In this chapter we have focus on memories and what happened in the past, revealing the circumstances Skull Knight died in the Berserker Armor. This chapter impresses with a sequence of great double spreads, surreal environments and amazing art as usual.
As the Berserker armor takes hold of Guts, he is being chained down by Hanrarr, who states that he is going to show Guts one (just one?!) of the so called “blood memories” that are engraved into the armor, causing the death of his previous owner. Morda and Schierke also joined up the scene. Hanrarr hits Guts with his hammer for another time and he enters a full flashback. A surreal scenery unrolls before Guts’ eyes, a corridor of spine-like tentacles with the Abyss in the background. In the distance you can make out a small plateau with five figures on it. Then we see another spread with furred creatures peaking out from the spiney tentacles. The bottom part reveals blood splatters and depict how these creatures are being cut apart. This appears to indicate a fight.
On the next page we clearly see who the five figures in the distance are: at the center there is Void and we see four other unknown beings next to him that have quite an abstract shape. On seeing this scenery, Guts attempts to lunge towards them, breaking the chains he was being held down with. Schierke states this memory resonates with him strongly. But then he stops instantly when another memory of Skull Knight is revealed: Suddenly, he is holding a woman in his arms.
What is heartbreaking is how she reaches out to his cheek in this shot before she died. The woman also has a brand on her shoulder and splatters of blood appear to be on her face and neck. Also note the black edges on this page.
In the next page, where the woman appears to have died with her head leaned to the back lifelessly, the black edges on this page are also closing in. This indicates a loss of consciousness or perhaps even death from Gaiseric’s perspective. In the background, we see a burning brand in the distance similarly to the one we saw during the Birth Ceremony.
This memory must have hit Guts like a truck. He freezes completely experiencing this. Schierke uses this opportunity and brings Guts back to his senses.
After he was brought back, Guts reiterates how what he just witnessed was surely the end. Skull Knight confirms his assessment in the last page of this chapter, stating that he just witnessed the end of a foolish king and the beginning of a dead man stalking the night.
Man, what a ride this was. I have SO many many questions about this chapter.
On closer inspection, these appear to be individual creatures, rather than a random mass of spirits (e.g. during the Birth Ceremony). What is interesting to me is that these creatures all possess a pelt, but different shapes. It’s almost like they appear to be a certain kind of astral creature, perhaps similar to guardians of the domain or some parasitic spirit.
The eclipse dimension we know has a wall of faces and an altar. Both are identifying features of humans. But in this, we have a wall of tentacles and unidentifiable chunks of monsters, which also is connected to what looks like the Abyss. Some typical requirements for a sacrifice are missing entirely (the eclipse/full moon, an altar). We only see the brand in the background as the branded woman dies in Gaiseric’s arms.
To me this seems like many of the known rules (e.g. behelits) have not manifested yet, and it is possible Void is responsible for introducing them later in history.
What happened to the “Old Godhand” members?
It seems like the longer a Godhand seems to exist, the more abstract their form becomes e.g. Void has the most abstract form, while Slan looks mostly human. This would indicate that Slan is the most recent addition to the Godhand. Maybe they “ascended” an astral level deeper, while another set of God hands from the human world took their place? This implies a cyclic nature to the Godhand.
Or are their abstract bodies just an effect of existing too deep into the astral world, as pointed out by Flora back in Volume 24?
“Then, in the deep layer of the astral world, the scenery comes to look unimaginably different from that of the astral world. There exist astral entities with whom the ethereal bodies of mere humans cannot even compare. Angels, demons, Gods of Polytheism…”
But if they are deeper inside the astral world (their appearances seem to indicate that), are these astral beings next to Void still Godhand types? Or what if they are a stronger tier or different class of astral being, or perhaps even the archangels themselves, that somehow granted Void the power of a demi-god through a great sacrificial ritual…? Perhaps the “Godhand” members next to Void are not human-born, but beings of which existence is exclusively confined to the astral realm.
Perhaps, the rules for sacrifice is merely a “god-given” tool that is being abused by Void’s selfish endeavors. Schierke does indicate that praying to appease the resident water spirit at Enoch village will make sure that their wishes will be heard. On Elfhelm (Episode 359) Schierke also implies the local spirit of darkness residing inside a hollow tree can be appeased with an offering of an apple from time to time. It might be possible to sacrifice to benevolent forces as well, but perverting the process via dark desires, and that’s perhaps what happened 1000 years ago.
In either case, there seems to be a difference in the Godhand’s position, even if it’s just recency. When Griffith was rescued, the rescue party was not sure whether it was four or five angels that came to doom Gaiseric’s capital. This implies there was a change in the lineup of the angels.
What is also fascinating that the Lords of the Four directions also happen to have four members. Maybe Void created pact with them to obtain power and perverted it for his own selfish goals, that created great suffering (and perhaps also the Idea of Evil in the process)? It’s all just speculation for now, but I hope we’ll get answers to that soon enough. Just keep in mind that Gedfryin is likely the son of Void and can tell us a lot about who he was and what his motivations were.
The chapter also depicts the Abyss behind Void and the other astral beings. I suspect the entity deep within the Abyss, that means the Idea of Evil or similar, has not manifested yet at this point, or just had started manifesting. Perhaps it manifested precisely because of a large concentration of negative emotion due to the collective misery present in Gaiseric’s capital. In either case, the scope and dimension of this catastrophic event that eradicated the city must have been similar to, if not larger than the Birth Ceremony.
The fact that Skull Knight had someone dear to him parallels Guts and Casca. Guts seeing what happened to Gaiseric’s lover is like an eerie warning, taken to a whole new level. This could be him and Casca if he’s not careful enough. It seems like Miura is exploring Guts’ and Casca’s options by creating a parallel to Skull Knight and his history.
In this chapter, Guts is also exposed to memories (just like Casca was!) except they’re not his own, but Gaiseric’s. Casca was confronted with her own memories during the Corridor of Dreams, while Guts is confronted with Skull Knight’s memories from a thousand years ago, as if he is going to continue his legacy. It also sounds like the armor has multiple blood memories engraved in it, which seems to be implied by Hanrarr.
This entire situation puts a whole new meaning to Skull Knight’s actions until this point. Everything (or, most of it) Skull Knight has done for Guts seems to be done out of empathy. Consider Skull Knight saving Guts and Casca during the Eclipse, his warnings before the Birth Ceremony, or on the beach before Vritannis. Flora’s words from volume 24 come to mind:
Are you satisfied now? Still though, what stroke of fortune brought you to ask a favor of me? Is it for someone’s sake…? Perhaps pity for a fellow sufferer? Or are you just using him?
What if that “someone” was Skull Knight’s lover who died and he made a promise to her? Her words also make it sound like that Gaiseric has always refused the help of others, which possibly caused the death of his loved one we see in this episode.
What is also interesting is that in chapter 201, Flora also states that the dead who did not realize they died or died regretfully might roam on the interstice. We can assume that Gaiseric likely died with deep regret as well, and perhaps his soul was later bound to Hanrarr’s armor that he crafted for him. Interestingly enough, Skull Knight appears to exist on the interstice already: he often appears during full moons just like the Moonlight Boy himself. Most likely Flora has bound his soul to the armor, given that the armor was in her possession before Guts has gotten hold of it.
Another thing that I find interesting is how Skull Knight is depicted in this chapter in combination with Skull Knight’s warning to Guts on the beach before reaching Vritannis.
In the episode 362 Gaiseric is depicted with visible eyes. The eye is an important symbolism for Berserker Armor, as visible eyes indicate that the user is fully conscious and under a certain degree of control. Yet, according to Schierke back in Volume 27 (Chapter “Fire Dragon”), the last user of the Berserker Armor has died of blood loss. Ergo, it is possible to die using the Berserker Armor even if you have mastered it. Now what Skull Knight tells to Guts before Vritannis is this: “The Od that dwells in that armor is as a flame which never dies out. Even once contained, the coals yet smolder. Given the chance, it will explode into hellfire”. Was what we saw in Episode 362 Gaiseric’s final conscious moments before going Berserk and dying, or did he die of blood loss right after his loved one died…?
The location and timing of Griffith’s ascension to Godhand member and the location of his rebirth are different. It might be the same case with Void and Gaiseric. But as it stands now, Void’s transcendence to Godhand, Gaiseric’s death and the fall of Gaiseric’s empire seemed to have happened in relatively short succession. Let’s take a look…
Tower of Rebirth
This is where we see a pile of dessicated corpses that appear to be ritually sacrificed (their brands are all on their forehead). It is also the location where Griffith was held captive and tortured.
Geographically, the Tower of Rebirth seems to be located somewhere inside the city of Wyndham, considering Guts and Casca had to infiltrate the city to rescue Griffith.
Albion/Tower of Conviction
If we go by Mozgus’ statements, it seems like where the sage proclaimed the King’s sins and the King’s death happened at the same location. However, it does not mean that it was the same location as Albion, as Void was merely held captured there. Interestingly enough, The Tower of Conviction for Void served the same function as modern Tower of Rebirth for Griffith, namely the location where he was imprisoned and tortured.
Location of Gaiseric’s death
It is unclear which location Gaiseric died, but it was likely in the City of ancient Wyndham.
According to Charlotte, the city collapsed into a sinkhole of the sort, and a tower was built on top of it to cover up its remnants.
Materializing the First Godhand
Maybe Gaiseric’s kingdom accumulated a concentration of negative thoughts over time, considering it was built on hard work and also exploitation. Crime and poverty most likely spiked with burdening taxes, promoting social unrest. Together with an overlap of astral and physical realms (e.g. caused by a ritual or similar) it could have triggered a disruption in the astral world, causing the first Godhand to emerge; Similarly to what happened during the Birth Ceremony, where a temporary distortion caused by 3 branded people and the collective desire for salvation helped Femto to materialize. The combination of many factors enabled the Birth Ceremony to happen and it must be the case with what happened 1000 years ago, too.
In either case, despite of raising more questions than actually answering them, we were fed with some interesting Berserk lore in this chapter and I cannot wait for the next release. Amazing things will come with Guts directly experiencing a possible scenario for his actions. This is essentially a setup, giving him a possibility to rethink and reconsider his actions, while also building up tension within the story. Eventually, the decisions he will make from now on will also affect whether him and Casca will have a chance to get back together, even just as platonic relationship.
Thank you for reading. Let me know what you think about this topic in the comments section below!
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