curious, a passionate and feely type, (“Let’s feel something and lots of it”), eager to learn and see the world, at the same time she seems mischievous and cunning. I see a lot of growing potential in her character. She actually seems a lot like Farnese, except that she hasn’t experienced severe abuse and neglect (there seems to be a some of it, but she seems to take it well for some reason).
To Schierke, Morda is bragging about how she is the best to fly with a broom. For Schierke, she is different from the rest of the mages, who seem rather tame. Now Morda shows Schierke the group of Skull Knight, Guts and Gedfring going down a ravine or cave, asking Schierke where and why her friend, Guts, is going together with them (a very curious one she is). According to Morda, this is the place where the outcasts live, beings that cannot deal with the Queen’s “light and bloom”, beings of darkness similar to the shadow Schierke has summoned in episode 360.
Ergo, Elfhelm is not only a place for spirits of light, but also darker ones. I think this is a rather interesting fact about it. Rather than being a place of beings of lighter elements, it also serves as home for beings of darker, heavier elements. In a way, this parallels Falconia, where humans and apostles live peacefully together.
In either case, because Schierke probably knows that Skull Knight only shows up when really necessary, she decides to investigate. Morda, who seems to be the curious type, cheers her on for that.
This area of Elfhelm reminds Schierke of Qliphoth, and if you look at it, it does have quite the resemblance. At the same time, it’s interesting to note that even this area of Elfhelm is kept very bright in comparison to the art of Qliphoth we see in volumes 25 to 26.
Then, they pass a group of wickermen that were stored in the caverns. What Morda says here is most fascinating: long time ago, there was an invasion by a great kingdom and the wickermen were created by sacrificing captured soldiers. To justify her action of taking one of the wickermen that attacked Guts on their arrival at Elfhelm, she states that tools sometimes have to be taken out of their toolcase for them to still work. She also says that mages and sorcerers used to be measured by their reputation, the rumors and the fears they used to spread, as if villages are being their playground. It’s interesting Morda says village here, because didn’t make Schierke the experience of letting her guard down using a magic spell, causing a massive flood at Enoch village because she got carried away by the spirit’s power…?
It’s interesting Schierke calls Morda out on her power fantasies. It’s funny, because even though Schierke is the younger one here, she definitely has more experience, experience that clearly shaped her and made her wiser. Schierke says that they have a rather power-hungry member in their group too, referring to Isidro. Morda insists that she does not actually yearn for something as “childish” as this. If power is not her goal, what motive does she have, then…?
They finally meet at Morda’s master, Volvapa, a witch who specializing in curses and manipulation of departed souls. Volvapa tells her off for taking away one of the wickermen, to which Morda only replies to that she shouldn’t become mad, otherwise she will become light-headed again. This implies that Volvapa must be either quite a hot-headed character who easily gets mad at Morda, or that Morda is simply just a bad little trouble-maker. I want to think it’s a little bit of both.
Schierke is being very polite to Granny Vol, apologizing for hovering over her and introducing herself as Flora’s disciple. It appears that Volvapa has heard of or knew Flora, because she seems to recognize Schierke here. Schierke asks whether she knew her master, but that question is being left unanswered. Instead, Morda asks her about Skull Knight and the others. We find out that they are headed to the stone forest, where the dwarves reside.
Granny Vol and Morda’s relationship appears to be tense. Vol seems to be very condescending and negative towards Morda, very fitting to the fact she resides in the lower parts of Elfhelm. Morda doesn’t seem to be particularly bothered by it (she’s doing whatever she wants anyways, right?) but Schierke is embarassed by this, stuttering her goodbye to her.
We get an insight of Granny Vol’s thoughts. The fact she considers cursing Morda as way to discipline her amuses me, but I find it a little sad at the same time. She says there is a tale of old fools going around, where Flora’s pupil Schierke and Skull Knight were part of some kind of prophecy. The fact that they actually showed up is supposedly proof that something is about to happen and it appears to worry her.
Finally, the juicy bits! Schierke and Morda arrive at the forest, which turns out to be a huge cavern covered in stalactites, stalagmites and all that kind of stuff. They approach Skull Knight, Gedfring and Guts. Then we see the following interaction with Hanrarr unfold.
Hanrarr begins to ask what business a sorcerer has in this place, implying it’s an unusual thing. As soon as he turns around, Guts is reminded of Godo. Then we see how Hanrarr is surprised to see the “King”. Another strong cue that Skull Knight is indeed Gaiseric. The dwarf’s comments are most fascinating: he says that it seems like Skull Knight hasn’t died yet, which he says is expected of his work. That particular comment strikes me as odd. It’s like Skull Knight’s life depends on the fact his armor continues to exists.
Our former Emperor thanks the dwarf, because apparently he is the reason why he is in good health. Hanrarr mocks his wording, because Skull Knight is just rattling away in his coffin. That sounds like his armor is just an empty shell for whatever lies inside of it. Is Skull Knight’s soul attached to the armor? This interaction right here is actually a first official cue that this might be the case. Furthermore, was Skull Knight’s soul attached to the armor by someone of the likes of Volvapa, who specializes in manipulating perished souls? This episode raises so many interesting questions.
Hanrarr then turns to Guts, stating that he didn’t expect to see the Berserker Armor ever again, let alone together with the armor he forged for Skull Knight. Gedfring asks Hanrarr whether he can tell something about what happens when someone dons the armor. The dwarf goes on to say that he is not the generous kind, but considering how well Guts has been wearing it, that it was obviously of benefit for him. Guts states that it indeed saved him a couple of times and thanks Hanrarr for that. The Dwarf states that there is no need to thank him because he is his owner now. It is just that only because Guts has used the armor, does not mean he has mastered it yet. (Note: He’s gotten better at it, but he’s still needs time to fully master it. See this masterpost about the Berserker Armor). Furthermore, the armor turns against its host, possesses and eventually consumes him.
Presumably, in order to see how far Guts has come mastering it, he hits him with a hammer, that causes the beast to be called.
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- Because multiple characters are referring to Skull Knight as Majesty, and Gedfring appears to have known him, addressing him as majesty and even stating that he is now known as Skull Knight, it is confirmed now that Skull Knight is in fact Emperor Gaiseric.
- Guts appears very light-hearted in this episode, similarly to the Guts we saw during the Golden Age, right after his departure from the Hawks. This could be a direct consequence of Schierke removing the spears from dog Guts’ back during the Corridor of Dreams. Remember, dreams do affect reality according to Dannan.
- Volpapa ruminates on a prophecy she heard from old folks, and it does not seem like it’s a good one.
- The fact that the Moonlight Boy departed in episode 358 shows us that he is most likely going to save Guts. If this is true, and under the condition that something else is not going to happen which might require the Moonboy’s interference (see Volvapa’s prophecy), Guts has not yet fully mastered the Berserker Armor.
- Given Morda’s situation and tense relationship with her Master, she is very likely going to join Guts’ party. Moreover, she is currently being build up as character, (more than I honestly expected) which implies that she will have an important function in the future.
- Casca likely senses the Berserker Armor’s Od, making her unable to see Guts it at all. This is based on the fact that none of the creatures she saw behind Guts in Episode 360 are apostles she saw during the Eclipse, but are more symbols of someone losing their humanity (see this post about Episode 360 under the headline “Casca: Sensing the Beast” ). Bringing Guts and Casca back together inevitably leads to finding out what the Armor does to Guts.
- If it is true that Moonlight Boy departed to save his father and will reach Elfhelm, his mother is not going to be far away from him, either. If Casca follows the Boy’s od, she will likely see Guts in Berserker form, and that can get ugly really fast. At the same time, once this happens Casca will want to figure out what happened both to Guts and her son. This is something I predicted would happen and I believe this final arc will focus on finding that out.
- If the Moonlight Boy stays for quite a while in Elfhelm, Griffith will be gone from Falconia for a longer period of time. What will happen during his absence? Will Falconia fall into chaos? Will the apostles be a threat to the population once the glue holding it all together will be gone?
Wickermen, the Ancient War & Magic Rituals
There are a couple of interesting things noted in this bit. I want to believe the Kingdom that invaded Elfhelm back then was either actually King Gaiseric’s, or at the very least, a rivaling one, such as Void’s, probably. We don’t know for sure yet, but I think we are going to get some backstory on that very soon.
Hanrarr & Godo
This is probably just a “vague worldbuilding” detail about Godo, not something that is confirmed in any way, but I think it is worth mentioning, mostly because it fits quite well.
Both Hanrarr and Godo have a similar appearance and temper. Their eyebrows are very similar and they are both short and very grumpy lads. Moreover, Godo even lived close to a cave that was inhabited by elves (Consider that the Japanese term for elves also includes other ethereal creatures, such as fairies and dwarves). Was Godo the last of his kind to live in that cave? Was he maybe some kind of hybrid, part dwarf, part human? Lots of interesting questions here!
Gedfring — Void’s son?
Moreover, Gedfring apparently was the spoiled child of a nobleman called “Vid”, who attended multiple audiences with the majesty. If Gedfring’s father is in fact Void (which he could be given the similarity of both names Vid and Void), that has some interesting implications. If this is true, Gedfring likely knows what happened 1000 years ago and how and why his father become a God Hand member. If Void was the sage that Mozgus talked about during the Conviction Arc, it also makes sense that his son became a mage as well.
Daemons & Volvapa’s role
I am very sure that Volvapa will be important given her field of expertise. The fact curses are her specialty might help Guts and Casca find the knowledge to deal with or even remove the brand altogether. She also might be able to modify the Berserker Armor like Flora once did.
Also consider for a moment that just a chapter before, we were introduced to the concept of Daemons, who are heroes and mages of legend, existing in the layers of the astral world. Was Skull Knight once a Daemon, who was later attached to his armor after his death via magic? The fact that Berserker Armor and Skull Knight’s current armor are two completely different entities speaks for this (Before reading episode 361, I used to think that Skull Knight must have transformed to his current physical form as he died in the Berserker Armor, somehow merging with it together). To me it appears like that Hanrarr forged the armor and Skull Knight’s soul was bound to it by a spell afterwards. The interesting thing is Skull Knight’s horse could have been brought back to the living the same way, given its design. It could have been someone like Volvapa to bind Skull Knight’s soul to Hanarr’s armor, given her age and expertise to manipulate deceased souls.
To sum it up, this was a most interesting episode with a lot of world building going on. It raises a lot of new questions while answering some. It should be most interesting to see what else Miura has up his sleeve!
Thank you for reading. Let me know what you think about this topic in the comments section below!
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