Warning: This article contains spoilers for Berserk Chapter 368Filling in the shoes of a legend is no easy feat, and for Studio Gaga and their fantasy epic Berserk, this has meant rising to the occasion following the death of original creator Kentaro Miura. Luckily, with Chapter 368, it appears that the team has fully hit their stride, as, when taken alongside their already impressive offerings for the previous three chapters, the team has demonstrated a deep and daring understanding not only of the advanced mechanics of the kind of manga storytelling Miura stood as a master of, but also the subtle nuances of what made Berserk such an enduring tale under his pen.
Following Berserk creator Kentaro Miura’s death in 2021, the series stood in limbo for over a year, as Studio Gaga, a six-person team of artists composed mostly of the mangaka’s former assistants, prepared a prototype draft for the approval of Miura’s estate as well as publisher Young Animal Magazine. Despite multiple rumors of the series’ ultimate cancelation, including a reasonably conclusive notice by American publisher Dark Horse Comics, fans were met with the surprise of a generation when an announcement in June from Young Animal parent company Hakusensha confirmed Berserk’s continuation under the direction of Miura’s friend and confidant Kouji Mori, with Studio Gaga receiving the go-ahead.
Still, the question remained: were Miura’s pupils actually up to the task of continuing such a phenomenon? Berserk has long been known as one of the premier manga worldwide, not only for Miura’s incredible artistic presentation and darkly imaginative visual design but also in his often devastating narrative ability, which together proved a force to be reckoned with on a global scale, despite the manga’s often unsettling subject. Entitled “The Worm-Eaten” (or alternatively “Devourers”), this chapter answers this question, once and for all, with a resounding ‘yes’.
A Catastrophe of World-Ending Proportions
It’s not easy to complete an action sequence in a high-profile manga, and the medium is rife with examples of mangaka who don’t quite pull off the grand set piece climaxes they set out for themselves. Miura was long-lauded as among the finest artists of his time for this characteristic of his art, seamlessly and boldly weaving the storyscape of a truly immersive and epic dark fantasy world through Berserk’s countless brutal battles. In more than a few famous plot beats, such as Guts’ duel with Zodd on the Hill of Swords, or Guts’ pulse-pounding, troll-smashing melee against the God Hand Slan during the Falcon of the Millennium Empire Arc, Miura managed to blend perfectly both the physical and emotional actions in the moment of the story, resulting in some of the most breathtaking (and viscerally horrifying) sequences in the history of comics in general.
In this most recent chapter, which features an all-out cataclysm brought about by Griffith that threatens to bury the enchanted island of Skellig beneath the waves, Studio Gaga expands on their already sumptuous tribute to Miura’s personal style. Crafted with the kind of exacting minutia Miura himself would’ve demanded from his panels, the chapter’s cinematographic sense of physical unity within the panicked scene, as Guts and his companions are sent reeling by Griffith’s all-out assault, is the surest proof available that Studio Gaga is up to the task. A proof that settles this question once and for all.
For this most recent episode in Berserk comprises not only its own major event, with Griffith’s kidnapping of Casca and summary destruction of Skellig, it is merely a prelude to an even greater trial for its heroes, the commencing of another of Berserk’s harrowing gauntlets of monsters and mayhem. With this incredibly rich premise and stellar set-up, there’s no denying that Berserk is back.
A Heavy Sword to Lift
The course of this current riveting action sequence has its roots in Miura’s own playbook… but rehashing old work doesn’t cut it in this kind of revival. Studio Gaga has been setting up this set piece, beginning in Chapter 365 with Griffith’s reappearance and culminating with the original dark spirits of the island rising up to lay waste to the denizens of Elfhelm, in a method similar to their teacher’s, but with many of his familiar tropes flipped. The greatest compositions by Miura across the breadth of Berserk have always involved a steadily rising level of urgency and threat, usually accompanied by an increasingly injured and exhausted Guts, that eventually reaches a fever pitch in desperate struggle against a supremely powerful villain. A fantastic example of this kind of battle would be Gut’s fight against the forces of the apostle Ganishka in Vritannis, which saw him and his allies engage in a hair-raising magic-inflected duel against the wizard Daiba and eventually the emperor himself.
The battle on Skellig unfolds quite differently. Guts is suffering the effects of not only fatigue, but also the psychological shock of losing Casca once again, appearing to be emotionally broken. As he laments, hardly able to lift his sword from the exhaustion of constant battling with little time to rest over the past of several years, the dark spirits beneath Berserk’s island of Skellig, capable of killing a man with a touch, rise up all around him. The action darts around the island, as Captain Roderick hastens to disembark and Guts’ companions find themselves surrounded. There’s a rare tone of disarray and hopelessness here, not unlike the famous Eclipse of the Golden Age Arc, which leaves an uncharacteristic aura of doubt to pervade the suspenseful circumstance.
All of this is facilitated by Studio Gaga’s extremely naturalistic, yet disciplined sense of visual storytelling, and perhaps the greatest aspect of this new creative team’s work is how they have somehow managed to equal their late master’s inner camera, his mind’s eye, in the construction of this relatively complicated set-up. There’s a certain air of Miura’s grandeur in the ease with which Studio Gaga zips perspectives around the island, providing a stage for the action to unfold in as visceral and raw a vehicle as possible. No doubt under Mori’s firm direction, there’s a certain freedom, a zest for the trappings of the medium of manga itself in these newest chapters, which shines through in their art even amidst the dark and dismal subject matter.
With a supreme demonstration of the essence of what made Berserk such a seminal story, Studio Gaga has shown they have what it takes to carry the legacy of Kentaro Miura.
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