Berserk Deluxe Volume #1 is a collection of the first 3 volumes of the Berserk dark fantasy manga penned by Kentaro Miura. The beautiful, 7 inch x 10 inch, nearly 700 page hardcover contains the entire “Black Swordsman” arc and the first chapter of “The Golden Age”. For existing fans looking to build up their collection and those interested in starting the long, gory, tragic tale for the first time, this is great way to start.
For those already familiar with Berserk who would simply like to know what differences there are between this and the single volumes, please skip to “Comparisons”.
Set in medieval fantasy, the first arc follows current-day protagonist Guts. He is an experienced veteran of combat, is equipped with a variety of small weapons, a giant sword and numerous scars. His personality presented in this arc is gruff and cynical, and he is hellbent on achieving his goals.
He seeks only to kill his enemies by any means necessary and along the way meets up with Puck, a fairy being tormented by a group of thugs from a nearby castle. Calling himself “The Black Swordsman” he challenges the mysterious and inhumane “Apostles” with only the strength of a human.
The first chapter of the second arc, “The Golden Age”, follows Guts’ childhood. I’d prefer not to say anything more as I’d rather the reader not have this particular arc spoiled at all.
Berserk Deluxe Volume #1 is a hardcover rather than the single softcolor volumes. The sound effects have also been translated, unlike in the single volumes. The page size is also larger than the softcover volumes.
Kentaro Miura is well known for his crazily detailed work and it holds true for his first volumes of Berserk. Detailed, complex backgrounds and fight choreography make every battle/scene easy to follow and very entertaining. Poignant scenes are framed, spaced and planned right so the emotions hit home like ninjas are cutting onions somewhere.
Settings with any piece of architecture can sometimes have every brick or tile drawn. In addition, Miura will sometimes add minor decorations to keep the settings engaging. Forests, grassy hills and snow capped mountains show his skills are not isolated to man-made structures. His precise use of screentones is wonderful. It’s truly astonishing the amount of work Miura can put into every panel even if it isn’t that important to the story.
A lot of Berserk veterans believe the “Black Swordsman” arc is the weakest of all the arcs. Some readers are turned off by the explicit introduction to the story, and Guts’ character being initially uninteresting. However, following this arc in the Deluxe Volume is the first chapter of “The Golden Age”. That is almost universally accepted as one of the best arcs in the entirety of Berserk.
I’d argue reading the “Black Swordsman” arc is enjoyable nonetheless because the introduction to current Puck and Guts links up to the remainder of the story nicely. It sets a premise of what is to come and provides a hook into discovering more about the world and characters of Berserk.
The illustrations also show how Miura’s art looked initially. As one reads the rest of the manga they will discover how his skill evolves and improves. Character designs also change and morph into more refined versions.
Guts is a formidable warrior with years of experience under his belt and carries numerous implements to kill his foes. His signature giant sword and cannon arm are his most powerful tools of destruction. One capable of cleaving armored knights in half and the other able to blow the heads off his enemies.
His dark outlook on life yet twisted passion to defeat his foes and live on is something to behold. The various fights he finds himself in and ways in which he uses everything at his disposal to win is admirable and terrifying. He’ll even hurt himself or use his enemies’ bodies if it means achieving victory.
Puck is a talkative, comedic-relief type of character. On some occasions he assists Guts despite him never asking or thanking him for it. He often acts as a mirror to Guts’ feelings, reflecting Guts’ emotions for the readers to pick up on. Puck also prys into Guts’ life, asking him questions about his past, much to his annoyance.
Puck wants good to be done. He roots for Guts when he is fighting evil but also chastises Guts for his merciless actions as well. However, Puck himself has to come to terms with situations where he is powerless to change the outcome. Sometimes Guts’ outlook on life holds true.
Berserk Deluxe Volume #1 is a fantastic way to begin from the very start of the Berserk manga. While it is highly contested that the main arc it covers is not the best and could even be skipped entirely, it showcases a lot of Miura’s initial technical and talented prowess and shows off great fight scenes as well as emotional ones. If you are worried about reading this arc before “Golden Age”, you can always start there and return. The classic 1997 anime or trilogy of Berserk movies cover the “Golden Age” nicely.
Berserk Deluxe Volume #1
Release Date: February 27, 2019
Format: B&W, 696 pages; HC; 7″ x 10″
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Kentaro Miura
Artist: Kentaro Miura
MSRP ($): $49.99 USD