Berserk is one of the most important series whenever it enters the conversation, be it through manga, anime, or its numerous other cultural influences. It’s an incredibly bleak dark fantasy horror manga that seemingly can’t be superseded in terms of quality or recognition. But for the fans, it’s a more difficult conversation when it comes to how quickly people can grasp the series. For Berserk, perhaps more than other series, it’s important to ponder the manga vs. anime debate, and which one is truly better.
Berserk: Should You Watch the Anime or the Manga?
Berserk’s manga is leagues better than anything the anime adaptations have attempted. The 1997 TV series and 2012 anime film adaptation were the closest the series got to equal the manga, but the amount of content not yet put to the screen is staggering. The shows haven’t even finished the Hawk of the Millennium Empire (or Millennium Falcon) Arc, let alone touched the 60+ chapter Fantasia Arc that’s currently going on. If you’re looking to grasp the series, the anime isn’t even close to the manga.
The story of Berserk was always meant to be read as a manga first and has never been properly translated into a full-fledged, ongoing anime. But perhaps the biggest detractor from the Berserk anime argument against the manga is the 2016 anime.
Why is the Berserk Manga Better Than the Anime?
First, I’d like to clarify that I love Berserk in its entirety, from the gorgeous Deluxe Edition hardcover collections by Dark Horse to the upsettingly ugly cel-shaded marionettes of the 2016 anime. The film adaptations of the Golden Age Arc are among my favorite anime ever and can be viewed on Crunchyroll. But the manga is a work of art and storytelling that feels utterly transcendent due to its use of shading to convey depth in a scene, which is very difficult to render in full color and animation.
The black-and-white aesthetic works extremely well with the manga because that’s its natural element. Readers might go “then just take the Zack Snyder approach and render it in black-and-white” and it could very well work, but it simply hasn’t been done yet.
This is not only a matter of having a studio adapt the work, but also adapting the source material, with some of the most shocking, intense subject matter of any mainstream manga, period. It’s difficult to put that to the screen, and surprisingly, a good deal of the anime that made it to the screen is still technically quite censored.
So until an anime adaptation comes along that promises to fully adapt the source material without feeling like an ugly cheap CGI-fest, the Berserk manga is the only true answer in this debate.
- This article was updated on September 7th, 2023