Tag Archives: band of the hawk

Review: BERSERK 13

BERSERK 13

by Kentaro Miura

Reviewed by JMD Reid

The demonic horde has been unleashed upon the Band of the Hawk. Griffith has sacrificed his former followers to achieve his dream. While he incubates to become a dark god, Guts, Caska, and the rest battle for their survival.

But the odds are against them. Nightmarish monsters abound. They are all hungry for the feast. The hundreds of soldiers, the best trained army in Midland, are no match for their foes. One by one they fall. Familiar faces we’ve come to love perish one by one until it’s only Guts and Caska left.

Guts’s fury carries him far, but even he has finally found his limits here. In the nightmare, forced to watch as Griffith is reborn and comes to ravish Caska. Pinned by demon, his arm ripped off, his eye blind, we finally see the moment that births the Black Swordsman.

A man impotent to save the woman he loves from being destroyed by the man he once thought of as his friend. Thirteen volumes have built up to this moment. We have finally arrived at what shaped Guts into that cold, murderous beast at the start hunting demons, searching for Griffith to enact his vengeance.

Everything good in Guts’s life was snuffed out in a moment. By the selfish choice of one man. And now Guts only has his rage to fuel him. Though he’ll survive the eclipse, he’ll be forever trapped in the boundary between life and death. Can he ever get vengeance?

Can he ever move on with his life?

Will his rage destroy him?

BERSERK continues to astound and amazed. The depth of the characters and writing shines here. It’s powerful to witness it all come undone. How it flows towards this one moment. It feels almost inevitable. Fate has made its decree and though Guts has defied it for now, can he defy it forever. As Slan says, “A fish jumping out to the fiver does little more than ripple the surface.”

If you’re not reading BERSERK, you should be. This story is breathtaking in its scope and themes.

You can buy BERSERK Vol 13 from Amazon.

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Review: BERSERK 12

BERSERK 12

by Kentaro Miura

Reviewed by JMD Reid

The eclipse has arrived. The moment the series has been building towards: what happened to turn Guts into the Black Swordsman and Griffith into the demonic Femto. After losing everything, his body tortured and mutilated, his tongue removed, denied the ability to command his Band of the Hawk, Griffith faces a hopeless future as an invalid being cared for by Caska.

What future is that for a poor orphan who dreamed of being a king? Of attaining that castle on the hill? He came so close. If it wasn’t for one man. If it wasn’t for Guts, the only person to ever make Griffith waver from his dream.

The only person to ever make Griffith weak.

No, before the Godhand, the demonic entities that create the apostles, he’s given a choice. Sacrifce Guts and the surviving Band of the Hawk, or let all those deaths, all those boys who perished, in service of attaining his dream be for nothing. He has one last chance to attain it. It just requires a few more sacrifices.

Then he’ll never be weak again.

We know how this ends. Mirua already showed us that Guts survives and that Griffith makes the choice. Now we just have to learn what happens next. Are their others? Will Caska, the woman Guts loves, survive, too?

The feast of the eclipse has began.

This is one of the most powerful pieces of fantasy out there. The images convey the emotions, while the character and story drives it forward. Miura has crafted these characters, built them so that when we got to this point, we understand what we read before. Why Guts is fueled by rage and anger, why he’s so desperate not to just kill Griffith, but to be noticed by him. We understand who Griffith is and what leads him to make that terrible choice.

In a world of cause and effect, where free will is an illusion, Griffith had no choice to make. His dream was at hand. Circumstances had reduced him to a pitiful state but hadn’t robbed him of his drive to keep fighting. His will remains intact. His rationale is in place to commit such a horrific act.

Volume 12 and 13 are why BERSERK is a masterpiece of not only graphic novels, but modern fantasy in general.

You can buy BERSERK Vol 12 from Amazon.

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Review: BERSERK 11

BERSERK 11

by Kentaro Miura

Reviewed by JMD Reid

The Band of the Hawk, thanks to Guts’s help, have rescued Griffith from the Midland dungeons. But their ones handsome and charismatic leader has been reduced to a scarred, shriveled shell. Every tendon in his body severed, his tongue removed, the flesh almost wasted from his body. He’ll never command an army or ride into war. The dream of their mercenary band rising again looks futile.

And they’re not even out of danger. The King of Midland has unleashed Wyld and his Black Dog Knights, a band of savages who spread brutal suffering wherever they go. They are on the hunt for Griffith. Nothing will stop them from their rampage.

But Wyld is not like other men. When Guts turns to face him, he feels that terror fill him as if he stands before Zodd or the Knight of Skeleton. Wyld is no man. Once again, Guts has to fight another demon. Will he have the strength to win this time?

Well, yes, we know that. The one thing we don’t know from reading this series is the fate of everyone else. What happens to Caska, Pippin, Rickert, Juduea, and the rest of the Band of the Hawk. What led to the tragedy of the now-broken Griffith becoming the demonic Godhand we met earlier in the story. Is it Wyld that unleashes these changes, or is it something else to come?

BERSERK is building towards that promised moment that turned Guts into the Black Swordsman and Griffith into the demonic god Femto. The stakes are rising, the tension is building, and the characters we’ve grown to care for over the last eight or nine volumes are about to be put into the crucible.

The eclipse awaits.

Miura is a master at storytelling. Wyld is a disgusting and loathsome creature, just like the other apostles we met in the beginning of this story (and who had cameo appearances in the last volume). We start to learn just what they are. Do as you will. These are men that appear unbound from the currents of fate, free to act as they will at the behest of dark gods.

But do their actions only further a greater plan? Does Guts’s struggle actually only benefit the very entities he seeks to destroy? BERSERK is a great series that asks such deep and hard questions. It’s a manga unlike few others. It has true depths to the characters, true heart in its pages. Fans of fantasy, especially grimdark fantasy, will find a tale that will captivate them.

You can buy BERSERK Vol 11 from Amazon.

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Review: BERSERK 2

BERSERK 2

by Kentaro Miura

Reviewed by JMD Reid

Guts, The Black Swordsman, is on a quest of vengeance that has lead him to a town under the dark grip of a demonic count. A monster of cruelty who butchers and tortures “heretics” in his quest to purify his town. Vargas, a man whose family was consumed by the count before him, begs Guts to slay the count and free the town. Guts will do it, but not for Vargas.

Guts has his own reasons to kill the count. His own vengeful past.

The count, however, won’t sit around and wait for Guts. He has created a monster of his own, an extension of his demonic powers, and unleashed him on the town. Guts will have to use all his skills and wits to survive the machinations.

The second volume shows us the strength in Miura’s writing. While the violence and gore can suck a reader in, it’s the strength of his characters that keep you reading. Guts is a man consumed by hatred. He shows no compassion, even to a crippled character like Vargas. He despises Vargas, and you catch small glimpses why. Guts is in many ways like Vargas. Both are maimed and scared. Both have suffered torture, and the reader is getting an inkling that this torment came at the hands of the demonic entities behind creating the Count: the Godhand.

The characterization is subtle, but great. We have the count, an absolute monster who struggles to hide the truth of his demonic nature from his young daughter. He wants to keep her safe from the ugly realities of this world. You can see glimpses of the man he once was before he summoned the Godhand with the behleit. From his daughter, you start to understand how his quest for killing heretics has mutated into something far, far worse as his demonic nature has corrupted him.

The world of BERSERK continues to be bleak. There is no hope. No chance for any heroics. Like an grimdark story, the hero doesn’t get to be pure good. He has to roll in the mud with the enemies. He has to stand by and let good men die.

Puck continues to be a great foil against Guts. The small fairy, while on the surface just providing comic relief, has a great deal of insight. He has some great moments in this volumes of compassion and empathy, catching glimpses of the true man trapped in the cage of anger and rage Guts is trapped in. The story keeps you reading. You want to find out why Guts is this way, where his weapons came from, how has survived so long with the mysterious “brand” on his neck. Though some questions were answered, more are needed.

If you like grimdark fantasy, you NEED to read BERSERK. If you like good fantasy storytelling, the violence and gore is graphic, but what’s beneath it is full of all those things that make humans great: love, passion, friendship, hope and more. Just in a world this dark, it is buried by the muck and mire and has to be freed once again.

You can buy BERSERK Vol 2 from Amazon.

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Review: BERSERK 1

BERSERK 1

by Kentaro Miura

Reviewed by JMD Reid

The Black Swordsman is a demon in human flesh. A man scarred and battered, is missing an eye, and has an iron hand in place of his right. He wields a massive sword that can shear through an armored knight. He inspires fear where he goes.

And what he fights is far more terrifying.

On a quest for vengeance, consumed by an almost inhuman rage and anger, the Black Swordsman is carving a bloody path through the servants of true demons. Grotesque monsters with preternatural strength. They murder, they rape, they cannibalize those they rule over. Petty despots with inhuman powers clinging to their immortality.

The Black Swordsman arrives in one village where a one demon, Kora, rules. The local village sends women and children to be feasted in a cowardly attempt to protect themselves. The demon’s soldiers drink and whore as they please, knowing their inhuman master’s deadly reputation defends them. But the Black Swordsman doesn’t fear Kora.

He picks a fight and the carnage beings.

The start of BERSERK is a powerful beginning. Miura doesn’t pull any punches in his world. BERSERK is the banner of grimdark fantasy. There are no good choices. Innocent people get caught up in the horrific events, bystanders too weak to survive the growing darkness in the world. Our hero, Guts the Black Swordsman, is so consumed with anger and rage he doesn’t care about anything but but his revenge. He wields a weapon of such size it should be comical, but Guts is drawn with such a deadly grace, at once both lean and powerful muscled, a man who is a veteran of a thousand battles. He thinks, he plans, and he executes without flinching.

All we can do is wonder at the events that produced such a man. It is clear why he is so scarred and hardened. The enemies he fights can transform into towering monsters. They are capricious beings that delight in blood and carnage. Everywhere they go, they bring misery and death as they satiate their own base desires. It is a world without hope. A world on the verge of being swallowed by the darkness.

A world in need of a savior. Can Guts be that for them? Or will his own hatred and anger destroy him?

The art of BERSERK is detailed and fantastic. Miura forgoes the more traditional “big eyes” look of other Manga artist, instead using a very gritty, realistic, and Western style of art that fits well with his fantasy setting. Everything is drawn with care and detail. He has real skill at bringing to life his medieval world in all its sordid details.

BERSERK delivers a visceral punch that leaves you asking so many questions. Who is Guts? What happened to him? Who are these demons? What has happened to this world? You can feel that something has shifted in it. That something has gone very, very wrong.

The only way to find out is to keep reading!

You can buy BERSERK Vol 1 from Amazon.

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