Berserk Official Guidebook Interview (2017) Edit
- Credit and many thanks to Bednorz (@bednorz_ on Twitter) for translating the lengthy interview.
Thanks to /u/juka90 of /r/Berserk for posting the translation. (source(s): part 1, part 2)
Interviewer: Until now, 38 volumes of Berserk have been released, and a new TV anime series was airing until recently. It's a work that has been alive for a very long time. Tell us about your feelings on drawing it for this long.
Miura: During its creation, there were periods when we were all in a merry mood, like around the time Berserk got animated, and times when I had to simply toil over the next manuscript. I have some very contrasting feelings about it. With all the noise over the new TV anime, I realized anew that "I've done something big", recently. Still, a festival is not something that lasts forever, so I will have to get back to the monotonous everyday again sometime and fight with my manuscript. [Laughs.] I've kept at it for a long time, so my work has been acknowledged, but my attitude towards struggling with the manuscript has not changed since my rookie days. When a mangaka has to do it, the only option is always to bury your head completely into the manuscript on your desk. You spend your days focusing on it, and then, after you're done with all the pages, when you look back on your work, you feel the biggest feeling of satisfaction.
Interviewer: When your work gets published, your mind is already occupied by the next manuscript, isn't it?
Miura: Not only that, in your mind, the previous manuscript seems worse than the one you're doing now. Once, long ago, I wasn't satisfied with how I filled the page and was all regretful, like "Ah, I've gotten careless!". Therefore, I've decided that each time, I would push myself to the limit, that I would draw until I was completely content with myself. Among mangaka, there are some clever ones saying "I will stop developing my drawing now and work on improving my storyboards", but me, I probably can only achieve satisfaction through drawing.
Interviewer: You're in the middle of a festive period in Berserk's history, so how does the atmosphere at your workplace look like?
Miura: Each week, we're having fun when we watch the anime with the entire staff, getting excited by checking opinions in the internet, we're having a good time. When this festive period ends, we intend to switch back to the usual state of facing the manuscript all the time. [Laughs.] If there is any bigger media expansion of the series after that, things will get hectic for me again, but I decided to just let that idea into my consciousness – I will experience that when it comes. Not to resist the current circumstances – that's the trick to being able to keep up your good work for a long time, I'd say.
Interviewer: That's a very flexible way of thinking, isn't it?
Miura: It depends on the mangaka, but once they have a taste of those "festive periods" in their careers, when those end, they get lonely and even stop being able to draw. This applies to serialized work as well. Let's say you make it big in a shounen publication or something, while still being very young. Before you get to mature as a human, you're thrown into the busy life of a serialized artist and when your series ends, you end up burned out and find yourself unable to draw anymore. In manga, there are times when you should continue and times when you should not, so when that happens, you should have a heart fitting your current size, let's say.
Berserk Was Made From a "Convention" Edit
Interviewer: Describe how Berserk came to be made.
Miura: In the 80s, when Berserk was still in my head, manga in general was, for better or for worse, unruly. Comics were greedily borrowing fun features from films and anything that was selling well. That was an epoch when all-new things were being cranked out all the time. The most impressive phenomenon in entertainment were Hollywood films, therefore, works using those as a standard to follow were a dime a dozen. Berserk was also being made by gathering features of things I found interesting at the time, like Hollywood films or Hokuto no Ken (by Buronson and Hara Tetsuo). Just like other manga of its time, it wasn't based on any special, unique way of thinking. [Laughs.]
Interviewer: Was Guts, the protagonist, what you began creating the story from?
Miura: At the beginning, there was Guts' gimmick, or "archetype", let's say. A "dark hero in black". Something like Hakaider from Kikaider (by Ishinomori Shoutarou). A nihilist guy in black. To that, I added elements of fantasy stories I liked, like Conan the Great (by Robert E Howard) or Guin Saga (by Kurimoto Kaoru). And so, it all began from an idea of a "Black Swordsman". Then, though black and nihilist, what kind of person should he be? It wouldn't be any fun if he was a normal swordsman, so how should I differentiate him? This is how I was making him, one question at a time. Since I liked Dororo (by Tezuka Osamu) and Cobra (by Terasawa Buichi), I came up with the idea of attaching something to one of his hands. When it comes to the Dragon Slayer, in Guin Saga and Pygmalio (by Wada Shinji), there were those huge swords. However, those swords, being this big, if you were to swing them...? If actual people saw them...? Those works did not bother answering similar questions. Also, as I said before, back then, Hollywood films were having their golden age. The live action film had been the king of entertainment. Terminator and Robocop were not using CG as they would be doing now, those were humans doing their best to play a machine. There was this phenomenon of "portraying a superhuman using an acting organic body", so if a man wielding a giant sword could actually exist, how much muscle would he need? How would the action of swinging it look like? I had this idea, taken from live action films, in mind.
And that is how Guts' appearance was decided on. At first, Guts only had a crossbow attached to his hand. It was treated as his "hidden weapon", but it made too weak an impact. His sword was a katana at first, too. "An Asian man with a katana and a trick up his left sleeve, in a medieval, European setting" was my idea, but as I was considering it, the idea that made me snap my fingers and say "this'll work" was the Dragon Slayer and a cannon hidden in a prosthetic arm. This balance of "cooler than reality, but still within limits, not destroying the illusion of reality" is fun, I think. For example, there's a character like Captain America among Marvel heroes. His abilities are "only a bit above an Olympic sportsman". He's way weaker than other superheroes. But, in a live action film, it can be represented properly and your mind is into it a lot more.
Interviewer: It's almost as if you're made to think "If I trained my body enough, even I might be able to do all that".
Miura: It's realistic within the bounds of your imagination. On the other hand, being able to fly doesn't feel real. With the Dragon Slayer, I wanted to make you think, "With a body of a pro wrestler, I'd be able to swing it once or twice, too." That is how the appearance of Guts came to be. Well then, where do we go from here...? [Laughs.]
Interviewer: Character motivations and their backgrounds came later, didn't they?
Miura: Actually, that came to me in the most conventional way. If we say that Ultraman has his unique look, his laser beams and that he came from the M78 nebula, the rest of the details follows naturally. I think that such stories created based on a convention have the most power to last long. Their content and execution can be different depending on the era they were made in, but a good convention is copied, prolonged, and loved forever. When I chose the convention for Guts, next up was the inner side of his character. For a dark hero, revenge is a fine motivation. Even before thinking of his reason for revenge, I had preferred to think about "how to exact that revenge".
Interviewer: Do you mean that more than developing his inner side, you thought of what would happen to him in the future?
Miura: Yes. At first, I imagined Guts as an "angry hero". Like Max from Mad Max or Kenshirou from Hokuto no Ken. "How to make him angry?" "How does he take revenge?" "How to effectively show off his looks and his gimmick in a story?" – after I milled those questions for a while, what was born out of this painful process was the first Black Swordsman. Back then, there still was no Band of the Falcon or anything. [Laughs.]
Progress from the Black Swordsman to the Golden Age Arc Edit
Miura: And so, the Black Swordsman's struggles continued for 2, 3 volumes... I realized at the moment when the Slug Baron appears: I'm creating a story about Guts defeating giant monsters. And that the monsters gradually seem more human. In the monster's retrospection scene, he looks more like a pitiable human. While Guts, the other way round, seems more like the monster in this pairing... And then, when the monster is toppled, the emotions of the two intersect and the giant sword is swung down. "What incredible catharsis!" is what I thought. And thus, finally, the Black Swordsman's form was established, but around that time, the "Animal House" magazine was decided to be retired and I had to start my comic from the very beginning...
Right at the moment when things actually started getting interesting... Berserk was then still unacknowledged by the wider world and I had an other work in progress, written by Buronson-sensei, so for the editors, when the question of "which one to continue?" came up, the obvious choice would be going with "Buronson", right? [Laughs.] To do something about it, I had to try pushing my own original story.
And so, the Golden Age Arc began. Even though Guts was a complete character in my head at this point, mine still was a rookie artist's comic and it could not compete with the weight of Buronson-sensei's name. So, as I like shoujo manga as well, I thought I could change my methods and put in some sad human relationships and an emotional story. Until then, I was exclusively going down the Hokuto no Ken route, but couldn't compare with its author, Buronson-sensei. [Laughs.] "This is a good moment to try a different weapon and borrow something from Versailles no Bara (by Ikeda Riyoko) or Kaze to Ki no Uta (by Takemiya Keiko). And, to enter some new, unexplored territories, I thought: why not include some memories of youth and people close to me in my work?
Interviewer: You mean using people around you as models for characters, right?
Miura: I didn't really have any manga mentors, so I had no idea what was right or not. I've always thought that giving form to things not existing in reality with your imagination was what being a mangaka was about. Then I tried doing it and learned that I was right. You include your thoughts and things dear to you in a story, so emotions will end up there as well and lies will stop being lies. [Laughs.] Golden Age did that well. Moreover, I don't think that the environment I've lived in was very dramatic, so when mixing realism with fiction, I think I maintained a good balance. I made my manga pals from high school into mercenaries, as "a group of men acting with a certain goal in mind". They were doing great and I was happy for them, but this story arc was made to explain Guts' motivation for revenge, so I was like "I made this many great characters and now they're all gonna die!". [Laughs.]
However, exactly because it was so long, the rage Guts feels can sufficiently get through to the reader and be understood. The story had to be made into something the reader could agree with and say "anyone would be mad after that". And if you want to do that, it all comes down to how dramatically and naturalistically you can draw how Guts' precious relationships with other people came to be. Among them, the bond between Guts and Griffith was modeled after me and my close friend, the mangaka Mori Kouji (Jisatsutou, among others). The matter of which of us is Guts and who's Griffith changes at times, but it's my standard of manly friendship.
Interviewer: Those characters, so full of emotion, suddenly all disappear in the Eclipse. Didn't drawing that damage you in any way?
Miura: Each and every character had some emotions to drive them, so... Damage? I have to admit I'd been kind of depressed. What's more, around the time when the Eclipse happened, the comic's popularity among readers dropped drastically. [Laughs.] There was a lot of angry readers saying "What did you just do?!" after getting to like the characters. Yet, my editor at the time said "No choice but to do this till the very end", worryingly. The only point I was cautious about was not to completely stop the story's flow with the Eclipse. I kept Casca alive precisely for that reason. That's because even if she died, and if the series continued for a long time, Guts' reason to seek revenge would become a thing of the past and if Guts formed new relationships with people, his motivation would weaken. It's a cold, calculating move and it might feel unpleasant, but it's exactly because Guts has Casca at his side that he can never forget about the Eclipse.
Struggles of the Fantasy Genre Edit
Interviewer: Were the developments after the Eclipse decided on beforehand?
Miura: The Golden Age Arc was very long, so, to return to "Black Guts" again, I had to show off his Black Swordsman form from the beginning and refreshen the reader's memory. That's why the Lost Children arc is constructed the exact same way as the Count's story. During flashbacks into the past, monsters show their human side and when they're about to be defeated, Guts looks more monstrous than they do – another common point. Still, I couldn't do everything exactly the same as before, so I introduced Rosine, a changeling apostle.
Interviewer: In Lost Children, there's a scene where Puck gets acknowledged by Guts, right?
Miura: Before Golden Age, I couldn't decide if I want to make a pure fantasy story or a piece of historical fiction. I could do some research on supernatural oddities from the backstage of real European history, like Count Dracula, and make Guts hunt down monsters from actual folklore – I had an idea like that, too. However, the moment when The Band of the Falcon took form in my mind, the name of Midland, a fictional country, emerged as well. The "historical fiction" route stopped being an option, leading to Berserk turning into a fantasy story. And if so, I had to try using some trademark tropes of fantasy. Fairies, witch hunts, sorcery, pirate ships, et cetera. The representative features of medieval Europe. And when I was trying my hand at drawing fantasy, there were few fantasy manga in Japan.
Really, classic fantasy stories were hard to come by among manga. If fantasy then Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, and similar games, right? They're completely different beasts from old foreign fantasy. The Lord of the Rings (by J. R. R. Tolkien) was a novel which only the few chosen ones knew, while Guin Saga fans were a niche in a niche. Fantasy started to be widely known because of novels and games, but the major media had none of it. At the time, publications for the shounen audience had nothing but comics about gakuran-wearing hoodlums starting fights, there was no place for fantasy in those. Although, the story of "Black Guts", even in such conditions, unfavorable to fantasy, could be looked at as a "denki-mono": an eerie, phantasmal story – I realized.
Interviewer: In spite of all that, you chose the path of fantasy. Were you convinced of your story's worth?
Miura: I think that the sense of "fantasy" found in the works of Disney is understandable for the entire world and any epoch. To summarize this aesthetic in a rough way, it comes down to "once upon a time, far far away...". If you add anything more to this setting, from the viewpoint of the general audience, you story ends up being "for nerds". If you stuff it with fictional countries, weapons and proper nouns, nobody will follow it except nerds. That's why the apostles at the beginning are "Snake Lord" and "Slug Baron" – they don't even have names. [Laughs.] In that example of Disney, you are not suddenly thrown into a different world, but you go from a place in the normal world to a different world, where the monster appears for the first time. In The Beauty and the Beast, things usually happen in a medieval-like world, but when you enter the different world of the mansion, the beast is there. In fantasy nowadays, the different world is the setting from the very beginning, it's taken for granted, but us uncles had had to struggle with it more than you. [Laughs.]
Interviewer: That means that Puck is one of symbols of fantasy in Berserk. What was the concept behind Puck?
Miura: Disney, again. Just like a grasshopper always accompanied Pinocchio, for some reason I have the impression that protagonists in fantasy always have something small following them, that's why. Still, Guts and a cute fairy might be too much of a contrast, I've thought that too. [Laughs.] Also, Puck's convenient in how he's fine to do whatever. To tell the truth, it's been a while since Puck turned into "Chestnut Puck", his personality has changed a lot, has it not? Exactly because he's a fairy, his personality can be vague, I think. In Lost Children, he's sympathetic towards Jill and gets sad, while when he's with Isidro, he's cheeky and that's perfectly fine. When I'm busy with something else, he offers me a break. When Puck does my dumb gags, the reader watches him with a warm feeling. At this point, without a character like Puck, it would get so heavy and menacing, I wouldn't be able to stomach it, probably.
The Way to Face Reference Material Edit
Interviewer: If dark fantasy has warmer spots that don't ruin the atmosphere, it becomes easier to read, doesn't it?
Miura: I guess my intuition works well then. I feel that the story not getting too dark and heavy is one of the features that differentiate the major from the minor works of culture. Now, most mangaka are aware of it, but in the case of Berserk, it has maintained that balance accidentally. Also, in my case, I think my mental structure is free of inclinations. That's why I end up naturally calming into the same balance as the reader, never becoming too much of a nerd. I'm drawing it thinking that most of the things I find pleasing are pleasing to the reader as well.
Interviewer: To a writer, it's a rather important weapon, isn't it?
Miura: There's a lot of mangaka making nerdy knowledge a weapon, but it's not a weapon at all for me. Only my drawings are for nerds. In all the rest, I look things up and use them as I need them. But, to begin with, not only in manga, all people do research for their jobs. That's the way it is. I'm masking it with my art. Even if I do random stuff, with this level of art, it'll appear deep. That's the useful aspect of it. [Laughs.]
Interviewer: When you look up reference material, do you have any tricks you use?
Miura: Because of the lack of time, you have to be selective when choosing material and representative features of your work. Researching minute details is impossible, unless you involve a lot of people. What's more, in my case, I only scan a book's themes and information and emphasize the writer's conclusions. In the Conviction arc, with its witch hunting, I looked at what the reference book's author thought the witch hunts were, for example. For the Conviction arc, I had read 2-3 books, what I learned from them was that the witch hunts were "the materialization of the unseen fears of the Middle Ages". When people experience fear, they give it a shape, and when a group of people do it, it ends up as a witch hunt.
In this arc, Griffith comes back, not as Femto, but as the "Falcon of Light". Even at the beginning, at "Black Guts", I intended to make Femto the enemy later. But, when Golden Age ended, Griffith's character became too prominent and I wanted him to fight with Guts in his usual form. Storytelling-wise, if he was in his normal, unchanged form, and then changed into his powered-up form, the opposition would be easier to understand. Also, setting-wise, as Femto, the dimension on which he operates becomes more distant.
Interviewer: By the way, Mozgus, who appears around that time, is an interesting character, beginning from his looks. Do you have any thoughts on him?
Miura: The basis for the Conviction arc was the film "The Name of the Rose". I thought I would add some witch hunting to that, to show the dark side of religion. There are all kinds of ideas on religion in it, but out of all of them, when I thought of a character embodying fundamentalism, Mozgus came to be. "Ideology comes first, people are less important". He's an exaggeration of that idea. All religions have that to some extent, but if you make things transcending human thought and rules of reality into an absolute and exaggerate that idea, that's what happens. When I tried creating a person out of this strict thinking, this low-polygon kind of face is what I ended up with. [Laughs.] When I thought "He's a square" and made that into a picture, he turned out to literally be square.
Interviewer: Mozgus is supposed to be a character made for laughs too, isn't he?
Miura: I'm dividing characters in Berserk clearly into cannon fodder and ones participating in actual drama. Mozgus, Wyald or Adon are there to die, in the end. Like the villains in Hokuto no Ken, they're fun, impactful characters. Those characters are always destined to die the moment they go unruly. But their henchmen remain. Daiba and Luca appear in multiple chapters [sic?].
Daiba and his folks appear a lot lately. It happens in Guin Saga as well, but when the main characters in that series leave an impact and disappear from the story, the characters that were hanging around before end up reused. It becomes a story about the world later in time, so one is interested in "what happened to him after that?", so when I need new characters, I reintroduce those.
Berserk has a lot of those fun details. New little discoveries in each chapter. Even apostles reappear, like the one who bit off Guts' arm during the Eclipse... He's still working hard as a member of the New Band of the Falcon. [Laughs.] At first, I was designing apostles as I was drawing, but thinking up new monsters every time is hard and it just would be bad if there were many of those in the world. Sometimes, they appear one after the other, too.
Is the Conviction Arc "Sekai-kei"? Edit
Interviewer: Among numerous apostles, "the egg of the perfect world" is rather unusual.
Miura: This one is special. For Griffith to be resurrected, something very specific is needed. When I started the Conviction arc, I invented something that, I feel, clicked with me. The idea of "a group praying to god for something" took this form. It happened by accident, in a way. It might have been an obvious outcome of the witch hunt.
He had a different role than "a monster eating people", unlike the ones before him. Around that time, the word "NEET" was being discussed by the public. "Someone who never became anyone and was watching the outer world through a computer from the confines of his dark shell" – that was the common image, wasn't it? Anyone, when you're young, has a side like that, to some extent, so it's very relatable. Sitting in a room, holding your knees and feeling anxiety about your future is something pretty much everybody has experienced. It's a feeling of fear. This "obscure, insignificant being", "the being to become a vessel for everyone" resonated with me. "The most insignificant thing calls forth the most impressive thing" – a story like this feels good. Back then, a term like "sekai-kei" had not yet existed, but if you look at it that way, the Conviction arc follows the sekai-kei pattern.
"One's emotions being directly connected to the state of the world" – it really is sekai-kei. The Conviction arc is very exaggerated, but I did want to include a metaphor of the world in it. If I placed Griffith at the top of it, it would become something super charismatic. On the other hand, in this sekai-kei story, I would draw a human in a down-to-earth, weak position, to achieve balance. In a phantasmal world, I would put realistic, mundane people as well. In an eerie world, I would put Chestnut Puck. When drawing, I want to put in values beyond ones like "win-loss", "strong-weak".
Interviewer: After that, Griffith is resurrected and Guts gains some companions. How was one of them, Farnese, created?
Miura: I made up Farnese as a second heroine, after Casca. I was struggling with her a bit. In Casca, I simply contained things I liked. A brown female warrior. Strong, but still feminine – she was my ideal at the time. [Laughs.] Still, when I had to create a new heroine, I couldn't do it the same way I made Casca. Therefore, I worked at her while listening to advice from Mori-kun, always popular with the girls, thinking of making her a heroine who female readers could sympathize with; "An office lady who joined society 1-2 years ago, getting used to her job and feeling anxiety about this man's world" was the concept. [Laughs.] She's trying her best in the male society of her knight order, but doesn't mix well with the surroundings, butts heads with them and sometimes her dissatisfaction takes sexual form... It's partly just my fantasies, though. [Laughs.] If you expose such an unstable woman to Mozgus and his strong impact, she will surely fall for religion. Long story short: Farnese is an "office lady who joined a dangerous cult". [Laughs.]
Interviewer: What about Serpico?
Miura: Serpico is that female reader's "dream". "They probably want a man like him" was my intuition. Said directly, he's Andre from Versailles no Bara. For women exhausted by society, someone who does for them things a host would do, who thinks about them first, is an eternal dream, I thought. What's more, I think women have three types of dream men. Someone always at their side, like Serpico. A highborn prince they can admire. And someone realistic, who seduces them with money. Recently, I saw a play "Female Pirate Bianca", based on a manga by Miuchi Suzue, who made Glass Mask. All three of those types hang around the heroine. Then, I realized: "Berserk did the same accidentally". [Laughs.] Serpico, always present around Farnese. Guts, whom she respects. And the rich Roderick... All three are there!
Meanwhile, Guts also has three heroines – Casca, Farnese and Schierke. Three characters of the opposite genders for each hero – that's a good balance. That's also unintended, though. [Laughs.]
Interviewer: What about Isidro, then?
Miura: Isidro is sort of modeled after a child of an assistant who worked with me at the time. He wasn't as brave as Isidro, but he was ambitious. "What do I do to become like you, Miura-sensei? Tell me the easy way" – he was a kid who'd actually ask such questions. [Laughs.] "I want to go big. But, I want it to be easy too". He was putting spirit into that line, like Kaneda from Akira (by Ootomo Katsuhiro), the "healthy bad youngun". The setting of Berserk is all dark, so I like him as the standard of a boy boldly going through that world.
Even though that world is what it is, Isidro makes a wholesome impression. The characters in Berserk have both good sides, bad sides, and their circumstances. I'm drawing while thinking of that foremost. Vague goals like "For justice!" are something that only characters like Mozgus could call their own. [Laughs.] Even when you're pursuing profit, if your goals are the same, people cooperate. If you hang around for long, you become nicer to each other... It's a natural balance. Precisely because Berserk is set in an other world, I want you to sympathize with the characters, like "For humans, this is normal". If I were to add anything to that: Isidro has a side like "a child of the Shouwa era" to him, in my mind. When I was a kid, there were a lot of children full of energy, like "I want, I want". They show off their character and secure their own place to be – an image like this. Children of the Heisei era are all kind and make an impression of minding their balance with the surroundings. I wonder what they think when looking at Isidro? They probably can't relate. [Laughs.]
The Image of Magic: Returning to the Source Edit
Interviewer: And so, Guts and his crew meet Schierke and head to Enoch village. Had you planned the appearance of magic around that point?
Miura: The Conviction arc was about witch trials, so it followed that I had to deal with witches and magic later. Therefore, I looked for some books about magic for reference and among them, there was one book written by a self-styled magician. At a first glance that's suspicious, but apparently, overseas, magicians do exist and enjoy authority. And so, I decide to draw "the idea of magic as a real magician would invent". In Japan, game-like magic is the common image, like shooting fireballs, but obviously, in the outer world, the serious concept of "magic" exists. I'll digress a bit, but if you want to create a film to rival Star Wars, you shouldn't watch Star Wars. Watch what George Lucas watched in order to create Star Wars. I've heard than in some documentary. If you trace something already known to the public, you will only end up creating an inferior copy.
Interviewer: And then, you did research on the foundations of magic?
Miura: I gathered some reference(s) and started thinking on the general impression of what real magic is. What I learned was that magic is, more than I thought, an internal thing. You make a series of images in your mind and then refresh them, kind of. Conveying this phenomenon properly as drawings became important. You don't chant a spell and then something pops up. Using magic is entering a layer of reality above ours – the hidden, supernatural world, and work your magic there. When visualizing that, it's important to draw this vague image in a clear way. Otherwise, you won't be able to show the magic that real magicians talk about.
Interviewer: Until then, combat had been only done with a sword. Did you have any conflicting feelings about drawing magic?
Miura: Yes, I did. After all, the scheme of Guts swinging a giant sword to kill monsters was at risk of collapsing if I added magic. Magic could not become too convenient. Therefore, I balanced it out by making its casting speed slow and such. One more thing I wanted to give attention to was... magic in games is all shiny, isn't it? I wanted to avoid that. It could mysteriously make water overflow or make trees grow suddenly – in a way, I made the imagery of magic very mundane.
So, magic was more of a continuation of reality. I wanted it to change real things in a realistic way. Like in old films and fairy tales, like the story of Jack and the beanstalk. So, I did not make new ideas out of old ones, but followed the rules of old magic. The same can be said about monsters. In Japan, after Pokemon got popular, the word "monster" gained a cutesy nuance. I did some thinking on what is a real monster and I ended up with apostles. They're humans who had some mythical powers put into them, it's a sensibility close to Japanese "oni". I take the theme of my choice, and rewind it towards its origin this way. When I return to this "source", its primal form, completely different from what it is now, becomes visible.
Interviewer: That means emphasizing "the roots", doesn't it?
Miura: Doing that makes your story a major, mainstream one. "Tales of the old" with long history are something extremely widely known, right? On the other hand, among anime and light novels, which vary wildly in how they're popular or forgotten, there's no telling what will stand the test of time and remain in public memory. If you want your work to live long, I recommend you to research very old things.
Guts Goes a Level Higher with the Berserker Armor Edit
Miura: With the introduction of magic, Schierke joined the story. Schierke had to appear because Isidro happened, in a way. They form "the second generation", like Lin and Bat in Hokuto no Ken. The natural outcome would be for her to pair up with Isidro, right? Schierke admires Guts, but right next to this girl being impressed by an adult man, a hardworking boy is maturing... That is the right state of things. [Laughs.]
Together with Schierke, a whole lot of magical items are introduced into the story, like the Berserker Armor. In a long story, the characters and the story need to be ascended to the next, bigger stage a few times, or it'll be boring. Still, if they do so in a weird way, the story's balance will crumble, ending in a waste. I drew the Berserker Armor to allow Guts to power up to one level higher – that is its meaning. After he turns off his limiter and loses all reason, the truly becomes a Berserker. Guts until that point was enough of a Berserker, but I wanted to draw him in a state of him losing his mind even more. To make Guts, swinging his sword, even more impressive, I wanted to pile up some magic onto him, it would end up a nice balance. The Skull Knight appeared a lot around that time, so I decided on a cursed piece of armor.
Interviewer: Had it been on your mind since the time Skull Knight was added?
Miura: I don't think all mangaka can say so about themselves, but me, the meaning of things I created sometimes suddenly comes to me as the serialization continues. At times, things I'd been drawing suddenly click with me, like "so that's what that was for!". When one person keeps drawing earnestly, instances of things connecting clearly after the fact happen a lot. Maybe it's unconscious, maybe it comes out of my personality. I came up with Berserker Armor around the time when that dark beast appeared before the Conviction arc. I've always wanted to give shape to the violent contents of the depths of Guts' mind, while trying not to change Guts' appearance by doing so. And so, while drawing, I saw it – the Berserker Armor enveloping Guts and transforming him, as if it wanted to devour him. It served as a visual representation of his animal instinct overshadowing reason. I did a good job. [Laughs.]
New Route – from Griffith's Viewpoint Edit
Interviewer: After that, the story switches to Griffith's side and the dynamic battle with Ganishka happens. Was that a development foreshadowing the Fantasia arc?
Miura: Yes. Ganishka was just a very big piece of cannon fodder. [Laughs.] To make a character on the level of Griffith work, you need to confront an equally impressive character with him. His story is parallel to Guts', so after Griffith's resurrection, Berserk becomes a story with two routes.
In Griffith's route, he starts to seem like the protagonist. I wrote Griffith as a character who doesn't talk about his emotions much, but by placing characters who expose their emotions all the time around him, I made Griffith actually stand out among them. Also, manga characters have the tendency to be divided clearly into enemies and allies, good and evil. However, I'm creating Berserk without including such values in it. Griffith is Griffith – he seems attractive and looking from his side, it's Guts who's the villain. For some people, the world that Griffith is creating might be more in their favor. What will the new stage of Fantasia be like...? [Laughs.]
Finally, the Arrival in Elfhelm Edit
Miura: Then, Guts and his comrades had an adventure on the sea. The Guts Route is normal fantasy, a rare sight in Berserk. [Laughs.] He forms a party, gets his hands on a ship and then pirates appear. Until that point, there was a lot of character development, but from this point on, the time has come to do some quests. I wanted to do something like this once.
Interviewer: Was Isma joining the party planned?
Miura: It wasn't, but I found that I'd regret removing her, so I had her come along. [Laughs.] The party's balance after introducing Isma turned out surprisingly good. Honestly, she occupies the position of "stupid child", so she sometimes says frank things that leave an impression. I thought having someone with a straightforward child's eyes would be good. Even though he's a child too, Isidro's wild ambition would turn out too strong and he would end up a laughingstock. Isma is fun when grouped with someone, so maybe she would stand out together with Isidro or Puck. What would happen if I juxtaposed her with some other character? How far would I go? I don't know. Showing the appeal of a new character is fine, but I would like to push the story forward hard as well.
Interviewer: In volume 38, the party arrived in Elfhelm. It's a huge milestone in the story. Any impressions?
Miura: It's been so long. But still, I've always thought "when will Golden Age end?" or "when will Falconia appear?". I end up feeling the same in each story arc.
Interviewer: I've heard that you've decided on the developments in the next arc and you're drawing it now, Miura-sensei...
Miura: Not thinking too much and saving good stuff for later is the trick to lasting long. If I stuffed in too much content at once, it would put pressure on me and bind me, the story at this point would become too solid. I do some light thinking and when the time to make storyboards comes, I truly immerse myself in storytelling for the first time, you know. Of course "what you absolutely shouldn't do" always happens when you do things haphazardly, so thinking of spicing things up beyond the general outline should be done at the proper time. Especially the way you present the story – it usually comes to you as you're drawing.
The Reality of Fantasy Edit
Interviewer: Especially after Falconia, you draw even normal people with care, don't you?
Miura: Normal manga are drawn only from the viewpoint of main characters, the ones usually made to act. But, if I am to draw Griffith as the character to whom the people submit, I must draw from the perspective of the people. If I don't include those regular people in the story, I can't show Griffith's charisma. However, if I draw something as vague as "everyone", it'll be boring. That's where Laban and his people become necessary. While drawing, I realized how important those normal people are. Ones like Luca or Laban, or Magnifico. Now, they're just there, but at some point, there may come a time when you'll think "I'm glad Magnifico is around". [Laughs.] Stories all have an established "direction" they're heading towards. Main characters act to clear some goals and push the plot forward, but if that's all that happens, you'll only achieve a sense of scale reminiscent of a film. Serialized manga are long, you see. At the margin, you need a "representative of common people" kind of character. Those normal people show you "the everyday", so they give off an impression of being related to the aesthetic of fantasy.
Interviewer: What you mean is that you thoroughly draw realistic humans, just like you draw the fantasy world?
Miura: Of course, it's possible to construct a story only upon dramatic features as well. Those might be the majority especially among works for young children. For example, stories with supernatural powers, set at school – where the world consists mostly of characters of the same age. No old uncles and aunties to be seen, sometimes even the parents don't appear at all. However, in those conditions, the world you can draw is very limited, right? Of course, those works are dense with characters and aesthetics liked by readers, but that's not how I create my stories.
Interviewer: What is your way like then, Miura-sensei? I'm going for a "window into another world" kind of sensibility when drawing, so it's a world where normal people, people not useful to the story, children and old people, live normally. Of course, my camera is moving, so I choose what I need to show when I need it, but all those things not useful to my story are still a part of the world in my mind. So, I can't help but draw them.
Miura: I'm going for a "window into another world" kind of sensibility when drawing, so it's a world where normal people, people not useful to the story, children and old people, live normally. Of course, my camera is moving, so I choose what I need to show when I need it, but all those things not useful to my story are still a part of the world in my mind. So, I can't help but draw them.
Berserk, Cross-sectioning the 80s Edit
Interviewer: Berserk has excellent dialogue and narration, but do you use any special tricks when writing?
Miura: Usually, I don't write anything beforehand to save it for later. At the storyboard phase, I simply enter lines that seem appropriate in the right places. Or I remove lines. The more important a scene is, the less words I put into it. At the stage before that, I sometimes mix in some unneeded words, so next, I need to "decrease the low and increase the high". Also, partly, I just depend on my drawing skills.
Interviewer: How do the most important lines come to you?
Miura: In my case, I write lines in a natural way, as if I was conveying things to another person, I do what I usually do. It's not like your true intention is conveyed better as the number of words is higher. Your passion might be conveyed that way, though. [Laughs.] If you really want the person to understand, you use significant words one after another. In the end, balance is what counts. I'm creating in a very detailed way, which includes my drawings, so I think that the fewer words, the bigger the impact and as a result, the lines leave an impression upon the reader.
Interviewer: We're having this conversation after the characters arrived at a milestone that is Elfhelm. Do you have anything you would like to try your hand at in the future as you're drawing Berserk, Miura-sensei?
Miura: I've done some incredible things, so maybe I would "tidy up" all the things I've done until now. When it comes to entirely new things, I would like to make preparations before the inevitable deciding battle between Guts and Griffith and make it more exciting.
Interviewer: Well then, to wrap this up, please give a word to the readers who have bought this book – both the new ones and fans who have been following your work for years.
Miura: I think that during this festive period in the history of Berserk, completely new, young readers gave it a read. Fantasy has its history and as a part of it, I'm still continuing the manga that your (probably) young self's dad was into in the 80s, drawing and using the same yakitori sauce as back then. [Laughs.] Whoever found this comic fun – give some old stories a try as well. I'd be glad if, having become a supporter of Berserk, you used this opportunity to get interested in things I had been obsessing about. And to everybody who has been reading since ages ago: I will be making Berserk as always, without wavering. There will be times when the slot for my serialization is empty, so times when I distance myself from my comic for a while will be happening as well, but when you get curious about Berserk, come back to check it out. I will be continuing Berserk without change. And, I would like to somehow arrive at the end in good health. Be good to me from now on as well!
Interviewer: Thank you for your time!
Berserk DVD 3 (Region 1) Interview (2002) Edit
- Original source: SPECTRUM NEXUS » Berserk Kentarou Miura Information
Interviewer: Today, I'd like to interview the creator of Berserk, Mr. Kentarou Miura about how Berserk was created.
Miura: Hello, nice to meet you.
Interviewer: The first question is how did you come across the idea of Berserk? Would you tell us how you came up with the concept for Berserk?
Miura: I didn't have a solid idea of how I wanted Berserk to be in the beginning, but the idea grew gradually by watching my favorite anime shows when I was in college. If I was interested in something, I'd be looking up information. It was like kneading clay, the concept of Berserk slowly came together. I didn't have the clear picture of what I really wanted to do at first.
Interviewer: I thought the subject matter of Berserk is pretty complicated.
Interviewer: You talk about the universal law of Karma.
Miura: Well, how do I put this... When you're a cartoonist and working at home you sit at your desk pretty much all day. You get most of your information about the world from the news on TV. I think that's how most cartoonists spend their days. And then I start to see the whole picture of my point of view towards all the problems that are happening in the world. An average working man living in an average world would have a personal problem. He'd be worried about how his kids are doing in school. But I live in isolation, watching the world only on the news on TV so I start to see the bigger picture. I can look at the world from another angle. I'm not talking about one specific event. If I see news about war in another country of if there's a massacre somewhere in Japan I just look at the world objectively. Religious cults or acts of atrocity have been the topics of the news recently. When I hear those stories, not that I want to find some kind of answer, but it makes me want to visualize what's happening. I just want to see it in my world in my own way. The idea becomes clearer and polished in the process. I think I've said this in an interview before, but when I learned about Tsuchizoku and Futsuzoku, it did influence Berserk. I was writing Berserk watching the incident on the news. And a little while later I wrote about mass psychology in Berserk. I believe that incident made me want to write about it so I would understand it myself. In the beginning, about up to volume five, I was still writing stuff that I had thought of when I was in college. So my real life reflected a lot in the stories in the beginning. And after a while, I started to see the bigger picture.
Interviewer: I see. That's actually similar to the second question. I'd like to know if anything influenced Berserk.
Miura: It is a Japanese novel, but... a novel called "Guin Saga" written by Kaoru Kurimoto was the most influential. Guin Saga is a fantasy novel series, and it's been trying to set a record in the Guinness World Records as the longest fantasy work ever written by a single author. It was planned to be 100 volumes from the beginning. But it's already 80-something, so it'll go over 100 easily. I started reading it when I was in junior high and I'm still reading the new volume every month. So I could say Guin Saga is the most significant novel. And other stuff like movies and cartoons influenced me, too.
Interviewer: I see. I'd like to talk about a little more about the concept. The timeline in Berserk seems to be sometime in the medieval period. It has the whole medieval theme, like it's happening somewhere in Europe. Is there any real historical events you based Berserk on?
Miura: Not really, I don't really use specific historical events but rather I use fairy tales or fantasy movies. I've been working on the concept of my own fantasy world since I was in high school and college. Like I mentioned, I got ideas from Guin Saga, and from films, like "Excalibur" and "Conan the Barbarian". I came up with the dark fantasy concept from those movies. I don't think I get inspired by the actual historical events. I simply used them as data. I've thought of writing a story based on Dracula. I'm talking about Vlad Tepes, the real Dracula. I wanted to use the real historical records. And there's the famous story from Sherlock Holmes. The story where Conan Doyle got tricked by the Cottingley fairy hoax...
Interviewer: I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with it.
Miura: I didn't write the exact same thing, but I wrote a story similar to that. There was a story about a fairy in... I can't remember exactly which volume, but I think it was around 15 or 16.
Interviewer: I'd like to ask you a technical question now. Your drawings are very well detailed. From every nook and corner, they are drawn in depth. Do you use anything as reference when you draw?
Miura: I do have a huge pile of pictures that I use as reference. I use a collection of photographs from different countries... but it's actually easier to find the pictures of armor or landscape in Japan. So whenever I need some pictures l'll go find it by myself or ask somebody to get it. So the collection is really big now.
Interviewer: I see.
Miura: Pictures are the best reference for a cartoonist. It's all about how something looks. If you really talk about technical stuff you'll notice that some armors aren't supposed to be used around that time. But I really don't go that far.
Interviewer: I see.
Miura: I simply like things that look cool.
Interviewer: I see. And now I'd like to ask you about this main character, Guts. He's got some personality, he's a deep character. Is there anybody in particular that you used as a model for Guts?
Miura: Well, Guts' friends in the Band of [the Falcon] are actually based on my friends from college. But there wasn't anybody in particular for Guts and Griffith.
Interviewer: Not even a historical figure?
Miura: Well, it's funny that you mentioned it, but I've heard about this knight who helped a peasant revolution in Germany and the knight's name was Goetz. And he had an iron artificial arm. When I found out about it, I thought it was a strange coincidence. I don't know if he shot arrows from it. It was especially uncanny because I had already started Berserk. I wasn't really thinking of anybody at the time I created Guts. But if you're only talking about his looks and not about his personality then I guess Rutger Hauer was the model. I saw him playing a mercenary in a medieval movie, "Flesh & Blood" and I really liked him in that movie. He also played the lead in "Salute of the Jugger". It was a sci-fi movie, but I thought the character he played was similar to Guts. And the main character from "Highlander" kind of reminds me of Guts. I think it had a lot to do with those cool collected type heroes I admired when I was in college. But if it's about Guts' personality or his belief... I guess some of it comes from myself. And sometimes I use my close friends as examples. So Guts' personality isn't always based on one person, but it's more abstract. His actions and state of mind depend on the situation. So Guts doesn't have a specific model.
Interviewer: I see. In the U.S., Media Blasters is introducing Berserk the anime to audiences. Did you have any requests when Berserk became an anime series for the first time? What kind of advice did you give to the production studio?
Miura: Berserk is my very first comic book and anime. So I was very excited, and I wanted to make something good. I could've just let the studio staff do the work, but I gave some advice on the outlines of the character designs. But my main concern was the scripts. They'd send me the scripts and I'd revise them and make changes. I checked all scripts, and made a lot of changes and requests on all of them. I bet the writers hated me.
Interviewer: But that's natural, that's how much you care about your show.
Miura: Yeah, I guess that's about it.
Interviewer: I'd like to ask you a couple of personal questions now. We talked about Kaoru Kurimoto's Guin Saga earlier. And my next question is... Is there any cartoonist, director or movie that influenced you?
Miura: Well, it's a Japanese cartoonist, but... like Mr. Go Nagai, I believe he's very famous in the U.S. He was a big influence on me. I love his dynamic style. And I have a couple of favorite American film directors. I like the movies of Tim Burton and Sam Raimi. This is another strange story. Back then I was still in college, it was the day I finished the first episode of Berserk and there was "Evil Dead 2" playing at theaters. So after I mailed it to the publisher, I went to see it. It was so similar to Berserk, I was really surprised by myself. In "Evil Dead 3", I also know it as "Captain Supermarket"... the main character had his arm cut off and he had a chainsaw attached to his arm and had a shotgun on his back. I was like "What the?" Because Guts has a gun on his arm and a huge sword on his back. It was just like Ash. I remember getting worried that I might get sued. I just finished my very first cartoon, but I was already nervous. I'm a big fan of Sam Raimi's movies, I like "Dark Man", too. He got really big after "Spider-Man", but I still like his movies. And I like Tim Burton, because his movies are always 'offbeat.' It's almost strange that a person can be that offbeat and big at the same time. But that's why I love his movies. James Cameron lost his touch after he got big. Well, I don't know if he thinks of himself as offbeat. But when I saw "Terminator", as a sci-fi fan, I was really excited that he was one of those offbeat geniuses, like Tim Burton... but turns out he wasn't. And of course, "Star Wars" is my all-time favorite movie. I saw it when I was little, so I was really shocked, I was a big Star Wars fan ever since. But "Episode 1" was very weak. The script needed some work.
Interviewer: And another question... As a lot of people know, you started writing Berserk when you were in college... and finally it's been animated and people can see the world you've created. You've mentioned it earlier, but tell us how you got a chance to publish Berserk.
Miura: I tried to get Berserk published by Hakusen Publisher.
Interviewer: Get it published?
Miura: Yes, in Japan, a cartoonist would write a cartoon of about 25 pages... and send it to a publisher. And if they picked yours, it would be a series in the magazine. And fortunately, I was picked. The publisher liked Berserk, so I would be able to make Berserk into a series. Usually, those first ideas always seemed to have something special.
Interviewer: I see. And this is the last question. Berserk is a huge success in the U.S.
Miura: Thank you very much.
Interviewer: Berserk fans abroad are very happy. If you have any messages to the fans in the U.S...
Miura: Actually I kind of have a question. What do Westerners think of this fantasy world created by an Oriental? Many of us Orientals feel that the fantasy worlds created in Hollywood... or believed in by Westerners are more genuine fantasy worlds. And I think Berserk is strongly influenced by Western culture. I'm trying to create something from what I learned from the West. So I'm curious about what people in the West think of Berserk. That's my question to the fans in the U.S. I hope they like it.
Interviewer: I'll make sure to tell Berserk fans in the U.S.
Miura: Thank you.
Berserk Illustrations File Interview (1996-12-04) Edit
- Credit and many thanks to puella of SkullKnight.net for the following translation.
Interviewer: "Berserk" is your first work, right?
Miura: Mmm, yeah I guess, though I made my debut by drawing one-shots.
Interviewer: When you started the serialization, did you already plan the manga at this scale?
Miura: No, I didn't. At first I didn't have any advanced plan. I just thought to do a shônen fantasy manga with a dark hero because the manga of mine that had received a prize was published in a shônen magazine. A hero that suited shônen magazines. And well, there weren't many fantasy manga at that time. If I had to name any... just "Bastard!!"? So I thought about going for a niche genre... But that's all. I couldn't see further than that. It was my first serialization not based on an original work, I didn't know what to do! [Laughs.] First of all, I focused on creating an atypical hero.
Interviewer: Did you always have a prototype of Guts, of that kind of hero, in your mind?
Miura: Well, I have loved Science Fiction and Fantasy since my school days. Some of my doodles from back then are similar to him. I can't say they're the prototype for Guts, but I was able to create him by merging them together: the initial image of the knight was nothing more than a black knight with an artificial arm. Other things were inspired by various sources, for example, the appearance of the character came from Science Fiction. Basically, each element came from something different.
Interviewer: What about the name, Guts? Had it been in your mind for a long time?
Miura: No, [Laughs.] I came up with it like for the other things, when I barely managed to start doing my work. Likewise, I thought about a name for a shônen manga hero, and I thought that a voiced sound would be good for it. Besides, "Guts" sounded somehow like a German name. I liked it as well, so I took it. There already existed many cool names or names that went well with Fantasy stuff. It was simply because I thought the name would suit a shônen manga at that time. Nothing more. However, there's one thing I learned later: the German word meaning "cat" sounds like "Katte" or "Gatte", which sounds similar to "Guts". I thought it's also good that it can bear some atmosphere that evokes a "wildcat". I learned about this coincidence a long time afterwards though.
Interviewer: In terms of style, what specific things did you focus on when you created the huge sword?
Miura: As for the related materials, so many sources were mixed together. The arm canon, the big sword, the outfit of a black knight and the one-eyed man... I'd say they form a kind of image. The canon and the sword are my signature items. It's because I'm from the generation that was impacted directly by "Hokuto no ken". The idea is the most important part of the manga. It was a time when the idea was considered to be the core of it, preceding the story or the characters. In "Hokuto no Ken", Hokuto Shinken was a lot more important than Kenshiro's personality. The idea of Hokuto Shinken: once attacked, they explode. That's why it blew us away.
So, to come up with a novel or fantastic idea was a trend among us mangaka at that time. To me, a mangaka should think of, should be able to think of such things. I milked my brain. Finally, I came up with the idea of a huge sword or a huge thing...
Interviewer: Now, the rest is about the gun and the cannon.
Miura: At first, I just decided on the image of a "bowgun". As for the sword, my initial idea was a very sharp sword, like a Japanese sword. However, I thought it would be ideal to take a few more steps from that initial idea. A bowgun with a cannon. Speaking of cannons, fantasy manga were drawn, at that time, in a time setting before the age when cannons appeared. So, my final touch was to include the "age of cannons" in my world.
Interviewer: As for "the age of cannons" you mentioned, it means you set up the time setting of your world around that era?
Miura: Surprisingly, it’s not like that. At first, I had various thoughts. There are rough things in the very early Middle Ages, but brilliant things like the Palace of Versailles are far after that. In the end, I created one age that looked like it spanned from the early Middle Ages to the end of the Middle Ages in Europe. For example, the ball in Midland is, I think, close to the end of it. But the story of the lord comes long before that time. So European readers might say "what the hell is this?". Well, I think the way foreigners see us, Japanese people, matches this case perfectly: "hey, ninjas!". It's Ok because I just draw my work to please Japanese people, I don't have any strategy for the global market. [Laughs.]
Interviewer: The details are quite elaborate. You must have a lot of material and so on, right?
Miura: It's because I want to draw images of the Middle Ages in Europe. I've collected quite a lot of material, like images. When I first started my work, I actually racked my brain to decide on whether to go for a historical manga, faithfully following History, or to do a fantasy manga. Now, it's been helpful that I studied History a lot at that time. Some historical elements are taken as they are. But in some parts, the age of Dracula and that of Jeanne d'Arc are set together a little bit. In that regard, at some point I thought it would be good to make the characters wander around Europe.
Interviewer: Why did you go for a fantasy manga, not just following History?
Miura: Precisely speaking, it's because I thought the range of my imagination might become narrow if I already depended on History while I was still young. For example, Mr. Mitsuteru Yokoyama has currently been drawing a historical manga, but he drew "Tetsujin 28" and "Babel II" in his early career. And Mr. Shotaro Ishinomori has drawn many informative manga recently. But without "Cyborg 009", one of his early works, he wouldn't be what he is now... So I preferred to bet on my imagination while I'm young rather than to do a historical or informative manga. I want to work on these kind of manga in my late career.
Interviewer: Is there something you used as a reference when you created Berserk's world with your imagination?
Miura: There are many things. Movies like "Hellraisers" and "The Name of the Rose". I've liked Escher for a very long time. Well, I think Berserk readers would already know this kind of thing from "behind the scene" features... It's also inspired by Grimms' Fairy Tales and so on.
Interviewer: Using your imagination, did you create the whole world, etc. in "clicks" (very easily and quickly, like snapping a picture with a camera)?
Miura: It's what I should do from now on. [Laughs.] I've just done "tada!" images so far. (Miura answers using onomatopoeia since the interviewer used one.)
Interviewer: What about the range of the world?
Miura: Griffith became one of the God Hand at last in the youth segment, which was mainly about the human world. What to say, non-human things will show up more often from now on. In other words, I'd say it's extended to a world covering things like gods, demons...
Miura: However, this is just what I try not to go with. If they are defined with words like gods, demons or something, it feels like the world is limited, revealing everything, and there's no room for extension. Anyway, these things are kind of what humans created. And (they are) what humans' spirits are materialized as. This is a question like "who was first between the chicken and the egg?" though. All of them are a mirror of humans. I think their image should be no more than that. I only want to use them as an element that the readers can sympathize with.
Interviewer: As for the details, there's one more thing. What about martial arts? I think these kind of scenes are important in Berserk.
Miura: I like it very much but I haven’t collected much material for it. I just have some images of samurai and knights. When it comes to action scenes, I want to draw them realistically. A harmony of reality and fabrication. But it IS hard to harmonize them. As for the image of Guts and the image of the sword he uses, sometimes he crushes small objects with one slash. In this case, I think there's no real sword-fighting skill that matches it exactly. So I want to collect information to some extent, but I don't want to let the images that come up to my mind initially be damaged by it. I decided to use the best balance between informative manga about martial arts and animations featuring machines. I want to put priority on images, even those for which I'd say "I won't do such a thing". I mean in "Hokuto no Ken", for example, sky-flying-like-jumps may be too much but "poking enemies and they explode" could be accepted. I have no idea about things after that. [Laughs.]
Interviewer: But I think martial arts are quite complicated... Though Berserk is a world of swords and fantasy, Griffith seemed to try something like a joint-locking technique during the Guts vs. Griffith fight...?
Miura: Ahhh, I don't know if it's considered to be on a level that ordinary people can recognize. In fact, I have many people, around me, who are absorbed in martial arts. Some of them are actual martial artists. I find myself quite a big lover of it but when I'm with them, I get to think, "Ahhh, I'm just an amateur, indeed." [Laughs.] Maybe I could manage to draw a martial arts manga, mobilizing all the knowledge I have, but I know it wouldn't work for them. Compared to them, I'm far from being an expert. Since I know it, I leave this kind of thing to others.
Interviewer: But didn't you get to like martial arts a lot through their influence?
Miura: Yes, to some extent. But what I ultimately like are things like manga and story. It's not like I love martial arts themselves. However, sometimes we have drama-like-martial arts. The recent match of Holyfield VS Tyson, this IS a drama, I even shedded tears. It was amazing. I watched it from a video that a friend of mine recorded though. When the two men weighed, their bodies were unsurprisingly great. No heavyweight boxers could be like them. [Laughs.] It's a bit awkward to say, but I took Holyfield's body as a model for this Berserk episode. The abdominal muscles are divided lengthways. I've never seen center-divided abdominal muscles. They can't be built with common training.
Interviewer: I see, but what you like most: reading manga and drama, it's quite linked to your work. Do you have any hobby that is unrelated to manga creation?
Miura: As for my current hobby, it's playing games, that's all. Because I don't have to spend a long time on it. I'm absorbed in simulation games these days. I also like Girl games and action games. Well, I usually like popular games.
Interviewer: You do it quite well. Is it for diversion?
Miura: Yes. I play games about one hour a day. But it's good enough considering some games are finished in two hours. You know, that's the way. I have piled some games. I plan to start playing them when my holidays come. Actually, I bought a Nintendo 64 recently.
Interviewer: How do you allocate time for your hobby and work? Can you tell us what your schedule is for one episode's deadline?
Miura: As for my usual daily schedule, I get up around 7:00 – 8:00 PM. I start to work around 8:30 – 9:00 PM. I work and then eat. And then I work again until the next break at 3:00 AM, when I take one meal. Hmm, until 3:30 AM I watch a video that I recorded on that day while eating. And then I get back to work. After that, I have my last meal at 6:00 AM and work until around 12:00 PM. Until 1:00, 2:00 or 3:00 PM at the latest and until 11:00 – 11:30 AM at the earliest. It's my normal working routine.
Interviewer: Do you set your norma precisely as well?
Miura: Yes, I do. If I can't work a daily norma, it's carried out to the next day... Generally, I fix one day more than the schedule as a surplus. That's why I have no holiday sometimes. But without "the surplus", I'll be often late. When I allocate the same amount of time for sketching and inking, the former is relatively quickly done but the latter usually takes more time.
Interviewer: How many pages do you draw each day?
Miura: I sketch around 6 pages a day. One month is taken up with this workload. Considering I have two deadlines a month, it means I only draw. I create a certain amount of storyboards at another time so it's not included in the two weeks creating period. However, I've managed well thanks to the great role of Mr. Shimada, my editor.
Interviewer: At what stage do you usually have trouble?
Miura: I'd surely say it's drawing. The hardest time is just before I go to bed. Precisely speaking, 19 hours before 6:00 AM (around 11:00 AM). Around that time I get distracting thoughts while I work. Sometimes my work doesn't proceed. That's why I set some extra days. However, it doesn't happen when I sketch.
Interviewer: What's your working type in this kind of time? Do you concentrate on your work or do you work while doing other things?
Miura: The latter is my type. I watch TV. I watch TV or listen to music. But I work on storyboards with no sound. All other off-work activities bring me some kind of luck.
Interviewer: We usually don't pay much attention to it. Watching TV, it's just a part of our downtime. Do you watch TV like watching recorded videos?
Miura: Yes, mostly. When a friend of mine is playing a game at my side, I can't say the noise doesn't bother me at all. But my work proceeds when he's there.
Interviewer: How about a must-have item? Is there a thing that you always have when you work?
Miura: Yes. Well, I need much water or drinks. I always prepare this kind of thing (mineral water or other drinks in a PET bottle).
Interviewer: Does it include coffee or something as well?
Miura: Precisely speaking, it's coffee. However, I get stomachaches after a while because I drink so much coffee. So I take tea instead. If I also have a problem with tea, I shift to water. If I get better, I take coffee again. And then I shift to tea again and then to water again... this is how it goes. [Laughs.]
Interviewer: As long as your stomach is Ok, basically, coffee is your favorite...
Miura: Yes, but I drink it too much.
Interviewer: Do you have occasions to drink liquor or not at all?
Miura: I can enjoy drinking but not much... Anyway, I have no occasion for it.
Interviewer: What about your holidays?
Miura: I have no holidays. For the past year, no holidays at all. I finally have 2 weeks' holidays now but it will be used to look for a house. I should move.
Interviewer: I guess you're hardly exposed to sunlight...
Miura: I see the morning sun through the veranda. I come out to the veranda and the morning sun is so bright that it dazzles my eyes. I can concentrate best on my work under the light of this lamp. I don't see the sunlight. I'm a vampire!
Interviewer: Do you do exercise?
Miura: I do pushups or work on my abs whenever I feel like it. But it's occasional.
Interviewer: You're healthy despite this lifestyle. Is it Ok for you to lead your life this way?
Miura: I think my "rhythm" enables me to manage it. I'm a mangaka-type and suitable to be a mangaka. Though it's hard to work without holidays, I don't have much trouble leading my own regulated life. Instead, I'm not very good at concentrating intensively on work when there's little time left until the deadline.
Interviewer: You said you're suitable to be a mangaka. When did you first know you wanted to be a mangaka?
Miura: It's so long ago that I can't even make an approximate estimation. I guess it's around my kindergarten years since I drew for the first time in my life before I entered an elementary school. I really don't remember the very first moment. All I can remember is that I drew manga first on a notebook for university students during the second grade in elementary school. It was some kind of revelation. To please others or to receive praise by drawing was the happiest thing in my youth. I guess "old habits die hard". My family moved quite often at that time. My drawings enabled me to make new friends in the schools I shifted to. Now that I think of it, it was a time when I already established my identity as a drawer in a way. [Laughs.]
Interviewer: Do you mean that your childhood dream or hobby eventually directed you to become a professional mangaka?
Miura: It was after I entered high school. Before that, I only focused on visuals and I felt like drawing manga or pictures. So I had an ability to draw but wasn't zealous in building a story. In an art class at my high school, I made close friends with all those who were interested in movies or music. However, I got to realize there was some kind of emptiness in me, in getting along with them.
Meanwhile I was one of a group of five friends whose goal was to be mangaka. All of them had their own specialty other than drawing manga, like playing the guitar for example. We influenced and introduced each other saying things like "the ongoing movie is enjoyable" or "it's good to read this book"... "Otherwise, you won't be able to be a mangaka"; this represented well how the group was.
There was a thing that today's high school students can't understand: in my days, friends were also some kind of rivals. So I wanted to look great to the others. What should I do to look great? I had to watch movies and read books. Repeating this, I learned that manga isn't only about drawing. I acquired the ability to conceive a story while I was a university student. Precisely speaking, when I entered for a prize in my university days.
Interviewer: Did you have any experience as an assistant before?
Interviewer: Then, did you learn structuring, paneling... all by yourself?
Miura: Yes, I learned many things through trial and error in the 5 friends-group. I had no mentor.
Interviewer: Do you have any favorite mangaka who has influenced you?
Miura: Yes, I've been influenced by numerous manga through all the ages. There are so many that I can't even mention one and its creator specifically. My current style was established by being influenced more and more over time, like a snowball.
Interviewer: Could you tell us a manga that you like as a reader, excluding the ones that have influenced you?
Miura: I enjoy stories through the drawings themselves. I like manga so much that I'm always influenced by it. So, I'd say I like all the manga I read.
Interviewer: Now, you ARE a pro-mangaka whose work is read by everybody. From now on, will you create your work with the intention to please the readers? Or on the contrary, will you create it without taking this kind of intention into account?
Miura: I don't have such intentions at all. I've been drawing for myself, which is combined, somewhere along the line, with "some parts of it are for the readers".
Interviewer: Considering all the things you mentioned, I guess you're interested in a wide range of subjects. However, you've been absorbed in a single work: Berserk. You may have many themes other than those of this manga that you'd like to draw, am I right?
Miura: I have many things to realize with my work, but have no time for them. [Laughs.] I work on Sci-Fi or some manuscripts from time to time. I really need some leisure time.
Interviewer: What about other genres like videos, movies or animations...? Are you inclined to try some of them?
Miura: No, not at all. I think it's because of my friends. I mean I want to stick to my fields since I have friends who are brilliant in other fields. Besides, I want to do my best on my current work above all. Berserk is my first good serialization. I'll be sad if I can't complete it while I set about doing other works.
Interviewer: Regarding Berserk that you want to concentrate on, how do you want to develop the story from now on?
Miura: First of all, I want to add more female characters. Since having only a "man's world" is not well balanced, one or two new female characters are needed. And important new characters should be introduced as well. They are related to Guts in a way similar to the Band of the Falcon, instead of taking their place. Staying alone is too hard for Guts. However, these characters aren't as close to him as the Band of the Falcon. They can be rather hostile with him. I've conceived some characters with whom the story development can be varied.
Interviewer: I can't wait to see the new characters appear. I'll look forward to the upcoming episodes. Thank you very much for telling us many interesting things.
BONUS QUESTIONS: How Will Griffith/Femto End? Edit
Interviewer: The "Black Swordsman" arc has just begun. The axis will be, obviously, the story in which Guts' feud with the God Hand, who Griffith/Femto belongs to, being brought to a close. Let's think about the development leading to the finale. First of all, what is the goal of the God Hand now that it's composed of 5 members? It is naturally expected that if Guts can't find it out, he won't even be able to confront them. Before that, is the God Hand complete with the addition of Femto?
Miura: Hmm, for now the God Hand is supposed to be complete with Femto. I'm sorry but now is not a good time, as expected, to reveal their goal... Instead, I'll give you one hint. The keyword is "Void". You can imagine many things based on it.
Will Guts Get a Power Up? Edit
Interviewer: The next problem is the power difference between Femto and Guts. Guts has managed to fight equally with apostles thanks to the cannon in his artificial arm and his trademark sword, while Femto reigns over the apostles and his power is totally bottomless.
Miura: [Laughs.] I'm often asked this question. It's true Guts can't defeat such a powerful group.
Interviewer: [I drew Miura out by saying that Guts could also get something like beyond-human power, and he answered...]
Miura: Oh no, then it means Guts wouldn't be human anymore. Meh... What I can say is Guts is, basically, a lucky guy who survives very unlucky situations.
Interviewer: Does this comment imply that "good luck" will play a big role going forward?
- (This question is seemingly rhetorical and/or aimed at the reader, as Miura's response is not included.)
What's the Relation Between the Skull Knight and the Legend of Midland's Founding? Edit
Interviewer: The Skull Knight has shown up alongside Guts' journey to fight Femto. He must have some kind of connection to the God Hand.
Miura: Well, it's normal to think so. The Skull Knight has had a long and complicated story with some members of the God Hand since long ago, and it still lasts so far... it's possible because this is a thousand year-old story.
Will Midland Be the Background Again? Edit
Interviewer: One thousand years! The legend of Midland's founding is also a story from a thousand years ago. Are both... (related)?
Miura: [Laughs.] Good point. Actually, I think Midland should be the background again, though it's not sure that will happen right after the Black Swordsman arc.
Will It Be Ended There?! Edit
Miura: I can't tell you that much and I haven't thought that far yet. Anyway, when Midland shows up again, please wait to see with joy what is and will be going on there. As for the ending... I myself don't have any idea of what it will be. The story may end with Guts, or maybe it will continue in the future.