Berserk vol. 7 – Kentaro Miura

4 out of 5

Some rather major events in this volume: The back half of Casca and Guts’ isolation, which leads to the hundred man battle, and then the majority of the battle for Chuder.  I’m excited to get to chapters that haven’t been covered by the anime to see if I “recognize” milestones as they happen; the visuals of these fights give them punch, which I might then be assuming when I read the corresponding sequence.  However: I’m not imagining the anime’s beats as I turn the pages; I’m fully following Miura’s graphic and majestic display.  So I think that says something about the talents of the creator.

While (I believe) the tankobon is a bit longer than some of the proceeding volumes, not excessively so, which makes the pacing especially impressive, as the story ebbs and flows from battles to downtime to contemplative passages to war room councils without missing a beat, nor without undercutting the effectiveness of any of those moments.  And Miura’s art feels blessed at this point: Giant, meticulously detailed swaths of battle sequences, Guts whipping his sword around wildly and hacking off limbs, and it’s all followable and compositionally pleasant to the eye.

If there are some nits (and there are), while the overall story and continued character building are fascinating, Miura’s handling of the conversations between Guts and Casca feel like they’re missing some layers they should have.  There are plenty of forums dissecting whether or not Berserk is sexist, and I can’t yet weigh in, but Kentaro’s handling of the simmering feelings between the two and Guts’ mixed baiting of / respect for Casca is confusing.  Not because of the varying nature of it, which feels correct for the characters, but because, again, it seems like Miura’s reaching to explore something a bit deeper regarding gender relations, but it doesn’t quite come through, or isn’t properly served by what we see / read.  So the feeling is a muddle.

Otherwise – and I can sort of understand if this was cut or left out to keep the momentum going – Guts’ lack of injuries after the hundred man battle is ridiculous, healing salve or no.  He’s essentially superhuman, but there should be life and death stakes, and when an arrow through the hand only results in a teeny bandage, it’s hard to raise those stakes.

Volume 7 is essential, both for its major plot points and for seeing Miura’s continual growth as a draftsmen.