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Berserk

Berserk (Japanese: ベルセルク Hepburn: Beruseruku) is a Japanese dark fantasy manga series written and illustrated by Kentaro Miura. Set in a medieval Europe-inspired dark fantasy world, the story centers on the characters of Guts, a lone mercenary, and Griffith, the leader of a mercenary band called the “Band of the Hawk”. Themes of isolation, camaraderie, and the question of whether humanity is fundamentally good or evil pervades the story, as it explores both the best and worst of human nature. Both the manga and anime are noted for their use of graphic violence and sexual content. Miura premiered a prototype of Berserk in 1988. The actual series began the following year in the now-defunct magazine Monthly Animal House, which was replaced in 1992 by the semimonthly magazine Young Animal, where Berserk continues to be serialized intermittently. The series was adapted into a twenty-five episode tv anime series covering the series’ Golden Age arc by Oriental Light and Magic from October 7, 1997, to March 31, 1998. A trilogy of films, Berserk: The Golden Age Arc, was released beginning in 2012. A second tv anime adaptation was broadcast from July 1, 2016, to June 23, 2017, for a total of twenty-four episodes.

Plot

Guts (ガッツ Gattsu) is a wandering mercenary who knew war and death since being born from a hanged corpse, saved by his adoptive mother who died from the plague when he is only three years old. He was raised and trained as a mercenary by his adopted father Gambino. But Gambino blamed Guts for his wife's death, selling access to the boy to a rapist among the mercenaries and later attempting to murder Guts in a drunken rage. Guts flees after killing his adoptive father in self-defense, eventually growing into a young mercenary who earned a fearsome reputation while fighting. Guts eventually catches the attention of Griffith, the charismatic leader of the "Band of the Hawk" (鷹の団 Taka no Dan) who forced Guts into joining his group upon defeating him in battle. Becoming the Hawks' renowned raid leader and Griffith's deadliest subordinate as they are hired by the kingdom of Midland, Guts learns of Griffith's strange pendant, known as the Crimson Behelit, along with Griffith's dream to obtain a kingdom of his own. When the Hawks encounter a monstrous immortal known as Nosferatu Zodd, it added further mystery to the Behelit as Zodd spares Guts and Griffith when warning the former of his impending death should he be a true friend of Griffith's.

In time, as the Hawks played a vital role in ending Midland's Hundred Year War with the nation of Chuder, Guts's gradually developed a relationship with Griffith's right hand Casca, the Hawks' only female member who initially hated Guts before falling in love with him. But having overheard Griffith once saying he considers a true friend would have his own dream, Guts leaves the Hawks as the war ended and all of Griffith's political enemies were secretly disposed of. Unable to cope with losing Guts, Griffith ruined his fortunes when found seducing the King's daughter Charlotte and ends up imprisoned to be tortured endlessly while his group are marked for death. When Guts learns this a year later, he helps the outlawed remnants of the Hawks rescue Griffith, only to find him horribly mutilated and rendered a mute shadow of his former self.

Though the group escapes and heads for the border, it became clear that Griffith would never again be physically able to fulfill his dream. But through preordained events, the despairing Griffith regains his pendant and unknowingly activates it during a solar eclipse. This transports the Hawks to another plane where they encounter archdemons collectively known as the God Hand in a ceremony known as "the Eclipse". Urged onward by the eldritch beings to become one of them to realize his dream, Griffith sacrifices his soldiers to the God Hand's "apostles"—humans like Nosferatu Zodd who sacrificed their loved ones and humanity for power. Guts and Casca fight for their lives while witnessing their comrades' brutal slaughter before Griffith emerges as the God Hand's fifth and final member, "Femto". Griffith's first act upon his ascension, later revealed to be a means of regaining his corporeal body, rapes Casca in front of Guts, who loses both his left forearm and right eye in a rage-filled attempt to kill Griffith before losing consciousness.

Though Guts and Casca were saved from death through the intervention by the mysterious Skull Knight, whom the former met on his travels, the damage is done as Casca was driven insane by the ordeal while Guts learns that the Brands of Sacrifice he and Casca now bear leave him open to preyed on by specters and other evil supernatural creatures on a nightly basis. Leaving Casca in the care of the blacksmith Godo and Rickert, a Hawk who escaped sacrifice because he was not present at the Crimson Behelit's activation, Guts begins hunting down apostles in search of revenge against Griffith.

Two years later, joined by an elf named Puck and a young thief named Isidro, Guts is later reunited with Casca as she is about to be burned as a witch in the city of St. Albion. There, encountering Farnese and Serpico of the Holy See Church's Holy Iron Chain Knights, Guts endures a nightmarish ordeal that ends in Griffith's physical form restored through the unborn child that Guts and Casca conceived before it was mutated by his influence. As Guts takes Casca to the Elven realm of Elfhelm for sanctuary with the help of his new companions, Griffith creates a second Band of the Hawk with Zodd and other Apostles among its ranks to battle the invading Kushan army. The war between Griffith and the Kushan emperor, a rogue apostle, climaxes with the emperor's destruction and the overlapping of the mortal realm and the supernatural. Now unopposed, Griffith establishes his rule over Midland with the endorsement of the Pope and Princess Charlotte, creating the city of Falconia to provide the Midlanders with refuge from the ever-increasing attacks of mythical beasts, unaware their new ruler is actually one of them. At the same time, Guts adventures across the sea with his companions to Elfhelm where thanks to the help of the fairy queen Casca gets her sanity back.

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