Exposure and reflection

Aditya Shukla


Senior Prerit Marwaha recalls reading the manga “Berserk” for the first time during his freshman year. On his first read, his focus on following the story’s plot made it difficult to comprehend its various brutal scenes of violence and sexual assault. It was only on his second read that Marwaha states he began to examine the drawn panels of the manga, finding heavy usage of sexual violence. Following this, Marwaha recalls taking a break from reading for a week in order to be able to process the illustrated events.

Started in 1989 by renowned manga writer Kentaro Miura, dark fantasy epic “Berserk” reached legendary status among the Japanese entertainment medium, selling over 50 million copies in its 30 year runtime. Featuring various instances of sexual assault, violence, dark imagery and heavy themes of suicide and trauma, the manga is considered to be a work only intended for mature audiences. 

Marwaha says that although these mature aspects show themselves in other works of fiction, the way “Berserk” deals with these topics in its paper format makes these moments more brutal and terrifying, describing the ability to choose when to flip pages being essential in this aspect. 

“Well, with something like a manga, if you’re reading it thoroughly, like really looking at all the [art], it’s not like a TV show where the images keep going by you,” Marwaha said. “You’re there until you choose to scroll away from it. So it’s either an active decision to say ‘OK, I’m done looking at this and I understand what’s going on’ or you just keep staring at it and let it sink in.”

For senior Ved Anumala, the film medium is enough to trigger similar emotions of unease and shock. He finds this specific unease in the movie “The Last Duel,” where a knight takes revenge on a man who sexually assaulted his wife. The movie was given an ‘R’ rating, which according to Anumala, fit the depiction of the coming sequences. 

“Cause like the way [the sequence of assault]  was depicted- It’s just at the corner of a room and them on a bed,” Anumala said. “ and the scene was just so cold in tone and it just made you irk. It kind of scared me a bit [and] it threw me off guard. Like when I was seeing it, I was like, ‘Oh my god.’ I can’t really describe it other than that.”

Aditya Shukla

Taking place in another dark fantasy setting, “Game of Thrones” also sports a medieval world where characters are shown fighting each other, pillaging and committing violent acts of sexual assault against various women. Thematically speaking, senior Anishka Chauhan finds that sexual violence was a necessary aspect of the story, but also finds that the inclusion of sexual violence in general needs to be showcased in a more careful and elaborate manner. 

“Game of Thrones is one of those shows where I think [sexual violence is] needed because it is a [dark] fantasy book- it is based off of the fantasy novels , ” Chauhan said. “I think  it’s a necessary thing if you’re trying to expose something about a previous misconception- yes, scenes of sexual violence should be included, but they should be handled in a way where it’s not dramatizing something that’s traumatic in real life, like  not making it light hearted or not just being like, ‘Oh, this person got severely traumatized and the event has no effect after that 一 [the victim is] just fine and moving on.’ I don’t think that’s a good thing because to somebody who’s maybe seeing these scenes for the first time, [they’re] gonna assume that after an incident of sexual violence, the victim’s not going to feel anything.”

Chauhan’s first time analyzing the inclusion of sexual assault came from her rewatch of the show, where she viewed and processed the show in an analytical manner. In the same manner,  Marwaha’s rereading of “Berserk” also helped him develop a more analytical perspective on its character work and understand the way the story dealt with concepts like sexual assault. He especially notes how the story depicts trauma and long lasting pain, especially through the voice of its protagonist Guts. 

“I was pretty impressed with how [trauma] was handled in ‘Berserk,’” Marwaha said. “Because it was serious and it made me feel like it was a serious thing that was happening. It was not to entertain, it was not for enjoyment purposes. So I feel like after the initial shock was gone, I kind of respected what the author of the story used this for.”