‘Berserk’ Continues After Author’s Untimely Death

The cover of the 42nd volume of “Berserk” by Kentaro Miura and Studio Gaga, published by Hakusensha

By Kentaro Miura, Studio Gaga (Hakusensha)

The year 2023 is coming to an end. Amid my encounters with various manga this year, I had forgotten an important one: the 42nd volume of “Berserk” published in October.

“Berserk” began its serialization in 1989 and is a masterpiece of heroic fantasy manga beyond compare.

The protagonist, Guts, is a swordsman clad in black plate armor and his nemesis is his former best friend Griffith. To fulfill his ambition, Griffith reincarnates as a dark angel by sacrificing his comrades as offerings to an evil spirit. Only Guts and his lover Casca return alive from the reincarnation ritual, but Casca loses her sanity. Hiding his identity, Griffith descends on the human world as a hero. Meanwhile, Guts finds new friends, and together they fight for Casca’s salvation and Griffith’s downfall.

The 1990s was a period where fantasies with swords and magic were ubiquitous in video games, novels and manga. “Berserk” is the only work in the manga genre since then that has been able to maintain the same level of enthusiasm for over 30 years.

The ink drawings that depict even the dull gleam of armor, violence on an excessive level, and the epic story that grows more magnificent with each volume — they all contribute to the work’s unparalleled passion. No doubt everyone wished to witness the ending of the story, no matter how many decades it took.

However, mangaka Kentaro Miura, the creator of “Berserk,” passed away suddenly in 2021 at the still young age of 54. “Berserk” was published up to the 41st volume but was left unfinished with his death. It seemed that readers were left to their imagination for the finale.

Then a miracle happened.

Before his death, Miura told his best friend and fellow mangaka Koji Mori about his plan on bringing the story to its conclusion, in meticulous detail.

Mori then passed this on to members of Miura’s staff, Studio Gaga, and the manga was re-launched. Thus materialized the incredible 42nd volume of “Berserk.” When the main artist of a manga is missing, what usually happens is that the drawings drop in quality. But Miura’s staff, who assisted his extraordinary drawing skills, are themselves extraordinary. I am simply amazed that there is almost no discrepancy.

There have been cases in the past in which manga serialization was continued by other mangaka after the original author passed away; recent examples include “Crayon Shinchan” and “Golgo 13.” Continuation was possible in those two cases because in both series, a story concludes within each chapter. What makes “Berserk” a special case is how the staff inherited a story which existed only in the mind of the author. The fact that Miura told Mori his story plan in detail and duly trained his staff’s drawing abilities makes one wonder if Miura somehow anticipated all this, however unconsciously.

So now, we can rest knowing “Berserk” will be completed, just as the author had envisioned. Isn’t this the best fantasy of all?