That Berserk was—and continues to be—a massively influential franchise can’t be understated. For decades it was the poster child for an entire genre of manga. It is an iconic fantasy series, whose legacy is felt in numerous other works. You’d think with a series like that on your hands, there’d be little time for side-projects. However, Kentaro Miura did a great deal of work besides Berserk and still had his personal hobbies on top of that. Often to the frustration of fans, desperately awaiting new chapters.
Having now rewatched Berserk, I felt like rereading some of the other manga Kentaro Miura made over the years. As well as checking out those I had missed.
In the wake of an apocalyptic war, the world has been left in ruins. The remnants of humanity bicker and fight over what few resources remain, while scrambling towards any promise of safety. Two such survivors are Angel and Noa; respectively an innocent, young woman and a cyborg supersoldier.
As they travel the harsh wastelands together, the two of them frequently butt heads over morality. Noa is a trained killer, who faces the challenges of the post-apocalyptic world with skepticism and his gun drawn. He is quick to resort to deadly violence, to the point where he’ll blast people’s heads off just on the suspicion that they may be a threat. Angel, true to her namesake, prefers to trust people to the point of naivety. She initially detests Noa for his violent ways, even as it repeatedly saves her life.
For a oneshot, Noa is densely-packed. The story moves quickly, without neglecting world-building and character development It’s a fantastic short story at a brisk 50 pages. A lot of oneshots I’ve read are either very short or end up feeling like demos that’ll never be fully realized. Noa, on the other hand, is well-rounded and has a strong conclusion to it.
Kentaro Miura was brilliant at world-building. Both through his art, as well as his fantastical writing. The man was a master of fantasy and few works illustrate that as well as Giganto Maxia.
It’s only a single volume long, but it absorbs you into its fantasy universe. Its story follows Delos; a former slave gladiator who is on a mission for an enigmatic young girl called Prome. Their journey has brought the two to a vast desert, where they are promptly captured by a tribe of half-beetle, half-human warriors. They resent humanity for the war it has brought upon their people, so Delos will have to prove himself before he can be allowed to continue his mission.
Giganto Maxia benefits tremendously from Miura’s experiences with Berserk and certainly draws inspiration from that series also. In particular, I love the surreal nature of much of the creature design. The monsters of the villainous Empire are particularly strange—unreal even. At the same time, Giganto Maxia feels like an antithesis to Berserk. In contrast to Guts, Delos is a charming hero who abhors violence. He is empathetic to a fault and very open with his emotions. He is bright and optimistic; I absolutely adored him as a protagonist.
I also respect how well Kentaro Miura fleshes out the tribe in what little time we get to spend with them. He finds all kinds of ways to reference details about their society, physiology, and culture. Not to mention their stellar visual design. Other details about the world are explored in a similar way, touching on all manner of background details with enough depth to intrigue the reader. Even the mission that Delos and Prome are on is only addressed through clues and suggestions—like it’s one big riddle.
Really though, it does irk me that this was kept as a single volume story. I praised Noa for being so conclusive, allowing the story to be its own contained thing. Giganto Maxia is the opposite. It deliberately sets you up with all this intrigue that, by design, it never intended to deliver on.
Duranki is another series that was cancelled after Kentaro Miura passed away. Like Berserk, it was set up to be a fantasy epic. Written and produced by Miura, but with art primarily handled by his assistants through Studio Gaga. Sadly, only 6 chapters were ever completed; leaving it with a story that feels like it hasn’t even begun yet.
Its plot follows a kid called Usum. Created by the Gods, though they are neither God nor human. As well as neither male nor Female. Growing up in the care of an elderly couple who live on a sacred mountain, the story kicks off properly once Usum sets out on adventures in the lands below. It’s a magical world steeped in Greek mythology. Usum is an inquisitive youth; eager to explore. Yet exploring also entails facing down beasts and mythological creatures. As well as realizing that the world is not so innocent.
With a fascinating protagonist and world, Duranki showed an incredible amount of potential. A potential that was backed up by jaw-dropping art, of the quality that you’d expect from Kentaro Miura. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Though I do still recommend giving it a read just for the art alone.
Rick is a dude in a world full of just dudes. He’s a manly man who toils away in a garage, fixing up (hover)cars day in and day out. His city is a vast metropolis nestled underground, surrounded by walls of stone. Everyone believes that this city is all there is in the world. Until Rick one day finds something strange that has wandered into the city from outside. Something called “a woman”.
Venus is an adventurous young girl, but authorities have been hot on her trail ever since she wandered into the city. Rick decides to hide her in his apartment, but is skeptical about her stories about another world. Nevertheless, he finds himself growing closer to her as they spend time together. Close enough that he wants to protect her from the city’s powerful government, who come ever closer to tracking the duo down.
Futabi is another sci-fi oneshot and much of what I said about Noa applies here as well. I also like the concept of vast underground cities where the people are kept unaware of an outside world. Kentaro Miura does a great job exploring this idea and again concludes it in a way that feels satisfying, as well as definitive.
Ourou & Ourouden
Written by Fist of the North Star creator Yoshiyuki Okamura and with art by Kentaro Miura, Ourou and Ourouden form an amazing pair. The Legend of the King of Wolves.
The plot stars Japanese kendo prodigy Iba and his girlfriend Kyoko, who are inexplicably transported back in time. They find themselves in 12th century China, amidst the chaos of the Mongol invasion. Iba’s peculiar style of swordsmanship soon draws the attention of Genghis Khan himself, who takes him in as the horde’s latest general.
It’s a tale of great warriors and war on an epic scale. Kentaro Miura brings these scenes of historic war to life in great detail, while the gripping story is undoubtedly one of Okamura’s finest works. Finishing up Ourou, I immediately wanted to see more. I dived into Ourouden right after and found it to be even more thrilling and grandiose.
Kentaro Miura and Okamura cooperated on one other manga: Japan. Sadly, it is also the only work by Miura that I found to be legitimately underwhelming. Though even then, my qualms with Japan mostly stem from the writing.
Its plot is a ham-fisted political commentary on Japan’s economic policies. A journalist, a yakuza, and a band of selfish teenagers are transported to a grim future brought upon by mankind’s selfish greed. The climate is ruined and society as we know it is gone; replaced with arid wastelands and wicked regimes respectively.
I struggle to articulate just how painfully bad this plot is. The manga wants to be another cool sci-fi romp by Okamura, but it hamstrings that appeal with all of its dry lecturing and moralizing. There is so much exposition that slows the story down and feels pointless. It has no bearing on the actual plot about a yakuza picking fights with raiders, slavers, and other post-apocalyptic scum.
I’d also be tempted to comment on the actual flaws in the manga’s ideas or the inane plot holes, but we’d be here all day. I’d need an entire second article for that. Not to mention, this is a post about Kentaro Miura and his art for Japan is as spot-on as ever. A shame that his partner wasn’t pulling his weight for this story also.