Berserk is a dark fantasy set in a Medieval Europian-styled world. The Manga started in 1989 and continuing in a semi-regular serialisation to this day. It follows the story of Guts, the Black Swordsman who is the archetype of the late 80s anti-hero. Everyone you want to root for is on the surface a total bastard (with a side helping of deep emotional scars). Berserk Deluxe Edition Volume 1 covers the first three tankōbon, all in a supersized hardback format. The content itself includes The Black Swordsman arc as well as the tantalising 1st chapter of the Golden Age arc.
Lore is the law
I’ve been on this Manga journey for a little while now[mfn]Even if I am only just putting pen to paper[/mfn], and in this time, I’ve dabbled in a few genres, mostly Shōnen as I guess it’s generally the most accessible as well as sports manga and crime Seinen.[mfn]Tadatoshi Fujimaki’s Kuroko’s Basketball or as it’s known in Japan: Kuroko no Basuke and Naoki Urasawa’s Monster[/mfn] So far I’ve enjoyed quite a lot of what I’ve tried but I was yet to pick something that truly fits with my normal tastes, I’m a big fan of fantasy, the darker the better. From videos games like Dragon Age: Origins, authors like Robin Hobb and George RR Martin. These have all fuelled my love of the genre first started in my early teens by tabletop games like AD&D and Warhammer Fantasy Battle.
In my late 20’s, I regained my love for the Warhammer universe[mfn]Until they did all that Age of Sigmar rubbish…[/mfn] which lead me into a black hole of fluff,[mfn]Sounds cute right, fluff is what wargamers call lore. If you base your army on a certain aspect of lore or a story, it is considered fluffy. Fluffy armies are the domain of the Hobbyist Wargamer. Imagine a history nerd where history is all about orcs and elves. Painting their elves in the correct colour scheme for their period and organising their army to a specific theme. The counterpoint would be the Power Wargamer who likes nothing more than min / maxing their units to cause the most damage possible.[/mfn] devouring novels and sourcebooks. I love to read around a subject, especially when that includes nefarious chaos gods dedicated to unknown pleasures. Armed with this knowledge of what I like, you can probably guess that after 20 volumes of My Hero Academia I’m craving something a little harder.
From the beginning of the year, a friend had been mentioning an anime I might like called Goblin Slayer. I heard a few things that didn’t quite sit right with me, but it went on the to-read list. After a while, my barber Steve started telling me about this new anime he had seen. Yes, it was Goblin Slayer.[mfn]…and yes I chat to my barber about Manga, Anime and Video Games on the regular.[/mfn]
I’m sure I’ll write about Goblin Slayer at a later point, so I’ll avoid getting into the details here. But I did pick up the Manga. After a slightly embarrassing bus journey, I did come to enjoy its lore. Chatting with MWR very own Bunnsie about Goblin Slayer, she recommended that I pick up Berserk.[mfn]Technically she recommended that I watch the anime but I’m a stubborn old bastard and I like to read the original of something before watching the series or film adaptation.[/mfn] Steve the Barber told me when I was next in for a hair cut that he had just picked up the first two volumes of the Berserk Deluxe Edition by Dark Horse. There you have it, the fluff (or lore) behind this review.
The book starts with that scene. Yes, the one that everyone who’s read Berserk will always mention when first talking about the series. Yeah, it starts with Guts having sex with a daemon. I mean you wouldn’t see that in Naruto! From there on in, we get to have a little more plot and character development.
Our (anti) hero travels to Kota where he promptly antagonises the local thugs and meets Puck,[mfn]An Elf who looks more like a Tinkerbelle Fairy[/mfn] this causes the attention of the Snake Lord to fall on Guts. I’ll avoid any large spoilers but this all comes to a head and we find out Guts is after the God Hand. Additionally, the meaning of the brand on Guts neck and the cover of the book is revealed.
The main antagonists and Guts display wonderfully over the top violence. It seems that every impact has someones eye popping out or similar gross repercussions
Guardian Angels of Desire takes up six chapters of the book, which is the lions share of the page count. A story about a tyrannical Count who is systematically wiping out heretics. However, it seems the definition of heretic is rapidly encompassing a wide variety of people. Gore and violence of the series escalate in a kind of Hellraiser styled dimensional terror. Additionally, the arc also sets up themes of what it is to be human, are we truly good or evil. Yeah, we get a little depth with our bloody action too.
It is often cited that Miura is influenced by Buronson’s Fist of the North Star. I’ve not read any of the series. I can only comment from the images I’ve found online. I enjoy the high contrast hard straight lines. I find the artwork reminds me of Kevin O’Neill. O’Neill worked on the classic British Nemesis The Warlock, which ran throughout the ’80s in 2000AD.a
The art style changes up a little with heavy noise effect on Daemonic entities, an almost dark pencil shading effect. The effect makes anything more otherworldly. Demonic limbs are organic and fluid, helping them stand out from the high edged characters of our reality.
Miura’s action sequences are beautiful and easy to follow, even when we get some tentacles involved. Combat has a nice weight to it, and you get the sense when a devastating blow has hit someone. The main antagonists and Guts display wonderfully over the top violence. It seems that every impact has someone’s eye-popping out or similar gross repercussions. I found myself looking out for these grim details in every fight.
Kevin O’Neill’s fantastic work on Nemesis The Warlock for 2000AD
I love how the hardcover cover looks, in matte black embossed with a red Rune of Sacrifice. The book looks great on your shelf. The size and weight was a boon when I needed to bend my warped My Hero Academia Smash cover,[mfn]Thanks Amazon[/mfn]. Although it does mean it’s not the most comfortable read on public transport for your commute.
My only real complaint with the book is that it lacks the coloured sections of the original. The Berserk Deluxe Edition renders them in greyscale. The effect makes them very dark and foreboding, which I first thought was the desired effect. However, as they were initially coloured, and I find it a shame, they are not as originally printed.
The price is definitely on the premium side, you can pick up a bargain on Amazon if you like. Dark Horse has planned to only release 3 Berserk Deluxe Editions a year (at the time of writing volumes 1 and 2 are out and the 3rd is due towards the end of 2019) you can easily catch up and nicely space out your reading. Single volumes if you’re desperate to read all 40 of the current books released.
Is Berserk Deluxe Edition worth reading?
I have to say hell yes. This is a definite purchase for fans of dark fantasy, daemonic horror. Readers who are after a violent manga, without a shadow doppelgänger insight, shouldn’t hesitate to pick up this first volume either.