• December 9, 2023

‘Berserk’ Creator Kentaro Miura Dies At 54 : NPR

Miura was known for its intricate lines. © 2021 Kentaro Miura All rights reserved

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© 2021 Kentaro Miura All rights reserved

Manga creators and fans around the world have used social media to mourn the famous Japanese manga artist Kentaro Miura, whose aesthetic and commercial impact on the genre has been significant. His defining series, the 30-year-old, 40-volume Saga Berserk, is known for both its refined artwork and a story that blends sword fights and supernatural encounters with poignant emotionalism, gnarled moral dilemmas, and complex subjects.

Berserk vol.  1, by Kentaro Miura

Berserk vol.  1, by Kentaro Miura

Miura’s English-language publisher Dark Horse reports that he died on May 6 of an acute aortic dissection. He was 54 years old.

“I just opened a copy of Berserk and imagined every page was blank for a moment to remind myself that every one of Berserk’s thousands and thousands of pages began.” The Dark Horse Manga Editor Carl Horn wrote in a reminder published by the publisher last week.

“Miura … fill[ed] these pages with an epic of boldness, elegance, horror, adventure, love, redemption, perseverance, friendship, humor – an epic of contradictions: beautiful, grotesque, bizarre, cosmic. “

As noted by CBR.com in 2019Berserk’s gritty tone is more reminiscent of George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire than JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Although his protagonist, Guts, is a tall guy with an even bigger sword – an all too common sight in manga aimed at a male readership – he’s not just a Scot. “Guts is a terrible sexual assault survivor, [which] defines his early characterization more than anything ” refers to Kotakus Patrick Marlborough.

Guts, the tormented hero of Berserk © 2021 Kentaro Miura All rights reserved

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© 2021 Kentaro Miura All rights reserved

Berserk also stands out for the quality of Miura’s feather art, which is far more intricate and detailed than is typical for its genre. Manga are usually made on an assembly line process, with a variety of assistants filling in backgrounds and adding finishing touches to the drawings of the head mangaka. Although Miura employed several assistants in his production company Studio Gaga, he drew most of Berserk himself. His style was characterized by an almost obsessive use of tiny hatching and other structural details. His diverse sources of inspiration included the Guin Saga, a bestselling series of Japanese fantasy that has been published continuously since 1979, as well as various Western influences: films by MC Escher, Gustave Doré, Hieronymus Bosch as well as Disney and Paul Verhoeven.

Miura was born on July 11, 1966 to artist parents and began drawing at the age of 10. As a teenager, he won a New Artist Award from leading manga magazine Weekly Shonen. He attended Nihon University Art School in Tokyo and saw the first edition of Berserk in print shortly after graduating in 1989. During his career he drew thousands of pages on the series.

Miura’s style was influenced by the Japanese series Guin Saga and Western artists such as Hieronymus Bosch. © 2021 Kentaro Miura All rights reserved

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© 2021 Kentaro Miura All rights reserved

At the time of his death, Miura enjoyed both best-seller status and a considerable critical reputation. Berserk sold more than 50 million copies worldwide and inspired two TV series, a film trilogy and two video games. It also contributed to the growing popularity of manga in the US – Dark horse reported in 2918 that Berserk was the best-selling series in the publisher’s history, with nearly two million copies sold.

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Miura also worked on a number of other projects during his career. His most recent creation, Duranki from 2019, features a genderless protagonist exploring a world inspired by ancient mythology. In 2019 he told Jacob Parker-Dalton of Otaquest.com that “he … has always been fascinated by the aesthetics of the myths of ancient Greece and Mesopotamia … especially when it comes to gender and body image.” (As Parker-Dalton notes, Berserk also has a genderless character: Guts’ elven companion Puck.) The Greek myth also served as the inspiration for Miura’s 2013 miniseries Giganto Maxia. Early in his career, Miura worked several times with Buronson, creator of the bestselling martial arts series Fist of the North Star from the 1980s. Contemporary mangaka citing Miura as an influence include Attack on Titans Hajime Isayama and Black Butler’s Yana Toboso. His style can be seen in video games like Dark Souls and Final Fantasy XIV, as well as TV shows like Netflix’s Castlevania. In 2002 he received an Osamu Tezuka Culture Prize.

Miura’s death leaves Berserk unfinished, adding to the fear of fans who have followed the series for decades. Even so, Dark Horse’s Horn closed its memorial on a resilient grade that was welcome after a year of COVID deaths. “He touched millions of lives, inspired lives – breathed life into people, sometimes when we really needed it,” writes Horn. “You, who are his fans, already knew that. Part of Miura-Sensei’s life is now within you. You are already carrying the story on.”

Etelka Lehoczky has written on books for The Atlantic, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and The New York Times. She tweets on @EtelkaL.

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