Kentaro Miura’s Berserk manga and anime is considered a true classic. Despite all the hiatuses and Miura’s recent death, Berserk will, as it has been confirmed, continue and Kouji Mori, along with Miura’s assistants, is going to finish the manga series. In this article, we are going to talk a bit about the production of Berserk, as we are going to bring you a list of influences that inspired the manga. We have found official sources and statements that confirm what Berserk is based on and we decided to share that with you.
Based on interviews and statements by Miura, the influences for Berserk include Mad Max, Conan the Barbarian, Elric of Melniboné, The Lord of the Rings, Dragon Quest, Fist of the North Star, Violence Jack, Guin Saga, Ranpo, Dororo, Star Wars, The Rose of Versailles, Aim for the Ace!, Kaze to Ki no Uta, as well as artistic performances by Rutger Hauer, and works by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, Fujihiko Hosono, Yumiko Ōshima, and others.
In the rest of this article, we are going to further elaborate on the given answers. Bringing you a detailed insight into Miura’s creative process, we are going to analyze how each of the above-listed sources inspired some parts of the Berserk manga and anime. As you can see, the list of influences is quite diverse and we are going to do our best to analyze all of them for you.
What is Berserk based on?
Miura said the inspiration for the series title was very diverse at the time of creation. From the very beginning, he hadn’t planned any information about berserkers or berserker armor (which first appeared in chapter 222). He chose the word because he thought that “its mysterious aspect would stick well.”
Miura said the title was tied to Guts’ symbolism, influenced by the titular Mad Max character of the same name, and continued by saying:
“In short, starting from a world with a dark hero who is burning for revenge, prompts you to imagine a rabid character. When, guided by his anger, he will pour out this rage on overpowered enemies, we must insist on his fanaticism if you want to stay consistent. That’s why I thought “Berserk” would make a perfect title to represent my universe.”
Based on what Miura said, the series’ dark fantasy setting was influenced by the 1982 film Conan the Barbarian and the Eric of Melniboné series:
“When I started drawing my series, the Japanese fantasy market was more represented by the Dragon Quest video game universe. There were also tabletop role-playing games, like The Chronicles of the Lodoss War, so more video game-oriented. But I liked the fantasy that preceded the era of video games: Conan the Barbarian, The Elric Cycle, a lot of highly rated works abroad. I wanted to draw those kinds of stories, but it was a minor genre in Japan. However, I knew it was good and I was convinced that I was right. And at the time, in Japan, almost no one knew The Lord of the Rings. Today, it’s seen more as dark fantasy than simple fantasy. In other words, fantasy corresponded to dark fantasy.”
As seen above, Miura explained that he did not consider dark fantasy as a genre in its own right but as an equivalent to general fantasy. He pointed out that major fantasy works outside of Japan, such as The Lord of the Rings, contain dark elements and that in Japan, this particular genre was popularized by popular video games like Dragon Quest, which were made for children thus erased the dark elements, but as it received influence from the novels before these games, Miura “naturally gravitated towards dark fantasy.”
Miura said that Buronson and Tetsuo Hara’s Fist of the North Star manga was the work that had the biggest influence on his work and that it also helped develop his artistic style:
“I wanted the discussion to be with someone who has impacted my professional life as a manga artist. The work that had the greatest impact on my work is Fist of the North Star. At the same time it was being serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump, there were other ongoing series like Dr. Slump, Dragon Ball, and Saint Seiya.”
Miura also added that animator and manga artist Yoshikazu Yasuhiko and manga artist Fujihiko Hosono were early influences on his art style. Go Nagai’s Violence Jack and Kaoru Kurimoto’s Guin Saga inspired the series’ story and atmosphere.
Masatoshi Uchizaki’s Ranpo served as a reference for his journey. Miura stated that his all-time favorite manga series was Osamu Tezuka’s Dororo and wanted to create a fantasy work containing dark, “muddy” and yōkai-like elements. Miura was also influenced by Star Wars, adding that he learned the basics of storytelling from George Lucas and credited the 1977 film of the same name as his favorite work.
Miura commented on the influence of shōjo manga on the series, stating that it is “about expressing every feeling powerfully.” In particular, he noted the influence of Yumiko Ōshima and how the anime adaptations of The Rose of Versailles and Aim for the Ace! series, both of which were directed by Osamu Dezaki, influenced him to create the manga The Rose of Versailles and the works by Keiko Takemiya, especially Kaze to Ki no Uta. This is what he said:
“No matter how fully formed the character of Guts was in my mind, this was a newcomer’s manga, and it wasn’t going to live up to Mr. Buronson’s established reputation. I also like girls’ manga, so I thought about changing my approach by taking from stories with sad and painful human relationships and emotions. Until then I’d been charging down the Fist of the North Star route, but that made it much harder to contend with the original himself, Mr. Buronson [laugh]. It was a good opportunity, so I thought I’d switch weapons and come at it from the angle of The Rose of Versailles (by Riyoko Ikeda) and Kaze to Ki no Uta (by Keiko Takemiya). And as this was new ground for me, I figured maybe I could put people around me into the story, as well as memories from my youth. (…) Serpico is those female readers’ “dream”. My intuition was that he’s the kind of man they would want to have around. To be frank, he’s André from The Rose of Versailles. For a woman exhausted by society, he sees to her needs and considers her before all else. I thought this might be a woman’s everlasting dream.“
Miura’s high school friend and later fellow manga artist, Kouji Mori, partially inspired some aspects of Guts (personality and design), alongside Mad Max, and Rutger Hauer’s appearances in The Blood of Heroes, Blade Runner, The Hitcher and Flesh and Blood. He explained like this:
“Early in my career. That’s right, for Rutger Hauer. I’ve said this before in other interviews, but at the time, one movie incredibly influenced my view of the Berserk universe. This is Flesh and Blood with Rutger Hauer in the main role. His massive-bodied, dangerous-guy image in the Hitcher and Blade Runner movies also stuck with me. And also The Blood of Heroes, where Rutger Hauer is unforgettable. There is no dubbed version of this film in Japan.”
Guts’ prosthetic hand was inspired by the protagonists of the same name from Dororo, Hyakkimaru, and Cobra.
Kurt, the protagonist of Shinji Wada’s Pygmalio, and an illustration of a sword-wielding giant featured in Frozen (a Guin Saga spin-off) inspired the greatness of the sword of Gut, the Dragon Slayer, by combining the two mixed characters’ swords. Miura commented that in drawing the Dragon Slayer, he wanted to mimic the effect of Kenshiro’s or Raoh’s (Fist of the North Star) fist just “flying off the page” but felt that Guts’ sword did not have the same effect as a fist.
He wanted to give the sword a sense of “augmenting reality,” similar to the depiction of the polestar fist in Hokuto Shinken martial arts, and make it believable for readers. Miura explained that “Black Swordsman” Guts was the first thing he got into, but he had no idea what his backstory would be. He focused on character development until about the third or fourth book and then began to think about what prompted him to seek revenge.
And with this, we have come to an end in our journey through the influences of Miura’s Berserk series.