A brooding, solitary swordsman makes his way to the town of Koka, killing an unidentified female monster one night while en route. Upon arriving in the town, he immediately makes his presence known by killing several Koka thugs in a tavern, leaving but one victim alive to send word of his approach to the town's ruler: "The Black Swordsman has come." He also unintentionally makes an invaluable ally by freeing an elf named Puck, who in return frees and heals the swordsman when he is caught and imprisoned in a Koka jail; the swordsman gives his name to the elf: Guts. Receiving word of the Black Swordsman's presence, the bloodthirsty Snake Lord rides through Koka in search of his aggressor, burning down everything in his path and leaving a trail of corpses in his wake. Guts eventually intercepts and does fierce battle with the apostle, incapacitating the fiend and interrogating him for the whereabouts of the "God Hand" before leaving the demon to burn to cinders.
Sometime later, during the trialing of supposed heretics in another land, Guts makes his presence known to another apostle serving as ruler of the land named the Count. The alerted town guards, led by Zondark, pursue Guts, though he easily dispatches them and disfigures their commander, before escaping to a lab with the help of a diminutive man named Vargas. Inside, Vargas informs the swordsman of a secret passage into the Count's castle, and reveals the beherit which he stole from the Count seven years prior, after escaping from captivity and crippling torture at the hands of the apostle. They are soon ambushed by a possessed Zondark, who ruins the lab in a fierce bout with Guts and forces them to flee again. Guts eventually parts ways with Vargas, but not before taking the beherit in the man's possession for himself.
Following the later capture and execution of Vargas by the Count, Guts vows to succeed where his late accomplice could not, before using the secret passage to infiltrate the Count's castle. Storming the premises, Guts finishes off the pseudo-apostle Zondark and fights his way toward the Count's quarters, where the apostle transforms into a massive demon-slug. He is initially overpowered by the transformed Count, but with Puck's intervention and the swordsman's hostage-taking of the Count's daughter, Theresia, Guts is able to deal a crippling blow to the abstracted apostle with his cannon arm. Fearing for his life, the Count manages to activate his returned beherit and summons the God Hand.
The sight of the God Hand member Femto – who Guts furiously refers to as Griffith – immediately fills the swordsman with rage, spurring him to attack his seeming nemesis, though his assault ends in vain when the demon casually repels him. After the Count fails to offer his daughter as sacrifice, he is dragged by lost souls into the Abyss, and so too is Guts as a branded sacrifice, although the swordsman manages to free himself with a blast from his cannon arm as the temporal junction ends. Returned to the Physical World, Guts prevents a suicidal Theresia from falling to her death. He sows within her hatred directed toward himself, for his being the primary reason for the loss of her father, and thus the loss of all she has ever known; Theresia declares revenge on the swordsman, her will to die extinguished. Guts nonchalantly accepts her declaration and takes his leave; however, upon closer inspection, Puck sees that the typically-stoic swordsman is noticeably upset by the declaration.
Anime and Manga Differences
- The first episode of the 1997 anime is a condensed version of the arc and is based on first two episodes of the manga, taking elements from the Count storyline. Puck is omitted from this adaption.
- The first episode of the 2016 anime is based on first two episodes of the manga; it also takes elements from the first two episodes of the Conviction arc. While Isidro did not make an appearance in the manga's respective Black Swordsman bar scene, he is added in the anime adaptation's. The Count, meanwhile, is referenced in the anime adaptation, but his overall story is cut. The Snake Lord is not shown in this adaptation.
- Guts vs the Snake Lord
- Guts vs Zondark: Once when Zondark is human, and twice after Zondark is sired into the Count's pseudo-apostle. The second battle marks Guts' first on-panel confrontation with a pseudo-apostle.
- Guts vs the Count: Though the Count initially overwhelms Guts, the swordsman is able to overcome the apostle by holding his daughter, Theresia, hostage; the Count is unable to attack his own daughter, and is subsequently incapacitated by the swordsman.
- ^ a b c Berserk, Volume 1, "Black Swordsman"
- ^ a b c Berserk, Volume 3, "Guardian Angels of Desire (4)"
- ^ Berserk, Volume 3, "Guardian Angels of Desire (5)"
- ^ a b Berserk, Volume 2, "Guardian Angels of Desire (2)"
- ^ Berserk, Volume 3, "Guardian Angels of Desire (6)"
- ^ Berserk, Volume 1, "Guardian Angels of Desire (1)"
- ^ a b Berserk, Volume 2, "Guardian Angels of Desire (3)"
Black Swordsman Arc