If you know anything about the world of manga, Berserk is quite probably a title that has come up at one point or another. Now, Berserk is definitely a classic, but with all the hiatuses and Miura’s untimely death, the future of the series had been in jeopardy for years. Still, in 2022, it was confirmed that Berserk would continue under the supervision of Koji Mori, Miura’s friend, and colleague, and would reach the ending that Miura intended. While we’re waiting for the manga to further develop the story, we have decided to talk about the story of the Berserk manga, as we are going to explain how exactly the story is divided, i.e., we are going to tell you about the five main narrative arcs of the Berserk manga.
Berserk arcs at a glance
Before we tell you about each individual arc, here is a brief overview of the whole structure, after which we are going to tell you about each individual arc:
- Black Swordsman Arc (0-1 – 0-8):
- vol. 1, vol. 2, vol. 3
- Golden Age Arc (0-9 – 94):
- vol. 3, vol. 4, vol. 5, vol. 6, vol. 7, vol. 8, vol. 9, vol. 10, vol. 11, vol. 12, vol. 13, vol. 14
- Conviction Arc (95 – 176):
- Lost Children Chapter: vol. 14, vol. 15, vol. 16
- Binding Chain Chapter: vol. 16, vol. 17
- Birth Ceremony Chapter: vol. 17, vol. 18, vol. 19, vol. 20, vol. 21
- Millennium Falcon Arc (177 – 307):
- Holy Evil War Chapter: vol. 22, vol. 23, vol. 24, vol. 25, vol. 26, vol. 27
- Falconia Chapter: vol. 27, vol. 28, vol. 29, vol. 30, vol. 31, vol. 32, vol. 33, vol. 34, vol. 35
- Fantasia Arc (308 – present):
- Elf Island Chapter: vol. 35, vol. 36, vol. 37, vol. 38, vol. 39, vol. 40, vol. 41
As you can see, the series is more or less linear (although there are flashbacks and the series starts off at a later point in the story before going back and then continuing in a linear fashion, as you are going to see in the next section), and the later arcs are divided into mini-arcs titled chapters. The overall structure is really not that complex and we are now going to tell you the whole story.
Berserk arcs in chronological order
Golden Age Arc
The orphan boy Guts spends a loveless childhood in the mercenary unit of his foster father Gambino. Frustrated by his crippling condition, Guts attacks Guts, who kills Gambino in self-defense. In the years that followed, Guts joined various mercenary armies without staying anywhere for long. It is only with the falcons that he finds companionship. These mercenaries are led by the charismatic and ambitious Griffith.
While Guts wanders aimlessly through the world, Guts has a lofty dream to which he subordinates everything: Griffith wants to become ruler of his own kingdom, even though he comes from a humble background. One day, in an old fortress, the hawks meet the warrior Zodd, who displays animalistic behavior and kills numerous men. Guts rushes into the fight, even parrying some of Zodds’ punches and inflicting a small wound, which impresses Zodds greatly. However, out of anger at the wound, he suddenly turns into a giant monster and nearly kills Guts.
None of the hawks have seen a beast like this before. Just before Guts dies, Griffith intervenes. But before he can fight Zodd, he notices a small rock Griffith is wearing around his neck. It’s a behelit that the monster apparently fears. Zodd flees, but not without prophesying that death and destruction will come upon the hawks. Guts is the only person Griffith accepts as an equal and, in his logic, as a friend. The second in the hierarchy of falcons, the Amazon Kjaskar, secretly loves the leader, but in his eyes, she is not an equal human being.
In return, Guts, who has become the Falcons’ most formidable fighter, develops feelings for Kjaskar, resulting in a complex love triangle. Using Griffith’s example, Guts believes he needs to find and pursue a dream, too. That’s why he leaves the Falcons for a year, without finding happiness abroad. Upon his return, the Falcons are attacked by a mysterious foreign assassin named Silat, who, based on a prophecy from his family, sees Guts as a mortal enemy against his own life. Guts is able to put Silat to flight for the time being, but Silat swears revenge.
Griffith comes very close to fulfilling his plans after the Falcons decide a long military conflict in the Midland kingdom’s favor. Griffith is knighted for his services and wins the Crown Princess’s affection. But that’s where Griffith’s rise to power ends. His affair with the king’s daughter is exposed, whereupon his domestic political opponents, who see him as a dangerous upstart, have him imprisoned and mutilated. When Guts finds out about this, he returns and frees the almost completely physically destroyed Griffith with the falcons.
Now a turning point in the story begins: Griffith’s will is unbroken and he cannot accept that his dream will never come true. So Griffith uses a king’s behelit to summon Demon Night, in which the mysterious overbeings of the God Hand offer to make him one of their own in exchange for his human ties. The statement by the members of the God Hand that, despite their demonic qualities, they are the emissaries of God, links the concepts of heaven and hell within the world of Berserk, leaving it unclear whether the god worshiped in that world is benevolent or evil.
Void and Slan, the Hand’s oldest members, advocate the beauty of causality and the inevitability of cause and effect. The meeting with Griffith was preordained. Thus Griffith becomes the fifth and last archangel Femuth (engl. Femto). He gets a new body, which has little human in it. As a price for this, Femuth offers all members of the falcons as sacrifices for the demonic apostles. He himself rapes Kjaskar, whose previous personality is now destroyed.
Guts loses his right eye and left arm in a battle with the demons. Just before the two are killed by the beasts, a strange horseman appears, rescues Guts and Kjaskar, and flees the impenetrable sphere where the massacre took place. Guts wakes up with his friend Rickert’s foster father, who nurses him back to health. Rickert, although a member of the gang, was not present at the sacrifice and was therefore not branded. The shock that what he experienced was no dream makes Guts flee into the night.
On a hill, he meets the mysterious knight again, who, like his horse, consists only of bones. He tells him that Guts and Kjaskar will be hunted by the apostles from now on, since they are attracted to the survivors of the demon night. That is the price of both of their lives. Who the skeleton knight is remains unknown for the time being. From now on, Guts feels torn between two tasks: On the one hand he feels responsible for protecting Kjaskar, whose mind is confused, on the other hand he is driven by an irrepressible thirst for revenge and hatred for Griffith/Femuth.
Black Swordsman and Conviction Arcs
Guts and Kjaskar both have a magical brand on their skin, identifying them as victims of the demons. Because of this, they are constantly plagued by monstrous creatures. Guts decides that his vengeance on Femuth is his top priority, so he entrusts the confused Kjaskar to a sacred place where the demons cannot touch her. From now on, as a black knight, he wanders the country alone in order to follow the trail of the hand of God and its numerous apostles.
Like his antagonist Femuth, Guts has also undergone an external transformation. He acquires various weapons over time that cast him in a demonic light when fighting the creatures of darkness: an almost grotesquely large sword that no one else can wield but himself; a steel prosthetic hand with a cannon in it. The only bright spot in his existence is the cheerful elf named Puck. Guts’ crusade against the apostles of the archangels finally calls the ecclesiastical Inquisition into action, which sees the Black Knight as a harbinger of the apocalypse.
He now regrets that he left behind the Kjaskar he loved. But since she has now left her place of refuge, Guts goes in search of her and arrives at the Albion Monastery, the central prison of the Inquisition, where he suspects Kjaskar. The Kushane Silat and his powerful bodyguards, Tapasa, also come to Albion after learning of Guts’ journey there. Silat still wants to kill Guts after failing to do so in the forest. In the monastery of Albion, the storylines are finally connected: Femuth appears and conjures up a second demon night, since he again needs a human body to establish an earthly kingdom.
Guts defeats the Inquisitors in battle, finds Kjaskar, and escapes the infestation of the creatures of darkness once more. However, he cannot get hold of Femuth, who was reborn in his former body and who can now be called Griffith again. The assassin Silat realizes that his enemy is not Guts but Griffith, apologizes and lets Guts go in order to hunt down Griffith and his apostles from now on.
Millennium Falcon Arc
Midland has now been conquered by the Kushans, whose people include the outcast Silat. Griffith therefore rallies all the apostles of the Archangels to defeat the Kushans and re-establish the kingdom of Midland. But he is also gaining multitudes of human followers who see in him the messiah who should lead them into a golden age. Griffith frees the crown princess kidnapped by the Kushans to legitimize his future rule. In the meantime, Guts, who used to be a loner, has found other companions in addition to Puck: the orphan boy Isidro, who accompanies him because he wants to be as strong as Guts himself.
Farnese, a member of the influential Vandimion family, once on the hunt for the “unholy” Guts, has joined him after a change of heart; as does her bodyguard Serpico, who, unlike her, knows they are siblings. The very young witch student Schielke and her own elf Evarella were asked by their dying master to support the Black Knight in his fight. Before she dies, her master Flora has a conversation with the mysterious skeleton knight, whom she seems to know personally.
Through her telepathic and empathic abilities, Schielke keeps Guts from losing control of his self in battle. He now possesses magical armor that prevents him from feeling pain, allowing him to berserk to the point of self-destruction. But the armor is controlled by an evil spirit. This feasts on Guts’ hate and grief and manifests in his soul as a hellhound. While Guts only wants to use the armor to defeat his enemies, the hound wants to completely corrupt the warrior and even almost causes Guts to kill Kjaskar.
Although Guts is able to resist and the dog retreats to the depths of his mind for the time being, he swears that one day he will return all the crueler. Then, according to the dog, there will be no rescue for Guts and his friends. Bit by bit it turns out that the skeleton knight must have used the armor once. Meanwhile, the Kushan attack on Midland, under their sadistic Emperor Ganishka, is becoming ever more drastic and costly. Ganishka has now conquered the capital city of Windham, slaughtered most of the civilians, and is raising an army of “Dakas”, bloodthirsty demon warriors, with the help of captive women and the black magic that obeys him.
Having landed near Windham, Guts and his friends decide to confront Ganishka. But even his right hand, an old magician named Daiba, proves to be an almost insurmountable opponent for Guts, despite his armor. Daiba’s magic dominates the waters of the sea and its creatures, causing him to summon several giant squid that nearly kill Guts. Now, for the first time, Guts allows himself to be fully swayed by the black power of armor, much to the delight of the patiently waiting hellhound. It is only thanks to Schielke that Guts retains a small remnant of contact with the outside world and his human ego. As a raging berserker, he is finally able to defeat the Kraken, whereupon the magician Daiba flees to his emperor.
Meanwhile, the Kushan attack on Midland, under their sadistic Emperor Ganishka, is becoming ever more drastic and costly. Ganishka has now conquered the capital city of Windham, slaughtered most of the civilians, and is raising an army of “Dakas”, bloodthirsty demon warriors, with the help of captive women and the black magic that obeys him. Having landed near Windham, Guts and his friends decide to confront Ganishka. But even his right hand, an old magician named Daiba, proves to be an almost insurmountable opponent for Guts, despite his armor.
Daiba’s magic dominates the waters of the sea and its creatures, causing him to summon several giant squid that nearly kill Guts. Now, for the first time, Guts allows himself to be fully swayed by the black power of armor, much to the delight of the patiently waiting hellhound. It is only thanks to Schielke that Guts retains a small remnant of contact with the outside world and his human ego. As a raging berserker, he is finally able to defeat the Kraken, whereupon the magician Daiba flees to his emperor.
Soon after, there is the first confrontation with Ganishka: This unexpectedly turns out to be an incredibly powerful apostle. In a flashback, the reader learns that Ganishka, heir to the Kushan throne, was poisoned and stabbed in an assassination attempt planned by his son and mother. He was mortally wounded, but survived because at the moment of his death he touched a stone in his pocket that his teacher Daiba had slipped him – a Behelit. Ganishka invoked the hand of God, which promised him new life and the tremendous power of an apostle. All he had to do was sacrifice his family to the hand; a price Ganishka was happy to pay after the sneaky assassination.
Thus he, now a demonic apostle, came to the throne of the Kushans. However, Ganishka had become so traumatized and paranoid by the assassination attempt on his life that he used his power as emperor for evil rather than good. He even defied the members of the God Hand by only pursuing the “light” he sought, a power similar to that of the God Hand, although he was only allowed to remain an “ordinary” apostle.
During the fight with Guts, Ganishka reveals his apostle form for the first time: he transforms into a huge, electrically charged storm cloud. Guts is able to resist his electric attacks for the time being, but is unable to inflict any wounds on Ganishka. Even the present Daiba is shocked by the power of his emperor and is convinced that nobody can defeat him. Suddenly, however, Nosferatu Zodd appears, on his way to join Femuth/Griffith’s army to fight against the Kushans. He is surprised and pleased by Guts’ presence.
Gradually, the reader learns more about the skeleton knight. He appears to be the incarnation of Genseric, a legendary king from the past who violently united the known world into one vast empire. He used dark armor that looked like the black armor of Guts. According to legend, Genseric’s kingdom prospered until one day he had a cleric imprisoned and tortured in the Tower of Conviction (The place where the monastery of Albion was later built). The minister complained so fervently to God that he was eventually granted an audience with the members of the Hand of God.
But since he didn’t have a Behelit Stone, his sacrifice had to be bigger than usual. He willingly sacrificed the entire population of Genseric’s empire in exchange for new life and freedom. Genseric himself merged into his new armor (a skeletal armor) and was banished to another dimension, to wander forever. It turns out that Genseric (if the theory that he is the skeleton knight is correct) henceforth looked for a way to track down and destroy the hand of God.
Over the course of over a thousand years, the Skeleton Knight even learned to travel between different dimensions – but the hated members of the God Hand remained hidden from him, so he was forced to await the rare demon nights when the Archangels showed themselves. To date, however, despite his immense powers, he has not been able to successfully attack Void and the other Archangels. The failed cataclysmic attack on Griffith was just the latest in a series of many, including the attack attempting to save Guts and Kjaskar from their sacrifice.
Rickert, the only member of the Falcon’s original band not present at the sacrifice and rebirth of Griffith as a femuth, had made his way to Falconia following Guts’ departure from his foster father’s home. Together with Erica, his step-sister and some other travelers, they are finally greeted by soldiers near the new capital and escorted to the city gates. Falconia came out of nowhere, is home to hundreds of thousands of people, and is the largest and most technologically advanced city you’ve ever seen.
All of the original ruling families have submitted to Griffith, even the survivors of the defeated Kushans have allied themselves with Falconia and serve its citizens. Rickert is still plagued by the memory of what Guts related: that Griffith sacrificed all his friends to Hell, mutilated Guts, and drove Kjaskar insane for his tremendous power. He suspects that Griffith’s new kingdom of Falconia was built on millions of corpses and is far from being as divine as it appears. He requests an audience with Griffith, which he is granted.
Before that, however, Locus, one of Griffith’s bodyguards and one of the most powerful apostles himself, takes him for a walk. Locus shows him that beyond the impassable walls of Falconia, protected from the eyes of its human population, an arena Locus calls the Pandemonium has been built. Here, Griffith’s apostles battle captured monsters from the other dimensions in their true demonic form. Locus explains to Rickert that this arena was a concession from Griffith to his apostles, since most of them could hardly contain themselves at the sight of so many people in Falconia and, according to their nature, would like to cause a bloodbath. Rickert almost breaks down at the realization of how vulnerable people really are in the godlike Falconia and calls the arena “a glimpse into hell”, to which Locus agrees with amusement.