KICK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (21)

By: Jonathan Pinchera
March 14, 2022

One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of a favorite sidekick — whether real-life or fictional.

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GUTS

One of the most lauded manga series of all time, Kentaro Miura’s Berserk (1989–2021) spans over thirty years of media — including print, film, TV, and video games — ending only with Miura’s death last year. The original manga itself is a work of mind-boggling illustration well worth your attention… but let’s focus, here, specifically on the relationship between the characters Guts and Griffith in the “Golden Age” (vols. 3–14) plot arc of Berserk.

Wielding a massive — 10-foot, at least — broadsword, the moody Guts (ガッツ, pronounced Gattsu) is an unstoppable warrior. He serves in the Band of the Hawk, a small yet deadly mercenary group that wages war across the medieval landscape of Midland under the leadership of Griffith, a righteous commander driven by an idealist’s dream of establishing his own kingdom. Griffith and Guts are polar opposites, yet as they cut down foe after foe, Guts becomes the perfect sidekick, executing Griffith’s orders without question — and allowing no room for failure.

Griffith cares deeply for Guts, too. Making Guts his confidante, he shares with him the deeply personal philosophy that drives his quest for a throne. He believes, we learn, that within every man there is a dream that must be pursued at all costs; to give up on one’s dream is to surrender one’s humanity, because one will be reduced to a simple tool for the pursuit of another’s goals. Of course, this is exactly the dynamic that Guts finds himself in vis-à-vis Griffith… a conundrum that Miura explores. The hero archetype, and the hero’s journey, may be inherently dehumanizing — since the hero is all but required to view others as pawns to be used and discarded as needed.

Despite all the love and respect that Griffith has for Guts, the sidekick is defined as a lesser being; his role is to be useful to the hero, and if he ceases to be useful he is expendable.

After a decade of fighting and vanquishing every foe, Griffith positions himself to marry the princess of Midland — essentially guaranteeing himself the throne. His quest has ended… at which point Guts leaves the Band of the Hawk. There is no room for a berserk warrior in a kingdom at peace… so Guts decides to follow a dream of his own. Alas, Griffith cannot bear the thought of losing his trusty sidekick; his own identity (as a righteous, just leader of men) is threatened by what he perceives as Guts’s desertion. A lot of bad stuff ensues — including the Band of the Hawk being destroyed, Griffith becoming a demon, and hellspawn taking over Midland.

The moral of the story? A pawn can take down a king, if it refuses to accept that it’s a pawn. Also, don’t try to fight a guy named Guts.

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KICK YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Annie Nocenti on RATSO | Barbara Bogaev on TRIXIE | Sara Ryan on SWIFT WIND | Carlo Rotella on BELT BEARERS | Adam McGovern on JACKIE McGEE | Josh Glenn on RAWHIDE | Gabriela Pedranti on KUILL | Douglas Wolk on VOLSTAGG | Serdar Paktin on CATO | Deirdre Day on TRAMPAS | Dean Haspiel on TIN MAN | Flourish Klink on THE APOSTLE PETER | Miranda Mellis on FAMILIAR | Peggy Nelson on COSMO | Beth Lisick on MARTHA BROOKS | Bishakh Som on CAPTAIN HADDOCK | Stephanie Burt on SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE | Greg Rowland on SPOCK | Adam Netburn on SENKETSU | Mimi Lipson on ROBIN QUIVERS | Jonathan Pinchera on GUTS | Tom Nealon on TWIKI | Mandy Keifetz on DR. EINSTEIN | Judith Zissman on IGNATZ MOUSE | Anthony Miller on DOCTOR GONZO.

MORE ENTHUSIASM at HILOBROW

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Enthusiasms