I was in the middle of writing a different blog post here tonight when the news broke with the sudden passing of Kentaro Miura. Miura was known for creating the manga series Berserk, or as my friends call it, That Fucking Thing Ramona Won’t Stop Bugging Us To Read. I’ve talked about it elsewhere, but never really here on my site, but I am a huge fan of Berserk. It’s late, and I’m still honestly in shock over the news, so I figured I would just talk about Berserk and its influence on me personally.
My introduction to Berserk was actually about twenty years ago. I had seen some screenshots of the Dreamcast game, and the body horror element caught my eye. I didn’t really think about Berserk much after that; I didn’t care for the game at the time because I was an immature idiot who simply did not know how to Get Good at games, and I didn’t finish it until a few years ago. My introduction to Berserk proper, as in the manga, would have been around 2017. I had seen a couple of friends talk about the series, and I was bored one night, so I went to one of those sketchy scanslation web sites and proceeded to binge the entire series until the early morning.
Finally sitting down to read Berserk was a moment in my life that felt like it had been a long time coming. I had never, and still have not, ever found a piece of media more relatable than Berserk. It’s the story of a man, Guts, born in literal filth, abused within a horrible upbringing, trying to find his place world. When he finally does, it’s all taken away in a horrific, traumatic way, leaving him broken, angry, and with the inability to trust anyone anymore. All Guts wants is revenge. He’s led by anger, occasionally stopping to do the right thing in a real jerk-off way. His friends are dead. The only person he’s ever truly loved is catatonic. Every night, he’s attacked by demons and spirits, summoned by a painful mark on his body, and sometimes even possessed by a manifestation of his own rage. During the day time, Guts is considered a criminal, and is frequently being arrested or attacked. All this, because he wanted a place to finally belong, and believed the words of a charismatic sociopath who ultimately betrayed him. Of course I loved the story of Berserk!
I can only think about how many years I’ve been fueled by my own anger. A desire for some sense of “justice,” whatever the fuck that might mean, for things that happened to me, and the people in my life. The self-loathing at feeling used. Not knowing if the next person who came along was legitimate, or if they had an angle.
Then there’s the next part of the story. Guts eventually amasses a small party of people who are just as fucked up and weird as he is. Before, Berserk was a story of a violent edgelord on a quest for revenge. Now? Now it’s a story of finding hope in an increasingly fucked world, making life better for the people around you, and you start to question that large screaming voice in your head: would revenge really fix everything? Let me tell you, it is hard to ignore the years of pain. It is hard to not feel small amounts of joy when those who have harmed you stumble slightly (see example: that whole thing I wrote when a bunch of shitheads were being shitty to Nathalie Lawhead). It is hard not to go back to being a reclusive asshole who doesn’t need nobody, even though you have a whole group of friends behind you. Berserk is important, and an influence on my work and my life because of all of this.
This news hurts as a fan. Hurts even more as an artist. Something that I have based my entire life around, especially in recent years, is being real. Miura was an artist who was 100% real. He made a series that was problematic as fuck, loaded with sex, violence, and sexual violence. But he didn’t do it simply for shock value (barring one particular arc that we don’t talk about and ultimately means nothing to the greater plot). No, there was a reason for the graphic decapitations and rape and torture and fountains of blood shooting out of monster and human alike. It was to highlight the corruption of authority; of politics and religion. To highlight the futility of war. To highlight things like xenophobia and racism. It was brutality with a message. There are few things in this world that manage to both be hard to look at, and also the most beautiful work of art you’ve ever seen, but Berserk did that. I love it.
The news of Kentaro Miura’s death fucking sucks. There’s no other real way to describe it. It hurts more than I thought it would, hurts more than any recent “notable” deaths. I can only hope that I can take that influence of Miura’s in a positive direction, and I can make something that’s at least a fraction as good as Berserk someday.