Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Losing Friends? Kentaro Miura
At some point in life we usually lose friends. It could be of your own volition, an argument, a love triangle (Kimagure...) or simply from the passage of time. Sometimes it's for the best. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it pisses you off.
Enough cheese. I'm full anyway. I'll probably get some grief from this, but so be it; I should be used to it by now. Complaining about new things? Ho, hum. So is the Anachronistic Otaku.
I've been reading Kentaro Miura's Berserk for a hefty number of years now. I'm a colossal fan of all things fantasy--especially dark and low fantasy, with a heavy emphasis on sword & sorcery. It's a damned shame there isn't much of the stuff out there, really. The market is clouded with Tolkien-esque high fantasy with clearly defined morals, motives, oppositions and optimism. When I think of medieval and the dark ages--hint, dark ages--I think of depression, death, and questionable morals amongst a somber backdrop of an ever growing portentous storm, lost hope and the struggle to survive. Eh, maybe it's my cynicism jutting out through my misanthropy, but that's the way I would envision such a time, dammit. Oh, and it's not absolutely imperative, but a tinge of military fiction can also add nicely to such a tale. The genre is really lacking. It's all Robert Jordan, Fable, World of Warcraft and recently fractured fairy tales like Snow White and the Huntsman or whatever. We've got some real gems like Blizzard's Diablo and Diablo II (don't get me started on III), pre-Halo Bungie's Myth: The Fallen Lords series (R.I.P.), Glen Cook's The Black Company books and of course Robert E. Howard's Conan the Cimmerian, amongst many others. I've still yet to read Game of Thrones, but I hear good things. So I'll leave that alone. Point is: there isn't much dark fantasy out there. But then there was Berserk.
Sorry. As I was saying, Kentaro Miura's Berserk is a phenomenal example of low, dark fantasy with an emphasis on military training and strategy. The first--and considerably the best--story arc of Berserk is a tale of the aforementioned dreary, solemn world of a mercenary and his personal struggles. It's graphic, gory, depressing and yet, hopeful. Ambiguous morals and motives, angst, and the struggle to find what one yearns to obtain and make of their life haunts the cast of the Band of the White Hawk Mercenary group, told primarily through the eyes of the main character Guts.
At least it was like that. Continuing stories usually change, especially when they've been going on over a decade; I know and understand that. Change can be good. Berserk doesn't stick throughout with it's dark mercenary theme. Some characters die, or are seldom seen, but the change of pace was good and I welcomed it. I earnestly enjoyed it, if anything. A change of pace, yet not a complete departure from the initial storyline. Additional characters were original and interesting and even added an element of humor the story. In such a story I would prefer minimal humor at best, and while the newly implemented humor wasn't always congruous, it never interrupted the story and was only a minor deterrent. The humor became more and more prevalent over the years, but me, being my bitter self that I am, somehow learned to get over it--and hell, even sorta liked it sometimes. Miura was pushing me a bit but I pushed back. It was fun. Almost kinda cute. Such audacity won't always remain so innocent. Like a puppy turning into a big, nasty dog that knocks over your lamp with its tail and tears up the mail and shits in the floor. Kentaro Miura shit on my floor.
Fast forward to now--the present, or more importantly October 11th, 2011. Berserk vol. 35 is released by Dark Horse publishing. It's June 11, 2012 now. I still haven't finished it.
I can't. It's so bad. It's embarrassing; not only for Miura, but for me to read such drivel. I feel like I've stumbled into Barnes & Noble to plop my clod on the manga aisle to read the latest volume of Naruto or Bleach because I don't want to pay for it because I'm lethargic and awkard and lost my 18 hour a week job at Denny's because I didn't want to go into work. It's horrendous. The whole damn volume is tripe. I've been lying to myself over the past few volumes that it wasn't going downhill. Miura could pull ahead, right? Yeah! It's just a slump! Pretty soon Guts will go back to slaying demons and being cool and things will be evil again! Volume 34 picked up the pace a bit and almost restored a glimmer of hope for the manga. That was until Miura practically copy-and-pasted Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights as his portrait of hell. How can you go through an entire 33 volumes of manga, fabricating your own unique and immense world, only to blatantly plagiarize a world famous painting and simultaneously languish the work you created? Obviously one would assume Miura used the painting as a reference--but why? I'm obviously a fan of references shown my past posts, but such a thing should be done subtly and not at a climax of a 20 year story. I'm not giving anything away by spoiling such a thing, but yes, it's at a very pivotal part of the story. One Miura may not even finish at this pace...
Volume 35 of Berserk is nothing but comedy. Guts spouts out one-liners now. One character, an elf named Puck, is perpetually stuck in an SD (Super deformed) mode since about 8 books back or so. Sometimes he turns into Yoda from Star Wars or Napoleon Bonaparte or some other silly caricature. Another child character constantly picks on a witch character. She shoots spells at him and burns him and makes him cry with exaggerated tears and smolder marks. Her elf flirts and dances with the other elf. Everyone is children. It's a bundle of fun. Guts and his merry band of children are currently fighting silly undead pirates, complete with such golden dialogue as "shiver me timbers". It's absolutely dreadful.
I feel hurt, betrayed. It's like I've lost a great friend. I've dedicated many hours to Kentaro Miura's world. I got lost in it. I fell in love in it. Almost 35 volumes of getting attached to characters and caring for them and their struggle and anticipating what would happen next. Now I almost don't care. Berserk used to stand out for me; I trusted it. I guess people go soft in their old age. Or just senile. Whatever it is, Kentaro, please come back soon.