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 38 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 most dark and violent works of Go Nagai, Devilman and Violence Jack. At the same time, he appreciated manga written for the Shoujo Demographic and their focus on character drama, and has called 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 his depiction of love and political intrigue in the court of Midland, and in the complicated triangular relationship between Guts, Griffith, and Casca. Lastly, Miura acknowledges the influence of action, horror, Sci-Fi, and fantasy films from Hollywood and from some of his favorite literature in creating the look and feel of the series. 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 manga has also spawned numerous adaptations in different media, which cover various parts of the story and often significantly expand, compress, or change its content:

  • The first adaptation of Berserk was a twenty-five episode anime titled Sword Wind Chronicle Berserk (Kenpuu Denki 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-loved in the fandom as a Pragmatic Adaptation that preserves the spirit of the original work, takes its time focusing on Character Development, uses good editing and art direction to make a lot out of a shoestring production with Limited Animation, and features 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.
  • After this, Japanese game developer Yuke's created two licensed videogames based on the manga and using the anime's voice actors. 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, an anime film trilogy called Berserk: The Golden Age Arc produced by Studio 4°C 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 strongly polarized the fandom over whether they were a proper adaptation. On the positive side, they gave an impressively animated and visually spectacular treatment of the series' fights, supernatural horrors, and richly detailed setting, while restoring the characters and plot events that had been Adapted Out of the previous anime which were necessary for properly resolving the ending and setting up the continuation of the story. On the negative side, the films drew criticism for their heavy use of Conspicuous CG for character animation—more of a problem in the first installment compared to the second and third in which it looked considerably better—and especially for changing and cutting a large number of scenes relating to character development and motivation, leading to accusations of flattening the characters' personalities and thereby dulling the emotional impact of losing so many of them in the Eclipse. While the films are still considered an imperfect adaptation, there are signs that their reputation may improve over time.
  • The first anime sequel to the Golden Age Arc, Berserk (2016), aired in 12 episodes during the Summer 2016 Anime season, with simulcasting rights in the West licensed by Crunchyroll. Directed by Shin Itagaki and produced by LIDEN Films, it is animated by studios GEMBA and Millepensee in a hybrid of 2D and 3D animation. Miura himself was the show's executive supervisor involved in all aspects of production, including writing an original scenario for episode 3. Most of the voice actors from the movie trilogy return to their characters, joined by additional voices for newly introduced characters, and Unshou Ishizuka reprises his 1997 anime role as The Narrator. The music includes an OST by movie trilogy composer Shiro Sagisu, opening song Inferno performed by 9mm Parabellum Bullet, insert song Hai Yo (Oh Ashes) performed by 1997 anime composer Susumu Hirasawa, and ending theme Meimoku no Kanata (Behind Closed Eyes) performed by Nagi Yanagi. A second season will air in 2017.
  • On June 12 at E3 2016, Koei Tecmo announced the videogame Berserk and the Band of the Hawk, known in Japan as Beruseruku Musō (ベルセルク無双 ). Developed by Omega Force, it is a Dynasty Warriors-style adaptation that covers the story from the Golden Age Arc to the Millennium Falcon Arc. As with the main Dynasty Warriors series, players can choose one of several characters and fight against waves of enemies while completing mission objectives on a large battlefield. It is set to be released in Japan on October 27, 2016, for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and the PlayStation Vita; It will be released in North America and Europe on February 21 and February 24 of 2017, respectively, for the PlayStation 4, the PlayStation Vita, and the PC via Steam.

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. For a short, action-packed demon-slaying story by Miura's friend Shizuya Wazarai with an art style similar to Berserk's early volumes, try Blaster Knuckle. See also Re:Zero, which in later arcs is being seen as the Berserk of Light Novels in terms of tone, themes and suffering.

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.

They were much too big to be called Tropes. Massive, thick, heavy, and far too rough. Indeed, they were like a heap of raw folders:

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—