Let me make it clear before I review this classic. I have only read to the 37th book as I only read the physical manga, so the review is prone to change after I have read more upcoming books. Consider the hiatus it has been in, and now the slow pace of releasing new chapters, the review won't change much in the future I presume. As for the manga itself, why this is one of the top notch mangas out there is no doubt about. There is simply nothing like it out there that grasps the element of dystopia as well as berserk does. Without spoiling anything for the newcomers, I will not explain why it is the best dystopian tale to exist, but only claim that it is so. The artwork is also one of its strongest points in the series that neither anime series of berserk nor the movies could really capture in my opinion. The old series lacking in funds, and the new series destroying everything by using shitty CGI animation. This is why the manga will always be superior to any anime adaptions of this piece. Also the fact that all the details and deviations the animations have break apart the intricate story and the important passages that make up the character Guts and his perpetuating rage that exists within him. This comes best out in the manga, the sexualized monsters driving off on lust and pain, the increasing inhumanity, they all drive the story into a darker tone. This is only truly shown in the manga and not the anime series. Though this is quite the atypical manga, probably the only manga with an 18+ rating for a good reason, it still has some cliché "anime" moments and characters. I do not mind of course the sometimes off-putting humour from the characters such as puck for instance, as it is to lighten up the mood from the all too dark setting. But some of the drawings are done to show typical moe characters and there is also a little bit of fanservice after a while when the actual story is going at a much slower pace around the 30th book or so and further. It is safe to say that the best arcs in berserk as of now are most likely the golden age arc that sets the whole story, and the following arc (spoiler) that breaks it apart. Though there is a new arc going on which will also hopefully be the last as this series has been going on for over 25 years, there is still no doubt about Guts road to becoming the strongest swordsman in any anime or manga. This road in paradoxical pain and suffering is why it makes it soo good. Because it is the tale of the simple struggle of a man and his road to vengeance.
Berserk ベルセルク Berserk is one of those series that everybody has either read or seen, and for a lot it was their first true seinen anime/manga, being introduced as a dark fantasy story with some heavy psychological themes. Now, in 2016 we got that horrible abomination of an anime adaption, which many fans including me hated, but a lot of them said it’s bad just because of the CGI… Here’s where I would like to stress out my views on this whole series, as I feel it doesn’t get enough criticism as it should, mainly with everything post Golden Age Arc. I think it’s a perfect time for me to finally review the manga, especially since everybody gives it straight 10/10s on MAL, though I do love this manga for the good things it does. NOTICE! THERE WILL BE SPOILERS FOR THE GA ARC AND EVERYTHING AFTER IT!!! Story & Characters The story starts with our main character know as “The Black Swordsman” on his quest to rid the world of demonic beings called Apostles, it basically shows our lead character mutilated and betrayed by his friend, and follows him on his search to get revenge. How the world is portrayed in these first 3 volumes is really amazingly done, it’s dark and morbid, people live in fear and the demons have gained high places of authority, toying sadistically with humans. This could be seen as a powerful plot device to hook you in… or not. The problem with this is they go even further in the manga and they spoil to you WHO the actual person is that betrayed Guts, something that can ruin the excitement for some. After this we have a flashback where we are introduced to the main trio and how they developed. The Golden Age arc is probably one of the best arcs in any manga and the best in Berserk, so much that people can’t acknowledge the drop in quality when this arc ends. GA plays out like a really good medieval fantasy story, we have political struggles and many wars, we see assassinations being done in secrecy, betrayals, the horrors of war etc. This is not a simple brave warriors fighting for their kingdom against inhumane enemies, no, it’s a simple war of political agendas between local kings for whom gets to have all the lands for himself. It’s also about the internal double crossings the aristocrats do to each other every time one of them tries to steal the glory from the other. This gives the world of Berserk a much more realistic feel to it than other medieval styled manga, this is a double battlefield fought both internally and externally, it’s not a story about a shining knight defending a kind king against evil monsters. Nobody is good or bad, everybody is just scared of death and the constant decay in the name of greed and ambition. Now all of this gets scrapped after the GA arc, which I will explain through the characters. The characters are also one of the best things of the Berserk manga, the main cast consists of Guts, Casca and Griffith. All three are really interesting here; you see them open up about their pasts, their inner thoughts, their desires and goals. Every one of them is human and they all have problems, problems which they need to overcome and you see them get beaten and are forced to learn from their mistakes. The violence, something Berserk is known for, isn’t here to make it seem more mature or whatever, it’s used to show us the weaker sides of our characters, none of them enjoy this. Another thing that’s interesting is that all three of them are limited to a certain role, even if they are not satisfied with their role. Guts never manages to live a peaceful life, Griffith never manages to get his own kingdom, having to lose his humanity, and Casca never grows into an independent woman, who can both fend for herself and defend Griffith, this is really realistic and sometimes it’s not as simple as “you can become anything you want if you try”. Now, this is about it for the praise, now we get into everything post Golden Age arc… oh boy. Here you could actually say Berserk degrades from being a psychological drama to a mindless gore fest, the main trio takes a severe drop here as well as the story. Let’s look at Griffith, he degrades to a heartless demon, which is natural because of the Eclipse, but they should’ve done it better and actually not make it so one-dimensional, Guts degrades to a revenge only seeking protagonists who slays only monsters, who are ALWAYS one-dimensional evil beings, which doesn’t have the same impact as slaying people and Casca, a previously strong willed woman, degrades to a damsel in distress with a brain of a plant. The newer cast that is introduced is nothing like the main trio from the good days, they are just comic reliefs, Guts is already strong enough – he doesn’t need them for fighting, the only good thing about them is that they are a moral compass that steer Guts in the right direction, so that he doesn’t completely go dark, they don’t have any strong dynamics to them making them forgettable. There isn’t really any development here, it just seems like Miura doesn’t know where to take his story and keeps throwing in more magical elements to it, the political intrigue is gone, Guts just keeps chasing Griffith to no end, and Miura keeps putting Berserk on hiatus because of his moe addiction… Art Honestly speaking, the art is one of the major things keeping this series going, it’s just amazing how good it gets the more you read this manga. Everything is beautifully detailed, from cities to battlefields; the character designs are done so realistically that they are very memorable, and the violence is also really prominent. The author isn’t afraid to show people being shredded by all sorts of demons, in gory detail, though like mentioned before it loses its main use of the violence and is just there for edge. Backgrounds are well drawn with lots of details, nothing bad about it. Final Verdict I think this series is amazing and deserves the praise it gets, for the Golden Age arc, everything after it is ok but nothing like the drama in the GA arc. The action is always good and fun, same for the art, but the characters and the story really suffer something people never talk about because they are blinded by the greatness of the best arc, or they are just shounen fans who can’t differentiate between good and bad writing, the cool art and gore is what attracts them. In the end, this manga is still good, it’s one of my favorites, but it does have problems in the later parts, which can affect the general feel of this series, though it still should be read, just prepare yourself for a rapid decline that unfortunately just keeps continued until it finally finishes. Alternative Recommendations: Claymore – also a medieval story with lots of gore, not as good as Berserk, but I think it’s worthy read, also it features some strong female characters. The Ravages of Time – it could be seen as a Chinese Berserk, though the supernatural elements aren’t as big as in Berserk, it’s more of a political struggle like in the GA arc, lots of battles with dynamics between our main characters and how they have to get past many moral obstacles.
Highly overrated and falls off after Golden Age arc
Great story, great art, great characters. The fighting is grim, dark and brutal. I love it all around Truly a grand Manga to read. It is a violent manga that can also bring around a good story. Not something you read if you have a light stomach.
perfect!!i really love it.
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