- 1 Berserk Illustrations File Interview (1996-12-04)
- 2 Interview with Yukari Fujimoto (2000)
- 3 Berserk DVD 3 (Region 1) Interview (2002)
- 4 Challenging the Manga Dojos (2010)
- 5 Berserk Official Guidebook Interview (2017)
- 5.1 "Festivals" and "Ordinary Days" During Serialisation
- 5.2 Berserk, Born of a "Style"
- 5.3 The Shift from the Black Swordsman to the Golden Age Arc
- 5.4 Hardships of the Fantasy Genre
- 5.5 Face to Face with Writing Materials
- 5.6 The Conviction Arc is Sekaikei?!
- 5.7 The Secret History of the Travelling Companions' Creation
- 5.8 A Portrayal of Magic that Goes Back to the Source
- 5.9 Guts Goes Up a Level with the Berserker Armor
- 5.10 A New Route from Griffith's POV
- 5.11 And Then the Arrival at Elf Island
- 5.12 The Reality of Fantasy
- 5.13 Berserk, True to the Eighties
- 6 Le Figaro Interview (2019)
Berserk Illustrations File Interview (1996-12-04)
Interviewer: "Berserk" is your first work, right?
Miura: Mmm, yeah I guess, though I made my debut by drawing one-shots.
Interviewer: When you started the serialization, did you already plan the manga at this scale?
Miura: No, I didn't. At first I didn't have any advanced plan. I just thought to do a shônen fantasy manga with a dark hero because the manga of mine that had received a prize was published in a shônen magazine. A hero that suited shônen magazines. And well, there weren't many fantasy manga at that time. If I had to name any... just "Bastard!!"? So I thought about going for a niche genre... But that's all. I couldn't see further than that. It was my first serialization not based on an original work, I didn't know what to do! [Laughs.] First of all, I focused on creating an atypical hero.
Interviewer: Did you always have a prototype of Guts, of that kind of hero, in your mind?
Miura: Well, I have loved Science Fiction and Fantasy since my school days. Some of my doodles from back then are similar to him. I can't say they're the prototype for Guts, but I was able to create him by merging them together: the initial image of the knight was nothing more than a black knight with an artificial arm. Other things were inspired by various sources, for example, the appearance of the character came from Science Fiction. Basically, each element came from something different.
Interviewer: What about the name, Guts? Had it been in your mind for a long time?
Miura: No, [Laughs.] I came up with it like for the other things, when I barely managed to start doing my work. Likewise, I thought about a name for a shônen manga hero, and I thought that a voiced sound would be good for it. Besides, "Guts" sounded somehow like a German name. I liked it as well, so I took it. There already existed many cool names or names that went well with Fantasy stuff. It was simply because I thought the name would suit a shônen manga at that time. Nothing more. However, there's one thing I learned later: the German word meaning "cat" sounds like "Katte" or "Gatte", which sounds similar to "Guts". I thought it's also good that it can bear some atmosphere that evokes a "wildcat". I learned about this coincidence a long time afterwards though.
Interviewer: In terms of style, what specific things did you focus on when you created the huge sword?
Miura: As for the related materials, so many sources were mixed together. The arm canon, the big sword, the outfit of a black knight and the one-eyed man... I'd say they form a kind of image. The canon and the sword are my signature items. It's because I'm from the generation that was impacted directly by "Hokuto no ken". The idea is the most important part of the manga. It was a time when the idea was considered to be the core of it, preceding the story or the characters. In "Hokuto no Ken", Hokuto Shinken was a lot more important than Kenshiro's personality. The idea of Hokuto Shinken: once attacked, they explode. That's why it blew us away.
So, to come up with a novel or fantastic idea was a trend among us mangaka at that time. To me, a mangaka should think of, should be able to think of such things. I milked my brain. Finally, I came up with the idea of a huge sword or a huge thing...
Interviewer: Now, the rest is about the gun and the cannon.
Miura: At first, I just decided on the image of a "bowgun". As for the sword, my initial idea was a very sharp sword, like a Japanese sword. However, I thought it would be ideal to take a few more steps from that initial idea. A bowgun with a cannon. Speaking of cannons, fantasy manga were drawn, at that time, in a time setting before the age when cannons appeared. So, my final touch was to include the "age of cannons" in my world.
Interviewer: As for "the age of cannons" you mentioned, it means you set up the time setting of your world around that era?
Miura: Surprisingly, it's not like that. At first, I had various thoughts. There are rough things in the very early Middle Ages, but brilliant things like the Palace of Versailles are far after that. In the end, I created one age that looked like it spanned from the early Middle Ages to the end of the Middle Ages in Europe. For example, the ball in Midland is, I think, close to the end of it. But the story of the lord comes long before that time. So European readers might say "what the hell is this?". Well, I think the way foreigners see us, Japanese people, matches this case perfectly: "hey, ninjas!". It's Ok because I just draw my work to please Japanese people, I don't have any strategy for the global market. [Laughs.]
Interviewer: The details are quite elaborate. You must have a lot of material and so on, right?
Miura: It's because I want to draw images of the Middle Ages in Europe. I've collected quite a lot of material, like images. When I first started my work, I actually racked my brain to decide on whether to go for a historical manga, faithfully following History, or to do a fantasy manga. Now, it's been helpful that I studied History a lot at that time. Some historical elements are taken as they are. But in some parts, the age of Dracula and that of Jeanne d'Arc are set together a little bit. In that regard, at some point I thought it would be good to make the characters wander around Europe.
Interviewer: Why did you go for a fantasy manga, not just following History?
Miura: Precisely speaking, it's because I thought the range of my imagination might become narrow if I already depended on History while I was still young. For example, Mr. Mitsuteru Yokoyama has currently been drawing a historical manga, but he drew "Tetsujin 28" and "Babel II" in his early career. And Mr. Shotaro Ishinomori has drawn many informative manga recently. But without "Cyborg 009", one of his early works, he wouldn't be what he is now... So I preferred to bet on my imagination while I'm young rather than to do a historical or informative manga. I want to work on these kind of manga in my late career.
Interviewer: Is there something you used as a reference when you created Berserk's world with your imagination?
Miura: There are many things. Movies like "Hellraisers" and "The Name of the Rose". I've liked Escher for a very long time. Well, I think Berserk readers would already know this kind of thing from "behind the scene" features... It's also inspired by Grimms' Fairy Tales and so on.
Interviewer: Using your imagination, did you create the whole world, etc. in "clicks" (very easily and quickly, like snapping a picture with a camera)?
Miura: It's what I should do from now on. [Laughs.] I've just done "tada!" images so far. (Miura answers using onomatopoeia since the interviewer used one.)
Interviewer: What about the range of the world?
Miura: Griffith became one of the God Hand at last in the youth segment, which was mainly about the human world. What to say, non-human things will show up more often from now on. In other words, I'd say it's extended to a world covering things like gods, demons...
Miura: However, this is just what I try not to go with. If they are defined with words like gods, demons or something, it feels like the world is limited, revealing everything, and there's no room for extension. Anyway, these things are kind of what humans created. And (they are) what humans' spirits are materialized as. This is a question like "who was first between the chicken and the egg?" though. All of them are a mirror of humans. I think their image should be no more than that. I only want to use them as an element that the readers can sympathize with.
Interviewer: As for the details, there's one more thing. What about martial arts? I think these kind of scenes are important in Berserk.
Miura: I like it very much but I haven't collected much material for it. I just have some images of samurai and knights. When it comes to action scenes, I want to draw them realistically. A harmony of reality and fabrication. But it IS hard to harmonize them. As for the image of Guts and the image of the sword he uses, sometimes he crushes small objects with one slash. In this case, I think there's no real sword-fighting skill that matches it exactly. So I want to collect information to some extent, but I don't want to let the images that come up to my mind initially be damaged by it. I decided to use the best balance between informative manga about martial arts and animations featuring machines. I want to put priority on images, even those for which I'd say "I won't do such a thing". I mean in "Hokuto no Ken", for example, sky-flying-like-jumps may be too much but "poking enemies and they explode" could be accepted. I have no idea about things after that. [Laughs.]
Interviewer: But I think martial arts are quite complicated... Though Berserk is a world of swords and fantasy, Griffith seemed to try something like a joint-locking technique during the Guts vs. Griffith fight...?
Miura: Ahhh, I don't know if it's considered to be on a level that ordinary people can recognize. In fact, I have many people, around me, who are absorbed in martial arts. Some of them are actual martial artists. I find myself quite a big lover of it but when I'm with them, I get to think, "Ahhh, I'm just an amateur, indeed." [Laughs.] Maybe I could manage to draw a martial arts manga, mobilizing all the knowledge I have, but I know it wouldn't work for them. Compared to them, I'm far from being an expert. Since I know it, I leave this kind of thing to others.
Interviewer: But didn't you get to like martial arts a lot through their influence?
Miura: Yes, to some extent. But what I ultimately like are things like manga and story. It's not like I love martial arts themselves. However, sometimes we have drama-like-martial arts. The recent match of Holyfield VS Tyson, this IS a drama, I even shedded tears. It was amazing. I watched it from a video that a friend of mine recorded though. When the two men weighed, their bodies were unsurprisingly great. No heavyweight boxers could be like them. [Laughs.] It's a bit awkward to say, but I took Holyfield's body as a model for this Berserk episode. The abdominal muscles are divided lengthways. I've never seen center-divided abdominal muscles. They can't be built with common training.
Interviewer: I see, but what you like most: reading manga and drama, it's quite linked to your work. Do you have any hobby that is unrelated to manga creation?
Miura: As for my current hobby, it's playing games, that's all. Because I don't have to spend a long time on it. I'm absorbed in simulation games these days. I also like Girl games and action games. Well, I usually like popular games.
Interviewer: You do it quite well. Is it for diversion?
Miura: Yes. I play games about one hour a day. But it's good enough considering some games are finished in two hours. You know, that's the way. I have piled some games. I plan to start playing them when my holidays come. Actually, I bought a Nintendo 64 recently.
Interviewer: How do you allocate time for your hobby and work? Can you tell us what your schedule is for one episode's deadline?
Miura: As for my usual daily schedule, I get up around 7:00 – 8:00 PM. I start to work around 8:30 – 9:00 PM. I work and then eat. And then I work again until the next break at 3:00 AM, when I take one meal. Hmm, until 3:30 AM I watch a video that I recorded on that day while eating. And then I get back to work. After that, I have my last meal at 6:00 AM and work until around 12:00 PM. Until 1:00, 2:00 or 3:00 PM at the latest and until 11:00 – 11:30 AM at the earliest. It's my normal working routine.
Interviewer: Do you set your norma precisely as well?
Miura: Yes, I do. If I can't work a daily norma, it's carried out to the next day... Generally, I fix one day more than the schedule as a surplus. That's why I have no holiday sometimes. But without "the surplus", I'll be often late. When I allocate the same amount of time for sketching and inking, the former is relatively quickly done but the latter usually takes more time.
Interviewer: How many pages do you draw each day?
Miura: I sketch around 6 pages a day. One month is taken up with this workload. Considering I have two deadlines a month, it means I only draw. I create a certain amount of storyboards at another time so it's not included in the two weeks creating period. However, I've managed well thanks to the great role of Mr. Shimada, my editor.
Interviewer: At what stage do you usually have trouble?
Miura: I'd surely say it's drawing. The hardest time is just before I go to bed. Precisely speaking, 19 hours before 6:00 AM (around 11:00 AM). Around that time I get distracting thoughts while I work. Sometimes my work doesn't proceed. That's why I set some extra days. However, it doesn't happen when I sketch.
Interviewer: What's your working type in this kind of time? Do you concentrate on your work or do you work while doing other things?
Miura: The latter is my type. I watch TV. I watch TV or listen to music. But I work on storyboards with no sound. All other off-work activities bring me some kind of luck.
Interviewer: We usually don't pay much attention to it. Watching TV, it's just a part of our downtime. Do you watch TV like watching recorded videos?
Miura: Yes, mostly. When a friend of mine is playing a game at my side, I can't say the noise doesn't bother me at all. But my work proceeds when he's there.
Interviewer: How about a must-have item? Is there a thing that you always have when you work?
Miura: Yes. Well, I need much water or drinks. I always prepare this kind of thing (mineral water or other drinks in a PET bottle).
Interviewer: Does it include coffee or something as well?
Miura: Precisely speaking, it's coffee. However, I get stomachaches after a while because I drink so much coffee. So I take tea instead. If I also have a problem with tea, I shift to water. If I get better, I take coffee again. And then I shift to tea again and then to water again... this is how it goes. [Laughs.]
Interviewer: As long as your stomach is Ok, basically, coffee is your favorite...
Miura: Yes, but I drink it too much.
Interviewer: Do you have occasions to drink liquor or not at all?
Miura: I can enjoy drinking but not much... Anyway, I have no occasion for it.
Interviewer: What about your holidays?
Miura: I have no holidays. For the past year, no holidays at all. I finally have 2 weeks' holidays now but it will be used to look for a house. I should move.
Interviewer: I guess you're hardly exposed to sunlight...
Miura: I see the morning sun through the veranda. I come out to the veranda and the morning sun is so bright that it dazzles my eyes. I can concentrate best on my work under the light of this lamp. I don't see the sunlight. I'm a vampire!
Interviewer: Do you do exercise?
Miura: I do pushups or work on my abs whenever I feel like it. But it's occasional.
Interviewer: You're healthy despite this lifestyle. Is it Ok for you to lead your life this way?
Miura: I think my "rhythm" enables me to manage it. I'm a mangaka-type and suitable to be a mangaka. Though it's hard to work without holidays, I don't have much trouble leading my own regulated life. Instead, I'm not very good at concentrating intensively on work when there's little time left until the deadline.
Interviewer: You said you're suitable to be a mangaka. When did you first know you wanted to be a mangaka?
Miura: It's so long ago that I can't even make an approximate estimation. I guess it's around my kindergarten years since I drew for the first time in my life before I entered an elementary school. I really don't remember the very first moment. All I can remember is that I drew manga first on a notebook for university students during the second grade in elementary school. It was some kind of revelation. To please others or to receive praise by drawing was the happiest thing in my youth. I guess "old habits die hard". My family moved quite often at that time. My drawings enabled me to make new friends in the schools I shifted to. Now that I think of it, it was a time when I already established my identity as a drawer in a way. [Laughs.]
Interviewer: Do you mean that your childhood dream or hobby eventually directed you to become a professional mangaka?
Miura: It was after I entered high school. Before that, I only focused on visuals and I felt like drawing manga or pictures. So I had an ability to draw but wasn't zealous in building a story. In an art class at my high school, I made close friends with all those who were interested in movies or music. However, I got to realize there was some kind of emptiness in me, in getting along with them.
Meanwhile I was one of a group of five friends whose goal was to be mangaka. All of them had their own specialty other than drawing manga, like playing the guitar for example. We influenced and introduced each other saying things like "the ongoing movie is enjoyable" or "it's good to read this book"... "Otherwise, you won't be able to be a mangaka"; this represented well how the group was.
There was a thing that today's high school students can't understand: in my days, friends were also some kind of rivals. So I wanted to look great to the others. What should I do to look great? I had to watch movies and read books. Repeating this, I learned that manga isn't only about drawing. I acquired the ability to conceive a story while I was a university student. Precisely speaking, when I entered for a prize in my university days.
Interviewer: Did you have any experience as an assistant before?
Interviewer: Then, did you learn structuring, paneling... all by yourself?
Miura: Yes, I learned many things through trial and error in the 5 friends-group. I had no mentor.
Interviewer: Do you have any favorite mangaka who has influenced you?
Miura: Yes, I've been influenced by numerous manga through all the ages. There are so many that I can't even mention one and its creator specifically. My current style was established by being influenced more and more over time, like a snowball.
Interviewer: Could you tell us a manga that you like as a reader, excluding the ones that have influenced you?
Miura: I enjoy stories through the drawings themselves. I like manga so much that I'm always influenced by it. So, I'd say I like all the manga I read.
Interviewer: Now, you ARE a pro-mangaka whose work is read by everybody. From now on, will you create your work with the intention to please the readers? Or on the contrary, will you create it without taking this kind of intention into account?
Miura: I don't have such intentions at all. I've been drawing for myself, which is combined, somewhere along the line, with "some parts of it are for the readers".
Interviewer: Considering all the things you mentioned, I guess you're interested in a wide range of subjects. However, you've been absorbed in a single work: Berserk. You may have many themes other than those of this manga that you'd like to draw, am I right?
Miura: I have many things to realize with my work, but have no time for them. [Laughs.] I work on Sci-Fi or some manuscripts from time to time. I really need some leisure time.
Interviewer: What about other genres like videos, movies or animations...? Are you inclined to try some of them?
Miura: No, not at all. I think it's because of my friends. I mean I want to stick to my fields since I have friends who are brilliant in other fields. Besides, I want to do my best on my current work above all. Berserk is my first good serialization. I'll be sad if I can't complete it while I set about doing other works.
Interviewer: Regarding Berserk that you want to concentrate on, how do you want to develop the story from now on?
Miura: First of all, I want to add more female characters. Since having only a "man's world" is not well balanced, one or two new female characters are needed. And important new characters should be introduced as well. They are related to Guts in a way similar to the Band of the Falcon, instead of taking their place. Staying alone is too hard for Guts. However, these characters aren't as close to him as the Band of the Falcon. They can be rather hostile with him. I've conceived some characters with whom the story development can be varied.
Interviewer: I can't wait to see the new characters appear. I'll look forward to the upcoming episodes. Thank you very much for telling us many interesting things.
BONUS QUESTIONS: How Will Griffith/Femto End?
Interviewer: The "Black Swordsman" arc has just begun. The axis will be, obviously, the story in which Guts' feud with the God Hand, who Griffith/Femto belongs to, being brought to a close. Let's think about the development leading to the finale. First of all, what is the goal of the God Hand now that it's composed of 5 members? It is naturally expected that if Guts can't find it out, he won't even be able to confront them. Before that, is the God Hand complete with the addition of Femto?
Miura: Hmm, for now the God Hand is supposed to be complete with Femto. I'm sorry but now is not a good time, as expected, to reveal their goal... Instead, I'll give you one hint. The keyword is "Void". You can imagine many things based on it.
Will Guts Get a Power Up?
Interviewer: The next problem is the power difference between Femto and Guts. Guts has managed to fight equally with apostles thanks to the cannon in his artificial arm and his trademark sword, while Femto reigns over the apostles and his power is totally bottomless.
Miura: [Laughs.] I'm often asked this question. It's true Guts can't defeat such a powerful group.
Interviewer: [I drew Miura out by saying that Guts could also get something like beyond-human power, and he answered...]
Miura: Oh no, then it means Guts wouldn't be human anymore. Meh... What I can say is Guts is, basically, a lucky guy who survives very unlucky situations.
Interviewer: Does this comment imply that "good luck" will play a big role going forward?
- (This question is seemingly rhetorical and/or aimed at the reader, as Miura's response is not included.)
What's the Relation Between the Skull Knight and the Legend of Midland's Founding?
Interviewer: The Skull Knight has shown up alongside Guts' journey to fight Femto. He must have some kind of connection to the God Hand.
Miura: Well, it's normal to think so. The Skull Knight has had a long and complicated story with some members of the God Hand since long ago, and it still lasts so far... it's possible because this is a thousand year-old story.
Will Midland Be the Background Again?
Interviewer: One thousand years! The legend of Midland's founding is also a story from a thousand years ago. Are both... (related)?
Miura: [Laughs.] Good point. Actually, I think Midland should be the background again, though it's not sure that will happen right after the Black Swordsman arc.
Will It Be Ended There?!
Miura: I can't tell you that much and I haven't thought that far yet. Anyway, when Midland shows up again, please wait to see with joy what is and will be going on there. As for the ending... I myself don't have any idea of what it will be. The story may end with Guts, or maybe it will continue in the future.
Interview with Yukari Fujimoto (2000)
Interviewer: When I first started reading Berserk, I was like, hey, this is Violence Jack! And then I was like hey, this is Guin Saga! And then when I got to the part where the demons swarm around Guts and tell him he belongs to them I was like, hey, this is Dororo! That's just what it reminded me of personally, though, so I'd like to start by asking whether you actually did have any works like that in mind when making Berserk.
Miura: I was a manga reader. There are things that I've consciously borrowed from, but there are also things that have sunk to the bottom of my consciousness and pop up out of nowhere later. They've become part of me. Violence Jack and Guin Saga are things I was obviously really into, and I do think that Guin Saga was the biggest source for this fantasy universe. That atmosphere it has just stuck with me and now I think of it as the standard to measure things against, so I suppose you're right.
Interviewer: I see. How about the sword, then? It's one of Guts's main features. Did it not come from Violence Jack?
Miura: That comes from Shinji Wada's Pygmalio. Also, I think it was in the Guin Saga spin-off The Snow Queen, there was this illustration of a two- or three-meter-tall giant wielding a sword. Guts's sword is a cross between those two. It's just the right size to be still somehow carryable, while giving that close-to-the-action feeling of violent men's manga. I couldn't make up my mind for a while, though, and Guts's design went through quite a bit of change – long hair, wielding a katana, etc. After agonizing over it for a while I ended up with what he is now, and I felt like I really nailed it. All I had to do was somehow capture the swinging around of that sword and that pleasingness of it. I probably don't know what I'm talking about given that I've only created the story for one manga, but when you do manage to hit upon that crucial something before you start, I feel like it works out.
Interviewer: Absolutely. I wasn't expecting you to be inspired by the sword in Pygmalio, though. I mean, Kuruto [the protagonist] does have a small body and carries a big sword, but the art and universe in your manga seems completely different. Then again, your editor did say that all kinds of surprising things appear in your manga in bizarre forms. (laugh) Like, apparently you've used Ranpo as reference when drawing. Of all manga, though: Ranpo and Berserk...
On the left, Ranpo (1978-1987), on the right, Pygmalio (1978-1990). Both are exactly what you'd expect from the covers.
Miura: Is that surprising? (laugh) I'm using it for the backgrounds, though.
Interviewer: Ah, of course! That makes sense.
Miura: The thing is, when you're just an ordinary manga fan not aiming to become an artist yourself, you get to choose whatever manga you like and read within your own safety zone. When you're trying to become an artist yourself, though, that's not wide enough. You won't make it. So there was a time that I was trying to read as broadly as possible – which there's a limit to, but I'd try to read basically anything that wasn't painful to read, anything that people recommended to me, anything that was popular.
Interviewer: When would that have been?
Miura: From high school to university, roughly. All kinds of books, manga, movies – as much as I could.
Interviewer: Most aspiring manga artists don't go that far though, do they?
Miura: The truth is that I sat at my desk drawing manga all the time and seriously lacked personal experience, and I felt insecure about that. Which is why I started thinking that I had better at least absorb as much of the stuff people recommend as possible.
Interviewer: When was it that you feel you'd cleared the bar in terms of art? By which I mean, when was it that you started feeling satisfied with what you draw and your style came together for you?
Miura: Now, here's the thing about drawing. When we were young and stupid, we used to copy stuff drawn by guys like Yoshikazu Yasuhiko and Fujihiko Hosono and practice drawing mangalike pictures. We were in fine arts, though. We used to have to draw things for class and I was pretty good at it, but I wasn't very good at manga art. So I wanted to learn how to draw like Fujihiko Hosono, but I also wanted to make use of my realistic drawing abilities. And then meanwhile, I wanted to do an intricate story like Guin Saga, but I also liked how over-the-top Violence Jack was. All of that gradually coalesced into my current art style, I think.
You know how they said on [the TV show] Manga Yawa that I was bad at drawing? They're absolutely right. Ever since high school, I've been trying all sorts of different things to combine being good at drawing reality with being good at drawing manga art. If I were doing a story like Fist of the North Star, I would be able to really concentrate entirely on just drawing well. The manga I want to create, however, has aspects to it that can be downright shojo mangaesque, and I wouldn't be able to pull that off if I went all-out Fist of the North Star in terms of art. So I have to strike this balance between delicate drama and Fist of the North Star, and after much wrestling with this I finally ended up with my current art style, although I imagine that it will still be subject to change.
Interviewer: Ah, so you try to give a certain delicacy to your art as well as the story. I actually have this personal theory that Berserk is really a shojo manga, but I take it then that it wouldn't come as much of a surprise for you to hear that?
Miura: Makes sense to me. Shojo manga is all about expressing every feeling powerfully, and in that sense it's not as contrived as manga for men. Men's manga tends to come off as more calculated to sell well, whereas shojo manga are somehow just... fluffier. I realize that's not a very descriptive word, but anyway, that might be something I have in common with shojo manga.
Interviewer: You have fluffiness in common?
Miura: I guess what I mean is, like, in order to express emotions, logic comes second, whereas it's usually the other way around.
Miura: [In high school] I was in a group full of people saying they wanted to be manga artists, but were actually busy getting girlfriends and getting into fights, so they weren't really all that otaku. So I was basically the biggest manga nerd out of the bunch. It was a group of five, and I was pretty much the yellow ranger of the group: lagging behind in terms of emotional growth, but way ahead of the others in terms of drawing ability. I wasn't capable of making a story that would really make anyone feel much of anything, though.
So that information coming from outside – the other group members' love troubles and fights – was really new to me. Also, there's the fact that people who go into fine arts tend to be people with big egos who all have something that they're particularly good at, and so with these other guys showing off what they're good at, I wanted to find what I could do. Drawing, I decided, was my only option. The only way I could keep on equal footing with these guys was to make my mark as a manga artist. It became this strange obsession for me.
Interviewer: Is that idea that you had to stay on "equal footing" something that is reflected now in the relationship between Guts and Griffith?
Miura: Yes, it is, quite a bit. I don't know what relationships between boys these days are like, but back in the eighties, boys were really obsessed with stuff like how good their friends were at things, how highly they "ranked" in comparison to their friends, etc. For boys, friendship isn't about consoling each other. Sometimes you even try to take the other guy down a peg or two. But to break away from those friends would feel like admitting defeat, and you do help each other when you find some sort of goal. That's where the Band of the Hawk comes from.
Interviewer: I see – so, that core from your high school days has been transformed into the story in Berserk.
Miura: Right. I'd done some training to change that group of high school friends into a band of mercenaries by the time I was graduating university.
Interviewer: And you took that formative experience and put it into the sprawling original fantasy world of Berserk. When'd you come up with that idea? How much did you plan out at that point?
Miura: I'd hardly thought any of it out at first. I had no idea how far I'd be able to run with just that original idea for the manga, and I really hadn't come up with the idea for the Band of the Hawk at all. Aside from the monster-slaying black swordsman, I had this idea that it'd be easier to give him something to fight if I added the element of revenge to it, and that was about it.
Interviewer: That's true of the prototype story, but from the very start of the actual series we see Griffith's transformed self as well as Apostles and the God Hand, so it at least certainly seems like you had worked out quite a bit of the universe before starting it, though.
Miura: It looks that way now in retrospect, but up until volume three all I had in mind was that it would be a story about anger. In preparation for starting this series, first I asked myself what it was that I had to pay attention to, and what I decided was that I would make sure that the character was angry. So then I asked myself how to make him angry. There are a lot of ways to depict anger – there's the explosive kind of anger, but then there's the kind of anger where your face just loses its color and goes expressionless. I decided I would just focus on expressing anger and hope I'd find something to work with.
So how well I could evoke the fascinatingness of an angry person was going to make or break the manga at the start. Now, how do I go about making Guts angry? Depending on the answer, he might come out looking like a scary monster and seem inhuman, or maybe he'll be scary in a more human way. And so when the God Hand showed up in the manga, Griffith still wasn't all that important yet.
Interviewer: Really? I figured that you must've had the antagonism with Griffith in mind from the start.
Miura: I think there were a bunch of things overlapping in my mind, and they start coming together around the third volume of Berserk. First of all, if Guts is angry, there is going to have to be an object of that anger. So I asked myself what people get angry at, and, well, something you see a lot of is the murderer of one's parents, but as I already said, I was someone who friendship mattered a lot to, so the idea of making the target of Guts's anger a friend, or at least a man of the same general age, naturally came to mind. So I put that character in, but then I have to give the reason why Guts is angry. So then we have the Band of the Hawk, where I make use of my own past.
Interviewer: So it was the idea of creating an "equal" character for your protagonist that brought out these things from inside yourself.
Miura: I'm not sure if this works as a lesson to take away from this, but like I said before, when you're working hard on something, sometimes you just hit upon the right thing and it all starts falling into place. I myself am someone not very good at planning, but when you stop and think about the manga you've already made, I think you'll find that there was some sort of reason behind it. Assuming you don't have multiple personalities or something.
Interviewer: It's all connected on a subconscious level, you're saying.
Miura: And if I dig into that enough, it comes together as a story. It's not something done intentionally.
Interviewer: Getting back to the topic of planning Berserk, though, there's a long flashback arc that starts in volume three, showing things like Guts's youth and leading up to the Eclipse. Did you at least have parts of that long story in mind when you started drawing, or did you just make it up as you went?
Miura: Back then it was more like I was making it up as I went, I'd say. I actually hadn't planned for Guts and Casca to get together, you know – it just occurred to me partway through that it'd be more dramatic that way. As I remember it now, all I'd really decided at the time was that there'd be about five characters, and I'd make them similar to five of my friends.
Interviewer: I see – so those five friends are the base models for the characters.
Miura: Pretty much. The only difference is, there aren't any Griffiths or Guts in our group. There really was a guy similar to Judeau. We had a Corkus too, and a Rickert. There's no Casca, though, since it was a group of guys. And then Pippin is me, in terms of physical appearance.
Interviewer: Ahh, I see. Alright.
Miura: The yellow ranger, basically. I'm pretty sure that was the role I played. On the inside, though – and maybe manga artists tend to idealize themselves, but – I would have Guts-like thoughts, or Griffith-like thoughts. Manga is a funny thing: rather than taking base models and inserting them into your manga unchanged, you can do things like break the models up and rearrange their different parts into all sorts of strange things.
Interviewer: What exactly do you mean when you say you thought like Guts or Griffith?
Miura: So, for example, in terms of manga, I was head and shoulders above everyone in terms of drawing, but at the same time, I looked up to the guy who used to act as the leader. He was very much like Griffith in terms of ability: he was the type who put his money where his mouth was, and he even had a bit of that touch-of-the-divine feel to him. In terms of violence, though, I'd say he was very much like Guts.
He would go out and get into fights every day and then come to my house afterwards and say, "Alright, let's draw some manga," and then he'd go to his part-time job the next day, sleep deprived. He was a wonder. So in order to keep up with him I felt like I needed some sort of trick of my own, and I decided to work hard on drawing manga. Later on, though, I would find out that he apparently used to act violently the way he did because he was amazed by my ability at manga.
So then in university he gave up becoming a manga artist, and he decides he'll do things that the rest of us will be jealous of – sleep with a hundred girls, get hired into a first-rate company, that sort of thing. And he manages to pull it off. Then he becomes an illustrator, and starts pulling in tens of millions of yen a year while he's still in his twenties. But it's still manga that he wants to do, so in the end he throws it all away and starts from square one in the manga industry.
Interviewer: Wow, that's an amazing story.
Miura: See, so up until that point, he's Griffith. But then from there he falls and re-examines what it is he really wants to do, and so in that sense, that makes him Guts, right? Maybe Griffith and Guts are symptoms that affect boys. When a boy seriously tries to do something, he could become either one.
Interviewer: Interesting – so you're saying that you have both of them inside you.
Miura: They're both there. When things start going well, Griffith starts sprouting up. If Berserk were to start to slip and fall, I'd probably go back to Guts. Anyone trying to build up something experiences both sides, I suspect. This is something I only realized talking about it now.
Interviewer: So, about the Egg Apostle: I heard that he was created out of empathy for hikikomori or the uncool kids or something like that.
Miura: Okay, so for better or for worse, monsters constantly appear in Berserk, and there's an old trope that the reason monsters are violent is because they're sad. People like Tim Burton have really nailed that sort of thing, the sad but scary, and it's something I want to do, too. And then you look at modern Japan for sad and scary, and you've got people who turn to crime, or are on the verge of it, or are at least scared that they might turn to it. And that's something that I want the reader to sympathize with. By the time you're in high school I feel like everyone has this fear that they might do something bad someday, or have something bad done to them. It's something I still vaguely feel, even at this age. I think people these days tend to try to exclude anything that's different from themselves. It's the "Me" generation. But we can't let ourselves forget that there are a lot of people out there who can't speak up for themselves.
Interviewer: I feel like that syncs up really nicely with the sense of fear in Berserk. It might not be on a conscious level, but I really find that there's a lot of resonance going on between Berserk and the present. Do you watch the news much?
Miura: Yes, I like watching the news, I like documentaries. The main things I can't bring myself to watch are dramas and variety shows.
Interviewer: I can relate.
Miura: And in that sense I think I'm just like the kids in high school and university who can't bring themselves to go out into public. I mean, I myself am currently living the life of the uncool, after all. (laugh) So I guess if I had a family or something then I'd make manga geared more toward family men, but for better or for worse I've stayed the way I am and I do think that comes out in my work.
Interviewer: So, about all those refugees [in the Birth Festival storyline], when they're hunting for heretics: I heard that you came up with the idea for them from when refugees in Yugoslavia or somewhere like that were in the news.
Miura: Back then I guess it would've been Yugoslavia, or maybe the Tutsis and Hutus. I'm not really sure. Anyway, it made me say to myself, "God, the world's a really cruel place right now." So part of the idea was that I'd put in something resembling those people in order to make things a little topical. But then it's crucial that I make it so that it's actually about Japan – my readers are reading from a Japanese perspective, after all – and so I use the refugees to show all sorts of things like how xenophobic groups can be, or how people will refuse to act for themselves and just wait for someone else to do things for them. The idea was to expand upon the bad aspects of groups in the present day.
Interviewer: So those refugees are Japan, then?
Miura: Things from outside Japan do go into the manga on a superficial level, but the Berserk world is, in terms of the way it feels, essentially Japan. It started from a pretty core Japanese place right from the start.
Interviewer: Wait, so you're saying that while it may not look like it on the outside, Berserk reflects Japan on a mental level?
Miura: Something like that, yeah.
Interviewer: This conversation is making me realize that there are a lot of surprising things appearing in surprising forms in Berserk: the refugees are actually Japanese, you're influenced by Yumiko Oshima...
Miura: I don't consider myself a special person doing something that only I can do, though. I think of myself more as pretty much just an ordinary person. It's not like I'm looking at all kinds of stuff, either – I'd say I take in about as much as the average person. I suppose I do make more use of what I look at, though. I can look at things that most people would get nothing out of – some weird movie or something – and take something away from it, so long as there's some sort of human drama in there.
Basically, people live their lives taking the stuff happening around them and breaking it down into something that makes sense to them, and for me, manga is where I talk about that stuff. It's a matter of being able to connect it together into a network, I think. I don't think of leisure and work as separate things – even what's happening here right now will go toward the manga, in the end. It's a matter of bringing everything out into the manga.
Interviewer: I do think manga is a medium that could probably contain the whole world.
Miura: Right. So, I don't think the information I take in is special, and I don't think I've got an especially sharp way of thinking. I couldn't do a manga that slices things clean in half – I do more of a brooding, writhing kind of manga. But what I think is unique to me is that I can connect everything together in my mind, and I can mull it over long and hard. Persistence, I guess you call it. Hence my haunting obsession with not letting anything go to waste.
Interviewer: Roughly how far along are you in your overall plans for the manga?
Miura: I'm not sure – that's something I worry about myself. The relationship between Griffith and Guts is about to start for real, though.
Interviewer: Wait, it's only starting now? So it's all just been prologue up until now?
Miura: Well, no, I wouldn't say it's just been prologue. We've come to the part in the story where the score starts getting settled, though.
Interviewer: Huh, so Guts and Griffith's relationship is just starting for real! That's exciting news. Surprising, but also exciting.
Miura: Yeah. It's sort of been vacillating back and forth up until now, but now Griffith is going to come to terms with having become a demon. I basically see it as the beginning of the relationship between the two of them having become adults. And also, the demon child that Casca gave birth to is going to become something of a key point – despite the fact that I didn't even plan for it to be Casca's baby when I first drew it.
Miura: I didn't even have Casca in mind at the time.
Interviewer: Ah, right. That means it wasn't supposed to be a fetus at the start, then. And I guess there was no plan to have Guts lose his eye and arm the way he did, either...
Miura: None at all. That part was left open. Basically, I had planned that he'd have it done to him somehow by Griffith, and then a love story came into the picture, and taking that to its extreme just happened to fit together nicely with the climax. It's not as though I had it planned from the start. And now it turns out that the demon child is similarly going to snap very usefully into place.
Interviewer: Wow... hearing this stuff is really amazing. You say you didn't really have things clearly planned out at first, and yet every little thing fits so snuggly into place without any plotholes, as if you'd had it all figured out from the start. It's a great mixture of the intuitive and the logical.
Miura: It's true, lately I've come to trust in my own carelessness. In my experience things often pop nicely into place even without having been planned ahead much. I do think it probably wouldn't go very smoothly if I were to work with stuff that isn't me, stuff that I've borrowed from elsewhere and simply stuck in, but there's hardly any of that. Even when I do bring in something from elsewhere, I run it through myself and quality test it before using it.
Interviewer: But I think a story that's only being thought up afterwards wouldn't generally fit together so perfectly. I mean, the demon child is – in a manner of speaking – the three characters' baby. The fact that you've managed to take this thing that appears right from the start and turn it into a key point in the later story is sort of incredible. Is the way it looks going to change?
Miura: Yes, it'll change – and the relation between Griffith, Casca and Guts will change a little with it. Plus, an actual witch is going to enter the picture soon.
Interviewer: Is it even possible that we'll see a happy ending?
Miura: I'd say it's possible. I used to have the final moves planned out, but lately I've been thinking I'd rather figure them out when I come to it, so now it's hard to say what could happen. Being the sort of person I am, though, I actually don't think I could let such a long grim story end with a grim ending – like, say, having him suddenly die. I don't really like that kind of entertainment. I'll leave it to my subconscious.
Interviewer: I see. I have a few more questions on Berserk's mysteries, now. What was the "216 years" thing for the Eclipse about?
Miura: Ah, that's just when solar eclipses happen at the same place.
Interviewer: Oh, so that's what it means.
Miura: Yeah, and if you divide it by a thousand years you get exactly five people. Just happened to work out.
Editor: This guy at the astronomy observatory told us. And then, 216 is also 6 times 6 times 6.
Interviewer: So it happens to be 6 x 6 x 6, *and* it's a solar eclipse year? It's got an almost numerological mystique to it.
Miura: Maybe that's where the whole 666 thing comes from.
Interviewer: Ah, true, like in The Omen. Oh, I get it now, so that's why it's the number of the Devil. Pretty well thought-out, really. Cool.
Miura: This is something a fan told me, but in a peasants' rebellion or revolutionary war or something in Germany a long time ago there was this knight who used to fight with a metal prosthetic arm because he'd lost his right arm to cannon fire, and apparently his name was Gotz. But I only found out after.
Interviewer: So Guts wasn't based on him or anything.
Miura: Total synchronicity.
Berserk DVD 3 (Region 1) Interview (2002)
Interviewer: Today, I'd like to interview the creator of Berserk, Mr. Kentarou Miura about how Berserk was created.
Miura: Hello, nice to meet you.
Interviewer: The first question is how did you come across the idea of Berserk? Would you tell us how you came up with the concept for Berserk?
Miura: I didn't have a solid idea of how I wanted Berserk to be in the beginning, but the idea grew gradually by watching my favorite anime shows when I was in college. If I was interested in something, I'd be looking up information. It was like kneading clay, the concept of Berserk slowly came together. I didn't have the clear picture of what I really wanted to do at first.
Interviewer: I thought the subject matter of Berserk is pretty complicated.
Interviewer: You talk about the universal law of Karma.
Miura: Well, how do I put this... When you're a cartoonist and working at home you sit at your desk pretty much all day. You get most of your information about the world from the news on TV. I think that's how most cartoonists spend their days. And then I start to see the whole picture of my point of view towards all the problems that are happening in the world. An average working man living in an average world would have a personal problem. He'd be worried about how his kids are doing in school. But I live in isolation, watching the world only on the news on TV so I start to see the bigger picture. I can look at the world from another angle. I'm not talking about one specific event. If I see news about war in another country of if there's a massacre somewhere in Japan I just look at the world objectively. Religious cults or acts of atrocity have been the topics of the news recently. When I hear those stories, not that I want to find some kind of answer, but it makes me want to visualize what's happening. I just want to see it in my world in my own way. The idea becomes clearer and polished in the process. I think I've said this in an interview before, but when I learned about Tsuchizoku and Futsuzoku, it did influence Berserk. I was writing Berserk watching the incident on the news. And a little while later I wrote about mass psychology in Berserk. I believe that incident made me want to write about it so I would understand it myself. In the beginning, about up to volume five, I was still writing stuff that I had thought of when I was in college. So my real life reflected a lot in the stories in the beginning. And after a while, I started to see the bigger picture.
Interviewer: I see. That's actually similar to the second question. I'd like to know if anything influenced Berserk.
Miura: It is a Japanese novel, but... a novel called "Guin Saga" written by Kaoru Kurimoto was the most influential. Guin Saga is a fantasy novel series, and it's been trying to set a record in the Guinness World Records as the longest fantasy work ever written by a single author. It was planned to be 100 volumes from the beginning. But it's already 80-something, so it'll go over 100 easily. I started reading it when I was in junior high and I'm still reading the new volume every month. So I could say Guin Saga is the most significant novel. And other stuff like movies and cartoons influenced me, too.
Interviewer: I see. I'd like to talk about a little more about the concept. The timeline in Berserk seems to be sometime in the medieval period. It has the whole medieval theme, like it's happening somewhere in Europe. Is there any real historical events you based Berserk on?
Miura: Not really, I don't really use specific historical events but rather I use fairy tales or fantasy movies. I've been working on the concept of my own fantasy world since I was in high school and college. Like I mentioned, I got ideas from Guin Saga, and from films, like "Excalibur" and "Conan the Barbarian". I came up with the dark fantasy concept from those movies. I don't think I get inspired by the actual historical events. I simply used them as data. I've thought of writing a story based on Dracula. I'm talking about Vlad Tepes, the real Dracula. I wanted to use the real historical records. And there's the famous story from Sherlock Holmes. The story where Conan Doyle got tricked by the Cottingley fairy hoax...
Interviewer: I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with it.
Miura: I didn't write the exact same thing, but I wrote a story similar to that. There was a story about a fairy in... I can't remember exactly which volume, but I think it was around 15 or 16.
Interviewer: I'd like to ask you a technical question now. Your drawings are very well detailed. From every nook and corner, they are drawn in depth. Do you use anything as reference when you draw?
Miura: I do have a huge pile of pictures that I use as reference. I use a collection of photographs from different countries... but it's actually easier to find the pictures of armor or landscape in Japan. So whenever I need some pictures l'll go find it by myself or ask somebody to get it. So the collection is really big now.
Interviewer: I see.
Miura: Pictures are the best reference for a cartoonist. It's all about how something looks. If you really talk about technical stuff you'll notice that some armors aren't supposed to be used around that time. But I really don't go that far.
Interviewer: I see.
Miura: I simply like things that look cool.
Interviewer: I see. And now I'd like to ask you about this main character, Guts. He's got some personality, he's a deep character. Is there anybody in particular that you used as a model for Guts?
Miura: Well, Guts' friends in the Band of [the Falcon] are actually based on my friends from college. But there wasn't anybody in particular for Guts and Griffith.
Interviewer: Not even a historical figure?
Miura: Well, it's funny that you mentioned it, but I've heard about this knight who helped a peasant revolution in Germany and the knight's name was Goetz. And he had an iron artificial arm. When I found out about it, I thought it was a strange coincidence. I don't know if he shot arrows from it. It was especially uncanny because I had already started Berserk. I wasn't really thinking of anybody at the time I created Guts. But if you're only talking about his looks and not about his personality then I guess Rutger Hauer was the model. I saw him playing a mercenary in a medieval movie, "Flesh & Blood" and I really liked him in that movie. He also played the lead in "Salute of the Jugger". It was a sci-fi movie, but I thought the character he played was similar to Guts. And the main character from "Highlander" kind of reminds me of Guts. I think it had a lot to do with those cool collected type heroes I admired when I was in college. But if it's about Guts' personality or his belief... I guess some of it comes from myself. And sometimes I use my close friends as examples. So Guts' personality isn't always based on one person, but it's more abstract. His actions and state of mind depend on the situation. So Guts doesn't have a specific model.
Interviewer: I see. In the U.S., Media Blasters is introducing Berserk the anime to audiences. Did you have any requests when Berserk became an anime series for the first time? What kind of advice did you give to the production studio?
Miura: Berserk is my very first comic book and anime. So I was very excited, and I wanted to make something good. I could've just let the studio staff do the work, but I gave some advice on the outlines of the character designs. But my main concern was the scripts. They'd send me the scripts and I'd revise them and make changes. I checked all scripts, and made a lot of changes and requests on all of them. I bet the writers hated me.
Interviewer: But that's natural, that's how much you care about your show.
Miura: Yeah, I guess that's about it.
Interviewer: I'd like to ask you a couple of personal questions now. We talked about Kaoru Kurimoto's Guin Saga earlier. And my next question is... Is there any cartoonist, director or movie that influenced you?
Miura: Well, it's a Japanese cartoonist, but... like Mr. Go Nagai, I believe he's very famous in the U.S. He was a big influence on me. I love his dynamic style. And I have a couple of favorite American film directors. I like the movies of Tim Burton and Sam Raimi. This is another strange story. Back then I was still in college, it was the day I finished the first episode of Berserk and there was "Evil Dead 2" playing at theaters. So after I mailed it to the publisher, I went to see it. It was so similar to Berserk, I was really surprised by myself. In "Evil Dead 3", I also know it as "Captain Supermarket"... the main character had his arm cut off and he had a chainsaw attached to his arm and had a shotgun on his back. I was like "What the?" Because Guts has a gun on his arm and a huge sword on his back. It was just like Ash. I remember getting worried that I might get sued. I just finished my very first cartoon, but I was already nervous. I'm a big fan of Sam Raimi's movies, I like "Dark Man", too. He got really big after "Spider-Man", but I still like his movies. And I like Tim Burton, because his movies are always 'offbeat.' It's almost strange that a person can be that offbeat and big at the same time. But that's why I love his movies. James Cameron lost his touch after he got big. Well, I don't know if he thinks of himself as offbeat. But when I saw "Terminator", as a sci-fi fan, I was really excited that he was one of those offbeat geniuses, like Tim Burton... but turns out he wasn't. And of course, "Star Wars" is my all-time favorite movie. I saw it when I was little, so I was really shocked, I was a big Star Wars fan ever since. But "Episode 1" was very weak. The script needed some work.
Interviewer: And another question... As a lot of people know, you started writing Berserk when you were in college... and finally it's been animated and people can see the world you've created. You've mentioned it earlier, but tell us how you got a chance to publish Berserk.
Miura: I tried to get Berserk published by Hakusen Publisher.
Interviewer: Get it published?
Miura: Yes, in Japan, a cartoonist would write a cartoon of about 25 pages... and send it to a publisher. And if they picked yours, it would be a series in the magazine. And fortunately, I was picked. The publisher liked Berserk, so I would be able to make Berserk into a series. Usually, those first ideas always seemed to have something special.
Interviewer: I see. And this is the last question. Berserk is a huge success in the U.S.
Miura: Thank you very much.
Interviewer: Berserk fans abroad are very happy. If you have any messages to the fans in the U.S...
Miura: Actually I kind of have a question. What do Westerners think of this fantasy world created by an Oriental? Many of us Orientals feel that the fantasy worlds created in Hollywood... or believed in by Westerners are more genuine fantasy worlds. And I think Berserk is strongly influenced by Western culture. I'm trying to create something from what I learned from the West. So I'm curious about what people in the West think of Berserk. That's my question to the fans in the U.S. I hope they like it.
Interviewer: I'll make sure to tell Berserk fans in the U.S.
Miura: Thank you.
Challenging the Manga Dojos (2010)
Interview between Nico Nicholson and Kentarou Miura written in the format of a manga. Available at Manga Rock.
Berserk Official Guidebook Interview (2017)
"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 thir 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!
Le Figaro Interview (2019)
Strong – Stronger – Strongest: Incremental Character Development
Interviewer: So, you had not thought of the Berserker Armor from the beginning of the series? You created this element during the development of your world?
Miura: I would not go so far as to say that everything was in place for this element to be obvious. In fact, the world of manga is marked by inflation, with the arrival of ever more incredible enemies accompanied by ever more powerful weapons. This is a common situation in shônen mangas, who do not have time to control this inflation. It quickly becomes galloping up to exceed a heading from which, except stroke of luck, it is no longer possible to stop it. But in my case, and not wanting to disrespect my first publisher, my story was published in a second-rate magazine, which allowed me to keep inflation under control. Especially since at the beginning, the publication was monthly. So I always made sure to let inflation grow, but by small successive leaps... I feel like talking about economy. Where the best inflation is 2%, 3%, 4%, a mild inflation.
This sweetness allows a regular development of the story. In my opinion, the first leap took place with the arrival of the Falcon troupe, the first major change of scale of the series. Then there was the development of the magic aspect with Schierke. So, I had to solve the problem of the physical reinforcement of Guts. With the advent of magic and supernatural beings, I was forced to give him something supernatural too, if I wanted to preserve the dynamism brought by his hand-to-hand combat. By dint of searching, I found the solution you know. An armor that drives you crazy. It's perfect, for a "berserk". It is said that the ancient berserker was taking drugs to rage. As in a way, the pain is Guts' drug, the whole thing was a coherent whole.
Interviewer: And when he finds himself face to "God hand"...
Miura: The boost becomes even more necessary. As Guts, being human, can only improve his body and mind, I torture my mind every time to find a solution. Because I can not give him an ultimate weapon, or the ability to fly across the sky.
The Reunion with Guts and Casca
Interviewer: The reunion between Guts and Casca is imminent and the confrontation with Griffith is looming. Is the end of Berserk approaching? You estimate to be 60-70% of the story in 2009, after 176 chapters... This number has now doubled!
Miura: For the reunion between Guts and Casca, it's done.
I think I'm always wrong when I try to estimate this kind of delay. However, it is true that the first serious duel with Griffith is approaching. As for the overall advancement of the series, however... It's coming to an end, that's for sure. But if I say that there is still a fifth or a quarter to draw, this estimate may be lower than the reality. So I prefer not to advance.
Casca's Upcoming Course of Action
Interviewer: It's true that the story/plot is still going fine
Miura: Yeah I think so and it's going to focus again on Guts and Griffith. We're nearing the final chapter.