Cover of the first manga volume
|Written by||Kentaro Miura|
|Magazine||Monthly Animal House (1989―1992)
Young Animal (1992–present)
|Original run||August 25, 1989 – present|
|Anime television series|
|Anime film series|
Berserk (Japanese: ベルセルク Hepburn: Beruseruku) is a Japanese dark fantasy 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 are noted 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 semimonthly magazine Young Animal, where Berserk continues to be serialized intermittently. The series was adapted into a twenty-five episode anime series covering the series' Golden Age arc by Oriental Light and Magic from October 7, 1997 to March 31, 1998. A trilogy of films, Berserk: The Golden Age Arc, were released beginning in 2012. A second anime adaptation began broadcasting on July 1, 2016.
Guts (ガッツ Gattsu) is a wandering mercenary whose entire world from birth is warfare and bloodshed. Born from a hanged corpse, the adoptive mother who rescued him dies from the plague when Guts is only two years old, and from then on Guts learns to fight in the mercenary band led by his adoptive father Gambino. Gambino is cruel to Guts even as he teaches the boy warfare, selling access to Guts to a rapist among the mercenaries and later attempting to murder Guts in a drunken rage. Guts flees after killing his adoptive father in self-defense.
As a young man, Guts fights without any regard for his safety and earns a fearsome reputation. He catches the attention of Griffith, the charismatic leader of the "Band of the Hawk" (鷹の団 Taka no Dan). Griffith swiftly defeats Guts, forcing him to join the Band of the Hawk, and Guts soon becomes the band's renowned raid leader and Griffith's deadliest subordinate. He also forms a heated rivalry, and later relationship, with Casca, the only female member of the Hawks, who is Griffith's right-hand commander. Griffith reveals to Guts that though Griffith is not a noble, he "…will get his own kingdom", and possesses a Crimson Behelit pendant—an "Egg of the King", the ownership of which destines the bearer to "obtain the world in exchange for his own flesh and blood." Soon thereafter, the Band of the Hawk faces Nosferatu Zodd on the battlefield; this seemingly unkillable monster notices Griffith's Behelit and departs, warning Guts that his continued friendship with Griffith will result in Guts' death.
The Hawks play a pivotal role in ending the 100-year war that has ravaged the country of Midland and are initially welcomed as heroes, but Griffith's aspirations to rule his own kingdom are shattered when Guts leaves the Hawks to find his own dream, after having overheard Griffith say in private that he can only view someone as his equal and friend, rather than subordinate, if they have their own dream, rather than cling to his. Unable to cope with the loss, Griffith seduces the King's daughter Charlotte but is caught and ends up in the dungeon for a year, suffering daily torture. By the time Guts learns of this and helps the outlawed remnants of the Hawks rescue Griffith, the Hawks' leader has been horribly mutilated and rendered a mute shadow of his former self.
Griffith's despair at his inability to fulfill his dream activates the Crimson Behelit. It 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, Griffith sacrifices his soldiers to the God Hand's "apostles"—humans like Nosferatu Zodd who sacrificed their loved ones and humanity for power—so that he can become the God Hand's fifth and final member, "Femto". His first act upon resurrection is to rape Casca in front of Guts.
Guts witnesses the brutal slaughter of his comrades within the God Hand's domain. He and Casca survive through the intervention by the mysterious Skull Knight, a benevolent demonic being whom Guts met on his travels. Guts loses an arm and an eye, while Casca is driven insane, and both bear an occult brand that attracts the predation of supernatural creatures every night. Leaving Casca in the care of the blacksmith Godo and Rickert, a Hawk who escaped sacrifice because he was not present at the Behelit's activation, Guts begins hunting down apostles in search of revenge against Griffith.
Guts is joined by an elf, Puck, and is later reunited with Casca as she is about to be burned as a witch in the city of St. Albion. There, encountering Farnese of the Holy See Church's Holy Iron Chain Knights, Guts endures a nightmarish ordeal that ends in Griffith's physical form restored. As Guts takes Casca to the Elven realm of Elfhelm for sanctuary with the help of his new companions, Griffith creates a second Band of the Hawk with Zodd and other Apostles among its ranks to battle the invading Kushan army. The war between Griffith and the Kushan emperor, a rogue apostle, climaxes with the emperor's destruction and the overlapping of the mortal realm and the supernatural. No longer challenged by demon or man, Griffith establishes 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 their new ruler is actually one of them.
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 Young Animal (Hakusensha) 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 June 2016, 39 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.
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 38 volumes so far, the first on October 22, 2003. The series has also been published in France by Samourai Editions, Dynamic Visions and Glénat, in Spain by MangaLine Ediciones, in the Netherlands by Glénat, in South Korea by Dai Won, in Italy, Germany, Brazil, and Mexico by Panini Comics, and in Poland by J.P.Fantastica.
A text tie-in to Berserk was recently announced for June 23, 2017.
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 were 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 Yuko 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. 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.
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. 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.
In an interview with Yukari Fujimoto, Miura mentioned these as influences: Violence Jack, Guin Saga, Pygmalio, Ranpo, Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, Fujihiko Hosono
- Violence Jack and esp. Guin Saga for atmosphere.
- Ranpo (1978–87) as reference for his backgrounds.
- The Snow Queen (Guin Saga spin-off) and Pygmalio (1978–90) for Guts' sword size by mixing the two precedents.
- Fist of the North Star
- "Berserk Manga Returns on June 24 As Monthly Series". Anime News Network. June 9, 2016. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
- "New Berserk Anime Project Launching (Updated)". Anime News Network. 27 September 2010. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
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- "1st Berserk Anime Film's Title Revealed". Anime News Network. 7 July 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
- "Berserk Anime's 2nd, 3rd Films to Open in 2012". Anime News Network. 21 November 2011. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
- "Berserk Film Slated for Next January". Anime News Network. 5 July 2011. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
- "2012 Berserk Film Trilogy's Main Cast, Staff Listed". Anime News Network. 24 August 2011. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
- "自分の中にある規制の鍵をひとつ開ける、という感覚に近い" [It's similar to the sensation of unlocking one of the restraints I’ve built up within myself]. Berserk: Golden Age Arc I - The Egg of the King (program) (in Japanese). Studio 4°C. 2012.
- "サイン / Sain / Sign". Hirasawa Lyrics. Archived from the original on 2015-07-22.
- Williamson, Colin (December 21, 1999). "Berserk (Import)". IGN. Retrieved October 12, 2014.
- White, Matt (January 18, 2000). "Berserk Gets A US Release Date". IGN. Retrieved October 12, 2014.
- IGN staff (October 11, 2004). "Now Playing In Japan". IGN. Retrieved October 12, 2014.
- "Berserk Trading Card Game". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
- "Berserk Manga Has 27 Million Copies in Print in Japan, 8 Million Overseas". Anime News Network. 2015-07-24. Retrieved 2015-07-24.
- "ＴＶアニメ「ベルセルク」7月スタート発表 WOWOW先行、MBS"アニメイズム"で放送". animeanime.jp. 2016-02-04. Retrieved 2016-02-04.
- 第6回 マンガ優秀賞 三浦建太郎 『ベルセルク』 (in Japanese). Asahi Shimbun. Retrieved July 18, 2010.
- "Berserk artist Kentaro Miura interview: "I actually don’t think I could let such a long grim story end with a grim ending"". manga brog. 2015-12-14. Retrieved 2017-03-24.
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