Kentaro Miura & Berserk: Finding Hope in Insurmountable Darkness

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Kathleen Townsendhttp://www.lookingglassreads.com/
Kathleen writes about anime and edits light novels. When she’s not bingeing the latest shounen or isekai, she can be found shouting about books, podcasts, and other awesome nerd stuff on her blog.

It was just last week that we learned about the passing of the legendary Kentaro Miura, creator of iconic Berserk series. All that was left was shock and mourning, reaching far beyond just the manga and anime communities.

Miura-sensei changed pop culture.

With the start of Berserk in 1989, the world learned of nuance in hyper-violence, and the power of perseverance in a reality plagued with insurmountable darkness, and not just in the series itself.

His work touched the hearts of millions, from Berserk to Duranki and Giganto Makhia. Miura-sensei didn’t just change pop culture—he changed everything.


The power of Berserk

The dark fantasy manga that speaks for itself, Berserk has come to life across manga, light novels, anime and video games. Following protagonist Guts, a former mercenary out for revenge, the series asks its readers to reflect on what happens when someone has everything taken from them and is marked for death.

Knows as the Black Swordsman, Guts navigates a changed world, both his own and a physical one now plagued by monsters and demons.

The series is dark. It’s set up as the basis for a grim future, with violence and gore abound. Yet Berserk is not only remembered the world over for its darkness, horror or violence.

It’s remembered and lauded for its emotion and hope.

Berserk inspired and influenced millions across the globe, from reader to filmmakers and game designers. If you’ve read it, then you know. And though we might not know what comes next, we have the legend forever.


A celebration of life

When the news broke of Miura-sensei’s passing, there was a wave of profound sadness felt across social media timelines, website headers and more. But sadness gave way to remembrance, celebration and thanks.

Berserk might have 50 million copies in circulation, but the heart and soul of Miura-sensei and his work meant much more. The heart and soul in this mourning brought the community together.

But it wasn’t just opinion pieces, old interviews or posts from fans and colleagues. Bookstores put up signs and sticky notes asking fans to leave Marks for the mangaka. As I’m writing this, multiple volumes of Berserk are topping Amazon’s Top 100 Books chart, with plenty of volumes out of stock.

Perhaps one of the most moving things I saw was in the world of Final Fantasy XIV, the popular MMO. Players from around the world donned their Dark Knight armor, a subtle nod to Guts and his getup, and lined the streets of in-game cities in solemn vigil.

With their giant, oversized swords drawn, bards whipped out their instruments and mournfully strummed the first few bars of “Guts’ Theme.”

It could bring anyone to tears. All across the world, on different servers, hordes of players came together entirely unprompted to mourn the loss of a beloved creator. It was a celebration of life and legacy.


Style like no other

The unfathomable beauty of Miura-sensei’s art strikes awe in everyone who sees it. One jaw-dropping, beautiful panel after another, readers experience a magnificence only few could match.

His attention to detail is astounding. Every gnarled knot of a tree; each scale of a monstrous being; the cracks in weathered bones—all are rendered in solemn detail.

It’s been a long-standing fact that Miura-sensei’s editor was known to get perturbed, as Miura insisted on inking art he’d done digitally pixel by pixel. That love and dedication can be felt through every single inch of his work.

No matter what is depicted—demons, a cityscape, the untamed wilderness or the gruesome remains of the fallen— it is filled with a certain beauty. Our hearts and imaginations are captured, and feelings are evoked that can’t always be put into words.

In fact, Final Fantasy XIV’s director, Naoki Yoshida, has stated that when words fail to convey exactly how he feels a scene should go, he simply shows his fellow creators a panel from Berserk and says: “Like this.”


The defining dark, twisted fantasy

The term “grimdark” might have been coined by Warhammer 40,000, but it was Kentaro Miura who has arguably shaped the dark fantasy genre into what it is today. His influence is evident.

Celebrated video games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne were very heavily influenced by Berserk. According to Hideaki Itsuno, the director of Devil May Cry 5, the game’s tone and style came directly from Berserk. Yoko Taro, most famous for the Nier franchise, has stated Caim, protagonist of Drakengard, was inspired by Guts.

But it’s not just gaming. Giant swords proliferate anime. Dark knights are scattered all about fantasy realms, wearing armor that looks suspiciously familiar. Nods to Berserk and its characters exist in subtle ways across media, from one particular image of One Piece’s Zoro (one-eyed and sword clenched between his teeth, paralleling well-known images of Guts) to Pokémon’s Virizion, looking suspiciously similar to True Form Locus.

To say Berserk and Miura-sensei are beloved would be an understatement. I’ll say it again: To say Berserk and Miura-sensei are beloved would be an understatement.


A tale of hope

Just a quick glance at Berserk might cause a prospective reader to think the tale before them is dark and scary. Of course, they’d be correct. A content warning for the series would simply read: “Everything.”

But it’s not a tale of darkness and destruction, the death of Guts’ loved ones or his world. Yes, there is betrayal and revenge. There are terrifying demons and an exploration of sad, predetermined fate. But it’s how Guts and his comrades respond that’s the important part.

The song, “Guts’ Theme,” is gentle. It’s particularly gentle for a world filled with evil and a fearsome protagonist willing to carve his own limbs away if it means helping those he loves. It’s peaceful and delicate, filled with hope and longing.

That is Berserk. It’s about what the love of friends, family and home truly means. It’s an epic tale about continuing to live when giving up might be easier. It’s about struggling for what you believe in.

That is what Berserk is truly about. It’s a story about what the love for family, friends, and home truly means. It’s a story about continuing to live when giving up might be easier. It’s about struggling for what you believe in—even when the entire world is against you.

It doesn’t matter if fate is seemingly carved in stone. It doesn’t matter if everyone else says things are hopeless and give up. Fighting, even when the struggle seems impossibly long, difficult and lonely, means something.

And it’s in that determination; in that perserverance; in that trudge through insurmountable darkness that Kentaro Miura leaves not just a legacy of inspired fans and creators, but of a love for life, despite all its struggle.

Thank you, Miura-sensei.

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