Berserk, A Manga Made up of Perfect Paintings
Updated: Apr 6
Kentaro Miura‘s work is not for all audiences, so beware!
“Guts” and “Griffith” (Protagonist and Antagonist)
Image Source: “Berserk” Manga Chapter 323
When reading a manga, there are some things to take into consideration, like the way you read and the way chapters are sorted out. Seasons are called “Arcs” in manga and the proper way to read one is from right to left, the opposite of a traditional comic book.
Before you read this particular manga, beware: it contains very explicit images that may not be digestible for every audience. Also, this article contains plenty of spoilers from the manga so you may want to read it until after you’ve finished the whole manga.
Berserk is one of the most influential dark fantasy stories of all time, with a complex protagonist and lore taking you through a roller coaster of emotions. I consider it to be one of the pillars of modern Japanese literature. The story starts with an antagonist-like protagonist called Guts. He is not a very likable person from the start; he rejects everybody and insults everyone, and he also wears all-black clothes, making him look evil. In the beginning, Guts starts doing despicable things to an apostle (this is how demons are called in Berserk) right before blasting his head off with his prosthetic hand. Guts also have one eye closed all the time and believes that if a man is either weak or isn’t living how he wants, then he should die. Guts unintentionally save a little flying elf called Puck and Guts considers him very annoying; however, Puck just tries to comprehend why Guts is the way he is. Puck has healing powers so Guts uses him as medicine but treats him like garbage since he believes Puck is “weak.”
This first arc is the perfect introduction to the story since it plants the seed of curiosity. Why is Guts’ eye always closed? How did Guts lose his arm? Why is Guts so mean? These questions will all be answered as the story unfolds.
The story follows the first arc with the “Golden Age” Arc. It describes the origins of Guts and why he’s the way he is. The story takes place in a chaotic medieval-like environment in which peace does not shine. Kentaro Miura, the author, tried to make the audience empathize with the detestable protagonist that we’re introduced to in the very first arc. We start by looking at Guts as a child, and we learn that he’s born from a corpse and picked up by mercenaries; he’s then treated as an adult and abused ever since he was a toddler.
Guts decides to live by his sword, living for the thrill of participating in battles rather than living to achieve his desires, which perfectly contrasts the story’s antagonist, Griffith. Guts wields a humongous sword, this is because since he was treated like an adult, he was given adult swords to train when he was younger and he got used to wielding such large weapons.
Guts continue to live by the sword until he encounters “The Band of the Hawk” which battles him but has no success. Guts knocks down a soldier and removes its helmet only to reveal that the soldier is a girl; right after this, the commander of the hawks challenges Guts. He wields a very small and thin sword instead of a big one and also has long light-blue hair, contrasting Guts’ short black crop. This person is none other than Griffith. Griffith takes down Guts with ease and heals him in his base. Griffith challenges Guts to a duel; if Griffith wins, Guts joins the hawks; if Guts wins, he can kill Griffith. The duel was tight but Griffith came out victorious. From then on, Griffith and Guts battle together as friends in the Band of the Hawk along with the other protagonists of this arc: Pippin, Casca (the female soldier Guts encountered), Judeau (my favorite character,) Corkus, and Rickert.
To summarize, Griffith ends up using an amulet that summons “The God Hand” which are 5 powerful beings that are also evil; they’re missing the 5th member and they persuade Griffith into sacrificing the whole band of the hawk but the only ones who survived were Casca and Guts. To the right, we have a visualization of what the place looked like when Griffith sacrificed everyone, and yes, it was hell… literally.
Griffith is reborn as “Femto” and the event of the sacrifice called “The Eclipse” is the breaking point of the whole story, leading up to not only a fantastic narrative but also a gorgeous display of Kentaro Miura’s artistic abilities. To the left, we have Griffith and Femto. This drawing is not from Kentaro Miura but it displays the characters perfectly.
Along with beautiful art, we get amazing character designs. Some designs worth mentioning are the Skull Knight, Guts’ berserker armor, Schierke, Void, and last but not least, reincarnated Griffith.
We also get panels that look like hyperrealistic paintings with a lot of emotion and meaning to them; even if the panel is just a face, it tells the story by itself. When Guts tests out his berserker armor, we get hit with one of the best panels of manga history. We also see incredible panels when reincarnated Griffith merges hell with earth. These panels below are the best ones in my opinion.
Of course, there are plenty of panels like this but there's only so much I can fit in one page. Apart from the beautiful art, we have storytelling. The story takes you through a rollercoaster of emotions and when you get sucked into it, you begin to feel like if you were Guts, you feel every emotion known to man, sadness, joy, anger, envy, pleasure, and even when Guts goes berserk you feel the intensity and adrenaline of the moment. The fact that the story feels this way with little dialogue and pure drawings makes it even better; it feels like walking through a museum hallway.
The character development in Berserk is also top tier; every character develops in a way that leaves you with no doubts and you get to know their personality fully (unless the author wants to make the character mysterious), it feels like they’re actual humans and not drawings. Below we have a drawing of Guts’ final crew: we have 2 elves, Puck and Ivalera, a green-haired witch, Schierke, a sadistic ex-princes, Farnese, an ex-servant (my second favorite character,) Serpico, a blue-haired Siren, Isma, an orange-haired Guts fanboy, Isidro, a traumatized girl, Casca, an ex-prince, Magnifico, and lastly a navy commander, Roderick.
Since Kentaro Miura passed away in 2021, the story had to end unexpectedly. However, this did not prevent it from having a godlike ending. As you read through the last chapter, we see Guts finally accepting his humanity and leaving his sword aside, and starts playing with his son (he doesn’t know it's his son so he calls him “moonlight boy” because he only appears on full moons), we see the son looking for someone, that someone is his mother, Casca, as Guts takes his son to Casca, we see how he takes a look at his crew and it’s heartwarming seeing such a beast leaving his instincts aside and care for others. When the kid is handed over to Casca, she sleeps with him but after some time the kid jumps out of bed. We see the kid walking away while Guts stares at him and as the sun begins to rise and the full moon hides, the boy starts changing while reciting a poem.