Welcome! This will be the fourth post in a series of posts I call “Anime Greats”. There’s a few anime that sit in a weird place in my life; while they’re popular, I’ve met very few fellow fans of the series or none at all. That being said, I’ll do my public duty and give it a bit of exposure.
This series would be considered R rated in the west. Please don’t show this to your kids.
Berserk is a dark fantasy series created by Kentaro Miura. This series is like a pot of caffeinated coffee to me.. I’ll enjoy the pick me up when it first kicks in, but I’ll regret it later on. Every attempt to watch this series has left me emotionally drained, but the story is engaging and fast paced,and the characters’ personalities keep them balanced. If it wasn’t for Isidro, Puck, and the others, Guts’ brooding would likely be nearly unbearable.
I have been watching anime for over 20 years, but Guts is a top contender for the most tortured character I have seen in anime, and possibly literature as a whole. The man has endured fighting on a battlefield since before puberty, raped as a child, watched as his best friend attempted to have him sacrificed and drove his lover insane, is currently fighting beings with the power to warp reality itself, and that’s not even the entire list. That being said, Guts is a struggler, who gets very little sleep because of the malicious spirits which threaten to haunt and devour him when darkness falls. However, he keeps on despite all of this.
The series has philosophical tones throughout the story, often touching on subjects such as causality, religion, and the source of evil which religion attempts to combat. Guts has no faith in the concept of prayer, focusing instead on what he’s able to do with his own two hands. The major religions of the world are manipulated by the villains for their own purposes, mainly through manipulating a select few people into becoming their Apostles, which are demonic creatures which sacrificed their human selves to achieve their dreams. In turn, they are created through a force known as “God Hand”, who are a group of five reality warping creatures who manipulate the world.
If you’re curious about how to begin the story, I highly suggest the manga, since it’s the way Miura originally intended, and it obviously contains all the story elements. If you’re determined to watch the anime, I would recommend either starting with the 90’s anime and going to the 2016 series, or watching the movie trilogy and continuing to the 2016 anime. Both methods are missing parts of the story, but the necessary elements are still included. I do not recommend watching the 2016 anime from the start. You will be thrown in at around chapter 100 of the manga if you do so.. the series was intended for fans who have knowledge of the source material.
Berserk in itself can be a struggle to read through if you’re not accustomed to the tone and themes of the story, but that’s a good thing in the end. Miura pulls no punches in his art or writing, resulting in stress inducing bleakness with just enough comic relief to balance it out. If you’re like me, you can read/watch an arc or two, and then put it down for something else until later (one of the reasons I love that season 2 of the new anime will take 6 months to release). As a final word, the manga is several hundred chapters at the moment, with a new chapter released very sporadically.