‘Berserk’ creator Kentaro Miura passes away before completing his masterpiece

The influence that Berserk has had on manga, and consequently video games, anime, and popular culture cannot be overstated. Creator Kentaro Miura’s passing leaves a giant hole in the industry, but also in Berserk itself.

If you’ve ever seen a sad anime boy clutching a giant sword, then you’ve seen something inspired by Berserk. Originally published in 1989, the iconic manga series is one of the longest-running titles of its kind. The fact that the entire thing was crafted by one man is enormously impressive.

That’s right, Kentaro Miura wrote, drew, shaded, and lettered around 8,000 pages of Berserk, a gargantuan effort that is comparable in terms of narrative scope and cultural impact to George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) series.

berserk demons
Image: Berserk / Kitaro Miura

Miura was a native of Chiba City, located to the south east of Tokyo, where he first started his journey into the arts. He created his first manga at the age of 10 and, in a sign of things to come, finished over 40 volumes that were distributed to his fellow classmates.

This generous and enthusiastic behaviour would become his personal calling card, with his publisher Young Animal Comics recalling, “the news of Miura’s sudden passing has blanketed the Young Animal editorial department in deep sadness… We never once saw him angry”.

Miura was famous for taking long breaks between finishing Berserk volumes, at times leading to speculation that he would never complete the story of his famous anti-hero Guts. The obvious parallel here is with George R.R. Martin, although the news of Miura’s passing is even more unexpected. He was only 54 years old.

What this means for the future of the Berserk manga is unclear, but considering how singular a work it was, it would be difficult to imagine anyone else attempting to finish the narrative.

Image: Berserk / Kitaro Miura

While at the start of Miura’s career his art was somewhat rudimentary, he developed into a extremely well respected figure, with a unique style. His heavily shaded illustrations, inspired by Hieronymus Bosch, Hellraiser and Paul Verhoeven films became synonymous with dark fantasy.

However, the complexity of the characters and relationships in Berserk, and the intricate plotting that almost always paid dividends, are perhaps what is most surprising about Miura’s work.

I only recently decided to dive into the Berserk series, mostly because I heard it was an important touchstone for the Dark Souls video games. The evocative art was the thing that I first latched onto, but as I progressed further into the manga, it was the characters that meant I couldn’t put it down.

There is a huge amount of heart and emotion in the series, although not in the overblown, juvenile fashion manga is often characterised by. I’ll freely admit that anime philosophising and dialogue usually makes me cringe, but by the end of Berserk‘s first major arc I was completely invested – which meant that I was left emotionally devastated (if you know, you know).

kitaro Miura
Image: Kitaro Miura

Readers will likely be marked by Berserk for the rest of their lives, and the same is true for popular culture in general. Kitaro Miura’s passing leaves a wound as large as Guts’ iconic sword.

Kitaro Miura passed away on May 6 as the result of acute aortic dissection. Vale Kitaro Miura!