Since its debut in 1989, Kentaro Miura’s Berserk has been one of the golden standards of the action fantasy manga genre. The series remains one of Dark Horse’s bestselling licenses and is one of the key titles that helped manga and anime grow popular in the west. Spawning two acclaimed anime series, a trilogy of anime films and two video games, the manga’s popularity is still going strong. And now on the series 30th anniversary, Dark Horse are releasing a new series of deluxe hardcover collections, beginning with Berserk Deluxe Edition Vol. 1, which are perfect for both dedicated fans and newcomers alike.
His name is Guts, the Black Swordsman, a feared warrior spoken of only in whispers. Bearer of a gigantic sword, an iron hand, and the scars of countless battles and tortures, his flesh is also indelibly marked with The Brand, an unholy symbol that draws the forces of darkness to him and dooms him as their sacrifice. But Guts won’t take his fate lying down; he’ll cut a crimson swath of carnage through the ranks of the damned – and anyone else foolish enough to oppose him! Accompanied by Puck the Elf, more an annoyance than a companion, Guts relentlessly follows a dark, bloodstained path that leads only to death… or vengeance.
A perfect mix of action, violence and humour, it is easy to see why Berserk has achieved its level of success. Miura creates a unique atmosphere in both his storytelling and art style. He definitely has to be included in the discussion of top mangaka working in the action genre amongst names like Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira), Shirow Masamune (Ghost in The Shell) and Yukito Kishiro (Battle Angel Alita). Like them, Miura has an insanely detailed approach to art on all fronts from his use of shading, his stunning colour pieces and of course the sheer level gore the runs through the series. Berserk well and truly earns its mature rating and Miura uses violence to such a strong effect that it is hard to imagine the series without it. Beyond the gore, the battles and action are some of the best you’ll ever see in comics.
Beyond that, Berserk is an archetypal example of action manga. Guts is a protagonist who isn’t as common in modern action manga with most heroes today having somewhat of a zany/comedic edge, whereas Guts is very much the no-nonsense straightforward action hero with his main emotional traits being the controlled rage he uses in battle that stems from his bloody history and to hide his savvy side from his enemies. That said, there is plenty of comic relief to be found from both the sometimes absurd level of violence and Guts’ annoying companion Puck who helps bring some levity to the frequently dark and heavy story style.
There can be no doubt Berserk helped define in genre and now there is a definitive way to experience the series. With an oversized format and collecting three volume per book, now is the perfect time to experience this action manga classic.
Berserk Deluxe Vol. 1 by Kentaro Miura out on 28 March from Dark Horse Comics
(9781506711980, h/b, £41.99)
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