It is with a heavy heart that I am writing this article. The news that I am about to relay has undoubtedly already been heard by a lot of my dear readers, but it something I must relay in full. This is something that roused me out of my three month stupor, so shocking it was. I’m sure that most of my dear readers might have already guessed from the title of this article, but Kentaro Miura, the mangaka behind the legendary manga Berserk, has passed away.
In a country known for the highest number of centenarians in the world, Miura-sensei passed away at the young age of fifty-four, due to an acute aortic dissection on the sixth of May this year. An aortic dissection is when the innermost layer of the heart, the aorta, is injured, and blood is allowed to flow between the aortic walls. Acute simply means it happened quickly as opposed to over a long period of time, synonymous to ‘sudden onset’ if you will.
Kentaro Miura was best known for his opus magnum, a manga by the name of Berserk. I don’t have to tell my dear readers that though, because the cultural presence of said manga has been so impactful that most people even adjacent to the manga-sphere know of Berserk. While this may seem natural to us now, as we are acquainted with the sheer epic proportions of the series, it was not always so. The fact that Berserk is so beloved in the otaku world is a testament to the drawing and writing capabilities of Kentaro Miura, because Berserk is very different from other high-selling, popular manga, because it’s dark fantasy.
Going down the list of the bestselling manga of all time, it’s hard to find anything in a similar vein as Berserk. The violence, the gore, the dark themes, these are generally not things which a best-selling series make. A manga like Berserk would have died in infancy in the hands of a lesser mangaka, but the fact that it stands as a pillar of the manga world today shows the absolute prowess of Miura-sensei.
This may seem impressive on it’s own, but the amount of copies of Berserk in circulation is hardly a testament to the overall impact that Berserk has had in the manga-sphere. Earlier, I mentioned that anyone even adjacent to the manga-sphere would know of Berserk. It has become such a cultural force that quantifying it in normal terms is an impossible task.
Berserk has inspired many other forms of media, whether it be dark fantasy manga that came after it, like Claymore, or video games, like the Dynasty Warriors series (and by proxy games inspired from Dynasty Warriors, like Hyrule Warriors), the Souls-Born series and Souls-like games (notably, as particular examples, Gwyndolin, a boss, seems to be inspired by Griffith and Artorias by Guts), even in mainstream western media, the Thanos in the water scene at the end of Infinity War and and another scene from the adaptation of Neil Gaimain’s American Gods seem to have been inspired from the Berserk ‘Eclipse’ scene. Even the archetype of ‘badass with a big ass sword’ seen in characters like Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy 7 and Dante from the Devil May Cry series has been heavily inspired by the original badass with a big ass sword, Guts.
Even as a story, Berserk has deep and complex themes, involving such concepts as free will, destiny, and the ability of humans to resist horrible circumstances. There is also a huge component of discourse on human morality. Guts himself is a character who exists in a grey area between right and wrong, in a world where right and wrong themselves aren’t clearly defined. The Golden Age arc has been compared to a Greek tragedy before, with the complex characterizations and relations ensuing such a comparison. Betrayal and revenge also play important roles throughout the series.
Anyone who has read Berserk can attest to the herculean efforts that Miura-sensei put into it. He is known for his art, which is often given as an example of some of the most intricate and impressive art in all of manga. Extreme attention to detail, gorgeous shading, at times awe-inspiring, at other times heart-wrenching, the visuals in Berserk are legendary.
This is not by accident, as Miura-sensei began drawing at the young age of ten, drawing a manga named Miuranger, which was published by his school. His parents met each other at an art school, and they both had art related profession, his father making storyboards for commercials and his mother being a teacher. This was something that probably created an appropriate environment for the young Miura-sensei to express his artistic talents. He moved on to learning professional drawing and shading techniques in middle school.
Further in school, Miura-sensei and his friends continued drawing and publishing in booklets and making doujins. At the age of eighteen, Miura-sensei became the assistant of the mangaka of Hajime no Ippo, George Morikawa, who soon dismissed him by saying that Miura-sensei’s skills were such that he had nothing he could teach him. Miura-sensei then entered the art college of Nihon University, by submitting his project Futanabi to be examined, which also later won him a Weekly Shonen Magazine nomination as Best New Author.
Miura-sensei created a first draft or prototype of Berserk, which he submitted to Monthly ComiComi magazine and won second place in their Manga-School prize in 1988. After graduating from Nihon University in 1989, Miura-sensei revised the first draft and Berserk officially began publication in Animal House magazine(to be later renamed Young Animal magazine). It was clear from the beginning that not only did Miura-sensei have the talent to succeed as a mangaka, he had the passion and tenacity to do so as well.
One of the best selling manga of all time, a legendary manga whose influence reached much farther out than just the world of manga and anime, a legendary mangaka whose art is exalted amongst the highest ranks of manga, a legacy to last generations. While Miura-sensei may have passed on from this world, he shall forever be remembered as on of the greats of the world of manga.