Absurdly Sharp Blade: The sword Godo offers to Guts after the Eclipse, capable of cleanly cutting through the blade of another sword and the tip of an anvil in a single swing. A merely ordinary sized sword of exceptional sharpness doesn't suit Guts' style though. It doesn't last a single fight.
Abusive Parents: Gambino goes above and beyond with this. It even gets him killed.
This is also apparent in the Retribution/Peekaf story arc for both Jill and Rosine.
Action Prologue: Roughly the first three volumes act as this, depicting Guts ruthlessly hunting and killing Apostles. It introduces story concepts such as the Brand and its effects, Apostles, Behelits, the Godhand, and Elves. The next twelve volumes of the manga go through an extended flashback explaining how Guts got involved in all of this.
Action Survivor: Mentioned briefly below, anybody who isn't a fully qualified badass but still manages to survive near-cataclysmic events for more than two volumes is basically this. That's good enough in the Berserkerverse.
Adaptation Distillation / Compressed Adaptation: Given the fact that a twelve volume arc is being adapted into three one-or-so-hour long movies, the new trilogy focusing on the Golden Age arc falls into these. With The Law of Conservation of Detail in effect to save time, a lot of scenes (mainly battle sequences) were cut out in favor of the more important ones, and some scenes were meshed together with other scenes in the first film; hence, it will probably be expected in the upcoming films as well.
Adaptation Explanation Extrication: We all know why Guts doesn't like being touched because he got raped as a child, and it's shown very clearly to us in the manga version with three later scenes showing how much he doesn't enjoy it: first when being tapped on the shoulder by a general, second when he mutters in his sleep when Casca is warming him, and third when Pippin picks him up for the lulz. These same three scenes show up in the anime adaptation too, only it's never explained why Guts hates being touched because the flashback sequence explaining it was omitted from the anime.
Not to mention: It looked like Guts simply FORGOT to bring his sword for the eclypse. In the manga it was left stuck in Wyald's neck.
Adult Fear: No one is going to sacrifice their loved ones and turn into a demon in real life, but this series gives you the unpleasant feeling that even your best friends and family members are just one bad day away from stabbing you in the back. By the way: YOU, dear reader, might do the same as well. However, this is always a choice you make, as proven by the count who would rather go to hell than sacrifice his daughter to survive.
Adults Are Useless: A plot necessity in the Lost Children Arc, for obvious reasons... Sans Guts, who's only about 20-something himself, the adults present are totally abusive, complete morons, or massive cowards. The kids, whether they're apostles or not, are shown to be more ballsy than the adults around them.
Aerith and Bob: The Godhand is made up of the demons Femto, Void, Slan, Ubik... and Conrad.
Most of the names are from science-fiction novels. Void is likely from Frank Herbert's Destination: Void; Ubik is a book by Philip K. Dick; Slan is by A.E. Van Vogt and Conrad comes from Roger Zelazny's '...And call me Conrad'. Femto is either a prefix in the metric system for extremely small lengths (multiplied by 0.000000000000001, as a matter of fact) or a technical principle (in which case it is spelled PHEMT).
The names are not radically different. The only reason Conrad seems strange in comparison to the others is because it's a real life name and the rest aren't.
Furthermore, it's a foreign name in Japan, so it doesn't really stick out.
How about this? We have Hawk members Guts, Griffith, Casca, Judeau, Corkus, Pippin, and Rickert. Then we have felled Red Shirt members - Dan and Earl???
In the manga, their names are a bit more "refined" for the period, and are called by "Dante" and "Errol".
Affably Evil: Griffith, to his army, might seem like the nicest, coolest guy in the world and if you didn't know better he would be... Just that if it weren't for the voice in your head screaming, "Eclipse! Eclipse! Eclipse!" every time he's on the screen to remind you why hes a true Big Bad.
Alas, Poor Villain: The death of Rosine, one of the Apostles. After Guts mortally wounds her, she manages to fly away from him and finally realizes that elves are real indeed but she just isn't one of them. She then feels regret for sacrificing her parents to demons and in her delirious state, tries to return home, but falls to her death.
Alike and Antithetical Adversaries: Started out as the Heterogeneous Heroes vs. the Homogeneous Villains variety, with the good guys, the original Band of the Hawk, having light-skinned people and dark-skinned people, men and woman, and with older and younger supporters, and the bad guys, the Tudor Empire, being composed of older white men. Later, as more plot schemes and arcs develop and characters undergo more development, it turns into a Heterogeneous Heroes vs. Heterogeneous Villains scenario.
Allergic to Evil: The Brand of Sacrifice on Guts and Casca will start bleeding or hurting if demons are near.
All Gays Are Pedophiles: Paedophilia is kinda common in Miura's work to emphasize just how crappy a place Midland is and it's not just homosexuals like Gennon who kept a harem of young boys hostage and had sex with Griffith. Just ask Charlotte. Or even better, ask Guts himself why he Hates Being Touched so much.
All Girls Want Bad Boys: Played straight with Sonia, the Dark Chick in Griffith's new Band of the Hawk. She has a thing for morally dubious guys, be it Griffith or Irvine.
Griffith, though he is more of a subversion (zigzagged at best), since he appears to be a good-willed person who loves everybody and everybody in turn either loves him or willingly follows him, but in truth he's a guy with some issues. This complex is especially seen after his reincarnation into the physical world since he justifiably can't be a messiah since he is devoid of the human capacity for empathy.
Guts, on the other hand, is an aversion, since he's a decent guy who has also done good, but he doesn't even pretend to love everybody, nor does everybody that he meets love him.
The trope is most apparent during the numerous orgies and attempted/succeeded rape.
All Women Are Prudes: Likewise, if you're not a prostitute or just sex crazed, a background woman's only role is to be the pure, innocent, wholesome, traditional medieval country girl who gets horribly violated by marauders or apostles (usually they're one and the same).
All Myths Are True: Thanks in part to an extended and en masse case of clapping your hands to believe. Serpico even remarked in volume 24 that ghosts and monsters were one thing, but witches and trolls were a bit too "fairy tale-ish" to believe. And since the Layered World was merged, they've become a lot more true.
Always Save the Girl: Guts pretty much said that so long as he and Casca survive, he doesn't give two shits about anything else. Most exemplified during the Conviction Arc, where Guts would rather an entire hoard of evil spirits infest St. Albion, killing hundreds of refugees in the process, and a whole mock Eclipse go down than let Mozgus and the citizens burn Casca at the stake as a witch.
Also worth mentioning that if there is even the slightest chance that Casca's sanity might be restored to her, Guts is willing to take the risk each and every time. Has been exhibited canonically and non-canonically.
Amazon Chaser: Pretty much the reason why Guts chose Casca as his lover, instead of a regular noblewoman who can't fight, since he considers her to be more than just a woman.
Ambiguously Brown: In the world of Berserk there seems to be two "races" under this category: individuals such as Pippin and Donovan have more African features, while people like Silat and Jarris (Griffith's new chief engineer) have more south Asian features. The former is played straight as they are less prevalent, especially in recent arcs, but the latter group has been subverted as they come from a country that is based off of south Asia called Kushan. Special mention goes to Casca, in which she is implied to be Kushan, but it is never outwardly stated and she has generic phenotypes that could make her belong to either group, leading fans to categorize her in a real world context, ranging from Indian, African, Middle Eastern, mulatto, even Tibetan.
Angels, Devils and Squid: Being a Fantasy Kitchen Sink has allowed all three types of entities to exist in the world of Berserk in some form or another. There is a lot of overlap between them, but the Four Elemental Kings are the closest you can get to straight angels, the Apostles and Godhand are the devils, and the more malevolent spiritual entities (such as, fittingly, the Sea God) are the squid.
The Battle for Windham ends up as a somewhat muddled case of this. Griffith, who takes on an angelic appearance, leads his army of humans and Apostles against the now gigantic and nearly mindless Eldritch Abomination that was once Ganishka and his "army" of Cthul Humanoids.
An Interesting note is that the God Hand are referred to as Five Angels which makes it the case of God Hand being the Angels, Apostles being the Devils and The Squid can be the spiritual entities as well as Ganishka in the battle of windham.
Annoying Arrows: Played straight and subverted at the same time: the crossbows frequently used by various soldiers generally instantly pierce the armor of and kill other human beings, and while Guts himself rarely gets hit by them, a single bolt to his hand renders him unable to wield his sword two-handed, giving him a significant disadvantage in that fight. On the other hand, the Apostles are simply so large that the crossbows are simply too small to hit their internal organs, though Guts often shoots out their eyes to great effect.
The Antichrist: Thanks to the prophecy about the white and black hawks and the fact he wants to kill the person the freakin pope declared as an All-Loving Hero, this is technically Guts. Due to the violence Inherent in the System, this may or may not be a good thing. Or another way to look at it is that Griffith is the anti-christ since, you know, no one is supposed to know that the anti-christ is the anti-christ. Schierke refers to him as the Hawk of Darkness, and she'd know better than most people.
Sonia also qualifies. An ever-smiling, cute, blonde young girl couldn't possibly be a very morally questionable character, right? Mule may apply to an extent but he's more of an Unwitting Pawn than anything else.
Apathetic Citizens: Casca's home village was marauded by soldiers and bandits so often that they made it a routine to just go up into the nearby mountains for refuge and watch the chaos unfold until it was all done for that week. Add the fact that their crops failed 9 out of 10 times and several people died of starvation during the winter, it was no wonder that they eventually came to the conclusion that, "this is the way life is. Oh well."
Arm Cannon: There's one in Guts's left hand, and he can also rig it with a crossbow.
Armor Is Useless: The plate armor all the Mooks wear might as well be tin foil as far as Guts's weapons are concerned, and Guts is just as Made of Iron in or out of armour.
Not necessarily - when fighting the apostle Grunbeld without armor, Guts says something to the effect of absolutely needing armor to survive against an enemy of his power. He also credits it with protecting him against the goat-cult leader.
Not to mention Guts gets some extremely useful armor. Extremely useful in the sense that it makes him stronger. As far as protection is concerned, it does the opposite.
The armor is also extremely useful because it's the only thing keeping the wound inflicted on him by Slan (which hurts the body and soul) from killing him.
Technically it doesn't make him stronger only removes the subconscious limit the minds placed on the body allowing him to push himself way, way beyond his limits. Although for all intents and purposes it makes him stronger.
Averted in episode 330 of the manga. Guts, armed with a dull and conventionally-sized sword, is pitted against a noble wearing thick plate armor. Incapable of breaking past the armor, he ends up fighting a little more creatively than usual.
Artifact of Doom: Behelits, egg-like items that are direct conduits to the Godhand and allow their possessors the opportunity to become demons... for a hefty price. Griffith's Crimson Behelit, the 'Egg of the Conqueror', is the worst of all.
Subverted in that while its usefulness in combat is handwaved by a magnet in it that lets it help hold a sword his fake arm is actually just a hunk of metal with some weapons inside it — it's not functional as a limb, and he can't control it or grab things with it. Although it's a looong time between when he gets it and when this is explained...
But when his magic armor is active, he can use it like a normal limb.
Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Though they became an Official Couple at the end of volume 9 and the beginning of volume 10, Guts and Casca still had some of those early relationship mishaps, which included Casca showing jealously toward Princess Charlotte and her relationship with Griffith and then Guts getting pissed at Casca when she spilled the beans. They share some tender moments in between, but when they finally rescue Griffith, there are some very awkward glances between everyone. However, in volume 11, the group encounters Wyald and his Black Dog Knights, and Guts is badly injured. Casca immediately rushes to Guts' aid, but is then captured by Wyald and nearly raped. Thankfully, Guts rescues Casca just in the nick of time and the battle ensues... all the while Casca is worried to tears that Guts might be biting off more than he can chew. Guts is victorious, but it looks as if it was too late... until he gives Casca a reassuring thumbs-up. And then, awwwwwwww!◊
Awesome Moment of Crowning: One could say it happens for Griffith, if onlythe whole thing didn't take place in hell, a crown was involved, and his friends weren't being eaten alive.
Perhaps chapter 307 is more appropriate when Griffith summons his own PALACE
Awkwardly-Placed Bathtub: During their stay in Vritannis, Casca is given a bath by Schierke - in the cramped room that they paid for at an inn with Guts and Isidro still present in the room, veiled by only curtain and Schierke's attempt at tying Isidro to a chair so that he won't peek. Much Hilarity Ensues.
Babies Ever After: How Griffith envisioned life with Casca if his original plans did not go accordingly right before he activated his crimson behelit via Despair Event Horizon when he saw Casca in love with Guts. Subverted in that it's heavily implied that the baby in that vision was Guts', not Griffith's.
Babies Make Everything Better: Subverted in Guts and Casca's relationship. Guts and Casca conceived their child right around that point in the story where things take a strange optimistic turn in their relationship... and of course, it does not last. When that baby was born, Guts was not happy. Also subverted when Griffith chooses to sacrifice the Hawks rather than lead a semi-ordinary life raising a child with Casca (see Babies Make Everything Better above).
Backstory: There's a lot of it. Eleven volumes, in fact.
Two, actually, when they were fighting the Bakiraka in the sewers. Those were the good ol' days.
Bad Dreams / Nightmare Sequence: Guts has a lot of these, first due to his childhood trauma, and then after the events of the Eclipse. What's worse is when people, specifically Puck and Schierke, go into Guts' inner memories, they are bombarded with horrific images of the Eclipse. Also, in the non-canonical game Sword of the Berserk, when Casca briefly regains her sanity, she said that she was having bad dreams.
Badass: When your name is Guts and you can survive two years of drawing demons to you like a lightning rod, you earn the title...
And the Skull Knight also qualifies in a big way. He's been in the demonslaying game even longer than Guts has, and it's rumored that he went through the exact same thing Guts did when Void first became a Godhand.
He's also hinted to be the former Emperor of the World. Now that's badass (in its own way).
Heck - any character who survives more than two volumes is a badass by default.
I wouldn't be so quick to say that. That would include Farnese, Puck, Isidro, Corkus, the King, Charlotte...the list goes on. Berserk pretty much demonstrates how it's better to be lucky than skillful (or even useful on a regular basis).
Needless to say, Berserk is just LOADED with badass. The examples listed on this page are just the tip of the iceberg. If this wasn't such a shitty place to live with all of its flaws, the Berserkerverse would just be a World of Badass. Aw, hell - it IS. See below.
Bar Brawl / Diner Brawl: Guts makes his big debut in a Bad-Guy Bar in the castle town of Koka in the first volume/episode by killing everyone one of the Snake Baron's mooks, sans one. In later arcs, Guts and his gang get into a beat down with some drunkard slobs who were harassing the girls while at an inn.
Barbie Doll Anatomy: Played straight initially — Griffith is a Ken doll — and averted later in the story — some pages could easily be mistaken for Hentai — though it's played as much to elicit revulsion as arousal.
Not to mention Puck, who literally shows this trope off every time he appears.
Oddly enough, men have genitalia but no nipples.
Bathtub Scene: Post-Eclipse Casca gets a few of these. Cue in the Les Yay with either Farnese or Schierke!
Farnese gets one as well when she returns home for a short time.
Batman Cold Open: The series opens up with Guts killing some nameless Apostle (who's later revealed to have killed Corkus) within the first five pages.
Batman Gambit: Although it is difficult to know for certain what Femto is thinking, his plan appears to have relied on having one of his enemies become so desperate to win that he goes through a radical ritual to turn himself into an embodiment of hell while at the same time predicting that another enemy will execute a trans-dimensional sneak attack on Femto as soon as his guard appears to be down, so that he can re-direct the attack to deal a killing blow to the first enemy, releasing a world-altering energy wave. Justified as he is canonically and literally The Omniscient, or very near.
Battle in the Center of the Mind: At one point in the Millennium Falcon arc, Schierke has to go inside Guts's mind using Astral Projection to snap him out of the influence of his inner beast the first time he uses the Berserker Armor.
Enslaved Grunts: The Kushan army would capture Midland soldiers and use them as Cannon Fodder in the front lines by disguising them as their own soldiers.
Be a Whore to Get Your Man: Discussed by General Adon during his first encounter with Casca, where he incorrectly assumed that she only became a general in the Band of the Hawk because she slept with Griffith. Really more of a "Be A Whore To Get Your Promotion" scenario.
Beach Episode: Hey, even Guts and his True Companions need a break at the ocean, what with all of the weird shit they go through day after day.
Not to say the beach is any safer for them than anywhere else...
Beast with a Human Face: Many of the apostles retain their human faces in their more demonic forms. For some though, their human faces are placed on bodies that already have regular animal-like heads and some are even situated in places where human faces shouldn't normally belong on. Two prime examples that best illustrate this would be demon forms of the Baron of Koka Castle and the Count. The Baron looks like a gigantic humanoid snake but he has a human face in his mouth. The Count on the other hand, looks like a gigantic slug but he has a human face situated on the forehead of his slug head.
The Bechdel Test: Can you believe it? In such a dark setting, with such manly values and violent surroundings, there ARE indeed times when two named women talk to each other about something else than men. Can be survival (Luca and Nina), feeling out of place among regular people (Sonia and Schierke) or just plain outlook on life as a woman in a Crapsack World (Farnese and Lady Vandimion).
It's funny that Casca, the series' only genuine Action Girl, only talks to a woman once - and it's about a guy. In fact, Casca talks a lot about the guys in her life (but being a chick who is practically One of the Boys, it's somewhat understandable).
Being Tortured Makes You Evil: Arguably justified with Griffith, though it's not quite the torture that sends him over the edge, but more the consequences that followed afterwards.
Belief Makes You Stupid: Played with. While those blindly clinging to the church quickly end up intensely dead, Schierke explains that there's nothing wrong with believing in something beyond normal human perception; the problem is assuming that the force you're reaching out to will conform to your expectations. Magic-users believe, all right, but they don't believe dogmatically.
Belligerent Sexual Tension: Guts is a cocksure, ultra-macho, Alpha male Jerk with a Heart of Gold who has been Raised by Dudes and who usually hits before speaking. Casca is a fiery, type-A Tsundere, Alpha Action Girl who had to deal with sexual assault early on in her life and isn't exactly the submissive type. He has a thing for her, but is too maladjusted to convey such feelings. She has a thing for him, but also her pride and dutifulness as a commander. They go for the next best thing.
Beneath the Mask / Silk Hiding Steel: The Count's wife. On the outside, she appeared to be a sweet, endearing, obedient, and devoted wife and mother (and she might have been in some sense). But behind closed doors - especially when her husband was out of town - she participated in hot, provocative, and scandalous pagan orgies. And even when faced with death by her own husband's sword, she practically told him to give it his best shot. She only lost her nerves of steel when the Apostles came.
Berserk Button: Well DUH!! But more seriously, there are two things that cause Guts' instant Unstoppable Rage: a) Meeting a Godhand or post-Eclipse Griffith. Period. b) Anyone trying to hurt Casca only has a few seconds left to live. And these seconds will be filled with pain.
Actually anybody who tries to rape a girl in Guts presence tend to be this.He lost his cool and almost beheaded Farnese, while rescuing her from being raped by a possessed horse.
It don't stop with daddy. The Child, a being that was originally thought to have no real emotion or thought, was seen with a pretty damn scary Death Glare when some pagan worshipers tried to rape Casca. They paid for it dearly.
Berserker Tears: This happens a lot during the Eclipse between Guts and Casca.
BFS: The Dragon Slayer; originally done as a marketing gimmick, it's actually justified later in the series - it doesn't really have much of an edge, and other characters mock it as being "more a slab of iron than a sword", but Guts swings it fast enough to tear people in half with brute force.
The ginormous sword comes with an additional advantage: Durability. All the swords Guts used in the Golden Age arc broke at some point. Usually in the middle of a battle. His last "normal" sword didn't even last thirty seconds because Guts abused it so badly it snapped like a twig.
Not only is the Dragon Slayer ultra durable, but it also double serves as a shield, since the blade is wide enough for Guts to hide his vital spots behind when on the defensive and to also deflect projectiles.
To further elaborate, when Guts was about to go Apostle-Hunting for the first time, he used a giant sword much like he used during his mercenary days, only to discover that despite its size, the Apostles were simply so large and tough that the sword generally broke before he could kill them. Discovering the Dragonslayer a second later, he realized it was one of the few weapons capable of killing them, purely because of its incredible mass.
Bicep-Polishing Gesture: Guts does this right before the Battle of Doldrey to show off how nicely his wounds healed with the help of the elf dust after his defeat of the 100 soldiers.
Big Bad: Void The Leader of The Godhand may count until its revealed the Void is The Dragon to The Idea of Evil or The Idea of Evil, the deity that created the Godhand, or Griffith who provides the primary motivation for the story.
Big Bad Duumvirate: The entire Godhand as a group may count, being the ringleaders of the majority of Apostles encountered Until it's revealed they are being led by The Idea of Evil
Big Badass Battle Sequence: The Battle of Doldrey. It's going to be even more glorious when the second movie comes out. The final battle against Griffith and Emperor Ganishka can count as well.
Bigger Bad: The Idea of Evil cosmically, it's on the very top of the Berserk-verse as far as evil is concerned, but it has little to do with Guts' quest.
Big Good: Schierke's teacher, Flora. After her death, the Skull Knight, the most powerful opposition to the Godhand, may qualify, although his true motives remain unknown. Potentially also the Four Elemental Kings, if they ever actually show up to do anything.
Big Damn Heroes: The Skull Knight pulls this perfectly when he breaks into hell, fights past the Godhand, and rescues Guts and Casca from being eaten.
In general the Skull Knight has turned this skill into an art, for whenever he appears he only ever does two things: either mutter something mysterious and prophetic and vanish, or to rescue someone with a great deal of flair.
Averted twice with Vargas' public execution by the evil Count. Puck tries to talk Guts into doing one of those but he refuses and leaves. Puck then tries to pull it off himself and fails miserably. Justified for Guts who knows well this is clearly a trap meant to pull him into a stupid heroic rescue where he would be overwhelmed by sheer numbers.
Big "Shut Up!": When the Hawks get sent to the Vortex and nearly everybody is panicking - especially Corkus - Casca tells everybody to shut up in order to get them back in line. In fact, seeing Casca keeping her cool and trying to boost everyone's moral in such a dire situation was the last positive thing that Guts thought during the Eclipse.
Big, Thin, Short Trio: In their own circle, Pippin is the huge guy, Corkus is the skinny guy, and Judeau/Rickert are the short guys. Guts, Griffith, and Casca have their own dynamic.
Black and Grey Morality: In the world of Berserk, most people are either a monster (literally), have been turned into bastards by the horror of their world, or make themselves bastards in order to survive. There are some genuinely nice people around, but you have to look harder for them.
Probably because they're almost inevitably raped and/or torn apart.
In Midland, being good is inevitably the mark of being a Red Shirt.
Rickert as well. He's the one who assembled Guts' artificial arm/cannon and a lot of other useful items for him.
Blade Brake: During the Eclipse, when he gets separated from Griffith and falls from the mountain of face, Guts uses the cutlass that he always wears to stop him from falling, and then uses it to the climb his way back up. The faces are screaming and bleeding while he's doing this, by the way.
Blank White Eyes: If you see Guts get these, it's time to start running — they generally signify that Guts is beyond pissed and in the full grip of the Berserker Rage.
Also, every female ever who gets protected by Guts, even if it's just for a little bit. Even if they're, like, eight. Also true for Casca as well, before she went crazy of course. Although its debatable if Casca didn't already have feelings for Guts before he single handedly killed 100 mercenaries to protect her.
Bowdlerise: The anime really tones down on the violence, nudity, and sex... at least until the Finale.
Boyfriend Bluff: Zigzagged during Griffith's gala, in which Casca practically dive bombs an unaware Guts and takes him in her arms, asking him to pretend to be her escort so the other men at the ball wouldn't bother her.
Brain Bleach: Do yourself a favor: get a membership to Costco or some other warehouse club, because you will need to replenish your supply a lot during the course of this series. You'll need over 5 gallons of the stuff just to get through the Golden Age Arc with your sanity slightly intact - AND IT JUST GETS WORSE.
Breakable Weapons: This common video game trope is played straight in Berserk. Even though freakishly large, Guts' original BFSs are, in essence, really big broad swords and do have their limit at how much stress they can handle. After fighting a hundred soldier a few nights prior, Guts' sword conveniently breaks at the worst possible time during the Battle of Doldrey. Luckily for him, a mysterious benefactor *coughZoddcough!* donates his freakishly large scimitar in order for Guts to finish the battle. We see a few more of the swords that Godo made for him break under the stress of training, but the audience is given a wake-up call that not just any sword is able fight monsters during the Eclipse when Casca tries to defend herself against the apostles, who end up shattering her sword into a hundred pieces, and when the sword that Guts was using to fight off apostles was of utterly no use when trying to rip through the hide of an apostle that was apprehending him. To fight these fiends, you would need a weapon that is capable of slaying a dragon...
Breaking the Fellowship: After Guts leaves the Band of the Hawk, the rest of the Golden Age Arc is spent detailing how the original band is fragmented until the whole band with the exceptions of Guts, Casca, Rickert, and Griffith is obliterated during the Eclipse. It's a bit eerie in that Rickert, through his teary-eyed and child-like idealism, actually lampshaded that something bad would happen if Guts left the Hawks.
Or for that matter, poor Charlotte. She loses her virginity in a very unromantic way to a man exorcising his (at that point) worst demon, and though she was in love with him, she has to stand and watch when he is arrested and tortured for a full year because of it, pining over him all the while. And then there was that time her own father tried to rape her. She managed to fight him off, but still...
Breast Plate: Averted — Female warriors in the series usually dress reasonably sensibly, when they're wearing anything at all.
Later on Guts. While the first chapters make it clear that something about his presence makes people dislike him, recently he has the status of the Ace with his friends: Isidoro sees him as his teacher, Schierke and Farnese both have the hots for him, everyone knows that he's their trump card in a fight and keeps his cool against huge odds... but they all known (or at least suspect) that he has huge issues about his failures.
Guts himself shows the other extreme: before the eclipse, while he was withdrawn and suffering from some trauma, most of the time he was still a pretty well rounded and healthy guy. Fast foward to his black swordsman days and he's become a cynical, cold, uncaring revenge driven monster after the events he witnessed.
Broken Tears: Used during the very horrific and very emotional climax of the Eclipse where Griffith is raping Casca as Femto. Guts is crying streams of tears and blood at a man he considered a friend forcing him to watch as he raped the woman that he loved to insanity. Casca, in turn, is crying from being subjected to excruciating pain that the brand is causing her from being in such close contact with a power demon and also because she is being physically, sexually, and emotionally violated by the man that she looked up to in front of the man that she loved.
With the help of the merrows, Guts was able to pierce the Sea God's heart and kill it. But being stuck inside the monstrosity with many grievous injuries left him in little position to be able to escape it on his own as it began to "collapse" all around him.
Brother-Sister Incest: Serpico is Farnese's half-brother. She isn't aware of this, and she developed feelings for him in their teenage years and even made a very emotionally charged advance on him. Serpico being in the know, he resisted.
Bug War: Guts' entire battle against Rosine and her minions was basically this. Remember that Rosine didn't just transform children into insectoids, but also adults.
Bullying a Dragon: The holy iron chain knights try to capture a severely wounded Guts alive. He tries to play nice for a wile since he knows his opponents aren't really his enemies. But when they poke him too much... EEEK!!
An instance came up during the Golden Age Arc after the Hawks' first encounter with Nosferatu Zodd, where some nobles caught wind of the supposed supernatural account and decided to snark Guts off (who was walking with crutches at the time). Guts promptly smashes one of the noble's feet with the end of his crutch, and he actually had the balls to try and challenge Guts to a duel... a good stern and scary Death Glare set him straight.
Burning the Ships: In the Battle of Doldrey, Griffith positions himself and the portion of his army that he expects to face the largest part of the enemy force with their backs to a river and no way to retreat. He does this not only to motivate his own men, but also as part of a Batman Gambit: Cornered and outnumbered, his force presents a tempting target that succeeds in drawing the enemy forces out of their castle, which is promptly captured in a sneak attack by a small flanking force.
Burn the Witch!: Casca gets herself into this predicament when she is suspected of having evil supernatural powers thanks to the brand on her breast that attracts evil it was actually the presence of she and Guts's corrupted child that sparked the accusations both among the pagans who wanted to rape her and the Holy Iron Chain Knights who wanted to torture her, since the child summoned the demons in order to protect her in both situations.
Call Back: Oh, a lot. Especially with Apostles. During the Eclipse, we see three Apostles from the first three chapters of Berserk - the nameless female demon that has sex with Guts (in disguise, of course), Baron Koka and The Count. Furthermore, the Lost Children arc is focused around Rosine and (to a lesser extent) her two semi-Apostle insect henchmen, who attacked Rickert's camp with the Count just before the Eclipse. And during the sequence where Griffith rescues Charlotte from Ganeshka, we see Borkoff, the Apostle who took Guts's arm.
The Cavalry: In the recent chapter 330, when Guts is being held by the lord in his castle as a gladiator and is holding the lord's son as a hostage to make his escape, Martino, the old man from earlier, storms in with his comrades before the the lord's soldiers have a chance to shoot him.
Canon Discontinuity: Chapter 83, in which Griffith meets The Idea Of Evil, has been removed from all printings by request of the author on the basis that it gave away too much of the plot too soon. In this case, it might be only temporary.
Can Not Spit It Out: During the Eclipse Judeau attempts to confess his love for Casca but is only able to say "I'm glad to see you cry," before dying in her arms, lamenting that she never thought of him as more than a valuable ally.
Card-Carrying Villain: The Godhands have one goal in their eternal lives: making humanity as miserable as possible. They take their job VERY seriously and gleefully go to unimaginable extremes to turn the world of Midland into a living hell.
Even better, the Idea Of Evil itself presents itself to Griffith with its very name when they meet.
Cast Of Snow Flakes: Even incidental background characters, human or otherwise, are given unique and distinct appearances.
Changeling Fantasy: Subverted with Rosine, who is driven to believe that she is the center of one by parental abuse, then sacrifices her parents to fulfill her dream. By the time Guts fights her, she's been kidnapping children from nearby villages to turn into demonic fairies for a while and is practically insane.
Characterization Marches On: Literally the first time we see Guts, he's in the middle of having sex with an apostle before killing her. Later volumes show that Guts has serious hangups about sex, making it a very odd introduction to the character.
This applies to many characters. Guts has changed throughout throughout the story, from the vicious and cruel Blood Knight that we was in the early portions of the manga, to the more calm, composed, and melancholy warrior (with a Super-Powered Evil Side that threatens to surface at times) that he is now. Even some minor characters, such the young girl Jill and the insecure prostitute Nina, develop in their own subplots.
Characters Dropping Like Flies: Absurd bodycount of the named characters, not even factoring in the genocidal slaughters on the battlefield every few episodes.
Charles Atlas Superpower: Guts is powerful enough to carry the Dragon Slayer because he's spent his entire life in battle, and as a result is hellishly strong.
Plus, he learned how to use a sword as a child, using a full size adult sword, which taught him to use larger swords than normal from an early age.
The Chase: The latter half of the Griffith rescue operation has this, with Wyald and his Black Dog Knights pursuing Griffith and the Band of the Hawk. The Hawks try to deflect the Dogs using explosives and rocks slides, but it's still not enough to deter them, so the two groups eventually clash arms.
Chekhov's Armoury: A literal one. Toward the end of the Golden Age Arc, while Guts and Casca are (badly) recuperating after the events of the Eclipse, Ericka shows Rickert Godo's storage shed, which contains a lot of nifty weaponry and accessories - among them being several prototype prosthetic limbs and the Dragonslayer itself.
Chekhov's Gun: We already know how important the Behelit is in the manga, but in the anime it is treated in this fashion.
Chekhov's Gunman: Zigzagged with Puck in the manga, who was already introduced in the first arc since the story starts In Medias Res, but he is briefly mentioned in the middle of the Golden Age arc and makes a short cameo during the eclipse chapters. Played straight in the second movie with Farnese and Serpico, who are briefly seen at the Hawks' victory ball.
Chest Burster: Nastier monsters such as the trolls of Qliphoth and Ganishka's demonic soldiers are born this way.
Clap Your Hands If You Believe: The whole reason why The Idea of Evil exists. Also implied in the manga as the reason elves exist, prompting Puck to whip out a banner saying "Cogito Ergo Sum" whenever someone says that they think he's not real.
Arguably EVERY SINGLE supernatural thing on the series is more or less the result of this, as Qliphoth is implied to be formed from human nightmares and the demons are all people transformed of God Hand, which in turn come from The Idea Of Evil. This is what makes the monsters so terrifying; no matter how many you kill, there will always be monsters around thanks to mankind.
Also discussed in volume 24 during the groups' time at the mansion of the spirit tree, where Isidro suggested that if supernatural entities appeared because people believed in them, then all they'd have to do is stop believing and they wouldn't get hurt! Schierke added that it wasn't that simple.
Guts also suffered from clothing damage while he was killing apostles during the Eclipse (though not to the extent of which Casca suffered) and when his armor got ripped off by Slan when she manifested in Qliphoth.
Cock Fight: A strange variation. It happens between Guts and Casca over Griffith in the first part of the manga but the object of the fight turns about in an very dark twist during the Eclipse when Griffith rapes Casca in front of Guts.
Coitus Uninterruptus: An important message from the King of Midland asking him to kill the shit out of some people ain't going to stop Wyald from banging one of dozens of women in his room.
Cold-Blooded Torture: This happens a lot. Guts to the Apostles, the Apostles to humans, Mozgus to everyone he encounters (because maybe they might have been having some heretical thoughts at some point in their lives), the King of Midland to Griffith, so on and so forth.
The most vile example is what Casca and Guts went through when Griffith horrifically raped Casca during the Eclipse. Not only is she being horribly violated, but the brand on her chest is causing her excruciating pain during every waking moment, since Casca is most likely the closest any human has ever been to a Godhand. This is also a very cruel form of torture for Guts, since he's being Forced to Watch all this happen to the love of his life by his best friend and he can't do a damn thing about it, even after chopping off his arm to try and save her. And it's made even worse since Griffith is smiling at him while he's doing this. It's no wonder that Casca's mind just shattered after the events and Guts virtually hates the entire world now.
Combat Breakdown: Several battles against powerful apostles end with Guts having to resort to outright suicidal strategies because he is too worn down from all the damage he took to even lift his sword. Often he practically crawls away after battle, even tough he won. Without Puck, Guts would be dead. Period.
Combat Parkour: Casca centers most of her offensive and defensive maneuvers around flipping about the enemy.
Combat Pragmatist: Take a shot every time Guts uses a child as a hostage or for bait. Better yet, don't—it's dangerous.
Competence Zone: At the end, only an army made up of older teens and early twenty-something year olds were able to win Midland's war. The trend continues with Guts' new group, now with even younger members.
Already in effect before. The larger a group of baddies gets, the quicker they go down.
Content Warnings: Pretty regular with Berserk media, since the manga will most likely have shrink wrapping and parental advisory stickers wherever they are sold. Special mention, of course, goes to volume 13 of the manga, which has a very obvious advisory sticker over the depiction of post rape and mutilated Guts and Casca on the cover, and the upcoming movie Descent, which will receive the Japanese equivalent of an NC-17 rating for "strong depictions of sexual activity." In fact, the theatrical release had to be edited down to an R-rating, since the original cut was considered too graphic to release to regular audiences. Alas, rumor has it that even the R-rated version was too much for some viewers to handle.
Conspicuous CG: A major criticism of The New Tens' film trilogy adaptation of the Golden Age arc is that the CG models, especially for minor characters, are low-poly and stiffly animated. This improves markedly between the first movie and the third.
Griffith's helmets always take a hawk-like form. They're pretty cool-looking during his glory days as a human... but when he becomes Femto, a demon lord, the image can potentially become Nightmare Fuel. invoked
Mooks, mooks, mooks. Their helmets can range anywhere from weird, frog-eyed goggle helmets, to looking like fucking triceratops and sharks.
Corpse Land: In an early story in the manga, Guts passes through the remains of an old battlefield with a priest and his family on pilgrimage and has to fight demon-possessed skeletons and other undead because of the Brand he bears.
Cosmic Plaything: *Face Palm*. Okay. Where would you like to start? The part where Guts's life sucked even BEFORE he was born and how he narrowly escapes death every twenty-five minutes or how Casca has an invisible blinking sign that says "Rape me!" to all men in a ten mile radius? Why even bother explaining it here? See below.
Costume Porn: Armor, clothing, dresses. If it's worn on the human body, Miura draws it in exquisite detail.
Suggested between Guts and Casca at one point, when she uses a scrap of colorful cloth from her blouse to bind a wound in his arm... exactly where a knight would traditionally display a favor from a noble lady. Ultimately averted when They Do, and neither of them were ever much like a proper knight or lady in any case.
Crapsack World: Oh yeah. Some people manage to survive and better themselves, but for most, it's a nightmarish existence topped off by a nightmarish death. To put it simply, life in Midland sucks.
If you're a peasant, there is substantial evidence in the manga that your sole purpose is to be cannon fodder for whatever instance of nightmarish horror is currently roaming around. This is discounting the general misery caused by constant wars between neighboring countries, the in-series equivalent of a demonic version of the Crusades and the reconstruction of the entire world based on the vision of a spiteful, backstabbing sociopath.
And it's implied that if your nightmarish death is brought about by demons, then you go straight to a great morass of souls surrounding a giant heart. And even if you don't, it's implied everyone goes there when they die, without exception. It isn't really Hell as the Judeo-Christians see it (if it had an analogy, it would be in the Shinto Jikoku, or "land of the dead," which is also a place which everyone goes to when they die), but from what has been shown of it in the manga, it isn't a very pleasant place.
Face it: if you started out as a halfway decent person in this world, you probably won't be going out as one (either because you'll be literally chopped in half by some demon or you'll give up your humanity to become one of those who causes the suffering, either metaphorically or via Behelit).
Cue the Sun: Normally represents how Guts (and companions) has survived another harrowing night of fighting ghosts and hellspawn.
Curse: Though they survived the Eclipse, by bearing the Brand of the Sacrifice Guts and Casca are doomed to be followed by evil spirits and demons until their dying breath, where they will then have to serve an eternity in hell.
Curb-Stomp Battle: After the hundred man slaying incident groups of human enemies ,no matter how well trained or numerous, just stopped being a problem for Guts (as long as he is in sufficient fighting shape of course). An especially awesome example comes when a group of Kushan assassins try to kill Guts...who just had his sword upgraded and was eager to give it a try... After seing the resulting pile of gore, Silat wisely decided not to waste his best mooks on an unwinnable battle.
Cursed with Awesome: Guts is granted the Berserker Armor, which gives him incredible strength and speed, but it deadens the nerves so that the one who wore the armor would just fight and not feel anything. Guts has to wear this, or else he'll die due to the injuries he sustained in a fight with Slan.
Blessed with Suck: However, there seems to be a lot more disadvantages to the Berserker armor than advantages in the long run, such as gradual loss of color vision, sense of taste, sanity, and the fact that the armor literally causes the wearer to go berserk, meaning that they won't be able to distinguish who is a friend and who is foe. Not only that, but the armor "repairs" the wearer's injuries by driving splinters into the body much like an Iron Maiden, so there is a chance that the wearer will die of blood loss along the way. Also, since using the armor puts a lot more stress on Guts' body, his recuperation period is much longer now.
Cute Mute: Casca, after what happens to her. Poor, poor Casca.
Cut Short: The anime, and frankly, they couldn't have kept it going without giving the censors a set of heart attacks...
Although seeing as how it ended with Guts cutting off his own arm and Casca being raped while Guts is forced to watch as the cost of his eye, its questionable how much worse it could get.
...This is Berserk. It can always get worse.
Dances and Balls: Lots of dancing balls are hosted by aristocrats. Most of them end in incredibly violent ways.
Darker and Edgier: After reading this page, it should be obvious that Berserk is arguably the best example of the trope in manga.
It's even Lampshaded in the American volumes, which bear this text on the back cover:
Berserk is the hammer of the manga forge, a white-hot amalgam of bruising action, breathless horror, and brimstone humor that separates men from boys, wheat from chaff, and heads from shoulders! DO YOU WANT TO LIVE FOREVER?
Dark Is Not Evil: ...But it's not always the case. Some spiritual beings look creepy but are otherwise fairly benign, the aptly named Skull Knight largely devotes his time to fighting the forces of evil, and the Black Swordsman himself, Superpowered Evil Side aside, is the hero of the story.
Dark Messiah: Griffith after he uses the Crimson Behelit to become the fifth member of the Godhand. However to the people of Midland it is Guts. This is not going to end well.
The Dark Side: The meta-example would be a bit too difficult - if not controversial - to debate within the lore of the story, but a good micro example would be the Beast that dwells within Guts, who represents everything dark and bad within his heart and is constantly trying to corrupt his soul with darkness with promises of power and vengeance against the one who wronged him.
Darkest Hour: Once the Hawks make it to the border of Midland, they must come to terms with their predicament: they've been outcasted from the kingdom and Griffith is mutilated beyond repair. The dream is over.
Death Wail / The Scream: Played for tragedy during the Eclipse. First, Guts screams in rage, anger, and sadness after seeing the slaughtered remains of his friends and comrades in a lake of blood. Then, after going through the immense horror of being forced to watch Casca get raped by Femto, Guts howls a scream that we can only describe as sheer pain when he watches her fall limp and broken after Femto is done with her.
Although she tends to scream a lot in her insanity, newly insane Casca gives a truly painful and mournful scream when she miscarries her deformed child and it disappears at daybreak.
Death World: The world of Berserk has never been a pleasant place, but ever since the magic came back, it's gotten evenworse! Various spiritual creatures, including dragons, hydras, trolls, and sea monsters have appeared and have since been wreaking havoc on the unprepared populace.
Declaration of Protection: Half of Guts' motivation is to kill the Godhand; the other half revolves around protecting Casca. Guts protects Casca when she was a capable Action Girl and after he failed to protect her during the Eclipse and vows to do so from now on,especially after he rescues her from Mozgus). As noted above, you hurt Casca, you die. Simple as that.
Defeat Means Friendship: Subverted when Guts demands a rematch from Griffith, and then Double Subverted when he's beaten anyway, and is enlisted into the Band Of The Hawk.
And then subverted a THIRD TIME later when Guts faces Griffith again in order to win his freedom from the Hawks. Guts is doing it because he feels he's dishonoring Griffith as friend by simply following him without a dream of his own, not because he's unhappy there. Griffith, already semi-consumed by his ambitions sees this as a betrayal. Their fight ultimately ends with Guts' victory. It doesn't end well...
Deliberate Injury Gambit: Guts pulls this quite a lot against apostles, most notably against the Snake Baron in the first volume and against Rosine in the Lost Children Arc.
Determinator: Guts is essentially the poster boy for the trope. Beat him, burn him, even impale him, he will not let go of that sword. And let's not forget Griffith, who's willing to achieve his childhood dream even if it means everyone close to him being eaten by demons... and becoming one himself.
Deus Angst Machina: After losing all his friends and 15% of his body in the Eclipse and having to watch helplessly while Femto raped Casca to the point of madness Guts understandably loses it. Ok, that was pretty bad. This must be the bottomline! Of course the Skull Knight promptly arrives to inform Guts about the more unpleasant properties of his brand that will keep him from ever sleeping again and finally it is revealed that Casca was pregnant of Guts child and the embryo was corrupted by Femto into a ghastly demon. And that's just the beginning...
Deus ex Machina: The Skull Knight sometimes comes off as this. However, there is a catch: Even the Skull Knight is revealed to be an Unwitting Pawn who just plays out his predestined role. So there is no such thing as coincidence in this universe.
The crimson behelit invokes this. Griffith suffers irreversible physical damage after a year of torture and it seems to be end game for Griffith's dream... until the behelit reappears and more or less allows him be reborn bigger and better than before (albeit at a very great cost).
Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: In chapter 290, after a battle with the pirates, Farnese and Roderick have a heart-to-heart talk about how each person on board has a special role, and Roderick let it slip that she's taking care of Casca, the most important person in Guts's life. He then thinks to himself that that was probably not the best thing to say to her...
Casca also does this in volume 10 during the Griffith rescue operation. She wound up telling Guts that she was more or less jealous of Princess Charlotte and her affection toward Griffith... even though she and Guts had just shared an entire love scene together a few nights previous. You can guess that Guts wasn't too happy at hearing this tidbit and Casca immediately regrets saying it and tries to apologize, but the damage has already been done.
Did You Just Have Sex?: After initiating the Griffith rescue operation, Judeau eyes Guts and Casca together and notices how happy they are (especially Casca, since she has not been herself since the downfall of the Band of the Hawk a year prior). Guts and Casca indeed became "official'' the previous night. Bonus points in that the night before, Judeau was more or less hinting at Guts to "cheer Casca up."
Dirty Business: Guts left the Band of the Hawk partly because he was uncomfortable with being Griffith's personal assassin and having to kill a child.
Dirty Coward: Played with during the Tower of Conviction arc. Nina is definitely a coward, but Luca tells her that because of that, she might be the one who'll fight the hardest to live. She's also portrayed slightly more sympathetically than is usual for this trope, as she is deeply ashamed of her cowardice, and actually steels herself to pull off a Heroic Sacrifice, only to lose her nerve (not unreasonably) when she sees exactlywhat would happen if she went through with it.
Domestic Abuse: Just another whiff of how realistically crappy life in Midland can be, sans monsters. Young Guts, Jill, and Rosine had it bad.
Don't Look at Me!: These are pretty much Casca's last words as a sane person while she is being horrifically raped in front of Guts who is being forced to watch anyway. After that, she's a mute.
Downer Beginning: The manga starts off at the point in his life where Guts is at his most hopeless, ruthless and outright evil. Rickert later points out that if Puck hadn't teamed up with Guts at that time, he porbably would have lost his humanity completely.
Guts, being an Anti-Hero, falls in-between. In the recent Boyhood arc, Guts pays his final respects to the child elf who sacrificed herself in order to heal him by spreading the remaining petals of her host flower in the field of the same flowers. At this time, Guts is still the anti-social and arrogant teenager that we were introduced to at the beginning of the Golden Age arc, but the gesture reveals that, throughout the crap he had to put up with in his childhood, Guts still has a softer, emotional side to him that he's willing to show to people who treat him with genuine kindness. However, throughout his Black Swordsman days, Guts is repeatedly shown desecrating the deceased, unanimated or not. This isn't on the same level as Wyald, since Guts isn't evil, but it does show that Guts is rather ruthless and that he is in a dark, dark place at this time.
Griffith, the ambiguously evil character, plays it straight once when he is paying his respects to the un-named boy who died in his company, and he genuinely felt sad over his death to the point where it was half of the motivation for him whoring himself out to General Genon. He later subverts this trope, starting with the fact that he attended the funeral of the Queen of Midland when he was the one who orchestrated her death. The example the cut the deepest was upon his reincarnation into the real world, where he visited the hill of swords for the fallen Band of the Hawk. However, he visited not so he could pay any respects or admit any regret for being the cause of their deaths, but to validate that he had no regrets for his actions during the Eclipse. Big OUCH.
Dull Eyes of Unhappiness: All three main characters get these. A lot. They're an unhappy bunch, so you can't really blame them.
Guts gets them when he goes through his Heroic BSOD after assassinating Count Julius and, by accident, his young son. Also, the eye-shine never quite comes back to Guts' eyes after the Eclipse, save for one moment when the Skull Knight tells him of the possibility of Casca being cured at Elfheim.
Casca has these during her time as leader of the Hawks, prominently when she is about to attempt suicide.
And Griffith - poor post-torture/pre-Eclipse Griffith.