Man, I don’t know what to say. On the one hand, this episode was a bloody thrill ride hurtling towards a huge portion of Berserk’s story. But on the other hand, it’s moving too fast, and a lot of the subtle emotional subtext was lost due to its often wooden animation, which totally killed this episode for me. I was still smiling like a goon staring at Guts while he ripped through the pampered and ill-trained Holy Iron Chain Knights, but when it came time to be serious the impact just wasn’t there.
This episode was a somewhat important peek into what makes Farnese tick, as a true sadist (with a strong leaning towards masochism too) her confrontation with Guts inside the tent was meant to show how twisted she is, but due to everyone’s stilted cardboard faces, the scene totally failed. Well, let’s back up for a second
After the brutal death of Tonio—the VO was absolutely hilarious by the way—Guts decides to charge their leader, Farnese, and use her as a shield to escape. But his exhausted body fails him and he is “bested” by Farnese. She then locks him away, because she sees him basically as the Anti-Christ who has been going around killing children and the like.
"Before Guts awakens, he has this absolutely gorgeously realized dream about Griffith—the animation and art here were INCREDIBLE, absolutely blowing my mind."
As much as I’ve levelled complaints at Beserk‘s occasionally ropey animation, there was one notable exception. Before Guts awakens, he has this absolutely gorgeously realized dream about Griffith—the animation and art here were INCREDIBLE, absolutely blowing my mind. The narrative purpose of this dream wasn’t nearly as striking however mostly a rehash of how important they were to each other and how it made Griffiths’ betrayal that much more brutal. But this also made the transition back to reality incredibly jarring because of the dip in animation quality. Anyway, Guts is then stood up in the tent and the interrogation begins.
Farnese is a sadist and a bit of a masochist, even though I realize these are two opposing concepts. As she is talking to Guts—who totally just stonewalls her in the best way—she not only viciously flogs him but also appears to get visibly aroused with every crack of her whip. So much so, she ends up losing control completely and totally goes to town. Thankfully, Guts is basically numb to any amount of pain, I mean, the guy hacked his own arm off with a broken dull sword. This whip is child’s play.
But as I eluded to earlier, this scene should have been a somewhat tense and dark look into Farnese’s psyche, but the animation ultimately failed us. While her voice actor did a fantastic job, unless you’re blind or looking away, you’ll be staring at her wooden face. You can’t even read it as being pathologically cold-hearted, it’s just bad. This animation style just doesn’t allow for deep displays of emotion and it’s here that the episode lost me.
"This interrogation should have been a somewhat tense and dark look into Farnese’s psyche, but the animation ultimately failed us."
Anyways, after the torture concludes Guts is again locked in a cage and left outside like a dog. Puck then swoops in and frees him after guess what, night falls, and the demons come. Speaking of Puck, Puck is the best. Puck is the cute/annoying/lovable fairy companion to Guts, as like I’ve said previously, he complements Guts’ constant dark and brutal outlook on the world. He’s also there to occasionally convey exposition, thoughts or emotions Guts is feeling but can’t show. Puck was a great addition to this episode. Moving on.
After being freed from the cage, Guts sneaks into the tent to find Farnese in the middle of self-flagellation. This was a really interesting wrinkle; as a woman od faith, Farnese is terrified by her sadism, viewing it as a sin. So not only does she beat others, but she beats herself regularly. Guts knocks her unconscious (presumably meeting her flagellation quota for the day) , steals a horse and rides away—but he is followed by Serpico, Farnese’s right-hand man. And man, that final shot of Serpico was rad, almost straight out of the manga.
The music and voice over, as ever, was absolutely top notch, seriously, big ups to all the actors and music coordinators across the board. I don’t know how the actors feel about the animation but it must be tough trying to convey emotions that feel believable when all we are looking at are planks of wood.
All in all, this wasn’t a terrible episode, feeling at the very least more cohesive than the premiere, but the animation was once again a mixed bag. The dream sequence and the opening fight scene were both great, even the shot of Serpico at the end was particularly striking, but the middle portion of the episode (and I feel terrible for saying this) looked like the handiwork of interns.