I do not think I’ve shared this mystery before, and since I’ve recently finished watching "Berserk: Memorial Edition", I thought I’d share how I got into it.
For those who do not know "Berserk" (ベルセルク) is a dark fantasy manga by Kentaro Miura (三浦 建太郎), which has almost a cult following all around this plain of existence and, probably beyond, after that Miura-san has passed away in 2021. The manga has several anime adaptations, one from 1997 (which I personally believe to be one of the best anime ever), series of 3 movies from 2012 and continuation of the 1997 anime released in 2016, which is considered one of the worst anime adaptations by a lot of people. The "Memorial Edition" released in 2022 is, essentially, an edit of the movies with slightly improved graphics. It was also accompanied by a countdown on official website, which made people believe, that a proper continuation of the manga in anime form will continue, and left everyone and their grandma disappointed, then it revealed release of the movies on Blu-Ray.
While I wound call the original manga "the best manga there is", it is certainly a good one, and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for some dark fantasy. What I really liked about it is the overall structure. The thing is, roughly half of it ("The Golden Age" arc) is depicting life of mercenaries in medieval-like setting with almost nothing indicating that there is "magic" in this world. Except for the 1st chapter, which is set in the future from perspective of the arc’s storyline.
The arc gradually introduces various characters to you, which all seem quite simple in their ambitions and ideologies, because, who cares about those when you are on a battlefield, when you are part of a literal massacre. Probably the only character that has some subtlety is Griffith, who is cunning and smart, which earns him a lot of respect and sends a message, that sometimes intellect is more important than brutal strength.
Despite the seeming simplicity of the characters, including that of the main one, Guts, you do get somewhat attached to them with time and start rooting for Guts’ and Casca’s romantic line and cursing Guts’ hardheadedness. But then…
Well, let’s say that even though the story did not shy away from brutality and gore, there comes an event which becomes the pinnacle of that brutality, and a tipping point for the story, which uproots everything and turns the world up-side-down. This event is called "Eclipse". All this preamble was here for a reason because the Eclipse is kind of how I got into the manga, but not in a way one would imagine. I witnessed the supernatural world of the Eclipse in a dream.
It was one of those dreams, that weighs heavy on me after I wake up and I remember portions of it quite clearly, because I almost felt the physicality of the events transpiring in that dream. It was a weird place where walls and floor were made up of red orbs, which seem to have human-like faces, yet everything seemed "solid". I could not see the ceiling. It was relatively dark, yet there was sort of dark-blueish glow everywhere, in some places with an extra red tint, which allowed me to see things. I was fighting hordes of some monsters (with no recollection of how exactly they looked), and I remember that there were catapults made from corpses of those monster and the face-orbs. I even used one of them to defeat some big monster. I think, if a person familiar with Berserk has read till this point, they probably know what that "place" was and where I am going with all this.
In February 2017 a new game in the franchise came out, Berserk and the Band of the Hawk and I think Steam suggested it to me in my "queue". Since it was a fighting game, I liked Devil May Cry, and I’ve heard recommendations for Berserk, I thought to try it out. I’ll be honest, at first, I did not buy it, but instead downloaded through torrent, since there was no demo for the game (not sure if refunds were already a possibility, but I still prefer to try first, when possible). I downloaded, I installed it, launched, and…
It was like my dream. It looked almost identical, albeit less detailed and "alive". It even felt quite similar. And funny thing is, I have never seen it before. And the portion of the game, that I was experience was "Prologue", which was not presented in any teasers at the time, and interestingly you can only play it once, while in the game (there are YouTube videos of it now, though, for example this one). So, I dreamt of a game, which was not even released at the time of the dream.
Once I was able to pickup my jaw from the knees, I just knew I must read the manga. It could not be just a coincidence, right? Unfortunately, to this day nothing else "magical" or "mysterious" related to Berserk has happened, although I am still waiting every new chapter, which are not being made by Miura’s assistant(s) to finish the story. It did introduce me to the manga adaptation from the 90s, which I do find one of the best anime I’ve ever seen.
That anime is surely dated now, does not look as good, as it could be, but it had… "Atmosphere". The moment Zodd appeared for the first time you could see the power difference from the screen. You could feel the fear. You could feel the bloodlust. It was very… Gooey? I think the closest competitor to sheer weight of the visuals was animated adaptation of Todd MacFarlane’s Spawn, which was also from the 90s, but it was less subtle. Berserk had nuance, though. Which is surprising, considering that, as mentioned, the story is not that complex, but as we know, sometimes it’s not about the story itself, but about the way it is being told.
Perhaps, that is what was "magical" about me getting into Berserk? Me realizing, that the "how" for the story may be even more important, could have been one of the pushes towards my desire to do narrative design years later. Maybe I would get so awesome at it, at some point, that I will be honored with a chance to make another Berserk game? Doubt it, but you never know.