Kentaro Miura (三浦 建太郎 Miura Kentarō, July 11, 1966 – May 6, 2021) was a Japanese mangaka born in Chiba City, Chiba Prefecture. He is best known for his Dark Fantasy manga Berserk, which began serialization in 1989 and has since become one of the best-selling manga series of all time.
Miura's parents met each other and got married while they were students at Musashino Arts School; his father did storyboards for commercials, and his mother taught an art class. He credits the artistic environment he was raised in for inspiring him to draw.
His first manga, Miuranger, was created and published for his classmates in a school publication in 1976 when he was 10 years old. His second manga, Ken E No Michi (The Way to the Sword) was the first time that Miura would use India ink, and when he went to middle school, his drawing technique would improve greatly as he started using professional drawing techniques, with a doujin being produced with the help of his friends in 1982. It was in high school that he got serious about becoming a manga artist, and he was close friends with fellow aspiring mangaka Kouji Mori, who would go on to write Holyland and Suicide Island. When Miura was 18, he briefly worked as an assistant to Jyoji Morikawa of Hajime no Ippo; Morikawa quickly noticed Miura's talent and released him, saying the boy needed no further teaching from him.
In 1985, Miura created and submitted another manga called Futanabi for the entrance exam of an art college at Nihon University, which not only got him his admission into the college but got him a nomination for Best New Author work in Weekly Shonen Magazine. Miura would publish another manga called Noa for Weekly Shonen Magazine that same year. Due to a disagreement with one of the editors, Noa was stalled and eventually dropped, which marked the point where Miura's career would hit a slump.
In 1988, three years after Noa, Miura created the foundation for what people would know him for in Berserk Prototype, which would win him a prize from the Comi Manga School. The story had Guts, who would soon become the main protagonist of the series, as a less cold character with an eyepatch (which he gives up before the prototype's end) who had elements of a Deadpan Snarker and took up Demon Slaying after his mother was killed by one. The Big Bad was to be a single demon lord by the name of Vana (instead of the five archdemons known as the Godhand that take up the role in the series proper). Lastly, the prototype was intended to be a Shōnen story, but it was changed to its now-familiar Seinen form likely because the story was still too dark.
After receiving his doctorate degree in 1989, he entered into a collaboration with Yoshiyuki Okamura, better known as Buronson, for a manga by the name of Ouro (The King of Wolves), with Buronson providing the script and Miura providing the art. 1990 saw the publication of Ouro Den (Legend of the Wolf King), the sequel to this manga. In 1992, Miura would do one last collaboration with Buronson, creating the manga Japan, again with Miura providing the art to Buronson's story.
The first volume of Berserk was published in 1990 (by the then-24-year-old Miura), though it met with little success, and the magazine it was serialized in was in the process of going under. The series would not really take off until it was serialized in Young Animal magazine in 1992, during the story's famous Golden Age arc. Miura's epic tale of friendship, romance, betrayal, horror, vengeance, and supreme demon ass-kicking continued until his death, reaching an eventual length of 41 volumes and having over 50 million volumes in circulation. Over time it's been adapted into the anime Berserk (1997), the 1999 Dreamcast game Sword of the Berserk: Guts' Rage), the PS2 game Berserk: Millennium Falcon Hen Seima Senki no Shō, the 2012-13 anime film trilogy Berserk: The Golden Age Arc, the sequel anime Berserk (2016), and the 2016 video game Berserk and the Band of the Hawk. In 2002 he received second place in the Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prize of Excellence for Berserk.
Miura was left-handed and did most of his art with traditional techniques such as the g-pen, Maru pen, and brushes. For his color illustrations, there was wild speculation about how he did them; in fact, he used good old colouring pencils and watercolors. Since the '90s, he had 3-4 assistants helping him. His last group, called Studio Gaga, consisted of about four or five assistants, who came and went every couple of years. One of them, Mitsuhisa Kuji (Wolfsmund), became a mangaka in her own right. Miura kept vampire hours, and put in 16-hour workdays with no breaks or holidays while working on a deadline. Fans speculated about the cause of his increasingly frequent hiatuses, which made the pace of new releases slow to a crawl, but the reasons remain not entirely clear. One factor seems to have been his reaching middle age, which made it difficult for him to push himself as hard as he used to. In 2016, fans started to speculate about whether Miura had switched to digital painting techniques; his switch to using a tablet and computers for all his art was confirmed in the Berserk Official Guidebook.
Miura's primary influences came from works in various media, with his primary inspiration being Kaoru Kurimoto's long-running Guin Saga fantasy series. He took additional influence from Go Nagai's two darkest and most violent mangas, Devilman and Violence Jack. Miura's style was at times quite beautiful and emotional, but at other times, he came up with and drew some truly messed up and frightening shit.
While Berserk had long been his all-consuming project, Miura also created Kamui Gakupo—a Vocaloid whose design is based on Japanese Visual Kei artist GACKT—and in 2013 he took a break to write his first new manga in 24 years, Gigantomakhia.
Along with his creative work, Miura was also a Judo black belt and former school competitor.
Sadly, Miura passed away on May 6, 2021, due to an acute aortic dissection. This left Berserk incomplete and facing an uncertain future. The September 10 issue of Young Animal magazine featured Episode 364, completed by Miura's assistants from the last manuscript he was working on when he died. The chapter was followed by an official statement from the Editorial Department of YA magazine, saying there was unfortunately no information to share about the future of Berserk at that date.
On June 7, 2022, after a long silence, Young Animal finally announced that Berserk would indeed resume serialization and be properly completed. Lifelong colleague and friend Kouji Mori has taken over as "director", while Miura's assistants continue to produce the artwork.
Works by Kentaro Miura:
- Ken E No Michi (The Way to the Sword)
- Futanabi: In a post-apocalyptic underground city consisting of males who have never seen or heard of a woman before, a mechanic's apprentice named Rick ends up helping a girl named Venus who came illegally from a corresponding female-only city, and who is being chased by the police.
- Noa: Fifteen days after a nuclear war, a soldier named Noah tries to protect a refugee named Angel in a world where people are willing to commit any desperate act in order to survive.
- Berserk: The Prototype: A wandering swordsman named Guts happens to save a girl named Fricka from bandits, and fights the monstrous nobleman Vlad Tepes. The beginning of what would later become Berserk.
- Ouro (King of Wolves): A historical scholar goes missing while on an expedition to investigate the Silk Road, and when his girlfriend goes after him, she is sucked into 13th century Mongolia, where she finds him alive and a warrior-slave for Genghis Khan.
- Ouro Den (Legend of the Wolf King): Sequel to Ouro
- Berserk: Miura's Magnum Opus, which needs no introduction.
- Japan: A TV reporter, a Yakuza, his brother, and four high school students are sent into a future of desolation and death after insulting an old woman who warns them that Japan will meet the same fate as the once-prosperous nation of Carthage.
- Kamui Gakupo
- Duranki: A mythology-inspired story about a child by the name of Usumgallu with the ability to "think up unknown things" who is neither a god nor human, and is neither male nor female. Miura created the original story concept, with the manga being developed by Studio Gaga, composed of his assistants.
Media that Miura credited as inspiration:
- Conan the Barbarian
- Fist of the North Star
- Flesh+Blood (1985)
- The Brothers Grimm
- Guin Saga
- Gustave Doré
- Hieronymus Bosch
- Kaze to Ki no Uta
- M.C. Escher
- The Name of the Rose
- RoboCop (1987)
- The Rose of Versailles
- Space Adventure Cobra
- Sam Raimi (particularly the Evil Dead trilogy and Darkman)
- Susumu Hirasawa
- Star Wars
- The Terminator
- Violence Jack
- Warhammer 40,000
Tropes associated with Kentaro Miura's works:
- Author Avatar:
- If the name is of any indication, the lead character of Miuranger was Miura's own Escapist Character.
- Guts himself is said to be loosely based on Miura as a college student, with other members of the Band of the Hawk inspired by friends of his. Probably why Guts initially looked East Asian despite living in a Medieval European Fantasy setting.
- Author Usurpation: Ask anyone about manga made by Miura, and Berserk is the only one they can mention. It's only natural when Miura spent most of his career making Berserk.
- Art Evolution: If you look at where he started and where he ended up, it's like a world of difference.
- Died During Production: He prematurely passed away in May 2021 when Berserk had yet to be finished. The manga was put on hold after his death, but in June 2022 it was confirmed that it would continue under the supervision of his assistants and his longtime friend Kouji Mori.
- Reclusive Artist: Miura rarely gave out interviews and there are only a handfull of pictures of him floating around the web: the pictures of him at work from the Berserk Illustration File (see creator page); one of him accepting the 2003 Tezuka Prize, together with Slam Dunk and Vagabond creator Takehiko Inoue; a picture of him posted by a Spanish translator named Emilio Gallago (posted in 2005, believed to have been taken in 2003); and an undated picture of him wearing a beanie hat which was featured in the Japan Times obituary. It's to the extent that he requested that he not be filmed in the most extensive and well-known interview he gave out, the one for the DVD release of the 1997 anime adaptation of Berserk.
- Writing by the Seat of Your Pants: Berserk was Miura's first big serial story, and he started out with the concept for Guts as the Black Swordsman before he had come up with a backstory explaining why he was out for revenge. The idea for the Golden Age Arc came to him after he was already pretty far into the Black Swordsman Arc, and it ended up being quite a bit longer than he originally intended. "Lately," said Miura, "I’ve come to trust in my own carelessness. In my experience things often pop nicely into place even without having been planned ahead much. I do think it probably wouldn’t go very smoothly if I were to work with stuff that isn’t me, stuff that I’ve borrowed from elsewhere and simply stuck in, but there’s hardly any of that. Even when I do bring in something from elsewhere, I run it through myself and quality test it before using it."
- Write Who You Know: Tended to base characters on people he knew.