|Episode A0 (Manga)|
|The Black Swordsman|
|Volume||1 The Black Swordsman|
|Date Released||December 1, 1990 (tankōbon format)|
|Arc||Black Swordsman Arc|
|Episodes||The Black Swordsman|
← Berserk: The Prototype
The Brand →
|Volumes and Chapters|
The Black Swordsman (黒い剣士 Kuroi kenshi?) is the 1st nonnumerical chapter of the Berserk manga series, written and illustrated by Kentaro Miura. This chapter is also the first of sixteen chapters that do not go by the conventional chapter labeling.
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 rams his prosthetic arm into her mouth, and the sound of cannon fire rings through the air. He clothes himself and departs, leaving the charred body of the monster behind. The next morning, as the man enters a nearby town, he watches as a wagon carrying a locked cage full of young girls passes by, moving in the opposite direction.
Several bandit patrons in one of the town's taverns are amusing themselves by attempting to hit a tiny, restrained elf with their throwing knives. The elf unsuccessfully tries to untie the rope that holds him by his neck to a wooden column, and the tavern's other patrons are reluctant to help him for fear of being confronted by the bandits. The one-armed man enters the tavern and, seeing that the elf is struggling to break free, tosses a few coins to the barkeep as payment for the upcoming mess before shooting at the bandits with a repeater crossbow. One bandit is killed by a bolt to the head while another suffers a bolt being stuck in his nose. The one-armed man begins to interrogate the second bandit and orders him to relay a message to the baron of the nearby Koka Castle: "The Black Swordsman has come."
A third bandit moves to attack, but the Black Swordsman draws his massive sword from his back and cleaves the bandit in half at the waist, to the shock of everyone in the tavern. Knowing that the second bandit will relay the message to the baron of Koka Castle, the Black Swordsman leaves, ignoring the elf's calls for help. Eventually, the elf manages to untie himself and joins the Black Swordsman as he walks along the street. The elf introduces himself as Puck, and he explains that he was once a part of a troupe of performers until it was destroyed and he made into a living target for the bandits' enjoyment. He then attempts to explain the situation that town finds itself in, but is swatted away by the Black Swordsman, who warns the elf not to touch him.
The pair are suddenly surrounded by soldiers. The elf flies away and escapes alone, leaving the Black Swordsman to be apprehended and tortured in town's castle. The torturer becomes annoyed at the Black Swordsman's lack of screams, and when the Black Swordsman spits blood in his face, he attempts to begin the torture once more. However, he is dismissed by the town mayor, who has wandered into the dungeon and is inspecting the Black Swordsman's vast arsenal of weaponry. Assuming that the Black Swordsman is a mercenary, the mayor accuses him of having doomed the entire town for having killed the bandits in the tavern; their boss, the baron of Koka Castle, is some kind of monster that, the mayor says, no human can kill.
The Black Swordsman is familiar with such monsters; he accurately surmises that the baron eats human flesh, and that the mayor is providing the baron with his meals - the girls in the wagon. The mayor proclaims that the girls' sacrifice is required to save the other townsfolk, but the Black Swordsman accuses him of saving only himself. The mayor, affected deeply, orders more torture be inflicted on the one-armed man.
At Koka Castle, the baron is being informed by the surviving tavern bandit of the Black Swordsman's attack at the tavern. Upon hearing the description of the Black Swordsman, the baron wonders whether he knows the man's true identity. Another bandit enters the room and informs the baron that the mayor has arrived at Koka Castle. The mayor is ushered in, and says that he has come to beg forgiveness from the baron for the deaths of the bandits in the tavern. In return, he offers the baron extra daily quantities of gold and people to eat. The baron accuses the mayor of fearing for his own life more than the townsfolk's, and he flicks a morsel of food at him. The mayor catches it, only to become terrified when he realizes that it is a whole human ear. The baron claims that he does not care for humans as food in light of his ultimate desire to see them succumb to chaos. The mayor is dragged away by two bandits as the baron sets his sights on the town.
The Black Swordsman awakens lying face-down in a prison cell, a mound of hay to his right and a puddle of water to his left. The torture has left him unable to move. He glances at the mound of hay and sees a deformed fetus-like creature lying on it. "You again", he says, as it begins to crawl towards him. With increasing agitation as it approaches, the Black Swordsman orders it to stay away. Only when the sudden sound of Puck and a ring of keys falling into the puddle of water does the deformed creature disappear, unseen by the elf. As Puck looks over the Black Swordsman's wounds, he explains that he has returned to free him from prison as thanks for saving the elf from the bandits. Despite the Black Swordsman's orders not to be touched, the elf moves closer and spreads a powder from his wings onto the man's wounds, immediately dulling the pain the Black Swordsman feels. Puck explains that, along with the power to heal, elves can also sense people's emotions.
As they converse, the elf manages to learn the Black Swordsman's name: Guts. Though Guts remains still as Puck attempts to learn his origins, he springs up to a sitting position when the elf points out an odd mark engraved into Guts' neck. The Black Swordsman says that the mark is known as the Brand, but he refuses to reveal its meaning or significance. He then looks out the barred window, predicting that the baron of Koka Castle will soon come, both to kill Guts and to raze the town. Puck accuses Guts of not caring for the townspeople, and Guts confirms it; his only concern is to kill the baron. As Guts explains that weak humans are not deserving of life, Puck is overcome with physical pain as he senses the Black Swordsman's emotions, among them rage, fear, sadness, and "something deeper". Puck asks for the reasoning behind Guts' saving him if the weak are not deserving of life but the question causes Guts to break out in laughter. Offended, Puck flies out the window, leaving the keys to the prison cell behind. As Guts sits in the cell and scratches deep gashes into his own arm, pain flares from his Brand, alerting him to the baron approaching the town.
Later, Puck flies over the town as the baron, wearing snaked-themed armor, and his bandits lay waste to it, destroying properties and killing indiscriminately. The bandits ride towards a pile of corpses, only for the Black Swordsman, now armed and armored, to burst out of it. He kills many of the charging bandits with pinpoint shots of his repeater crossbow and finishes the survivors with his gigantic sword. The Snake Baron steps forward, intrigued by the Black Swordsman, the man known to be hunting Apostles like the baron himself. The baron charges to attack, but is pelted in the face and neck by Guts' crossbow bolts and is seemingly killed. However, he is able to stand back up. Guts fires more bolts into him, and the Snake Baron goes crashing through a wooden door into a dimly-lit house. Guts moves to follow him inside, the sudden swipe of a huge tail sends Guts flying away across the street.
The Snake Baron steps out of the house, only now he is transformed into a giant lizard-like creature, and he proclaims that he cannot be killed by mere humans. He advances on Guts and attacks continuously with his tail, making the Black Swordsman spit up blood. As Guts lies defeated on the ground, he is lifted into the air by his fleshy right arm by the Snake Baron. Feigning unconsciousness, Guts waits until he is close enough to the Snake Baron's mouth to aim his prosthetic arm and tug on a piece of string connected to it with his teeth. The hand of the prosthetic flips downward, revealing a hole in the arm piece that turns out to be the muzzle of a cannon. The cannon is unloaded right in the Snake Baron's face, blowing a hole right into it. As it recoils in pain, Guts is freed from the monster's grip, takes up his giant sword once more, and cleaves the Snake Baron in two with one monstrous stroke.
The force of the swing causes Guts to collapse, but he quickly stands back up to look down on the defeated, yet still-living, Snake Baron. He fires crossbow bolts into the baron's head as a means of torture. During this, the Snake Baron notices the Brand on Guts' neck, the "Brand of Sacrifice". Guts demands to know where the five members of a group called the God Hand are located. The Baron claims not to know, so Guts ceases torturing him and walks away, only for a large piece of burning rubble to fall on the baron. The Snake Baron reaches out to Guts and begs to be set free, not wanting to die, but his pleas are ignored as Guts walks away, leaving the Snake Baron to burn.
Puck, who looks on, is horrified at the level of savagery Guts has displayed and can only whisper one word: "Berserk..."
Characters in Order of Appearance
|Black Swordsman Arc|