The art style in Berserk and its evolution over the years

Aazealh

Administrator
Staff member
I'm the first person that I know of to have compiled Guts' face over a wide range of volumes to compare the changes in art style. That was a very long time ago. Back then I was making a point against the idea that there ever was a specific ironcast art style from which things would then have deviated. The same face will have variations in it even in the same episode, that's how art is.

Something worth noting in the above is that it picks from panels of different sizes and then resizes them. That means some will necessarily have more details in them than others, and makes for a less than pertinent comparison.
 
I posted some of my thoughts on this in the episode thread (although nobody asked :farnese:), but here are the the things we know thus far:

-According to Miura Berserk went digital around the time Rickert & the Bakiraka faced Rakshas (2015). This is my guess, but the switch in mediums seems to have occurred in episode 341.

-For Berserk Miura does most of the artwork himself (read here). The Assistants mainly work on backgrounds, soldiers and toning. For Duranki he sketches the drafts, but the complete inking is done by his assistants. One of the newer assistants in his studio also recently said on twitter that he has been only working on Duranki thus far.

-For such a long running manga, the art style changing is quite normal, but obviously this time around people are not liking the changes, which is fair, but its important to consider the context. Transitioning to digital after years of working with pen&paper is not easy, so it will take time to experiment and try out the techniques that the medium offers. As far as i am concerned, the art style will most likely change sooner or later again.

-Miuras line art with the medum has definitely improved over time, but the main change is regarding the facial anatomy of the characters. Their features are a bit softened, such as smaller noses, bigger eyes, and less prominent facial bone structure. My main issue is simply the inconsistency in how some of the characters faces are depicted. Here is one example:



From left to right, Episodes 342-347-349. As you can see, the one panel in the middle differs in terms of simplicity compared to the other 2, especially the one on the left is the most comparable due to the angle. In general though, there is no need to overblown these things. This is an experimentation phase, and line art, simplicity, detail and the style will continue to evolve.

-My last point is regarding the ''brightness''. If you own Volumes 39&40 you will notice that they differ a lot from the digital Ya release and the reason for that was explained to me by a friend who works in the field:

''It was put together with CMYK black levels in InDesign and exported that way, instead of exported using rich black (which is just, like, actual black). It's done this way because it's easier for cheap printing like they do with magazines and like some publishers do for tankoubons because ink is expensive. So the digital version has this as well since they're just exported from the same document. Funnily, as cheap as Dark Horse can be, they use rich black unlike Hakusensha, which is kinda interesting (maybe the pure black ink is why their manga costs more than other publishers'?).''



From top to bottom. Volume release-digital Ya-actual manuscript.

So no, the manga won't look as ''bright'' when it is released in Volume format. The lines will be more defined and clearer.
 

Lawliet

Awkward Artist
I'm the first person that I know of to have compiled Guts' face over a wide range of volumes to compare the changes in art style. That was a very long time ago. Back then I was making a point against the idea that there ever was a specific ironcast art style from which things would then have deviated. The same face will have variations in it even in the same episode, that's how art is.

Something worth noting in the above is that it picks from panels of different sizes and then resizes them. That means some will necessarily have more details in them than others, and makes for a less than pertinent comparison.
Agreed, especially with the emboldened part.

I think people tend to oversell or overstate the evolution of Miura's art style. Sure, his style varies and evolves, as is the case with every artist, but it's not entirely attributable to simple style evolution or changes in tools/mediums (and it's definitely not so drastic that it can't be recognized as simply variations of the same style).

There is an idea I had while reading the manga for the first time (and I've since discovered that other people have had the same idea; it's probably been brought up before here as well, so bear with me). Some of the variations in the art style are intentional based on the part of the story the manga's in. Take the Black Swordsman Arc and contrast it with where we're currently at in the story. Sure, evolution in Miura's art style, as well as the tools he used at the time, account for some of the variation we see, but I believe that it's also intentional. The bigger eyes and less gritty appearance of the characters in the latest arc reflect the atmosphere of Elfhelm. The dark and grotesque style in Black Swordsman works well for its arc, and shows Guts in the darkest time of his life. I don't think it's a coincidence that we see a "shift" in Miura's style at significant points in the story.

This is also other than internal reasons for why the characters look different at different points, such as simple aging, or going through events and transformations. Case in point: Femto is supposed look otherworldly and fairy-tale-like. He should not be drawn like or compared to how he was drawn when he was Griffith.

What do you guys think?
 

Aazealh

Administrator
Staff member
For such a long running manga, the art style changing is quite normal, but obviously this time around people are not liking the changes, which is fair, but its important to consider the context. Transitioning to digital after years of working with pen&paper is not easy
You're mistaken to assume people weren't complaining about the art style before. I remember there being malcontents around volume 29 for example. That's when I made that thread. I guess it might be more prominent nowadays because every rando considers himself an expert.

My main issue is simply the inconsistency in how some of the characters faces are depicted. [...] This is an experimentation phase, and line art, simplicity, detail and the style will continue to evolve.
You're right that the art style will continue to evolve, as it always has. But the "inconsistency" (a truly relative concept here) you take issue with was also always there, and always will be. There are always slight differences panel to panel, and that's not an issue with art technique or tools, it's simply how it is when you draw the same stuff over a long period of time.

Funnily, as cheap as Dark Horse can be, they use rich black unlike Hakusensha, which is kinda interesting (maybe the pure black ink is why their manga costs more than other publishers'?).'
Your friend is comparing apples to oranges. Young Animal is a prepublication magazine that's sold for $3.5. It's not comparable to a tankoubon. And the Japanese tankoubons are of higher printing quality than Dark Horse's.
 

Griffith

My posts are better.
To me the last major change or true evolution to Berserk's style was Griffith's rebirth when Miura began experimenting more with hyperrealism; which you can see starting almost from the exact moment Griffith is reborn on the closeups of Guts' and Griffith's faces (the timing almost had to be intentional). The changes since then, even with the transition to digital, have been negligible or have represented returns to styles previously seen in earlier volumes.

The exercise of showing characters faces from every few years is pretty limited because there can be variables in every angle and panel. For instance, some of those Guts shots are pretty unique panels or specific shots even in the eras they're from, and not necessarily representative. What it actually illustrates to me when looked at on the whole is how little things have truly changed in the last two decades; of course Guts, Griffith, and Casca look vastly different, and are different ages, from the friggin' 1980s, but look at how relatively little their design model has changed since the early to mid 2000s, and this is even more evident with "newer" characters like Farnese, Serpico and Isidro who looked different in the 90's but not so much since then. Short-haired Farnese and Schierke look basically identical from their first appearance. Most of the difference in these pictures when you get beyond the decades they're from are mere fluctuations in different individual renderings, not changes in style.

Now, that doesn't mean the style hasn't changed at all overall since the 2000s, or that Miura doesn't also change things up fluidly depending on tone and mood (comic or light scenes are more soft and/or cartoony than detailed horror, drama or action), but I think that variation and Miura utilizing it more liberally accounts for more of the changes people cite episode to episode than some ongoing style revolution or devolution going on. I think my favorite styles are Lost Children, the rest of the Conviction Arc, which looks great as well and transitions to the more ultra-detailed and hyperrealistic style that started with Millennium Falcon, the beginning of which is probably my favorite overall for several reasons (it was just a very exciting time in the story and it seemed like the art was somehow continuing to rise to the occasion). But some people HATED it and thought the faces looked weird and like Miura must have got some inexperienced new assistants or something. Sounds familiar. =)
 
Last edited:

Oburi

All praise Grail
To me the last major change or true evolution to Berserk's style was Griffith's rebirth when Miura began experimenting more with hyperrealism; which you can see starting almost from the exact moment Griffith is reborn on the closeups of Guts' and Griffith's faces (the timing almost had to be intentional). The changes since then, even with the transition to digital, have been negligible or have represented returns to styles previously seen in earlier volumes.
Exactly how I feel. To me, the only major noticeable jump in evolution is the start of the Millennium Falcon arc, where the art just gets insanely detailed. Since then, I really don't get any of the complaints that people seem to have every other episode. I've never really had a good eye for detecting the subtle changes that people discuss because I have no artistic ability. With a few obvious exceptions, it all seemed pretty seamless to me. The "style" itself seems the same to me, taking into account what Aaz said about the nature of drawing the same thing over and over again.

The exercise of showing characters faces from every few years is pretty limited because there can be variables in every angle and panel. For instance, some of those Guts shots are pretty unique panels or specific shots even in the eras they're from, and not necessarily representative.
Precisely. That chart doesn't tell me anything. Comparing random panels of a characters face in different situations in the story that differ in quality and size? How's a shot of Griffith in the torture dungeon with the helmet on suppose to compare to a shot of new Griffith in Falconia? Am I supposed to take away something about the change in style from that? Seems arbitrary. The only thing that chart tells me is that the art has gotten better and better.
 
Here's my two cents on the matter. I'm sure that some people have already brought up some (or all) of these points, but I figured I'd share my thoughts anyway.

Manga is a story with art, and not art with a story. This is an important distinction, since manga's art is just another storytelling device, and not a separate entity to be admired by itself. Berserk is one of the best examples of utilizing the art to its upmost as a storytelling device. There are numerous instances of important detail and emotions being shown, and not told. This fully utilizes the strengths of the medium. Berserk would be a completely different experience if it was in a novel form instead of a manga. This is due of the important role that the art has in Berserk's storytelling.

Following this logic it's important to note the importance art has in depicting atmosphere. We can compare two of the most contrasting locations in Berserk: Qliphoth and Elfhelm. It's not surprising that the art styles used in these two section of the story are so different. One is dark and gritty, and the other is light and "fluffy" (for the lack of a better word). If the same art style was uses in both places, either Elfhelm would come across as too dark and depressing (which would not match the atmosphere present in Elfhelm), or Qliphoth would come across too light, and not dangerous enough. The closest section of the story that matches Elfhelm's atmosphere is the Golden Age arc before Guts leaves the Hawks (though even this part is still not as "light"). And if one compares the art styles, one can see that the current one is just as detailed, if not more (which is also a common complaint).

Another thing that I believe affect people's judgement is the current story not matching people's expectations. I've seen a lot of people describe Berserk as "dark fantasy." If one believes this, then what's happening right now it way outside of what dark fantasy is suppose to be, and would cause confusion and dislike. The issue is that Berserk is not a dark fantasy: it's fantasy. That is the only proper way to classify the story, since each arc changes the world of Berserk enough that it moves from one sub-genre of fantasy to another. Also, the world of Berserk is fantasy. The core of the story is about people, their lives, their hardships, etc. The emotions, conflicts, ambitions, and other human aspects shown are very much real life and grounded (which is mainly why I love the story of Berserk).

And lastly, I've seen people complain about the facial proportions being too "moe," I'd say you should go and compare the current style's facial proportions to Golden Age arc's style's facial proportions. If you take a random panel and compare to another random panel, you can come to a lot of different (and incorrect) conclusions.
 
I'm still incredibly fond of how the manga looks in the original arc. I definitely have my preferences, but as mentioned above, it's important to remember this style is helping set the tone for Berserk's current location as of writing this (episode 360).
 
I'm still incredibly fond of how the manga looks in the original arc. I definitely have my preferences, but as mentioned above, it's important to remember this style is helping set the tone for Berserk's current location as of writing this (episode 360).
Yeah for sure, the art definitely gives an "ethereal otherworldly" vibe that helps Elfhelm come across as a mystical land cut off from the outside world.

Personal favorite art style for me though has to be 2001/2002. I don't know what it is but I think Miura truly hit his peak for me those years, achieving a balance of beauty and horror in his art while still looking like it was drawn by a single man with just a few pens and pencils making the panels drawn in those years look magnificent.
 
I'm still incredibly fond of how the manga looks in the original arc. I definitely have my preferences, but as mentioned above, it's important to remember this style is helping set the tone for Berserk's current location as of writing this (episode 360).
Indeed it is,and actually his recent style is growing on me.

But I think he has lost a little bit of his technique when drawing faces.
Many times the faces looks odd,inconsistent,and is not a question of "style",because in the past he has changed Guts face to depict different scenes,however,the proportions and anatomy itself was very consistent.
For example,look at Guts face from the most recent episode.
His first face is decent looking,although a little different from the one he had before:


And on the next page his face looks like a teenager:

Where has his jaw and chin gone?
It doesn't even make sense because when you open your mouth,your jaw opens and as such it seems bigger than it was.

What I doesn't understand is that on the last page,his face is much more different.
That predominant jaw and chin,a little more pronounced nose...
It's even resembling the overall face he had in the Millenium Falcon Arc or maybe the Fantasia Arc itself but before arriving at Elfhelm:


And it's happening all the time even with the most important characters like Guts,Casca and Griffith.
 
And on the next page his face looks like a teenager.
Where has his jaw and chin gone?
It doesn't even make sense because when you open your mouth,your jaw opens and as such it seems bigger than it was.
Isn't his chin just hidden by the armor in that panel? It looks pretty normal to me.
Unless you're talking about something else.
 
Isn't his chin just hidden by the armor in that panel? It looks pretty normal to me.
Unless you're talking about something else.
Yes, it's hidden by the armor's neck guard. And I also don't see how it looks younger than the one above.
The chin itself is hidden of course,but I'm talking about the actual size of the chin (and jaw).
If you follow the guidelines,it would be more or less like this:

Which is very different from the one on the last page.
The proportions from the bottom of the nose to above are actually similar,but the jaw and chin are way too diferent.

A minor nitpick : he also changed the tip of the nose (just a little though).
 
I see now, kinda. But I still wouldn't call it "much different" they aren't 3D models and I'm sure Miura never used a ruler every time he drew his characters to have everything perfect to the millimeter.
What I'm basically saying is that the characters' faces and proportions always change slightly from panel to panel, so it's not anything important to point out in my opinion.
 
Maybe we should go back and compare all the chins.
?
I'm just talking why Guts looks younger than before and why I think it is inconsistent.

I see now, kinda. But I still wouldn't call it "much different" they aren't 3D models and I'm sure Miura never used a ruler every time he drew his characters to have everything perfect to the millimeter.
What I'm basically saying is that the characters' faces and proportions always change slightly from panel to panel, so it's not anything important to point out in my opinion.
They were very noticeable for me in my first read of the episode and that's why I thought he looked like a teenager.
It doesn't have to be pixel perfect,but I think the proportions are way off to tell they change only slightly,specially if you pick some of the previous episodes as well (when they arrived at Elfhelm for example).

PS : I think ep 359 was basically the opposite, Miura was pretty consistent with faces and it had nice expressions for all the characters - one of the best looking episodes to date IMO.
 

Walter

Administrator
Staff member
I think the medium of a serialized manga allows for slight inconsistencies in faces. And if we started scrutinizing proportions in every panel, even within the same episodes, we’d probably notice a lot of things. :shrug:

That being said, even in your diagram I don’t see any discrepancy that I would call notable.
 
I think the medium of a serialized manga allows for slight inconsistencies in faces. And if we started scrutinizing proportions in every panel, even within the same episodes, we’d probably notice a lot of things. :shrug:

That being said, even in your diagram I don’t see any discrepancy that I would call notable.
Of course it allows for slight inconsistencies,and I kinda understand that because Berserk has so many episodes.

But some of the strangest inconsistencies happens in important scenes,perhaps that's why I think they are more noticeable.
The one I remember right now is this one on episode 347 (exclude the image on the left which is from a different episode):


It was very odd comparing with the ones on the same episode and it came in a very impactful scene.
 

Walter

Administrator
Staff member
What’s the inconsistency, if you say we should exclude the older image? Often when I see people comparing panels, they do so out of context—meaning comparing a half or full page face with a smaller, less conspicuous face. Side by side, clearly less time is spent on some panels than others. Is that what’s happening here?
 
What’s the inconsistency, if you say we should exclude the older image? Often when I see people comparing panels, they do so out of context—meaning comparing a half or full page face with a smaller, less conspicuous face. Is that what’s happening here?
I'm trying to find good images to compare,but anyway : Guts face was way more longer (even his nose) and I think it had more natural expressions on that episode.
You can notice the differences mainly on the first pages ,and then compare it to this panel.
Guts has a "baby face" in this panel,it almost doesn't look like him IMO.

About the expression, I can't tell why,but this one felt pretty robotic to me.
 

Aazealh

Administrator
Staff member
The chin itself is hidden of course,but I'm talking about the actual size of the chin (and jaw).
If you follow the guidelines,it would be more or less like this:

Which is very different from the one on the last page.
The proportions from the bottom of the nose to above are actually similar,but the jaw and chin are way too diferent.
This kind of nitpicking really feels to me like it shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what a manga is, and not just because it often uses panels of different sizes and angles. It reads like a first year art student's misguided attempt at critiquing a work using the wrong criteria. Paradoxically, I feel like this stems from how high quality the art is, in that it gives people the wrong idea. Berserk isn't an anatomy teaching book or an exercise in drawing the same thing identically. It's not meant to be photorealistic or to have mathematically perfect proportions. Things are exaggerated and deformed and not quite the same from panel to panel. Like in all comic books? And it has been that way since the first pages of the first volume in the series. You can probably reproduce this sort of comparison with any two panels in the series. But what's the point of it? Also, just to be clear: not all panels are perfect. Some are better than others. It has always been the case.
 
This kind of nitpicking really feels to me like it shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what a manga is, and not just because it often uses panels of different sizes and angles. It reads like a first year art student's misguided attempt at critiquing a work using the wrong criteria. Paradoxically, I feel like this stems from how high quality the art is, in that it gives people the wrong idea. Berserk isn't an anatomy teaching book or an exercise in drawing the same thing identically. It's not meant to be photorealistic or to have mathematically perfect proportions. Things are exaggerated and deformed and not quite the same from panel to panel. Like in all comic books? And it has been that way since the first pages of the first volume in the series. You can probably reproduce this sort of comparison with any two panels in the series. But what's the point of it? Also, just to be clear: not all panels are perfect. Some are better than others. It has always been the case.
You're using a straw fallacy here : I never said Berserk should be an anatomy teaching book or an exercise in "drawing the same thing identically".
It's YOU who is assuming that.

The problem is that a lot of those faces from the recent chapters,which should convey the emotions that texts can't provide,or complement them,are hindering the experience because of these flaws.
Maybe not for you of course,but anyway.

It's not about "teaching",it's about the reading itself,the experience.
I don't read looking for every angle or anatomy mistake,I read because I like his story,his writing ability, and his art.

And I also think Berserk outshined most of other mangas out there in terms of how characters face are designed and how they express their feelings,so that's why I'm kinda disappointed.
Miura was a legend,a god when it came to represent emotions without needing a lot of text bubbles at the panels.

I cannot forget how Miura depicted Guts rage in the Eclipse.
Those raw lines,the extreme conflict of feelings at Guts face were evident without a need of explanation.
Same when he gave those "psychopact grins" in the Conviction Arc,or when Caska was starting to be more feminine back in the Golden Age Arc.

To tell you the truth,he still has a lot of that talent even to this day.
Caska's face was truly remarkable,with a subtle but heartwarm emotion when Farnese asked "do you remember Guts?".
Even if the art style is not my favorite,it was a joy to see the way Miura conveyed Caska's sweet memories about Guts.
And a lot of that is also present in episode 359,which was one of the finest works of his in my opinion.
It had consistency on the faces,the expressions were creative and interesting to see,they conveyed so well the emotions of the characters that I not even noticed any flaw (on the contrary I would be truly nitpicking here).

This,however,don't apply to most of the faces from these recent episodes,at least from what I think.
They are far away from those remarkable faces,they don't convey much of those emotions from the texts anymore,and unforntunately a lot of those incosistencies make the experience worse for me.

The last time I saw the same inconsistency on the faces was in the Blackswordsman Arc,which was understandable because he was only at the beginning, still evolving his technique ; a lot of mangakas start like that and evolve their art through the years.

And maybe now he's having some problems when drawing faces too,be it because of the medium,his age,or anything.
I can understand that as well.

Edit:
To answer the beginning of your post:

One of the key rules of comics in general are how consistent your art is.
That is,if a character face or body steems too much when doing different poses,if the face stays the same even when expressing other emotions,and things like that.
For the reader itself it isn't important to understand "how do you achieve that",but the way an artist makes those things will directly translate to what the public think about a character.

And you can change the style all what you want,even use a simple,minimalist way to do that - I don't have any problem with it.
Those childlike drawings on the beginning of Casca's Dreams,for example,filled the purpose very well,because it aligned with Casca childlike behaviour after the Eclipse.I LOVED that part.

However,you must mantain some level of technique.
Otherwise the viewer may think there's something wrong of how a character is,instead of reading normally through the comic and appreaciating the art.
 
Last edited:
Top Bottom