Friday, December 7, 2018
Manga Recommendation: Berserk
Berserk is a story about suffering...and then a lot more suffering and struggling...
Since I became a part of the anime community, I have often heard that Kentaro Miura's Berserk is one of the best manga of all time, if not the very best. Before actually reading Berserk, I heard that the series was dark and edgy, that Guts was an awesome character, that someone called Griffith did nothing wrong, and that there was something about an eclipse or whatever. When I finally did start reading the manga about a month ago, none of that prior knowledge prepared me for the intensity and brutality of Berserk and I can now say that I agree: Berserk is one of the best manga of all time!
If you're not at all convinced that Berserk is worth checking out, let me tell you a little about the story. I will avoid sharing any major spoilers throughout this blog post, but I will warn that I might give away some minor spoilers. Also, I think I should warn that the story is very graphic and mature with a lot of violence, some sexual assault, and other mature themes and subjects. If you're someone who has never heard of Berserk and you want to go into it fresh, I suggest you stop reading this post and just read Berserk for yourself.
Berserk takes place in a fantasy world filled with kings, knights, and monsters. The story is centered around an ex-mercenary named Guts who, when he first shows up, is a skilled fighter with a giant sword and a mechanical hand. He is a one-man army who travels from place to place, seeking revenge, fighting demons, and driven by a tragic past. And when I say "tragic past", I do mean that Guts has an absolutely horrifying and depressing past that is only made worse because of the small moments where he was actually happy.
Whatever happiness that Guts finds throughout the story of Berserk does not last long. It often seems like Guts is either cold and stoic or raging with violent fury. While the moments with Guts killing demons and just being super cool are great because no matter how big or dangerous his opponent, Guts does not back down and deals twice of whatever damage he is dealt, it is the pain of Guts that makes the story a work of art.
Though the story is a medieval fantasy, Berserk is almost more like an ancient Greek tragedy or a romantic American western. Like Achilles of The Iliad, Guts is someone who only knows how to fight and takes joy in destroying his enemies, but such a violent life only leads to more violence and death. His life becomes just a cycle of fighting stronger enemies while becoming stronger and more monstrous himself.
Like a western cowboy, Guts is an outlaw with a shady past that drives him. He is distant and never really gets close to the people he meets on his journey, but that doesn't push everyone away. His power and mystery are almost magnetic to certain people, those who are also outcasts and have no place to go but on a Guts' journey.
That is probably the main reason why I still read Berserk. Though the story is sad and it seems like all joy just ends in pain, there is still a very small glimmer of hope for Guts. There is a chance that he can be happy and that there will come a time when he doesn't have to fight. Maybe that hope is a lie and the story will end with the death of Guts. It's possible, but the fact that he keeps moving forward after everything that he had to go through says that no abuse or trauma is so terrible that it can't be overcome.
I am still reading through the hundreds of chapters of Berserk. I know that sooner or later I am going to hit the hiatus-wall and have to wait for who-knows-how-long for the next chapters along with all the other Berserk fans. But for as much as I'm enjoying the manga, I think it's worth the wait. Also, I would recommend checking out the 1997 Berserk anime. While the animation is not the best and it is kind of dated, I think that the soundtrack is awesome. There is also a more recent Berserk anime, but I hear that one is awful and I haven't watched it, so I can't recommend it at all.