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“The thing about hatred… It’s the place where people who can’t look sorrow in the eye without waverin’ run off to.”– Godo
Berserk is arguably the greatest manga of all time. That is usually a statement that could be deemed as hyperbolic or exaggerated, but when it comes to the late Kentaro Miura’s masterpiece, this is a perspective that seems extremely valid. From the art, the writing, the themes, the storytelling, the moments, the battles… Berserk has it all and does it at a tremendously high level.
In a series with so many great chapters and moments, “Cracks in the Blade”, chapter 129 of the manga, is a very high point. It is not a tragedy like the Eclipse, not an epic fight like the one Guts has against Rosine in the Lost Children arc or a romantic moment like the first time he slept with Casca… it is just Guts talking with Godo, the blacksmith, in the latter’s deathbed. And, in a way, captures everything about the true message of Berserk about healing from trauma.
Guts has returned to Godo’s cabin to see Rickert and Casca after two years of hunting apostles for his revenge on Griffith and the Godhand. It turns out that Casca, still mentally broken after the events of the Eclipse, has run away and they can’t find her. This initially angers Guts, but then he is told that Godo, the blacksmith that forged his sword, the Dragonslayer, is dying.
Godo, still with some fire within him, fixes the damaged Dragonslayer after two years of extreme use and has a final conversation with Guts. There he tells him that his quest for revenge, whether is valid or not, has meant him leaving Casca behind, and that he should think what he really wants, with perhaps leaving hatred and vengeance behind him.
One of the biggest themes of Berserk is trauma and how people deal with it. The way people become apostles and members of the Godhand are clear examples of this: they are individuals that were not able to move on from the trauma they went through and sold themselves to the darkest corners of their souls. Guts hasn’t done that, but during this point of the story he did sell himself to hatred and revenge.
A common trope in anime and manga is letting the cool guy be the cool guy. A character like Guts can be viewed as cool and badass, but the manga goes to great lengths to show that this is a man that was forged by trauma as a kid thanks to the likes of Gambino, his failed father figure, and Donovan, an abuser. After Griffith’s betrayal, he goes borderline psychotic and can only thrive in violence, seeking to kill any apostle he can get his hands on.
As the reader we understand his point of view and know that these creatures deserve to be destroyed, but he reached a mental breakdown in Lost Children that showed he wasn’t in his right mind. Kentaro Miura was a genius storyteller because he emphasized that mental breakdown and then had Godo do the rest in “Cracks in the Blade”.
Godo, from a place of actually caring for his wellbeing and supporting Guts, tells him that there are things more important than hatred and revenge. That he never allowed himself to grieve the ones he lost in the Eclipse, and that he left Casca behind when she needed the most support. That Guts wasn’t fighting to protect or save others, but rather to satisfy his own violent desires.
At the same time, this is one of the few times in the entire series where Guts has a mentor figure of sorts that can guide him during these difficult moments. One of the very few moments he had a father figure. Since he was born, all he ever knew was violence, disdain, and getting the very few good things he had going on taken from him, thus prompting the worst qualities he has to come out.
Here Godo criticizes his actions but does from a place of wanting him to get better. And while he certainly didn’t have to go through the Eclipse and fight the apostles, Miura gives a lot of hints about Godo’s life and shows one of regret, trying to ignore everything that afflicted him, giving this conversation a lot more meaning and value.
Guts is a very flawed individual, but he is not a bad person–not even close when compared to most people in Berserk. He is not a hero, he has made mistakes, and, until this moment of the series, had shown very little care for others after the Eclipse. However, Godo calls him out on his crap and tells him to stop searching for Griffith, to stop letting hatred feed his soul, and care for those that remain.
Godo acknowledges Guts’ struggles, trauma, and pain, and tells him that there is another way. In a day and age where we are so easily consumed by the worst side of ourselves, these words can be extremely poignant. It proved to be for Guts as this is the moment where his character changes massively, starting to accept the help of others, forming a new group of friends, and begins to fight not for revenge but rather to protect those he cares about.
“Cracks in the Blade” is a pivotal chapter in the story of Berserk, and shows all the major themes of the series, allowing us to understand Guts at his very core and, at the same time, see him grow from that. In fact, I usually don’t do this, but the YouTuber known as Spire had an entire video about this chapter (which I’m going to share), and I wanted to show two comments that highlight the entire discussion between Godo and Guts:
“Wow. All Gambino did constantly was break him down. Godo built him back up after breaking him down. If he was raised under Godo following the death of Gambino, Guts would be twice as strong as he is now. Both strong inside and out.”
“Gambino hastily crafted a lethal but structurally weak sword without passion. Godo took that blade and master crafted it into a finely honed edge.”