Berserk was a culture shock and I wanted to read the ending

Berserk was a culture shock and I wanted to read the ending

There are works that have a before and an after. Not that it is a "before" and "after" relating to the development of the work itself, but rather linked to what is the world around that work. I was talking about it just yesterday on my social networks to coincide with the anniversary of The Witcher 3 which, on 19 May 6 years ago, arrived on the market rewriting the rules of open world narrative video games. A seminal work, a real "milestone", to the extent that it not only attracted almost homogeneous attention to itself on the part of all audiences and critics, but also because it was capable of setting, for the 'in fact, a "before and after".

Read also: Kentaro Miura, the author of Berserk dies

Berserk is, and has been, a manga masterpiece capable of imposing itself in the same way: there is a world of literature comics before and after Berserk, and this is undeniable not only for those who have read and loved that manga in a visceral way, but also for those who have never leafed through a page, while imagining that, after all, the latter category you have very few members within it. The first is a moment when you think of manga as a side dish, something that is good if there is, and otherwise you can live without it; and there is a later, in which you have not only read and understood the value of Japanese works but, indeed, through them you begin to understand more about the comics themselves, so much so that you become an avid reader.

It is a path of maturation that modifies, however, not only the perception of the reader and his role as a user, but also and above all the world that surrounds the work which, undeniably, will first be captivated, then influenced, thus consecrating that same operates in something more: a point of reference, a watershed. Berserk was like that, and even if it is perhaps difficult to understand for today's readers, for those (like me) over 30, it is an incontrovertible thought, a truth.

Today the manga has exploded in its popularity, also and above all through the internet and the great influx of products in our country which, first thanks to anime, and then to the work of a multitude of publishers, has brought manga to become a good habit for everyone, so much so that it is now very rare that some of us have not even browsed through one in the course of their lives. In the 90s, however, this was not the case, and even if there was a thriving manga market, the perception of Japanese comics was very different and, also due to the way in which anime were enjoyed, manga was distinguished only by to two basic parameters: the derivation (and relative popularity) caused by a relative anime (think for example of Saint Seiya, Ranma or Lum), or the interest generated by the presence of sexually explicit contents, regardless of whether we were talking about hentai or not.

Berserk, although it abounded with sexual content, was something different. It was first of all violent like few other things of that time, and it was raw in its representation of humanity and, for this reason, paradoxically realistic. It was a story that did not impose half measures and that, in its brutality, was able to analyze (progressively better and better) human nature, its weaknesses and its criticalities which, for a boy who until then thought that Dragon Ball was the most beautiful thing in the world, you will understand that it was something impressive.

The first time I read Berserk I was about 13 years old. A cousin of mine who was fond of great Japanese comics had bought it and thanks to which, moreover, I was able to enjoy other beautiful things like Sanctuary, Crying Freeman and the almost unknown Arms. I remember that it was like suffering a very strong blow to the base of the head, a real culture shock, which you can probably experience only when you are faced with something capable of creating a break between what you had seen before, and what you will see since then. The before and after, precisely.

Powerful and imaginative, Berserk accompanied me for most of my growth, influencing not only my relationship with manga, which until then I had considered (paradoxically) as a rib of the beloved cartoons of the afternoon (they were the years of Dragon Ball, after all), but also and above all my way of conceiving comics, and it is perhaps at that moment, thanks to many of the extraordinary Miura tables, that I began to think to comics as art, and not just as fun.

Dragon Ball, however beautiful and fascinating, had in itself very few ideas for an analysis or a maturation of any thought that was not the mere curiosity related to the vicissitudes of Goku but he, after all, was an irrefutable hero, devoid of any bite that was not the fight. There was no real maturation in Goku (as there was for Vegeta), and his being always and in any case unstoppable and "stronger", soon made him a bit banal, so much so that, even today, I believe that Dragon Ball's best moment was when Goku was sidelined due to heart disease, too quickly dismissed.

Even other successful works such as Hokuto no Ken (just to quote another consecrated comic and television "must" of the time), although pregnant with a certain tragicity, still left the time they found, imposing Ken as a sort of very powerful messiah, almost never seriously in trouble with his enemies, and in any case never really the author of a psychological or narrative change.

Berserk is instead profoundly different, and it is the story how evil modifies and affects human behavior. There is not a single character who is saved in Berserk, they are all more or less victims of some emotional deformation, be it the result of hatred, revenge, violence or prejudice. Because evil corrupts everyone, indiscriminately, and perhaps it is no coincidence that some of the worst characters in the series, or those who are most affected by evil, so much so that they also become the famous "Apostles", are often men of power with positions high-sounding and, at least ideally, incorruptible, as emperors, kings, priests and paladins, all monstrously corrupted by their desires, drives and desires.

With a similar premise it is obvious that mourning is more important for Miura than ever because, I think a bit like all the other readers, today we feel the orphans of a kind of teacher, rather than an artistically intended "Master". As if Miura had weaned us all by helping us, with her majestic tables, to take important steps towards a better understanding of comics, its languages ​​and, above all, its potential.

A fascinating thing is then that Berserk, without denying its many ups and downs, is also configured as a reading that can have many levels of reading, ranging from the most basic, entertainment, in which you just want to beare of a particularly violent and well-designed story, up to the highest ones, and in some ways "courtly", in which one can spend oneself in understanding world building and the motivations of its characters.

Certainly it is that to gloss over everything by attributing to its protagonists a general flatness, would mean having only a superficial and, in some ways, Manichean perception of the work, for which it is divided into men vs monsters, or good against bad, which is tto there, but that's simply not all. Berserk, like most of the works based on men as monsters (and it is curious that once again it comes to think of The Witcher), offers us a reading with different shades of gray in which the main theme is "evil", in every possible facet. At that point it is then necessary to investigate how evil impacts on the life of the characters who are even marginally touched by it, and how much it amplifies to give substance to the desires, feelings and impulses that dwell in everyone's heart.

And I mean: we're just scratching the surface. This is why I think Berserk is so important, not because it is the only work that has addressed these issues, nor for its (not always perfect) ability to give substance to the overused plot of the "Dark Fantasy" canons, but rather for being able to take root, more and better than other works, in the collective imagination, creating a debate on characters, themes and on the art of comics itself, which has been going on relentlessly since its first publication and this, if you think about it, it is Miura's greatest legacy, its unparalleled legacy.

Now that Kentaro Miura has left us, we all feel orphans of a world that, net of many ups and downs, has nevertheless bewitched us. The scariest thing, besides the obvious sorrow for the grief, is knowing that that world will remain forever suspended, that Gatsu's march towards revenge and - it was hoped - towards some form of redemption, will never end. Of course, it is possible, and perhaps even plausible, that Miura has left behind her notes, writings, instructions that can be "inherited" by her assistants and that, in an effort halfway between celebration, consecration and profit, the publisher Hakusensha may decide to continue the work anyway. Maybe, but maybe it would also be unfair to do so.

Of course, the fans, who have always been victims of a sort of "anger" towards the author, who has slowed down for too long with respect to the completion of his work, certainly might want a worthy ending for Berserk, but without Miura how much would it actually be “worthy”? What sense would that make? Perhaps he would not have any at all, and even if behind the writing of what remains of those adventures the name of one of the greatest masters of manga script imposed himself, as it could - for example - be that of Burounson, a long time friend and colleague of Miura on works like The Legend of the Wolf King and Japan, it is obvious that Berserk would not be the same anyway.

I wanted to read the Berserk ending. I would have liked to give a worthy conclusion to a journey that I have been part of for a long time but, at this point, it is perhaps appropriate to let Gatsu go with his father. We will have to learn to deal with it, leaving forever a suspended story so that each of us will be able to imagine the ending that he most prefers. Undoubtedly it is a thought that hurts and that can leave you unhappy, disappointed and angry, but net of everything we have to accept it for what it is, knowing that we have had the opportunity to be part of the before and after of the world of comics. Goodbye Master.

If you want to relive the adventures of Gatsu and his companions, then take a look at the fun Berserk and the Band of the Hawk, a title from a few years ago released exclusively for PlayStation 4!

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