‘Berserk’ and its continued presence in pop culture

Adrian Soriano
‘Berserk’ and its continued presence in pop culture

BERSERK. Kentaro Miura wrote and illustrated the popular manga series.

Photo from Dark Horse Comics' social media

The late Kentaro Miura's best-selling manga lends itself to many other popular video games and films, like 'Dark Souls' and 'Monster Hunter'

A few weeks ago, Kentaro Miura, author and illustrator of Berserk, passed away.

Miura, who has been making Japanese comics since he was 10, spent his early life submitting works to contests and publishers. His first few manga earned him adequate success with Futabi winning a newcomer award and NOA getting published.

In 1988, he published a 48-page one-shot which would be the prototype for Berserk; a year later, Berserk was serialized monthly. It would go on to be his most famous and popular work.

Berserk follows lone mercenary and sword-yielding fighter Guts (The Black Swordsman), as he journeys across the world, seeking revenge against his former brother-in-arms, Griffith, for sacrificing the members of their mercenary band in order to become a powerful demon.

The manga has more than 50 million copies in circulation, making it one of the best-selling manga series of all time. Berserk has also spawned anime adaptations, films, and even video games.

Since the official announcement of his death, Berserk fans have been paying tribute to Miura. People have been leaving flowers in front of Berserk volumes in bookstores. In the MMORPG, Final Fantasy XIV, players made an in-game vigil for the late mangaka. Rows of people playing the Dark Knight class, inspired by Berserk’s protagonist Guts, lined the game’s social hub. Even the sales of the manga volumes have skyrocketed.

All these tributes go to show the kind of mark Miura has left on the world. As a celebration of his life and work, we wanted to share the many ways his titular work has inspired countless other successful works in pop culture, from video games to movies.

The most recognizable swordsman in manga
Photo from Monster Hunter’s Official Twitter page

Berserk is well known not just for its story but also for its art style and character design. Miura’s vision of an apocalyptic medieval land is popular in the video game world. Cloud Strife’s buster sword and the greatsword wielding hunters from the Monster Hunter series all took inspiration from Guts and his sword, Dragonslayer. 

Photo taken from Final Fantasy VII Remake’s IMDB page

A lot of characters from Dark Souls are similar to Berserk in terms of design. One of the most popular enemy bosses in Dark Souls, Artorias, has a lot of physical similarities to Guts. They both wielded great swords and even wore similar armor. Even Artorias’ introduction in the video game looked like the cover of Berserk’s 28th volume.

Photo from Dark Souls’ Official Twitter page

Other characters that seemed to take inspiration from Miura’s work include the Witch Beatrice, a summonable character that provides ranged magic support for the player, much like how the young witch-in-training Schierke did for Guts.

Guts is living in Dark Souls and he hasn’t died once

As much as it is a visual masterpiece, its storytelling doesn’t lag behind. Again we look to the concept of the Souls series of video games which are infamously hard, where dying can mean another two-hour trek all the way back to where you died. It’s sadistic as much as it is rewarding.

Photo from Berserk’s Official Twitter page

This is something reminiscent of Berserk’s theme throughout its publication. Guts fights hordes of demons in order to get his revenge. Despite the odds, he still tries to find the light at the end of the tunnel, much like a Dark Souls player pouring countless hours into trying to beat the game.

Everything is a Berserk reference

Berserk fans have claimed that one unlikely film, Avengers: Infinity War, supposedly reference the manga. Many Berserk fans claim that the scene where Thanos lays down on a pool of water holding the soul stone while an eclipse was visible in the background is similar to the day Griffith became a demon. What makes all of this similar is not just in its physical aspects but also the idea of sacrificing loved ones in order to gain power. Thanos loved Gamora just as much as Griffith loved his friends but both sacrificed their loved ones for power. However, this might all be just a pure coincidence as it was never confirmed.

Photo from Avengers: Infinity War IMDB page

In the end, it’s hard to pinpoint all of what Berserk has influenced in all of its 30+ years in publication. Not every one-eyed mechanically armed man is based on Guts and not every big sword is Guts’ sword. But, the manga is so widely popular and so influential that anything remotely similar, whether confirmed or not, has been likened to Berserk.

Photo taken from Berserk: The Golden Arc III’s My Anime list page

This is why Miura’s work, unfinished or not, is one of the most influential pop culture works in recent memory. All this as his work continues to inspire new generations of would-be writers. Rest in peace. –

Adrian Soriano is a Rappler intern.