TRIGGER WARNING: Review includes a discussion of sexual assault
Dark Horse Comics presents Berserk Volume 40, the original manga series authored and illustrated Kentaro Miura. This volume follows Schierke and Farnese as they continue their journey through the depths within the nightmarish wasteland of Casca’s shattered psyche, to free her from the dark secret that imprisoned her mind and caused her to lose sanity. The dream world is filled with the horrific imaginations of Casca’s unconscious mind that view Casca’s friends from the real world as intruding threats and are intent on eliminating them. Now, Schierke and Farnese must continue their journey and battle their way through countless horrors to restore Casca to her true self.
Meanwhile, Griffith, Guts and Casca’s former comrade turned arch-nemesis, leads the Band of the Falcon to reclaim the Midland lands that were lost to the massive number of astral beings that entered Fantasia and took over the lands. Around the same time, Griffith reveals his intentions for Midland and humanity: to give rise to a second empire that would greatly expand the territory for humanity in a way that would surpass the First Empire of Humanity.
One thing I enjoyed about this volume was the use of symbolism. There are a lot of pages in this volume that don’t have any dialogue from the characters, especially when Schierke and Farnese are in Casca’s dream world. I think this was a great choice by Miura because it draws the audience’s attention to the symbolism in the illustrations to see the meanings behind them.
For example, as Farnese and Schierke are making their way through Casca’s psyche, they comment that the land is harsh and nightmarish and must be related to Casca losing her sanity. They are correct because a lot of the illustrations share similar themes and designs with the event of The Eclipse, where Griffith betrayed Casca, Guts, and all of their comrades. In several pages, two manifestations represent Griffith and Guts. The giant demonic falcon-like creature trying to harm the fragments of Casca sanity represents Griffith attempting to violate Casca while a feral-looking but protective black dog that’s lost a paw and eye represents Guts. It is desperate to protect Casca while challenging Griffth.
Something else I enjoyed about this volume was that Farnese and Schierke were the ones to rescue Casca, instead of Guts. It’s not that I have anything against him as a character; in fact, he is one of my favorites, hands-down. However, it is a nice change of pace for the story to be focused on two strong, capable female characters saving another female character. And, while Guts is the main character and hero of the series, who at some point or another has saved other characters numerous times, I felt that not having him featured much in this volume helped to concentrate the story more on the journey and trials that Schierke, Farnese, and Casca faced.
Lastly, it wouldn’t be Berserk if we didn’t talk about trauma. IThe creator of this manga does a great job of exploring the complexities of what the aftermath of trauma looks like for the victim and their loved ones. I think it is perfectly normal for a victim’s loved ones to want to take away their pain and make everything better after a traumatic event. Unfortunately, it is not that easy, and what they want for them may not always be the result. For example, most of the premise in Berserk Volume 40 focused on Casca’s friend’s getting her sanity and mind returned to her former self and out of the mentally regressed condition she has been trapped in for the last 5 years since the events of The Eclipse.
However, even though Farnese and Schierke were successful in healing and restoring Casca’s sanity, that didn’t mean the pain from the trauma was completely taken away either. Just when she sees Guts for the first time as her restored self, she was hit with the traumatic memories of The Eclipse where Griffith sacrificed their friends, tortured Guts and violently raped her.
These memories send her into a panicked frenzy and screaming in pain. It’s not that the others ignored the possibility of her still having the pain to work through, but instead, they were so focused on restoring her to her former self that they may not have considered the result of doing so might still cause her some form of pain that she needs to work through.
I also think it is worth noting that over the last 5 years since the Eclipse, Casca didn’t get the chance to work through her feelings and pain while she was in her mentally regressed condition. The shock from the traumatic event left her unable to speak or show any feelings for a long time. But, now that her sanity is back, she has to process those feelings and pain. Which, I hope is a sign that now that she can convey feeling again, it will be the first step for her healing process.
Overall, Miura has done it again with this volume. The intense imagery and symbolism bring depth not only to the story but the characters as well. I also remain impressed with his ability to explore the complexities of trauma from different perspectives. I even have to applaud him for the extremely brutal cliffhanger towards the end of the volume that is sop on-brand for Miura’s style as he continues to captivate the audience’s attention and readiness for more.
Berserk Volume 40 is available September 25.
Berserk Volume 40
Overall, Miura has done it again with this volume. The intense imagery and symbolism bring depth not only to the story but the characters as well. I also remain impressed with his ability to explore the complexities of trauma from different perspectives.