Like watching a car crash
Morbidly fascinated, but at the same time giving me the desire to cry and curl up and curse that world and this one and evil... Well hello there idealist please leave those preconceived notion of humanity and good by the door. Humanity isn't at its base good, neither is it evil. There. I can't say much, just read it or watch it and don't turn off your brain (though I wouldn't blame you if you want to during many of the gory scenes). Berserk will make you appreciate this world, regardless its wars and darkness, all the more. Comparing what is read to your life you'll say thank you for not being as unfortunate as being part of that world.
The definitive Seinen
I must admit that this series never ceases to impress me, especially with the quality of the artwork. As said in the main entry, Berserk possesses by far the best art of the industry hands down. Miura also pans out his plot by playing with Heroic Fantasy and Shonen clichés only for subversion and deconstruction purposes. Guts himself subverts some tropes of the expected heroism of a protagonist. Hence the characterization is almost flawless. This gray morality each and every character display makes them even more realistic and easy to relate to. In fact, I personally don't remember finding a "bad" character, except when said "badness" is done on purpose. The story line itself hardly ever flounders and "filler" arcs are pretty scarce, which makes the rhythm steady. Plot twists are sufficient to keep us hanging on and the whole story brims with philosophical undertones, yet anvils are never dropped. The tone of the series is always very dark, almost depressing due to its position on the scale and a happy ending is anything but certain . Extremely graphic violence, rape, sleazy sex, sadism, graphic torture, betrayal, hurt... All of these negative themes simply highlight the more happy, peaceful moments that are so rare they immediately stand out. The short-lived anime is pretty worthy by itself but doesn't feature some of the goriest moments of the manga for obvious censorship reasons. Hence it stops dead upon the Eclipse but a new anime is on its way as of late 2010. The only thing that I (and many fans) find pretty annoying about Berserk is the sloppy release of each issues. But then again, Miura works the old-fashioned way and never uses CG for his drawings so we can't really blame him. Bottomline, the series flows and goes around naturally, never out of surprising twists, never out of fuel, despite the sometimes awkward first 3 volumes. However, it is not intended for children and even less for Moral Guardians since the graphic violence and uncensored sex scenes might give their squeamish little hearts a stroke.
Constant source of morbid fascination
Recently, a friend advised me to watch this series without knowing that it had a manga associated with it. The anime in and of itself was interesting and dramatic but like any good anime, left you hungry for more after it ended. The manga has the two main qualities that I need in the fiction is immerse myself in: -Excellent characters -Gripping storyline I read chapters 1 to 300 within 3 days. Berserk prevents itself from falling into a repetitive pattern of Monster/Villain-of-the-week fights. In fact, in close to 316 chapters, the protagonist, Guts, has had perhaps 6 or 7 major fights. What I really appreciated about this series was how it took the time to build up its villains, giving many of them elaborate back-stories and actual lives outside villainy. While the back-stories don't really make them more sympathetic, it does make the battles more memorable. Up until the 250th chapter or so, the plot maintain great pace, with a steady stream of characterization, world building and plot advancement. However, I feel that some of that momentum was lost at around this point and what I really like about these characters (their cold-bloodness, their anger/hatred) was lost and replaced with a (relative) candy coating. The series can really fall under different genres at different points in time - at the beginning, it was generally a dark fantasy manga. Then for 10 volumes it read almost like a historical battle/war manga with some hints of romance. Since then its back to dark fantasy and action. Worth a read for sure, but not for the sensitive.