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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hooked since the anime, 8 Oct 2006
By 
L. Lawson "MoNeYFiRsT" (England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Berserk Vol. 1: The Black Swordsman (Paperback)
I have been a huge fan of Berserk since watching the episodes of the anime. I started buying the mangas because it continues where the anime left off. I had to decide whether to get the manga from the very begining or wait for the volume where the anime ended which is volume 12/13, I got it from the begining and have to say Im really very glad I did. At first I didnt think i'd like the feeling of going from an anime to a manga but after the first volume I was converted. It was as though I was experiencing Berserk for the first time. The manga is very very different from the anime, so much is left out of the anime from the manga and the manga is much much more violent which is always good in my book. Everything about Berserk is intriging and will leave you wanting more volumes each time, easily one of the best mangas ever made (has sold 35+ million vols)and very very highly recommended to anyone who likes manga, provided that your 18+ of course.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best comic series ever created!, 28 Sep 2006
By 
R. J. Ironmonger "Ultraman" (England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Berserk Vol. 1: The Black Swordsman (Paperback)
Quite simply the Berserk series is a comic masterpiece and is essential reading for anyone with a taste for adult fiction.

With characters and storylines as complex and developed as any novel, berserk is set in a mythical medieval world and follows the story of Guts the Black Swordsman as he struggles against his destiny.

Books 1 and 2 introduce you to Guts but don't really endear you to him as he is not a very likeable character, sure its great when he cuts people in half or mercilessly punishes evil monsters with his ridiculously huge sword but he seems unnecessarily cruel at times. Persevere however and you will find it very worth it. Berserk really hits it's stride at book 3 where you meet the sinister Godhand and get a deeper look into what motivates Guts. its here that the story and art develop dramaticaly as it explains guts past and you see the experiences that make him act the way he does. It's then you grow to love the characters.

I love the way the story starts as horror / action before launching into a huge flashback that lasts right up to book 13 and is more like a period drama at times! The sinister undertones are always present however, as having seen the future you know that things are going to turn out badly for guts and his companions and as you begin to care more about the characters it creates a sense of dread. The series gradually gets more and more sinister as it starts to re-introduce the apostles and the godhand with some truly shocking scenes that culminate in volume 13 which is probably the most intense graphic novel I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

With the as yet unreleased volume 14 we pick up where we left off in book 3 with much more respect for Guts and his crusade. There are currently 31 volumes released in japan with the story showing no signs of ending soon!

I'm glad in these english volumes DarkHorse have presented the story fully uncut as Miura intended, as had it been censored it would have lost some of what makes it special.

If you are easily shocked or offended this is not for you but if your looking for a deep story with great art and packed full of action (and blood) then brace yourself and start reading reading Berserk Vol 1 right now!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible epic with some serious flaws, 27 Dec 2013
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This review is from: Berserk Vol. 1: The Black Swordsman (Paperback)
I was curious about Berserk 8 years ago and I was put off by the number of volumes and had reservations about the art style but last year I found out what I was missing out on.
I was a bit nostalgic for some of the animation I used to watch and I had heard good things about the 90s animated series and thought that might be a good way to spend time and find out if I wanted to commit to the comic series.
Although the animated series looked like it was done on a tiny budget and tight deadline (lots of shortcuts taken), considering that, it did an admirable job of telling the story (I think the recent animated films were too much like a summary and didn't get the power of the gradual changes in story) and the soundtrack by Susumu Hirasawa was very powerful and evocative. It hooked me and I really needed to find out what happened later in the story (the 90s animated series largely ignores the first few volumes of the comic and ends at some point in volume 13).

This review was written after reading volumes 1-37, which is all that is currently available. I've done my best to avoid spoilers, because they really do matter in this story and I think fans are generally conscious of that.

I'll use pros and cons...

The Good: I'm rarely interested enough to try long running comic serials but I'd say Berserk is one of my top contenders for that form. It has a really brilliant dark fantasy plot that unfolds in a really satisfying way and introduces several fascinating mysteries every now and then. The way the early characters change and grow together is really well done and although there are lots of tangents that bother me from the latter half of volume 14 and onward, the main story thread stays tantalising and well composed.

One of the early pleasures is seeing the world slowly letting in more and more fantasy; the initial disbelief and terror felt by the characters.
The events of volumes 12-13-14 makes one of the most incredible turning points I've ever seen in a story.
The story can be surprisingly emotional. In the first 14 volumes there were three different points that nearly had me crying.

The fantasy is visualised at a standard far above what most comic artists and companies are willing to attempt. The landscapes, scenery, architecture, castles, armour, boats, corpses and monsters all look excellent; there are lots of really brilliant images that succeed mightily in grandeur, awe, nasty brutality and grotesque.
The large scale battles that go through various stages are often amazing. I think the battle in volumes 33-34 must be the most impressive one I've ever in seen in a visual narrative medium and it's unlikely for a film or a videogame to reach that kind of power and assurance.

I think it is interesting that a couple of the main characters have done truly terrible things but they are still more or less heroes. The position of some of the monsters is understandable and fairly sympathetic.
It is often a criticism of popular Japanese comics that they contrive a group of friends supporting a hero in a quest, but Guts benefits from friendship in way that doesn't seem forced or unconvincing. In a way, he never really stops being a loner; you see him come out and retreat back in his shell to varying degrees depending on who is around him.

It isn't really a good or a bad thing but there are several visible inspirations from films like Hellraiser, Phantom Of Paradise and Pet Semetery. Miura claims the similarity between Guts and Ash from Evil Dead was a coincidence but later on there is an Evil Dead reference.
Some character names are based on science fiction titles.

The Bad: I think most of the complaints I have about Berserk are about clichés. Sometimes I'm tempted to blame it all on overwhelming genre expectations influenced by fan demographics and powerful editors, also keeping in mind the serial is originally shown in a magazine for young men.

The very first scene in the first volume feels so out of place in the story that it feels like it never happened.
It bothers me that all of the female rape victims always look relatively glamorous.
There is a scene in which an ape-like monster tries to rape one of the main female characters and it is played way too humorously; the monster looked a bit goofy, the scene looked a lot like something from monster rape porn. When the creature's genitals get severed, I think the cartoony humour undermines respect for the nearly victimised character.
A few characters prominently suffer from rape trauma and it is an important thing for the story to present better.

That scene was wisely left out the 90s animated series. Not only benefitting for the reasons above, but also because monsters are very slowly and gradually placed into the world of humans and the ape monster being seen by humans lessens the shock of what follows after. There are other monsters seen early, but so few people see them that there is a bigger doubt cast on the reality of those events.

The most persistent problem in Berserk is the comic relief, sometimes it goes away for a couple of chapters but it always comes back, and to makes things worse, it is very rarely funny. People often say how difficult Japanese humour is to translate but I strongly doubt the jokes work very well over there either.
It breaks the fourth wall regularly and there is even a joke that the story would be too dark without the humorous characters but I don't see how being too dark could ever be a problem. Were the creators and editors ever honestly worried that people might stop reading if it were "too dark"?
These lazy jokes are pointlessly crammed in to excessive degree and the cartoony antics don't sit comfortably with everything else. In those chapters crammed with the bickering of Puck, Isidro, Ivalera and Schierke (who are some of the weakest characters in the story, but sometimes other characters are guilty of it too), it is easy to forget how brilliant the comic can be and there were several times it was so overwhelming I considered giving up on Berserk, but in the last two volumes I ended up skimming these scenes.

The other big problem is that some of the tangential battles and adventures go on for far too long. I mean the Elves of the Misty Valley part with the two girls' friendship; the trolls invading the village, the floods and the swampy forest caves where the trolls live; the pirates, sea monsters and merrows part.
There are other parts that went on far too long but those were easily the worst offenders, for various reasons. Those chapters have the most ill advised comic relief; they keep the books running far longer than they need to (more on that later) and keeping you from the most exciting main plotlines.

There are recurring irritants in the action scenes. Sometimes the pacing does this thing that I see all the time in lots of comics and films when some imminent danger is coming, yet lots of things manage to happen in that supposedly tiny space of time, including lots of dialogue. Sometimes it looks as if monsters are politely waiting for everyone to finish their speeches before attacking (a privilege that anonymous crowds never get). This gives the action an artificial feeling, as if the main characters are being protected.
There is a young boy character called Rickert who is somehow one of the leaders of an army, seeing him hold his own in a battlefield looks completely false.
Methods of creating tension like prolonged fights, anxious tactical planning and long explanations of how magic works aren't really effective when Guts improbably survives extreme violence on a routine basis; even in a fantasy world with healing faeries (always called "elves" for some reason) it isn't at all convincing . What was all that detailed suspense for when Guts always ends up winning, as if the story is saying "he survives because we say so"? All those efforts at creating suspense feel like wasted time when he survives any extremity of violence thrown at him.

I thought one of the later fights with Serpico and Guts was a really silly idea, they are prepared to kill each other, when they stand to gain very little from that and both of them could have suffered serious consequences for killing the other. "Good guys" fighting in comics has always been a major turnoff to me, it always makes the heroes look like fools who don't realise there are more important things going on. The reasons are rarely compelling and it always seems like fans wanting to see a certain matchup is the motivating factor.

Berserk suffers from an excess of the "show, don't tell" philosophy. Many of the less important events would be better if they were summarised in captions or made into quick montages. Miura understandably wants to show lots of places and monsters, but seeing lengthy fights with detailed tactical dilemmas for every encounter is not exciting. He probably could have shown a lot more cool monsters and places if he didn't feel the need to show everything that happened at each time.

Although the art is great in general, there are problems here too.
All of the young characters and many of the female characters don't have their own faces; they have uniform faces to suggest cuteness, so I can't help but feel cheated when many of the faces in the crowds are more distinct than some of the main characters. It feels stylistically jarring to have cartoony characters next to far more realistic ones. Sometimes too many shorthand facial expressions are used and that lessens the drama.
I've heard Miura uses assistants (like many popular Japanese series) and the cartoony characters look like they were done by a different artist; those characters are not flattered next to the more beautifully rendered elements.

For a character as restless, world weary and boldly independent as Guts, he often looks far too self-conscious. He sometimes poses as if he is trying very hard to look cool and his hair looks way too neatly styled for a guy with his lifestyle (you never see him with facial hair no matter how rough his days have been).

Sometimes some of the panels are a bit cluttered and lack clarity, this is worse when there is lots of dialogue and sound effects but I wouldn't say it was a big problem.

Many of the problems I've listed above pad out the books far longer than they needed to be; the story probably could have been finished by now if it didn't do all those things I complained about. I think creators should take into consideration how much time and money a potential reader will need to put into a series like this. I've tried to persuade some people to buy the series and I don't blame them for being so reluctant. It cost me well over 200 pounds for those 37 volumes and I didn't even pay full price for most of the books; add to all this that many people are reluctant to read it because there were long periods of it being out of print (the Darkhorse English version at least), so difficult to complete the series.
You could stick to the first 14 volumes because that does constitute a great story but it would be an infuriatingly open ended one.

In a dream world where Berserk is shorter and sweeter and didn't have all the aforementioned annoyances, it would be a far bigger phenomenon than it is and it would be one of the greatest fantasy stories ever made. But as it really is, I still love enough things about it and I'm still desperate to find out how the story finishes. I might have spent longer listing the flaws, but the good qualities are very powerful at times.

((The star rating represents how much I want you to buy this item and should not be taken as a measurement of artistic merit))
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The Black Swordsman has arrived!", 30 Oct 2007
By 
Sebastian Fernandez (Tampa, Florida United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Berserk Vol. 1: The Black Swordsman (Paperback)
I discovered the character of Guts through the anime, and when I finished watching the DVDs I was eager to learn more about the fate of this mesmerizing individual. Luckily, I quickly found out that the manga extended the story way farther than the anime, so here I am. The first thing that struck me about this manga was the notorious presence of Puck. This elf is a welcome incorporation to the story, since it fulfills two crucial roles: introduce some levity via its humor, which is necessary given the nature of the story, and provide a marked contrast with the personality of Guts.

This series is not for the faint of heart, since it includes scenes of extreme violence, many involving women and children, depicts gore vividly, and if the anime is any indication of the progression, this is just the beginning. However, this is a manga that provides the reader with much more than just violence, since the characters posses many layers, and the story that serves as backbone to the action scenes is multilayered and satisfying.

There are few characters in the anime / manga genre as complex and thought-provoking as Guts. This warrior has been branded by demons, and goes around in search of his destiny, fighting anything that comes across his path. Aided by his mechanical arm and enormous sword, if it can be called that, he seeks to free himself from the hold the brand has on his existence. In this first volume, his life is full of anger, sadness, pain, and fear, as well as darkness, as Puck so wisely observes.

The graphic aspects of the novel are very good, and the style efficiently conveys the mood of the storyline. If you are new to this series, and not squeamish, you should seriously consider checking this out. But beware, you will be hooked!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The first book in one of the most epic fantasy sagas ever!, 21 Dec 2004
This review is from: Berserk Vol. 1: The Black Swordsman (Paperback)
OK, let's get something straight: Berserk is not a children's book.
It is one of the most violent, adult-themed comics out there, and it requires an open mind from its readers. It shock you and does not apologise for it. The visceral art and story of Manga genius Kentaro Miura is not for the weak-hearted, but by God it is so rewarding to those who persevere!
The Berserk story starts simple: a vengeance quest, with Gatsu travelling the world, seeking out and dispatching horrible monsters masquerading as humans named Disciples.
But this is just the surface sheen to a complex moral fable about deities, human will and its power to alter pre-determined events. There are over 25 volumes of the Berserk manga, with Miura declaring he has enough story for another 20 at least. This means the manga may finish around 2010. If Kentaro-san forfeits all his holidays. And stops sleeping.
The classic anime series deals with volumes 1-9, and every year baseless rumors about further seasons circulate. For serious fans, I advise you purchase the awesome Dreamcast and PS2 games, rather than wait in vain for new anime.
With a cast of hundreds of characters and amazing renditions of medieval European settings, this is truly a masterpiece! Look past the random disembowelings,beheadings and gut-wrenching violence and appreciate this for what it truly is: the modern re-telling of the Odyssey, set in a Alighiery-inspired Dark Ages.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest stories ever told, 8 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Berserk Vol. 1: The Black Swordsman (Paperback)
It has a little bit of everything. Brings back so much, I will keep this forever (along with the next volumes)
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5.0 out of 5 stars manga at its best, 8 May 2014
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This review is from: Berserk Vol. 1: The Black Swordsman (Paperback)
Brilliant manga, in fact one of my absolute favourites. Can't wait to own them all and would recommend this to any fans of manga.
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5.0 out of 5 stars BEST STORY IV EVER HAD THE PLEASURE READING, 15 Dec 2013
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This review is from: Berserk Vol. 1: The Black Swordsman (Paperback)
if LIKE ME you loved the anime or the new movies then dont waste any time and just buy it right NOW!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good Opening, 2 Dec 2013
By 
CrazyKenayn (Nottingham, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Berserk Vol. 1: The Black Swordsman (Paperback)
IT had a strong start to the series that makes you interested to find out more, its a great buy at a reasonable price.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best, 27 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Berserk Vol. 1: The Black Swordsman (Paperback)
The world, the story, the characters and finally the art - everything about this manga is breathtaking. Great translation and cover art.
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Berserk Vol. 1: The Black Swordsman
Berserk Vol. 1: The Black Swordsman by Kentaro Miura (Paperback - 17 Mar 2009)
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