Berserk 36

December 15, 2012

Kentaro Miura – Dark Horse – 2012 – 36+ volumes

Another year, another volume of Berserk. While I would dearly love for these to come out more frequently, I’m happy enough that Miura hasn’t taken another long hiatus from the series. Looking at the Japanese release schedule, volume 37 still hasn’t come out, and may not appear until the spring. Which may mean more than a year between volumes. Sigh.

The disadvantage to the slow release schedule is that the story moves at a glacial pace. This is probably a necessary evil though, as Miura does indeed draw the hell out of every page. It’s only slightly less magnificent in this volume, as the focus is more on character dialogue and close-ups of fights. But he still includes an awful lot of detail, his designs are amazing (the derelict statues and stuff laying around the island are fantastic), and his fight scenes are still some of the best. The good news is that this volume does very nearly conclude the fight with the Sea God on the island, so next time we might actually move on to Elfhelm. Maybe. Probably they’ll be another stop along the way, or some long tangent about the little kid. But I’ll still love it.

Lots of character stuff this time, as we begin to find out more and more about Isma, Farnese comes into her own as a sorceress, and Schierke gets a better grip on Guts’s berserker armor, so the two of them run off to fight the Sea God. Inside the Sea God. So ridiculous. But again, it’s Berserk, so the whole fight is pretty magnificent.

There’s another sea battle aboard the ship, as the Zombie Pirates take another shot at the crew. They’re still fairly amusing and inept, but very determined this time, and without Guts, this fight takes a couple interesting turns. Most interesting of all, however, is the story dipping its toes back into folklore territory as a legion of creatures show up at the very end of the volume to help bring the Sea God down.

So… these creatures. They’re my favorites, honestly, and I’m both excited and a little frightened to see them in Berserk. I’m half-hoping for them to bring a very violent and bloody fight to the Sea God’s door. Nothing would please me more. But, of course, it’ll be another year before I get to find out how this went. Honestly? It’s probably worth it. Few things are, but Berserk is one of them.

Berserk 35

November 17, 2011

Kentaro Miura – Dark Horse – 2011 – 35+ volumes

Lately, I kinda expect to go into these volumes of Berserk a little disappointed. After all, we’re getting one volume a year now, and the story moves so slowly that it’s hard to appreciate it when it does appear. It only makes you want more.

But then again, the man can draw. I couldn’t stop staring at every single one of the pages in this volume. The details in the character design, the clothing, the monsters, the setting… all of it. I sometimes compliment artists on their levels of detail, but Kentaro Miura is better than all of them. The drawings are immersive in a way that’s difficult to describe. There’s no doubt he’s committing every possible detail of Midland to the page for our enjoyment. And that’s why only one volume a year comes out. I’m not sure I can fault him for this, as much as I’d love to read a ton of new Berserk.

The opening chapter or two of this volume features the new Midland. Every singe brick of the massive castle, and every single face and body of the thousands of people that live there now. This is more of what we were getting last volume, with double-page spreads depicting minute details of massive landscapes and no words, and it’s just as engrossing. At this point in the story… it’s hard to say if we don’t really need to know more, or we already know all we need to know about the new Midland. It’s just as awe-inspiring to the reader as it is to the new residents, though.

But again, no words. And no Guts. Happily, the story switches over to the ship Guts and company are riding to Elfhelm. This volume suggests it might be another ten years before we get to see Elfhelm, as the ship is immediately attacked by the terrible monster pirates, then is washed up on an island haunted by a monster.

My favorite scene in this volume… the only time I get taken out of the story is when I realize how self-aware Berserk can be, and that’s not a bad thing. Guts has been absent for about a volume and a half at this point, or a year’s worth of story. Slowly, during the monster fight, we get an occasional out of context panel. You realize this is first-person progress of Guts coming up from below deck, and then he makes an amazing speech and is revealed at the end of one of the chapters. Then he proceeds to completely shame the monster attacking the ship. It’s wonderful, and the best way to bring him back after such a long absence.

The story on the island might take a bit of time to tell, but it involves Isidro and a little girl from the island, along with a terrible nightmare creature that turns everyone into what appears to be Clayface. I like Isidro a lot, and I’m happy with any bit of spotlight the plot can give to him.

It occurred to me that this series is probably one of the best comics I own, and I own a lot of fine comics that are also not manga. Miura is amazing at world-building, and it reads just like the best fantasy novels, except in comic form. It’s western fantasy, but with slight eastern influences (Puck as comic relief, the Hokuto no Ken-like Fat Knights in man and monster flavors, which are, in turn, Lord Humongous from Road Warrior). And it’s got some of the best art in any comic I’ve ever seen. Not only for the detail that Miura lavishes on it, but his skill in monster, weapon, and armor design is also up to the task. I re-read the first five volumes after I finished this, just to make sure it was as good as I remember. Once the flashback arc starts, it is.

Berserk 34

November 23, 2010

Kentaro Miura – Dark Horse – 2010 – 34+ volumes

What.

So, I didn’t really read this. Noone did, I think, because it contains almost no words or dialogue. With the exception of a short speech from Sonia, some confused babbling from Ganishka, and a little narration about his background, there are no words. Only pictures. Many that take up both pages.

Miura’s art is certainly something to behold. This is another climax in the story. It is not nearly as powerful as the scene where the first Band of the Hawk was slaughtered, but the fact it is portrayed as a wordless battle between gargantuan, writhing, horrible nightmare creatures is interesting. Dialogue is not needed for this climax that the story has worked through over ten volumes to reach. There is something to be said about art that fantastic, and a major decision that can be conveyed in that way.

On the other hand, this volume doesn’t have any damn words in it.

I mean, it’s not lazy, not at all. The art is meticulous. I don’t eve want to think about how long some of that took to draw, and that’s even on some of the more mundane spreads, like landscapes. The monster fights make me break out into a cold sweat when I think about their creation. But man. I could’ve gone for some Guts, or something in this volume. He appeared on all of two pages.

But the final sequence, where fantasy and reality merge, where all the good and the bad mix and come forth and humanity has to deal with it, that was kind of worth it. Especially since it was introduced with a scene where an enormous multi-headed serpent chows down on a unicorn.

Berserk really is something. Here’s hoping the next story arc tries to wrap things out in a bit more timely and less abstract fashion.

Berserk 33

May 5, 2010

Kentaro Miura – Dark Horse – 2010 – 33+ volumes

Aaand… here we are, caught up with Japan.  I think there’s approximately one volume of this series a year, so now we wait for the ending to roll around.

This volume’s all about setting up another prophecy for Griffith.  While we do get to see the primary cast on board their ship, fighting pirates, the majority of the focus is on Midland and getting the citizens out from under the Kushan invaders before something really bad happens.  King Ganishka is mad about his defeat at the hands of the Band of the Hawk, and he decides to gather more power than what he has as an apostle and go full demon.  While his transformation is happening, the people of Midland take the opportunity to flee the city while he’s not looking, and they’re intercepted by the Band of the Hawk just as Ganishka’s transformation is unveiled.

On one hand, this is a very slow volume, and it’s a shame we seem to be getting less and less time for Guts’ mission to kill Griffith.  On the other hand, it’s pretty incredible that Berserk is continuously developing its world like this, and even situations not involving the main characters are still as good a read as this.  It’s slow, but I still tore through it pretty fast.  The pirates provide a little action, but my ache for twisted demon transformations was satisfied by the horrible new form that Ganishka has taken (which isn’t as spectacular as some other demons, just incredibly massive).

Guts is in pretty bad shape, too, so he’ll need time to recover while the ship leisurely sails on towards Elfhelm.  Hopefully… hopefully that’ll only be one more volume. While we’re waiting for that, apparently Griffith is going to remake the entire world, so there’s also that to look forward to in the meantime.  Always something in Berserk.

Berserk 32

January 14, 2010

Kentaro Miura – Dark Horse – 2009 – 34+ volumes

So before I get into the actual review, I’m in the middle of the book here.  I feel compelled to comment on the fact that… well, there’s this page with the archer that’s teamed up with Griffith.  There are several panels showing his arrows tearing into the Kushan army.  These panels… I can’t tell if they’re supposed to be funny or not.  All the panels show the arrows piercing heads in various ways, and some are clearly serious.  Some are only slightly ridiculous, with the arrows protruding from the mouth.  Others have the arrows entering through one eye socket and out the other, with the eyeballs gathered at one end like a kebab.  One shows a body that has been entirely decapitated, along with an arm.  Another shows the arrow tearing a jaw off, another shows no head, only an arrow flying through the air with a nose pierced on it.  My favorite shows the point coming out of an ear, with what appears to be the cochlea and the rest of the inner ear skewered on it.  The last panel only shows disembodied eyeballs and bits of brain.

Oh, Berserk.

While the story was mostly exposition in this volume (a confrontation between Guts/Zodd/the Kushan King, a war between Virtannis and the Kushan army, a conflict between the Kushan Army and the Band of the Hawk), there was still a lot to like.  It’s the massive war scenes that you see in this book where Miura’s art shines its brightest.  There are a good number of large illustrations of sprawling armies, each member drawn individually with their own features.  For all the conflict, there’s not a ridiculous amount of gore like we normally see, so really, there’s just a lot of soldiers riding around looking impressive.  And I mean… looking very impressive.  Nobody can draw an army like Kentaro Miura.

And if that wasn’t impressive enough, the end of the book contains a chapter where Farnese and Shierke begin to train in separating the astral body from the physical, so we get some truly gorgeous and fanciful scenes of the two flying around a ship at sea.

Good stuff.  Next volume looks like it might contain an actual, all-out war between the Kushan Army and the Band of the Hawk, something I didn’t think woud come until much later in the series.

Berserk 31

November 5, 2009

Kentaro Miura – Dark Horse – 2009 – 34+ volumes

I got really pumped while trying to explain Berserk to someone today, so I was glad that the newest volume came in yesterday.

Now, if you had told me that I would be enjoying Berserk for the cuteness factor awhile ago, even two or three volumes ago, I would have thought you were lying.  But here I am, with an entire volume of Guts and Schierke forming the world’s most adorable team, and I really can’t get enough.  I nearly died when Guts gave her a piggyback ride.  I see now why Chica Umino drew an alternate cover to volume 33.  It just fits.

Part of me thinks I should be more creeped out, but the key factor is that there is nothing (absolutely nothing) sexual, even implied, in their interactions.  For Berserk, this shows an incredible amount of restraint.  Schierke has her schoolgirl crush on Guts, but Guts sees her as a valuable ally, and treats her like an equal in the team, which is a wonderful contrast since he’s the gigantic strong guy with a metal arm and huge sword, and she’s just a little girl.

Those two steal the show here, and a big part of the volume was a fight where Schierke… was magically along for the ride in Guts’ mind as he fought in the Berserker armor.  With her there, he gets to stay himself while he fights, and she gets to offer adorable encouragement and worry about him getting hurt, with him just glancing up and not saying anything.  Nobody worries about Guts like Schierke does, and I think he is taken aback by the pleas to keep well.  Aww.

There’s also monsters, which you would expect.  The Kushan empire is invading the city, and in addition to an entire gigantic army of… well, monster soldiers that Schierke and Guts dispatch (complete with a scene where Guts runs for cover with Schierke under one arm and Isidro under the other), there is also a Kushan magic user that is able to summon gigantic, powerful familiars.  There’s also a kraken the size of the entire harbor thrown in for good measure, and an apostle who’s face just appears in the clouds and doesn’t have a physical body.  Guts easily outsmarts his techniques.

There’s also a great “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” scene towards the end.  I was delighted by Guts’ response, but honestly, I would have been pleased with either answer under those circumstances.

Mostly this volume was just fights with no exposition, and I still loved every page.  That this volume was still so cute even when gigantic monsters were being slaughtered most of the time says quite a bit about this series, I think.

Oh, Berserk.  Don’t ever stop being awesome.

Berserk 30

September 10, 2009

Kentaro Miura – Dark Horse – 2009 – 33+ volumes

And with that, I’m caught up.  Boo.  I had forgotten that Dark Horse was switching paper stock until I read this.  It’s noticeable, but doesn’t really strike me as a bad thing.  I like my manga pulpy.

Anyway.  There’s a huge, HUGE fight at the end of this volume.  Actually… make that through the entire volume, but it gets particularly intense towards the end.  And sort of funny.  Guts kills a single gigantic demon tiger that crashes a high-society ball, then slays a herd of gigantic demon tigers that bust in after that one is dead.  Then the town is sieged by horned demons.  Guts slays them.  As the heroes make their escape, a gigantic elephant behemoth larger than the buildings, similar to the one they fought a couple volumes ago, appears out of nowhere.  Flanking it are the horned demons.  Riding on demon tigers.  Guts clashes epically with the elephant monster, and then as a finisher, jumps off the top of its head and slays several of the tiger-riding demons, tigers and all, as they are about to attack Schierke and company.  I mean, it’s awesome, but it’s also way over-the-top in a hilarious way.

I think I enjoyed these fights even more because Guts had an audience.  I laughed as panel after panel featured nobles, aristocrats, soldiers, townspeople, and pretty much everyone not in his party staring in open-mouthed shock as he fought.  I’m glad that the series stops to acknowledge what is happening is insane every now and again.

There’s lots of important plot developments, like the very religious aristocrats of the port city having to suddenly accept the existence of magic when the demons appear and Farnese, the daughter of the most influential man in town, uses witchcraft to save them.  Her father doesn’t quite accept it, but her brother and new beau do.  The two new characters… while I don’t really want them in the party, they are at least amusing for the time being.  The beau, Roderick, is a knight-in-shining-armor-type of guy who just isn’t equipped to slay the demons like Guts and company.  Farnese’s brother is a coward, though, and has no problem cowering behind little Schierke in a fight.  I kind of liked that.

And… now I have to wait for new volumes like everyone else.  Bah.

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