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"Black Swordsman" is preludial episode 1 of the Berserk manga series.


The Black Swordsman enters the town of Koka in search of the Snake Lord apostle, immediately making his presence known by attacking a group of thugs in a tavern. Upon receiving word of the swordsman's arrival, the bloodlusted Snake Lord dons his battle armor and resolves to burn Koka down while killing all townsfolk in his path. The Black Swordsman intercepts the fiend, and after an arduous battle with the transformed apostle, incapacitates the Snake Lord, leaving him to die in the flames of his own making.


Manga E0-1 Female Apostle Death

The one-armed man, hardly fazed by a monster.

Late at night, a man with a perpetually-closed right eye and prosthetic left arm is having sex with a blonde woman next to a campfire. The woman transforms into a monster and proclaims that the man has fallen into her trap. He then rams his prosthetic arm into her mouth, and the sound of cannon fire rings throughout the night air. He clothes himself and departs, leaving the charred body of the monster behind. In the morning, he makes his way into the nearby town of Koka.

Manga E0-1 Koka Thugs

Koka thugs toying with a captured elf.

Entering a town tavern, the man attacks a group of thugs who are toying with a caged elf. After dispatching several men with his repeater crossbow, he gives one of them a message to deliver to their boss in Koka Castle: "The Black Swordsman has come." When another thug attempts to ambush him, the man brandishes his enormous sword and bisects his attacker, afterward leaving the tavern and entering the streets. He is then met by the elf from earlier, who introduces himself as Puck, explains the town's dire state, and the mayor's pact with the thugs. When the two are surrounded by town guards, however, the elf flees with haste and the Black Swordsman is taken to Koka Castle, where he is tortured.

Just as the torturer is about to resume torturing the swordsman, the mayor of Koka enters, dismisses him, and proceeds to accuse the swordsman of having doomed the town by killing the town ruler's men. After the mayor discloses the ruler's inhuman nature, the Black Swordsman tells the mayor that he knows of the ruler's true nature and how he eats humans. He also tells the mayor that he knows he's been feeding his own citizens to the monster, and that the cart he passed on the way into town was filled with women and children bound for Koka Castle. The mayor protests that he's doing this to protect his town, but the Black Swordsman sneeringly asks if he's trying to save himself instead. The mayor is enraged by this, ordering the continued torture of the swordsman, but orders his men not to kill him, as he has to be delivered to Koka Castle alive.

Manga E0-1 Snake Lord Glare

The Snake Lord turns his rancor toward the town.

In his castle chambers, the Snake Lord is informed by the surviving thug of the Black Swordsman's attack in the tavern. Another thug enters and ushers in the mayor, who begs forgiveness from the Snake Lord for the thugs' deaths. In return, he offers the Snake Lord extra daily quantities of gold and human cattle. The Snake Lord accuses the mayor of fearing for his own life more than those of the townsfolk, and flicks a morsel of a human ear at him, petrifying the mayor. He then claims he does not truly care for gold or human cattle, ultimately desiring to see them die in a fiery apocalypse and hear their bones crunch beneath horse hooves. As the mayor is dragged away by two thugs, the Snake Lord sets his sights on the town.

Waking face-down to the sight of a deformed fetus-like creature, the Black Swordsman wriggles in agitation as it approaches, causing the creature to vanish; in his fit, he accidentally headbutts a newly-arrived, key-toting Puck. Puck looks over the Black Swordsman's wounds, explaining that he has returned to free the man, as thanks for the swordsman's indirect rescuing of him earlier. Despite the Black Swordsman's orders not to touch him, the elf moves closer and releases healing dust from his wings onto the man's wounds, immediately dulling the pain. The swordsman thereafter reveals his name – Guts – and tells Puck that the only thing he's interested in is killing the demon of the town, and that anyone else who gets caught up in it can die for all he cares. Offended by Guts' display of apathy, Puck flies away, just as the swordsman's brand begins bleeding in response to the Snake Lord's approach.

Manga E0-1 Guts Defeats Snake Lord

Guts defeats the Snake Lord.

The Snake Lord rides through Koka with his men in search of his aggressor, burning down everything in their path and leaving a trail of corpses in their wake. Guts emerges from a pile of the corpses and kills the Snake Lord's men and their horses before battling him in person, peppering him full of bolts from his repeating crossbow. The Snake Lord then assumes his released apostle form of a giant humanoid cobra, severely beating Guts before lifting the swordsman up by his head and preparing to eat him. Guts manages to raise his mechanical cannon arm and fires it into the Snake Lord's face before cleaving him in half with the Dragon Slayer.

Guts tortures the Snake Lord with his crossbow out of a desire to give the demon a taste of the horror he and other apostles put humans through. The Snake Lord sees and recognizes the Brand, and Guts demands to know the whereabouts of the "God Hand". But the Snake Lord replies that it's not for apostles like him to know. Guts then leaves the Snake Lord to burn to cinders in the flaming ruins of his own town. As Puck looks on at the chaotic scene from afar, he can only find it within himself to utter one word: "Berserk..."


  1. Guts
  2. Unidentified female apostle
  3. Puck
  4. Koka thugs
  5. Mayor of Koka
  6. Snake Lord
  7. Demon Child


  • This manga episode was the basis of the first episode of the 1997 anime series, which played out similarly to that of the manga, except that neither Puck or the female apostle were included in the anime. The bar scene instead had the Snake Lord's men tormenting a girl named Collette and her father prior to Guts' entrance, there was a scene that introduced the God Hand and the evil spirits tormenting Guts because of his Brand of Sacrifice, and the Snake Lord's beherit was carried by the apostle and was claimed by Guts after he died.
  • The 2016 anime introduced a scene similar to the bar scene of this episode, except that Guts deals with the bandits non-lethally by beating them down with his prosthetic arm before rescuing Puck.