Oh boy. Get ready for my sincere controversial opinion.

And this time around in english. And as always, all the illustrations are property of Kentaro Miura, and are used for educational purposes. Basically to demonstrate how shallow and mediocre… I mean how AWESOME Berserker is.

So, if you like mangas, or think you may like them, you’ve probably heard of: Dragon Ball, One Piece and Bleach. However if you are 18+, you’ve probably heard of “darker”, yet still popular titles like: Berserker, Bastard!!, Gantz, Death Note and Hellsing. And so, the topic of the next review, and probably review series, will be these sections of the market.

And so, without further ado, I present to you

berserk

BERSERKER – Manga Review

Information: Berserker is illustrated and written by the same guy, Kentaro Miura. It started in the year 1988 and the series continues to be published as of today. The manga comprises 37 volumes of Dark Fantasy (western genre). By dark fantasy we understand an action/adventure story based in a medieval fantasy world (magic, dragons, elves, etc.). And Dark because the story has a “serious” tone to it, or rather because its sad, dramatic, and sometimes even realistic (in a fantasy environment that is). In manga genre it would be a Seinen, a manga for young adults. Thus the story contains brutal scenes or blood and gore, which are rather well illustrated. Also nudity and… basically rape scenes. For a 18+ manga however, the story is poor, unoriginal (or barely original). Its more of an 18+ action film, in manga form, where you can safely turn off your brains.

STORY

The manga sort of contains, two stories. The events that led to the hero, Gutts, to become a badass, and the events after his former friend becomes a demi-god demon thing and the whole world becomes a cluster f***, sex act of monsters and fantasy figures.

gutts relax

Gutts relaxing, before the world goes crazy

The first part of the story deals with the making of the protagonist, the ultra-strong, bad-attituded, stubborn and short-tempered badass of an anti-hero: Gutts. We meet him hunting demons with the ease one would swap a fly, a missing arm and a slashed eye. It’s intriguing. Then we see his origins, from birth to the moment he lost his arm. That part of the story is well written, developed and involving. Its crude, realistic (almost no magic or fantasy). Its “simply” a guy who grew up among thieves and murderers and learns to survive.

battle

The first part is like a military drama, almost decent

But then, unfortunately it turns into an orgy of plots, plot twists, characters and monsters. Hell breaks loose (like twice in the manga) and suddenly from a semi realistic world you get thrown into a soup of fantastical creatures. While the story was never a strength of the manga, it was o.k. until it becomes comically absurd. More over, a changing world lends a ton of possibilities, mainly character development (or, if you like, societal development) in a changing world. Instead we get only battles with zero character development.

que fish

In the end its hard to make sense of what the hell is going on

ILLUSTRATIONS

The drawing style of Miura is quite decent, the action scenes flow neatly but also scenes of gore and sex are very realistic. Miura has no holds barred, you get to see Gutts and other characters raped (literarily). One can argue that, unlike hentai the author at least has a story that makes (some) sense around these horrible events.

el miura

Part of the story or not, one may also wonder, what the hell is the author projecting with this kind of images (since author and illustrator are the same person)

A part of the illustration “department” that was a let down (for my taste) was that the author has Gutts fighting bigger and bigger monsters. Which is fine at first, the arc of tension demands a bigger challenge through the story development. BUT. Gutts fights at first large humans, then dragons, suddenly gigantic balls with tentacles, with battleships at the tip of each finger. After the “end of the world” part of the manga, battles get exponentially, and ridiculously larger to the point where you aren’t impressed by anything.

arbol malo

So there you are, minding your own business. And suddenly a planet-sized, demi-god tree of evil (with remarkably russian/arabic features) appears. And you are like “Aha, what’s for dinner any way”

DIALOGUES

Berserker is action and dark fantasy. The story and dialogues, could have been intriguing. They aren’t. They don’t need to be, by the way. But it would have been nice. Specially in a story targeted at an adult audience.

VERDICT

The biggest problem with Berserker is that the story gets crazier and crazier with every single page, to the point it becomes meaningless. You also get SO MANY plots and characters thrown at you, to the point you don’t even care anymore, AND you get too little time with the characters, you actually care about. And the apple topping on your blueberry pie is: World-devastating/changing plots come and go to the point where “the End of the World” bares no meaning AT ALL.

AND SO, BERSERKER GETS A:

5 / 10

If you like mindless action, you’ll like it, for a while

If you like a good story with your action, only the beginning is for you

If you are older than 13 or female, you probably won’t like it

P.D. If I may add something. When a manga (or comic) is written and illustrated by the same person, he or she has too much power over his or her own work. At the end of the day a teamwork CAN improve a story, and usually does. Why? Because two people having to agree, and cooperate on a single project involves things like humility, critique, human-relationships… at the end of the day a second opinion on matters. Kentaro Miura wanted to conquer the world in one bite, the world turned out to be more than what he expected.

4 Comments »

  1. Hi Hans Angel
    I get that not everything I like is for everyone but Berserk has a lot of critical acclaim from pro critics and casual readers alike. I’ll like to convince you to read it again and that it deserves at least an 8 – a 9 First, I’ll acknowledge the sexual assault in Berserk is more than most manga(even some seinen) but they don’t just happen for no reason. I believe that rape in media is a neutral story element that serves three purposes: power, betrayal and inhumanity and I’ll explain that the 2 major rapes that happen Guts and Casca and rest of the rapes fit this bill even though I feel some were overdone. Guts rape by Donovan was meant to serve as a betrayal by Gambino who sold him as a child sex slave and the trauma stuck with him and was used as an important plot thread for Guts and Casca’s romance and show guts fear of becoming like the men who abused him when he killed Adonis. As for Casca, Griffith raping Casca although graphic served a future narrative and at that moment it was used by Griffith in the form of Femto to spite Casca and Guts after being pushed over the deep end, it was also the ultimate betrayal, was Griffith showing the power difference between him and Guts and to show him throwing away his humanity. The other rapes by the trolls represented the change in the state of the world and the inhuman nature of the trolls, that being said Miura has phased out that content since volume 25. The story is amazing and I like to breakdown each part starting for the black swordman to fantasia although it’s not over. I’ll actually give the black swordsman arc a 7, it was a short introduction to guts and the world of berserk and no guts didn’t easily hunt demons down he struggled a lot against the slug count and snake lord and had to use hostages and feint weakness to win in both battles respectively. The people guts defeat easily are evil spirits and they have been shown to be easily defeated in later parts. I won’t rate it highly because it was an introduction to the world and gave a narrow sadistic view of Guts but at the end of the arc, it gives us a window guts emotional state and shows it was a front to hide Guts pain giving a perfect set up for the Golden Age arc. The Golden Age arc was the peak of Berserk, the character drama and relationships between Guts, Griffith and Casca, seeing Guts and Casca grow to love each other, Griffith’s political ambition set against the ambitions of midlands nobility, Guts and Griffith relationship, the fights and the constants set up for the eclipse were all amazing and made Berserk one of my best manga. I won’t go into the Golden Age because it really speaks for itself and has many subplots that explain the story that make it difficult to go into and this reply is already too long. I’ll give this arc a 9.5. You make reference to the eclipse like it happened out of nowhere but there was very setup since Zodd(a demon) was introduced early in the eclipse since volume 5 and other supernatural people like the skull knight occur sequentially until the event occurred in volume 13. The next arc the Conviction has two main sub arcs: Lost children, which was unnecessary for the story but was a very good story an 8 and showed why good people chose to become apostles(demons) and allowed Guts to open up and the incarnation ceremony arc which was heavy on Nietzchian philosophy, introduced the religion of the world of berserk and used those elements to serve as a shift for Guts from revenge on Griffith to protecting Casca and served as a springboard for continuing Griffith’s ambition, some don’t like the philosophical theme but I’m a Nietzche fanboy so I stan and give it an 8.5. The Falcon of the millennium empire arc which was a world-building arc which expanded the Kushans who were introduced in the Golden Age arc and where built upon in the Conviction arc and formally introduced the magical aspects of Berserk, it was an arc were Griffith took centre stage in the war to Midland vs Kushans. Guts doe fight large enemies in this but they are relatively the same size as before and for the really strong magical enemies like Ganishka, Sea God and Daiba he needed the help of others like Zodd, Schierke and Serpico. I give it 8, there were few weren’t that much character interactions but it was an interesting supernatural war arc and the set up for Fantasia. The current arc, Fantasia, isn’t completed but I like the way it’s going but the boat arc was slow in isolation but together it was an interesting way of seeing Miura handle a Lovecraftian story as it is right now I’ll give it a 7-7.5.
    But to address you saying Guts isn’t a simple antihero because he doesn’t set out to do good for selfish reasons but is just someone that wants to accomplish his own goals where they are for malice or for the sake of protecting others but even if he was, he is still a very interesting character with a very compelling story. I hope you reconsider your assessment and read it again.

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