The biggest growing issue with Berserk (aside from the fact that Miura is only publishing a handful of chapters each year) is that the plot has been plodding along for some time now. Sure, there have been some big battles in the previous volumes. Unfortunately, though, a big showdown does not always equate to a big revelation. The only thing volume 33 does really well is let the reader know that volume 34 will contain some huge, earth-shattering moments.
A ho-hum battle is fought against pirates, which establishes Roderick and his crew as the best sailors around–at the cost of an entire chapter. Yes, once again Miura proves that he can draw a huge sweeping battle scene and discuss nautical battle tactics, but it’s done to the point of overkill. His drawings are stuffed with details: splintering wood, booming cannons, giant clouds of smoke, and turbulent seas. There are countless pirate crew members decked out in hats, bandannas, and vests whose entire lives last no more than a single panel. While readers can certainly appreciate this painstaking attention to detail, it makes me wonder if this will be a chapter that plays any amount of importance in the story to come, or if it’s all a grandiose exhibition of skill for a throwaway encounter. I guess I’ll find out in the next volume (or two).
Schierke continues to train Farnese in the magical arts, which leads to them spying on Guts watching Casca from a distance. They’ve both been wondering for sometime why he goes out of his way to protect her and it makes the reader wonder (for the billionth time) exactly when they’re going to find out the whole truth of Guts and Griffith and the eclipse.
Speaking of Guts and Casca, there is a fantastic moment involving the two of them aboard the ship. When Casca (who has been senseless for how many volumes now?) takes a tumble into the sea, Guts tries to catch her. He realizes, too late, that he’s reached out with his fake arm and he can’t grip her hand properly. Later, Guts reflects on how he his fake arm was something he designed to help him kill, not save. It’s moments like these that remind me just how good Berserk can be: it doesn’t have to be flashy fights with impossible monsters. Instead, the most intriguing fight is the one that is constantly raging inside of Guts, who is still trying to sort out his real goal. Which is more important, killing Griffith or protecting his new band of friends? The ever-fascinating Berserker armor comes to life again midway through the volume, providing some excellent inner-monologue that covers this very subject.
While the volume as a whole is a bit of let-down because it’s so much of a build-up, I can still say that I am eagerly anticipating the cataclysmic events of volume 34. There are also a few genuinely nice character moments scattered throughout, which provide a little bit of payoff in a mostly side-tracked set of chapters.