Cover of the first manga volume
|Genre||Adventure, dark fantasy|
|Written by||Kentaro Miura|
|Magazine||Monthly Animal House (1989–92)|
|Original run||October 1989 – present|
|Anime television series|
|Anime film series|
Berserk (Japanese: ベルセルク Hepburn: Beruseruku) is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Kentaro Miura. Set in a medieval Europe-inspired dark fantasy world, the story centers on the characters of Guts, a lone mercenary, and Griffith, the leader of a mercenary band called the "Band of the Hawk". Themes of isolation, camaraderie, and the question of whether humanity is fundamentally good or evil pervade the story, as it explores both the best and worst of human nature. Both the manga and anime adaptations are known for their use of graphic violence and sexual content.
Miura premiered a prototype of Berserk in 1988. The actual series began the following year in the now-defunct magazine Monthly Animal House, which was replaced in 1992 by the bimonthly magazine Young Animal, where Berserk continues to be serialized intermittently. The series was adapted into a twenty-five episode anime TV series covering the series' Golden Age arc by Oriental Light and Magic from October 1997 to March 1998. A trilogy of films, Berserk: The Golden Age Arc, was released beginning in 2012. A second anime TV adaptation was broadcast in 2016 and 2017 for a total of twenty-four episodes.
Guts (ガッツ Gattsu) is a wandering mercenary who has known war and death since he was born from a hanged corpse and saved by his adopted mother, who died from the plague when he was only three years old. He was raised and trained as a mercenary by his adopted father, Gambino, but Gambino blamed Guts for his wife's death, selling access to the boy to a rapist amongst the mercenaries and later, attempts to murder Guts in a drunken rage. Guts flees after killing his adoptive father in self-defense, eventually growing into a young mercenary who earned a fearsome reputation while fighting. Guts eventually catches the attention of Griffith, the angelically charismatic leader of the mercenary group, "Band of the Hawk" (鷹の団 Taka no Dan). Griffith forces Guts into joining his forces upon defeating him in battle. Guts quickly rises through the ranks of the mercenary group, eventually becoming the Hawks' renowned raid leader and Griffith's deadliest subordinate. They are hired by the kingdom of Midland to help win the Hundred Year War against the Tudor empire. During this time, Guts bonds with the Band of the Hawk and learns of Griffith's mysterious pendant, the Crimson Behelit, along with Griffith's dream to rule a kingdom of his own. When the Hawks encounter a monstrous immortal being known as Nosferatu Zodd, it adds further mystery to the Behelit as Zodd spares Guts and Griffith upon seeing it, warning the former of his impending death should he be a true friend of Griffith's.
In time, the Hawks play a vital role in ending Midland's Hundred Year War with the nation of Tudor, eventually becoming ordained knights by the king of Midland. Guts gradually develops a relationship with Griffith's unit commander, Casca, the Hawks' only female member. Casca and Guts are initially hostile toward one another, but eventually start to fall in love after Guts saves Casca's life and successfully fights against one hundred men by himself to save her. After having overheard Griffith say that he can only consider someone a true friend if they have their own dream, Guts tries to leave the Hawks as the war ends and Griffith defeats his political enemies. Griffith refuses to let Guts leave the Band of the Hawk, claiming that he owns him. The two duel in single combat and Guts wins in a single blow. Unable to cope with losing to Guts, Griffith ruins his fortunes when found seducing the King's daughter, Charlotte. He ends up imprisoned to be tortured endlessly while the Hawks are marked for death. During Griffith's captivity, his torturer throws his behelit away. Guts spends the next year of his life training to become a better swordsman, but returns to the Band of the Hawk when he learns of Griffith's and the Band's fates. He reunites and starts a romantic relationship with Casca and helps the outlawed remnants of the Hawks rescue Griffith, only to find him horribly mutilated and rendered a mute shadow of his former self.
Though the group successfully escapes past the border with Griffith, it becomes clear that Griffith's injuries are too great and he would never again be able to physically move on his own or fulfill his dream of ruling a kingdom. Through preordained events, the despairing Griffith regains his behelit and unknowingly activates it during a solar eclipse. This transports the Hawks to another plane where they encounter archdemons collectively known as the God Hand in a ceremony known as "the Eclipse". Urged onward by the eldritch beings to become one of them to realize his dream, Griffith sacrifices his soldiers to the God Hand's "apostles"—humans like Nosferatu Zodd who have become powerful demons by sacrificing their loved ones and humanity for power-- each of the Hawks are "branded" with a symbol on their body identifying them as sacrifices. While Griffith has visions from the God Hand showing him that he was always destined to come to the Eclipse, Guts and Casca desperately fight for their lives while witnessing the brutal slaughter of their comrades. Eventually all of the Band of the Hawk are slaughtered and devoured by the demons. However, with Casca being the only woman present, she is toyed with naked by the demons. Griffith finally emerges reborn as the God Hand's fifth and final member, "Femto". Griffith's first act upon his ascension is to rape Casca in front of Guts. Guts loses his right eye and cuts off his own left forearm to escape captivity in a rage-filled attempt to kill Griffith and save Casca before losing consciousness.
Guts and Casca are saved from death and brought back into the physical world at the last minute through the intervention of the mysterious and powerful Skull Knight, whom Guts had met a year prior on his travels. However, the damage is done, as Casca is rendered insane from her horrific experiences. Guts learns that the Brands of Sacrifice that he and Casca now bear leave him open to be preyed upon by specters and other evil supernatural creatures on a nightly basis. Casca is left in the care of the blacksmith Godo and Rickert, the only Band of the Hawk member who escaped sacrifice because he was not present at the Crimson Behelit's activation. Guts takes an enormous sword from Godo known as Dragonslayer, and a prosthetic left arm that contains a hidden cannon built by Rickert, and begins hunting down apostles in search of revenge against Griffith. During this time, Guts begins seeing a ethereal deformed infant that appears before him, what was his and Casca's unborn child tainted by Femto's rape.
Two years later, Guts is joined by an elf named Puck and a young thief named Isidro. Casca eventually runs away from Rickert, sending Guts on a mad hunt to find her. Guts is later reunited with Casca as she is about to be burned as a witch in the city of St. Albion. There, along with Puck and Isidro, they encounter Farnese and Serpico of the Holy See Church's Holy Iron Chain Knights. Guts endures a nightmarish ordeal that ends in Griffith being incarnated into a new physical form being restored through a misshapen Apostle whose dream was to "hatch" a new world. This Apostle also ingested the deformed infant after stumbling upon its weakened and dying body moments before the Incarnation ceremony, resulting in Griffith's new body bearing some sort of influence of the infant.
Puck suggests that Casca's mind might be restored if they take her to the Elven realm of Elfhelm. Guts, desperate to save his loved one, heads there for sanctuary with the help of his new companions. They are soon joined by the witch Schierke who teaches Farnese magic and negates the effects of the brand on Guts and Casca. Griffith creates a second Band of the Hawk with Zodd and other demonic Apostles among its ranks to battle the invading Kushan army. The war between Griffith and the Kushan emperor, Ganishka, a rogue apostle, climaxes with the emperor's destruction and the overlapping of the mortal realm and the supernatural.
Now unopposed, Griffith finally obtains his own kingdom by establishing his rule over Midland with the endorsement of the Pope and Princess Charlotte, creating the city of Falconia to provide the Midlanders with refuge from the ever-increasing attacks of mythical beasts, unaware that their new ruler is actually one of them. At the same time, Guts and his party take a ship toward Elfhelm. Following a dramatic battle with the Sea God, Guts's party reaches Elfhelm, on the island of Skellig. The elf ruler, Danann, helps Farnese and Schierke travel into Casca's mind and restore her to her former self. However, despite recovering her memories, Casca still has not overcome the trauma from the events of the eclipse completely, usually collapsing when she sees Guts or remembers her fallen comrades.
At the same time, Griffith is shown leading his new armies of both humans and "war demons" against an army of giants that have emerged due to the effects of Griffith's and Ganishka's war. Griffith's army scores a swift victory with Griffith delivering the final blow against the giant leader in the climax of the battle.
In an interview with Yukari Fujimoto, Miura mentioned manga artists Yoshikazu Yasuhiko and Fujihiko Hosono as early influences to his art style, as well series like Violence Jack by Go Nagai and Guin Saga by Kaoru Kurimoto for the story and atmosphere of Berserk. Fist of the North Star by Buronson and Tetsuo Hara influenced Miura to develop his current art style. Ranpo by Masatoshi Uchizaki served him as a reference for his backgrounds. Pygmalio by Shinji Wada and The Snow Queen (Guin Saga spin-off) inspired Guts' sword size by mixing the characters' swords of both series.
Miura first premiered Berserk in 1988 with a 48-page prototype, which won a prize at the Comi Manga School he was enrolled in at the time. On November 26, 1990, the first volume of the manga was published by Hakusensha in its Jets Comics collection. Three more volumes appeared until Berserk was serialized by Hakusensha's Young Animal in 1992 and new chapters are still being released in the semiweekly magazine. Bound volumes are still published biannually in Japan by Hakusensha (Jets Comics collection); as of September 2018, 40 tankōbon of the manga have been published in Japan. The manga was published on an irregular schedule from late 2006 until July 2015. From then to December 2015 it was published monthly before returning to an irregular schedule. It returned to a monthly schedule starting in June 2016, but returned to an irregular schedule again from September 2016. The manga resumed on March 24, 2017, and went on hiatus again from June to December 22, 2017. It was then published on a monthly basis until May 25, 2018, and nearly three months after, a new chapter was published on August 24, 2018, before entering another hiatus. The manga returned on April 26, 2019.
In North America and the United Kingdom, the manga is translated and co-published between Dark Horse Comics and Digital Manga Publishing, which has released 39 volumes so far, the first on October 22, 2003. Berserk is the best selling product (not just manga) in Dark Horse's history, with over two million copies sold as of September, 2018. In September of 2018, Dark Horse Comics announced a "deluxe edition" of the Berserk manga, featuring hard covers and larger prints, with the first volume being released on February 27, 2019.
A novel adaptation, entitled Berserk: The Flame Dragon Knight, written by Makoto Fukami with illustrations by Kentaro Miura, was released on June 23, 2017. It is focused on the new Band of the Hawk's apostle Grunbeld.
First series (1997–1998)
Produced by Oriental Light and Magic and directed by Naohito Takahashi, the 25-episode anime television series adaptation Berserk: Kenpū Denki (剣風伝奇ベルセルク Kenpū Denki Beruseruku, lit., "Berserk: Sword-Wind Tales") first aired from October 7, 1997 to March 31, 1998. The series begins with the Black Swordsman arc, continuing through the Golden Age arc. Though the manga storyline remains largely intact, several changes were made, with the modification or elimination of characters, some of the series' most violent and brutal scenes, and material that would have extended the storyline beyond the planned run of the anime series. Themes of friendship and ambition are more developed and emphasized than those of causality and the supernatural, each of which was made with the approval of Miura.
In Asia, Vap Video has released thirteen VHS and twelve VCD including two episodes each (a single one in the last VHS and three in the last VCD) from 1998 to 1999 in Japan. The seven discs "DVD-BOX", using Audio-CD cases, was released in Japan in 2001, with the seven volumes being re-released later in individual DVD regular cases in 2003.
Film series (2012–2013)
In September 2010, a wraparound jacket band on volume 35 of the Berserk manga announced a new anime project, which was later revealed to be a series of films. The first two films, Berserk: Golden Age Arc I - The Egg of the King and Berserk: Golden Age Arc II - The Battle for Doldrey, were released in Japan in February and June 2012. Berserk: Golden Age Arc III - The Advent was released on February 1, 2013 in Japan.
The first two movies are substantially a retelling of the 1997 TV series. The third movie features new footage beyond the TV series storyline based on the manga. The movies are primarily animated using CGI although rendered with a flat two-dimensional effect which matches the TV series visual style.
The voice cast features Hiroaki Iwanaga as Guts (replacing Nobutoshi Canna from the original anime), Takahiro Sakurai as Griffith (replacing Toshiyuki Morikawa), and Toa Yukinari as Casca (replacing Yūko Miyamura). The English voice cast features Marc Diraison as Guts, Kevin T. Collins as Griffith, and Carrie Keranen as Casca, all reprising their roles from the original anime.
Second series (2016–2017)
The Japanese magazine Young Animal announced on December 22, 2015 that a second televised anime adaptation of the Berserk manga would be produced and broadcast on Japanese television network WOWOW and MBS starting in July 2016. The first promotional video for the new series was revealed at NBC's winter Comiket, which featured Guts in his Black Swordsmen attire fighting off dozens of demonic skeletons with his characteristic sword Dragon Slayer. The new series was controversially primarily animated using CGI rather than the previous series' traditional animated style. It commences with the "Conviction" story arc, starting around chapter 115 of the manga, and introduces Puck, Isidro, Farnese and Serpico as characters. The second season, covering the "Falcon of the Millennium Empire" arc, began on April 7, 2017.
Susumu Hirasawa participated in the soundtracks for all adaptations of the manga, using an eclectic selection of instruments. He received the offer to compose music for the series due to Miura being a fan of his works and listening to them while he works on Berserk, that also led to Miura almost never requesting a specific composition to Hirasawa. Hirasawa has said that Berserk does not feel like a self-restrained story, and that composing for the series is similar to the sensation of unlocking one of his inner restraints, leading to compositions on a "Berserk style". Hirasawa has made five songs with lyrics for the series, the last two of them were written in a language Hirasawa created by mixing elements of Thai, German and Latin together. Besides Hirasawa, the video games and film trilogy feature work by composers Masaya Imoto, Hiromi Murakami, Shinya Chikamori, Hiroshi Watanabe, Yasushi Hasegawa, Tomoyo Nishimoto and Shirō Sagisu; the anime and the film trilogy feature theme songs by Penpals, Silver Fins, AI and CHEMISTRY.
Two video games based on Berserk have been developed by Yuke's. The first game, Sword of the Berserk: Guts' Rage (ベルセルク 千年帝国の鷹篇 喪失花の章 Beruseruku Sennen Teikoku No Taka Hen Wasurebana no Shō, Berserk Millennium Falcon Arc: Chapter of the Lost Flowers), was released for the Dreamcast in Japan by ASCII Corporation in late 1999. It was localized in western regions early the following year by Eidos Interactive. The second game, Berserk: Millennium Falcon Hen Seima Senki no Shō (ベルセルク 千年帝国の鷹篇 聖魔戦記の章 Beruseruku Sennen Teikoku No Taka Hen Seima Senki no Shō, Berserk Millennium Falcon Arc: Chapter of the Record of the Holy Demon War), was published by Sammy Corporation exclusively in Japan on the PlayStation 2 in 2004. A Berserk-themed spinoff of Omega Force's Dynasty Warriors series, titled Berserk and the Band of the Hawk (ベルセルク無双 Berserk Musou) was released on October 27, 2016 in Japan, and later in the U.S. on February 21, 2017 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita and PC via Steam.
In addition to video games and game guidebooks, Berserk has spurred on a range of different merchandise, from lighters to keyrings to Kubrick. Statues and action figures are produced by Art of War, Prime 1 Studio, and First4Figures. A Berserk trading card game was released by Konami in Japan. A figure of Guts was released by Max Factory in its Figma line in January 2012. Several other Max Factory Figma figures have been released; Guts in his Band of the Hawk attire, Guts in his berserker armor as well as Griffith, Femto, Casca and the Godhand.
As of July 2015, the manga has sold 27 million volumes in Japan and 8 million overseas. As of January 2016, reported 40 million volumes have been sold worldwide. In September 2018, it was reported that Berserk is publisher Dark Horse Comics's best selling product of all-time with over 2 million copies sold. This means Berserk outsells all other Dark Horse comic and manga series, making it a huge success. Berserk's manga volumes have topped Japanese manga charts, with volume 40 debuting as the best selling manga for the week of its release.
The 1988 Prototype chapter won a prize at the Comi Manga School Miura attended and the main series won the Tezuka Osamu Award for Excellence at the sixth installment of Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize in 2002.
Finnish heavy metal band Battle Beast have written songs about Berserk, including several on their 2013 self-titled album. When guitarist Anton Kabanen left Battle Beast in 2015, he formed Beast in Black and continues to write songs about the series.
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