On May 6, celebrated manga artist Kentaro Miura died at the age 54 from an aortic dissection. However, his death wasn’t announced to the public until just a few days ago.
His dark, blood-soaked, and detailed fantasy series, Berserk, is one of the bestselling mangas of all time. He created these epic adventures from the late 1980s until just before his death. Combined they have sold more than 50 million copies.
Despite my college-aged daughter owning enough manga to open her own book stand, and both my husband and I enjoying more and more of these series ourselves, I had never heard of Miura or his most famous work until I saw announcements of his death from fellow writers and pop culture aficionados, as well as many artists whose work I admire.
I read social media posts and small articles on how much Miura influenced others’ works or got them into the manga genre. And I scanned other comments and perused some impressive fanart from superfans who will miss his vast, imaginative world and character building.
I immediately wanted to know more about this manga. That same evening my husband came home and asked me if I heard about Berserk? Apparently he follows a similar cadre of artists as I do. He beat me to the punch in calling the local booksellers looking for the first volumes of the series. We found the first issue of the first story arc, The Black Swordsman, and this time I beat my husband in reading it.
I raced through it. I wanted to see where it was heading. And I instantly knew I wanted the other two books in the story arc. These were nowhere to be found in the local bookstores, nor the ones in our neighboring city thirty miles away. Thus, Amazon it was…and I am patiently awaiting their arrival.
The World of Berserk
Berserk is one of those stories that will appeal to lovers of manga as well as fantasy or horror buffs. There are elements of Game of Thrones, The Witcher, and Labyrinth, with a little bit of Evil Dead tossed in. There are also many elements that stand alone, including the multi-tiered anti-hero of the mercenary Guts, and Muira’s ability to bring a gorgeous sense of depth into his illustration. And there are undead legions, smart-mouthed fairy-like elves, an epic metal arm and crossbow that Guts can use to pinpoint precision, and a massive, massive sword.
Muira’s series inspired anime and film, video games, and a few death metal songs. And yet I had never even heard of him until I saw the memorials.
Here’s a peek at the circa 2016 series.
This is one of these weird “positives” about the death of a creative person; it causes a ripple effect. The curious, the newcomers, and those who just never got around to taking a closer look at a person’s work get caught in the wave of memory and use it as an excuse to discover them. Some people use it as a reason to buy up extra copies of a certain publication, and try to make some extra money on the secondary market. We learned the hard way when we wanted to pick up the first volume of Dark Horse’s Berserk deluxe edition. Some just want to make sure they have a piece of the legacy. It was also recently reported just after Miura’s death, the first eight volumes of the deluxe editions skyrocketed into the top 100 bestselling books of all time of Amazon.
It is a sad thing to only learn about an author (or musician or artist) after they die, but that’s one of beautiful things about artistic individuals. Their legacy stays alive for others to discover, or rediscover. As late as I am to the game, I am always excited to jump into a new series of which I know nothing and have no preconceived opinions.
If you haven’t heard of Miura or Berserk, don’t feel it is too late to discover his work. Although the man himself has left this earth, he bestowed the rest of us with the harrowing and vicious journey of Guts and his life’s journey.
For those like me who have only just began reading Miura, it is a mixed blessing to be able to start this series that has long been celebrated by others, but is a new frontier for me.
Goodbye and godspeed, Kentaro Miura. Thank you for being one of those creators whose work will continue to be new and powerful to those who followed your works for years, for those who have just now discovered you, and those who will pick up an old copy of Berserk somewhere in the future and embark on their own, new adventure.