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, the demons from Hell follow. Guts bears the cursed Brand of Sacrifice on the back of his neck, which draws the demons to him — but he is also one of the strongest men in the world and carries a very big sword, and when the demons find him, their deaths aren't pretty.

Guts is a warrior haunted by his past; namely, the events of his life that ended in the loss of his arm, his eye, and everyone he cared about. He walks the Earth seeking only one thing: revenge against Griffith, once his best friend, who betrayed and sacrificed him together with numerous others in order to become a powerful and near-godlike demon. Needless to say, Guts' quest for vengeance will not be an easy one.

Guts is up to the challenge, though, since he grew up on battlefields. Born from the womb of a hanged woman and raised as a Child Soldier by a cruel foster father, he has known nothing except fighting for his life against the odds. He wears fearsome armor, has a cannon where his arm used to be, and carries the Dragon Slayer sword on his back wherever he goes.

The Black Swordsman wants revenge, and if he has to cut his way through every demon in Hell to get it... well, that's just a bonus, right?

Not to be confused with the classic arcade game Berzerk or with the 1960's B horror movie of the same name, Berserk — also known as Kenpuu Denki Berserk (Sword Wind Chronicle Berserk) in Japan — is an ongoing seinen manga series by Kentaro Miura set in a grim Medieval European Fantasy world. Beginning In Medias Res with the first three volumes establishing Guts, the setting, and Big Bad Quintumvirate the Godhand, the story then goes into an eleven-volumes-long flashback called the Golden Age arc which explains How We Got Here and reveals Guts' tragic backstory. It starts with the horrific childhood which led him to become a vagrant sell-sword, and narrates how he was conscripted into the Band of the Hawk, a company of mercenaries led by the ambitious visionary Griffith in the service of the Kingdom of Midland. By turning the tide of a hundred year war they become the most celebrated force in Midland and seem poised to get everything they fought for — but since this series is far on the "cynical" end of the Sliding Scale, the success doesn't last.

Aside from Griffith, the Golden Age arc sets up the other major characters of the series: Casca, Griffith's zealous and capable female second-in-command who become Guts' Love Interest after they work out their Belligerent Sexual Tension; 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 figure who opposes the Godhand.

When Guts and Griffith's luck finally turns, the Golden Age arc ends messily, and the series returns to the present day to show the deep-rooted effects of everything that happened in the previous arc. After some further chapters following his demon hunt, Guts is forced to reconsider his priorities and temporarily buries his obsession with revenge in order to embark on a new quest for the sake of someone precious to him. He encounters non-demonic supernatural creatures, gathers a new, smaller group of companions, and acquires new tools and weapons to defeat his adversaries—including one whose power comes at the price of mortifying his flesh and bones while threatening to unleash the rabid beast inside him that he has to struggle constantly to control. At the same time, in the midst of an existential threat to Midland and the surrounding countries, Griffith has returned in reincarnated form and begun to spread his influence across the world. Has he come as as the people's savior, or does he have dark plans for those who have gathered around his light?

The manga was adapted into a twenty-five episode anime that ran from 1997-1998 and covered the Golden Age Arc, using the opening chapter and the forging of Guts' sword as Book Ends to start and end the narrative. While praised for being relatively faithful to the manga and offering a nuanced exploration of its characters, it is also known for having a Gainax Ending that abruptly stops at the single most depressing point in the manga thus far while omitting any explanation of what happens next. Nevertheless, it is generally well-regarded and continues to be many fans' entry point to the series.

In 2011, a new anime film trilogy based on the manga and produced by Studio 4C was announced — and it is the first part of a project that intends to fully adapt 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, Berserk: The Golden Age Arc II - The Battle of Doldrey, was released on June 23rd, 2012; and the third movie, Berserk: The Golden Age Arc III - Advent, was released on February 1st, 2013. Reception of the film series among fans was mixed. On one hand, the filmmakers were able to render the battles and supernatural occurrences in an epic cinematic style and clearly set up the supporting characters and story threads necessary to follow the manga past the Golden Age arc. Additionally, most of the key English voice actors from the 1997 anime reprised their roles for the English dub. On the other hand, many were unhappy with the sometimes-distracting use of CGI for character animation and with the changing or omission of some scenes considered essential for fleshing out the characters' personalities and relationships. Studio 4C co-founder Eiko Tanaka expressed a desire in 2012 to follow the trilogy with a film that would adapt the manga's Lost Children arc, but as of 2015 it remains to be seen if and when the film series will continue.

The series has also spawned two videogames. The first was made for Sega Dreamcast in 1999 and released in English as Sword of the Berserk: Guts' Rage (The Japanese title is Berserk Millennium Falcon Arc: Chapter of the Flowers of Oblivion). While its story has not been made canon, Kentaro Miura co-wrote the original scenario, and it would have taken place between volumes 22 and 23 of the manga. In 2004 a game for Playstation 2 was released called Berserk: Millennium Falcon Hen Seima Senki no Shō. It adapts volumes 22 to 27 of the manga, while adding a few original characters and parts of the story in which Guts hallucinates encounters with the original Band of the Hawk members.

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 most recent chapters. In addition, we cannot guarantee that all potential spoilers will be in spoiler tags. Read at your own risk.

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Alternative Title(s):

Kenpuu Denki Berserk