You didn’t have to be a Berserk fan to mourn the untimely passing of Kentaro Miura, the creator/writer/artist responsible for one of the most popular — and bloodiest — fantasy sagas in manga. But those Berserk fans can take some comfort that the hit series will be returning to the Young Animal manga magazine to continue Miura’s story, but it’s only thanks to the creator’s close friend Kouji Mori — the only person to whom Miura told the entire story of Berserk, from start to finish.
Apparently, it wasn’t an easy decision for Mori, who created the series Holyland, to make. But between the entreaties of the staff of Studio Gaga, Miura’s studio that produced Berserk, and the realisation that his friend Miura would want the saga of the cursed swordsman Guts told in its entirety, Mori accepted the responsibility. He issued this statement via Young Animal, which was also released in English:
“Nearly 30 years ago, Miura called me and said, ‘I need to talk to you about drawing a rough draft.’ I went to his workplace just to talk as we always do, but Miura looked more serious than usual. ‘I need to draw the Eclipse,’ he said. I sensed it would be hard work, but couldn’t believe it when I was trapped indoors for a week… In that very moment, the storyline for Berserk was completed, until the very last chapter,” Mori’s statement reads in part.
“Strangely, the story for Berserk went on exactly as we discussed at the time, with almost no changes. I continued to talk to Miura often, whenever there was a big episode. We did so ever since we were students, consulting each other while working on manga.”
“I think people with good intuition would realise by now that I know the story for Berserk up to the very end. Still, I cannot say that I can draw it because I know it. That is because only the genius Kentaro Miura can write a masterpiece like Berserk.”
Mori goes on to explain that plans were underway to at least finalise the current chapter of the manga, when he was approached with the full remaining manuscript for the series, and a request from Miura’s staff to help them finish the entire story helped finalise his decision about how best to relate Miura’s plans for Berserk having been given the full picture.
“However, a great responsibility has fallen on me.
“While he was alive, Miura said, ‘I haven’t told anyone other than you, Mori, about the story in its entirety.’ And that was the truth. It is too big a responsibility. I thought, should I talk to fans about it through an interview? Or should I publish an article with some illustrations? But that wouldn’t convey the scenes that Miura described to me, or the lines of Guts and Griffith…
“Just when I was trying to decide what to do, I received a message,” Mori’s statement continues in part. “‘The staff are saying they will finish the last chapter that was left behind, so can you take a look?’”
“The last few pages of the chapter were incomplete. Some did not even have the characters drawn on them. I took a look at the manuscript, without expecting much. Desperation can push people to create miracles — There it was, the completed manuscript for Berserk.
‘Mr. Mori, will you let us do it?’
Miura’s apprentices, who Miura had been so proud of while he was alive, asked me straight.”
Mori concluded by stressing to fans that he will not add to Berserk’s story beyond what was laid out to him by Miura and in the current manuscript — and that while he fully understood fans’ scepticism at anyone but Miura concluding the series, he hoped that fans would support the endeavour. “I will only write the episodes that Miura talked to me about. I will not flesh it out. I will not write episodes that I don’t remember clearly. I will only write the lines and stories that Miura described to me,” Mori concluded. “Of course, it will not be perfect. Still, I think I can almost tell the story that Miura wanted to tell.”
“The talent Miura’s apprentices have are real! They are brilliant artists. Many of you may not be fully satisfied with the Berserk written without Miura, but we hope everyone’s thoughts will be with us. We ask you for your continued support.”
The fact that it’s been over a year since Miura passed away of an acute aortic dissection, back in May of last year, implies that everyone involved really struggled over the decision, which they absolutely should have. Right now, the plan is to produce six new manga chapters to finish out the current manga arc, “Fantasia Arc/Elf Island Chapter,” then use Mori’s information, conversations Miura had with his staff and the editors at Young Animal, and then notes and unused characters designs the author left behind, to complete the series as close to what Miura had hopefully intended as possible.
Obviously, it would have been best, and most satisfying for fans, if Miura had been able to finish Berserk on his own terms, with his own pen. But given the circumstances, it appears the manga will continue in the best possible manner.
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