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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