The Loveable Manga that Has Something for Everyone: Berserk

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[SPOILERS. Also, some images in this post are NSFW]

I don’t feel qualified to validate the quality of Berserk, nor feel it particularly necessary for me to do so. I am also not interested to prove one way or the other whether the anime adaptation is superior to the ongoing manga. Rather this post serves as a survey of the many things I found interesting and remarkable about this popular, long-running, and critically acclaimed work.

(I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of either version, but I can confidently say that I am a fan of both).

What distinguishes my attitude perhaps on Berserk, particularly the manga, is how loveable I find it.

I read the first two volumes of the manga some years back. I wasn’t very impressed though I trusted the people who recommended it to me. The naked Puck annoyed me and seemed forced as a foil for Guts. I ended up putting it on hold for over a year.

Recently I watched the Berserk anime and easily found it as impressive as my friends told me it would be. I found it incredibly tight and well-done.  Here’s a survey of the reviewers’ ratings as documented in Wikipedia:

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They’re very impressed are they? I was too, though for some reason I stayed away from reading any of their actual reviews, though I think I’ve read at least half of those years and years ago. In any case, I found the harsh setting, the tragic feel of the characters, the sense of powerlessness against fate and the supernatural very interesting.

I was also impressed at how unflinching the portrayal was of demons, killing, rape, and combat were; as much as how tender it could be when depicting the particular moments of intimacy (Guts and Casca, Griffith and Charlotte) even when a lot of other things were going on:

  • Guts’ sexual performance with Casca was informed by his own rape as a child (the past). He was very violent and rough to the virgin commander.
  • Griffith’s sexual performance with Charlotte (or even the very attempt and lack of coolness and planning) was informed by the future without Guts. Yet, he was gentle to the virgin princess.

These scenes do much to layer the story and it’s rather awesome really. The rough portrayal belies a dignity to the tragic trajectory of Guts and Griffith. The rough portrayal doesn’t give me much time to reflect on the gravity of the events until it’s way too late for all of them. And as the eclipse happens and Griffith sells everyone out, the consequences unto the Band of the Hawk is so gruesome and in my face that I can’t really take stock.

There are some who thought Casca’s demon-rape during the eclipse was excessive. I don’t really blame them, but I thought it fitting and consistent with how the show conducted itself. It’s a tragic and brutal end that for all Guts’ unbelievable power, he is unable to prevent.

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The anime ends on this tragic note. Guts’ is powerful enough to survive, but not overcome. The prologue of the show is set in the actual present, where Guts is just this hell-bent power of vengeance. This is enough. It’s a very tight, well-told story that looks great in its gruesome way.

The manga of course, doesn’t stop there. The story is much longer, and more complex. I imagine how the whole world comes to a deciding moment between Guts and Griffith, or perhaps a redemption of Griffith against a far greater evil. But that’s getting ahead of myself.

What I want to focus on, is the impression I got from the anime, and the surrounding talk I hear (or was given me) from friends and acquaintances regarding how epic the manga is (often in relation to the anime).

However, the promise that the anime seems to make isn’t quite met, or is it?

It’s not like the manga betrayed this promise. Rather, there was just more, a lot more and different things that showed up in the manga that I wouldn’t be able to predict from how the anime conducted itself, or perhaps, how the Golden Age arc of the manga conducted itself.

Team Guts, the Adventuring Party

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While never really conforming to the traditional Dungeons & Dragons kind of adventuring party, Guts gathered a bunch of individuals that have complementary abilities and various levels of liability. Instead of seeming like a standard RPG party like the Companions of the Lance from the Dragonlance Chronicles, it’s evocative in ways of the Fellowship of the Ring.

It’s not quite a well-oiled machine, in how the hobbits in the Fellowship didn’t quite pull their own weight. They actually proved their worth outside the context of the Fellowship (Merry in Rohan, Pippin in Minas Tirith, Sam and Frodo in Mordor). Team Guts isn’t a tactically cohesive force, though it seems that they’re headed towards that direction. Part of the reason for this is how there is a lack of seasoned campaigners.

That said, Guts basically controls the initial swarm of demons and sets the table for the others to clean up. He then takes on the really big monsters.

There’s also something about it that’s very Japanese (I will discuss this later).

Holy Ethnic Wars

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The emerging geopolitics in the manga positions the “Vatican” as a supreme power, very much like how it was in Medieval Europe. This expy for the Catholic Church behaves very dogmatically, very extreme, and is easily portrayed as hypocritical and ineffectual. Often, a village’s survival is critically impeded by the authority of the priest, which is higher than the mayor or any of the secular authorities.

Also, access to experiencing “genuine” spirituality is impeded by the Church dogma, which replaces spiritual experience with “mechanical” ritual. Hence, “Catholics” can no longer see elves and fairies, and have trouble truly calling forth “divine” intervention.

In Albion, the primary antagonist is a self-mutilating grand inquisitor, who liberally uses torture and execution against pagans and suspected belligerents. It is not surprising how he becomes infected by the apostle and becomes a monster that Guts needs to destroy directly.

If the Catholic Church is portrayed via expy as a corrupt political entity, it’s still presented as the cornerstone of civilization. By civilization I mean the opposite of barbarity.

The most menacing opposing nation is Kushan, apparently based on the historical Kushan kingdom in South Central Asia. The Kushani of Berserk look Indian, and like the historical Kushani are Buddhist. I find it strange and rather weak how Berserk didn’t do more to alter or put a spin on the religions it draws from.

Is Berserk merely an alternate history of our world? If so, then how does Jesus and Siddhartha fit in? They don’t, so yes it’s a weakness I feel.

Back to the Kushani, who in opposition to the Midland people and the Vatican controlled states, are portrayed as barbarians, and is led by a very powerful demon – an apostle who refused the call of the White Hawk.

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Berserk also falls into the Tolkienist ethnic trap of portraying enemies racially. The Kushans are decidedly Asian; they’ are the “other” in this case. There are no Kushanis aligned with the Vatican and vice-versa. There’s no reason to doubt, however, that a Kushani may practice witchcraft the way a Midland witch does, though the Kushani may have an ethnic and region-specific version of the Fairy Kingdom where Guts’ party is headed to.

Tolkien famously called Sauron-aligned humans “Easterlings” (Mongol types), and “Southrons” (Moors). The center in this case being a very European “Middle-Earth.” Berserk’s primary setting? Surprise surprise: it’s called “Midland” with a capital called Windham.

The center is relative and arbitrary, it’s peculiar (or not at all) how Berserk insists that it be Europe all over again.

What’s really going on here?

Berserk will most likely be a straight up good vs.. evil battle. The ultimate evil will probably be drawn from Western mythology, if not merely Guts vs.. Griffith, which is within the context of Western mythology and religious tradition. This whole Kushani business is a sideshow.

I don’t know if this should mean something for whomever who reads it, but this is going on in this text.

Guts, Reluctant Harem Lead

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This is what I mentioned about Team Guts being “Japanese.” Guts, by the 30th volume has practically become a harem lead. Now, this is still Guts we’re talking about so he’s an alpha male through and through. Berserk isn’t going to be about “who will Guts choose.”

Rather, Farnese and Schierke are both attracted to Guts that way. Very innocent and pure feelings, and respectful of Guts’ feelings for Casca, but nonetheless they feel it. Therefore, they are shipping fodder.

Complaints

No, the stuff above aren’t complaints, but these are:

Retarded Casca

Oh my god I liked Casca a lot. She was this tragic figure to begin with, a commander of the Band of The Hawk favored by Griffith but not that way. She aligns her whole life to Griffith’s dream and when Griffith sells everyone out, he Femto-rapes her in front of Guts, mainly because he wants to spite him.

Casca was chattel.

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Now Casca is a burden. As a result of that demon-rape Casca has lost all her memory and her ability to speak. She doesn’t do anything anymore. Rather, her condition is the one that influences behavior:

  • Guts strays from his path of revenge and makes his life about protecting her now useless and defenseless self.
  • Farnese finds her initial post-religion purpose in the world in ministering to her and protecting her.
  • The whole dynamic of combat, tactics, and vulnerability revolves around her whereabouts.

I miss the strong and able Casca. Sure she can become overpowered, but she wasn’t going to be a singular force in an army. She was a commander who held her own in a fight. But now she is sick and useless and at times used for comic relief. Sometimes she goes “uu,” sometimes she goes “gyabuu.”

Rape Rape Rape Rape Rape Rape Rape Rape Rape Rape Rape

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Why do monsters in Berserk have to be killed? It’s because they kill men, possess animals, eat children, and rape women. Guts kills a LOT of monsters, which implies a lot of rape happened. Yes, a whole lot did after 33 volumes.

I’m supposed to be horrified by the rape, so I get to feel good and righteous when Guts hacks the rapists into chunks. Yeah, that’s exactly how I’m supposed to feel… and nothing else! If I feel anything else than horror, repulsion leading to righteous elation and just satisfaction, then I’m just being a dirty perverted sicko.

Yes, I’m sure that’s how all this is supposed to work.

Griffith Was Already Femto, Why Does He Need to Be Reborn as Human?

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Maybe arch demons aren’t powerful enough to assume human guises. Some apostles seem to be able to. But why did Griffith have to go through such an elaborate process involving Guts’ and Casca’s aborted fetus, How does that even work?

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Other than having Griffith look like himself again (only with gayer lips… but it could just be the progression of the illustrator), I don’t see why there has to be this convoluted plot point to get him to do so. The mythology is still mysterious to me. The God-Hand seem so powerful, so why does Griffith have to build his own kingdom in such a conventional way?

Why does the Band of the Hawk need to rise up again the way it does?

The only reason I can think of is the Rule of Cool. I’ll accept it because it is indeed cool. However, it does bug me in terms of both plotting, and world-building and design.

Lolicon Fodder

It happens early on. Casca was nearly raped when she was around 11 years old. Griffith saved her, but not before the would be rapist showed her nipples to us lucky readers. Little boys are sex slaves. Guts himself was raped as a 9-year old boy. This is kind of skeevy, but works within the context of the darkness in this fantasy world.

But with Schierke,

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Also,

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It’s not just the nudity (never mind the rape), it’s the shipping.

Hard-to-follow Action in the Demon Massacres

One thing the anime does very, very well is to direct the action. There’s a fluidity to the combat experience that the manga often makes it difficult. You know a lot of demons are getting carved up, and it’s supposed to be very brutal. However, this isn’t as interesting to me as humans vs. humans fighting.

Demons are either fodder for Guts’ huge sword, or are nigh-unkillable, near-∞ hit points boss battles. They are pretty much killed the same way (getting hacked into chunks), or in the case of Kundalini the water serpent, has some kind of weak spot that Guts well, hacks into chunks.

I do think that these fights would work better if animated, though the snake beast battle in the opening episode of the anime isn’t particularly exceptional. It does the job.

Guts Turns into a Hollywood Smartass

By volume 30, Guts starts making lighthearted attempts at wit. He starts snarking about the nobles’ “Charity Ball” which would be fine I suppose coming from Serpico (but not really). The tone feels very much like a ‘80s-‘90s action hero in the mold of Bruce Willis, or Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Worse, he goes to a demon tiger and says something like “Hey Dragoncat, want some catnip?” before hacking the demon into chunks. Guts has reached Kindergarten Cop/The Last Action Hero era Schwarzenegger.

The Awesome Stuff

I did not do this post to complain. It should be quite obvious that I like the damn work. So now here’ are the things about it I like a lot. Sorry, I won’t post galleries of Caska and Farnese naked. Liking those bits (save for the demon rape scenes) goes without saying for me.

First off, Guts’ heroic poses. Instead of triumphal poses, Berserk excels when Guts is given full spreads while swinging or about to swing his huge weapon. Here are some exceptional images in a video I prepared.

In the video are every 2-page spread from Prototype of Berserk to Volume 33 where involving Guts doing something awesome. A lot of its shows soldiers and demons getting hacked into chunks.

The Epic Battles

There are a lot of illustrated battles in Berserk, even from way back in Guts’ youth training under Gambino. However, it won’t be until the second coming of Griffith and the Band of the Hawk that we get to see truly immense and complicated engagements.

The battles in Midland during the Golden Age arc do have some scale and tactical nuance. However it never seemed that Griffith was truly challenged. The Tudors never put up a force that is both overwhelming or well-led.

The thing about combat in Berserk is there are several kinds:

  • Human vs. Human
  • Human vs. Demon

In most cases up to volume 33, there is a separation between the two kinds. Guts fights soldiers. Armies fight each other. Guts fights demons (and other monsters). Demons fight armies.

When Griffith attacks Windam to reclaim it, we get to see the promise of the anime fulfilled.

What we see is a combined arms battle between the Band of the Hawk, composed of Demonic Apostles and regular army units against the full-demonic army of the Kushan Emperor Ganishka who used an artificial Behelit to increase his demonic powers.

When Griffith finally attacks Ganishka what we get is The Return of the King’s Battle of Pelennor Field only instead of a troop of Oliphaunts and ranks of Orcs and Half-Trolls, and the Ringwraiths we get a massive army of goopy demon monsters set against a human and demonic army. The demonic apostles fully utilize their demonic forms which gives us a rather unique spectacle.

Last but not least, Griffith organizes things enough to see some tactical logic in play. It’s no Legend of the Galactic Heroes, but I’ll take it.

The Long Journey

The Lord of the Rings relies on using incredibly long expanses of continuity to create a feeling of depth and scale. When the Fellowship reaches the door to Moria, we are as if for the first time (not actually the first because of the songs Bilbo and Aragorn sing in Rivendell) introduced to a staggering amount of history. Even though we’ve been travelling with the Fellowship for a short while, we feel like we’re a part of an immense tale. It’s a good feeling.

Berserk has little to none of this. Instead it has real human time for one, since the manga has been running for 20 years; and we’ve actually been following Guts since he was 9 years old, over a decade now in the reckoning of the continuity. When you stop and think about things, the time skips are minimal, a couple of years here and there. More often than not we actually stay with Guts as he spends his days travelling and fighting.

Guts became a man before our eyes, and Berserk can hardly be called a coming-of-age tale. The way I see it we’re just approaching something like the halfway mark of this long journey. I don’t want it to take another decade of continuity – since I want Guts and Caska to find each other again while they’re still young. I want Caska to see the stump of Guts’ left arm and feel the love that was shown in giving that up. Yeah I’m sappy as hell.

And Finally, Fantasy

Berserk is as grim and dark as they come. But there are rare moments when it reaches something of the sublime. It has to do with magic. It has to do with flying. It happened when Farnese learned real magic from Schierke for the first time.

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And it happened when Griffith rescued Charlotte from Ganshika.

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This image will stay with me forever. It’s Peter Pan, it’s A Whole New World, it’s an incubus meets Anti-Christ taking a four-post bed from a tower using a demonic unicorn with bat-like wings under the light of the full moon. This is fantasy.

Berserk too, is a story of love.

How would you share Berserk to someone who doesn’t know anything about it?

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
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57 Responses to The Loveable Manga that Has Something for Everyone: Berserk

  1. Myssa Rei says:

    I was wondering when you were going to do a Berserk! post (or rather, when you were going to publish the draft). I won’t go into my own thoughts on the series (since I only got back into refcently it after seven-odd years, as I waited for it to build up material again), but I think I’m in the minority here in saying that I actually liked the fact that Guts lightened up, if only a little.

    • On the subject of Guts lightening up, what really happened is that the darkness got externalized: the darkness is almost wholly represented by the Berserker Armor. Now we have a dark on ‘light’ dynamic as opposed to dark on dark. In any case I’m not complaining about Guts at all, as I’ve found him rather consistent for the most part. I just find that the overall tone of the manga has become lighter and campy:

      From the harem elements, the casual (not in the context of rape) nudity, and Guts’ monologue during fights (terrible 90s action hero one-liners).

      …and from that list only the one-liners cheese me out.

  2. Marigold Ran says:

    Nice post.

    And no, I am not a member of the minority. I hope everyone in the party dies again. Unlikely to happen though.

  3. TWWK says:

    I had no idea that Berserk involved religion, which had me very interested. I was thinking of watching/reading until you mentioned the monster rape and loli stuff. -_-‘

    • To be fair, Berserk will have you cross your ‘lines’ immediately. There is no pretense that this manga will go over easy on your moral-aesthetic dynamics. (The first 3 volumes seem rather rubbish though)

      I instead recommend that you watch the anime. It is powerful stuff that doesn’t feel like exploitative entertainment (unless you are incredibly sensitive; but even so, still worth the risk!).

  4. Baka-Raptor says:

    I haven’t touched the manga in about 6 years. Started to feel fillerish. Doubt I’ll touch it again until it’s finished, which could be another fifty years from now. In the meantime I’ve channeled my fandom toward Claymore. Less rape but more progress.

  5. Tetho says:

    Griffith needed to be reborn in an human form for two reason :
    -God Hands members exist on a much higher plane of existence and can’t materialize themselves onto the human world (as proven when Slan had a hard time creating a body from the troll’s corpses).
    -He needed to be human again if he wanted his dream, having his own kingdom, to becomes reality.
    As the bending of all planes in one was the result of Griffith’s campaign to conquer his kingdom, he could not have done it as Femto. Hence his reincarnation at the Tower of Conviction was needed.

    • I’ll take your word for it, thanks!

      But if you have sources that further substantiate this insight, I’ll appreciate it very much.

      • Tetho says:

        http://skullknight.net/encyclopedia/universe/
        If I’m not mistaken it is from the “Berserk Illustration Files” artbook. I do not own it myself but I remember seeing this diagram into a friend’s copy.
        So, as Femto exist onto the astral world, he cannot appear in the physical plane which is too low for him.
        But the most terrifying thing is that by binding all the planes together Griffith allows the other God Hard members to manifest themselves onto the human world, and maybe even The Idea of Evil itself. I’m eager to see what Miura will do with this.

        • If I understand this chart correctly, the ceremonies that manifested Femto for the first time exist in, and create the interstice… which is how Femto raped Casca.

          The second coming of Griffith was his way of making his ultimate goal come true, and the rest of the God Hand presumably goes along with it because Griffith will bind all the planes together which is interesting for them?

  6. Ialda says:

    > It’s Peter Pan, it’s A Whole New World

    A little inspired by Gustave Doré imagery, too, which is *great* fantasy.

    (and has been for some years, now; as soon as Guts’ party enter a forest, these days, I somewhat expect Beatrice to come out of the trees)

  7. So glad this post finally came out and it is wicked amazing!

    I feel your feelings every bit from this. We’ve talked a lot about Berserk already and about the stuff in this post already, but it’s great, your feelings. This is how you should feel as a fan of Berserk, I think, confronting every part of the fact that this story is so damn huge. Sort of reminds me of that 5000-word post I did on Bleach about a year ago.

    In any case, I like a lot of what you don’t like about Berserk. I like all the rape for what I imagine is the reason there’s so much of it, and of course you know I love the lolicon fodder and love Schierke to death. I like the ultra-gay side to Berserk that has emerged over the years, but what I don’t like is the decline in pacing. What keeps my interest alive is the big events like Griffith’s attack and the advancement of the characters, but where I stopped reading, volume 30, it was like nothing was god damn happening. They were all dicking around in that port town, and then started the whole Farnesse plot, and it was going slow, and stuff like that bothers me. But overall, I like the arc of Berserk.

    I can’t blame the manga for changing to much, when it’s been happening for so long. In the 1980s, Berserk was a kitschy action-comedy that was dark for fun. Then it got a lot more serious. Supposedly, Miura’s biggest influence is Guin Saga, which is the longest novel series of all time, and went unfinished when the author died last year (you may remember a relevant comic of mine about that lol http://myswordisunbelievablydull.wordpress.com/2009/05/27/screaming-otaku-01-and-02-kentaro-fcking-miura-and-code-johnny-webcomic/ ). No doubt, Miura planned from the beginning to make his manga extremely long. But at the beginning, I’ll bet he carefully planned out the Golden Age arc, and then after that, nothing was so carefully thought-out.

    But I don’t feel the rest of Berserk cheapens it just for being less well-written. It’s just a story that by all means was going to continue. From what I’ve heard, Guin Saga was similar, having originally had a much more definitive story, and then as time went on, it got to where the novels were more geared towards the fans of the novels—in other words, it became a story only fans could love. Maybe that’s true for every long-running story when it reaches the point that the author is decided that he’ll be writing it for the rest of his life and has distilled it down to ‘what I want to write’, and the people still reading by then are people who ‘what I want to read’ line up with ‘what he wants to write.’

    I don’t know where I’m going with this. But Miura is now ‘killed by moe’ as you like to say about lelangir. He spends his days playing Idolm@ster, watching Nico Nico Douga, and no doubt loving magical girls. He even designed a vocaloid lol. There are plenty of Berserk fans who don’t care about any of that and have their own reasons for still loving the series. There are other fans who see that stuff and jump ship. I’m part of a third group, who loves what Miura was going for in the beginning, but is also a fan of lolis and Idolm@ster and magical girls and Nico Nico Douga and totally understands and supports where Miura is going with the story.

    About 3 years ago, Miura said that he felt Berserk was about “half-over.” Around the same time, Eiichiro Oda said the same thing about One Piece, which has published for half as long but had almost twice as many volumes. The difference between those two series is that One Piece intends to end, and Berserk, I think, doesn’t. Miura wants to write Berserk for the rest of his life. It’s his baby. His life’s work. He will live off of it for as long as he can, and it will be exactly what he wants it to be. Maybe his saying ‘it’s half over’ was just code for ‘I’ve lived about half of my life so far’. And hell, if he has to live long enough to see Berserk end, I’ll bet anything we get a side-story of some kind or some random one-shots related to the series.

    I’ve only been reading Berserk for 2 years, but I’ve been handed the materials to be a Berserk lifer.

    • Thanks, for better or worse, I’m hooked now.

      Part of the reason why I wrote this post is that at some point I’ll start hating Berserk. It could be another Wyald (ugh), Caska recovers for a fricking chapter then turns full-retard again (that will give me an aneurysm), or a host of things Berserk can do to push my buttons. I can go back and read this and get why I shouldn’t be too surprised, to remember the incredibly lame arcs I had to blitz through, and remember… love, really.

      I don’t think I can write something as exhausting(ive) as this without a strong feeling for the work, so when this friend turns into a spent, overweight, transvestite prostitute, I don’t become the guy who turns his back on his friend.

      • Joe says:

        What was wrong with Wyald? His exclusion from both the original anime and films really pissed me off. Not only were the moments involving him very entertaining. The fight Guts had with him was great and the he’s one of the best designed monsters in the manga. But they also served to develop Guts and Griffith and delve further into the relationship between them, as well as foreshadow the events of the eclipse. I don’t see how anyone could be happy about his exclusion.

  8. Jack says:

    How one feels about the Berserk manga seems rather dependant on how one read it.

    If, like me, you read it all recently you experienced decades worth of content in a very short time and where able to notice changes in style more easily then someone who’d been reading it as it came out.

    If, like many other people, you read a lot of it as it was being released, the opinions seems to pull slightly more negative. If you read about Guts attacking a string of monsters in a Port for two years, you’d get rather bored. But if that’s read all at once it will only take a few minutes.

    It’s almost like you can’t really appreciate it until you have the opportunity to read it all at once. People who read it once it’s finished will probably have a better opinion of it then those who read it “live”, as it were.

    • I think that’s pretty true for any long-running manga. I always hear people bitch and moan about how long anything takes to happen in Bleach, but when I read the whole series at once, the pacing felt perfect. I only made it through a couple of weeks before deciding it would be best to hold off again until later.

    • Yes, very good. I re-read the shitty early volumes this year, and then blitzed through the whole thing afterward. By now you can probably tell that I’m more than just giving due report of how entertaining I find it… it’s really my own love story with the work. The circumstances made it easier for this perhaps, but here we are!

  9. coburn says:

    A post of appropriate length! I think since passing his early grimdark one man against the world phase Miura has just found more and more ways to be pulpy, because he wants to be, but some novelty in the downmarket stuff was inevitable.

    Like the race thing – going from the anime section it half seems like he’s making one of these Modern Fantasy settings where there are occasional racial differences but they have no significance in the world (Casca, right?). Then, some years later, it’s the attack of the evil oriental armies. It’s almost like he invents new weaknesses[vices, maybe] as a way to anchor himself, or, copping an idea from digiboy, to make Berserk still more encyclopaedically big – so that it just won’t end.

    Personally I get fascination, not love for this. But then, I feel the early bits more than the later. That might make a difference.

    • Fascination is a useful distinction, I think. I go further than that because I feel it’s what happened after writing a post like this.

      The race thing… I’m glad you pointed it out. It does make for interesting probing, especially the curious case of Caska, who, apart from her skin color, acts in no way “exotic” as her color would otherwise make her seem. It is during her leadership of the Band of the Hawk (Griffith got captured) that a distinctly Semitic (Arab?) character shows up, fighting in an ‘exotic’ style (not that it would prevail against Guts’ straightforward hacking with his BFS technique).

      There’s probably more to this, though I’m rather exhausted by Berserk at the moment, and the extreme camp the sea voyage is storming up.

  10. Pterobat says:

    I recently caught up with the Berserk scanlations, after ignoring them for quite some time. It might have been news of the new anime project that did it, but regardless of the reasons, returning to the series made me feel like I was falling out of love with Berserk, and could comfortably admit it.

    I *like* Berserk, but not extremely so. There are a lot of great story ideas, well-developed characters, and incredible artwork. However, the series often taxes my goodwill, since there are those long stretches where it feels like nothing is happening, or the relentless assault of grimness and rape just starts to breed cynicism rather than “only” shocking me. I hesitate to call such feelings “tedium”, but it’s something far less than what you are supposed to feel.

    The situation with Casca is a good example. Right now, for me, it’s become less about “poor Casca” than remembering that she’s been in her current state for longer than we’ve seen her in sound mind. No matter how horrible the related events were, it’s becoming increasingly harder to accept essentially taking one of the main characters out of the game for volumes on volumes on volumes.

    I’ve also been somewhat fascinated with Griffith, though, since he embodies a lot of themes which I’ve been commonly drawn to. But as he has restored himself to an idealized version of the “traditional” Griffith rather than Femto, he’s no longer as interesting a character as he was when he’s human. New!Griffith is a powerful subversion of the white knight, but also loses something now that he’s reached almost all that he has desired.

    Guts I don’t have much to say about. He is a complex enough character, but doesn’t grab me as much as some others do.

    • I’m continually pleased by your ability to precisely distinguish how you feel, and the restraint when you can’t accurately do so. I just though I should acknowledge it because I enjoy reading your comments immensely.

      I won’t go over Casca again because I simply agree with what you say. But regarding Griffith, I think that once he gets what he wants and it does seem he’ll get all of it… except what will make this story both interesting and cheesy all over again:

      He’s going to miss Guts. He’s going to account for what exactly he sacrificed, and remember friendship and remember love. His newer supporters will in part cheer him on to reconcile with them, some will be extremely jealous perhaps, and others will find this a weakness to exploit. Gritffith’s court while he pines for Guts will be a sordid soap opera, but I think I’ll be there to drink from that indulgent cup.

      • Pterobat says:

        Thanks for your compliments!

        Your interpretation of Griffith is somewhat different than mine, though. I was never able to *quite* suspend my disbelief when he was apparently so distraught at Guts’ departure that he would throw away all that he desired by bedding Charlotte, and now, much later in the story, it’s impossible for me to think of Griffith actually feeling anything for Guts, especially the interest you describe.

        It might be an interesting angle if he did, but it would also cheapen what transpired between Griffith and Guts at the Eclipse. What Griffith did was so utterly vile that all ties between them are broken, on both sides. When Griffith agreed to the Sacrifice, he was informing the audience that deep down, Griffith’s real self cared only for his ambitions.

        There are many complexities and shades of grey in Berserk, but to me, Griffith’s evil is one of the few certainties. Ambition isn’t evil, but after the Sacrifice, I can’t view Griffith as anything more than a capital E, Evil. He does not want Guts back, because he is close to achieving his goal without the need for a human Band of the Hawk.

        Furthermore, Griffith has ascended to pretty-much-godhood. He may now see Guts as beneath his notice in more ways than one, though I’m sure Guts would GET him to notice when they confront each other.

        • I don’t think our views are really conflicting.

          Consider that Griffith having feelings (e.g. regret) is not a diminishing of his evil; not at all. We can however, view it as a weakness… a fault in his ‘perfect’ character if you will.

          If anything, once he tries to act on this (and I don’t think this will be overwrought on his part) it will be another manifestation of his evil… a selfishness of wanting to have it all. But of course he can’t, so he’ll have to destroy Guts.

          • OmegaBlackZero says:

            I don’t think you’ve considered that Griffith is swayed by the emotions of Guts/Caska’s child being his host body. The fact he’s using the demon fetus for his manifestation has caused him some issues with emotion surrounding Guts and Caska and you can see it when he meets with them again in the snow field with Zodd. Just some food for thought.

          • Hmmm, did Griffith choose his host body? Is this some tragic coincidence?

    • Sage Ninja says:

      as I keep reading Berserk and the current situation I’m starting to wonder if Miura really has any intention of restoring Casca. If she was ment to be a real character equal to that of the memebers in Guts’s new group she wouldn’t have remained the way that she is for so damn long, or even made her damaged in the first place. I’m starting to get the sinking feeling that Casca, being a memeber of the “Golden Age Arc” is ment to stay in the golden age and never evolve past that. It’s that time of Guts life where things were going reletively well for Guts and everything from that time is either dead or destroyed, including Casca. Casca more than anything is a symbol of that shattered time of Guts’s life that he will never get back, maybe that includes Casca. Maybe she is meant to be frozen in that time. Guts is “the struggler” as SkullKnight puts it and having Casca restored to her former self would just bring too much happiness for Guts, and one thing reading Berserk that I’ve come to realized is that he is never allowed to be truly happy. I wonder if Casca will ever be allowed to be a character independant of the Golden Age and have a function outside of that.

      One of the reasons I’m continuing to read Berserk is to see Casca get her freaking mind back and regain her dignity. It’s been really hard for me to read it with her the way she is, and honestly I find it so that sometimes I’ve stopped reading for a few weeks. I hate it, and have barely any tolerance for “mentally regressed Casca”. I wish I could see the benefits she brings to the table the way that she is that other fans see that “keeps Berserk from just being another revenge story” but I feel that in order for me to do that I have to accept her as just a plot device and not a character any more. And honestly I prefere Casca the character, not the plot device that passively gives Guts motivation while actively gives another reason for him to struggle and feel angst. I think the reason I am having a tough time with this is because I’ve recently been introduced to Berserk and have been reading it in a relelativly short amount of time, so Casca when she was still “Casca” is still fresh in my mind while other fans who’ve been reading Berserk for 20 pluse years with various lengthy breaks have gotten used to Casca being this way

  11. Wow, had no idea you were pouring so much of your time and effort into this series. It appears well worth it though. I certainly understand how fun & hard a read this series can be. Its brutality can work for or against it. Great job! For now, I’m committed to Claymore, but one day I’ll return to the world of Berserk for a permanent run to the finish.

    • It was a month’s effort all-in (give or take a week), while I ignore most other things I’m watching. Thanks man, I can tell you that you’re missing out on QUADRUPLE BALLS, though there’s a lot of suckage too, unlike the near-perfection the anime was for me.

  12. SquareSphere says:

    hmmm… Berserk. At it’s best when it’s driving toward a clear goal or character development, at it’s worse very ambiguous filler or “side quests.

    The one major problem I’ve had recently with Berserk is this “world reset” that changes all the rules. Up until this point, Guts has been trying to get the “fairy land” where he felt that Caska could finally be safe (and potentially free him up to pursue his vengeance). Problem is that since the world has changed and has even more monsters in it now, the chances of it being the safe haven that he needed drops very low. Which means we get to see more retarded Caska :/

    It throws out a lot of, “well ok now where do we go”? Plus with Griffen now being super king of a fantasy plane, where does all the God Hand stuff fit in. What does it mean for them?

    Instead of getting right to these core questions, we’re stuck in filler land with a sea monsters just to basically pick up another loli 😦

    • I’m not sure what rules you mean are being broken here.

      That said, I do get the feeling that the story is being stretched and folded and messed with as it goes along. I think more astute readers (ree than I am) are more than able to see how it all hangs together.

      I don’t really agree that they’re filler though. What we’re seeing are new character introductions, as well as filling out subplots (side character stories). It’s just too easy to call these things filler if we don’t care much for them. For some readers, these chapters are gold (lolicons, after Miura’s own groin, perhaps).

      But retard Caska pisses me off, especially with this mystery naked boy showing up again.

      • Yeah, /a/ was absolutely in love with teh new loli/girlfriend for the kid chapter. Over the years, the people on /a/ who hate Berserk have pretty much shut up, and when new chaps come out, everyone who discusses them is excited.

      • SquareSphere says:

        It has more to do with the fact that Manga seems like it will have no end in sight while Griffith and the God Hand extend their influence/power the potential for a “good end” for Guts drops lower and lower. That being said, I suppose it is rather naive to things that Berserk would/should end in a way that lets Guts have have his cake and eat it too (ie destroy the God Hand, remove the brands, Caska makes a full recovery)

        There’s so many mysteries in the story already, it make the use of filler seem blatant.

      • Wraith says:

        Don’t think anyone has addressed a couple points yet, so I will.

        First is the mysterious naked boy. This is a minor spoiler if you’re only reading the US release, but not a big one, and ties in with one of your complaints above. The whole think about Griffith’s reincarnation needing the aborted fetus bit. Well, it didn’t ^_^ That was a separate thing. Griffith’s reincarnation didn’t need it, and the fetus only came in to play by accident (or, if you prefer, fate), and was a separate reincarnation (the mysterious naked boy) that happened at the same time thanks to the Nameless taking pity on it.

        Second, on the translation. I don’t have much of the Japanese version of Berserk, so I can’t fully comment on this. But the series has had more than one translator over its run, and some of them like to mess with the dialogue more than others. Some do things like throw in Army of Darkness references. Some don’t. Like I said, I don’t have many of the originals, but I suspect that at least some of those lines you’ve commented ab out have been “spiced up” by the translator.

        • Thanks!

          So right now, the mysterious naked boy, and these coincidences are still a mystery… but you’re certain they’re not related to Griffith’s activities directly?

          If you have specific things to cite that make this very clear I’ll be very thankful.

          As for the translation… oh man Ash. It makes so much sense. I’d rather that Guts lightening up didn’t have to mean he has to go Ash on us…

          • Wraith says:

            Sorry for the late reply, but I only look at blogs once a week.

            You really get the info that ties the Mysterious Naked Boy together in the latest material that’s been coming out in Japan, what will be volume 36. There’s a lot of little clues that have been dropped before that, but you probably won’t see them for what they are until a certain scene makes them obvious. MNB is obviously not working to Griffith’s plan. The stuff in volume 28 on the beach is the best reference from what’s available in the US release.

          • Ok I’ll look forward to that, thanks!

  13. vendredi says:

    Boy, do I need to read further, sounds like things do pick up. The massive scale of Berserk makes getting into it rather daunting.

    I think the other thing that has always had me rather hesitant about Berserk is partly the aesthetic style as well – Berserk has this rather “too-realistic” feel to the artwork, at least in the earlier chapters that I’ve read, where you get the sense that the artist is so caught up in rendering details that the overall big picture just ends up a distorted mess. It’s busy without being very eye-catching; I’ll admit Berserk has artistry, but I vastly prefer Hiroaki Samura’s Blade of the Immortal for artwork in the same vein. Fantasy-wise too, I tend to prefer Record of Lodoss War for it’s more pulp, sword-and-sorcery feel, but it sounds like Berserk really does pick up later.

    • I’m not terribly fond of the style either, but I like my violent illustrations and Berserk is very, very violent.

      Like many long works (like, Legend of the Galactic Heroes) this manga can be very daunting. I hardly really really plan to do it, but one day I’ll just find myself about to waste my time on something truly worthless, and… why not Berserk? (Which is how I’ve taken on the unwise choice of watching all of Gundam SEED — at 23 vexing episodes at present — and then Gundam SEED Destiny).

    • Berserk’s artwork improves greatly throughout. I remember in volume 10 having the first distinct moment of ‘wow, the art has gotten so much better over time’, and it only improves from there. In the 20-range, things get much more whispy and fantastical and take on a form that is unmistakably Miura’s instead of just nice-but-generic fantasy art.

  14. 10/10 post bro

    “Berserk also falls into the Tolkienist ethnic trap of portraying enemies racially. The Kushans are decidedly Asian; they’ are the “other” in this case. ”

    I’d say it’s not a Tolkienist trap; it’s a historical feature. The Crusades was one set of ethnic groups against another set; simply because travel was harder, migrations displaced instead of integrated communities (to a larger extent, in any case), and so on.
    The Midlanders and the other Vatican-allied states are of course very much Western; they aren’t less despicable or cruel for that, nor less enemies. And Prince Silat, the only significant Kushan character aside from Ganishka, while consistently an enemy of Guts, may become something more. It is decidedly less Manichean than Lord of the Rings, and less racialistic.
    So in that respect I would say Berserk is anti-Tolkien (in the older sense of anti-, “instead of”).

    And yes, the Battle of Windam was glorious. A far cry from the surreal comedy of the current Pirate Arc. (But I always thought Berserk was surreal comedy so that’s fine too!)

    I think you’ll like Sin Angyo Onsi. It has several battles which are in the same league, or even more massively impressive. And many other very good parts. As far as I recall anyway, was some years since I read it. Just don’t read up on it before reading, that will pay off more than usual. (MAL link just so you can identify it.)

    • Thank you very much. I actually have SAO stored somewhere… so I’m going to read it at some point.

      I’m fairly certain (as far as literary criticism can make anyone certain) that Tolkien saw that part of history (Crusades) as something instructive or representative of a great truth. He also fought in WW1 and made representations of the Haradrim as the Muslims/Turks and Sauron as Muhammad (making Morgoth = Allah).

      I don’t mean to make this some kind of Tolkienist trademark, but rather just highlight that this is a habit of an influential fantasy writer (as read from a Post-Colonial/deconstructionist methodology).

      • kaiserpingvin says:

        The point wasn’t as much about Tolkiens paradigm as Berserks; in Lord of the Rings, if you’re from Harad, you are faceless, and serving great evil. If you’re from Rohan, you’re an upstanding fellow fighting something which is evil for the sake of it. In Berserk, if you’re from anywhere, you’re faceless, and serving great evil. It does not determine anything by ethnicity; it is incidental. All men are a rather sheepish lot led by theatrically cruel beings.

        • But what do you mean ‘faceless’? Arguably, in Tolkien your Haradrim are faceless, and nameless… we know how they look like because Tolkien (via Bilbo and Frodo, writing the Red Book of Westmarch) describes their visage.

          In Berserk, they are nameless but not faceless. We know they look Asian because we can see for ourselves. The rendering of their portraits resemble our idea and experience of South Asians.

          You are Asian, serve a great evil, but not the greatest or most important evil. You are a sideshow to the main event. The center holds.

          Evil itself is not the most important idea I realize, is the relationship to the center.

          Would I be making a meal out of Ganishka should he be the final boss instead of Griffith? Yes, I would. It does seem that Berserk is damned by Post-Colonial reading methodology whatever it does (even if it chose not to represent any non-caucasian race at all); and this is the limitation of this approach (or at least, my ability to use it).

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  18. Animanachronism says:

    It might be worth noting — though you may well already know this, and I don’t think it detracts from your point about something like Eurocentrism(?) in Berserk — that actual medieval Western Europeans thought of themselves as marginal people. Almost all their maps are centred on Jerusalem, and you have the idea in the Early Middle Ages of Constantinople as this fabulously rich and civilised Eastern city where, if you’re displaced, you can find work as a bodyguard. And so on.

    Not that C19/early C20 Europeans — whose maps tended to be centered on Europe — necessarily appreciated this, of course.

    • I don’t think it detracts from the point, and I’m just glad it led me to this one, bear with me here because I’m typing along to my thoughts as I make them:

      –Fraternity, community, are created by and solidified by shared suffering/struggle
      –corollary to this is a belief that one is alone among predators
      –predators could be other human tribes, societies, civilizations (hegemony)

      Thus, the medieval Europeans could indeed have created an identity based on marginalization, similar to how imagined communities form as an idea, an ethos that is only partly based on geography (America, and other Post-colonial cultures, and then sexual, religious, ethnic, etc. communities).

      I imagine that at the very beginning of the Dark Ages prior to the tribes of Gauls, Goths, etc formalizing maps, their world was marginalized by Rome. Rome for a while marginalized everything, including Jerusalem, etc etc.

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