‘Berserk’: A manga for all time

berserk_vol01Originally, I did not want to read Berserk. A strange intro to a review of a manga, but it’s important to understand how powerful this series is. It’s over-hyped, it’s constantly on hiatus (serialized only sporadically by Young Animal). and there is literally no end in sight. But it’s one of the greatest stories I have ever read. It grabs you and subdues your soul. Artist/author Kentaro Miura has been working on Berserk since 1989 and, through all that time, the title has retained its quality.

Berserk is a dark fantasy set in medieval times, sharing thematic similarities to stories such as Macbeth, Game of Thrones, and The Count of Monte Cristo. It is a violent story about power, revenge, helplessness, man’s fight against the gods and, of course, love and loss.

Berserk, published through most its history in Japanese by Hakusensha and English by Dark Horse Comics, tells of a man coming to grips with the deepest wound he has ever suffered – and using the backlash from that to survive and conquer a vast, dangerous, endless world. The art i is beyond brilliant; standalone panels could be shown in a gallery. Microscopic details, enormous breadth and just pure emotion emanate from Miura’s art, which just keeps getting better. Miura has crafted an incredibly detailed world, one in which vast amounts of the history and mythology remain to be discovered.

Major plot surprises are foreshadowed beautifully. Not to spoil anything for you, but the Skull Knight is the best example; he appears randomly throughout the story, but each time he appears, previous plot points connect. Miura carefully lays out details to the story, in ways that do not even become clear until hundreds of chapters in. It is very clear that when Miura came up with the story and concepts for berserk – he knew exactly where he wanted it to head.

Character is also a central point. The story of Berserk is a balance – good and evil, friendship and enemies, love and hate, and of course pure rage. The focal point is the evolution that the characters go under. It is impossible to discuss the characters in berserk without going into spoilers.

This is a story of people’s ability to fight monsters while trying to keep their humanity. Berserk is a testament to the will of mankind. It’s about having the strength to pull yourself from the ruin of your darkest depths, and fight back. It is also about a man swinging around a sword as big as himself. Berserk is a dark, violent and emotional tale. In sum, it’s absolutely fantastic. Go read it.