The manga Berserk has been exceedingly successful. Kentaro Miura began publishing it in 1989, and it is still ongoing. I originally became aware of it in the early 2000s via the video game Berserk: Guts’ Rage. I don’t have much of a recollection of it. Also, I never really looked into the manga either but on a whim I began watching the 1997 anime adaptation as I stumbled upon it on YouTube. Now the manga has moved up quite a bit on my to-do list.
Without wanting to sound too sentimental, the anime Berserk deeply touched me. It plays in a brutal world full of conflict and contains a plethora of dark themes. I would not recommend it to the faint of heart. Yet, at the core of all the gore and violence are emotions that are central to the human condition, primarily what it means to be a man. Yet, aspects of (traditional) femininity are highlighted as well.
The protagonist of Berserk is Guts, a mercenary who knows little more than how to fight. He joins the private army of a renegade aristocrat warlord named Griffith. As this arc of the story unfolds, topics like loyalty and subservience to someone you consider your superior are highlighted. Guts follows Griffith and joins his army because he wants to be part of something bigger. Griffith, however, is not at all depicted as being morally beyond reproach. He is a ruthless narcissist. His goal is to have his own kingdom one day.
Compare this to today: Let’s say you wanted to join a cause that is bigger than yourself. What could you even do? There is literally nothing there as all our hallow institutions have been hollowed out. We, as a society, have systematically destroyed beauty wherever it existed. We went from Beethoven to Cardi B within two centuries. It has been even longer since we last erected a genuinely inspiring building, and if you have no idea what I am talking about, then please go visit a grand gothic cathedral. You will get a sense that there is something, both spiritually and physically, that is much, much larger than yourself.
We also undermined the concept of meritocracy. Only a small fraction of the managers I have had in my career I considered remotely competent. Some were genuinely useless but could not get fired as they belonged to a minority. This happens in industry, academia, and public administration alike. Arguably the only field in which merit really matters is competitive sport but in that field you get booted out if you don’t take a knee.
Imagine you are a little boy in the 16th century. Your father tells you that when he was your age, people begun building the cathedral you have encountered on your strolls. You look at the construction site and when you realize that it is decades old already, you feel shivers. You can’t quite articulate yet what just happened, yet being confronted with the manifestations of a Herkulean effort that spans generations deeply affects you. Construction began long before you were born and will continue long after you are dead. You may be so impressed by it that you want to join this effort. No matter if it is as a mason or an architect, you get the sense that you are a very small part of something much bigger, which none of you could do on their own.
Today’s buildings, on the other hand, take a few years to construct at most. Almost all of them are eyesores, while a minority may be tolerable to look at. Everything is cold and ugly. Not seeing architecture as a possibility to be part of something bigger, you may chase a corporate career. Some of the work I have done has had a measurable real-world impact. Primarily, I make things faster and a bit more efficient, to keep it vague. Yet, none of it has been genuinely inspiring. Guts says to himself that he is willing to sacrifice his life for Griffith’s dream. It would be a tall order to do so for your boss, obviously. By and large, the people up the chain will be a bunch of douches with access to cheap money, and if you bump into one of those people in the hallway, you may well know that they are worth 100+ million but they are commonly not of a better genetic stock and, quite frankly, you most likely don’t really care about their dream of adding another zero to their balance sheet either.
Even if we take the metaphor of the dream you are willing to die for literally, we don’t get anywhere. Which general would you follow and which battle would you fight to be part of something bigger? Today’s wars are fought in order to foist homosexuality and “democracy” on third-world countries, and if your own country would fight a defensive war, you would defend a deeply degenerate system. In Berserk, the soldiers fight to the death because they believe in their cause, and this affects both sides. Yet, how would you, for yourself, justify fighting for a country that is ideologically and spiritually rotten to the core? I would rather get shot as a defector than fight for ZOG’s globohomo dream. (Article continues below.)
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I wondered recently is why it is so easy for me to quit a job. Last year, I was in a situation in which my manager broke a promise he has made. He had told me that if I achieved a certain number of milestones, I would get a promotion. I did all that. In fact, I overdelivered. Yet, when I revisited that topic in a one-on-one, he said that, yes, I did everything he asked (and more) but he “feels that I’m only just right at the cusp of the next level”. I asked him to clarify what he meant and all he could do was to repeat what he said. I guess he thought it was encouraging for me to hear that I’m “right at the cusp” and that I should just “keep doing what I’m doing.” I handed in my resignation a few days later and he seemed to be genuinely clueless why I quit.
Think about your job and ask yourself if you would do it if you did not get paid for it. Let’s say the company provides food, shelter, equipment and everything else you need, i.e. you would have your needs taken care of in exchange for your labor. The proposition would be ludicrous. In contrast, Griffith in Berserk inspires his army because of his dream of a kingdom on their own. Presumably the modern-day version would be an ethnostate or a country of your own. In terms of motivation, that should would be more powerful than your company increasing its market share.
What is your dream? Do you even have one? I have not asked myself this in a long time, probably because I am too comfortable, or maybe just too tired. As Griffith says, every man has a dream, and even if it dies, it will forever smolder in him. I am not sure I ever dreamt of greatness. Arguably this is because we live in such uninspiring times. What is a Biden compared to Cesar, Obama compared to Hitler? What is the great inspirational story of our times? Our leaders tell me it’s mass immigration from the third world, the sexualization of children, and a fake pandemic. Our leader are uninspiring, weak men. Our architecture saps the life out of you. Our people make you lose all hope for humanity. Yet, you better have no dream at all than the ditz version of it. “My dream is to travel to Australia!”, a 20-year-old airhead may spout out, not realizing how utterly stupid this sounds as it takes just a little bit of time and a little bit of money.
Loss and uncertainty is another recurring topic in Berserk. Probably a good argument can be made that life would be more fulfilling if there was sense of latent danger. Today, the population is glued to their smartphones or sedates itself with all kinds of drugs. It is an absolutely pathetic way to live one’s life. I would argue that living in a small community where survival depends on collaboration and your ability to hunt or farm would leave you with a much greater appreciation for absolutely everything. Living in safety probably also dulls your mind quite a bit. Of course, my angle is that you would live as part of a homogenous group who had to find ways to survive. If lack of safety is what you wanted, you can live in an ethnic neighborhood, but that would not be similar to the experience of our tribal ancestors.
Lastly, life does not have many genuine surprises left. Everything is at your fingertips. Nothing is unknown. Most likely, you will find videos of even the remotest places on earth. Likewise, your life path is essentially preordained. This is not so much the case if your first job is as a barista at Starbucks, but otherwise, you can tell in relatively broad strokes what you will do five or ten years from now. A particularly moving moment in Berserk was when (minor spoiler ahead!) Guts decides to leave Griffith’s band of warriors. Guts realizes that he has reached the goal he has set for himself as part of Griffith’s band, and now he wants to find his own purpose instead of someone else’s. The scene is told very well. The romantic interest of Guts, a woman named Casca, realizes that he is distant. Guts is not a man of many words. He gets up and starts walking. The look on his face is different, though, more determined. Casca panics and shouts, “Guts, are you leaving us?” She knows that he is indeed leaving and start tearing up. This struck a chord with me as it showed a man making a decision and following through. He knows that if he now spends more time with Griffith’s band, he is only wasting his time. Yet, how many men waste their time, life even, in situations that no longer benefit them at all? They have reached their goal, no matter if it was articulated or not, and now they stick around simply due to familiarity. On a side note, in the anime, eventually Guts is shown from the back, walking towards the horizon. At this time, “Guts’ theme” plays, which is ambiguous in tone. There is the aspect of him looking for a new goal, a new battle to fight, metaphorically speaking. Yet, there is also sadness as he is giving up something he used to believe in.
I think when men make important decisions, this often comes with a bit of wavering. They don’t know if they should do something or not. Not often can you pinpoint to an exact moment where you have made a decision. The scene of Guts’ departure also touched me as I likewise made a similar decision at the job I just mentioned. My manager had broken his promise and at that moment I knew that I am going to leave. Interestingly, at that time I had the track “The future is now” by AZURE on heavy rotation, which evokes a mood rather similar to Guts’ Theme, in my opinion.
There is a lot more in Berserk for men who are sickened by the times they live in. The wide success this manga has found is arguably also indicative of this being a reasonably common experience. If you think about it, it is quite horrible to live in a spiritually hollowed-out society like ours. We are witnesses of its accelerating decay. Berzerk thankfully soothes this pain, as difficult as it can be to process the themes it presents.
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22 thoughts on “Reflections on Themes of the Manga/Anime Berserk and the Spiritual Bankruptcy of Modernity”
That was a great article, I’d love to eventually see a full adaptation of the Berserk manga (not just the golden age arc). The more recent ones left a lot to be desired.
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Attack on Titan also. It has some very interesting themes.
I’d like to first see Berserk completed. I’d also prefer mangas that take their writers less than three decades to complete. I can see the motivation in wanting to keep one’s crowning achievement going as any other IP would arguably not reach the same level of success. Yet, if I were a mangaka, I’d rather leave behind a few completed works than one without an ending because I keeled over at an untimely moment. Kazuo Koike did it nicely, and in a way that would have worked for Berserk, too: Tell different stories and complete them. The themes are arguably more important that what characters are used as vehicles to tell them. Also, think of all the people that did not live to see the end of your work! Miura began working on Berserk as a young man. If you began reading it in your forties or fifties back then, you may die before you get to read the end of it. (Miura did state that he intends to end the manga. Estimates are that the story is about 80% told by now, based on hints by the author, but that has to be taken with a grain of salt.)
Attack on Titan is on my list but it may take me a while. I’m still reading H2. It’s not nearly as captivating as the Berserk anime was but I quite enjoy the slice-of-life episodes. Afterwards, I’ll probably move on to the Berserk manga.
EDIT: I just learned that Attack on Titan has been completed. This might be reason enough to read it before Berserk as I prefer to finish things. If I now picked up Berserk, it would not change the fact that I’ll have “read Berserk” for another twenty years, or however long it will take the author to complete it, on my to-do list.
Yes! Awesome article. I was coincidentally looking at watching Berserk just the other day. I usually like to sit and watch an episode or two when having my biggest meal of the day, but I ended up opting for Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures (it’s quite funny so far).
You’ve inspired me to give Berserk a try, though like you mentioned it is frustrating when you get into something that’s long running and ongoing. Perhaps I’ll look forward to that first arc or so that you wrote about, it sounds interesting.
I’ll admit, I didn’t really start enjoying AoT that much until about season 3. That’s just me personally. I think at the time I started watching it I was super anti-feminist and in red pill rage. I found it annoying that all the young male characters were such whiney pussies while Mikasa, a strong, talented and intelligent soldier, was running laps around the main protagonist. However, Levi Ackermann eventually turned out being a complete badass. There are some interesting themes in the show revolving around revenge and morality, and the art style and spectacles are a sight to behold.
Of course, you’ve touched on some other important topics in this article. Could you imagine how fulfilling it would have been to grow up as a pleb during the height of Greek or Roman society? Imagine the community and feeling of belonging to something greater than yourself. I guess endless entertainment and self-servicing are a decent consolation.
Just imagine being a pleb in Rome and walking through the city! Here in Europe we have massive crowds of tourists, at least in pre-Covid times, that flock to cities with a few old buildings in the center. There is such a desire for beauty that mere remnants of it make people drop thousands of bucks for a trip overseas.
“Just imagine being a pleb in Rome and walking through the city!”
You know, I’ve never really thought about it before but true organized beauty is such a rarity in the Universe as far as we know. You have these little slivers in time where things were just able come together through all the chaos, but then it’s so much easier to eradicate than to create and maintain such spectacles. Imagine how nice it would have been to take a stroll through Mr. Speer’s vision of the capital modern day.
“Even if we take the metaphor of the dream you are willing to die for literally, we don’t get anywhere. Which general would you follow and which battle would you fight to be part of something bigger? Today’s wars are fought in order to foist homosexuality and “democracy” on third-world countries, and if your own country would fight a defensive war, you would defend a deeply degenerate system.”
You know I have no love lost for Islam, but you do realize this is what mobilized a lot of gouys (and women) to join ISIS? These people found a couase they were willing to die for, and plenty of them did.
It is no surprise that men who are virgins / cannot get a woman, join extremist movements.
For men, not having access to sex is genetically the same as actual death.
So for the men who are the losers in the current system, it makes perfect sense to destroy the system, even if there is a big risk that they die in the process. The have nothing to lose.
That’s what all those stupid feminists don’t really understand. You can say “women don’t owe men sex” all day long, but men can just use force to get what they want.
A society with a high % of incels will get instable very quickly.
Maybe this time it is different because men are pacified via video games and porn, so… hard to tell what will happen.
The causal mechanisms go way beyond mere sex and reproduction, to socialization and identitiy formation. After finding themselves alienated from their societies or from their political systems at large, they find meaning in a superior cause like global islam. But its a visceral impulse, none of the rank and file militants actually have much of a religious education (scholarly knowledge of Islam actually correlates negatively with violent activity), but the outrage at a percieved “war on islam” becomes the focal point for their search for community and identity.
Plenty of terrorists and militants had girlfriends or even wife and children. Depending on the organization, a lot of them had university degrees and careers in non-bullshit areas like engineering, medicine or architecture.
I think your comments on Islam are spot-on. Hitler made similar remarks, calling it a “master religion”, if I recall correctly. He mused that had the Germans been Islamic, they would have been unstoppable. I’d argue that his disdain for Christianity is well-founded. It is a cuck religion, and has been for many hundreds of years.
I remember hearing that Osama Bin Laden was a Playboy, and a drug user. These guys don’t really adhere to the Koran. Saudis especially. Funny how Saudi Arabia are the ally and Iran is the great evil. Saudi Arabia is the most fucked up country in the ME. Israel is right up there. Americans don’t know a flying fuck about Islam, and I am largely guilty of that myself. All I know is that Saudis attacked us 20 years ago, and the media and government blamed every ME country but them. And used it to start multiple wars and infringe on our rights here at home.
About Christianity. I concur that it is a cuck religion. I follow combat sports and I’ve seen it ruin the careers of the fighters who join it.
Well, as usual its more complicated than that. Christianity served us just fine in the past, and helped to build (and sometimes destroy) world class empires.
Then again, just like Islam, there is no one and only version of Christianity, but several, especially today. The problem stems not so much from the religion in itself I would argue, the religion works to generate cohesion amongst the faithful, in the case of the large monotheistic religions it allows for solidarity across national boundaries. Cohesion is a crucial factor in mobilizing people to a cause and to get things done, and few ideas can do this like a religion (totalitarian ideologies come to mind, working as a sort of secular religion).
The socio-political circumstances surrounding religious institutions will influence and adapt them. Most religious texts have enough ambiguity and room for interpretation that you can use them to justify a wide range of actions and policies.
Notice that people in the west are no more rationalistic than in the past, even if they disregard organized religion because they dislike to be told what to do, especially when they are told not to get laid outside marriage, so they go for a more personalized belief system and give themselves more leeway (ie: I believe in God when convenient, but dont like to spend sunday morning hearing a priest scolding me for minor transgressions).
The downfall of christian religion in the West correlates with general societal decline, the causal relationship is not clear cut, but most likely mutually reinforcing with other factors like material prosperity, security (when was the last time you went to war?), rampant socialism, a bullshit education system, and other social ills we recurrently discuss in these pages…
re Hitler: I seriously doubt it would have made much of a difference if they had be muslim, nazis were by themselves very highly motivated by their ideology to the point of fanaticism and self sacrifice. German soldiers in WW2 far outclassed all their conterparts in training, morale, equipment, tactics, and resolve (on this last point, with the possible exception of the japanese, whose Bushido mentality made them prefer to die rather than surrender. Some of them were still fighting years after the war was over).
I would argue their ideologically driven fanaticism actually had significant downsides, on the one hand it made them reckless regarding strategy, where cooler military minds would have served them better, esp in the Battle of Britain and Stalingrad. To begin with, it was a mistake to invade Poland in 1939, the german rearmament program was not far along enough. It was scheduled to have a world war ready military by 1943 or 1944. But Hitler was truly convinced that the Brits and French would not dare declare war over fucking Poland without Stalin on their side (hence the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact). It was wrong to bomb London in 1940 instead of focusing on destroying the RAF. It was wrong to invade the USSR in 1941 without knocking out the UK first. It was wrong to massacre so many civilians in eastern Europe, more of which could have joined you in the fight against communism. I could go on for hours.
re Osama: Saudi Arabia did not attack you. Osama was a rich saudi kid from a millionaire but absent father (construction mogul in Saudi Arabia) who used his money to fund terrorist inititatives, first against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the ’80s. Most of the people who surrounded him in the original Al Qaeda core however, were egyptians. Sunni extremists hate their local leaders as much or even more than they hate the USA.
They hate the Gulf Monarchies (yes, the saudi royal house included) because they consider them to be corrupt and unislamic, in the same way they hate secular leaders like socialist Saddam Hussein, Muammar Ghadaffi, the Al Assads of Syria, the egyptian army generals, etc… for being secular and unislamic. Little known fact, Osama offered the Saudis his fighters to go to war against Saddam Hussien after he invaded Kuwait. The saudis rejected him (for good reason – you cannot take a bunch of mountain guerrilla fighters from Afghanistan against a large tank and armor force in a desert) and called in the USA, which pissed Osama off mightily.
The local rulers of the muslim world are considered the “near enemy”, the USA is the “far enemy” that enables the near enemies by buying their oil, selling them weapons, and giving them political cover. Osamas great contribution during the 90’s, other than money, was to focus Al Qaeda to attack the far enemy, because he reasoned that the near enemies would not fall as long as the USA was still supporting them. Thats why you got attacked.
Just a quick note on Islam in relation to Germany: My understanding of that passage was that Hitler mused what would have happened if instead of Christianity, Islam had gotten a hold in Europe. Arguably, this would have led to a much more aggressive expansion of the various fiefdoms even in the Middle Ages. All of this is of course just speculation.
PS: Your are absolutely right, the hysterical overreaction to 9/11 and the resulting security state and military interventiones did more damage to the US than Osama could have dreamed of. Your worst damages have been self inflicted.
I forgot to add, your unrestricted support for Israel did not do you any good either. Plenty of people in the Middle East see the Israelis and the USA as part of the same thing, and the brutalization of the Palestinians is seen as a consequence of that was well.
The palestinian issue might be less of a factor in the future, as the sunni countries are increasingly aligning themselves with Israel (for readers that have been living under a rock for the last few months, google up Abraham Accords). They do this now because they all fear the rising power of Iran (shia heretics, and a stone toss away from going nuclear) and Turkey (their former Ottoman overlords), plus they are scared shitless that the US will not help them as much anymore, either because the democrats are less sympathetic to them than republicans, or because in the future the US will increasingly have their hands full with China in the Far East to care much about the Middle East anymore.
I am not familiar with your Hitler quote, so I misunderstood. Still, it is arguable that Christianity allowed western countries to progress much faster and further than Islam.
Looking back in history, Islam had its golden age during the Abbasid caliphate and one could argue they never quite recovered after the mongols destroyed Baghdad.
The Ottoman Empire had its maximum expansion in the 17th century, but since failing to capture Vienna twice the turks went into slow and irreversible decline, and never managed to turn around until Atatürk forced a secularist republic on them.
Muslim countries have been getting their butts kicked pretty consistently by europeans and russians for the last 300 years (and by jews and americans for the last 70 years).
Aaron, did you have another job lined up before quitting your current role? If not, how do you explain in interviews why you don’t currently have a job? I’ve always wondered how I would explain that if I ever got laid off for some reason. I would think that companies would be concerned because they would think 1. I got fired/laid off due to being a bad worker, or 2. If I quit a prior company, I will quit the new job when convenient.
Where do you live? Here in Europe, it is quite common to have a notice period of three months. While I personally prefer to have my next gig lined up when I resign, it seems more common in my field to just quit. I have seen a surprising amount of “rage quitting”, even pretty far up the totem pole, i.e. guys who make north of 100k EUR/year. (This may not sound like much if you live in NYC, but it is an extremely good salary in all of Europe, with the exception of maybe Switzerland.)
In the end, it boils down to how in-demand your skills are. If you think you can easily get a job and have headhunters and internal recruiters reach out to you every other day, you’re probably in a pretty good spot. This takes care of 1). For 2), I don’t quite understand what you mean. Do you think that quitting a job is bad per se? There is nothing wrong with quitting if you can get a better offer elsewhere or if your manager starts acting up.
“I’d argue that his disdain for Christianity is well-founded. It is a cuck religion, and has been for many hundreds of years.”
That’s like saying the white man is a cuck race and has been for one and a half hundred years… Which is arguably the point you’ve been trying to make! LOL
Is Christianity a cuck religion per se, or is this cucking an ongoing but not necessarily permanent state? Since for all intents and purposes, it is THE white man’s religion, did the Juice cuck Christians first, did they cuck the white man first, or did it happen simultaneously since they’re one and the same (you can guess where I’m at)? Or is Christianity a usurping religion and neopaganism is the answer for aryans as my uncle Varg Vikerness has argued all along (very appropriate for a post about Berserk BTW)?
These are all valid questions, seems to me.
I recently watched a presentation on neo-feudalism and paganism. I’m not sure what I think, but it was interesting. I think the most important thing is acquiring an ethnostate and then being allowed to practice whatever form of government we see fit. I hope that the evolutionary pressures that whites are and will be facing on a global scale will shape their attitudes to the detriment of cuckery in the future:
RE Christianity, you can read my answer in the posts above, but TL;DR:
I would blame socialism more than I blame any religion.
As you probably know, here in our corner of the world (Latin America), we have had an especially toxic mix between some parts of the Catholic Church and marxism since the 1970s
Yes, I read your comment above. Very informative. Know your enemy and all that…
And yeah, the Liberation theologists and the jesuit influence I’ve mentioned before. Snakes.
Hi, Aaron. I used to read your old blog and thought you should know something.
Unfortunately, as you probably know by now, Berserk will never be finished, at least not by the original author. Kentaro Miura died on May 6, 2021, but his death was only made public on May 20, 2021.
This is sad news. I did not know about it. The news just broke about an hour ago, and I am not that tuned into the manga scene. Today, I will listen to Guts’ Theme on repeat and mourn. R.I.P. Kentaro Miura.