Manga Monday is back, and this week I’m taking a look at the first volume of a manga whose anime I reviewed several years ago – Berserk.

Title: Berserk Vol. 1
Written and illustrated by Kentaro Miura
Translated by Jason DeAngelis
Published by Dark Horse Comics (US), Hakusensha (Japan)
Published in 2003 (in the US)

Available from Amazon.com & RightStuf.com

The Premise

In a world threatened and menaced by demonic forces, the Black Swordsman, Guts, traveles the land, hunting the demonic Acolytes, while searching for their dark masters, the God Hand.

High Points

The fight scenes are incredibly well done and feel epic. Similarly, the weapons and armor are designed very well (and are actually somewhat realistic). Guts’ hand cannon is even based on a real weapon!

Low Points

If you’ve seen the anime, you’ll know why Guts acts the way he does here. If you haven’t though, he comes across like a character created by an Internet Tough Guy, to appeal to Internet Tough Guys. If you’ve seen the anime though, you know that this character is something of a deconstruction of that – and that he’s a character who has been broken again and again by the world.

Content Notes

This manga has lots of sex, lots of violence, and lots of gore, and plenty of disturbing imagery.

The Scores

Originality: This feels like a world heavily influenced by swords & sorcery novels, and black metal. At this point, the most original aspect of the setting is the Behelits, and those aren’t explained yet. 3/6.

Artwork: The art generally looks good. However, it’s not without its issues. There are several pages in the US release that look like they were originally in color, but which translated poorly to black & white. 4/6.

Story: This volume is extremely episodic – surprisingly so, considering what comes later in the series. 4/6.

Characterization: If you’ve seen the TV show, as I have (see the link to the TV show review above), Guts character at the start makes sense, based on what’s happened to him in the past. However, if you’re coming in cold, Guts will seem like an unsympathetic psychotic villain protagonist, created by a 13-year-old wanna-be Neitzchean Anarchist, who understands neither Neitzche nor anarchism. The other common people are written fairly well, and the villains are complete monsters who we want to see killed. 3/6.

Emotional Response: In spite of the characterization earlier, I really don’t care about any of these characters. Guts is lacking of any sympathetic traits at this point in the series. The common folk exist to be brutally murdered, and the villains are complete monsters (both literally and figuratively), who exist solely to be brutally slain by Guts without any motivation to them. 3/6.

Flow: 6/6.

Overall: If I hadn’t already seen the show, I’d stop reading the manga right here, and I completely understand why other people would also chose to stop right here. 2/6.

In total, Berserk Volume 1 gets 25/42.