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The following translation is adapted from the Dark Horse Comics release of the Berserk Official Guidebook.

"Festivals" and "Ordinary Days" During Serialisation[]

Interviewer: Berserk has currently been published up to Vol. 38, and a new TV anime series is being broadcast. This production has lived on for an extremely long time. Please share with us your feelings, having drawn it up to this point.

Miura: As I go on writing, there are periods where things get festive, such as during anime adaptations. But there are also times when I'm just quietly working on a manuscript, so there's a contrast to my feelings. Right now, the TV anime has things hyped up, so it's a time where I feel a real sense of having made something. The wild ride doesn't last forever, though, so I'll eventually go back to my plain daily life and get locked back into my battle with the manuscript [laugh]. I've received recognition for doing this for so long, but my feelings towards my manuscripts are still the same as when I was a rookie. A manga artist always ends up with his head filled with the manuscript that's sitting on his desk at the time. When you spend every day focused on it, you get the greatest sense of satisfaction when you've finished all the pages and looked back over it.

Interviewer: By the time it's published, your mind moves on to the next manuscript.

Miura: It does move on, and in your own mind, the previous manuscript is inferior to the current one. There've been many times when I couldn't be satisfied with my art, and I regretted when it looked to me like I'd cut corners. In that case, I decided to push myself to the limit each time, or at least draw until I'm satisfied. There are some shrewd manga artists who say, "I'm going to halt progress on the art here and work on improving the storyboards," but maybe I can only find satisfaction through drawing.

Interviewer: Now is one of those festive times; what is the mood like in your workplace?

Miura: Right now, the staff are excited watching the anime on the air each week, and they're nervously eager to check out online posts. We're enjoying ourselves. When this festival ends, we intend to switch back to the daily routine of confronting just the manuscript [laugh]. With there sometimes being other media developed and sometimes not, my feelings go all over the place, but I would rather accept that sensation and experience things as they come. Maybe I have a knack for not fighting against my circumstances.

Interviewer: That's quite a flexible way of thinking.

Miura: This varies depending on the manga artist, but once you experience a festive period, sometimes once it finally ends you get to missing it and find yourself no longer able to draw. This goes for serialization, too, but let's say for instance you land a big hit in a boys' manga magazine when you're young. You're hit with the busy demands of the serialization lifestyle before you really grow as a person, and after the serialization ends all you're left with is your exhausted humanity, and you end up unable to draw. There are times when you should continue a manga and times when you shouldn't, so I want to have a mindset that fits wherever I am at such times.

Berserk, Born of a "Style"[]

Interviewer: How did Berserk come about as a manga in the first place?

Miura: When I came up with Berserk in the eighties, manga was, for better or worse, ill-mannered. It was a time when we were trying greedily to take interesting elements from movies and other popular things and use them to come up with something new. So the most amazing pieces of entertainment were Hollywood movies, and a lot of works used those as models. Berserk was, in fact, a hodgepodge of things I enjoyed and found interesting at the time, such as Hollywood movies and Fist of the North Star (by Buronson and Tetsuo Hara). It was like other manga at the time, rather than being based on some special thought process [laugh].

Interviewer: Did it all start out with the image of Guts, the main character?

Miura: It was Guts' gimmick, or rather his "style." He's a dark hero... or a dark nihilistic type, like Hakaider from Android Kikaider (by Shotaro Ishinomori). Then I threw in the fantasy genre – works I liked such as Conan (by Robert E. Howard) and Guin Saga (by Kaoru Kurimoto) – and began with the concept of the Black Swordsman. Then I went from one idea to the next: If he's dark and nihilistic, what kind of character should I make him; and since ordinary swordsmen aren't interesting, how should I individualize him? Then from Dororo (by Osamu Tezuka) and Cobra (by Buichi Terasawa), which I like, I got the idea to attach something to one of his arms. As for the Dragon Slayer, large swords were featured in stories like Guin Saga and Pygmalio (by Shinji Wada), but those were just drawn as big swords. This didn't deal with what it would actually be like if somebody swung one, and if people witnessed it. And as I mentioned a bit go, this was the heyday of Hollywood films, so live-action was the entertainment king. They didn't have CG like they do today, so in both The Terminator and RoboCop, people were trying as hard as they could to act like machines. They had that sense of using physical acting to portray a superhuman, so I started out with the live-action ideas of if there really was a person with a big sword, how much muscle would he need, and if he swung it, what would that action be like?

Interviewer: And that would be how Guts' appearance came about.

Miura: At first there was only a bowgun attached to his one arm, handled like a concealed weapon, but the impact was weak. And his sword was originally a Japanese sword. I had the idea for an Asian guy with a Japanese sword and a gimmick on his left hand to run around in a setting like medieval Europe, but as I mulled it over, what suddenly clicked as the right ideas were the Dragon Slayer and the prosthetic arm cannon. I think it's an interesting balance, the way it's more incredible than reality, but not so much that it demolishes reality. For example, there's an American comics character named Captain America in the Marvel hero movies. In terms of abilities, he's a little more incredible than an Olympic athlete, making him a lot weaker than the other heroes. But when this is portrayed accurately in live-action, it really inspires you. It's real enough to be within the realm of imagination, such that it makes you wonder if you could do what he does, too, if you just trained your body hard enough. On the other hand, if somebody can fly, you can't relate to that. I wanted to give the impression with the Dragon Slayer that someone with pro-wrestler muscles might be able to swing it once or twice. Thus did I come up with the appearance of Guts. Now, where do things progress from there...? [laugh]

Interviewer: So his motivations and background came about later.

Miura: That actually is the most proper sequence. For instance, as long as Ultraman has that visual, the Spacium Ray, and you know he's from Nebula M78, the rest follows along afterwards. I think such works built from a style can run for a long time. The contents and direction change to fit the times, but a good style will be inherited and loved forever. Once Guts' style was decided, next came his interior. He's a dark hero, so revenge makes for a good motivation. And prior to the reason for his revenge, I tried to think about in what manner he'd get his revenge.

Interviewer: Does that mean rather than delving into his mind, you thought about where things would lead?

Miura: Yes. At first I envisioned Guts as a hero who can get angry. Like Max in Mad Max or Kenshiro in Fist of the North Star. I focused on how to make him angry, how to make him get revenge, and how to effectively display his appearance and gimmicks, and what resulted after that struggle was the original Black Swordsman. At that point, there was no Band of the Falcon or anything [laughs].

The Shift from the Black Swordsman to the Golden Age Arc[]

Interviewer: And so the Black Swordsman's fight unfolds for two or three volumes.

Miura: I realized with the Slug Baron that as I was making a story about Guts defeating monsters, the monsters were becoming steadily more human. When a monster's flashback scene happens, he looks like a pitiful human, and Guts on the other hand looks steadily more like a monster. Then when the monster is defeated, their feelings mingle, and that giant sword comes swinging down. It felt like some amazing catharsis! Thus did I establish the fixed flow of the Black Swordsman, but right about that time, it was decided that Animal House – the magazine that was serializing the story – was no longer going to be published. I was going to have to go back to square one.

Interviewer: It's like, not now when it's just gotten going!

Miura: And so, without having been noticed by society, I also had a project that Mr. Buronson had originally written, so I had to think like an editor and choose which one to continue. The usual decision would of course be to choose the name "Buronson" [laugh]. But one way or another, I just had to push for my own original work.

Interviewer: And so the Golden Age arc was explored as a result.

Miura: No matter how fully formed the character of Guts was in my mind, this was a newcomer's manga, and it wasn't going to live up to Mr. Buronson's established reputation. I also like girls' manga, so I thought about changing my approach by taking from stories with sad and painful human relationships and emotions. Until then I'd been charging down the Fist of the North Star route, but that made it much harder to contend with the original himself, Mr. Buronson [laugh]. It was a good opportunity, so I thought I'd switch weapons and come at it from the angle of The Rose of Versailles (by Riyoko Ikeda) and Kaze to Ki no Uta (by Keiko Takemiya). And as this was new ground for me, I figured maybe I could put people around me into the story, as well as memories from my youth.

Interviewer: You mean using the people in your daily life as models.

Miura: I didn't especially have any teachers when it comes to manga, so I didn't know what was proper. I had always been under the impression that a manga artist dreams up things that don't exist in reality. So, I tried it, and realized it was proper. I was incorporating my own experiences and those close to me, so naturally there'd be feeling there and the lies would evaporate [laugh]. I think the Golden Age arc went well that way. And whenever I combine reality with imagination, I don't view my own circumstances as being all that dramatic, so I suppose I was able to strike a good balance. I would do things like taking my high school manga buddies and dropping them into a mercenary band led by a guy who's working toward some goal. But while I'm happy that it went well, the purpose of this arc was to give Guts a reason for revenge, so it occurred to me I'd made a bunch of really great characters and they were all going to die [laugh].

Interviewer: You knew from the start how it was going to end.

Miura: I knew the Eclipse was coming, so there truly was nowhere to run! Also, there's a reason I made the Golden Age arc as long as it was. I felt dissatisfied with the so-called flashback scenes in a number of works. It's typical to stick flashbacks in just as a short break in order to maintain the pace of a story, but I wanted to potently feel, from the bottom of my heart, the reason for Guts' revenge and the basis of his character development. If the flashback lasts only a short time, it runs the risk of merely amounting to information. Since I'm the one drawing it, I need to make it more of a story you can invest in emotionally... and that's how it ended up being sooo long [laugh].

Interviewer: But it's because this happened that Guts' anger comes through sufficiently.

Miura: I had to make something that readers would accept was enough to make anybody angry. Because of that, it came down to how dramatically and naturally I could depict Guts fully forming his precious bonds with people. For the relationship between Guts and Griffith, I'm using myself and my close friend and fellow manga artist Koji Mori (Suicide Island, etc.) as a model. Which one of us is Guts and which is Griffith switches from time to time, but I think it serves as a symbol of male friendship.

Interviewer: You put so much emotion into those characters, and when the Eclipse happens, they're all gone. That must have left some scars on you as the artist.

Miura: I was emotionally invested in each character, so I felt more depressed than scarred. And the story went way down in popularity with the readers around the time of the Eclipse [laugh]. Many readers were furious that I'd do such a thing to the characters they liked. My editor at the time was concerned but also of the opinion that we'd just have to follow it through to the end. The point I had to pay attention to was making sure the flow of the story wasn't completely severed with the Eclipse. That's why I spared Casca. If she had died and the serialization had continued for a long time, I feared the reason for revenge would become something of the past; and if Guts were to establish new relationships, then his incentive would waver. It may seem calculating and unpleasant, but it's because Casca's by his side that he can never forget the Eclipse.

Hardships of the Fantasy Genre[]

Interviewer: Had you settled on how things would develop after the Eclipse?

Miura: The Golden Age arc was long, so to return to dark Guts once again I had to display the early Black Swordsman style and remind people. That's why for the Lost Children chapter, the story's style is the same as for the Slug Baron. The same is true in the respect that in the flashback scene, the monster's humanity emerges, and when he defeats her, Guts is the one who looks like a monster. It couldn't be exactly the same, though, so I featured Rosine the oddball apostle.

Interviewer: Lost Children also has Guts coming to accept Puck.

Miura: During the dark Guts period prior to the Golden Age arc, I wasn't sure whether to go with pure fantasy or a historical tale. I looked into the eerie underside of actual European history, such as Count Dracula, and I had the idea for Guts to hunt monsters that could be framed within a factual historical context. But once the Band of the Falcon took firm shape, fictitious country names like Midland had emerged, so the historical route went away and became fantasy. In that case, I would have to make thorough use of content typical of fantasy: elves, witch-hunts, magic, pirate ships. Content representative of medieval Europe. And around the time I was about to draw fantasy, there were hardly any fantasy manga in Japan.

Interviewer: True, you didn't tend to see many traditional fantasy works amongst manga.

Miura: When it comes to fantasy, even games like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy are of a different nature than old-school foreign fantasy. Even Lord of the Rings was a novel known only to those in the know, and Guin Saga only had so many fans. Fantasy was starting to become known via novel and games and such, but it wasn't a well-known genre at all. Boys' manga magazines of the time were filled with stories of fighting delinquents in school uniforms, and there was no room for fantasy to squeeze in. But I still had the idea of making this the adventure of dark Guts, even if it meant taking the risk of making it a fantasy story.

Interviewer: So you still chose the path of fantasy, but did you have some kind of assurance?

Miura: I think the fantasy look of Disney productions works all over the world, in any era. To put that world view into broad terms, it comes down to "Once upon a time, there was a..." If you put anything beyond that into the setting, it'll end up looking obsessive from a generic viewpoint. Once you start tossing in countries, weapons, and proper nouns, it just gets that much more obsessive. That's why the opening apostles were the Snake Lord and Slug Baron. I didn't even given them names [laugh]. And using the Disney example, a character doesn't suddenly get tossed into a parallel world, they go to another realm that's connected to a part of the regular world, and it's there that a monster first appears. Beauty and the Beast is usually set in the medieval world, but the mansion is the other world, and the Beast is there. It's common with today's fantasies that the setting is another world right from the start, but us old guys had to work hard for it [laugh].

Interviewer: In other words, Puck is one of Berserk's fantasy symbols. How did his concept come about?

Miura: That's Disney, too. For some reason there's this image that the main character of a fantasy has some small thing tagging along with them, like Pinocchio and his cricket. It did occur to me, though, that Guts with an adorable elf might be too extreme [laugh]. And what's convenient about Puck is how nice and half-assed he is. It's been a long time since he became Chestnut Puck, but his personality is actually quite unusual. It's because he's an elf that I think it's okay for his characterization to be vague. In Lost Children he empathizes with Jill and the others and becomes sad, and when he's with Isidro he gets cheeky, and I think that's fine. He's like a break for me no matter what I have him do, and if it's Puck who delivers my silly jokes, my readers are more forgiving. At this point, if I didn't have a character like him, things might have reached a point where it's too oppressive to go on.

Face to Face with Writing Materials[]

Interviewer: Dark fantasy becomes easier to read when you have enough relaxed content that it doesn't ruin the mood.

Miura: I figure my intuition has served me well. Something tells me keeping it from getting too dark or too heavy is one of the key things that separate popular stories from unpopular ones. At this point I think most manga artists are aware of that, but I suppose in Berserk's case it maintained the balance by coincidence. And in my case, I feel I have a centered psychological makeup. I don't go overboard about things, but instead naturally settle into the same balance as the reader. My thinking is that what feels good to me should generally feel good to the reader, too.

Interviewer: That's quite a sizeable weapon to have in your arsenal, as a writer.

Miura: Many manga artists make a weapon of obsessive niche knowledge, but it's not a weapon for me. The only thing I'm obsessive about is my art. Everything else I research as the need arises; but then, people research things related to their jobs, and that's not unique to the manga industry. That's the extent to which I mean. I gloss over that with my art. I have a knack for approximating something with art, and then it ends up looking profound, and that works out well [laugh].

Interviewer: Do you have any tricks for when you research reference materials?

Miura: There's no time, so I have to choose materials that are exemplary or whatever. Researching down to the details is impossible unless you go at it using human-wave tactics. Furthermore, in my case I'm focusing more on the author's conclusions as I cursorily read a book for its theme and information. Like, for the witch hunt in the Conviction arc, what kind of thing does the author of these materials think witch hunts were? I read two or three books for the Conviction arc, but what I learned from them was that witch hunts represented an unseen fear in the Middle Ages that people collectively embodied. When people experienced fear, they ended up manifesting it, and a group manifestation would turn into a witch hunt.

Interviewer: And in this chapter, Griffith is incarnated and becomes active not as Femto, but as the Falcon of Light.

Miura: Back during the original dark Guts days, I intended to make Femto his enemy thereafter. But by the time I finished the Golden Age arc, Griffith's character stood out too much, and I wanted him to fight Guts in that form. And in terms of the narrative, him being in the same form as before but powered up would make the course of their confrontation easier to convey. And in terms of setting, if he were Femto, he'd be acting in a different dimension.

Interviewer: Mozgus, who was introduced around that time, is a visually interesting character. Does he hold any sentimental value for you?

Miura: First of all, the movie The Name of the Rose is the inspiration for the Conviction arc. From there I added a witch hunt, giving me the notion to depict the darker aspects of religion. There's a lot of variety within religion, but when I thought of a character who'd be the overall embodiment of religious fundamentalism, I arrived at Mozgus. Doctrine comes first, and mankind comes after. He's a further exaggeration of that. All religions to some extent take something above and beyond the laws of reality and human thought and treat it as absolute. When you exaggerate that idea, that's what you end up with. And when I took that rigid thinking and designed it as a person, I arrived at that face with the low polygon count [laugh]. I thought, wow, this guy's a total square, and when I drew him, he came out looking like a square.

Interviewer: Mozgus is also a comical character.

Miura: Berserk makes a clear distinction between its one-off characters and those who participate in the drama of the main story thread. Characters like Mozgus, Wyald, and Adon are prime examples of one-offs. As with villains in Fist of the North Star, they're interesting and they make a strong impact. It's long been the pattern that such characters go on their rampage and then they die. But their entourage remains. For example, Daiba and Luca are entourage characters in multiple chapters.

Interviewer: Daiba and the others have been surprisingly active recently.

Miura: That's a shared story element with Guin Saga. When the main character of that series makes his impact and then leaves the story, the characters who were around him will show up again. The landmass this story takes place on is contiguous, and I get to wondering what happened to a given character after their involvement, so when I need a new character, I too will reintroduce old ones.

Interviewer: Berserk has playful details like that, and no matter how many times you read through it, there are new discoveries to make. Apostles are often reintroduced as well, including the one who bit off Guts' left arm during the Eclipse.

Miura: He's still working hard in the reborn Band of the Falcon [laugh]. I was originally thinking up and designing apostles on the spot, but coming up with new monsters every time isn't easy; and it'd be problematic for too many of those guys to be in the world anyway. Some of them have appeared over and over now.

The Conviction Arc is Sekaikei?![]

Interviewer: Of the numerous apostles, the Egg of the Perfect World is quite different in nature.

Miura: That apostle is special. I needed to prepare something that was just right for Griffith's resurrection, and when I started the Conviction arc, what ended up being an exact fit came to mind. The mental image of relying on God as a group took on his shape. He's the product of chance, and maybe he's also the natural outcome of the witch hunt.

Interviewer: He plays a different role than the previously encountered man-eating monsters.

Miura: Right about that time, the topic of NEET was coming up in society. There was this popular image of people unable to become somebody, encased in their own shells, watching the world through their computers, all alone in the dark. Everyone has a side like that to some extent when they're young, so I sympathize with them strongly. Just about everyone experiences that feeling of sitting in their room hugging their knees, feeling anxious about the future. It's all about being afraid. I got stuck on that concept of being some vague nothing, of becoming a vessel for everyone. The idea that "the most insignificant being summons the most amazing being" worked perfectly as a story. The term sekaikei wasn't around back then, but the Conviction arc follows a sekaikei flow.

Interviewer: "Your own feelings form a direct connection with the world." That's definitely sekaikei, all right.

Miura: The Conviction arc is awfully exaggerated, but I wanted to put together a metaphor for the world. If we place Griffith at the apex, he becomes this thing with excessive charisma. And at the same time, if we have such a sekaikei deal going on, I want to strike a balance by depicting a human in a weak position with his feel planted on the ground. If it's a fantastic world, I'll also put in something like realistic humans, and if things get horrible, I'll bring out something like Chestnut Puck. Perhaps right in the middle of drawing, I'll want to introduce some value system totally separate from and in addition to win/lose, weak/strong, etc.

The Secret History of the Travelling Companions' Creation[]

Interviewer: After that, Griffith was resurrected and Guts picked up some travelling companions. One of them is Farnese. How did you go about creating her?

Miura: I imagined Farnese as the second heroine after Casca, but I had a little trouble. I simply crammed my own tastes into Casca to create her character. She's loaded with what I considered ideal: a warrior woman, dark brown, strong but with a womanly side [laugh]. When it came time to make a new heroine, I couldn't use the same method as with Casca. So I thought I might as well make a heroine with whom female readers could sympathize. Mori is popular with girls, so I asked for his opinion as I pondered. The concept was "a female office worker who's been in society for a year or two, may or may not be accustomed to her job yet, and is ill at ease in a masculine society" [laugh]. She's doing her best with a band of knights in a masculine society, but she's unsociable since she can't seem to fit in with those around her; and her frustration is moving in a sexual direction, although half of it includes my own delusions [laugh]. In the face of Mozgus' intense impact, such an ungrounded woman is sure to get hung up on religion. In other words, "an office lady who's caught up in a dangerous new religion." That's Farnese [laugh].

Interviewer: How about Serpico?

Miura: Serpico is those female readers' "dream". My intuition was that he's the kind of man they would want to have around. To be frank, he's André from The Rose of Versailles. For a woman exhausted by society, he sees to her needs and considers her before all else. I thought this might be a woman's everlasting dream. To take it further, I think there are three dream men that a woman has. Someone like Serpico who sticks close by, a prince on a lofty peak for whom she longs, and someone wealthy and down-to-earth who will come and woo her. And I recently saw the stage production of Onna Kaizoku Bianca – based on Glass Mask by Suzue Miuchi. In it, those three types of men show up around the heroine. I realized, oh, the same thing's happened by coincidence in Berserk [laugh]! Farnese has Serpico close by, Guts to long for, and Roderick the rich guy. That's all three present and accounted for!

Interviewer: Conversely, Guts has three heroines in Casca, Farnese, and Schierke.

Miura: Maybe it's just a good balance to have three members of the opposite sex around. Although it's a coincidence here, too [laugh].

Interviewer: All right, how about Isidro?

Miura: Isidro was modeled a little on the child of an assistant I had at the time. He didn't have as much grit as Isidro, but he was highly ambitious, and he'd actually come to me and say "How can I become like you, Mr. Miura? Teach me the right way to do it!" [laugh] He'd say "I wanna get into the swing of things! But I also wanna take it easy!" He'd get all worked up, with this healthy delinquent-boy image going on, like Kaneda from Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira. Things are rough in Berserk, so Isidro fit as the image of a boy stubbornly making his way through that setting.

Interviewer: The world is what it is, and yet there's this impression of soundness somehow about Isidro.

Miura: Berserk's characters have their positives and negatives, along with their own personal motivations, and I depict them as putting those above all else. Someone like Mozgus touts some vague purpose like "For the sake of justice!" [laugh] And they'll seek their own benefit even as they cooperate with those who share their goals, or perhaps grow attached to and kinder to someone once they've been with them a long time. It really is an ordinary balance. Berserk is another world where I want to make it possible to sympathize with how ordinary the characters' humanity is. If I were to build on that, Isidro also has the "Child of the Showa era" aspect that's within me. When I was a child, there were plenty of children overflowing with energy who were all about putting themselves first. It's kind of a mental image of one producing one's own character and securing a place for him. Children are all nice since we've entered the Heisei era, and they give the impression of caring about being in balance with their surroundings, but I'd be interested to know what they'd think if they saw Isidro. They probably wouldn't sympathize with him [laugh].

A Portrayal of Magic that Goes Back to the Source[]

Interviewer: Then Guts' party meets Schierke and heads toward Enoch Village. Had you been planning to introduce magic around this point?

Miura: I depicted witch trials during the Conviction arc, so I was going to end up having to do witches and magic. I went in search of lots of reference books on magic, and amongst them was a book written by someone claiming to be a real magician. It sounds shady at first, but there are magic users overseas and they have the authoritative opinions on the subject. I thought I'd faithfully portray the way a real magician conceptualizes magic. In Japan, the game-like magic where you throw fireballs and such is typical, but naturally there's a concept out there in the world of actual "magic." This gets a little off-topic, but I heard this once in some documentary: "If you want to make a movie that rivals Star Wars, you can't watch Star Wars. Go watch what George Lucas was watching for the purpose of making Star Wars." Follow what's already been depicted, and you might just end up with an inferior copy.

Interviewer: Thus you looked into the fundamentals of magic.

Miura: I got my reference materials in order and decided to ponder what true magic was – or even just the impression thereof. And what I actually learned was that magic was more of an inner thing than I'd thought. It's like you generate a chain of images within you, then refresh them. Then it becomes crucial to paint a precise picture of that sensation. It's not like you chant a spell and then something pops into being. When you use magic, the important thing is to visualize the spell being carried out one layer higher – the Astral World, that is – and to precisely envision the vague imagery. Unless you do that, you can't express the "magic" of which real magic users speak.

Interviewer: After all the sword fighting, did drawing magic bring with it any complications?

Miura: It did. When I added magic, the visual framework of Guts defeating monsters with a big sword was in danger of collapsing. Magic couldn't be too convenient, either. That's why I struck a balance by making its invocation take time, etc. Something else I wanted to be careful of was how in games, you know how magic sparkles? I wanted to avoid that. I went for a depiction that's plain, in a sense. Like with water mysteriously increasing in volume, or tree branches snaking around and stretching outward.

Interviewer: You mean a magic more contiguous with reality.

Miura: I wanted to make real things change in a realistic way. Picture old movies and fairy tales, like Jack and the Beanstalk. So it's not taking a lesson from the past, but I tried to trace the course of old-school magic. It's the same for monsters. Pokémon has become popular in Japan. and there's this cute image that comes along with the term "monster." I debated about what real monsters are, and they became the apostles you know. It's humans who've incorporated the power of myth, with a feel that's close to the Japanese oni. That's the way I'm trying to trace the theme I've selected back to its source. Go back to the originator, and there comes into view the original shape that's totally different from the current image.

Interviewer: You mean, have a high regard for roots.

Miura: Do that, and you can put together a successful story. There's a long history of folk tales, and they're awfully public things, aren't they? On the other hand, anime and light novels that chase after constantly shifting fads? I couldn't tell you what they're going to leave behind to history. If you want your work to stick around for a long time, I'd like to encourage you to look closely into old things.

Guts Goes Up a Level with the Berserker Armor[]

Interviewer: And with the introduction of magic, Schierke also joined the group.

Miura: Schierke's appearance is partly because of Isidro showing up, but there's a second-generation aspect, like with Fist of the North Star's Bat and Lin. So if nature takes its course, won't she and Isidro end up as a couple? Schierke is drawn next to Guts, but next to the girl longing for an adult man is the boy who does his best as he steadily grows up. I have a feeling that's things as they should be [laugh].

Interviewer: Along with Schierke came numerous magic items and the Berserker Armor.

Miura: In a long-running work, you have to take the characters and story to the next level several times or people will end up bored with it. But if you shift in a weird way, the balance collapses and the work is ruined. The Berserker Armor powers Guts up a level, and I was careful of the aforementioned pitfall as I drew. He loses all reason and his limiters are released, literally making him a berserker. Guts had already been quite the berserker beforehand, but I wanted to draw him in a state where he'd abandoned reason even more. This made for a good balance, having magic enter the equation in order to keep his sword swinging. The Skull Knight had just shown up, so I figured I could treat the armor as if it were cursed.

Interviewer: Had you been thinking about this ever since the Skull Knight appeared?

Miura: I don't think this is true for all manga artists, but there are times when the significance of things I've placed suddenly comes to me as the serialization progresses. At some point, it strikes me what something I'd been drawing was there for all along. In the end, when a person draws long enough, maybe it's unconscious or a part of his nature, but a lot of things end up neatly linking together. As for the Berserker Armor, an idea occurred to me around the beginning of the Conviction arc, when the Beast of Darkness showed up. I'd felt the urge to manifest that ferocious deep psyche ever since, but needed a way to do it without changing Guts' appearance. So it came to me as I drew – the Berserker Armor would fully conceal Guts and transform as if devouring him. That would serve as a visual expression of instinct smothering reason, and it turned out well, if I do say so myself [laugh].

A New Route from Griffith's POV[]

Interviewer: After that, the story shifts to Griffith's side and becomes the dynamic struggle against Ganishka. Did you conceive these developments in order to lead into Fantasia?

Miura: Yes. You could say Ganishka's an epically gigantic stalking horse [laugh]. To establish a character on Griffith's level, I have to pit him against a character who's just about as incredible. It proceeds concurrently with Guts' story, so once Griffith is incarnated, Berserk turns into a story that follows two routes.

Interviewer: On the Griffith route, he starts to look like the protagonist.

Miura: I depict Griffith as a character who hardly ever talks about his own mental state, but gathering characters around him who express their feelings has the converse effect of elevating Griffith himself. Also, manga characters tend to be judged as enemies or allies – good or evil – but I'm trying not to create Berserk using such a value system. Griffith is Griffith, and he seems appealing, but maybe from his side Guts looks like the villain. And there are probably those who find the world Griffith creates to be more to their convenience. From there it's a question of what's going to happen with this setting called Fantasia [laugh].

And Then the Arrival at Elf Island[]

Interviewer: Around that time, Guts' party was having an adventure at sea.

Miura: The Guts route is ordinary fantasy, which is unusual for Berserk [laugh]. They form a party, procure a ship, and then pirates show up. There's been a lot of character development up until now, but from here they'll be completing quests. I wanted to try my hand at that kind of thing.

Interviewer: Had you planned on having Isma join the group?

Miura: That was unexpected, but it seemed a shame to lose her, so I had her join them [laugh]. When I tried putting her in, it was a surprisingly good balance. She fills the honest-and-dumb kid position, so she constantly opens her mouth and says whatever memorable thing is on her mind. I thought, maybe it'd be good to have a candid kid's viewpoint. While Isidro is also a child, his ambition is strong, and he ends up coming across as too comical. Isma becomes interesting when you combine her with others, so maybe she'll stand out if she's with Isidro or Puck. I'm not sure how much exploration I can do in terms of putting her with other characters. It's nice to show the appeal of a new character, but I also want to advance the story with a surging momentum.

Interviewer: Vol. 38 has the arrival at Elf Island. This became a big turning point, but what are your honest thoughts about it?

Miura: It was long in coming [laugh]. But I'm always thinking "How soon is the Golden Age arc going to end?" or "How soon is Falconia going to appear?" I ultimately end up feeling the same way with every chapter.

Interviewer: I was told you draw the next chapter once you decide on the developments therein.

Miura: But, I suppose stopping before I overthink things is a secret to keeping work going a long time. If I cram too much in, that creates pressure. My hands become tied and the current story is rendered inflexible. I think about it all loosely, and I first delve into things once I reach the point of drawing storyboards. I have a rough idea of what I absolutely have to do, so I can just ponder any seasoning beyond that when the time comes. In particular, I often conceive ways to present things as I'm drawing.

The Reality of Fantasy[]

Interviewer: It's been especially obvious since Falconia that you also portray ordinary people in a thorough manner.

Miura: If this were an ordinary manga, I'd only be able to draw from the viewpoints of the main character and the typically active characters, but if I'm going to portray Griffith as a character who has people following him, I have to portray the viewpoints of those people. If I don't put ordinary people into the story's route, I can't portray Griffith's charisma. But it's also boring to draw a story about an idea as vague as "everybody." That's where Laban and the others become necessary. As I draw, I realize that ordinary people are important. Like Luca, Laban, Magnifico, etc. It's not clear now why Magnifico's there [laugh]. Once a direction is decided upon in a story, the main character will carry you along as he acts to overcome something; but if that's all you've got, it's not going to amount to anything beyond about the scope of a movie. Serialized manga run long, you know. For the blank spaces, you need characters that are representative of ordinary people. Ordinary people show you everyday life, so there's a sense of linkage to the fantasy's worldview.

Interviewer: You mean you accurately portray realistic people along with a fantasy worldview.

Miura: Of course there's also the approach of making a story using only dramatic elements, and maybe those are especially prevalent in works aimed at young children. In stories set in schools where people have remarkable abilities, for instance, aren't those worlds made almost entirely of characters from the same generation? There are no older men or women, and if you're not careful, even parents don't show up. But at that point, the world you can depict is limited. Of course it becomes a story thick with characters and a worldview the readers like, but that's not the way I'm building mine.

Interviewer: How do you envision the way you draw?

Miura: I'm drawing a "window onto another world," where ordinary people, useless people, children, and old people are all living in ordinary ways. The camera is moving, of course, so my plan is to choose what I need as the situation demands, but useless things are also a part of the world, so I can't help but draw them.

Berserk, True to the Eighties[]

Interviewer: The dialogue and narration in Berserk are superb. Do you have any special way of coming up with it?

Miura: I don't ever write dialogue ahead of time. When I'm doing storyboards, I try to concisely place appropriate text in the locations that are important. Or else I get rid of lines. The more important a scene, the less dialogue I use. In the step prior to that I've been known to mix in unnecessary lines, so perhaps that means I'm worrying over vocal modulation. I also think there are parts of the story where I rely on my art.

Interviewer: How do important lines come to mind for you?

Miura: I do what I naturally do when I want to convey something to someone. Just because there are a lot of words doesn't mean my true meaning comes across. My passion level might come across, though [laugh]. I suppose if I want to convey something, using one or two important words will do it. I think it's a balance, in the end. I put so much detail into my art, if the dialogue is limited it will have that much more impact, and I think the resulting dialogue leaves an impression on the reader.

Interviewer: I asked you earlier about the story's current turning point of the arrival at Elf Island, but is there anything you want to attempt hereafter with Berserk?

Miura: I've gone pretty far and wide with this whole thing, so I'd like to tidy up of the stuff I've done so far. As for new things, I'd like to move forward in preparation for building toward the showdown between Guts and Griffith.

Interviewer: Well then, to wrap this up, please pass along a message for fans who bought this book. Both for new readers, and for those who've been following along for many years.

Miura: I suspect there are young readers who started reading Berserk during this festive time. Fantasy has its own history, and even now I'm continuing to use the same yakitori seasoning – that is, 80s manga – which are perhaps what all you youngsters' fathers were engrossed with back then [laugh]. Those of you who find this to be of interest, please give those older works a try. I'd be thrilled if you would support Berserk and also take this opportunity to develop an interest in the things I was so into. And to everyone who's been reading along since the old days, Berserk is still moving ahead as it always has. I suspect you drift away at times when gaps open up in the serialization schedule, but please come back when you get curious. I'm still here working on Berserk. And I want to maintain my health as I somehow make it to the conclusion. As ever, here's to the future!

Interviewer: Thank you very much!

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