I was reluctant to approach this, having just steered through the anime and thinking it was boring. Sorry, but anything with that shoddy of animation isn't worth my time.
But I for some reason decided to read Berserk, probably just so that I wouldn't lie to myself when I would inevitably put "DROPPED" after reading a chapter.
Oh my God. I was so wrong.
This manga is...a masterpiece. People gush over their favorite things without taking into consideration the flaws and whatnot, but as far as I know, there aren't any glaring flaws to this manga.
This is the pinnacle of anti-hero, demon-slaying, grudge-filled, action-packed, medieval-themed, bloody and gore-iffic manga. Every manga that attempts these genres should fall on its feet before the mighty tomes of Berserk.
So many characters, so many personalities. Every character, whether appearing in a few panels, an arc, or a mainstay in the whole series, has their own look, personality, likes, dislikes, fears, and agenda. You see the darkness in peoples' hearts, their greed, lust, psychosis, neurosis, hedonism, religious fervor, apathy, chivalry, hypocrisy, sadism, hatred, philanthropy, selfishness, selflessness, determination, ambition, obstinancy, stubbornness, insanity, and everything else on the Wikipedia list of emotions. No one is completely without fault or sin, but there are many sinful characters and beasts out there designed to make everyone else's life a living hell whether it's through their religious zealotry, their complete lack of humanity, or because they're Satan's spawn, pure and simple.
What drives the story are the characters themselves, and the monsters Guts and his friends are forced to duel or have the misfortune to disturb or intrude upon. They come to him by fate, and the suffering and the bloodshed never seems to end. After awhile it seems that good fortune will never shine upon the bloodstained anti-hero that is Guts, but then a tiny little light shines; a small child smiles, a village is saved or acknowledges him and his friends not as monsters but as human beings, a person learns the error of their ways...small things sprinkled here and there that make life seem worthwhile, make the fighting seem to have a purpose, at least for a little while. The story of Berserk is much like The Odyssey. Will Gutts ever be able to rest peacefully in the arms of someone who loves him? Will his past mistakes and the monsters within him ever cease poisoning his mind? Will the monsters ever leave him alone? It is a story that you hope for a happy ending because of all of the suffering the main characters have gone through, yet think that a bad ending is justified because optimism would be completely out-of-place in an adventure like this, not when everything that has happened has. And yet, you hope this story will never end, because it is the tale of a man's life, and in a sense one believes it should continue on for as long as a mortal's life--that is to say, 70 or so years.
the art gets the job done. The gruesome and the horrific are drawn exactly that. Nightmares that have been only reserved in the mind are put on paper with startling accuracy. The most bloodcurdling of torture, the phsyical limits of the human body, are drawn with such disturbing accuracy and apathy..no not apathy, but matter-of-factness. The whirlwind of motion is enough to make anyone dizzy and confused, but the aftermath will nearly always be a bloody heap of monster/human flesh. The scratches of the ink pen depict a dark and unforgiving universe where the innocent are slaughtered indiscriminately and monsters fill the inky darkness. The pugilists and corrupt officials are insane and ugly, the soldiers and mercenaries decked head-to-toe in fine armor and metal plating, the demons grotesque and insanity-inducing. Everything is drawn in a painstakingly accurate and nihilistic, ruthless fashion. No one is given "Free Parking". Pain is unavoidable, suffering is optional.
If you like any of these genres: Action, Military, Swordsman, Medieval Times, Demons, Blood/Gore, Long Journeys, Adventure, then READ THIS. READ IT. READ. IT.