The last compilation of creator Kentaro Miura’s opus Berserk will be published this Fall, after his terrible death. Berserk will never be replaced as a breakthrough manga for its brazen approach to violence and bleak subject matter, but fans may find a worthy successor in Goblin Slayer, a dark fantasy manga that seems to draw a lot of influence from Miura’s masterwork.
Berserk was initially published in Japan in 1989, but it took a long time for it to attract a wider audience outside of Japan. The first editions were released in Europe (the Italian version was published in 1996), but American fans had to wait until Dark Horse licensed it in 2003. The series was crucial in shifting Western consumers’ perceptions of manga, which had previously been thought to be primarily targeted at children. Everything changed when Guts came on the scene, swinging his massive sword and slicing beasts in half. As more and more adult fans were drawn in, manga began to be treated more seriously. Berserk sparked controversy as well, particularly because of the famed scene of sexual violence that was also included in the initial anime adaptation, yet its popularity has never diminished.
Berserk is widely considered to be one of the most important dark fantasy works, having influenced not just anime and manga, but also literature and video games (for instance, in games like the Dark Souls series.) Berserk has influenced several popular manga series, including Fullmetal Alchemist, Attack on Titan, and Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba. All of these programs, however, have come to an end. A prominent manga and anime franchise based on a series of light novels, Goblin Slayer is a popular manga and anime franchise. It breathed fresh life into the dark fantasy genre, and it has a lot in common with Berserk. The protagonist is likewise a lone warrior intent on vengeance who spends his whole life battling demons (in this case, just goblins.) The titular Goblin Slayer is a ruthless murderer, yet readers can’t help but sympathize with him, just as they did with Guts, because to his well-developed past.
Of course, there are distinctions between the two pieces. Berserk is set in a setting influenced by medieval Europe, and its representation is rough and realistic, while Goblin Slayer adheres to a more generic, traditional fantasy style. However, towards the latter portion of the series, Berserk’s tone shifted towards traditional fantasy cliches. Goblin Slayer lacks Miura’s characteristic baroque and meticulously detailed art, but it compensates by include the same degree of brutal detail in the battle sequences. Both mangas sparked debate and outrage, with Goblin Slayer being chastised for its images of sexual violence. Since then, the manga has shifted away from such excessive displays and placed a greater emphasis on character development, similar to how Berserk did in its latter stages.
When Goblin Slayer first came out, it was a breath of new air in the US manga landscape, which was trending towards more escapist tones characteristic of the popular isekai genre. It reminded Western viewers, much as Berserk did, that manga is a sophisticated and diverse art form that can appeal to a broad spectrum of people. Fans of dark fantasy tales who are missing Berserk might check out Goblin Slayer, which, although not identical to Berserk, uses the same structure and themes to interesting effect.