Note: The Berserk Fanletter is still on my mind, but because of personal reasons sadly I could not continue it. I hope to get it done and send it in the next few weeks. Really sorry for the long wait!
Serpico is really interesting from a character point of view. He was always a person mostly devoid of emotion, which probably had its feats, but at the same time, it made him cold and unable to invoke change. Even though Serpico is “just” a side character, his character would change so much as the manga goes on.
People only grow if they venture out of their comfort zone, try new things, push themselves and their abilities to the edge. The key to personal growth for example, as introvert attempt to be extroverted, as emotional person become more calm, as calm person become more emotional. Balance, rather than specialization is key.
Carl Jung described this process as individuation [scottjeffrey.com]. Individuation brings forward the subconscious to the conscious, developing hidden talents and, thus achieving psychic wholeness: A state only a few manage to achieve.
Introduction of Serpico
When he is being introduced in volume 16, Serpico is depicted as a comedic relief character.
In the beginning, while the Holy Iron Chain Knights are trying to capture Guts, he states his reason for enlisting in a squad of high ranking nobles was the fact he dislikes the sight of blood, much to Azaan’s disapproval. This happens around chapters 119 to 120.
The fact there might be more to his character is first shown in chapter 137, where he drops a bowl of soup that — interestingly enough — interrupted Jerome’s loud complaints directed towards Farnese. Was he trying to protect Farnese from Jerome, or was that just his clumsiness at play?
Abused & Obedient servant
As a 10 year old boy, Serpico carried the burden of earning his daily bread all by himself while also taking care of his sick mother, his father being completely absent in his life. He apparently grew up on the streets, frequently getting beaten up over food. Some of the abuse came from a couple of street kids who beat Serpico up, reminscing of a high school bully stealing your lunch.
His mother also pressured him: telling him he is of noble blood and deserves better, just to have him question it the same day getting beaten up on the streets. Psychologically, experiences like these can numb heart and mind.
Farnese was using him as a play thing as well when Farnese picked him up one snowy day, and saving his life in the process. Her declaration of ownership by the way parallels Guts and Griffith, too: “Now you belong to me”.
The fact he never showed any resistance towards her abuse was perpetuated by their master/servant dynamics: she treated him as property. He was literally like a stone Farnese picked up on a cobblestone path. Read this section in chapters 185 to 186, “Of Snow and Flames”.
I find this particularly interesting: someone who received abuse has a tendency to attract more, other abusive relationships, partially because abusers know what personality traits to look out for. Naturally, Serpico’s case is very different, apparently dictated by fate, but it’s interesting his backstory was written this way.
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Protector of Farnese
On meeting Guts, Serpico started to unfold his own potential as well, e.g. by dueling him the first time after the Goat apostle was defeated. Consider that up until this point, Serpico was displayed just a mere servant and was giving our boy Guts an extremely hard time. After this encounter in chapter 150, he contemplates how he shouldn’t let this matter grow over his head, hiding behind a mountain ledge.
He is also self-aware of Guts making him, a usually calm guy, hot-headed and impulsive. During their duel in Vritannis in chapter 257, Serpico contemplates how his mind was numb and how Guts has set something inside of him on fire. Here, he recalls Enoch village, pondering how he too was affected by the heat that affected Farnese. It seems like Serpico first noticed that Guts changed him as well through his half-sister.
I am very sure the sylph cloak and sword have also helped Serpico be affected by the heat, because being elementals of fluctuating wind. Yet, Serpico mastered both quickly and with ease. He was stepping outside of his comfort zone, outside of his usually calm demeanor by acquiring wind elemental weaponry.
“They are what is most foreign to me”— Serpico pondering about the Sylphs
During the Enoch Village incident, Serpico puts his trust into Guts’ unyielding spirit, embracing the changes Farnese has been going through.
Despite of Guts proving his loyalty and reliability to him (he saved Farnese together with Casca after all), Serpico has no inhibition to get in his way once Farnese and him split in Vritannis. It is interesting that Guts, while going after her, has no intention to harm her whatsoever, but it seemed like Serpico perhaps perceived him as a threat after his experiences on the beach. This is where Berserker Guts lunged towards his companions, just to be stopped by the Moonlight Boy (chapter 243).
Trauma and Empathy
Another thing that I find fascinating about Berserk: Miura makes his characters empathy-driven. For example, we have Farnese, who has grown up neglected, lonely and attention-starved. As child, she helped burning people at the stake, because her parents carelessly let her live in a room directly next to burning grounds. She abused Serpico, and burned down a mansion as a reaction to an arranged marriage against her own will. Now if we skip to volume 40, because Farnese knows exactly how it’s like to be alone in this darkness and knows the pain like no other (as her mom herself said) she wishes to be a light to Casca.
The same applies to Serpico. Because of his trauma, he attained a degree of sensitivity to certain matters. Serpico’s trauma was largely induced by Farnese’s horrible actions, even protrudes his adulthood when she forces him to burn his own mother at the stake.
Because of this, he cannot stand the sight of flames and apparently feels sick seeing people burning at the stake. He also helps a little boy, who was threatened by one of the peasants because he was the son of one of the heretics that were burned. If the little boy didn’t also throw a torch, he’d be burned at the stake just like his dad. Serpico stepped in to prevent this. He reveals this act was “personal” towards Jerome. Serpico already is showing more empathy than Farnese, acting on his experiences. It’s also somewhat amusing because in the very same sequence, Farnese is pondering about Mozgus words, thinking how she should not feel bad about the death of others, since it’s God’s will anyways.
Furthermore, we also see him giving some street kids a bit of money. After all, before he met Farnese, it was him who had to struggle to earn money and not starve to death in the same way.
A Result of Growth
Throughout the manga, Serpico manages to fight alongside Guts, manages to be be a powerful force on his own. He is even capable of saving him from the most perilous situations. Good examples of this are his contributions to the fight against Daiba and Ganishka’s thunder form in volume 31, around chapters 270 to 276: He makes a few unsuccessful attempts to catch Daiba and saves Guts’ life from Ganishka’s thunder attack, cutting through the wind with his sylph sword. Needless to say he also tells Zodd to bugger off, reminding Guts of why he was travelling (Casca).
In other words, Serpico is a character who found his true potential by balancing out his own personality flaws. He’s a orderly and calm person and a bit of heat and chaos helped him develop. I feel like there is a very deep understanding of the human mind to be found in that fact.
Serpico is also not the only character displaying a development like this: Schierke or even Nina learned their lessons and were transformed by the experiences they made.
This is rather off-topic but I have a public service announcement.
I got a pet a bit more than a year ago and if you’re following me on Twitter you probably already know her since I post a lot about her:
This is Ricky, the sweetest and most gentle hamster you’ll probably meet. I am so glad this tiny little rodent is in my life. I hope seeing her will make your day because I know she makes mine on a daily basis. ❤️