I've been wondering about this question recently.
Ok, Berserk plays in a fantasy universe without question. But especially around the Golden Age arc, there was a lot of fighting which has no relationship to that and plays in a normal (European) medieval scenario.
So, some thoughts:
Is the behaviour of swords realistic?
It's been shown that people parry many strikes with their weapons, does that work without their weapons to break or wedge?
I don't have much information about that, only a statement of Peter Jackson who said that their (realistic) sword replica would always wedge when they were hit against each other with some power. Also a myth busters test if swords (they used Katanas mainly) could cut each other (result: They can break each other when hit edge to edge or just bend when hit against the flat side). In Shigurui - Katanas as well there, also the manga was very accurately in regards of such physical things mostly - it was forbidden to the sword fighting pupils to parry with their wooden swords in practice matches, as it would've been too risky for sword and life to do so in an actual fight.
Some notions: Katanas were actually not so much different from many European middle sized swords in both quality and measurements, apart from the fact that they were bent. However, especially two handed swords are much more massive (with a weigth of often around 3 kilograms compared to 1 kg of a Katana and equally sized weapons)
How likely is it that Gatsu's sword handling is possible with human anatomy?
I'm also talking about pre-eclipse here.
Wikipedia says that a German/Italien Bidenhänder (two handed sword) usually had a length of 1.70m (up to 1.8m) and 2-4kg weigth. I'ld guess that Gatsu's swords during Golden Age were mostly a little bit longer, 1.8m-1.9m probably, and had a weigth of maybe 5.5kg as it seems much more massive - just guessing though.
About the weigth: A german museum shows a 2.13m and over 6.5kg heavy two handed sword which is said to have been property of the "Long Pier" in 16th century:
This man was said to be supernaturally strong so he could carry such a weapon.
By the way it seems that these weapons are the closest one to what's commonly beeing shown as a two-handed sword in modern fantasy or medieval stories, as there did not many different two handed swords exist besides the Bidenhänder (though it had different names and slightly different characteristics). Wikipedia states that these weapons were primarily used in Germany and Italy, while the other popular two handed sword Claymore was pretty exclusive to Scottland.
Seemingly these weapons were actually commonly used for bodyguards as they were said to be advantagous when fighting in outnumbered situations - this would certainly be a point that this is a weapon suitable for Gatsu's fighting style. Also, these weapons are said to be commonly carried without a sheat on the shoulders, that's just a detail however.
Something which was not displayed but could be guessed in Berserk is that two handed swords usually had a ricasso close to the cross guard, so it's plausible that Gatsu would not cut himself when carrying his sword on a bare shoulder. This ricasso was seemingly also commonly used for a broader grip or thrusting attacks (so one hand moved up over the cross guard, gripping the sword at the blade), which hasn't been seen in Berserk.
However, it's said that these weapons were usually used for the second line of attack as they were heavily disadvantageous on close distance.
What's about the military battles?
I guess Miura did not spend a lot of thoughts about that, as mostly only cavallery attacks have been shown just crashing into each other - even in battles of several dozens of thousands of soldiers. All I know about medieval battles was that the Landsknechte from Germany - and seemingly many other armies - first sent the "Verlorener Haufen" ("Lost Bunch") of spear carriers, who were usually chosen from criminals and deserters who were given a chance to fight for their lifes this way. Afterwards, people with long weapons such as two handed swords came to struck down those opponents who were bound in battle.
Another common system was the pike square with pikiners in the front rows in a rather tight formation and a small amount of two handed swordsman behind them - pretty similar to the lost bunch, but more tidy and closed.
In general Berserk doesn't try to be too realistic in larger fights I think. For example there were many duel situations in between of huge battles, such as Gatsu versus Bazuso. This might be a result of showing certain fighters beeing extraordinarily strong, which certainly wasn't the case in actual wars that a single man would slaugther so many opponents that nobody would dare approaching him.
Weapons versus Armor
Sadly it seems to be hard to get informations on this as many pages state many different things. German Wikipedia even states that it was impossible to cut a plate armor and most fully armored fights ended in a stabbing with daggers as there was no other way to effectively injure the enemy. I doubt that some of the cuts made through plate harnesses beeing shown were anywhere near possible, although of course not all fighters in Berserk carry such armor.
The weigth of a plate armor was around 20-30kg, which isn't more than modern soldiers carry, so the agility of armored soldiers in Berserk might not be exaggerated. It was possible to run, get up and mount on horses with these.
The amount of plate armors might be realistic as well. Nobels usually had very refined plate armors which allowed good agility, while cheaper armor was actually produced in mass production, but not custom-made, restricting mobility a lot.
About the handling of two handed swords: It seems that the grip at a ricasso at the blade indeed as common in fighting with huge swords, I just started reading (well, it's more like a comic ) an old German fencing book which has scans online and on wikipedia and there are many grips displayed which look like this:
Last edited by Roflkopt3r; November 20, 2010 at 02:19 PM.
If the chars in berserk were real, wore real armor etc, Griffiths wouldn't be able to resist wearing the codpieces from the german fencing pic.
He wouldn't conquer the world for his personal ambition, it would be to show off his codpiece to the horror of his people.
Regarding the armors of the warriors in Berserk i'll disagree with you.
The plate armor was an armor used for mainly show-battles and the knights couldn't really walk with it and not mount a horse at all.
If you ever go to a battlecastle in germany you can see cranes that lifted the warriors onto their horses.
It's not only the weight that makes it hard to use those full plate armors in battle.
It's the "underwear". A lot of knight wore a thick tunic and and a chainmail beneath the platemail and so the main fact working against the knight was his own heat.
Imagine walking with 25-30 kg and in thick winterclothing and you'll get what i mean, but they didn't fight in the winter. More likely summer :-)
The platemail being pretty invincible is correct, well that was the sense of all this weight and the sense of the chainmail underneath it. But a dagger wouldn't help you too much with this. There were special weapons for that called stiletto.
It was a very thin dagger that could pierce through the knitting of a chainmail but wasn't really honorable.
"Contrary to popular beliefs, it was well possible to run, lay down, get up again and even to mount a horse without help in a battle-suited full harnish.
The armor usually had a weight of 20-30kg. A custom-made harnish distributed this weight very equally over the body. A modern soldier often carries more weight than this."
The biggest issue of the plate rather was the heat inside. The lord of York is said to have died of an heart attack during the battle of azincourt due to the great heat inside his armor."
I know these cranes for lifting up riders, but it seems they were not mandatory. Yet probably a good help.
They also were used in actual battle. In 1512, Heinrich VII. ordered an amount of no less than 2000 plate armors for his soldiers.
Also, there were special plate armors for special purposes:
"The one used for battle and by heavy cavalry was called field harnish or field curaisse". But apart from this, there were also some specialised for tournaments or parades. A lot of common soldiers used half or three-quarter plate armors, which did not cover the legs (because they were cheaper).
Last edited by Roflkopt3r; January 17, 2011 at 10:37 AM.