Is Berserk "perfect" ? What do you not like about it?

I think the opening shows its age a little. It demonstrates guts to be a hypermasculine psycho which, in fairness, he is at this low point in his character, but I don't really feel having sex with an apostle is consistent with the rest of guts' character. You can headcannon (hah) what circumstances would bring out this behaviour in guts but fundamentally, I feel that making this the opening scene leads the naive reader to associate guts with a kind of macho sexuality (he's using sex and explosions as tandem weapons ffs) that is at odds with what we later learn about him. Plus it probably turns off a lot of readers who would otherwise love the series. I think the mysterious introduction given to guts in the 1997 show is a better hook. He still comes off as a badass and a psycho (he steps on the knife embedded into a dude's shoulder! Iss nasty!) but without the edgy sex-and-guns vibe.
 

Victor

"Don't forget your poison arrows"
You can headcannon (hah) what circumstances would bring out this behaviour in guts
There is no need for any headcannon, the Black Swordsman Arc takes place after the events of the Eclipse, and before the Conviction Arc. Guts is in a most bitter, lonely and vindictive state. It's quite clear what circumstances brought out that behaviour in him. As a new reader, you learn how this development came to be by following the story and getting to know the character, and you realize he is not just a hypermasculine psycho. This is just an example of good storytelling.

I feel that making this the opening scene leads the naive reader to associate guts with a kind of macho sexuality (he's using sex and explosions as tandem weapons ffs)
I don't believe any writer should create something with the self-imposed limitation caused by the concern of "what will the naive reader think of this", wouldn't you agree? Really good things can be difficult to appreciate properly. If some people are completely put off by that introduction, then it's their loss at the end of the day, and there is nothing that can be done about it.

Anyway, if you'd like to read more opinions about this topic, and find some counterarguments that might change your perspective a little bit, I direct you to this thread.
 
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There is no need for any headcannon, the Black Swordsman Arc takes place after the events of the Eclipse, and before the Conviction Arc. Guts is in a most bitter, lonely and vindictive state. It's quite clear what circumstances brought out that behaviour in him. As a new reader, you learn how this development came to be by following the story and getting to know the character, and you realize he is not just a hypermasculine psycho. This is just an example of good storytelling.



I don't believe any writer should create something with the self-imposed limitation caused by the concern of "what will the naive reader think of this", wouldn't you agree? Really good things can be difficult to appreciate properly. If some people are completely put off by that introduction, then it's their loss at the end of the day, and there is nothing that can be done about it.

Anyway, if you'd like to read more opinions about this topic, and find some counterarguments that might change your perspective a little bit, I direct you to this thread.
Fair, I accept the reasoning for this being in character. I'm not sure I agree with you however on the point of how the author should approach a new reader. Any author has to be aware that the first scene they write sets the tone for the reader, and can reasonably expect that people will either keep reading or put the story down based on how they feel about the first few pages. The opening of Berserk is clearly tailored to the 80s seinen market. Of course, at the time, that was exactly Miura's target audience, so in that sense it's not a flaw. But the story leans so hard into that tone and aesthetic for its first couple chapters that it's hard to convince modern audiences that there's more to it than that, and that's frustrating as someone who wishes more people could experience the emotional depth of the whole story. So in that sense, it's a thing I personally don't like about the story. Don't get me wrong, I certainly don't believe that any work of art is for all audiences. Berserk deals a lot with sexual violence, and some people are not going to be comfortable with that, and that's ok. But any time I tell someone to read Berserk I feel the need to provide them a caveat by saying something like "it's not what it looks like, just keep reading" and I think that's unfortunate (that or I tell them to watch the anime, and warn them to be prepared for a jarring and harsh ending that they'll need to read the manga to understand). I dunno maybe I'm just bent out of shape because I wish Berserk was approachable enough that I'd have people in my life to talk about it with :p
 

Aazealh

そうはいかぬ
Staff member
Your complaint seems pretty shallow. Guts isn't portrayed as a "hypermasculine psycho" in the Black Swordsman arc, whatever that even means. The opening scene has him trick an apostle into attacking him while thinking he's defenseless. It's 5 pages long. It shows him to be a man hunting demons and willing to go any length to do it. The rest of that first episode shows him dealing with the Snake Baron and honestly, if someone doesn't like what's in there, then they probably won't like the rest of the series either. Because at the end of the day, Berserk is the story of Guts, a man with a huge sword who hunts demons for revenge. That's what the series is all about, so if you don't like it, well... better read something else.

And on a side note, there's a remarkable amount of emotional depth for Guts in those first 90 pages. But it seems a lot of people just gloss over them. Same way they gloss over a lot of other details in the series, I guess.
 
our complaint seems pretty shallow. Guts isn't portrayed as a "hypermasculine psycho" in the Black Swordsman arc, whatever that even means. The opening scene has him trick an apostle into attacking him while thinking he's defenseless. It's 5 pages long.
I didn't say it was a flaw that broke the whole story. The OP asked if there were any flaws in or things we didn't like about Berserk. It's an interesting question given the untouchable pedestal we tend to put it on. I answered by indicating one small part of the story that I feel doesn't hold up in comparison to the rest. With all due respect, I think like Walter said, you're too close to the material. You've read so deeply into Berserk for so long that I think you've forgotten what it's like to approach it for the first time.

The rest of that first episode shows him dealing with the Snake Baron and honestly, if someone doesn't like what's in there, then they probably won't like the rest of the series either. Because at the end of the day, Berserk is the story of Guts, a man with a huge sword who hunts demons for revenge. That's what the series is all about, so if you don't like it, well... better read something else.

And on a side note, there's a remarkable amount of emotional depth for Guts in those first 90 pages. But it seems a lot of people just gloss over them. Same way they gloss over a lot of other details in the series, I guess.
As it happens, I do like the Snake Baron section, but I don't think I should have to defend myself on that. I'm here on this forum, so obviously I'm rather fond of Berserk. But it is interesting to try and think critically about the works you love. I would rather explore why it is that people feel certain ways about a story than try to defend it from people's honest reactions, because I think it's possible to learn something from such exploration. I mean if a lot of people seem to be missing things that you're seeing it might be appropriate to ask why. Is it just because everyone else reading it is a shallow moron, or is there something about the story as presented that lends itself to that reading?
 

Aazealh

そうはいかぬ
Staff member
With all due respect, I think like Walter said, you're too close to the material. You've read so deeply into Berserk for so long that I think you've forgotten what it's like to approach it for the first time.
No, I don't think so. And that doesn't mean I think Berserk is flawless either. I just don't agree with how you characterized the introduction.

I mean if a lot of people seem to be missing things that you're seeing it might be appropriate to ask why. Is it just because everyone else reading it is a shallow moron, or is there something about the story as presented that lends itself to that reading?
Well it's a fact that a good deal of readers don't pay much attention to the material. Any and all parts of it. I will refrain from passing judgment on their intellect, but I don't think it's the manga's fault.
 

Victor

"Don't forget your poison arrows"
Any author has to be aware that the first scene they write sets the tone for the reader, and can reasonably expect that people will either keep reading or put the story down based on how they feel about the first few pages.
Oh, I'm pretty sure Miura was aware of that. He purposefully introduced the main character in a way that would set the tone for the story and outline the premise, and as it seems, many people found it intriguing enough to continue reading.

The opening of Berserk is clearly tailored to the 80s seinen market. Of course, at the time, that was exactly Miura's target audience, so in that sense it's not a flaw. But the story leans so hard into that tone and aesthetic for its first couple chapters that it's hard to convince modern audiences that there's more to it than that
Well, you're pretty much adressing your own points. Berserk is an old manga, most summaries you'll find about it can tell you that it has graphic imagery and explores rather sombre themes. Any new reader going into it should expect to encounter them. If they can't stomach such things then it's better they read something else, because those are as big a part of Berserk as everything else. Pretentious millenials not being able to handle "the edgy 80s manga scene" should not be valid criticism for the story's introduction. You have to take things for what they are. It's quite simple, as you said, some works of art are not going to resonate with all audiences, and that's that.

I would rather explore why it is that people feel certain ways about a story than try to defend it from people's honest reactions, because I think it's possible to learn something from such exploration. I mean if a lot of people seem to be missing things that you're seeing it might be appropriate to ask why. Is it just because everyone else reading it is a shallow moron, or is there something about the story as presented that lends itself to that reading?
You need to keep in mind that people's honest reactions are liable to influence. Everyone has preconceptions about how things should be, there is not much value in exploring those. What we should do instead is take a proper look at what the author made and use interpretation in a way that allows us to find the true intention behind it. The idea that the beginning of Berserk shows tasteless hypermasculinity or something like that is just an instinctive notion you and other people seem to share. I don't trust it represents the true picture.
 
Well, you're pretty much addressing your own points. Berserk is an old manga, most summaries you'll find about it can tell you that it has graphic imagery and explores rather sombre themes. Any new reader going into it should expect to encounter them. If they can't stomach such things then it's better they read something else, because those are as big a part of Berserk as everything else. Pretentious millenials not being able to handle "the edgy 80s manga scene" should not be valid criticism for the story's introduction. You have to take things for what they are. It's quite simple, as you said, some works of art are not going to resonate with all audiences, and that's that.

You need to keep in mind that people's honest reactions are liable to influence. Everyone has preconceptions about how things should be, there is not much value in exploring those. What we should do instead is take a proper look at what the author made and use interpretation in a way that allows us to find the true intention behind it. The idea that the beginning of Berserk shows tasteless hypermasculinity or something like that is just an instinctive notion you and other people seem to share. I don't trust it represents the true picture.
Forgive the late reply, I realized I was having a bad week and it was bleeding into my internet-fun, so I decided not to log on for a while :p

I think our disagreement kinda hinges on what actually constitutes a flaw. Honestly, I'm not sure what the best definition is, but I would like to put forward that a flaw is a something that prevents a work of art from being powerful to its audience. Of course the problem with that definition is that you have to define which audience should be considered - the intended audience is probably a good starting point, but sometimes most people consuming a piece of art are not who the artist expected to consume it, and sometimes the intended audience changes over time. I'm not totally satisfied with this definition (the term "powerful" is pretty wishy washy too :p ) , so if you have a better one, by all means, put it forward. Perhaps someone wiser in literary analysis can reveal a more reliable definition of a flaw that we can agree on.

Anyway, to the point of the scene I happen to personally not like all that much: I think we agree that Berserk has changed over time as Miura adapts to his changing audience over its nearly 30 years of publication. From the perspective of publishing a serial work of art, this is as it should be. Each new installment has to resonate with the audience buying that installment at the time of its publication, so adapting to suit the times is not a flaw. On the other hand, from the perspective of a singular work, analyzed at a particular moment in time this can cause parts of it to feel different, even jarring to audience members who became invested at a different time. Having jumped into the series much later, this is how I felt when I read the very first scene. Disconnected. (side note: part of this can probably be blamed on the fact that I started with the anime. Does that matter? Depends on yours stance on the extent to which art can be evaluated in a vacuum. There are probably various valid stances to take.)

For an extreme example, look at Dr Who, which has been running for 50 years. The earlier seasons were crafted for an audience who has an entirely different relationship to TV than modern ones do, and it shows: many modern viewers tend to find those early seasons really hard to watch because of the extended plots designed for families to tune in to once a week. Equally, some older audience members who became invested precisely because of this style of storytelling may find that the newer stuff has too much flash and bang, and doesn't spend enough time developping its stories. Again, it's not a flaw if you're just looking at how well each scene works for the audience of its day. But I would argue that it's a pitfall inherent to long-running, serially-released narratives. As the audience gradually changes, so too does the ever-adaptable author. For me, that means some of the gorier stuff in early chapters doesn't resonate. For some others, they miss the balls-to-the-walls intensity, and lament how introspective the series became in the early chapters of the Elf Island arc when I first started reading release-by-release.

tl;dr subjectivity is a tricky business :p
 

Aazealh

そうはいかぬ
Staff member
I think we agree that Berserk has changed over time as Miura adapts to his changing audience over its nearly 30 years of publication.
This is a really flawed way of thinking, no pun intended. Miura does not write for his audience in the way you mean it. He simply creates the story he wants to create to the best of his abilities. Like most authors, mind you. The idea that he would try to guess what the audience wants and then adapt the story to please the readers is really, really wrong, and in fact he's said as much in an interview recently. But really, no self-respecting author does that. If anything, because you can't please everybody.

side note: part of this can probably be blamed on the fact that I started with the anime. Does that matter?
It probably influenced your expectations about what the series should or shouldn't be, so I would say that it helps us understand how your opinion was formed.

For me, that means some of the gorier stuff in early chapters doesn't resonate. For some others, they miss the balls-to-the-walls intensity, and lament how introspective the series became in the early chapters of the Elf Island arc when I first started reading release-by-release.
Individual issues of Berserk are called episodes, not chapters. Chapters are specific sections of the story that regroup a number of episodes. Like the Chapter of the Elf Island for example, which is itself a subdivision of the Fantasia arc. If you wish to know more, feel free to consult this handy guide.

Putting that aside, I find your example amusing. I'd say episode 351 is as oppressive and disturbing as pretty much anything else in the series. I'd also say the fight against the Sea God was pretty damn intense. And I'll add that there were a lot of introspective scenes during the Black Swordsman, Golden Age, Conviction and Millennium Falcon arcs. It just sounds to me like a classic case of people being unhappy with having to wait for releases, and translating that to finding that the current section of the story isn't quite as good as the rest. You'd probably be surprised to know all the things people have complained about on this forum over the years. Things newer readers such as yourself might find amazing in the wider context of the story.
 

jackson_hurley

even the horses are cut in half!
I remember the pre-ship complaining, then the boat trip complaining as two good examples here.:serpico:

One thing that comes to mind with the "extreme" example of Doctro Who you provided is that its long running tv show. Its apt to have a lot of different aspects over time and since a whole bunch of different writers works on said show it will almost inevitably have to "please" to audience somehow. Especially since it's on tv. Comparing that to a story written by one autor only is not in my opinion a very good comparison to make.

Same could be said in regular american comics where you have a ton of different creative teams working on a singular title; it follows most of the time what's popular in the world.

I'm not sure what I'm trying to write is clear though so I'm sorry about that.
 

Victor

"Don't forget your poison arrows"
I think our disagreement kinda hinges on what actually constitutes a flaw. Honestly, I'm not sure what the best definition is, but I would like to put forward that a flaw is a something that prevents a work of art from being powerful to its audience.
I'm not sure what you're trying to say by powerful. A flaw, in the context we've been discussing, means something that hinders the quality of the story. I was under the impression that this had already been clear to both of us and our disagreement has to do with whether or not the story's introduction is a flaw, not with the definition of a flaw. I can't help but notice you're making this more complicated than it needs to be.

I think we agree that Berserk has changed over time as Miura adapts to his changing audience over its nearly 30 years of publication. From the perspective of publishing a serial work of art, this is as it should be. Each new installment has to resonate with the audience buying that installment at the time of its publication, so adapting to suit the times is not a flaw.
I agree with everything Aazealh had to say in response to this, so there's not much I can add. The changes Berserk has undergone throughout the years have nothing to do with Miura adapting to anyone, it's simply his natural evolution as a writer and artist, which reflects in his work.

(side note: part of this can probably be blamed on the fact that I started with the anime. Does that matter? Depends on yours stance on the extent to which art can be evaluated in a vacuum. There are probably various valid stances to take.)
I also started with the 1997 anime (if that's the one you are referring to) and so far I don't relate to any of your complaints; so from personal experience, the anime didn't influence me in any major way. It's worth noting that you should generally separate different mediums and treat them accordingly, as a rule of thumb.

But I would argue that it's a pitfall inherent to long-running, serially-released narratives. As the audience gradually changes, so too does the ever-adaptable author.
As jackson_hurley suggested, Berserk is different from other long-running works like Doctor Who. It is the creation of a single individual, and it fully represents their vision, which is often the case with mangaka and this area of Japanese culture. It's a much more neatly tied and cohesive progression, and the only so called inconsistencies that happen do so because the author is continously evolving along with his work. The pitfalls you speak of don't apply to Berserk in the same way and to the same extent, if at all.

For me, that means some of the gorier stuff in early chapters doesn't resonate. For some others, they miss the balls-to-the-walls intensity, and lament how introspective the series became in the early chapters of the Elf Island arc when I first started reading release-by-release.
There are people who favour certain parts above the rest, nothing particularly wrong with that. The important thing, however, which you are forgetting, is that one must be able to indentify their partiality and understand that just becasue some bits resonate with you (or a certain audience/generation of readers) more doesn't make the ones that don't flawed or inferior based purely on that. I feel like the segmented way in which you look at the story is not the right approach for criticism. It's simply too superficial. You try to argue why a certain section of Berserk is flawed when you don't even seem to understand how its natural evolution came to be or how impressively robust it all is despite soon being 30 years old.
 
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This is a really flawed way of thinking, no pun intended. Miura does not write for his audience in the way you mean it. He simply creates the story he wants to create to the best of his abilities. Like most authors, mind you. The idea that he would try to guess what the audience wants and then adapt the story to please the readers is really, really wrong, and in fact he's said as much in an interview recently. But really, no self-respecting author does that. If anything, because you can't please everybody.
Thank you for the link to the interview, I was unaware of it. If you know of a good translation, this too would be appreciated. Since I don't know what the interview actually contains, I will refrain from commenting further on this, lest I make further uninformed statements.

Individual issues of Berserk are called episodes, not chapters. Chapters are specific sections of the story that regroup a number of episodes. Like the Chapter of the Elf Island for example, which is itself a subdivision of the Fantasia arc. If you wish to know more, feel free to consult this handy guide.
Aw feck. I forgot, my bad.

One thing that comes to mind with the "extreme" example of Doctro Who you provided is that its long running tv show. Its apt to have a lot of different aspects over time and since a whole bunch of different writers works on said show it will almost inevitably have to "please" to audience somehow. Especially since it's on tv. Comparing that to a story written by one author only is not in my opinion a very good comparison to make.
Solid point. Now that you mention it, I think I have heard it suggested that Miura enjoys a certain freedom from editorial pressure that not all mangaka do (thus allowing the erratic release schedule). I don't remember where I heard it, and I'm not sure if it's true in any way, but if it is, it would further weaken my comparison.

I'm not sure what you're trying to say by powerful. A flaw, in the context we've been discussing, means something that hinders the quality of the story. I was under the impression that this had already been clear to both of us and our disagreement has to do with whether or not the story's introduction is a flaw, not with the definition of a flaw. I can't help but notice you're making this more complicated than it needs to be.
I mean it's hard to have a productive argument about whether something is a flaw or not if it's not clear how to define what a flaw is. Your definition avoids the vagueness of the word power, but replaces it with the nebulous term "quality." Personally I don't find either to be terribly satisfying, but I guess at least yours sounds a little less granola. Anyway at this point I'm not going to argue about it anymore. If it's not something you're interested in discussing, fair enough, I won't bother.
 

Aazealh

そうはいかぬ
Staff member
Now that you mention it, I think I have heard it suggested that Miura enjoys a certain freedom from editorial pressure that not all mangaka do (thus allowing the erratic release schedule). I don't remember where I heard it, and I'm not sure if it's true in any way, but if it is, it would further weaken my comparison.
He basically enjoys the same freedom all successful authors do. Besides, quality takes times, especially for a long-running series like Berserk, and Miura worked ceaselessly for 15 years before he started to slow down.
 

Victor

"Don't forget your poison arrows"
I mean it's hard to have a productive argument about whether something is a flaw or not if it's not clear how to define what a flaw is. Your definition avoids the vagueness of the word power, but replaces it with the nebulous term "quality." Personally I don't find either to be terribly satisfying, but I guess at least yours sounds a little less granola. Anyway at this point I'm not going to argue about it anymore. If it's not something you're interested in discussing, fair enough, I won't bother.
Seems to me like you're just trying to avoid the actual argument by going into this pretence about the meaning being unclear, because you don't want to admit to your superficiality. The word flaw already has a meaning, it's an imperfection or shortcoming that lowers the standard (or quality) of something. This talk about vagueness and nebulosity is superfluous gibberish, no offense. The purpose of this thread and discussion has been quite literal.

I don't think it's me who's not interested in discussing, but I don't care all that much. Most of what was worth saying has already been said, so it's fine by me either way.
 
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