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Berserk (ベルセルク Beruseruku?) is a long-running dark fantasy manga series written and illustrated by Kentaro Miura. Miura premiered a prototype of Berserk in 1988. The first volume of the manga was published on November 26, 1990 by Hakusensha in its Jets Comics collection. After three more volumes were published, Berserk was serialized in Young Animal in 1992 and is still being released.

The series was adapted into a twenty-five episode anime series, Kenpū Denki Berserk (ベルセルク剣風伝奇 Beruseruku Kenpū Denki?), by Oriental Light and Magic. It debuted in Japan on October 7, 1997, on Nippon Television; the final episode aired on March 31, 1998. It covered the first arc: Golden Age. Two video games were also created for the series: an action adventure for the Dreamcast and another for the PlayStation.

Berserk's setting is inspired by medieval Europe. It centers around the life of Guts, an orphaned mercenary warrior, and Griffith, the leader of a mercenary band called the Band of the Hawk (鷹の団 Taka no Dan?). As he ages, Guts changes from a solitary boy into a man who realizes the value of camaraderie. The story contains elements of both fantasy and horror, as it explores both the best and worst of human nature. Both the manga and anime are noted for their heavy violence.

Plot

Golden Age Arc

Guts is born from a hanged mother and discovered by mercenary leader Gambino, who teaches Guts swordplay and enlists him in his mercenary group. Following a gruesome battle, Gambino is crippled with Guts left as the family breadwinner. One night, Gambino attacks Guts in a drunken rage, but Guts kills Gambino in self-defense and is chased from the camp by other mercenaries. Over the years, Guts finds work as a mercenary, slowly building his legend. After defeating a feared mercenary captain Bazzuso during a castle siege, Guts is attacked by Corcus a captain of the Band of the Hawk. Easily defeating Corcus, Guts is pitted against Casca, a female captain, whom he prepares to defeat when he is interrupted by Griffith, the enigmatic, white-haired commander of the Band of the Hawk. As they duel, Griffith, having witnessed Guts's swordplay during the castle siege, declares that should Guts lose the fight, he will enlist in the Band of the Hawk. Guts agrees to the wager but loses the duel.

Guts serves his years in the Band of the Hawks, commanding one of its formidable raider units as the Band of the Hawk fights in the King of Midland's campaign against the Kingdom of Chudor. During this campaign Guts encounters Nosferatu Zodd, a formidable demon Apostle who defeats both Guts and Griffith, but stops short of killing them when he notices Griffith's pendant, a Crimson Behelit. Laughing, he disappears from the dungeon, offering the Hawks a quizzical victory.

Griffith is knighted by the King and takes an interest in Princess Charlotte, the King's daughter. The King orders Griffith to take Doldrey castle, an impenetrable fortress commanded by the fearsome Rhino knights under General Boscogn. Griffith breaks his forces into two groups, drawing the Rhino knights from the castle with one and infiltrating the castle with the other. With the Hawk's flag flying from the castle, Griffith declares victory and allows the Rhino knights to scatter. The King promotes Griffith to general. Guts, yearning for his own path, leaves the Band of the Hawk. Declaring that Guts may only leave after defeating him, Griffith and Guts duel, which Guts swiftly wins. Guts departs as a distraught Griffith sneaks into Princess Charlotte's room and copulates with her. The next morning, Griffith is arrested by the King and imprisoned in a dungeon, as the Band of the Hawk are ambushed by the Midland Army.

Guts continues to wander, visiting blacksmith Godo and his granddaughter Erica and competing in a tournament against Bakiraka warrior Silat, whom he realizes is leading an attack against the now outlawed Band of the Hawk, commanded by Casca. Guts comes to the Hawks's aid and helps them escape. As they rest, Casca reveals her daring plot to rescue Griffith from his prison. Exhausted physically and mentally from commanding a demoralized, wounded and fleeing army, she asks Guts to take command as she throws herself over a cliff. Guts saves her and in an intimate moment, the two declare their love for one another.

The next day, Casca, Guts and several Hawks soldiers infiltrate Griffith's dungeon. Inside is Griffith, crippled beyond healing and missing his Behelit necklace. The Hawks escape with him. Infuriated, the King recruits Wyald, a beastly, psychotic killer and leader of a genocidal pack of mercenaries. The two groups clash in a fierce battle, and to Guts surprise, Wyald transforms into a gigantic, warped monster, who Guts can barely fight, yet through dogged determination and sheer will, he manages to triumph. As the gravely injured Wyald prepares to kill Griffith, Zodd appears and kills Wyald. As Zodd departs, he speaks to a silent Griffith about his missing Behelit necklace, and how by its own nature it shall return. That night, the Hawks young engineer Rickert tends wounded Hawk soldiers at a remote camp when it is invaded by a horde of warped Apostles who devour the survivors. Rickert runs for his life and is saved at the last moment by the Skull Knight, an armored skeleton atop a steed.

At the campsite, Griffith witnesses affection between Casca and Guts. Consumed with jealousy, he commandeers a horse cart, which he crashes into a pond, mysteriously finding his Behelit. As Guts, Casca and the Hawks find him, he watches the Behelit cry blood, causing a total solar eclipse. The sun disappears and plunges their world into darkness, sucking the Hawks into an alternate dimension, with Warped apostles emitting forth from the portal surround the Hawks. The four faces of the God Hand appear and with Griffith as their audience, declare that he must sacrifice his men to realize his dream of a kingdom, reasoning that they would gladly die on the battlefield under his command anyway. Griffith agrees to the God Hand's proposal, and the Hawks are marked with the Brand of Sacrifice. The Apostles swarm and devour them. Griffith is enveloped in a cocoon, which transforms his body. The only survivors are Casca and Guts. The cocoon ruptures, casting a winged Griffith into the air, now known as Femto, the fifth God Hand. As Griffith rapes Casca, the Apostles restrain Guts and force him to watch. Guts tries to break free by cutting off his own left forearm, but another Apostle tackles him and punctures his right eye. Suddenly, the Skull Knight bursts into the realm through the portal-like Eclipse, rescuing Guts and Casca and disappearing through the gateway. He delivers them to Rickert, who takes them to Godo's cave.

Guts awakens and discovers that Casca's mind has been destroyed, erasing their intimate history together. Casca miscarries a deformed fetus, which vanishes. The Skull Knight appears and explains to Guts that the Brand of Sacrifice will call demons to it, and that Casca's child is Guts's son, corrupted by Femto's rape. Guts, enraged at the death of his companions and Griffith's betrayal, vows to kill all demons. Leaving Casca with Godo, Erica and Rickert, Guts departs in search of his new found enemies.

Black Swordsman/Conviction Arcs

Guts continues hunting down Apostles, meeting on his journey Puck, a miniature elf companion who nests in his satchel. Pursuing him are the Holy Iron Chain Knights, dispatched by the Holy See, Midland's predominant religious institution, to solve the mystery of the Eclipse, the event that killed the Hawks and gave rise to Femto. Dubbing their target "The Black Swordsman," the Knights catch up with Guts and subdue him. The leader of the Knights, spoiled noblewoman Farnese, interrogates Guts in her tent. Scoffing at his stories of demonic spirits and shape changing Apostles, Farnese imprisons Guts in the camp stockade. Guts escapes from his confinement, knocking Farnese unconscious and using her as a hostage. As he rests in a remote desert, Guts encounters numerous demonic spirits, drawn to him by his Brand of Sacrifice. The devoutly religious Farnese witnesses these manifestations and begins questioning her own faith. Guts leaves her with her servant Serpico, a skilled swordsman who has tracked the two into the desert.

Puck leads Guts to an area blessed by elves, allowing him solace. As he sleeps, Guts dreams of Casca's imminent danger. He rushes back to Godo's cave to discover Casca wandered off months ago. As Guts describes his visions, Erica deduces Casca may have wandered to a small village named Albion. Guts departs with Puck for Albion. Along the way, he learns that Midland has descended into turmoil, both through war and an uncontrollable plague ravaging the kingdom. The King has died and Charlotte has ascended to the throne. Reports of an invasion by the Kushan, a Middle Eastern army, are rampant.

Guts and Puck arrive in Albion, a holy monastery surrounded by a vast refugee camp, lorded over by Lord Mozgus, a terrifying Inquisitor. His apathy for the refugees, along with his endless Inquisitions and executions, prompt many to form a heretical cult, one which the now child-like Casca accidentally becomes involved in. After witnessing her Brand of Sacrifice summon and dispel demonic spirits, the heretics herald her as their witch-queen and spirit her to a remote cave for worship. Guts pursues them, discovering the presence of an Apostle with the power to bestow demonic powers to anyone it infects. Guts cleaves his way through the infected Heretics, just as Casca narrowly slips through his fingers and into the hands of Mozgus, who brands her a witch and locks her in his dungeon. As she is tortured, monstrous spirits rise from the floor and quickly overwhelm the Inquisitors and consume the castle.

Fed by the spirits of the unjustly condemned, a demonic tide rises and begins consuming the surrounding refugee camp. Casca's disfigured child appears and is approached by the Apostle, who swallows it and allows it to incubate in its stomach. Meanwhile, believing Casca to be responsible for the demons, Mozgus retreats with her to his inner church, where he is infected by the Apostle and granted formidable powers. Vowing to burn Casca at the stake, Mozgus flies atop his monastery, where he duels Guts against the backdrop of screaming refugees. Guts defeats Mozgus as the demonic tide washes over and consumes Albion.

The next morning, Guts, Casca and their companions rise from the rubble of the monastery, in time to witness Griffith, born into the world from Casca's warped child, rise from his cocoon and fly away atop Nosferatu Zodd.

Hawk of the Millennium Empire Arc

Guts, Puck, and Casca return to Godo's cave, where they learn Godo has died and Rickert has taken up Godo's blacksmith duties. As Guts arrives, he sees Griffith speaking with Rickert in a makeshift cemetery for the Band of the Hawk. Enraged, Guts charges Griffith but is intercepted by Nosferatu Zodd, who challenges him to a duel. As the fight reaches its climax, Griffith orders Zodd to stop. As he departs, he offers both Rickert and Guts positions in his new Band of the Hawk. Guts angrily rejects the offer and reveals Griffith's treachery to Rickert.

Puck proposes that Guts deliver Casca to an elvish kingdom, Elfhelm, where Casca's mind may be healed. After they leave, Guts finds it increasingly difficult to fight off demons and protect Casca at the same time. In a temporary display of madness, Guts attacks Casca and bites her bosom, causing her to abhor him. Puck encounters Isidro, Farnese and Serpico, who have left the Holy Iron Chain Knights to find Guts. Isidro asks to be a part of his traveling party, as do Farnese and Serpico, disregarding their previous devotion to their religion. Guts agrees and the newly-formed party departs. They soon arrive at a strange wood and encounter/dispatch a group of powerful trolls. Further inside the forest, they discover a mysterious young witch named Schierke, accompanied by her own elf companion, Evarella. Schierke leads the party to Flora, the resident witch of the forest who is helping a village ward off a plague of trolls. Flora convinces Guts to help accomplish her goal by offering in exchange a spell that would nullify -at least for a time- the spirit-attracting attributes of Guts and Casca's Brand of Sacrifice. With Schierke in tow, the group travels to the village.

Upon the party's arrival, the town is attacked by a marauding horde of trolls. Guts' party repels the attack as well as several elemental monsters that arrive. As the last one is killed, a gigantic tidal wave caused by Schierke sweeps through the town, carrying Casca and Farnese out on its crest. With Schierke's help, Guts tracks them to an underground troll den and rescues them, fighting his way out with the help of the Skull Knight. The town saved, the party returns to Flora's wood only to discover it under attack by Griffith's new Band of the Hawk, composed of Apostle minions and including Zodd. The Skull Knight holds Zodd at bay while Guts' party defends Flora's home against the Apostles. As Guts is gradually overwhelmed by the combined might of the Apostles, Flora instructs Schierke to give him the magical Berserker's Armor, which augments his strength and healing. The power of the armor allows Guts to repel the Apostles but at a cost to his own physical and mental well-being. Flora dies as fire consumes her home, but not before instructing Schierke to accompany Guts on his quest.

Griffith plans to defeat the Kushan Empire, which is led by an Apostle named Ganishka who refused to follow Griffith. Ganishka kidnaps Charlotte, leading Griffith to mount an all-out attack to save her. During the battle, Griffith and Zodd break into Charlotte's bedchamber and rescue her. With Griffith's objective achieved, he orders a retreat. Charlotte makes Griffith Midland's top general and places him in charge of all of Midland's forces.

Guts and his party arrive at the city of Vritannis. Farnese believes that she can procure a ship for Guts and she visits her family for help. Her conniving brother Manifico arranges for her to marry a man named Roderick who can provide them a ship. The deal struck, Serpico tells Guts that he has a ship but that Serpico and Farnese will remain in Vritannis. Guts is immediately suspicious and sends Puck and Evarella to investigate. They discover that Farnese is being trapped in an arranged marriage, and Guts decides to try to talk her out of it. Serpico challenges Guts to a duel to stop Guts from interfering in Farnese's affairs, but he is defeated by Guts, who spares Serpico's life. Roderick agrees to captain a ship for Guts, and he and Manifico agreed to accompany the party on the voyage to Elfhelm.

A sudden attack by Ganishka's forces provides a complication, causing Guts and his group to fight their way through monsters to reach the ship. Ganishka himself appears in the sky, which forces Guts and Zodd to work together to drive him away.

With Guts and company safely on their way to Elfhelm, Griffith launches his final attack against Ganishka. Ganishka has taken increasingly risky steps to get the power he hopes will defeat Griffith, including sacrificing most of his men to power an "artificial behelit" and become an enormous creature. Griffith rallies his Apostles to attack Ganishka's army of smaller monsters that drop from his towering body; while the Midland army is nervous to trust Griffith, they join forces when one of the Apostles saves a human in a skirmish.

Zodd carries Griffith to the top of the Ganishka-monolith where he finds the main body, now just a small head surrounded by other heads. Rakshas also appears on top of Ganishka, having hid himself inside Zodd's wing. In Griffith's presence, Ganishka has a flashback about his sordid past, when he rose to power, and became an Apostle. When the flashback ends, Ganishka opens his eyes and sees a light that burns him, though he wishes to reach out for it. The light is Griffith in his Femto body, reaching out to kill Ganishka's main body. As he is about to do so, the Skull Knight rips a hole in space behind Femto with his Behelit blade; Zodd runs to stop him, but the Skull Knight manages to cut Femto across the length of his back. Femto is seen bending the space time slash and commanding it to his will, he grasps hold of the dimensional rift and places it on Ganishka's face, and says that a new door has opened. Ganishka's body is torn and he releases enormous energy. Femto descends to the core of the light, with the Skull Knight and Zodd looking on. The light is then shown to be expanding further as people all around Midland see it and are in awe, including Guts' party and eventually the light ends up covering the entire world.

The scene then shifts to a herd of Unicorns being attacked by a Hydra as a two men witness this in complete shock but then are caught up in it as the Unicorns, Hydra and a flock of Harpies head toward a village. In other locales, a headless horsemen storms through a crowded street, a dragon coils around a tower's spire, and trolls flood a farmhouse. The mythological creatures appearing in the physical world are the result of all the "layers" which make up reality having been melded together.

Fantasia Arc

Schierke investigates a ship following Roderick's warship and learns that it is a ghost ship manned by the pirate crew Roderick previously defeated. Roderick requests the aid of Guts, who employs his sword and cannon against an array of sea monsters. Roderick takes advantage of the time Guts bought him to prepare a naval cannon volley.

A badly damaged ghost ship then flees the fight by diving underwater, but it is discovered that Roderick's warship has also suffered during the battle. Roderick decides to sail toward a small secluded island in order to repair the ship (which shouldn't take more than a day or so).

Upon their arrival, Schierke, her elf companion, and Guts find themselves uneasy: a strange presence seems to envelop the whole island. However, before they can warn the others, Isidro and Puck wander away, oblivious to the danger, intending to explore the island. The two soon find the entrance to a gigantic subterranean cave, but before they can investigate further, they are stopped by a girl previously seen observing the ship from a distance as it anchored near the island. The girl warns Isidro and Puck that the cave is the den of a "Sea God" that inhabits the island, and that entering it is taboo among the locals.

Meanwhile, Guts' party, accompanied by Roderick and a few of his men, discovers a small village where people avoid them, closing windows and doors as they pass by. In the village, offerings seem to be left before a shrine probably dedicated to the "Sea God".

While the girl invites Isidro to her house, being eager to hear about the adventures he experienced, Schierke discovers the cave and there encounters a monster of the same kind that accompanied the Ghost Ship (only significantly smaller). She also stumbles upon the magical dagger that was dropped by Isidro during the cave exploration. When Schierke finds the house of the girl, where Isidro is having a dinner, she is stunned by the girl's aura (which is showing that this girl is no mere human).

As Isidro and Schierke are having a dinner with the mysterious girl, whose name is Isma, they are told the history of herself and the island. Isma is actually a Merrow (Mermaid) on her mother's side. Her mother had left Isma and her father while she was a baby, years later her father died, leaving her alone on the island, while on his deathbed he told Isma that one day her mother will come for her. The history of the island concludes that it was used by the Merrow to seal away the Sea God who once raged all across the ocean. When the moon becomes full the Sea God can then reach on the island or neighboring ships with its arms and legs to rampage once again.

Characters

  • Guts (ガッツ Gattsu?)
    Guts is the protagonist of the story. He is a tall, muscular man who has a prosthetic left forearm that has a magnetic grip, conceals a cannon, and can be fitted with a small repeating crossbow. He wields a huge sword called Dragon Slayer. Guts is a Byronic hero who is able to struggle against causality, but seemingly unable to overcome it.
  • Griffith (グリフィス Gurifisu?)
    Griffith, the founder and leader of the mercenary army Band of the Hawk, is the antagonist of the story. Extraordinarily charismatic and handsome, his tactical skill give him and his army the reputation of invincibility and make him the favored choice of the Midland King, who was locked in a century-old war with the Empire of Tudor. Griffith is willing to sacrifice everything for the dream of his own kingdom, believing that he is destined for things greater than the average man.
  • Casca (キャスカ Kyasuka?)
    Casca was the only female soldier in the original Band of the Hawk and is behind only Guts and Griffith in swordsmanship. She has dark skin. Her ambivalent relationships with both Guts and Griffith makes her capricious. Casca joins the Band of the Hawk after Griffith saves her from a sexual assault by a nobleman and, after Griffith is imprisoned, she becomes the leader of the Band of the Hawk and leads the mission to rescue Griffith along with Guts after he returns. The trauma of the Eclipse and the journeys afterward, especially her rape at Femto's hands, cost Casca her sanity and her relationship with Guts, though there is hope for a "cure" in Elfhelm.

Behelit

A Behelit is a small, egg-like oval object, with a set of human facial features scattered on its surface—giving the thing a rather disconcerting appearance. In fact, reference is often made in the story to the fact that the Behelit looks to be a living thing, and it emits a certain aura of unspecified dread. On occasion, it seems as though one of the Behelit's eyes opens and stares at the examiner, though this is usually quickly disregarded as merely an illusion.

In the anime series, two types of Behelits are expressly shown, one of which is more significant: It is the crimson Behelit owned by Griffith, leader of the Band of the Hawk. It is also called the Egg of the Conqueror or Egg of the King, and was given to Griffith when he was a child by an old fortune teller. It is believed that any one possessing this Behelit is destined to someday rule the world, and as this is very much in line with Griffith's ambition, he continues to hold on to it. The other type of Behelits are more common, and holds less power. Summoning the power of a Behelit is analogous to making a pact with the "god hand" for immortality and monstrous strength. One offers their own flesh and blood (and/or the flesh and blood of others close to them) for that power. The Crimson Behelit, however, falls upon the one destined to be "King."

The word probably comes from the Syriac word "Beherit", a Great Duke of Hell — the r turning into an l is an often-made mistake in localization.

Purpose

The Behelit is actually a key used by mankind to summon the God Hand, a group of immensely powerful, god-like demons, themselves the servants of a dark God that governs the Berserk universe. A Behelit is not truly found or kept by someone, rather it finds its way to the one fated to possess it through the manipulation of causality, and tempts the person with the opportunity to be free of their pitiful situation and have their innermost desire realized.

The Behelit Griffith found reached him, for it was his fate to become a new member of the God Hand. In this regard, his Behelit was also unique, for it was meant to be used by the one new mortal to transcend and become a member of the God Hand. The other Behelits seen in Berserk are minor compared to Griffith's: meant to transform the one who possessed it at the right time into Apostles. Apostles, which are humans who have offered their most precious possessions in exchange to escape their horrendous fate, can transform into hideous creatures (a bizarre manifestation of their ego) and bow down to the God Hand, though there are a few exceptions in the manga.

The Dream and The Sacrifice

In all cases, the ritual involved with the creation of a new Apostle or a new addition to the God Hand, happen under the same circumstances. The mortal possessing the Behelit must feel an intense desire to be free of their ill-stricken situation prompted by the manipulation of causality that created this scenario. This in turn "awakens" the Behelit (either by being nearby or through blood contact), the human features rearrange themselves into a face: the eyes open and bleed, and the mouth opens to scream. The God Hand hears and comes, opening a rift to their dimension and invites the mortal into their fold; tempting him or her with supernatural power and to be rid of their dire circumstance in return for a sacrifice.

In order to properly complete the ceremony, the mortal must agree to sacrifice something (or someone) infinitely precious to him or her. Only in such a case, the members of God Hand explain, will a high enough price be paid for a mortal to receive the chance to having their dream realized. Generally, the sacrifice will be family, friends, loved ones, or loyal followers. Normally, the one possessing the Behelit wouldn't sacrifice his or her loved ones, but will when the Behelit is in the bearer's hand at the right time. That usually happens when the person is under such emotional distress, he or she will give up anything to escape it. The sacrifice will then be devoured by the denizens of hell while the one who summoned the God Hand is reborn as an Apostle with a monstrous new form and abilities to match. Amazingly enough, some apostles are able to maintain at least one remnant of their former humanity despite their transformation such as the Count who refused to sacrifice his daughter in exchange for the God Hand restoring his former demonic power.

The Brand of Sacrifice

Those marked for sacrifice are branded with the God Hand's Brand of Sacrifice, a laceration marked into their skin, which bleeds and hurts the victim when in the presence of a demon or demigod. As part of the ceremony, the God Hand calls forth innumerable Apostles to feast upon the sacrificial offering. None are meant to survive the ritual, but any that do are forever branded, and wherever they may go, they will never know true peace, as, when night falls, local spirits attempt to overwhelm and reclaim the branded as of their own.

Historical references

File:Goetz-eiserne-hand.jpg

Guts (1480–1562) Götz von Berlichingen, a German knight, was the leader of a band of mercenary soldiers and had a reputation as a Robin Hood figure. In 1504, his right arm was struck by an enemy cannon fire and a prosthetic iron arm was developed to replace it. Guts' iron arm, in his original character concept, is very similar to Götz's iron arm kept in the Nüremberg Museum.

Miura stated in an interview that he created Guts independently and that he did not find out about von Berlichingen until after several volumes of the manga had been published.

Emperor Gaiseric The Emperor Gaiseric alluded to in volume 10 was based on the actual King Genseric who ruled the Vandals' kingdom in Europe in the 5th century. He was famed as a brilliant general who was seen as a threat even to the Roman Empire. In the manga, Gaiseric is said to have created a vast empire, similar to the Romans, that was destroyed by God's wrath. He banded together his small tribe and brought them great fame as a kingdom that exercised its authority in the Mediterranean region.

It is hinted that Emperor Gaiseric survived his fallen empire in the form of The Skull Knight, a recurring character who aids Guts and stands in opposition to the God Hand.

Emperor Ganishka The Emperor Ganishka, working as Griffith's enemy in Berserk, was based on King Kanishka, who ruled over the actual Kushan Empire, a vast empire in India and Central Asia during the 2nd century. He was also a profound Buddhist and adorned his empire with its respective figures and promoted it vigorously. Like his real-life counterpart, Ganishka also decorates his palace with famous Buddhist and Hindu figures, but has demonized them to suit his nature.

Media

Manga

Miura first premiered Berserk in 1988 with a 48-page prototype, which won a prize at the Comi Manga School he was enrolled in at the time. On November 26, 1990, the first volume of the manga was published by Hakusensha in its Jets Comics collection. Three more volumes appeared until Berserk was serialized by Young Animal (Hakusensha) in 1992 and new episodes are still being released in the biweekly magazine (every second and fourth Friday of the month). Volumes consisting of between 8–11 episodes are still published biannually in Japan by Hakusensha (Jets Comics collection). As of October 2009, 34 tankōbon of the manga have been published in Japan.

In America and the United Kingdom, the manga is translated and co-published between Dark Horse Comics and Digital Manga Publishing, which has released 33 volumes so far, the first in October 22, 2003. As with other Dark Horse manga releases like Hellsing or Trigun Maximum, the Japanese reading format, from right to left, is preserved in the English release (sound effects are untranslated in earlier releases, though this started with volume 12).

In Europe, the manga was introduced back in 1996, first in France (by Samourai Editions) and then in Italy a few months later (by Panini Comics, first under the imprints Marvel Manga and then Planet Manga). After Samourai Editions' bankruptcy, the comic series has been published in France by both Dynamic Visions (since 2002) and Glénat (since 2004), the latter edition being a larger format. Since 2001, the manga has also been translated and released in Germany (Panini Comics/Planet Manga) and Spain (MangaLine Ediciones). In the Netherlands, Glénat has been translating and publishing the manga since 2008.

Among the other markets that Berserk has been published in include South Korea, where it has been published by Dai Won since 1999, and Brazil, where Panini Comics has published the series in a demi-sized (120 pages) edition since 2005.

Currently the manga is published irregularly.

Anime

Produced by OLM, the 25-episode anime adaptation Kenpū Denki Berserk (剣風伝奇ベルセルク?) first aired in a post-midnight slot from October 7, 1997 to March 31, 1998.

The first thirteen volumes of the manga are covered, including the first arc (Black Swordsman). Though the manga storyline remains largely intact, many changes were made concerning the modification or elimination of characters, some of the series' most violent and brutal scenes, and material that would have extended the storyline beyond the planned run of the anime series. Themes of friendship and ambition are more developed and emphasized than those of causality and the supernatural in part because of these changes, all of which were made with the approval of the series creator, Kentarō Miura.

Release

In America, the anime series has been published by Media Blasters since 2002. Though the option of both dubbed and subtitled versions as available for only the first three VHS volumes, both English and Japanese soundtracks were included in the DVD release, as six separate volumes and a "TV Series Season One Complete Collection" standard (slim) box set. In 2003, the "Box of War" containing all volumes was released as a collector box set. Despite suggestions that Cartoon Network would air the series, one of a series of Adult Swim "bumps" claimed that censorship requirements would butcher it.

In Europe, the series has been published as seven subtitled single DVDs in France (Manga Distribution), six single discs in Germany (Panini Video), 13 dubbed VHS volumes and 5 DVD volumes in Italy (Yamato Video in 2002), and six DVDs in Spain (Jono Media, though it is the only European distributor not to release a subtitled version) between 2003 to 2004. Italy is the only country to broadcast the TV series uncensored in 2001 (via Italia Uno public channel) at night, with the 24th episode The Sacrifice (aka The Great Eclipse) aired at a later hour as per the Italia 1 management policy for late night programming.

In Asia, Vap Video has released thirteen VHS and twelve VCD including two episodes each (a single one in the last VHS and three in the last VCD) from 1998 to 1999 in Japan. The seven discs "DVD-BOX", using Audio-CD cases, was released in Japan in 2001, with the seven volumes being re-released later in individual DVD regular cases in 2003.

Abroad, the anime series has been subtitled and published as a 6-DVD box set standard edition and a 7-DVD collector box set in South Korea by Mania Entertainment in 2004. In Thailand, thirteen dubbed VCD volumes (with two episodes per disc) and later in three VCD boxsets ("Prosperity:I", "Declination:II", and "Disaster:III") were released in 2004 and a complete dubbed/subtitled "War Box" 8 DVD box set (along with a collector's Beherit necklace) in 2005, both by Tiga. A Traditional Chinese with forced subtitles 4-DVD box set was released in Taiwan in 2005 by Catalyst Logic.

In Oceania, the American dubbed/subtitled DVD version was converted to PAL standard and released in 2003 as six single volumes and, in 2004, as a 6-disc collector "Box of War" in both Australia and New Zealand by Madman Entertainment. The same year, the "Box of War" case, which is graphically different than the American version, was also sold separately in these countries.

Music

Susumu Hirasawa composed the anime's soundtrack, with all tracks being instrumental except for the last three. The music genre is rather eclectic, with various instruments such as piano, bagpipes, violin, harp, flute, classic guitar, electric guitar, drums, harpsichord or synthesizer.

Opening theme
Ending theme
  • "Waiting So Long", by Silver Fins
Next episode theme
  • "Forces", by Susumu Hirasawa

Reception

Source Reviewer Grade / Score Notes
Anime News Network[1] Zac Bertschy Overall (dub): A
Overall (sub): A+
Story: A+
Animation: A-
Art: A
Music:A+
DVD/Anime Review of Berserk: DVD 5: Requited Desires
AnimeOnDVD[2] Chris Beveridge Content: A
Audio: A+
Video: A
Packaging: A+
Menus: A-
Extras: B+
DVD/Anime Review of Berserk Boxed Set: Disc 1
Anime Academy[3] Gatts, Mugs, Kain, Keitaro 92.8% Anime Review
THEM Anime Reviews[4] Carlos Ross 4 out of 5 Anime Review

Video games

The Berserk games are not explicitly linked with each other, but are both set within the continuity of the manga series, more specifically its Millennium Falcon arc, which begins in volume 22.

Despite taking place during the Millennium Falcon arc, the first game was actually released during the publishing of the previous arc, giving Japanese players a taste of the things to come. In America, it was released two years before the TV series DVD (2002), and even before the comic book series' own introduction (2003). As a consequence, its original title was altered overseas.

The second game is roughly based on volumes 22 up to 27. It was released a few weeks before the publishing of the fifth American volume (Golden Age Arc). Set a while later within the manga's storyline and introducing new characters and intrigues not even mentioned in the TV series, the game was not released in America.

Game soundtrack CDs composed by the TV series' very same Susumu Hirasawa were sold in the Japanese market, and a Berserk: Millennium Falcon Hen Wasurebana no Shō Visual & Story File game artbook was published by Hakusensha under the supervision of Kentarō Miura.

Merchandise

In addition to video games and game guidebooks, Berserk has spurred on a range of different merchandise from lighters to keyrings to kubrick sets (6cm Lego alike). Statues and action figures are produced by Art of War. The original soundtrack of the anime series and video games by Susumu Hirasawa are available on CD. A Berserk trading card game[5] was released by Konami and is available in Japan.

References

  1. [1], Anime News Network review.
  2. [2], AnimeOnDVD review.
  3. [3], Anime Academy review.
  4. [4], THEM Anime Reviews review.
  5. [5], Berserk trading card game.

External links

be:Берсерк (манга) ca:Berserkel:Berserkfa:برزرکko:베르세르크 it:Berserk (manga) he:ברזרק lt:Berserkpl:Berserk (anime)ru:Берсерк (аниме и манга) sv:Berserk tl:Berserk (manga) th:เบอร์เซิร์ก tr:Berserk (manga) uk:Берсерк (манґа) zh:烙印勇士

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