Finally, Berserk has come back to television.
Over the years, many have clamored for a sequel to the popular fantasy series starring Guts the Black Swordsman, but did you know that the Berserk manga actually started in 1989, and it’s still being published today (albeit infrequently?). It’s kind of crazy to actually think about how much the manga industry and the entire world has changed in 27 years, and that Berserk has continued being that good ol’ tale of a man, his gigantic sword, and the throngs of demons he mercilessly slays in his unforgiving world.
When Berserk first debuted, the Berlin Wall had fallen just 12 days prior. High speed internet was a distant dream. It would be another couple of decades before the arrival of The iDOLM@STER, the popular game series that Berserk creator Kentaro Miura has professed interest in.
Few titles carry a similar level of longevity. Ah My Goddess! was first published in 1988 and recently finished in 2014. Glass Mask, which like Berserk is still being made, actually came out in 1976. Oh My Goddess! evolved its look over the years as stylistic trends in manga also changed, while Glass Mask has maintained its classic 70s shoujo look all these years. Relative to these series, Berserk is more of the latter.
Though Miura’s art style has improved tremendously over the years, it remains within the same framework of painstakingly detailed rendering and just overall narrative. This means that, while the aesthetics of manga, the makeup of the popular genres, and the demographics have all changed, Berserk goes for timelessness. However, by being so grounded in its old-fashioned (yet also brutal) fantasy setting, it invites discussion as to how Berserk might invite new analyses and criticisms.
For example, rape is not uncommon in the world of Berserk. Guts’ greatest love Casca is raped by his best friend Griffith in a stunning and disturbing betrayal. This leaves her with a broken mind that many would argue ruins her character. With how much discussion of female character representation has increased in recent years, this makes Casca’s situation all the more sensitive.
At the same time, Guts himself was raped as a child and is left emotionally scarred. While a major difference is that he clearly turns his situation around and becomes the most badass swordsman alive, in 2016 Berserk and its portrayal of rape can potentially garner a lot of debate and discussion. For one thing, Griffith’s sexual assault of Casca is literally rape as a form of power and control.
While it’s often very much a kind of dark, masculine series, I think it’ll be a powerful forum for discussion because of how much it’s retained its spirit over the years. Does Berserk stand forever, or is it too much a product of its original time? What do you think, and how do you feel that Berserk is almost twice as old as the typical anime fan?