Honor. Chivalry. Brotherhood. These are all attributes given to the Band of the Hawk in the Berserk universe. Now, this is referring to the now 20-year-old anime rendition of Berserk, not the gritty CG version that was released 6 months back. I’m addressing this here as my Throwback Thursday post to touch base on the glorious rise and fall of the Band of the Hawk, Lord Griffith, and most of all Guts. I fell in love with the series after episode 1 and went back, watched the entire 25-episode original series, 3-part movie retelling and some 300 chapters of the manga (Berserker armor is amazing and made me very excited for the anime continuation.)
So here we start out with young teenage Guts being a rebellious mercenary fighting against the Band of the Hawk. After a chance ambush has him nearly slaughter a multitude of the mounted mercs including the beautiful second in command Casca, he finds himself defeated at the hands of super-ultra-mega bishie boy Griffith. Griffith proves himself time and time to be a brilliant tactician, effective commander, deadly warrior, and charismatic leader. This leads to some dozen and a half episodes of battles and the Band of the Hawk rising in prominence as a premier fighting force, where Guts becomes commander of the Raider Battalion, typically spearheading the battle formations and being critical to the success of the Band as a whole.
During this time highlights include: Game of Thrones level political maneuvering including assassination of nobles and the Queen, Griffith volunteering his men for the deadliest of missions and coming out on top, Guts forges bonds of brotherhood with the Band of the Hawk (and even more with Casca since she got sisterzoned by Griffith and needed some bow chicka bow wow), and the one-time Guts is beaten by someone not Griffith, in this case by a man named Nosferatu Zodd the Immortal. Barely eking out a not-dying fight, Griffith comes in and his Behelit talisman is revealed to Zodd, who revealed himself to be a daemon. Giving a vague warning of “If you call this man your friend, know this: when you regard one another as brother, and this man’s ambition comes crashing down, it is your destiny to face your death! You cannot escape YOUR FFFAAATTTEEE!!!” Then flies out of the castle with a crash.
Now we come to the point where Guts realizes that Griffith will never respect him as a subordinate, strikes out to prove himself a capable individual. Griffith, still under some misconception about owning Guts per their last duel, challenges him again and gets smashed by Guts’ raw strength and feth huge sword. After losing his best friend/man crush, Griffith goes to the chambers of Princess Charlotte and says “fuck it.” Literally. Upon leaving, he is ambushed by a number of nobles who again, really, really, REALLY don’t like a commoner basically becoming HNIC and becoming so close with the princess. The Band of the Hawk is ambushed and badly beaten and find themselves declared Excommunicato Traitoris and now are on the run. After a year of Commander Casca trying to keep the ravaged survivors of the Band together, we find them in the mountains hiding from bandits and bounty hunters. Word reaches Guts who has been training on snake way with King Kai in the mountains living with the master blacksmith Godo that the Band of the Hawk is to be eliminated in one fell swoop. Guts goes about and well, acts like Guts, coming down to save the Band of the Hawk and absolutely decimate the attackers (in the manga and movies they’re Kushan assassins, essentially Persian Immortals from 300) much to the joy of Casca, who still has feelings for Guts. (I shit you not, many of my relationships had numerous occurrences of the scene below.)
Revenge time now occurs with Guts absolutely enraged about the things that his friends have suffered and Guts and Casca plan the rescue of their leader so that they can run off together and finally be happy. Step One, secure the keys and obtain the means to infiltrate the prison called the Tower of Rebirth in which Griffith is held. After breaking in and obtaining the now crippled and disfigured Griffith, they embark on Step Two, ascend from darkness. Fighting up the stairs against dozens of men, the Raiders perform Step Three and rain fire upon those who would seek to impede their rescue. Step Four sees them unleash the horde and push forward out of the depths of the dungeon and reach the entrance of the tower. Here, Guts fights towards Step Five to skewer the winged beast, the leader of the guard and skewer them he does. They perform Step Six and wield a fist of iron, smashing through the city upon a magnificent wagon. In the commotion, they are ambushed by guards but assisted by the Band of the Hawk reinforcements and enact Step Seven and raise hell. Finally, at the end of this 23-episode marathon of interaction between broken individuals finding themselves a cohesive family and the Band of the Hawk seeks to move forward tending to their injured leader and tackling Step Eight. FREEDOM.
Then Griffith goes insane and inadvertently summons four archdaemons known as the God Hand via his Behelit. A solar apocalypse occurs, dragging the Band of the Hawk into a hellish universe surrounded by daemons. Griffith is then given the opportunity to obtain his goal of becoming king of the world, at the low, low price of sacrificing his comrades. He of course says yes and this leads to all of the members of the Band being slaughtered horribly. The cast we have grown to love and care about just as Guts has is brutally dismembered, stabbed, smashed, decimated and effectively given the most rip and tear style treatment I’ve seen on a show for a while.
The only survivors are Guts, who spent the entire time upon a giant stone fist trying to free the transforming Griffith. After nomming on all his former compatriots’ souls, Griffith emerges and nonconsensually sexes up Casca while a horrified Guts looks on, pinned by his arm under a daemon. In fact, the last thing he sees with his right eye is Casca being very vigorously taken by daemon prince Griffith as a talon stabs into his eye socket. In a fit of rage, this man takes on the mantle of manliest man of all mandom by proceeding to take a broken sword and sever his pinned arm to assault his former battle brother and save his woman. This does not end well and through the intervention of a skulled knight who had appeared intermittently, Guts and Casca escape the hellscape and Guts embarks on his quest for revenge. All this contributes to what I can only describe as the grimdark and serious mirror to JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure where the enemies just get crazier and crazier than the last. I highly recommend this if you are a fan of serious action or tragedies, and advise you to read my next article in a couple days following up on the CG anime continuation.