Impenetrable Armor: Analysis of Berserk’s Griffith

Griffth did nothing wrong.

Berserk (Kentaro Miura) is one of my favorite stories. I initially wrote this analysis of Griffith in April of 2020 (while bored during quarantine) and was gonna post this after I finished my analysis of Casca (and Guts lol). However, Kentaro Miura sadly passed away so I thought it would be fitting to post this now.

RIP Kentaro Miura.

Anyway, Griffith is very polarizing – was he always sociopathic trash? Did he care about anything other than the dream? Was it all the unfortunate hand of fate?  Yes, yes, and yes. I’ve taken it upon myself to do a lengthy analysis of his character, because Miura wrote some awesome characters who deserve dissertations.

*Spoilers, I own nothing, not even my own soul*

The Key to Understanding Griffith: A Dream

Griffith has a dream: to obtain a kingdom. 

Regardless of whatever initial, selfish motivations existed for pursuing this dream, at some point it’s no longer solely Griffith’s dream. 

The Band of the Hawk paves the way for Griffith to obtain a kingdom, while providing comradery, financial stability, and purpose to many others. Thus, the accomplishment of his dream is directly tied to the livelihoods of the Hawk, something that no doubt grew burdensome. After all, Griffith just wanted a kingdom for himself. But one day thousands of others were following him, dying for him, and relying on him to get that kingdom. Any sane person would start to question if what they’re doing is worth it once people start kicking the bucket.

So what’s the solution to avoid feeling guilty over the fact people are literally dying so you can achieve your selfish dream?

Tell them it’s their choice!

Be it fate, his looks, or battle skills, it’s true people simp for Griffith of their own free will. Consequently, Griffith absolves himself of any personal responsibility, and therefore guilt, over anyone’s demise since it was always their decision to follow him or nah (and Griffith does seem genuine in saying he DGAFlip. He doesn’t even make Guts join the Hawk even though he wanted him ASAP).

Casca telling Guts about Griffith ft. dead child soldier/Gennon helps us understand Griffith’s character. She sees Griffith bathing, Griffith’s like, “wanna join?”, Casca’s like, “literally why were you with pedo Gennon last night.” 

Initially, Griffith says it’s the fastest way to the bag. This is nonsense, both to the reader and Casca. His decision was in part, if not wholly, motivated by the death of wannabe child soldier and a resulting desire to minimize more death if possible. 

This flashback highlights that:

  • Griffith’s dream may have initially been motivated by selfish desires and may still be; however, at some point accomplishing or not accomplishing the dream doesn’t just affect him, but all who fight for him.
    • Failing or suddenly deciding the dream’s not worth it renders every death before that nil. 
  • Griffith feels bad. Hence the self harm. We can disagree on why (sleeping with Gennon? soldiers generally dying? dead child?) Nevertheless, he’s not a total sociopath (yet).
  • Griffith can’t let others see he feels bad (hence telling Casca it’s all good). Allowing others to see he’s weak ruins his carefully curated image that he’s the Hawk who can achieve anything.  

In order for Griffith to achieve the dream, not only must others believe he can get a kingdom, but he also must believe this. Caring too much jeopardizes the dream. Because if he starts caring about every homeboy dying in his name, he’s not gonna keep going. But if he doesn’t eventually obtain his goal, all those deaths, every sacrifice, every cruel deed, t’was all worthless. 

So, there are stakes not only for Griffith but for others. At some point this crosses Griffith’s mind. Consequently, the accomplishment of the dream is the only thing that renders everything done in its name worth it. Thus, he puts on emotional armor and pursues his dream with tunnel vision in order to achieve it.


The Derailment of A Dream

Guts. 

Platonic or romantic is irrelevant; all that matters is Griffith would’ve died for Guts.

Evidence:

Griffith asks Guts to join the Hawk. Guts: “fight me.” Griffith wins and caresses Guts’ face whilst declaring ownership of him. The rest of the Hawk are pissy, especially Casca. Griffith having to fight for anything is ridiculous because everyone worships the ground he walks on. 

  • This is probably the root of Griffith’s Guts obsession outside of a general admiration for Guts’ strength and desire for true companionship. Guts is one of the few things Griffith has to grind for. Guts not insta-worshipping only made Griffith want him more, to prove to himself he could eventually obtain anything: a soldier, a kingdom, you name it.

3 seconds after Guts joins, Griffith saves Guts. Even Guts is like ??? (during 1 of like 7 wholesome scenes in the entire manga: the water fight). Griffith basically says, “I don’t want to lose a good soldier, homie.”

Griffith “saves” Guts from Zodd. Now, Griffith had to realize there was an extremely high (107%) chance of death here that would tank any chance of accomplishing the dream. We know Zodd sees the Behelit, goes “lol nvm,” and flutters off. But Griffith didn’t. It’s no wonder Casca was initially so salty as Guts (simply by existing) was endangering Griffith, everything Griffith had worked for, and consequently the Hawk itself.

When Guts asks Griffith again why he would risk his life, Griffith doesn’t even bother coming up with an answer because even he’s aware his actions made zero sense no matter the context.

Griffith goes looking for 100 man slayer despite everyone being like homie, they’re dead and we have other things to do. Like obtain your kingdom. (Mind you even the people of Midian begin side-eyeing Griffith).

Later, during the battle of Doldrey, Griffith is uber distracted making sure Guts doesn’t die – who tells Guts to take up his sword?

Griffith.

To conclude, Guts alone could potentially derail Griffith’s dream. Because Guts was someone Griffith was willing to die for and his own death meant the death of the dream (obviously).


A Dream or A Friend

Griffith opened up to Guts in a way he didn’t with anyone else; only Guts saw his duality in full. Note how earlier we witness a water fight in which Griffith reminds Guts he’s the HBIC and will decide when Guts dies.

Moving to the assassination of Julius: Griffith asks Guts to off Julius. Key word: asks because that’s what you do with amigos.

But Guts reminds him he’s the boss and should just tell him. This highlights how much their relationship has changed. Once upon a time, Griffith reminded Guts he’s the HBIC. Now, Guts has to remind him.

Griffith mucks up soon after this scene. Guts is reasonably mopey about killing Adonis and goes to Griffith for some reassurance he’s not trash. Except Griffith is trying to woo Charlotte, leaving Guts with the impression he’ll never be equal to Griffith, and therefore his friend, if he’s only following Griffith’s dream.  

  • Can’t ignore him being happy Adonis died. Let’s admit he’s trash, something he realizes not long after burning the queen. That said, this shows how much Griffith changed. Once upon a time, the death of a child moved him enough to sleep with pedo Gennon and prevent more bloodshed, even at the cost of his image/ego. Now, death doesn’t matter as long as it brings him closer to the dream.

After we burn the queen, Griffith’s mopey. Why? Likely the weight of his sins were finally crushing him. Nevertheless, he returns minister Foss’ daughter and proceeds to ask Guts if he’s trash (notably, the only other time he asks anyone if he’s trash is with Casca, post-Gennon, but her reaction was not it).

However, unlike Casca, Guts is like, “it’s all for the dream, bro.”

To be fair, Guts doesn’t know what’s going on in Griffith’s mind, because neither of them possess communication skills. Guts admires Griffith’s drive to pursue his dream at all costs. This admiration doesn’t change. In fact, Guts leaves so he can become Griffith’s equal/friend.

But Guts response could easily be interpreted as “yeah bro, you trash but it’s all for the dream” driving home the fact Griffith is right to put on emotional armor, because he’s already too far gone; no one is gonna understand why he did what he did. Not even Guts.

All that matters is the ends justify the means. And the end is him seated on the throne of Midland.

Next, Griffith is promoted to White Dragon whatever. During the highest moment of Griffith’s human life, he looks for Guts. Cause the dream don’t matter if Guts ain’t there.

In conclusion, Guts and Griffith go to each other for reassurance but convey something they don’t actually mean. Guts inadvertently telling Griffith he’s terrible (even pre-Femto, not totally untrue) probably hurt as Guts was the only person who knew what exactly Griffith was. Griffith, consciously or not, has come to view Guts as his equal and revealed a side of himself he hasn’t to anyone else. Consequently, Guts is an integral part of the dream. It’s not the dream, if Guts isn’t there.

However, the emotional armor Griffith wears prevents him from simply saying he needs Guts. Emotions are weak. Weakness = failure. Failure means Griffith was merely a terrible person all along, not someone fated to rule a kingdom (furthermore, fate had already determined Griffith couldn’t have his cake and eat it too…).


The End of A Dream

Guts peaces out.

Framed in the context of Guts leaving because he thinks Griffith is garbage gives Griffith’s meltdown a different meaning. Recall, Guts is the only person Griffith has truly revealed his seedier parts to. So Guts walking out when they’re nearly at the top is Guts leaving because he’s seen the real Griffith and doesn’t like him. That coming from your sole True Companion sucks.

His reaction could also be arrogance: being unable to accept the fact not everyone worships him. Everything is going exactly as planned, then Guts not only bounces but humiliates him. And Guts is beneath him (in theory…). But whether pride or betrayal, Guts is the only person he’s developed a genuine friendship with.

Anyway, Guts dips. Consequently, Griffith goes BSOD. Except he can’t take off the armor and admit he needs Guts, not just as a soldier but as a homie. Doesn’t help neither of them can communicate, so rather than Guts being like, “I wanna chase my own dream to prove I‘m ur amigo,” Guts kicks his butt and exits stage left. And rather than Griffith saying, “I don’t care about da dream if you’re not with me,” he tries to murder Guts instead.

Mopey Griffith sleeps with Princess Charlotte to prove he’s still The Man and doesn’t need Guts. He’s a strong, independent homie who just needs a kingdom. Charlotte is the physical embodiment of the dream. Marrying her guarantees the throne of Midland will be his. However, even after sleeping with the dream (Charlotte) and tasting what he could have (while thinking of Guts the entire time…), he’s not that happy.

Anyway, this ends with Griffith getting caught and imprisoned (also Griffith’s sword is broken because of his duel with Guts lmao. With a sword, he likely would’ve taken out enough guards to flee with just his reputation trashed. See how fate works?).

Let’s briefly reflect on this scene where Griffith trash talks King Midian.

Midian’s dependence on Charlotte mirrors his own dependence on Guts. And this isn’t the first time Griffith trashed talked while really saying something else entirely. Below is what he says to Gennon before killing him.

After leaving, Guts says something similar.

Unlike Gennon, Guts was no stone he could kick to the side of the road to a kingdom. Without Guts, it’s worthless anyway. Every death, every cruel deed, even the kingdom; everything rendered worthless because of Guts.

Dream derailed.


Letting Go of A Dream…

Time skip: year of torture passes.

By Griffith’s own admission the only thing keeping him sane is Guts. Not the idea he might get out, kill Midian, and obtain his own kingdom. Also lol @ how Guts is bigger than the castle. 

Anyway, Griffith gets rescued. He mad. But not for long because it’s Guts. Maybe he has a fleeting moment of self-awareness and realizes it’s his own fault he’s there.

They escape…

Like the flowers blowing in the wind and child Griffith running the other way, Griffith acknowledges he’s not getting a kingdom. And he still has Guts, who was more important than the dream anyway.

Then, a wild Wyald appears and rubs all of Griffith’s failures and insecurities in his face.

Casca and Guts in danger?

Also, Guts stole his girl and his girl stole his place as leader of the Hawk.

Next – heartwarming scene 2 of 7 in the wagon. 

Guts is like, “bro, it’s just the two of us, we can make it if we try u can take that off.” Guts has seen his hideous appearance already (both his physical disfigurement and the disfigurement of his soul) so there’s no reason for Griffith to hide. But Griffith wants more armor (and Guts says that’s exactly like Griffith – always putting on armor...). Low key this was a good move considering Wyald appears 5 seconds later and strips away Griffith’s amour, taking away his last illusion/delusion: that he can one day lead the Hawk again. 

But at least he still has Guts? 

Nope!

It’s a shame Griffith is asleep and misses Guts saying he wants to stay. In fact, Guts seems to be the only one who wants to stay. Everyone tells Guts to take Casca and peace out, which fate ensured Griffith hears…

Like if he’d just stuck to his code of kingdoms before bros, he’d be sitting on a throne right now. But he just had to be weak and let Guts in. 

Consequently, the derailment of the dream can be blamed on momentarily taking off that emotional armor and letting Guts in.

  • This is probably a coping method too since Griffith did muck up but like not crippled for life because he slept with Charlotte mucked up. Probably he deserved it for everything else he’d done (sort of – Julius/the queen did try to kill him; Midian DGAFlip about a single one of them, nor did he even want to be king. Midian was only salty about Charlotte not boning him).

SN: We gotta talk about the Casca scene in the wagon. There are a number of ways to look at it.

  • Griffith’s attempt to assert dominance and prove he’s still The Man. Guts took everything, had he taken his girl too? Not on Griffith’s broken watch.
  • It’s how Griffith handles stress albeit terribly. The other times Griffith sleeps around is with Gennon/Charlotte. Both times he was reacting to some hurt. 
  • It’s the only way he can thank Casca for sticking around. My boy can’t even say, “thanks” cause his tongue is g o n e. But he can give her a child. A year ago, she would’ve jumped his bones. For Griffith, sex might be all transaction (Gennon’s bag, his relationship with Charlotte), and he might think Casca’s still interested since Charlotte 103% was.
  • All of the above.

Nevertheless, not long after hearing Guts is leaving and Casca is only pity-staying, Future Neo-Griffith pulls up and reminds him of the dream.

But the dream is over and now he’s in a suspiciously dreary swamp unable to kill himself, highlighting how he’s become exactly what he always hated.


The Power of A Dream

In the real world, Guts would’ve saved Griffith, then he would’ve lived unhappily ever after with Casca. Griffith even dreams (get it?) of this alternative life.

v12_p061

But in the world of Berserk, the Behelit (fate) finds Griffith. Wyald plays an important role too as upon his demise Wyald, with all that chaotic strength, reverts into a wimpy old man. 

Therein lies the clearest representation of what Griffith could have: the power of the apostles. The power to obtain the dream.

For Griffith, the last thing he wants at his lowest moment is to be saved by the person he believes caused his misery. Like he maybe could’ve accepted living as a parasite, but he absolutely could not accept Guts rescuing him. So the Eclipse happens. Yet, even after telling himself he’ll never forgive Guts if he touches him again, after seeing the power he could easily obtain and realizing he could still achieve the dream, Griffith chooses Guts one last time.

Like with Zodd, Griffith had to know he couldn’t pull Guts up in his state, yet his instinct was to try because Guts was always more important than the dream, almost until the bitter end.

I could wax poetic about the Eclipse, but essentially Griffith is told everything he’s told himself for years: the dead have already paved the way for you, it’s fate! And for all intents and Miura’s purposes, that really was the case.

Griffith takes the plunge and is reborn as Femto. All that remains are some residual, conflicted feelings for Guts (which soon prove to no longer exist except possibly via the Moonlight Child) and a desire to obtain a kingdom.

To conclude this long-winded mess, Femto physically mirrors human Griffith’s armor, representing how he’s a shell of his former, human self. Femto is the armor Griffith wore: the physical armor to be the Hawk and the emotional armor to separate himself from everyone else and pursue the dream. Stripped of his humanity, all that remains now is that impenetrable armor: a cold, hollow shell of a man who once dreamed of obtaining a kingdom.

Source: Kentaro, Miura, Jason DeAngelis. Berserk. Dark Horse Manga. Print. 2003-2017. (I tried)

3 thoughts on “Impenetrable Armor: Analysis of Berserk’s Griffith

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