[Spoilers] Why did Elfhelm’s inhabitants vanish in Episode 369?

Rather than doing full chapter analysis, I’ll be writing about different topics that come up in chapters under Mori & Studio Gaga.

Chapter 369 seems an abridged version of what could have been under Miura. It’s noticeable that Studio Gaga is limited in what they can illustrate compared to Miura’s work, but I extremely appreciate their effort to make his vision happen in his honor. To me knowing the general direction Berserk was heading is solace enough and I am grateful that we are getting a glimpse of its ending.

After Griffith’s arrival, Elfhelm was caught in a calamity that tore the entire island apart. Shortly after, almost all of its inhabitants (Dannan included) vanished.

So… Why did this happen?

I think if we take a look at Flora’s Spirit Tree Mansion from around volume 24, we may find an answer to this question.

The Spirit Tree Mansion was located in a rather deep layer of the astral world that usually prevents physical bodies from entering unless invited by the domain’s master. In volume 24 Guts and his traveling party managed to enter it without a problem, as both Guts and Casca being branded people existing on a transitional layer between astral and physical realms (the Interstice) allowed them to enter. When the Mansion was attacked by apostles, the Spirit Tree was set on fire and subsequently destroyed, the domain closed.

Now with Elfhelm, something similar must have happened. In Episode 368 the Great Cherry Blossom Tree has dispersed all of its leaves. Dannan has collapsed prior in Episode 367. These two events may be causally connected. Whether the tree actually died or merely lost all its leaves (what trees do when autumn comes) is something that needs to be elaborated. However, my guess is that the Cherry Tree (or at the very least, its source of energy) is still alive but may need some time to recover or regrow. Otherwise, Dannan stating how Casca, Schierke and Farnese were accepted as inhabitants of Elfhelm in Episode 364 would have been pointless from a narrative point of view. As far as I am concerned, this statement exists in order to give these characters a peaceful safe haven if the need arises (concerning is the fact that Guts was left out of this). Just because a domain became inaccessible to physical beings, does not mean it ceased to exist altogether.

But what did happen is that all its inhabitants vanished with the connection to the astral plane being severed. Both the Cherry Tree dying or being weakened and the fact that Casca was taken by Griffith (ergo weakening the strength of the Interstice) may have contributed to this.

However, this is where I notice that Miura’s ideas that Mori knew about may have needed some fleshing out.

The Dannan Question

But why did Dannan vanish as well?

The fact she vanished only means that she does not possess a physical body, which would tie her to the physical realm like the other mages who did not vanish (e.g. Gedfring and the Elders).

So when does a human being cease to have a physical body? Generally there are two possibilities for this to happen in Berserk: one is getting lost in the astral world as luminous body (a danger Schierke is exposed to whenever she casts a spell) or death.

That’s a strong hint that Dannan actually is Skull Knight’s lover, the Cherry Blossom Princess and did die at some point. However, the question how she managed to stay in this astral dimension rather than be sent to the Abyss remains. Remember the Cherry Blossom Priestess was shown to have a brand on her shoulder in episode 362. But she might be defying her destiny, a situation that reminds me of Flora’s words to Schierke in chapter 202:

For good measure, a collection of hints or suggestions that Dannan and the Cherry Blossom Priestess are the same person:

  • In Episode 362 Schierke notes that Dannan and Cherry Blossom Priestess from the blood memory look extremely alike
  • Dannan’s hand-me-downs that she gave to Farnese were woven in cherry blossoms. This implied to be a piece of attire Dannan used to wear long time ago
  • The interaction Dannan has with Skull Knight in episode 363 seemed sentimental and romantic. I have seen Miura’s sketches of this particular panel where the characters were placed even closer together, which makes this impression even stronger. The fact that Skull Knight then immediately friendzones her by stating how he is not the person he used to be, is also strange
  • The gravestone from below the Cherry Tree was of Skull Knight’s beloved, which indicates that Dannan might be tied to it, in case they are the same person. In fact, the Great Cherry Tree may have thrived because of her power of existence that still remained around her gravestone
  • Another hint which I consider unconfirmed: Dannan’s devotion to help out the brownies might be connected to the fact that in her lifetime, she lived in extravagance together with her lover, the Emperor (which is hinted at during Skull Knight’s myth in volume 10) and felt remorseful about it. She is also constantly shown to bring pumpkin pie and other treats throughout episodes 362 and 364

Hope this article could clear things up!

Thank you for reading. Let me know what you think about this topic in the comments section below!

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