Underappreciated – Berserk: The Lost Children Arc

I have become quite the connoisseur of Berserk within the past year or so. It is an amazing story with incredible artwork. However, one part I feel many Berserk fans seem to overlook is The Lost Children arc or, as it’s more formerly known, Conviction Arc: Chapter of the Lost Children. Chronologically, this comes right after the Black Swordsman arc, but from the readers point of view, it’s right after the Golden Age arc and is the very first part of the Conviction arc. The Lost Children arc has been left out of every single other media adaptation of Berserk. The most recent show and all 3 games. The original show and movie trilogy never made it that far in the story so they don’t really count. Though this is because of it’s extremely brutal nature, even by Berserk standards, it means some people have never been exposed to it and nobody has seen how amazing it could potentially be if animated. It even leaves some odd questions and plot holes in the 2016 show and most recent game, Berserk and the Band of the Hawk. People as a whole just seem to forget it too or just call it filler, saying it doesn’t really add anything to the story at large.

If this post is any indication, I humbly disagree and think it’s very underrated and even one of the best parts of Berserk. It is very well-written, has some very important plot points introduced, and helps develop Guts as a character, especially post-Golden Age, post –Black Swordsman. It also has some incredible artwork. Even if it is somehow filler, this is some of the best and most brutal filler I’ve ever seen.

Why is it not adapted in other media?

Though I did briefly explain why The Lost Children Arc is skipped in other media, I would briefly likely delve into why some more. The short answer, as mentioned earlier, is that it’s extremely brutal, which is saying a lot for an already very brutal overall story. As the title of the arc implies, it does involve children. Specifically, dead children a lot of the time. Dead kids is not something Berserk hasn’t done before, like back in the Golden Age when Guts killed Adonis by mistake or in the Black Swordsman Arc when Collette was killed by the undead and then Guts had to slice her in half after she became possessed and killed her father. But it’s the sheer amount of dead children in this story that really does it. Though they are technically demonic elves when they are killed, after dying, they revert back to their original forms and thus we get images of child corpses. Piles of them. There are a lot of lines other media were willing to cross to adapt Berserk, but piles of dead children was were they understandably drew the line a bit.

ColletteDeath.png
This was tame compared with what was to come.

It’s not just them dying either. At one point, when Guts is trying to sleep, the spirits of the children he had killed come back to haunt him, in the form of burning children. He then has to slaughter them again. Guts at this point of the story has really gone off the deep end. He’s a complete and utter maniac at this point. A violent psychopath. At one point, he finds cocoons where the demon elf children are “born.” Naturally, he starts destroying them. But what really might throw some people off is that, at one point, some of the kids’ entrails get in his mouth, and he has this evil grin on his face the entire time. Neither of these things are imagery people necessarily want to see.

The constantly human children (Jill and Thomas, a little boy from Jill’s village) aren’t treated all that well either. We first meet Jill (one of the central characters to this arc) kidnapped by a group of bandits. She was taken to be sold into slavery at first, but they ended up getting bored with her and decided to try and sacrifice her to some nearby tree that they heard was possessed. This sacrificial ritual they had heard of apparently involved stripping her down and one of them proceeds to start cut her shirt off, but thankfully Guts (accidentally) intervenes before they got any further. Later, Guts also uses Jill as a hostage, though it is unknown if he would’ve actually harmed her or not, though he does apologize for it. As for Thomas, Guts uses him as bait to draw out the demonic elf children by hanging him from the shirt on the edge of Dragon Slayer. Neither of these are examples how you really want to treat kids. There is also the issue of Jill’s dad being an abusive alcoholic, which is never an easy subject matter to cover.

Another thing other media didn’t want to deal with is Rosine, the main antagonist for this arc. To put it simply, she’s naked. That may not seem like too big of a deal as Berserk has had worse things shown and another major female villain, Slan, is also naked. Only trouble is that Rosine is probably around 15 years old, and that’s REALLY pushing it. She’s roughly the same age as Jill. They look more like 12 to me. Point is, she’s young. Too young. This made me constantly uncomfortable when reading and that’s not something people want to animate. I think this could be avoided by censoring her by giving her clothes. When I think about how this could be done, I think of Nowi from Fire Emblem Awakening.

36b308d013bc479f4d5a5a986bce4fc5.jpg
Like this. It’s not much but it’s SOMETHING.

Now the last thing I want to mention is the demon elf children themselves. At one point, Jill is taken by Rosine to show her that life can be great as an “elf.” It shows the demon elf children “playing.”  This scene alone could very well have caused other media to want to skip over this arc. Now this “playing” is them playing war, pretending to be adults. What separates this from being a game is that the children are actually killing each other with real weapons. There are other atrocities that these children have likely seen from war and adults that they imitate as well, that I wish to not mention. I have a fairly high tolerance for things that are violent and brutal. But one moment that actually made my jaw drop and cover my mouth was the “adult attack.” Even thinking about it just gives me a headache.

So that’s all of that. Not exactly something people always want to adapt. But still doesn’t explain to me why people seem to forget The Lost Children Arc outside of its brutality.

Plot Relevance

I’ve seen people call this arc filler, like it has no relevance to anything else in the story, and I don’t really understand why. Sure, maybe it has the least significance out of all other arcs, but to say it adds nothing is certainly not true.

For one thing, this arc is the first time we see the Beast of Darkness. It appears because Guts had actually spared Rosine. He showed mercy, something he had not done in years. He had been constantly spiraling into insanity, knowing only violence and anger, which likely caused the Beast to fully “form” in the first place. Him finally showing mercy angered the Beast, finally revealing itself to Guts and teasing him about being merciful, saying that if he wants to ACTUALLY get revenge on Griffith, he should just give into it (the Beast), only follow it. Fully explaining the Beast of the Darkness is quite complicated and something I’m not going to delve into, but the point is, it was first introduced here. And considering how important the Beast of Darkness ends up being later in the story, especially once the Berserker Armor comes into play, its introduction here in this arc was critical. Skipping over this arc makes the Beast of Darkness kind of just come out of nowhere. In the game Berserk and the Band of the Hawk it actually just randomly appears one time as its introduction. Anyone who didn’t know the story already would find that really random and would’ve thought the Beast was a monster Guts had to kill and then be even more confused when it just disappears. Now, nobody who doesn’t know the story wouldn’t have bought the game in the first place, but that’s not the point. The point is, without this context, the Beast of Darkness just seemed really out of place and pointless. Even in the 2016 show, it seems to just come out of nowhere. Even though it actually speaks and what not in this adaptation, it still seems a bit random. Without the context of Lost Children, it just seemed to be introduced because it was cool whereas in the source material, it’s introduced as part of Guts’s mind and it basically explains its existence…and also because it is cool. All in all, the Beast of Darkness is a very important plot point and its introduction in Lost Children was the perfect way to introduce it.

Beast_of_Darkness_tempts_Guts
Can’t deny that it looks great in the 2016 show though. Wish I could say the same for Guts himself, or the show as a whole for that matter…

Another reason I find Lost Children to be relevant actually has to do with the beginning next arc in the story. Specifically, the part where Guts gets captured by the Holy Iron Chain Knights. Guts is basically captured by the “pretty boy knights” because he had been exhausted from fighting Rosine and, to a lesser extent, her army of demon elf children. His fight against Rosine was one of the toughest and most brutal he had had at that time. It really pushed him to his limit, especially given that Rosine was the first flying Apostle he had fought in the air (yes, Zodd can fly but he didn’t do this when fighting Guts). She was almost too fast for Guts to the point that he couldn’t really see some of her attacks and that combined with her flight ability and immense strength made the fights against the Count and the Snake Baron seem easy. He even had to basically let himself get stabbed through the cheek to try and get some sort of advantage. This fight combined with the fighting he had already done previously, massive lack of sleep or any sort of rest for that matter, and the emotional exhaustion he had suffered from actually showing some care for Jill meant that he was all but spent by the time the Holy Iron Chain Knights had finally confronted him. It’s also worth mentioning that they started chasing him during Lost Children, with Guts having to evade them because Jill’s father had led them to him while also dealing with Rosine and the demon elf children. Overall, the whole ordeal has really pushed Guts to his limit (physically and mentally), exhausting him, causing him to lose LOTS of blood, causing him to mentally break (hence the aforementioned Beast of Darkness), and even setting himself on fire on purpose at one point.

If you get rid of Lost Children like the Musou game and 2016 anime did, it just seems like Guts was spent after one night of no sleep and some skeletons. And given all the feats of endurance and strength he showed prior to that and shows long afterwards too, it’s not very consistent. Even if you’re willing to believe that the fight against the skeletons was very tiring (which it likely was), it doesn’t explain why Guts was as exhausted as he was. It doesn’t explain why he could hardly lift his sword any more and was severely injured, allowing the non-combat-tested Holy Iron Chain Knights to capture him. I should also add that the 2016 show even gets rid of everything with the Count too, so it even makes it seem like Guts was spent after a fight with level 1 RPG enemies/undead grunts. That’s not the impression you get from Guts from anything else. That’s not the 100-man slayer turned immortal-demon slayer everyone knows. Lack of Lost Children makes Guts look a lot weaker than we’re lead onto believe, based on everything that’s supposed to happen prior to his capture and everything that happens after.

Character Relevance: Guts

Another reason this arc is important is that it shows how Guts is at this point in time. Though the end of Black Swordsman does this too, Lost Children really shows how far gone Guts is. He seems to know nothing but rage and violence anymore. If other circumstances didn’t intervene, Guts very well would’ve killed innocent people when he gets in the zone/goes berserk. Even in Black Swordsman, Guts shows shreds of humanity like when Puck feels his emotions or when Puck catches Guts briefly looking sad (before quickly hiding it away) when he had acted heartless towards Theresia. Here? Not really.

This shows how broken Guts had truly become. The events of the Eclipse had already done that enough, but his path of revenge had made him all but truly soulless. And unlike the Eclipse, this was really all his own doing. He basically let himself get this way. This itself shows how determined he was to kill the God Hand, killing Griffith/Femto, and avenging his fallen brethren of the Band of the Hawk (Casca included).

Then, finally, by the end, as mentioned before, we see Guts basically get reminded of how to be human when he shows mercy to Rosine. Though he may have always known this, we also finally see him admit (to Jill) that his path is not one that a person should want to follow. And then, of course, the Beast of Darkness finally rear its head, but I already explained all of that. Overall, it shows how Guts actually needs people with him. Without them, he gets way out of control. Jill (and Puck) kind of brought him back down to Earth.

Without Lost Children, the reader would’ve forgotten just how insane Guts was immediately following the Eclipse. Though Black Swordsman had already passed, Lost Children is basically a reminder of what happened to Guts and how he would develop into what we see from the rest of the Conviction arc and onwards.

Miscellaneous Story Stuff

Those are really the things Lost Children contributes that are relevant to the rest of the story. But even outside of that, there’s still a good story to be had contained within this part. In this section, there’s just a couple things I’d like to highlight.

One such thing that made the story interesting was Jill. It was interesting to see a normal little girl follow Guts around and see a normal person’s perspective. Up until this point in time (post-Eclipse), the only “person’s” perspective we had gotten was Puck’s; and he’s an elf. There was Vargas during the Count’s storyline, but he wasn’t there throughout the whole story. Jill was. I’d have to check to be 100% sure, but I think this arc focuses just as much on Jill as it does Guts, the main character of the overall story. She is a character you really feel bad for but also admire her for her bravery and dedication to help despite having no combat abilities at all. Jill kind of reminds me of Collette from the Black Swordsman arc. Just a sweet, innocent little girl that you hope the best for. Unlike Collette though, Jill does live and I hope maybe we can see her again somewhere down the line in some way. She’s an interesting character that I really hope didn’t die at some point after the world transformation.

There is also the interesting contrast of Guts (the main protagonist) and Rosine (the main antagonist of this arc). Guts is supposed to be the one you root for and Rosine is supposed to be the one you root against. However, Guts’s out of control nature and Rosine’s childlike (albeit distorted) desire to help kids make you question that. Prior to this, every other antagonist you wanted beaten, no questions asked. The Snake Baron? The Count? The God Hand? Wyald? Those fighting against Midland? Yes, beat if not kill them all. Even Griffith/Femto and Zodd, who are very complex characters. You still want Guts to triumph over them (though you may question this even later in the story, but you’re not that far at this point in time). At the end of the day, you still want Rosine defeated, but you’re not really sure if Guts is really a good guy any more. At least not until he starts pulling himself together at the end. But throughout the story, you do kind of question things sometimes.

Artwork

All of Berserk has some incredible artwork and Lost Children is no exception.

The three images above plus the banner picture are some of the most iconic images of Guts ever. All of these, especially the left most one above, are images even non-Berserk fans may recognize and are used as profile pictures fairly often. And they’re all from Lost Children.

And of course there’s always grand spread pages and just incredible looking stuff like this:

Chapter_106

I could always go on and on about the amazing art of Berserk, but to avoid overwhelming this post with tons of pictures, I’ll just leave it at these. It’s really best experienced when reading the story itself.

Conclusion

Overall, I think The Lost Children arc of Berserk is a very underrated part of the story. It’s a good part of the overall story on its own, contributes more to the overall story more than some people remember, and has really everything that most people love about Berserk. This is not to say that it is my favorite arc, but it is most certainly not filler and, in my opinion, should be appreciated and remembered by Berserk fans more.

I would very much like to see it adapted into other media someday. Most notably a show or movie. I understand why it hasn’t been, but there are some minor alterations that I believe can be made to both keep it bearable to watch while also not ruining the story.

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