3 out of 5
There’s a lot that happens in volume 9 – a lot happens in most Berserk volumes – but it’s not as sweeping as it feels it could be. Part of this might be how Miura handles time – I haven’t double checked the publication dates on these entries, but a year passes between pages and the emotional shift required is thus undercut a bit – but part of it also suffers from the porny indulgences of manga. The sexual trysts that are paralleled here – Griffith and Princess Charlotte; Guts and Casca – are artfully rendered by Kentaro, and story-wise absolutely make sense, but the beat-by-beat thrusts and virginal deflowering focus start to hit that questionable tone between drama and masculine fantasy. Obviously as a tale about a super strong dude with a big sword we’re already hitting the latter, but Berserk – as I’m sure I’ve already noted – managed to hit a lasting note by going philosophically and emotionally deeper than most of its peers. Miura will toy with expectations, and have Guts thoughts wander to interesting places – which does happen in the passage with Casca – but then there’s also that indulgence in glory shots and bleeding vaginas. It made sense with the princess, and it does make sense that Casca would’ve been saving herself for Griffith, but it still doesn’t quite register as depicted in a way that’s not masturbatory.
There’s also the buildup to this moment, which, as mentioned, might have been more effective if there was an actual story gap between Guts’ leaving and his rearrival. I like that we don’t see the full fallout post-Griffith, but still, some more alone time with Guts would have underlined – when he returned – the Hawk’s equal determination to remain as a band and desperation in doing so.
Otherwise, Miura’s art is gorgeous, and fully fluid even during wild battle sequences, and elsewhere, Guts fights a ninja, and it’s cool.