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