The Berserk manga started publication on August 25, 1989 and has been ongoing for almost 30 years. For nearly 30 years, Guts, our tragic, berserker protagonist has been fighting against the bleakest of odds. The events of the series contained within 39 volumes can be quite staggering and difficult to wrap one’s head around. Luckily for Berserk fans everywhere, a handy guidebook has been written by our favorite Idolmaster fanatic and Berserk author, Kentaro Miura himself!
The Guidebook contains the following sections: character guides, world guides, plot summaries, Miura’s own Q&A session, his workspace and character design guides as well as early storyboards for the Elf Island chapter. The Guidebook provides a broad range of information about the manga, focussing mostly on its characters. It pushes the important points and has an easy layout to understand. All of it is presented in a similar design to the manga, following the dark gritty theming and typesetting. Most of the art has featured somewhere in the manga and certain events or character introductions have volume references. The references make it easy to follow where a certain character was introduced and it’s a small touch I appreciate.
Main characters are presented with their personalities, ideology, equipment, skills and history. Additional notes in the form of columns provide related information. Character quotes as well as profiles and parameters (like RPG stats) are sometimes included. Minor characters have smaller sections but they showcase how Miura treats even “background” characters with care. Apostles and Pseudo-Apostles also have character guides. Their powers, personalities and sometimes their histories are explored. Certain Apostles are presented with their sacrifices and reason for reincarnation. All of the guides have illustrations taken from the manga and carefully laid out among the text.
Confused about the Interstice, Astral World, Physical World and the newly formed Fantasia? The Guidebook explains the relationships between the worlds, how they interact and their denizens. Forgot how the magic system works in Berserk? Read a step-by-step guide on how to cast spells, about what magic items and charms are present in this world and how they can help people. Can’t even remember what happened in the middle of the story? There are volume summaries as well as summaries of main events, chronologically ordered to help you understand what happened when and where.
A large section of the Guidebook is dedicated to a look into Kentaro Miura’s motivations and thoughts behind Berserk, how his workspace looks and what kind of references he uses for his story and art. It’s really awesome to see how Miura’s setup looks and how he came about with the concept for Berserk. It’s really inspiring to see!
The lack of editorial polish
The version of the Berserk Official Guidebook I received had some copy errors and what I assume to be translation weirdness. Certain sentences had weird or wrong grammatical structures and copy was duplicated across one small section. I don’t know if this will be straightened out in the final version, but I will be scoring the Guidebook based on what I have been given. If you’d like to check a physical copy, check pages 92 and 94 for the copy duplication on the image captions. If it’s there, you’ll know the editors/translators didn’t correct some mistakes. Such editing errors I get annoyed with. If unpaid scanlators are doing better jobs than employed editors and professional translators, well that rustles my jimmies!
Aside from some editing mishaps, Kentaro Miura’s love and childlike giddiness over his Berserk world shines throughout the Guidebook. Here and there he leaves a little joke or comment about his characters and you can read how much depth he’s placed in them. No longer will you have to reread the entire manga (unless you want to of course) to follow the story from the beginning to its current state as the summaries really help visualize the history of Guts and his companions.
The character guides delve into the thoughts and motivations behind everyone, clarifying unknowns and highlighting important attributes of the various parties. The long breaks between each Berserk volume release can cause some readers to lose steam. I even forgot the sequence of events concerning the Kushan invasion or how the Pseudo-Apostles came about.
The Guidebook is great for reminding us about the world of Berserk and why we love it. Thus, I recommend the Berserk Official Guidebook for just about any Berserk fan!