Since the advent of Hollywood action blockbusters we’ve been pretty accustomed to characters dying on screen in various gruesome ways; sometimes crushed, sometimes slashed, sometimes shot, but always fatally injured. There aren’t many movies, especially those targeted for the mass market where the main character of the story dies. But so-called sidekicks (which, by the way are often the real character actors opposite the big and muscular action hero) pretty regularly bite the virtual dust. And more often than not they die in order to save the hero/heroine of the story.
And if the sidekick happens to be male and saves a heroine from the brink of death (or vice versa) they usually breath with their last words something akin to “I love you”, which according to Hollywood laws the hero/heroine has to respond to with “I will always love you” or something kitschy like that.
While this surely is a nice gesture for the dying person, it is all too often used in movies, and fiction in general. When grave danger awaits the protagonist, someone has to step up and sacrifice him- or herself for the greater good. Yada yada. Obi Wan did it in Star Wars to get Luke and the others an escape route, Bruce Willis did it in Armageddon for his daughter and her fiance, Boromir did it for Merry and Pip in the Lord of the Rings, and countless others did it too.
So, apparently, the story-act of a character sacrificing him- or herself for a more relevant character is often employed and people are kinda used to it. But here I have to add that especially in Hollywood movies the sacrifice normally happens all of a sudden when the to-be-saved character wouldn’t expect it; i.e. the sacrificee jumps around the corner to catch a bullet for the protagonist or some such thing. Getting shot, stabbed, etc. - things movies and stories often employ. Getting beaten to a bloody pulp is not often seen, because it is much more gruesome. And exactly that (and much more cruel things) happen to the sacrificial character I want to write about in this post:
This is Judeo from the manga Berserk, after getting his hand chewed, his back whipped and his chest stabbed by demons, while trying to save the love of the main protagonist (Guts), Casca. And although one as a reader could have picked up that Judeo himself was interested in more than just friendship and camaraderie with Casca, he did never say such a thing.
Why there are demons attacking and devouring them doesn’t matter to make my point, and it would spoil the story too much too (knowing that Judeo will die is a big enough spoiler already). It are the two very last pages of his life that matter only:
As I said before, at least I am pretty used to see characters die as a sacrifice to save others, and I have seen a lot of horror and splatter movies, mangas and animes where people die gruesome deaths. But never before has the death of a character touched me more, emotionally, than Judeo’s. That is because it is the most personal death I have ever seen. How much more personal can it get, than to watch something through the characters eyes?
“Are those my last words?”, “I’m glad to see - you cry”“; Just reading and writing these very two lines makes me shiver again. It is so very honest, personal, human. The last thoughts of a dying man, as seen through his own eyes. To me, this death scene is more gruesome and touching at the same time, than every on-screen death I have ever seen. Sure, the medic in Saving Private Ryan died a tragic death as did lots of others, but never before could you see the last moments through a dying ones eyes.
And the saddest thing is perhaps that she would never know that he was in love with her. Because only in Hollywood have the dying a chance to say “I love you” as their last words before they close their eyes. Life (and mangas) are another matter:
Those two pages I have to say are the most touching (to me) thing I have ever seen or read in fiction. Can’t get anymore personal than that scene.
Phew, what a long post, but at least I got time again to post my thoughts here… and I hope that I got you interested in Berserk, if so, you should try out The Hawks and Evil Genius if you can’t get your hands on the manga (because, as in germany, older volumes may not be available anymore, and newer volumes take their time to come out).