Cover of the first manga volume
|Genre||Adventure, dark fantasy|
|Written by||Kentaro Miura|
|Magazine||Monthly Animal House (1989–92)
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 pervades 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 tv 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, was released beginning in 2012. A second tv anime adaptation was broadcast from July 1, 2016, to June 23, 2017, for a total of twenty-four episodes.
Guts (ガッツ Gattsu) is a wandering mercenary who knew war and death since being born from a hanged corpse, saved by his adoptive mother who died from the plague when he is 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 among the mercenaries and later attempting 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 charismatic leader of the "Band of the Hawk" (鷹の団 Taka no Dan) who forced Guts into joining his group upon defeating him in battle. Becoming the Hawks' renowned raid leader and Griffith's deadliest subordinate as they are hired by the kingdom of Midland, Guts learns of Griffith's strange pendant, known as the Crimson Behelit, along with Griffith's dream to obtain a kingdom of his own. When the Hawks encounter a monstrous immortal known as Nosferatu Zodd, it added further mystery to the Behelit as Zodd spares Guts and Griffith when warning the former of his impending death should he be a true friend of Griffith's.
In time, as the Hawks played a vital role in ending Midland's Hundred Year War with the nation of Chuder, Guts's gradually developed a relationship with Griffith's right hand Casca, the Hawks' only female member who initially hated Guts before falling in love with him. But having overheard Griffith once saying he considers a true friend would have his own dream, Guts leaves the Hawks as the war ended and all of Griffith's political enemies were secretly disposed of. Unable to cope with losing Guts, Griffith ruined his fortunes when found seducing the King's daughter Charlotte and ends up imprisoned to be tortured endlessly while his group are marked for death. When Guts learns this a year later, he 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 escapes and heads for the border, it became clear that Griffith would never again be physically able to fulfill his dream. But through preordained events, the despairing Griffith regains his pendant 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 sacrificed their loved ones and humanity for power. Guts and Casca fight for their lives while witnessing their comrades' brutal slaughter before Griffith emerges as the God Hand's fifth and final member, "Femto". Griffith's first act upon his ascension, later revealed to be a means of regaining his corporeal body, rapes Casca in front of Guts, who loses both his left forearm and right eye in a rage-filled attempt to kill Griffith before losing consciousness.
Though Guts and Casca were saved from death through the intervention of the mysterious Skull Knight, whom the former met on his travels, the damage is done, as Casca was driven insane by the ordeal, while Guts learns that the Brands of Sacrifice he and Casca now bear leave him open to be preyed upon by specters and other evil supernatural creatures on a nightly basis. Leaving Casca in the care of the blacksmith Godo and Rickert, a Hawk who escaped sacrifice because he was not present at the Crimson Behelit's activation, Guts begins hunting down apostles in search of revenge against Griffith.
Two years later, joined by an elf named Puck and a young thief named Isidro, Guts is later reunited with Casca as she is about to be burned as a witch in the city of St. Albion. There, encountering Farnese and Serpico of the Holy See Church's Holy Iron Chain Knights, Guts endures a nightmarish ordeal that ends in Griffith's physical form restored through the unborn child that Guts and Casca conceived before it was mutated by his influence. 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. Now unopposed, 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. At the same time, Guts adventures across the sea with his companions to Elfhelm, where, thanks to the help of the fairy queen, Casca gets her sanity back.
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 39 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 the Netherlands by Glénat, in South Korea by Dai Won, in Italy, Spain, Germany, Brazil, and Mexico by Panini Comics, and in Poland by J.P.Fantastica.
A text tie-in to Berserk was 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 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. 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.
- Violence Jack and especially 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 for having an attractive muscular male character who is powerful and can defeat many opponents.
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- "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 (pamphlet) (in Japanese). Studio 4°C. 2012.
- "サイン / Sain / Sign". Hirasawa Lyrics. Archived from the original on 2015-07-22.
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- IGN staff (October 11, 2004). "Now Playing In Japan". IGN. Retrieved October 12, 2014.
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- "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.
- "You can now play as Berserk's Guts in Dark Souls". PC Gamer. July 21, 2017.
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