Last month I was finishing up the trilogy of films adapting the Golden Age Arc of Berserk. Previously I’ve also done a Where I Watch thread on the show at RPGnet and reviewed it at Bureau42. Going though this arc again, I was reminded a bunch about the issues I have with this arc and how it treats the character of Casca.
For the majority of this arc, Casca serves as one of Griffith’s most trusted lieutenants. Indeed, prior to Guts’ arrival on the scene, she is his only lieutenant that we really see. It isn’t clear that Guts bumped one of the other guys (Pippin? Judeau?) down from command of the raiders, if the previous commander had been killed in action, or if this is an entirely new unit formed under Guts command. Still, Casca is a major authority figure within the Band of the Hawk, enough so that the men defer to her if Griffith isn’t present, and the only incidences of misogynist dialog mocking Casca’s position as a soldier are from enemy soldiers (who we want to see dead anyway – and in at least one case ends up dead by Casca’s blade), Griffith’s political rivals, and in one incidence from Guts himself.
Further, the depictions we see of Casca in the show and in the films back this up. Casca successfully commands her squad of the Band in capturing Doldrey after Griffith has drawn the majority of the garrison out in a feint. Similarly, after Guts leaves the Band of the Hawk to achieve his own destiny in the hopes of being viewed as an equal by Griffith, and after Griffith is a moron and has extramarital sex with Princess Charlotte – getting himself arrested and horrifically tortured, Casca is the one who keeps the Band of the Hawk together while they find where Griffith is held and puts together the rescue plan.
Casca, as a whole, is probably the most three-dimensional character of all the members of the Band of the Hawk prior to the abyss, and aside from Guts and Griffith, the one with the most narrative agency – she chooses to stay with the Band of the Hawk, while Guts leaves, but she does so by choice.
And then the Eclipse happens.
Of the two members of the Band to survive the eclipse – Guts and Casca (Rickard is absent), Casca ends up being the worse off. Guts is maimed, but is able to create (with help) things to serve as accommodations, and to basically restore him to the same degree of physical ability that he had before – he is able to fight just as well, if not better. Casca, on the other hand, has psychologically reverted to a childlike state.
While Casca was sexually assaulted during the Eclipse and Guts was not, it is important to mention that Guts has previously been a victim of sexual assault as well – this is established in the beginning of the arc in the manga, along with in the first film (though this is downplayed in the first TV series). While this leaves him with psychological issues which he has to work past (he hates being touched, does not like being touched, and does not want to stay in one place for long), he is mentally able to function as an adult. This is not the case with Casca.
Yes, Guts leaves the Eclipse with his own set of psychological issues – in the form of the Beast of Darkness, it’s something he can exercise a degree of control over, allowing him to be lucid most of the time. Casca has no such moments of lucidity – losing the ability to recognize most men outside of Griffith and Guts – not even Rickert.
Hence my objections – Casca is effectively depowered. Her leadership abilities, her prowess with the sword, and her narrative agency are all gone. While she still has a role to play in the story – she could not be replaced with a sexy lamp – her role is passive, not active. The quest to repair her psyche by Guts is an quest being done by Guts in addition to his goal to destroy Void and the God Hand, and Griffith in particular, rather than her taking part in the quest on an equal level.
I will still continue reading Berserk (though, going from the animation quality I may give the more recent TV series a miss). However, the problems with Casca’s character arc mar what would otherwise be an excellent fantasy series.