SKnet: 20 Years Later

Gobolatula

praise be to grail!
Walter, this is great so far. It's really bringing back great memories. I've been around here since '07 and associate this site with Berserk itself. Berserk is such a huge part of my life and this community has been so awesome over the years. There's nothing like the thrill of a new episode thread popping up and reading / taking part in the discussion. The theorizing / speculation about the future of the series, or even speculating on what's going to happen based on preview images is such a blast.

One thing that I love about SKnet, its administrators, and the community is that we really push supporting Kentarou Miura by purchasing his work. It seems like an obvious thing to do, but it instilled in me this sort of duty to support artists / content creators that I love and to spread that notion to others as well.

Reading about the events that lead up to SKnet becoming the site that I knew when I first joined is fascinating. Thank you for sharing all this, Walter. You're awesome.

On a side note, the interview with Miura was a legendary moment. Oh, and you guys' interview with his brother Kentarou was pretty amazing too.
 

Aazealh

Administrator
Staff member
One particular bit not mentioned in your summary (probably rightfully so) was the ancient, glitchy Flash chatroom. By today's standards, it was almost impossible to use, but that is where I feel like I made the most immediate connections with other users. I have very fond memories of spending my 2006 summer vacation chatting (literally the ENTIRE day), with fellow SK folks, eagerly awaiting the new episodes, and attempting to break the chat bot that you guys let loose in there every once in a while
I did tell him to include a mention of FlashChat but he didn't listen! :judo: That thing ruled but had an unfortunate second or so of latency that definitely made it a little frustrating to use. But still, I have fond memories of it. The Discord just isn't quite the same to me, in large part because the few times I checked it out I didn't recognize any of the people there besides you...
 

Walter

Administrator
Staff member
Sure, I just didn't have a lot to add about FlashChat, other than what it was—a chat platform integrated to the forum that allowed SKnet members to speak in real-time for the first time. I also remember spending some late nights with members. Chat can be addictive, particularly if you're interacting with someone you've already met through the forum. You got a better sense for their personality by reading their replies in real-time than you got from the polished, rehearsed posts they made on the forum. And yeah, we had some pretty hilarious pre-programmed chatbots that were intended to keep conversations moving when the chat would otherwise be empty. We named one of them MECHA-XECH, after forum member Xechnao, who would write lengthy posts about complete nonsense. You couldn't shut him up, and you couldn't stop MECHA-XECH once we unleashed him.

As for our Discord channel, the fact that it hasn't thrived has more to do with the fact that most of us are old, and don't use Discord. It's on a separate platform, and not built right into the forum like FlashChat was. If it were one click away, carried over our forum usernames, and we pushed it regularly around the timing of big events like episode releases, it could probably be more of a big deal.
 

Oburi

All praise Grail
The thing that really made the chat worth it was when a new episode was released and members could just pour in and talk in real time. I'm specifically thinking of around episode 304 when the preview was released showing Skullknight striking Femto with the Beherit sword. I'll always remember that as a great moment of not just Berserk, but for the site as well because it blew our collective minds and everyone was in the chat losing their shit. That was probably my favorite day on Skullknight after the Miura letter.

one thing that I love about SKnet, its administrators, and the community is that we really push supporting Kentarou Miura by purchasing his work. It seems like an obvious thing to do, but it instilled in me this sort of duty to support artists / content creators that I love and to spread that notion to others as well.
That and the fact that this site sets such a good example for other forums out there with the way discussions are organized and moderated and facts are upheld. I'm sure everyone at some point has gone to other forums for other interests only to be disappointed and annoyed at how much chaos there can be. Like a kindergarten room without adults. Obviously Sk.net is dedicated to Berserk, but it still sets a good precedent for how different people from all over can come together for a greater good in a civil and meaningful way without disrespecting the work or each other. Especially in todays world of fake news and opinion=facts, I'm so grateful this site exists for my greatest obsession ever, Berserk.

Dark Horse may have strayed from the path from time to time, but this forum has always delivered with the utmost respect.
 
I have known SK.net for 6 or 7 years, but just created an account a few days ago. It's hard to believe that SK.net is one year older than me =))

I'm trying to expand my knowledge about Berserk recently. And every thread, every Podcast helps me a lot. Berserk is not really popular in Vietnam, but i will do my best to expand my own community - like you guys did with SK.net! xD

Thank you for everything!
 
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NightCrawler

Aeons gone, vast, mad and deathless
This thread has been a wonderful read for an old fart like me. I lurked BSOM and used to be post on the hawks forum (shame) before joining SK back in 02.
I miss Oekaki (couldn't find my shitty drawings in the archive :judo:).
What about Griffith's troll account (can't remember the name) that was used to "clean" the mess that was Shootin' the Breeze back then? Fun times.
 

Walter

Administrator
Staff member
7.
Friendships and the Future


Over these 20 years, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting several members of SKnet in person, though not as many as you might expect.

Each visit in person has reinforced to me the power of the internet to shrink distances down to milliseconds. Crossing these geographic boundaries in person is an expensive undertaking. In practical life, balancing personal life with work life, these are once or twice-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

The SKnet admin alumni is the perfect example of this geographic problem. Griffith lives in California, I live in Maryland, and Aazealh lives in France. This 5,000-mile coastal discrepancy makes scheduling a podcast across the time zones a bit of a crunch. Griff will just be waking up, and Aazealh will have just finished dinner. As a result of this distance, the three of us have never been in the same place at the same time. I’ve met Griffith only once and Aazealh twice—though the last was just for a few hours (but we still managed to record a podcast!).


Griffith in Georgia (2003)

Griffith and I had talked so much online over the years that finally meeting him in person one night in Georgia in 2003 seemed merely like formality. We slipped right into the same groove without issue.

Griffith happened to be in Georgia because he was visiting a friend of his in Atlanta, which was just a hop away from Athens, where I was going to college. So we arranged to meet up—at the premiere of X-Men 2. Why X-Men 2? Well, we were both going to see it anyway, may as well make that the drop-zone. Afterward, we crashed at a nearby friend’s house who had an actual cabinet of TMNT The Arcade Game. The next day we drove to Athens for one of the many weekend parties with my friends, listening to the Mario RPG soundtrack on the trip (“you have this in your CAR?!”).

As the years have piled up, it feels insane that we’ve only met once. But that’s how things go when you’re across coasts.

Griffith:

"Like Walter, I've also had the good fortune of meeting the SK.net admins in person. Walter and Cronus in Georgia back in 2002, and Aaz this last year, who also met my family and joined us for a meal together (oven pizza, made it myself =).
This retrospective project by Walter has been an awesome trip down memory lane. I first heard about Berserk from a guy in high school that basically described it as this killer black knight with a sword the size of a tree. I imagined Nightmare from SoulCalibur, whose best friend becomes a demon, cuts his arm off and rapes his girlfriend. What!? Well then, that sure sounded heavier than the next Super Saiyan power level. I recall specifically being intrigued by how characters could suffer the kind of trauma described and... continue on (shouldn't the story be over =)? So he let me borrow the Chinese sub VCDs and the rest was history. There's probably thousands of stories like that for Berserk fans, if not more.
Berserk, BSOM, and SK.net have been such a prominent part of my daily life for decades now. I feel like it's as much about ourselves, our personal online journey, gross as that sounds, as it is about Berserk. Our history in this community is also our history on the internet and growing up on it. I'm not an active member of any other message board. In general I find them all to be either too big or too small, which sometimes SK.net can feel like when I really want to shoot the shit on something and nobody's home, but usually it's just right, especially for those times I want to be away and not miss too much.
I think SKnet succeeded where others have failed because we simply had and have the goods: Scans (back in the day), translations, summaries, analysis, discussion, and speculation. The long answer of what keeps this ship afloat is FRIENDship and the community itself—Walter most of all. It's not an accident we're still here while even other hyper-focused and deeply influential members, ones that know far more about Berserk than I ever will, aren't. Walter has kept it interesting and moving, even as he was moving into different phases of his life. He never just dropped it and us, like most of us would have for one good reason or another. His limitless passion for the series and this community around it, up to and including this project, explains why he and therefore we have lasted this long."


SKnet Meetup in Paris (2005)

In 2005, I visited Puella and Aazealh at their home near Paris, staying with them for a little more than a week. They met on Skullknight.NET and later married, which made me an indirect matchmaker. Aaz graciously served as my tour guide around the country’s typical spots: The Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame cathedral, Versailles. And when we returned each night, Puella had cooked dinner for us.

Puella:

"I came to Skullknight.net in 2001 while searching for a good international community to talk about Berserk. While I'm less active than I used to be, I still check the forum regularly to stay up to date and read what others have to say. I believe that great works of art can be enjoyed throughout the different stages of one's life and the different perspectives they bring. I still find interesting new things in Berserk that I didn't 20 years ago, and I expect I still will 20 years from now.
Of course, SKnet is also where I met my husband and that makes it extra special for me. I've been translating Berserk for some years now, and while it's a lot of work I enjoy diving into Miura's words. To me he really is a great storyteller as well as a great mangaka. So I try to convey his original meaning as much as possible, and I hope our members also cherish those lines, down to the elves' little comments. This thread has been about the past, but for the future, I hope both the manga and SKnet will be brought to the next generation of readers."

On that same trip, we also made a surprise visit to Olivier Hagué, who I’ve already written about in Part 4. By this time, he had already left the forum in 2004, upset over how we handled a troll. I wanted to apologize, because his presence on the forum in the early years was important to me. Olivier had no idea we were coming, and was initially a little reserved (who wouldn't be in that scenario?). We visited a local restaurant in Paris. I got Screwdrivers for the table. And once the drinks mellowed us out, we had a great afternoon.

Aazealh and I would eventually become best friends. With only a few exceptions, we’ve chatted online about SKnet, Berserk, the state of the world, and our lives every day for the past 15 years. And it wasn’t long before I realized that the authority he wielded on Berserk was the exact thing I had been searching for with Olivier—with one big difference. Aazealh stuck around through all the drama over the years, dedicating himself to this community as much as I did.

Aazealh:

"SK.net has been a part of my life for a long time now, so much so that it’s hard to know where to begin talking about it. While it’s a little frustrating to not have been there at the very beginning, it was great to find what already felt like the definitive Berserk community when I joined in late 2002. And it has been my honor and pleasure to contribute what I could to it ever since then.
Obviously at the heart of it is my love for Berserk, a work of art that I believe should go down in history as a once-in-a-thousand-years masterpiece that transcended its medium. But beyond that, SK.net itself has given me lifelong friends and even allowed me to meet my wife. I couldn’t have asked for more.
SK.net has also been the one community that has done justice to Berserk’s greatness over the years. While it slumbers now during the long periods in-between episodes, beneath the embers lies an everlasting flame, always ready to spring back to life. Thanks, all of you, for your passion."

Matchmaking

The community has become a fated meeting spot more than I ever would have expected. Aazealh and Puella met through the site back in 2003. And longtime regulars Grail and Gobolatula also met through the forum and eventually fell for each other. I felt it was important to include their thoughts on the site, since it has a special significance for each of them. So, in their own words:

Grail and Gobolatula:

"Skullknight.net has been an extremely special site to us for nearly 15 years now; it's a digital space where sharing our love of Berserk has not only brought us joy and the opportunity to cultivate new friendships, but it's also brought us together as a couple.
Back in 2009, we first got in touch via the old oekaki board and the site's ancient Flash chatroom, and it wasn't long before we met in person. With some help from "the smooth Frenchman Aaz" (Gob's words), we began dating in 2010, and the rest is history! We both continue to check the site every day for discussion, and still feel very connected to everything going on here.
To us, it's more than just talking about the storyline of a comic, it's really about sharing enthusiasm for a life-changing story that has been a huge positive force to both of us."
The Future of Skullknight.net

This retrospective was focused on the life of the community we’ve formed over the past 20 years. But what about the next 20 years? From that vantage point, we could be beyond the ending of the series. I have been asked before, "What will you do with Skullknight.net once the series is over?"

SKnet will always be around in some form. Well after its conclusion, I will probably pack it away in a publicly explorable archive and continue to pay the bills on it until I die. A founding principle of this site was carrying the torch for Berserk when others couldn’t or wouldn't. I would never allow the accumulation of these memories to simply vanish. And besides, Aazealh and I now share Skullknight.net through a combination of domain ownership and hosting. This arrangement reflects that Aazealh has as much stake in the site as I do at this point.

I don’t think the conversation will ever be over for Berserk. The legacy of Berserk is so much bigger than the moment we’re trapped in now. It’s a series that will have an impact of 100 years or more, reaching millions of new readers in that span of time. I feel proud to have helped usher some of that enthusiasm for a brief part of its life.

One of the primary qualities of Berserk that I’ve found so special is that it has endured for so long without losing its vitality. I believe a key reason for the retention of the series’ glow was mentioned by Miura in a 2019 interview around Duranki’s release (translation courtesy of Puella):

“I've never been bored with Berserk, and no episode has made me think ‘this episode has been imperfectly (poorly) done.’ It's probably because it's not a manga where the same patterns are repeated. I draw the essential themes with ‘hard work’ (he uses an onomatopoeia) and then go to the next theme. I mean I challenge myself to do something new each time.”

At the core of Berserk is a fire that doesn’t burn out. It endures because Miura has dedicated his life to keeping it lit by never settling in a formulaic pattern. I don’t think it’s mere obsession that keeps me and others hooked on Berserk. Despite our scrutiny, Miura still finds creative ways to surprise us.

Skullknight.net has its own fire that doesn't burn out—our community. We would have no reason to continue operating this site for 20 years if the community stopped creating thought-provoking companion discussions for the series. Members of new and old blood mix together in the new episodes thread, and it will until the series ends.

At the end of this long recap of everything SKnet, I want to thank each and every one who has helped by contributing their love and passions for Berserk to our site over the years. You’re the reason we’re still around, and will stay vital until the series is finally over. And after that, we'll do our best to help keep the flame alive.
 

Grail

Feel the funk blast
A great conclusion to a thoughtful and informative retrospective series, Walter!

SK.net is a truly unique community that has been around for so many "stages" of fanhood for those of us who have been on here for more than a few years. From the moment we typed in "Berserk manga forum" ready to dish on all of our hot takes ("Griffith and Guts BOTH have pointy ears?? Coincidence? I THINK NOT!!" :ganishka:) to now, when many of us have become knowledgeable enough to field questions to newbies with ease. It's been cool to see that transformation in myself, who was once too shy to post anywhere but the oekaki, and in others who are have discussed the series for so many years here. I'm happy to say that I made friendships here that will last for years beyond the run of the manga. Cheers to you all for 20 years, and here's to many more. :slan:
 
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Kompozinaut

Sylph Sword
Loved reading this, Walter. I got a real blast of nostalgia thinking about my own history with SK.net and how/where it all fit in. I have always wished I would have gotten more involved with the forums much earlier. I think I was intimidated by the high quality posts and knowledge floating around and I didn't want to make an ass of myself. It was several years before I even made my first post, and even longer before I started posting somewhat regularly. I'm very thankful for this community. It's been a part of my life for over 15 years, and it's just as much a part of my life as Berserk is. Thanks again for putting this together, Walter!
 
Walter, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this thread seeing the journey of this site and its members. Even when I am relatively new to this series and to this website compared to most members, I can greatly appreciate the legacy behind both of them. It is thanks to Kentaro Miura who worked on this series and fanned a great flame in this community. It is thanks to Walter that many fans have a home to cultivate discussion about Berserk and forge lifelong relationships. And it is thanks to the people of SKnet that are keeping the flame alight for all this time with great discussions and threads about the manga. For everyone in this amazing community, I offer you my sincerest gratitude. Long live Berserk and SK.net!
 
I cannot begin to explain how important Berserk and SK.net are to me. I joined during one of the darkest times of my life (I even considered abandoning Berserk shortly after registering on the forum). I recovered several months later, and one of the first and most memorable things I did was fall in love with the series all over again and get caught up to the episodic releases. That summer of finally catching up to where everyone else was and participating in the community is one of my most cherished memories. I’ve been following the series episodically since episode 243, Superior Being, and I haven’t looked back. I’ve made great friends along the way (I remember chatting with Walter, a.k.a. Mayor McCheese on AIM often in those days) and have learned to appreciate Miura’s masterpiece more than I ever could have on my own. Thank you, Walter, Aazealh and Griffith for everything you do. SK.net is one of my favorite places to hang out. Here’s to another 20 years!
 
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