SKNet's Great Berserk Exhibition Review


Staff member
We're back from Sapporo after spending several days visiting Japan to see the Great Berserk Exhibition! Photos weren't allowed for most of the show, so I've written up my own observations and insights along with things we learned together while experiencing it day after day. We're also releasing four podcasts we recorded together in our room after each day about the show and our adventures through Sapporo. Those podcasts, roughly an hour each, are being released daily right now to our Patreon subscribers and will be added to our regular podcast feed in two weeks!


(Great Berserk Exhibition)

The Sapporo exhibition is the fifth of its kind since it first started its tour in Tokyo in September 2021 (Tokyo > Osaka > Nagoya > Tokyo > Sapporo). Of course, this is the first time any foreigner has been able to see the exhibition, due to COVID restrictions keeping Japan's borders closed until late last year.

So finally, after crossing half the world to be there, our group of four (Walter, Aazealh, Grail, and Gobolatula) arrived on Day 1 of the exhibition within about 20 minutes of it opening its doors. That’s mostly because I had insisted that we walk and make a true pilgrimage of it. We would go there four times over the next four days, and each time we'd see something new. It never felt like enough time, and I keep hoping that I'll get another chance to see this art again one day.


The event is on the third floor of the Sapporo Factory, an indoor mall that's very much like what you would find in the states, with a huge atrium overhead, a food court at the bottom, an arcade, and a furniture store. There's even a little elevator with a Sapporo beer can facade. As you rounded the corner on the third floor, you're greeted by the standard slashing Guts image, next to some grayscale painted art. Inside, there was a replica dragon slayer halfway in the ground, allowing people to take selfies of themselves looking like Guts on the cover of Volume 38.


Next to this, there was a growing display of flowers sent by various organizations. The first day, there was a set of flowers commemorating the Sapporo exibition directly from the Memorial Edition team. The second day, a flower arrangement arrived from Hakusensha, and on the third, another arrangement, but I forgot to check who they were from.

A team behind plexiglass would ask for your ticket, or you could purchase your ticket right there for 1,600 yen (about $12). A trinket+ticket bundle runs you 4,800 yen (about $37), including a very nice little metal dragon slayer, or you can pay a bit less to get a Puck zipper holder.

As you step into the exhibition proper, you hear Susumu Hirasawa music played on loop, including a Forces remix (2016), Hai Yo, Aria, and Sign. The first thing you'll see is a replica Dragon Slayer and a miniature of Guts' prosthetic arm. As you go a bit further in, you'd see a replica of Griffith's Falcon helmet. This first portion of the exhibition is character-focused, with huge backlit character art next to some text explaining their backstories. It's possible this was pulled from the newer volumes, but I haven't checked yet. Other than an interesting technique of backlighting the art, it's not really worth writing home about, but here I am doing exactly that. We cruised right by this to get to the main event.


The first original art piece on display is a painting from Volume 5, knights on horseback departing Wyndham. It's around here that it first struck me that these were the real deal. They are more vibrant than what we've seen before, and you can see the stray strokes of the pen or brush that weren't included in the mass produced versions of these pieces of art. That authenticity carried a weight that I really didn't expect, and regularly caught me off guard. Occasionally, this felt like being short of breath. That definitely happened when I first saw the actual spread of Femto and Skull Knight on top of Ganishka. That was a moment worth remembering.

If you've seen any of the two-page spread reproductions that are being sold at the exhibition, then you have a good understanding of the most significant portion of the show. There were more than 170 pieces on display, including color reproductions and originals, and they were arranged throughout the circuitous exhibit by narrative chronology (from Golden Age to Fantasia), not actual chronology (Black Swordsman to Fantasia). That adherence to the timeline of the story was discordant to me. I feel like the show would have been more natural if it were arranged by Miura's growth as an artist through Berserk's publication.

The presentation of these pieces was exquisite. They used high quality frames and arranged the track lighting to provide a good spotlight for each piece without too many instances of glare highlighting the texture on the canvas. However, I found the best way to see any piece was to view it from multiple angles.

And while these pages are in essence the same art that you have already seen if you've read Berserk, seeing these larger original pieces in the context of an art gallery allowed us to absorb all the details on display and not be trapped within the page-turning nature of a manga. Adding to that, these were the original pieces that were scanned and polished for publication. For example, thin blue lines were visible on the cropped boundaries, and on the page itself, the same blue was used to circle elements with notations added for which tones/textures would be used. Full black elements were not full black yet, and you could see each stroke.

Photos of these original pages weren't allowed, so all I have to demonstrate this to you are a few of my own two-page reproductions I bought from the show:


These were full of blemishes from corrections, and all the details not captured beyond the crop markings of the page. Seeing these pages, you got the sense of being able to peek over the shoulder of Miura as he created Berserk. It felt like an essential experience for fans who care enough about it to admire all the details that bring it to life.

Each wall usually had several pieces, paired in two rows, one above the other, and the distribution was more favorable for the Golden Age and Fantasia than the other arcs, and the selections also favored two-page spreads over single pages, which was a bit of a bummer, but I understand that we can't have everything in one exhibit. As an example of where it felt lacking, nothing from Volume 24 was shown, and all of Lost Children only has three spreads shown. Several pieces from the Trading Card Game were also there. These were mostly pencil + watercolor, with a handful that were just pencil. Konami's people would later add color for the cards. Those felt special to me, because while the look of screen tones and ink on professional paper is somewhat foreign to me, the look of pencil on paper is very grounded and familiar to me.

Somewhat arbitrarily scattered throughout are statues of Berserk characters, including Prime 1 and Art of War. These didn't do much for me, but the locals in Sapporo really stopped to admire them. Perhaps it was because these statues were among the only things that you were allowed to photograph.

There were also a few dioramas, including a collection of Kuri Pucks (the best!), the Eclipse (no photos allowed, but you didn't miss much), and an oversized Zodd with his arms outstretched, which was partially crowd-funded by Berserk fans. Unfortunately, some dioramas from previous Berserk exhibitions were missing, including Godot's forge and Casca's coffin with Dog-Guts, which was too bad—we wanted to see those, too!




The most powerful feeling that I felt throughout the exhibition was the realization that these were the original pieces had Miura laid his pen to; of being in the same place as these pages. This feeling hit me in waves every time I'd see a particularly memorable spread. I'd usually make an involuntary, audible sound—a gasp or a sigh—and get lost in the moment. I'd kneel down to get a closer look at every detail. These pages look very different in person. They're bigger than you expect. And the darker lines are glossy and sharp on the white paper. The finished prints we're familiar with in the volumes are more washed out—black on gray. To use a modern analogy, these are like seeing the highest possible resolution you can get for Berserk.

We went very, very slowly on our first day, staying for around 3 hours. For each piece we would get in really close to scrutinize the line work. We would call out anything notable about it, and in general we had fun conversations about where the piece fell in the series, what made it great, fully enjoying each art piece like the enthusiastic fans we are. Everyone else would walk around us. When they spoke amongst themselves, they did so privately and were far more reserved (it's Japan, afterall). There was one point when a very obvious line had formed behind Aazealh and Gobolatula, but they paid them no mind. We flew across whole oceans for this. They just crossed town. We were enthralled and while we weren't obnoxious about it, honestly I wouldn't really care if we were. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

I saw details in pages I never knew were there, or that were too small to notice before now. The expression on Casca's face as Guts pulls her leash in Volume 23. Griffith's eyes being open during the full page spread of him in the jail. And sometimes there was no way to see them until now.

For example, there's a spread in the Eclipse where the text covers up a portion of apostles. That text is gone in the original, so there are some all-new apostles to be seen. The larger size also allowed me to make out some of the individual Falcons, not just Guts and Griffith—those are plain to see—but Casca, Pippin, Judo, and Carcus could clearly be distinguished with this larger format. On each piece, with just a bit of eye squinting you could see the raised texture of the white paint used to cover up mistakes or changes to the art. These were fascinating because they often shed light on art decision changes, not just errors. These ranged from things as arbitrary as making Judo's shirt a bit shorter and the placement of fasteners on a piece of armor to the decision to entirely white out Femto's shoulder in the spread of him reaching out to Ganishka in Volume 34.

After seeing a few of the originals, your eyes become attuned to the steps Miura took to construct each page. Previously, I would have told you that Berserk is primarily pen and paper work. And that's still true at face value. But there's a lot more going on behind the scenes. I had read about Miura's use of screen tones, but seeing a raw page of manga where screen tones have been applied, you start to get it and the level of work involved if you want to do it at a high level. What we see in the volumes is a fully baked cake. And while I've always loved how Miura's cakes taste, I was ignorant of all the ingredients and craftsmanship that make that cake so delicious. Seeing how well he weaves tones onto the page, you realize how much the atmosphere in key scenes relies on the smart usage of these textures.

One instance that stood out to me was a two-page spread of Griffith, just before the Eclipse starts (here's how it appears in the manga). The composition of this scene is simple. But the textures are what lend it that key sense of foreboding, and it's all told in the sky. This was striking to me because of its otherwise simplicity, but really these tones are everywhere, and they're used in a lot of surprising ways.

Or the torchlight effect on the wall behind Zodd when Guts first sees him in Volume 5 (here it is in the manga)—it's made using a blade to scratch through the tone, creating a unique, etched texture for the light. Once you start looking for these things, creative uses of tones are truly everywhere. I just didn’t know exactly HOW he managed some of these effects until now.

Just outside the blue crop markings on each page, you can see handwritten notes, stray pen strokes or the beginning of pen strokes that are carried through to the main page, and sometimes even handwriting on the margins of each page. These all are also telling a story for how Miura created Berserk. On a handful of pages, you could see tiny figures he had sketched in the margins before committing them to the full page. These sketches included gowns and leggings at the ball scene in Volume 8, and various body parts piled up around Zodd from Volume 5, just to name a few. For color paintings, you could see where his brush dragged across the edge of the page to smooth the distribution of paint before touching it to the page. Dialogue was handwritten on the page, then printed and pasted on top of the bubbles, so that Miura’s thin handwriting could still be seen peeking around the pasted text. All these unseen marginal details all add up to something that feels very personal.

As you get further into the exhibit, digital art replaces the analog art. These are a different kind of art, of course, because they aren't strictly original anymore in the same way all the previous art was. Gone are the notes, the stray strokes, the areas beyond the crop lines. It's all fully baked just as you remember it in the volumes. The only difference is the quality of the print. But that difference was striking. This was most obvious for Miura's colored digital work, like the poster of Danan, where the translucent effect of the pendant on her forehead looked almost lifelike. The Volume 39 cover also has some photo-realistic aspects when you see it in a high quality print, like the bright green background texture, and the fur of the rodents. It's a level of detail not seen in his pen and ink work, and the details are truly lost in the miniaturized format we're accustomed to seeing.

Toward the end of the exhibition there was also a portion dedicated to the continuation, featuring art from Episodes 365-366. Given that this is about Miura and Berserk, these really felt out of place, to me.

The art portion of the exhibition ended with a mixture of original and printed editions of all the volume covers. The first 8 volumes appeared to be originals, and you could see some interesting details. To pick on one—Volumes 6-8 were created differently from the other covers, because the art is wide, wrapping around the cover jacket. And naturally, the original art itself is one wide piece. But what surprised me was that even the small picture featured on the inside the cover flaps is on the same piece as the main art, just slightly removed from the main composition.

Seeing high-quality, color-accurate reproductions of the covers helped solve a few smaller debates we’d had over the years about differences in colors. Notably, the blue+purples on Volume 23’s cover have varied depending on the edition. But here it was plain as day how it should look. The quality of the print and the gallery presentation also allowed us to see just how vivid the originals were. There’s a bright—basically neon—green in Volume 21’s cover that stood out much more than in the final printed edition. And the chitinous green sheen on the lower left of Femto’s wing on Volume 12’s cover looks much more realistic in person vs the print.

Around this time, it was hard to not notice that you were hearing Kentarou Miura’s voice from the video at the very end of the exhibition. The first day we tried to focus on the remaining art pieces, but all you had to do was look over your shoulder and see the man himself talking to the camera.

Before the video, a glass display case showed sketches from the Grunbeld light novel, storyboards showing the first page of Episode 334 (from rough to penciled to inked), a 2004 doujinshi cover Miura contributed some art for (featuring Guts and Casca), alongside the 3-page storyboards for Episode 3 of the Berserk 2016 animation that Miura created. Lastly in the glass case were three small sculptures (~10 cm tall) Miura did for a collaboration between Young Animal and Art of War in the early 2000s. The Puck one is especially remarkable because it's the original clay model he created.

A recreation of his desk was also on display. Many of you have already seen pictures of this, but it is covered in reference books and Berserk volumes, along with statues and figures like Boba Fett and Iron Man and some samurai. There is a unique Void shikishi there and a few Puck figures created for the event. One on the desk sheds a tear in memory of Miura, and another on the wall has a message that says "many thanks". To the right of the desk was a display of previously unreleased sketches, including several from D.RI.F.T, the futuristic dragon-riding title that Miura had helped create character designs for with Takashi Hoshi. There were also some pages I’d never seen before, and while it’s not possible to know, they looked like they were from Duranki—a furry cat lady, a black-haired girl, a woman with a crown, and a boy with a winged helmet. Yet another set of pages showed a man wearing a mechanized armor and had a villain-looking character wearing a flaming crown. Unfortunately, Aazealh said the unseen Metabaron material, which we had only read about in the Tokyo exhibition, wasn’t on display here, which was a bummer.

Finally, there was the video of Miura. No date is shown, but we know it was recorded sometime at the end of 2020, so about six months before his untimely death. That means this is likely the last interview he did. This video was about 11 minutes long, played on loop, and featured Miura responding to on-screen prompts and questions about the 30-year milestone for Berserk, the exhibition itself, where the series was headed, and a few others that I didn’t quite catch. I do not have a translation of this yet, so I can’t really answer any questions about what was said. However, Miura was very lively and energetic throughout. He’d pause to reflect on his answer, squinting his face, and often smiled widely, laughed, and gestured while he spoke.

At the very end of the exhibition are tributes from mangaka and voice actors associated with Berserk. Among the notable ones were Kouji Mori (he drew a portrait of Miura alongside Guts), Tetsuo Hara (who drew a very Kenshiro-looking Guts wearing the Berserk Armor), Umino Chica (who drew Farnese and Schierke crying, with a flower like Chich’s in the middle, its seeds scattered in the winds), Susumu Hirasawa (who drew a bizarre symbol and what looked like hieroglyphics), and Toshimitsu Matsubara, a manga artist (who provided a fully inked and colored image of Guts from the Golden Age in a striking pose on horseback with the Falcons behind him).

Beyond that was the merchandise portion itself, which really is separate from the exhibition.

We felt truly lucky to be able to attend it finally, after years of waiting (we first heard about it at the tail end of 2020). The whole show felt tailored to my interests in Berserk—that is to say, it highlights Miura's artwork and nothing from any of the anime or games (perfect!). It's too bad that there couldn't have been MORE of it, because even at 170+ pieces, there were some notable omissions. Oh well... gotta save something for the 50 year celebration, right? Anyway, I hope this long article will help some of you longtime fans of Berserk vicariously experience this big event through our recounting of it.
Wow. Truly incredible.
It was with special awe and daydreaming ( and just a bit of jealousy :femto:) that I read about the original art, the glimpses of miuras work process, the little notations etc...To top it all with a video of Miura himself! You've done a fantastic job in writing this Walter, it made the trip of reading about an already very enticing subject so much more of a ride. Can't wait to hear expanded and unfiltered thoughts on the podcast, and to hear from the other skullknight folk, even though im pretty sure their impressions arent lost in this write-up.


Staff member
As a complement to Walter's post, I wanted to share my thoughts on what the exhibition is, who it is for, and why it's an important landmark for the series. It's not as comprehensive as Walter's retelling and I guess might read more like a review, but I hope it's insightful and not too redundant.

What does the exhibition represent?

Like Miura said himself, this exhibition is an exceedingly rare event in the history of Berserk. Never before did the series benefit from such a lavish event, and there is no guarantee it will happen again in the future.

Therefore, as a die-hard fan of Berserk, attending it felt pretty much obligatory, especially after Miura's untimely passing. I’ve jokingly said it was like a pilgrimage to a holy land, but in truth I personally felt no such grand feelings upon getting there. It was very business-like for me, like someone specialized in a field of study coming in contact with the subject of their expertise.

That being said, there is an undeniable vindication in being in a place that celebrates something you love with the appropriate level of reverence it deserves. I am truly grateful to have experienced that, and all the more to have been there with my friends. It is certainly a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life.

What’s to be gained from it?

1. Seeing how it was done…

As what I can only describe as a scholar of Berserk, the exhibition was invaluable to me. But I feel like I need to be explicit about what can be gained from it. By showing visitors the original manuscripts, meaning the actual pages Miura created for the story, it gives them a profoundly different look at the artwork. You can see how it’s constructed in minute details: panels, pencil and pen strokes, solid blacks, screentones, Wite-Out… It’s a bit of a look behind the curtain.

In a way, it feels a bit like it demystifies Miura’s creative process because you can see that it was all just things he painstakingly drew on paper, as opposed to experiencing it as a fully-formed and monolithic work of art. But since you can see so many intricate touches everywhere, it also underlines how gargantuan that work was, and how supremely talented Miura had been to be able to achieve the results he did with what feels like “simple tools”.

It also highlights the breadth of his artistic skills beyond just drawing. Creating highlights with Wite-Out, giving depth to scenes with screentones and using them to produce amazing background effects, using old markers or brushes to achieve rougher looks… There are so many stunning details that are simply lost in the scanning and printing process. It gives one a new appreciation for the occupation of mangaka as it existed before the digital era.

2. Unparalleled visual fidelity
Miura’s color art is prominently featured, even though it wasn’t the bulk of his work. That’s an understandable choice from the organizers. People like color. It’s also not a waste, because Miura’s color work was fascinating in its own right, starting with the color pages he did for the manga in the early years. Seeing how he used watercolors and colored pencils on top of inked pages is amazing, especially since these have seldom been reprinted in their original form since their first serialization.

But even as someone who owns these old magazines, I can assure you that the original colors must be seen to be appreciated. And this also goes for his oil and acrylic paintings and his later watercolors. As with the black and white manuscripts, the value provided comes down to the limits of what can be conveyed with reproductions. Nothing can match the visual fidelity of seeing the originals with your own eyes. Not only are the colors much more vivid, but the pen strokes are so much sharper too, and as I kept remarking to my friends during our visits, you can see details in the characters’ expressions that become muddled in the volumes.

This even extends to the digital artwork. You’d think it wouldn’t make a difference, but seeing high quality prints of the digital art is actually striking. It looks a lot better than it does in the volumes, where it feels almost blurred, and that applies to both color illustrations and black and white pages of the manga. While obviously not as valuable as seeing the older pages that were drawn by hand, these high fidelity prints were enlightening and made me yearn for a true deluxe edition of the manga.

How big is it, really?

While there are 250 works exposed in Sapporo, and checking them all in detail can wear you out, I couldn’t help but feel that it wasn’t enough. So many iconic scenes are missing, so many parts of the story feel like they’re skipped over. This is made worse by the fact this was a shrunk-down version of the exhibition. After Osaka, they reduced its size by removing over 75 works as well as three cool dioramas (Godot’s forge, Chich’s cell, Casca’s coffin with dog-Guts), which is a shame.

Given the breadth of Miura’s work, I feel that featuring 500 pieces from Berserk wouldn’t be too much, although it would truly make for a gigantic exhibition. And since I’m daydreaming, I also would have liked to see excerpts from his other works, especially Gigantomakhia but even Ourou and Japan.

I appreciate that they showed some prints from his concept art on Dur-An-Ki, DRIFT and other unnamed projects, but the fact they’re carelessly stacked on shelves instead of being properly displayed means you can’t really see or fully enjoy them. A puzzling choice since many are never-seen-before works. I was also very disappointed that the 12 color illustrations from the animation project codenamed Metabaron had been removed. These removals were all the more frustrating given that they had six pages from the Berserk continuation on display, to advertise the fact the series is still going. This felt tasteless to me.

What else?

1. The scenography

As far as the décor is concerned, the giant Zodd statue (crowdfunded by fans) is the highlight, with the Puck diorama coming in second. The Dragon Slayer reproductions and other props are very nice, and the statues littered throughout add some flair. The Eclipse diorama, which the organizers have tended to hype up, was a bit disappointing to me. It’s just AOW’s small God Hand set of statues sitting on top of a reproduction of the giant hand. It’s sandwiched between two small walls of (life-sized) glowing faces. It isn’t bad, but I expected it to be more impressive.

2. The video
Other than what I mentioned above, the highlights from the bonus “workspace area” are a funny Void drawing, an illustration of Guts & Casca (used for the cover of a doujinshi in 2004), and an original sculpture Miura did of Puck (of which reproductions were sold in the 2000s). Then of course is the video interview they recorded of him. Its exact runtime is 11:05 and in it Miura goes over a number of things, many of which are related to the exhibition, like the number of artworks exposed, the Zodd statue, the merchandise on sale…

Miura looks good in it, although he shows his age of course. He’s animated and very enthusiastic, and it seems clear he would have never become fed up with drawing manga. Seeing him like that is a very bittersweet experience, given how suddenly and unexpectedly he passed away. After that are tributes from other mangaka, some of which were redone after Miura's passing to reflect the new reality of the exhibition. A fitting way to close the show.
Congratulations on the successful trip, guys. I'm glad it was worth it for you, and as you're SKNet's senior members, I feel like you took us all along for the ride.

Thanks for the write-ups!
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