Manga / Berserk
"Dragons are dragons because humans can't beat 'em. So, what's a man who beats dragons?"Pictured 

"In this world, is the destiny of mankind controlled by some transcendental entity or law? Is it like the hand of God hovering above? At least it is true that man has no control, even over his own will."

The Black Swordsman walks the land, a brooding, blood-stained figure. His name is Guts, and wherever he goes, evil spirits from hell follow. Guts bears the cursed Brand of Sacrifice on the back of his neck, which attracts ghosts and demons hungry to devour him — but he is also one of the strongest men in the world and carries a very big sword. When the demons find him, their deaths aren't pretty.

Guts is a warrior haunted by his past, namely the tragedy that ended in the loss of his hand, his eye, and everyone he cared about. He is Walking the Earth seeking only one thing: revenge against Griffith, once his best friend, who treacherously sacrificed him and all their comrades to the evil deities known as the God Hand in order to be reborn as their fifth member. The world is crawling with Apostles, monstrous servants of the God Hand who gave up their humanity in exchange for power. By hunting these creatures, Guts hopes to pick up the trail of Griffith and make him pay.

If any human can take on these legions of hell, it's Guts. Born from the womb of a hanged woman and raised by a cruel mercenary as a Child Soldier, he has spent his whole life taking one level in badass after another in order to be tough enough to survive. He wears fearsome armor, has a cannon-equipped iron prosthetic where his left hand used to be, and carries the slab-like Dragon Slayer sword on his back wherever he goes. Initially accompanied only by the diminutive elf Puck, who tries to act as a voice of conscience for the ruthless wanderer, he follows the God Hand while leaving a trail of enemy corpses in his wake.

Berserk (Beruseruku) is an ongoing seinen manga series by Kentaro Miura set in a grim Medieval European Fantasy world. Beginning the action In Medias Res with the first three volumes establishing Guts, the setting, and the antagonists, the story then goes into a twelve-volumes-long flashback called the Golden Age arc which explains How We Got Here and reveals Guts' painful backstory. Guts survives an abuse-filled childhood by becoming a prodigious fighter and lives as a lone sell-sword, until he meets the charismatic mercenary leader Griffith and his undefeated Band of the Hawk. Griffith is a man with a dream of winning his own kingdom despite his common origins, and possesses an egg-shaped artifact called the crimson behelit, which he was told will grant its owner the world in exchange for his flesh and blood. Inducted into the Band by losing to Griffith in a duel, Guts finds himself for the first time surrounded by companions united by Griffith's dream and loyalty to each other, and grows to view Griffith with both friendship and admiration. By turning the tide of a hundred year war in favor of the Kingdom of Midland they become the most celebrated force in the land, but a falling out between Guts and Griffith plunges the latter into despair, setting off a chain of events that ultimately brings their friendship and the Band of the Hawk to a disastrous end.

Aside from Griffith, the Golden Age arc sets up the other major characters of the series: Casca, Griffith's serious and capable female second-in-command who evolves into Guts' Love Interest as their initially hostile relationship defrosts; Nosferatu Zodd, a demonic but honorable Blood Knight who cements the reality of demons to both Guts and Griffith; and the Skull Knight, an enigmatic rider in skeletal armor who opposes the Godhand and acts as Guts' Aloof Ally.

With the depressing conclusion of the Golden Age Arc, the series returns to the present day to show the deep-rooted effects of those events on Guts and the world at large. Guts is still pursing revenge against the Apostles with Puck in tow, but he has attracted the attention of a Knight Templar named Farnese who is determined to arrest him on behalf of the Church. Meanwhile, the God Hand is stirring up trouble all across the world. Pestilence and foreign invasion threaten the people of Midland, who cry out for a savior. It may be that the newly empowered Griffith intends to step in to fill this gap and work his nefarious designs. The biggest development by far, however, concerns Guts. Finding that his solitary vendetta has gotten him nowhere, Guts discovers that he has one last chance to save from the ashes something—someone—that he thought he'd lost forever. But this will be the most arduous journey yet, and he will need new friends and allies if he hopes to succeed. And even if his body can survive being pushed to the limit when every fight seems more impossible than the last, the blackness left on his soul from two years of seeking revenge is not about to let go of him so easily!

In serialization since 1990 with 37 volumes and counting, Berserk advertises itself as the "Number 1 Fantasy Comic" in Japan, and stands as the author's Magnum Opus. Miura incorporates story and visual elements from many different media into his epic manga, which was mainly inspired by Kaoru Kurimoto's ambitious and long-running Guin Saga fantasy series. He loved the classics of the shounen genre including Buronson's Fist of the North Star, as well as two of the darkest works of Go Nagai, Devilman and Violence Jack. At the same time, he appreciated the Shoujo Demographic for its focus on character drama, and calls Berserk the result of his attempt to fuse the worlds of Fist of the North Star and Rose of Versailles. The latter is especially evident in the elegance of the Midland court and in the complicated triangular relationship between Guts, Griffith, and Casca. Lastly, Miura acknowledges influences from action, horror, Sci-Fi, and fantasy films from Hollywood and from some of his favorite literature. His creation broke new ground because of the unique way that he combined and developed upon these influences, and Berserk has been successful enough to leave its mark on a new generation of storytellers.

Because of its frequently disturbing and graphic content, which includes child abuse, torture, sexual violence, and copious amounts of gore, this manga is NOT safe for all audiences. It's certainly not recommended for the faint of heartor stomach! However, for those who dare to take it on, there's a huge payoff in thrilling action and human drama as it explores the great problems of existence, such as revenge, fate, religion, morality, the causes of evil and suffering, the nature of an individual's hopes and dreams, and the various ways that people cope with living in a cruel world. The depth and atmosphere of the setting, the engrossing plot, the psychological complexity of the characters, and the virtuosity of Miura's art are all reasons that Berserk has attracted many loyal fans. Having said upfront that there's a lot of pain ahead, it would be just as wrong to misrepresent it as consisting of nothing but angst and gloom, since this series can sometimes offer inspiring examples of human resilience when you least expect it. It also contains a surprising amount of humor. As of February 2016, the manga has 40 million copies in print worldwide, making it one of the top 40 best-selling manga by number of volumes in circulation.

The first adaptation of Berserk was a twenty-five episode anime titled Kenpuu Denki Berserk (Sword Wind Chronicle Berserk) by Oriental Light and Magic that covered the Golden Age Arc and aired from October 7, 1997 to March 31, 1998. It is well-regarded in the fandom for following the manga's story quite faithfully, focusing on Character Development, cleverly using Limited Animation and still images to make an impressive visual impact for a minimalist production, and for having a memorable soundtrack by Susumu Hirasawa. This version notably has a Gainax Ending that abruptly leaves Guts hanging and rolls the end credits at the bleakest moment in the Eclipse, a shocking conclusion to the series that deliberately denies closure to the viewer and leaves them feeling the same sense of rage and grief that Guts does. This approach admittedly introduces an Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole concerning how Guts is still alive in The Stinger when he girds on the Dragon Slayer and embarks on the Roaring Rampage of Revenge depicted in the first episode, and avoids dealing with some important things that happen in the immediate aftermath. Still, it is a great way for newcomers who are not used to reading manga to get hooked on the series, and the cliffhanger ending ensures that once invested in the story and characters, one will feel compelled to pick up the manga and read up on the rest. An HD remaster of the complete 1997 anime is available as of April 2016, as part of a Blu-ray box set costing 18,000 yen, or about USD$148.

In response to the series' popularity, Japanese game developer Yuke's created two licensed videogames based on the manga. The first, titled Berserk Millennium Falcon Arc: Chapter of the Flowers of Oblivion, came out on the Sega Dreamcast in 1999; the game's English localization by Eidos Interactive, titled Sword of the Berserk: Guts' Rage, had its North American release in 2000. Sword of the Berserk is an Interquel utilizing an original scenario and characters created by Miura and set between volumes 22 and 23 of the manga, though its status as Canon is uncertain. Check out the Sword Of The Berserk page for the plot summary. The second video game, titled Berserk: Millennium Falcon Hen Seima Senki no Shō (Berserk: Millennium Falcon Arc - Chapter of the Holy Demon War), came out on the Playstation 2 on October 7, 2004, being released only in Japan and Korea. It adapts volumes 22 to 27 of the manga, covering the titular Chapter of the Holy Demon War, but also adds an original sub-plot where a child-like Apostle named Charles forces Guts to confront and fight apparitions of his fallen comrades from the Band of the Hawk.

In 2011, a new anime film trilogy based on the manga's Golden Age Arc and produced by Studio 4C was announced as the first part of a project with the ambition of fully adapting the manga's story. The first of the three movies, Berserk: The Golden Age Arc I - The Egg of the King, was released on February 4th, 2012. The second, The Battle of Doldrey, was released on June 23rd, 2012; and the third movie, Advent, was released on February 1st, 2013. The films got mixed reviews and strongly polarized the fandom over whether they were a proper adaptation. On the positive side, they gave an epic cinematic treatment of the series' fights, supernatural horrors, and highly detailed setting, while restoring some material left out of the previous anime that was important for the resolution of the ending and potential for future installments to proceed with the next story Arc. On the negative side, the films received criticism for their heavy use of Conspicuous CG for character animation, and especially for changing and cutting a large number of scenes that developed the characters' personalities and relationships.

A new TV anime adaptation simply titled Berserk, consisting of 24 episodes and set during Guts' Black Swordsman years, will broadcast in Japan on the WOWOW and MBS channels starting on July 1st, 2016. United States viewers will be able to watch it legally on Crunchyroll. This anime will be directed by Shin Itagaki and produced by LIDEN Films, with animation production by GEMBA and Millepensee. Miura himself will be the show's executive supervisor. The lead Japanese voice actors from the movie trilogy will return, and voices for additional characters including Puck, Farnese, Serpico, Azan, and Isidro have been announced. It will have an original score by Shiro Sagisu, an opening song titled Inferno by the band 9mm Parabellum Bullet, and an insert song, Hai Yo (Oh Ashes), by Susumu Hirasawa. This is the latest teaser video.

There are several other works apart from those already mentioned that may be of interest to those who like this franchise. One is Ookami no Kuchi: Wolfsmund, penned by one of Miura's former assistants Mitsuhisa Kuji, a dark medieval story emphasizing history rather than fantasy. Another is Claymore, a story about half-demon female warriors who hunt shape-shifting monsters using giant swords. The video games Demon's Souls and Dark Souls also tend to enjoy overlap with Berserk in popularity, as they share a similarly grim and fatalistic fantasy atmosphere.

Be careful not confuse this work with the similarly named classic arcade game Berzerk or with the 1967 B-horror movie Berserk. It is also not the namesake of the trope The Berserker, although Guts is enough of an example to be featured as the image for that page.

This work on TV Tropes has an extensive collection of Character Pages dedicated to exploring the tropes of individual characters in greater depth. The alphabetical trope pages for this work of fiction listed below emphasize those that describe the plot, setting, factions, dynamics between two or more characters, and differences between the various adaptations. There is also a large buffet of special pages including YMMV, Trivia, and Crowning Moments on the top bar.

WARNING: Do not read the spoilers if you have only watched the anime or the movie trilogy, unless you are prepared to risk ruining your enjoyment of the manga; from here on out, spoilers will also include information about the latest releases. In addition, we cannot guarantee that all potential spoilers will be in spoiler tags. Read at your own risk.

This series provides examples of:

John Avner (As Narrator): In this world, for-
Director: Uh uh, that's all John. We don't need that stuff anymore, the show's over.
John: Who are you!? I am the hand of god hovering abo-
Director: No no John John thanks, that'll be all.
John: No! You have no control! Not even your own will!
Director: Ohwoahwoahwoahwoah! No uh it's the end of the series that's-that's the last episode.
John: But this will.
Director: John, would you please get out of the booth?
John: Who is John, I am the Hand of God, hovering—Hey-get your hands off-

Alternative Title(s): Kenpuu Denki Berserk