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Adapted from purpleions' translation and Xanlis translation. For the full original Le Figaro French interview, see here.


This interview was conducted with Miura alongside Nagashima, head of the Berserk manga series and editor of Young Animal.

[Begin][]

Interviewer: The first episodes of Berserk were published in 1989, when you were still an inexperienced young mangaka. What were your ambitions at the time and how do you view this long editorial adventure today?

Miura: My greatest ambition at the time was to make a living from manga. Or if I failed to become a mangaka, to find a master who gave me a position as an assistant sufficient to fill my plate. I was the happiest person in the world when [once I turned professional,] instead of the 500¥ I expected to touch for a board, I received 5000¥. I feel like I've come a long way since then! I really didn't think I would make it this far back then.

Interviewer: When you started writing your manga, was the "berserker" of the Icelandic sagas only a diffuse inspiration or did you already have in mind the armor of the same name, essential to the plot but which appeared late in episode 222?

Miura: My inspiration was diffuse. At the time, information about the berserker was almost non-existent. There was indeed an appearance of the word "berserga" in the novels of the Botomuzu gaiden series, but almost no one in Japan knew what it was referring to.

Nagashima: It is true that we did not know the meaning of this word at the time.

Miura: I chose it because I thought its mysterious aspect would fit well.

Nagashima: Like Guts?

Miura: Originally, Guts' image came essentially from the first Mad Max. In short, leaving a world with a dark hero who is burning for revenge leads you to imagine a rabid character. When, guided by his anger, he will pour this rage on overpowering enemies, we must insist on his fanaticism if we want to remain coherent. That's why I found that "Berserk" would make a perfect title to represent my universe.

Nagashima: 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 to make this element a natural requirement. 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 manga, which do not have time to control this inflation. It quickly gallops to a point where it passes a cape from which, unless lucky, 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 have always been careful to let inflation develop, but in successive small leaps... I feel like I'm talking about economics. Where the best inflation is 2%, 3%, 4%, a low inflation.

This sweetness allows a regular development of the story. In my opinion, the first leap took place with the arrival of the Band of the Falcon, the first major change of scale of the series. Then there was the development of the magic aspect with Schierke. As a result, I had to solve the problem of Guts' physical strengthening. With the arrival 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. Armor that drives you crazy. It's perfect, for a "berserk". It is said that the ancient berserker took drugs to get angry. As in a way, pain is Guts' drug, the whole thing formed a coherent whole.

Nagashima: At the beginning of the series, Guts slaughters apostles. Were you already planning on making him stronger then?

Miura: In this first period when Guts defeated the apostles in a duel, his strength was perfectly adapted. But when the hero finds himself facing a host of enemies, some of whom use magic, he needs a helping hand. Without going so far as to transform him into an overpowering creature, he still needs something more.

Nagashima: And when he finds himself facing the 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 cannot give him an ultimate weapon, or the ability to fly across the sky.

Nagashima: In order to preserve the pleasure of watching Guts physically throw himself at his enemies.

Miura: Yes, I must find physical and mental inflation that remains acceptable to the reader. I always keep a close eye on this point.

Interviewer: As early as the "prototype" sent to the publishing houses in 1988, you had introduced a comic Disney sidekick, the elf Puck, in sharp contrast to Guts' personality and the very dark atmosphere of the manga. Later, Isidro and Magnifico will come to play similar roles. Why did you include such characters? As an author, how do you relate to these little jokers?

Miura: These sidekicks are traditionally present in Japanese manga. [Translator's note: For "sidekick", the author uses the word "kyogen-mawashi" which comes from the traditional Japanese kyôgen theatre. The kyogen-mawashi is an actor in charge of both the role of narrator and explaining the situation.] Next to the hero who has the strength to move the story forward, there is, for example, his complexed friend who admires him, or a person who takes an ordinary look at the story to explain the situation to us. That's the way it is in Japanese manga. We always have characters who take on this role. In Berserk, such a role was necessary at the beginning of the series, at the time of the Black Swordsman arc, because Guts had no way of getting the readers' sympathy. So Puck was there to look at the story with the same eyes as the reader, a normal look. Although he is an elf, by the way! As he could appear nonchalantly in any scene, he did not interfere with the story and was even a tool to move it forward: this was his role during his first appearances. If he then moved on to a comic role, it was, I think, because the atmosphere of the series was getting heavier. For the reader, such a role is similar to the accompaniment of a dish intended to refresh the palate: in Japan, it would be the salted vegetable or the slice of pickled ginger. Abroad, Puck would probably be a pickle.

Nagashima: It's true that right now, we only see Chestnut Puck.

Miura: He is making more and more appearances in this form, yes. This kind of character, whether normal or comic, is necessary to take breaks in a story that tends to become ever more serious and heavy. Especially when this story is long. In the case of a film that can be summed up in one sentence, the nuance that such a character brings is probably not necessary. But Japanese mangas are very long. The normality of characters like Puck is then crucial.

Interviewer: We often talk about the design inspired by your monsters or the level of detail in your settings, but rarely about your human characters, who are very diverse and expressive. How do you conceive their faces?

Miura: Until the first episodes on the Band of the Falcon, I created my characters by exaggerating the features of my own friends and acquaintances, which naturally made them alive, even if I didn't develop them. But this technique inevitably ends up showing its limits, when you are a mangaka. Because mangaka's job is to sit at his desk, without the possibility of expanding his human relationships. Later on, I was forced to create characters from scratch. I sometimes took myself as a role model, but what I like to do is to arrange the characters around the hero Guts in order to show him in different ways. When we observe Guts facing Griffith, we feel that he is slightly inferior, that he must look up at Griffith. He then appears as a rival. Facing Isidro, however, Guts takes the shape of the older brother. The self-confident adult man on whom Isidro can rely will logically become a role model for the latter. Faced with Farnese, Guts becomes the founder of a religion, which reveals his charisma. Showing a character in its different facets in this way makes it real. Because our vision of a man will necessarily change depending on our relationship to him. This way of doing things is also often absent from foreign film culture, whose films are short. It is more suitable for stories that take place over a long period of time. Because a character presented in a single facet would not last.

Nagashima: I understand that these characters are there first and foremost to give depth to Guts, but I find them very much alive, too.

Miura: Yes, because as the story unfolds, there are other characters who, in turn, stand in front of their predecessors. Take Isidro, for example. When Schierke enters the story, they both become rivals. This is how Berserk's universe expands, like neurons that gradually join with each other.

Interviewer: By the time the Golden Age arc began, the Eclipse was already in effect. A radical and bold choice supported by your editorial manager, but which caused a decrease in popularity among readers... What would you have done if your "tantô" had asked you not to kill the Band of the Falcon or to bring them back one way or another?

Miura: I would have given it a lot of thought. Because I was not sure of myself.

Nagashima: Would you have accepted such a request?

Miura: I think I would have accepted if this request had come from Mr. Shimada [Editor's note: Editorial Manager of Berserk from Volume 4 to Volume 38]. Because I trusted him. In fact, it was in his nature to give me the green light to kill the Band of the Falcon. Unfortunately, the series subsequently declined in popularity. In any case, it would have been necessary to use high level scriptwriting techniques, if I had wanted to continue the series without killing the Band. Anyway, with such a choice, Berserk would have become something completely different. Because only one way would have been possible, that of Jump manga and "in fact, they were not dead!". Berserk would have become like the manga Sakigake!! Otokojuku [Editor's note: Akira Miyashita's shônen manga published in Weekly Shônen Jump from 1985 to 1991. In this cult series, the characters supposed to be dead keep coming back alive].

Nagashima: In retrospect, we would have found that the series was not very serious.

Miura: She would have inevitably become like Sakigake!! Otokojuku.

Nagashima: It would have ended up a thousand miles from what it is today. Goodbye the gloomy aspect.

Miura: Yes, something would have been different. I imagine that such a Berserk exists, somewhere in a parallel world.

Nagashima: A very exuberant Berserk.

Miura: We would have said to ourselves: “Oh, well! They're not dead!” And hop! It's a wrap. Or else they would have all risen to become Guts' enemies.

Nagashima: It sends chills down your spine.

Interviewer: Berserk is an extremely raw series, with some particularly trying scenes (rapes, tortures, massacres of children...). Didn't you ever think you were going too far? Has your editorial manager ever restricted you?

Miura: Sorry about these scenes! I must say that my editorial manager defended me well. At the time, the head of the editorial board or people higher up said once or twice that I was going too far. I also refrained several times, telling myself it would not pass. You have to understand that a mangaka in the process of drawing takes very little perspective on his work, which leads him to convince himself that his choices are the right ones. Today, with this hindsight, I wonder if my choices were really that necessary. And then, the situation of Japanese manga has evolved, too. At the time, manga was a rapidly developing form of expression. The mysterious form of expression of this Far Eastern archipelago called Japan. The era was tolerant, and the parodies we saw then would be considered theft or plagiarism now. This tolerance, which also applied to freedom of expression, would now seem incredible. Because there was no code. And that, in my opinion, is what has allowed the series to be what it has become today. Traditionally, manga, as a genre, has always been able to overcome taboos. At least, until the time of Attack on Titan. This is no longer the case today, when manga has become entertainment in its own right, but Berserk was born at a time when such things were still possible.

Nagashima: It must be said that today, the manga is accessible via much more media, in electronic form and otherwise…

Miura: If you really want it, everything is still possible today, but these works are subject to an age limit, with a ban on those under 15 or 18 years old. I note that in Japan, this age limit applies to erotic content, but that we rarely find a ban on people under 15 for very violent content. I wonder why. It's strange. And now I'm deviating from the question.

Interviewer: In previous interviews, you said you work mainly at night, with almost no holidays. Was this unsustainable pace the cause of the various publication breaks? How is your work as a mangaka organized today?

Miura: *cry of suffering* Aaah… Thanks for worrying about me. And I still have the same rhythm!

Nagashima: So you continue to draw as before.

Miura: Physically, I slowed down; if I no longer spend sleepless nights working, I have also stopped taking time off. In the past, I aligned the nights of work until the handover of the manuscript, in order to grant myself one or two days off to go and buy videos in Akihabara, for example. But I no longer have the strength to work like this and therefore no longer have the opportunity to take this leave. My little moments of rest, I suppose I take them when I go out to eat with my editorial manager, or with friends who have come to see me.

Nagashima: Really, excuse us. You are not given any leave.

Miura: I have this rhythm because I like working like this. No need to worry about it. On the contrary, I even think I'm doing better than before, now that my work rhythm is well stabilized. I just try, as much as possible, not to overdo it; if I'm getting slower, it's simply because I'm getting older.

Interviewer: The series of novels and video games The Witcher will soon be adapted for TV by Netflix… Fantasy is on the rise! Would you like Berserk to be made into a live-action series? If so, with which showrunner in charge and which actor for Guts? (You mentioned Rutger Hauer at one time as an inspiration…)

Miura: At the beginning of my career. That's right, for Rutger Hauer. I've said this before in other interviews, but at the time, one film incredibly influenced my vision of the universe of Berserk. It is Flesh and Blood with Rutger Hauer in the lead role. His image of a dangerous guy with a massive body in the Hitcher and Blade Runner films also impressed me a lot. And also The Blood of Heroes, where Rutger Hauer is unforgettable. There is no dubbed version of this film in Japan.

Nagashima: When did this film come out?

Miura: Back when I was in college, or maybe a bit after the start of my career. Yukito Kishiro, the original manga author of Alita: Battle Angel, was influenced by this film, too. I remember seeing the motorball episode, I said to myself, “Ah! He was inspired by this film for the shape of his armor!” Just like me with Guts' armor, by the way.

Nagashima: Oh, really.

Miura: And then the hero of this film is one-eyed, too. And he walks around with a huge stick over his shoulder. I was inspired by this image in the past. Concerning the adaptation of Berserk to the cinema, I would be happy if that could happen, one day. I have to admit that I'm jealous of Yukito Kishiro and his Alita! (laughs)

Nagashima: In that case, would you prefer it to be shot abroad rather than in Japan?

Miura: Alright, let's say a film like Hagaren [Hagane no Renkinjutsushi or Fullmetal Alchemist, adapted from the eponymous manga] could be fun.

Nagashima: Toho is in charge of producing Kingdom

Miura: If the film were to be shot here, we could imitate A Fistful of Dollars which is the adaptation of Yojimbo [Kurosawa's film with Toshirô Mifune in the lead], and bring the story back to Japan by making Berserk a "jidai-geki" [a film genre dedicated to Japanese medieval history]. It could work!

Nagashima: It wouldn't be Berserk anymore. Besides, could Japanese actors really embody the characters in the series?

Miura: One could ask for actors reminiscent of Toshirô Mifune. For a film in the “jidai-geki” genre.

Nagashima: By transposing the story to Japan?

Miura: We had matchlocks back then. One could stick such a weapon to the hero's left arm. We also had “zanbatô” [giant swords].

Nagashima: And Zodd, we turn him into a “yôkai” [supernatural creature of Japanese folklore]?

Miura: We would make a huge “oni” [giant demon of Japanese folklore]. A “ushi-oni” [literally “demon-cow”, with the body of a spider and the head of an ox], it would be the perfect role for him. And for Griffith, on the other hand…

Nagashima: Griffith would be out of place in such an adaptation…

Miura: He could play a role similar to that of Shirô Amakusa [historical figure, leader of the Shimabara rebellion in 1637]. In fact, either we make the film the Japanese way, or we entrust it to Hollywood.

Nagashima: I prefer the second option.

Miura: We have the right to dream.

Nagashima: Basically, we entrust the film to Hollywood. Well, should we ask them?

Miura: Well… With Hollywood, you either have to finish the series before giving them the story, or let them do whatever they want with the Berserk license. If we leave the license to them, it is to be expected that the adaptation will be faithful, or not at all. If the film focuses on Guts, the dark warrior from the beginning of the series, the result will certainly be faithful to the manga. On the other hand, if the adaptation pertains to the Band of the Falcon, you have to get used to the idea that everything risks being compacted and planned to fit in the duration of a film.

Nagashima: There is also the Netflix Originals solution.

Miura: It's true, there is also this solution, nowadays.

Nagashima: With Netflix, we could turn Berserk into a television series.

Miura: If I manage to wrap up this manga in such a way that it keeps its fans until the end, then we'll talk about it. Because right now, I'm trying to finish the series properly.

Nagashima: In any case, it would be nice if the adaptation into a film could be done.

Miura: Try to become president of the company until then.

Nagashima: Or, as this interview will be read in Europe, maybe someone will grab this film project?

Miura: We could ask Guillermo del Toro?

Nagashima: While we're at it, we might as well aim high.

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 progress 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.

Nagashima: It's true that the story is still going fine.

Miura: I think now it will refocus on Guts and Griffith. We are soon entering the final stretch.

Nagashima: Better to leave it at that to avoid spoilers.

Interviewer: What about post-Berserk ? I think you've had a science fiction project in mind for a long time... Could you tell us more?

Miura: Can I talk about you know what?

Nagashima: Actually, it depends on when this interview will be made public.

Miura: It's better to avoid the subject, then. In the end, it will depend on the age at which I complete Berserk. If I'm too old, maybe I'll self-publish my stories.

Nagashima: Publish them with us instead, then.

Miura: I don't think I can take the rhythm of a series anymore. I'll just send the manuscripts once I've drawn enough. Notice, I'm already doing that.

Nagashima: You could go on like this, but with an occasional publication. Like for Glass no Kamen [Editor's note: a popular shoujo manga in Japan written by Suzue Miuchi, which tells the story of a girl who bets everything on the theater. The series began in 1976 and publication is very irregular. The 49th volume was released in 2012 and readers have been waiting for the sequel ever since].

Miura: When I'm done, I'll be busy getting my strength back. Once I'm in good shape, and if I feel that I can continue, then I'll go for it. After all, it's the destiny of Showa-era mangaka to die at their drawing tables.

Nagashima: First of all, we have to finish Berserk.

Miura: I don't dare to dream of this new project yet!

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