This is a cheater post- tomorrow’s will be a doozy though.
As Koanic requested, I’m going to link to the final two episodes of Berserk in order to illustrate the Behelit myth and, tangentially, some very important truths about melonheads and neanderthals in general. The remake had 100 times the budget, but I’m not savvy to the dark side of the internet so you’ll have to find it yourself if you’re picky. It’s called Berserk 1.3: The Descent.
To briefly set the stage, we have followed the friendship of Griffith (Gilgamesh) and Guts (Enkidu). Griffith is a commoner of extraordinary natural talents, military and political, and he routinely accomplishes the impossible without breaking a sweat. Griffith has decided to become a king someday, even though this is outrageously ambitious for a former street rat. Guts is a wild man born from the corpse of a hanged pregnant woman who has somehow survived a life of overwhelming cruelty to become a tough motherfucker with- ahem- trust issues. (Being a child soldier sold off to a pedophile by a surrogate father will do that.) With this comes a complete lack of fear or restraint that allows him to fight well above his weight.
These two meet as mercenaries on the battlefield, and Guts wins Griffith’s respect in a show of strength. Griffith beats him in a duel and indentures him into his up-and-coming mercenary band, the Band of the Hawk (this “hawk” symbolism translates to a phoenix later). Over time, Griffith wins Guts’ respect and the two come to regard each other as peers, and Guts becomes the commander of the Hawks’ shock troops. They fight many battles, assassinate some political enemies, and win the esteem of the king, who raises them to knighthood. Griffith already has the princess eating out of his hand, so it’s just a matter of time at this point.
Naturally, Guts starts getting the wanderlust just as things are going perfectly. Griffith takes this very poorly (“You belong to me. Or don’t you remember?”) and challenges him to a duel to win his freedom. Guts beats him effortlessly, and wishes him well before wandering off to pursue his dream of becoming a master swordsman like the oblivious thard he is. In a fit of rage, Griffith returns to the castle and makes his first and last mistake by raping the princess. For this, he’s thrown in the dungeon and tortured for a full year before his mercenary friends, now outlaws, can rescue him. Even so, he despairs for the loss of his tongue and slashed tendons, which prophesy a bleak future at best, with a lot of soup and sitting around, in comparison with his previous ambition of becoming king.
In the middle of a suicide attempt, he accidentally stumbles across the behelit- an odd piece of jewelry given to him by a fortune teller as a child. At this exact moment, a solar eclipse occurs and the world goes bonkers.
To understand this finale without watching the rest of the show, you have to realize that it comes completely out of left field. Up until this moment, it was a fun, normal medieval anime without much sex or violence, but enough to keep a 12-year-old enthusiastic despite the remarkably low production quality. There have been little supernatural allusions here or there, but they are mostly forgettable.
That’s where we join Griffith, Guts, and the remainder of their mercenary friends. (Trigger warning: The theme song is hilariously awful, even for anime.)
The good bit starts at 10 minutes but the monstrous imagery is absolutely perfect, so don’t skip. We don’t get much gore at this point, but it’s still a sufficiently unpleasant visual and auditory experience that I’d recommend TMs abstain. That means Egyptian, TEM, Mycroft, and Zeke. You guys seem more sensitive to this stuff for some reason. Hell, even I still have nightmares about this once a year.
The final episode gets gory very quickly, and we get to watch all of the characters we’ve come to know and love die horrible, pointless deaths and Guts’ girlfriend gets raped by a demon. Definitely don’t watch this one unless you’re into that sort of thing.
The ending is a kick in the balls that is quintessentially Japanese. There is no bright side or silver lining, and all our heroes’ virtue and strength and courage ends up mattering exactly zilch. Don’t think too hard about it, or you might realize a lot of people end their lives this way in real life.
There’s little extra meaning to be found in the latter episode, it’s just gross and horrible. Which is what it had to be for the story it tells.