A Look Into The Influential Dark Fantasy Manga
In 1989, Kentaro Miura started working on and publishing his magnum opus, Berserk. Berserk is a dark fantasy action manga that follows the journey of anti-hero Guts on a quest of survival and vengeance fighting monsters and insane people.
Kentaro Miura’s work on Berserk has been noted as being one of the biggest influences in modern dark fantasy. Both the illustrative art and intimate storytelling were vital in capturing the positive attention from fans of manga and fantasy. Berserk was also one of the darkest stories in manga and is considered the golden standard of dark fantasy with grotesque imagery of violence and horror.
Kentaro Miura’s Creative Process
Kentaro Miura’s world of Berserk was inspired by the setting Lord of the Rings and Conan the Barbarian that featured epic stories and massive world building. He also liked the word ‘Berserker’ in that he can create a story around a character driven by vengeance and fury.
The beautiful art of Berserk was inspired by the Fist of the North Star which helped him develop his artstyle. The illustrations of Berserk have evolved with each volume, the more recent installments feature more anime-esque features of the characters. Miura was known to take breaks and hiatus between chapters, making Berserk one of the longest running manga series in recent history.
Plot & Premise
Berserk follows the story of Guts, the Black Swordsman, as he fights his way through legions of mad men and demonic apostles on an unending quest for revenge. Along the way he comes across other complex characters that share in his goal to stop the apostles while also finding purpose in a dark world.
Berserk’s story spans years and explores Guts’s past as an orphan soldier along with his time in the Band of the Hawk during the Golden Age arc. The series covers many complex storylines and detours that expand on the world building surrounding the setting along the characters that accompany Guts on his journey.
The Themes of Berserk
Guts’s struggles and circumstances change dramatically and much of the story delves into his unbreakable will to persevere. Perseverance is the key theme of Berserk, showing the strength of Guts’s humanity despite his hardships. It’s also about optimism despite the stacked odds and the duality of human nature.
Guts is the central character as the development follows his personal quest and deconstructs his pursuit for vengeance. By a certain point, Guts starts developing out of his vengeful rampage and is driven to take care of his new companions. This development follows other characters that started out unlikable and end up being beloved characters like Farnese and Puck.
Berserk Adaptations & Their Reception
Throughout the publications of Berserk, there have been several animated adaptations of the series. The first animated series broadcasted in 1997 and covered the Golden Age arc up until the Eclipse. The Golden Age arc was once again readapted into a trilogy of Cell-shaded animated films in 2012.
Later on a new animated series broadcasted in 2016. Out of all these adaptations, so far the first one in 1997 was the best received. Along with being released in a time when anime started gaining steam internationally, it had the best pacing and adapted the material very faithfully. The 2016 anime suffered major budget cuts, unusual pacing, bad animation, and awkward censorship.
Although adaptations have been difficult due to the modern consensus in anime and their censorship, the manga of Berserk still stands as a true work of art and is a must read for fans of dark fantasy. Miura’s brilliant style of storytelling and art illustration truly shines throughout the series. After his tragic death in 2021, Miura’s work perseveres thanks to his childhood friend and fellow artist Kouji Mori.
Just like how he was inspired by J.R.R Tolkien and Robert Howard, Miura’s unique style and dark visuals inspired many other creators in the fantasy genre. There have been many games and anime that are aesthetically inspired by Berserk. One of the best known works inspired by Berserk is FromSoftware’s Dark Souls series and the Wild Hunt from the Witcher games. The influence of Berserk continues and a conclusion of the story is incredibly anticipated.
Berserk: The Golden Age Memorial Edition (2022) Official Trailer
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