Going Berserk

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Posted by Mento (3450 posts) -

Hey mangas and, uh, womangas, it's time for another slightly more in-depth article about video game influences. I had a series some years back about video games that were clearly influenced by certain iconic movie franchises, and how the evocative and terrifying H.R. Giger xenomorph of Alien or Escape From New York's grizzled hero Snake Plisskin and the ruined metropolis that was once NYC might have shown up in more than a handful of games over the years.

What I discovered with Kentaro Miura's Berserk -- a manga series I was fortunate enough to blitz through the past few weeks, since I'm struggling to find ways to fill this interminable summer of 80 degree weather and zero releases -- is that it's a lot more fun to come at something highly influential from an after-the-fact perspective. Which is to say, discovering a piece of influential media long after experiencing the media it inspired.

Berserk is a long-form serial manga that's been chugging along now for decades about a warrior named Guts -- so named because he was recovered as a baby from a pile of corpses on the battlefield -- attempting to rid the world of Apostles: humans that have essentially sold their souls to a demonic quintet known as the God Hand in exchange for power. The most striking aspects of Guts' quasi-European medieval world is how commonplace horrific violence and extremely grim misfortune have become, and Guts is regularly beaten to within an inch of his life by the powerful foes he engages. One of the earliest story arcs explains how he came to be this way, and its a truly heartbreaking tale involving his love interest Casca, an idealistic mercenary group known as the Band of the Hawk, and its leader Griffith, a charismatic man Guts once admired for his single-minded determination (this is also the arc that the anime adaptation was based on, which I've yet to see).

While reading through Berserk -- which began in 1990 in earnest, so it's been a presence in Japanese pop culture since the Mega Drive at least -- I started to notice many little story and world details that would later make their way into games, and how the characters themselves were familiar in an opaque way that occasionally threw me for a loop, like small jolts of deja vu. That isn't to say that the following games necessarily took a few particular cues from Berserk or that there aren't intermediary products that added extra degrees of separation, but given the manga's lasting appeal it seems very possible that it would be responsible for a similar aspect or two.

(That being said: Though my tone might sometimes come off as accusatory, there's nothing inherently plagiaristic about any of the following instances. Nothing wrong with drawing from other media for inspiration, as long as you don't overdo it.)

(A final aside: There's spoilers aplenty for the early arcs of Berserk. The nature of a serial manga is that every chapter builds from the last, and there's no real way to discuss later chapters without elaborating on earlier ones to some extent. It's also kind of impossible to talk about how a game was influenced by a certain plot point if I can't discuss the plot point in question. If you feel that strongly about spoilers, I'm cautioning you now.)

Final Fantasy VII

Now you might think the first port of call would be something like Demon's/Dark Souls, given how project lead Hidetaka Miyazaki has often cited Miura's work as an inspiration, but I shall get to that a little later. I'm starting with this one because it concerns the chief characters of Berserk, specifically the triumvirate of Guts, Casca and Griffith.

Casca, Guts and Griffith.

When we are first introduced to the protagonist, Guts, we get a strong sense of his taciturn and cold nature right off the bat as he's terse with some of those he meets and outright mocking of others. He's also carrying an enormous sword that no normal human being could ever hope to lift, let alone swing around, and a thousand yard stare with some obvious history behind it. The early chapters of Berserk sets up the hero and his quixotic quest to take down the demonic Apostles, many of which are powerful human nobles who become even more deadly when they transform into colossal grotesqueries, but ensures that his general mystique remains intact until we get to the Golden Age arc, which is a very long flashback that goes into the backstory of Guts.

Cutting to the chase somewhat, Guts has an eventful childhood as a soldier for hire before falling in with the Band of the Hawk, a fledgling mercenary squad already legendary for never losing a battle. Much of this is due to its charismatic leader, Griffith. Griffith is a preternaturally gifted warrior and tactician who is remarkable for two things: his long, fair hair and androgynous good looks, and his ability to command adoration or fear from everyone he meets. Guts initially joins the Hawks after being bested by Griffith in a duel, but as he continues to fight for him he truly begins to admire his talents and works hard to help him realise his dream of one day owning his own kingdom. Griffith's lieutenant Casca, the only female warrior in the Band of the Hawk, is equally devoted to Griffith and mistrustful of Guts due to his high status in Griffith's eyes. Eventually, Casca realises that Griffith only cares for his dream and that she truly loves Guts for his selflessness and caring nature. Though Griffith is on the surface an attentive and thoughtful leader, it becomes evident that he's actually a very ruthless man who regularly finds ways to exploit or dispatch his political enemies.

Though various events unfold during this long period, it ends with Griffith accepting his fate since birth to become part of the God Hand: a group of extremely powerful demonic entities, practically gods in their own right, who ask that he sacrifice the entire Band of the Hawk to the many Apostles that have gathered to witness his ascension. A handful of the Band of the Hawk are established characters at this point, and watching them all get slaughtered one after the other in a senseless and maddening ritual beyond his comprehension puts Guts somewhat at a loss. He loses his right eye and left arm trying to fight the Apostles off while Casca is brutally abused by the demons and by Griffith himself, now reborn as the demon lord Femto. Both Guts and Casca narrowly survive, though are cursed by the ritual's "brand" and are psychologically damaged beyond repair.

In case you ever wondered why he carried that thing around. Though I suppose "how" is the more pertinent question.

There's parallels aplenty to made between Berserk's and Final Fantasy VII's protagonist-deuteragonist-antagonist triangle: Cloud, right down to his absurd Buster Sword and his initial standoffish demeanor, might as well be a blond Guts (it's even lampshaded somewhat, as the man Cloud's imitating -- the dark-haired Zack Fair -- is a spitting image of Berserk's main character). Then you have Sephiroth, the white-haired, androgynous, unstoppable warrior Cloud once greatly admired before the former goes insane and kills everyone Cloud ever cared about. Tifa emerged relatively unscathed from the Nibelheim incident, unlike poor Casca who regressed to a childlike state in her PTSD, though Cloud had the displeasure of witnessing her get impaled and left for dead regardless. The tragedy of this scenario is all the more potent after reading its much rougher inspirational source, and the way the Jenova entity keeps psychologically torturing Cloud over it through his implanted Jenova cells is not entirely unlike the suffering Guts goes through due to his brand: a glyph on his neck that signifies him as part of the sacrificial ritual and draws evil spirits to him constantly. Both men are haunted by the traumatic events of their pasts, both figuratively and literally.

Final Fantasy Tactics

Final Fantasy Tactics is a game that shines largely due to its many layers. This quality applies both to the game's deeply strategic RPG gameplay as well as its frequently labyrinthine plot about a group of nobles who scheme and assassinate one another for the sake of political maneuvering and the hardworking serfs caught in the crossfire. Whenever I've seen criticisms of its plot, they usually point to the seemingly superfluous supernatural undercurrents that are secretly governing many of the game's events, to the extent that the game goes so far off the rails in its final act that you end up fighting a fake messiah deity in another dimension apropos of nothing. For some, this felt like some sort of compromise that any given Final Fantasy must have demons and monsters and supernatural crystal nonsense for it to actually count as a "Final Fantasy", and that someone higher up told the game's director Yasumi Matsuno -- one of the Japanese game development scene's finest minds as far as constructing game narratives go -- to maybe wedge in the fantasy stuff somewhere between his bickering aristocrats and heraldic warfare.

Now that I've read Berserk, it's become a little more evident to me just where all this Lucavi business actually comes from.

The setting of Berserk is, as previously stated, a quasi-European medieval setting. Prominent running themes include: the powerful and vindictive church, ruled by a host of close-minded cardinals and religious leaders ruthlessly stamping out heresy wherever they see it in an effort to maintain control of the nobles and the peasants that serve them; wars that have been raging for centuries that the comic never actually goes into too much detail about, as if to signify that they've been going on for so long and have become such an indelible part of people's lives that the reasons why and how they started are largely irrelevant, especially for the commoners conscripted or paid to fight them; the honor and nobility of knights, and how easily such virtues can become prideful and fascistic vices; and the Faustian tragedy of sacrificing one's humanity for the sake of power or wealth. These are all prominent traits of Final Fantasy Tactics as well, though I'd say all but the last one are common enough themes for any drama set in the medieval period.

The game's final boss, the androgynous angelic messiah Altima shares a lot in common with Femto, including his/her followers' attempts to resurrect him/her.

Berserk introduces the idea of the behelit: an artifact that resembles a jumbled up human face on an egg-shaped jewel that is able to create a gateway between dimensions when activated by a particularly motivated individual. Like the Lament Configuration of the Hellraiser movies, it's primarily used for summoning demons (in this case, the God Hand) and signing a pact with them in exchange for power. Due to the omnipotent nature of fate and causality, a behelit is always eventually found by someone who wishes to sacrifice everything of value to them to attain power, and this power always transforms them into an Apostle who can switch between a human form and a far uglier and stronger demonic form at will. The Zodiac Stones and the Lucavi operate almost exactly the same way, with each Zodiac Stone holder eventually acquiescing to the powerful Lucavi hidden within. Though it's the Lucavi demon in control, with each case it becomes apparent that the type of person who summoned them was also the type of person willing to do anything for the power the Lucavi wield. Invariably, every mortal that would become a Lucavi doomed themselves through their desperation and greed. Given the inclusion of Zodiac Stones and the Lucavi demons with the somewhat more historically accurate medieval trappings, it strikes me that it's more likely the case that the entire world of Ivalice was inspired by Berserk rather than the demons being some shoehorned-in afterthought compromise by a director pressured to add more "Final Fantasy type stuff" to their game's narrative. As if I needed an excuse to appreciate FFT any more than I already did.

Dark Souls

So now we move onto Souls itself. While the setting is once again a familiar case of medieval demons roaming around ruined castles and dark forests vying for what little resources are left in a world clearly on the way out, the Berserk influence is found most strongly in the art design. This is deliberate, and one of the few examples I have on this list where the creator of the series has actually gone on record to state Berserk as one of the primary influences for the game. Though there's bits and pieces in the earlier Demon's Souls, most notably the foreboding Tower of Latria as an ersatz Tower of Rebirth (an eerie and dark prison full of torture devices that held Griffith for a year), most of the Berserk references appear in the second game: Dark Souls.

It's mostly little things, those which fans of the manga are more likely to pick up on. Like how Anor Londo greatly resembles the manga's fallen royal city of Wyndham, or how some of the uglier enemies and bosses are all but Apostles lifted directly from the manga's pages, or how even those thrice-accursed bonewheels got their start in an arc of Berserk -- these are all such commonplace occurrences that it's a little redundant and time-consuming to try to list them all out. There's a number of fan videos like this one that helpfully point out the art similarities, for the curious (though some of the connections those videos come up with seem a tad tenuous).

Guts in his Berserker armor.

The most flagrant and most deliberate homage is Artorias the Abysswalker, who is a spitting image of Guts in his Berserker armor. The Berserker armor is an artifact given to Guts quite late into the manga's timeline, and can transform anyone who wears it into an unstoppable bestial attacker. Wearers aren't slowed down by pain or fear, and any damage they accrue is "fixed" by the armor with some brutal temporary measures. For instance, the armor will react to a broken bone by inserting spikes all around the fracture to keep the bone in place. Whenever Guts is desperate enough to rely on the armor, it's always a dramatic moment because he risks losing his humanity each time, as well as his own life. Most notable is that his fighting style completely changes -- instead of tactically planting himself and swinging his sword in wide arcs, he'll leap into the air while spinning the sword, ending with a devastating downward slash. Artorias is based on this version of Guts, from the intimidating wolf-like armor to his loss of humanity to his unorthodox fighting style. Clearly, Dark Souls's director Hidetaka Miyazaki figured it would make for an interesting fight if the player had to go up against Guts in full berserker mode, and he was right to the extent that it's often considered one of the most interesting and challenging boss fights in the game.

Borderline Examples

Before we move to the final section of this scrutiny, here's a few more games that might've taken a few leafs from Berserk's trade paperback. I'm less confident about these ones, so I'm relegating them to a quickie list. I'm sure there are others, if any fans of the manga want to help me out in the comments below.

  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - One of the central relationships in Berserk is Guts's begrudging friendship with the fairy Puck. Puck is absolutely one of those 80s/90s comic relief sidekick buddies who flits around for little jokey asides and visual comedy, but also has an important job of keeping Guts's humanity intact. He's often his conscience in trying times, and without him the manga might well be too dark to tolerate. Since Ocarina of Time, the Zelda games have given Link his own fairy companion to guide him and speak for the silent hero whenever necessary. Navi, Tatl, Fi and others tend to be the only companions Link ever has through most of his adventuring, and while they can often be annoyingly persistent with their advice, they also make the journey far less lonely.
  • God Hand - It's perhaps a coincidence, but Shinji Mikami's comedic brawler shares its name with a prominent force of evil in the Berserk comics. The hero Gene also has an artificial arm, like Guts, and much of the game's playtime is spent beating up weird looking demons (or getting beaten up by demons, in my case). The tone couldn't be more dissimilar though, I'll say that much.
  • Dragon's Dogma - Borrowing from the same dark fantasy well as Dark Souls to some degree, Dragon's Dogma has a similar "cursed" protagonist in the Arisen and features a lot of similar art design for its monsters and geography. Notably, the game also includes Berserk's and Griffith's armor sets for player characters to use. Whether this is a simple tie-in on Capcom's part or a means for the game to acknowledge its influence is unclear.
  • The Last Story - I mention Mistwalker's Wii RPG The Last Story because it shares a lot of narrative similarities with the aforementioned Golden Age arc of Berserk. To elaborate further would lead to too many spoilers, if simply making the comparison isn't one already, but the grim state of the world and the machinations of a small but tightly-knit mercenary group and the ungrateful nobles they serve skews decidedly close to Berserk's longest and best known arc.

The Berserk Games

Before I wind this down, I figured it was probably worth checking out two games that absolutely were inspired by Berserk. Sword of the Berserk: Guts' Rage and Berserk: Millennium Falcon Hen Seima Senki no Shou (possibly translates to Berserk: Millennium Falcon Arc: Holy Demon War Chapter, thanks to Pepsiman for helping me make sense of it) are two action games based on the Berserk license, the first for the Dreamcast and the second for the PS2.

As always, the Japanese box art is better than the EU/US versions.

Guts' Rage actually came out in the west, surprisingly for a manga adaptation. It even has a full English voice cast and everything. It's set during the Millennium Falcon arc (nope, nothing to do with Star Wars) in which Guts is travelling around with Casca in tow, travelling to the fabled realm of the elves in order to help her restore her sanity. The game creates its own little self-contained story about a town sieged by mutated humans afflicted by the mandragora plant, which feels more like an excuse to have a lot of weird monsters roaming around for Guts to fight. Though it's largely independent from the manga, including a relatively normal audience surrogate outsider character who inquires about Guts's journey to help acclimatize those unfamiliar with the source material, there's a few fan favorite appearances: Nosferatu Zodd, a particularly strong Apostle that Guts has fought a few times who briefly shows up for the game's toughest boss fight, and the enigmatic Skull Knight, an extremely powerful entity attempting to oppose the God Hand who occasionally helps Guts out who makes a small cameo in the epilogue.

As for the type of game it is, it's one of those proto-Devil May Cry brawlers that tried to take the burgeoning character action format in its own direction before the DMC games (and God of War) all but codified the genre. While Guts has some powerful attacks, he's limited by the large size and slow speed of his main weapon: the enormous Dragonslayer blade. Often, he'll need to find a good spot to plant himself and then start swinging, and keep moving when his position is no longer tactically viable. In addition, the player can make use of a "berserk mode" which temporarily makes Guts invincible and a lot stronger, as well as Guts's various gadgets including the cannon concealed in his artificial arm, a few healing tinctures courtesy of Puck's medicinal fairy dust and the handful of throwing knives and bombs he keeps on his person. All of these additional items are in limited supply but will frequently restock after each stage, so the game all but insists that the player rely on their resourcefulness and strategic wits to determine the best time to use them. Generally speaking, the cannon's best reserved for bosses, the knives for ranged units who try to stay out of reach of Guts's melee attacks and the bombs for when Guts gets swarmed by weaker enemies. Because berserk mode fully heals Guts each time it activates, the player can often try to keep fighting to fill its gauge before they run out of health, or opt to use up one of their limited full heal items and not risk dying. Like Chaos Legion, another DMC peer/also-ran that failed to attract much attention, it's not the sort of character action game where you can wade into every enemy encounter with your sword swinging: doing so is likely to get you killed fast. It's a little more thoughtful than it would first appear, and its difficulty appears to have put a lot of people off.

This one's a little more of an enigma, to be sure.

I know very little about the second game, as it was never released outside of Japan, but it appears to be a similar sort of character action game. It's set during the same arc in the manga and while it updates a lot of the mechanics, not to mention the graphics, it seems to be a similar sort of deal. Both games were created by Yuke's, perhaps best known for their wrestling games (they currently develop 2K's annualized WWE series, previously owned by THQ), so there's a characteristic amount of jankiness that brings the two games down a little, but their faithfulness to the tone of the manga is generally considered acceptable by the fanbase from what I've gathered.

Anyway, that's probably more than enough discussion on this site about "some manga thing". I don't usually spend much time discussing non-video game related material here (perhaps I should? GB's slowly becoming that kind of all-purpose site, really) but the number of times I would stop reading and think "Huh, where have I seen this before?" approached a figure that convinced me that I should try to jot all this down for an in-depth blog further down the road. Which is what this is, for the record.

As a final, final note, I would absolutely recommend Berserk to anyone, whether they're interested in the influences behind some of their favorite JRPGs or simply curious about comics with a lot of darker tones and extreme violence. It can be a tough read at times due to how oppressively grim it can get, but it has some amazing art and some really cool and weird ideas and concepts, especially with its villainous Apostles. Guts has something of a whole posse at this point in the manga, and the added number of characters with their own ongoing arcs is adding a lot to the narrative.

(All right, one more final note: Shout-outs to Matt, Pat, Woolie and Liam of the "Best Friends Play" Zaibatsu. I have no idea if those guys still visit Giant Bomb, but I wanted to thank them and their Sword of the Berserk LP for introducing me to the manga.)

#1 Edited by Yummylee (24259 posts) -

Regarding Dragon's Dogma, one of the preset Arisen characters you choose at the first stage of character creation was made to mimic Guts from Berserk! Though you don't get to keep the gear on show, like you mentioned it is still available to collect in the game.

I've never read the manga nor watched the anime, so many such references are typically lost on me -- especially cool to hear that Artorias is based upon the Guts character. Though I have always been curious in checking Berserk out, ever since I saw some AMV for it when I was like 14... Pretty sure the song was KoRn's Dead Bodies Everywhere, because of course it was.

#2 Edited by NTM (8787 posts) -

First Dreamcast game I personally went through and loved it then.

#3 Posted by csl316 (12245 posts) -

I will spend my lunch break reading this. Berserk is so damn good, man.

#4 Posted by Humanity (13396 posts) -

I've only ever watched the anime but I always wanted to read the comics. Is the series still on-going? It's a great story and as a young teenager, Guts with his ridiculous sword was beyond cool.

#5 Edited by BisonHero (9431 posts) -

Where did Japan's fascination with the word "guts" come from? There's Berserk, Gutsman from Mega Man, I feel like Rock Lee from Naruto has "guts" written prominently on some article of clothing though I only watched the first couple story arcs of that so I could be forgetting.

#6 Edited by Stete (782 posts) -

Despite the fact that I found the last two volumes disappointing, Berserk is the best manga I have ever read. the story is great and the artwork is downright mindblowing, I don't think any other manga artist was able to take the limitations of black and white and turn it into their advantage. It's a shame that neither the games or the anime managed to reach the levels of quality of the manga.

And damn, now that you mentioned Demon/Dark Souls and Berserk, I can see alot of parallels between the two, the dark oppressive world, the bleakness and general lack of hope, even the way Guts is on the receiving end of some major punishment while fighting ridiculously large adversaries where every victory is won by the skin of his teeth.

#7 Edited by Galiant (2224 posts) -

@mento: Interesting read, thanks for sharing!

I had a similar experience a couple of months ago where I read all of "Berserk" for the first time from the beginning, and I noticed how similar some of the themes/characters are to things that were already familiar to me. You summarized it nicely, but what about Auron? The large sword, the damaged eye, the seemingly crippled arm...

EDIT: Even the hair, come to think of it! Black with white/grey touches.

Auron from Final Fantasy X

#8 Posted by The_Ruiner (1505 posts) -

This game for the Dreamcast was pretty great.

#9 Edited by Mento (3450 posts) -

@galiant: Wow, nice catch. Some strong similarities between Auron and Guts, both in his appearance and his tragic backstory.

#10 Posted by YI_Orange (1252 posts) -

I don't have time to read the whole post right now, but I want to know if the Manga is worth reading beyond the golden age. I read through where shit goes down And loved it but for some reason never read more.

#11 Posted by Alick (12 posts) -

Is there an anime and is it worth it?

#12 Edited by gokaired (581 posts) -

I watch the Berserk anime, I liked it a lot but I could never watch it again, it was just too sad by the end I still can't handle it, I watched the first of he Movies as well.

Oh, hows this for Berserk inspiration

Siegfried (and Nightmare) do resemble aspects of Gut's aesthetic, Griffith to for that matter.

#13 Edited by Galiant (2224 posts) -

@alick said:

Is there an anime and is it worth it?

Personally I didn't care for the anime, it's old and not that great. The worst problem it has, I think, is pacing. I found myself feeling bored watching it (keep in mind I had read the manga at this point and really enjoyed that).

There are a couple of movies that came out fairly recently that look promising. I haven't seen them yet so I couldn't tell you if they're good or not. IMDB looks positive. Sequel. Third.

The soundtrack is amazing though. Case in point:

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#14 Posted by GERALTITUDE (5078 posts) -

Wow, super in-depth. Enjoyed reading this a lot. Never seen Berserk but heard a lot about it, fascinating how it ties in to so much other stuff I know. Cool blog!

#15 Posted by Make_Me_Mad (3227 posts) -

There's the obvious recent case of Big Boss now missing both the same eye and same forearm as Guts, as well as getting a mechanical replacement for said missing hand. On top of that, Phantom Pain is all about revenge and how far people are willing to go to get it, so... yeah.

#16 Edited by Jazz (2343 posts) -

I tried to get into the dreamcast game about two months ago to do a video for my yt channel and I just couldn't..silly to say it but the first 45 mins or so is just exposition with about 3 fights. I think it's actually a problem a lot of the 2000ish games suffer from - I tend to do videos of early xbox games and dreamcast stuff. Also Raziel's VO does not suit Guts(uuuu) imo. I don't think it's aged at all well.

#17 Posted by Oldirtybearon (5625 posts) -

@yummylee said:

I've never read the manga nor watched the anime


#18 Edited by AngryKluge (15 posts) -

@galiant: The new anime is... weird. Its got this strange art style reminiscent of PS2-era cel shading, and it is just retreading the Golden Age Arc again, but it still has some good moments. I forgot that the third one is out now, I'll have to give it a watch.

@yi_orange: Absolutely do it. It just keeps getting better and better, although the latest story arc is kind of weak. The inevitable Guts vs. Griffith showdown is probably going to be one of the greatest fights ever seen, too.

#19 Edited by Bocam (4099 posts) -

@galiant: The first two movies are sub-par but the third has the best adaptation of the end of Golden Age arc (it may even be better than its manga counterpart)

There's a translation patch for the Ps2 version and other then some name issues and line spacing issues, it's pretty good. It also runs fine on a PS2 Emulator.

#20 Posted by probablytuna (4472 posts) -

Berserk is still my favourite manga/anime series. As soon as you mentioned FF VII, I was immediately reminded of the Berserk Abridged videos. Man, those were great.

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#21 Edited by Slag (6365 posts) -

I swear I saw a Capcom developer interview somewhere stating that Berserk was a very deliberate influence on Dragon's Dogma to the point at one it was being conceived as a reboot of the old game.

Berserk has long been on my "I really need to play this game list", because of its importance but I also never seem to find the time or a copy.

gotta say though, that Eclipse storyline is just really really hard witness..

Fantastic blog Mento! I got little else to add other than this

#22 Posted by thatpinguino (2360 posts) -

Great read! I wonder if Berserk just happened to be in the right place and right time to inspire a bunch of the Japanese game developers that happened to be shaping the industry in the mid 90s through now. Kind of like how D&D basically established many of the character classes that define RPGs to this day.

#23 Posted by GTCknight (726 posts) -
@humanity said:

I've only ever watched the anime but I always wanted to read the comics. Is the series still on-going? It's a great story and as a young teenager, Guts with his ridiculous sword was beyond cool.

Yes, Berserk is still ongoing.

#24 Posted by csl316 (12245 posts) -

@galiant: The Berserk movies are pretty solid. One is ok, and two was surprisingly great with an amazing action sequence.

I've had the third one sitting around for a month. It's been tough to start it because I know that THAT happens...

I've honestly only seen the anime, which was the first thing to get me to accept that manga and anime can be amazing. The very last shot made me go "what????????"

Now I'm just crossing my fingers that the movies extend beyond the Golden Age Arc.

#25 Edited by GTCknight (726 posts) -

@mento: Very (and I mean it) small nitpick, but the God Hand are angels (not demons) created by God; and before you ask God is a being that was created by Humans (subconsciously) with their need to have things explained (destiny, fate, etc).

I also watch the Twobestfriends, but Matt got a good number of things wrong (still like him, kinda).

Dragon's Dogma was FILLED with references from Berserk. Areas like the witch girls home was a direct copy of Schierke's home, and Mercedes' story-line is the same as Casca's in that the nobles and certain enemies found it insulting that woman would be fighting on the battlefield.

Both Dogma and Dark souls both feature the Brand of Sacrifice.

As for the PS2 Berserk game, fighting regular enemies may not be great (since they infinitely respawn), but the bosses are fantastic. They can bring a tear to ones eye.

Almost forgot to mention the fact that the idea of the bonfire (by that i mean the bonfire being a bonfire) is a reference to the Bonfire of Dreams from Berserk. Guts comments that everyone in the Band of the Hawk came together with a torch (their dreams) and created bonfires to support Griffith, However he (Guts) didn't bring anything; he was simply a passer-by that decided to stop and warm themselves by the fire before moving on.

#26 Edited by GTCknight (726 posts) -

@csl316 said:

@galiant: The Berserk movies are pretty solid. One is ok, and two was surprisingly great with an amazing action sequence.

I've had the third one sitting around for a month. It's been tough to start it because I know that THAT happens...

I've honestly only seen the anime, which was the first thing to get me to accept that manga and anime can be amazing. The very last shot made me go "what????????"

Now I'm just crossing my fingers that the movies extend beyond the Golden Age Arc.

One of the core reasons why they went about rebooting the Golden Age Arc was so they could go past it and (ideally) cover every arc from the manga.

The main reason why they did it via film is because Japan has been reinforcing their censorship laws lately. Its the core reason why the anime for Tokyo Ghoul has had so many censors in it. If Berserk got another TV anime it would be renamed by people watching as "Censorship: the show".

EDIT: I forgot to mention that its nice seeing someone else who enjoyed the films. Started to think I was the only one.

#27 Posted by fetchfox (1595 posts) -

@mento: I envy that you just discovered this wonderful and heart wrenching manga. I've been reading it for many years now, and I've yet to find something quite as unique. How far in the manga are you?

#28 Posted by csl316 (12245 posts) -

@gtcknight: Yeah, I heard that was the original plan. And it's not like things get tamer so movies make sense.

Hopefully they perform well enough to justify continuing.

#29 Posted by GTCknight (726 posts) -

@csl316: I hope they do well too.

I would LOVE to see that fight with.......never mind; I want EVERYTHING to be animated.

#30 Posted by Mento (3450 posts) -

@gtcknight: Yeah, I can buy that. The fan translation was a little off in places. They always struck me as demons posing as angels, sort of like an extension of how the corrupt humans of the church (like Mozgus) truly believed themselves to be holy and righteous men of the cloth working for a force greater than themselves in order to justify the inhumane acts of torture they inflicted on people. That the God Hand were all originally humans is interesting too, like they were all mortals who bought into whatever that god-like "The Idea of Evil" entity was selling about causality and the will of mankind. The reborn Griffith/Femto is really leaning hard into this angelic/messianic "figure of hope" angle, and I like that everyone just kind of accepts it despite the fact he has a literal army of monsters working for him.

That's interesting about Dragon's Dogma too. I didn't get too far into the game, but I recognized that it had a similar sort of atmosphere to Berserk and figured the inclusion of the Berserk armor sets meant it was acknowledging its influences. That it has many more overt references doesn't surprise me too much, but it does make me think I should try that game for the third time and see if I don't quit 20 minutes into a 30 minute walk to the next quest objective again.

Talking of witches, for one last aside, I notice there's a young, friendly and mild-mannered witch with the big conical hat and everything in both Demon's Souls and Dark Souls (well, Beatrice doesn't say much, but she does help with a couple of bosses). I don't know why I didn't make the connection to Schierke, but I suppose I was mostly focusing on the Golden Age stuff. I think you're right that you really have to start with the Golden Age arc for that base level of backstory to cover any of the other arcs effectively.

#31 Posted by GTCknight (726 posts) -

@mento: Exactly why I enjoyed the movies more than the TV anime. While they both cut things from the manga the films kept the core of the story complete intact.

It should be noted that the author of Berserk did study the medieval era. It shows throughout as parallels to real events in our history can be seen happening in Berserk. Last I heard (could be wrong) the world map in Berserk is the some as ours back then.

Well I have to start getting ready for work, so I hope you continue to enjoy Berserk @mento.

#32 Posted by unastrike (586 posts) -

Just wanted to add a video of the Guts and Griffith armor from Dragon's Dogma - fantastic stuff.

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I'm a big fan of the manga and anime. Flipped the hell out when I came across the Guts character preset in Dragon's Dogma.

#33 Posted by two_socks (310 posts) -

The Dragon's Dogma stuff is a Capcom tie-in, approved by Miura himself. IIRC, his name is even in the game credits.

#34 Posted by MattyFTM (14723 posts) -

This is all I have to comment on a blog with that title:

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#35 Posted by Petiew (1413 posts) -

Fuck Griffith. That is all.

#36 Posted by EuanDewar (5157 posts) -

Nice post. Got me interested in Berserk so I went to have a look for the manga on Amazon and there's like 30+ volumes? Criminy, quite intimidating.

#37 Posted by HappyCheeze (129 posts) -

I remember reading a Berserk manga my brother borrowed from a friend. Guts is having sex with a lady who becomes a snake and his arm folds down to reveal a cannon and boom! Blows her face off.

#38 Posted by Thevamp25 (263 posts) -

Love Berserk and this is a very well put together and thoughtful post man. Great job.

#39 Edited by Sinusoidal (2652 posts) -

I loved Berserk - was in fact, absolutely obsessed with it - but it just keeps going on and on and on. I stopped reading around tankobon 17. I wish Miura would've just given us an ending, but he just keeps introducing new players that I don't care about. Guts' character development also pretty much ended right around when Casca went (understandably) batshit crazy and Miura started focusing on other, secondary characters that are nowhere near as interesting. Whenever Berserk makes it into another medium, it's generally the early arcs that get adapted since the manga hasn't really been any good for over a decade now.

#40 Posted by ViciousBearMauling (1917 posts) -

My love for you is like a truck.


#41 Posted by ArtelinaRose (1984 posts) -

Berserk is love. Berserk is life. I am constantly trying to get people into Berserk because it is greaaaaaaaaat. So if you haven't experienced Berserk, go do so! Start with the 1997 anime. It's a bit dated, but still wonderfulllll

#42 Edited by TheHT (13333 posts) -

Motherfuck, you got caught up in a few weeks? That's a lot of grimdark fantasy to take in man.

But it's so fucking good isn't it? The show is fine. Pales in comparison to the manga, but worth it for Susumu Hirasawa's music. The PS2 game also had great music if you enjoyed stuff from the show. Also that's just what Hirasawa's music sounds like, so you know, check out his shit if you like.

The movies were better than the show I'd say. I understand why it wouldn't have happened, but it would've been uhhhhhmazing if it was all hand-drawn. The CG gets significantly better in the second and third movies as I recall. The stuff in the first isn't that bad, but it's noticeably stiff. The first movie feels pretty unsubstantial. Like you're watching a longer premiere for a TV series rather than a movie movie. The second is completely solid. Feels like a full film, has some really standout scenes, is just super great.

The third feels like it doesn't even try to be a movie. It sure as shit has the length, but it just dives right into where things left off, and then devotes way more time than I thought they would to the final event, which, well I won't say much about that even if you spoiled it here. It was very well done.

I can't recall if I read that they're indeed moving forward with other arc movies, but I sure as fuck hope so. Sadly I haven't caught all the way up, but all the same Berserk is probably my second favourite book series (if you'll count comic books as just books; if not, fuck you Mr. Fancypants), after Akira.

Seriously, if you've seen Akira and liked it, read the manga (pronounced "comic book"). If you haven't, do either. Or both! The movie's like if they'd taken the Lord of the Rings extended trilogy and condensed it to a single 90 minute movie, changing up the whole story so Mordor is just over-hill. That priest lady who falls off the bridge is a waaaaay bigger character, the leader of the clowns that loses the game of chicken is an actual side character, the titular Akira is a much more present and important part of the story. It's significantly different in many more ways than that, and it's all really really awesome.

Ehhh, I dunno about Cloud and Guts though. I mean yeah, the big sword and stuff, totally. But Cloud strikes me more like a little kid trying to be someone like Guts, which I guess is actually appropriate all things considered. Couldn't much stand him when I played through FF7. That part where he's out of your party was a highlight for me. I just ran around having a good time levelling up Vincent, Cid, and Tifa. Though I'll admit, it's easier to empathize with him when you find out he was living for Zack after all the shit they went through, especially when you play through that whole affair in Crisis Core.

Zack's a fuckin champ though. Nothing like Guts personality-wise, but still pretty fantastic. His whole standoff with Shinra soldiers is reminiscent of Guts' whole 100-man massacre, even if the outcome is different.

Dragon's Dogma's post-dragon world is also a lot like the coming of the "age of darkness" in Berserk.

I know it's kinda the opposite direction of this blog, but I always really loved this whole thing:

Makes me like em both even more.

Also, word of warning about Berserk: it's fucking brutal. There's rape, extreme violence and many other manners of horribleness. It's an awful world filled with awful powers-that-be, and a protagonist who's also about as anti-hero as it gets.

#43 Edited by ike7779 (373 posts) -

Berserk is amazing. The Artorias fight in Dark Souls is amazing. The Balder knight armor in Dark Souls is amazing. It all makes sense now.

Great write up. Reminds me I need to watch Arc III, downloading it on PSN tonight.

#44 Edited by GTCknight (726 posts) -

I'm soooo happy to see all these fellow fans of Berserk right now.

It feels nice

#45 Posted by Galiant (2224 posts) -

@galiant: The new anime is... weird. Its got this strange art style reminiscent of PS2-era cel shading, and it is just retreading the Golden Age Arc again, but it still has some good moments. I forgot that the third one is out now, I'll have to give it a watch.

@bocam said:

@galiant: The first two movies are sub-par but the third has the best adaptation of the end of Golden Age arc (it may even be better than its manga counterpart)

@csl316 said:

@galiant: The Berserk movies are pretty solid. One is ok, and two was surprisingly great with an amazing action sequence.

I've had the third one sitting around for a month. It's been tough to start it because I know that THAT happens...

So I jumped right into the third one, because that's where all the stuff happens...and, man - I knew what was going to happen and it still made me incredibly uncomfortable and disturbed.

Berserk is messed up.

#46 Edited by Boboblaw (447 posts) -

That was a great read mento, really interesting stuff. I knew (obviously) of the Demon/Dark Souls references but I hadn't really thought to connect FF7 with Berserk.

Berserk itself is easily my favorite manga, I re-read that shit at least 2-3 times a year and I only hope Miura will one day finish the manga up because if any manga/comic/book deserves an ending its surely Berserk. About the anime and movies though, the anime is decent but pretty tough to watch with some pretty shitty animation but like others have pointed out there is some pretty great music. The movies however a pretty entertaining. I haven't watched the third one yet, according to the thread its the best), but the first two are pretty good. People get pretty hung up about the animation and 3D animation that goes on in it but it definitely gets way better in the second.

Also Gutts is still the coolest motherfucker, my favorite protag in any medium.

#47 Posted by probablytuna (4472 posts) -

I remember reading a Berserk manga my brother borrowed from a friend. Guts is having sex with a lady who becomes a snake and his arm folds down to reveal a cannon and boom! Blows her face off.

That was the first page of the first volume. What a fucking fantastic way to introduce us to the world of Berserk.

#48 Edited by csl316 (12245 posts) -

@galiant said:

@csl316 said:

@galiant: The Berserk movies are pretty solid. One is ok, and two was surprisingly great with an amazing action sequence.

I've had the third one sitting around for a month. It's been tough to start it because I know that THAT happens...

So I jumped right into the third one, because that's where all the stuff happens...and, man - I knew what was going to happen and it still made me incredibly uncomfortable and disturbed.

Berserk is messed up.

I was gonna pop it in today. But on the back of the Blu ray, there's a picture of the Band of the Hawk all looking at some bright light. Everyone looks confused and incapable of understanding forces beyond their comprehension, unaware of the madness about to ensue.

Damn, maybe I won't pop it in.

#49 Posted by Mento (3450 posts) -

Hey, thanks for all the comments everyone. Just saw the three Golden Age movies, since everyone was recommending them. It had some janky animation in parts (it really does look like a PS2 game when they're showing people talking from a distance) but was a pretty faithful retelling overall. They lost Wyald and that cool Bakiraka quintet in the third movie, but considering what they chose to focus on instead I can't really blame them. Harrowing to watch all that stuff play out animated. (I hope they make more of them; I'd like to see the end of the Kushan arc, but that's quite far away in the timeline of the manga.)

I feel kinda bad I spoiled pretty much the whole Golden Age arc for people who hadn't seen it in one form or another. That trilogy of movies would be a good place to start if you want to understand this blog's references a little better. I believe they're all out on Blu-Ray in the US currently, if you can find them at a good price.

I also forgot about Bladestorm: The Hundred Years' War and Mount & Blade: Warband: while there's no demons or really any kind of dark fantasy business, they both have the same kind of mercenary code camaraderie and nobility aspirations of the Band of the Hawk. I wonder if someone's made a "Band of the Hawk" mod for Mount & Blade yet?

#50 Posted by TheHT (13333 posts) -

@mento: They have! And it's actually kinda cool. It has a story mode at the beginning with parts from the first arc, like fighting Zodd and the Eclipse itself.

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