Beautiful Nightmares – Remembering Kentaro Miura

The Late Kentaro Miura, creator of Berserk

The recent passing of Kentaro Miura has given me pause. Known for being the creator of Berserk, a dark fantasy manga that has influenced countless artists and writers over the years, Miura’s death hurt. I wasn’t a big fan of manga growing up. That had always been the realm my younger brother was attached to. While I was still clinging to the products of Marvel, DC, and Image, my brother (while still enjoying the mainstream American comics) was getting drawn in to anime and manga.

Berserk Manga. Source

For those that don’t know, manga are Japanese comics and they are distinctly different from their counterparts around the world. This isn’t to say that they don’t touch on the same topics, themes, and tropes. The visual style of manga run the gamut from cute and cuddly to sickening and terrifying. Miura’s work on Berserk never ventured into cute or cuddly but it could be downright terrifying at times (in the best way possible). One of the originators of grimdark fantasy, Miura’s decades-long story was filled with haunting visions of exquisite beauty and nightmarish images that still haunt me years after first seeing them.

Guts, The Black Swordsman. Source

First published in 1989, Berserk became over time one of the best-selling mangas in the world, with more than 50 million copies in distribution (including digital releases). Never one to shy away from violence, sexuality, or mature subject matter, Miura used Berserk to explore themes of causation and free will, the price one pays for vengeance, and how the people we choose to let close to us can ultimately save us from the worst parts of ourselves. Never one to rest on his laurels, Miura crafted a breathtaking world with Berserk, one filled with horrors and sights that staggered the imagination. Sadly, with his passing, the series will likely never be finished. But what Miura created will endure and it will continue to influence others.

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In the end, that’s all any artist can hope to achieve. Not money or fame. Posterity is really the only currency a writer or artist can hope to have. In Miura’s case, his work with Berserk had a profound influence on me. Without Berserk, I can honestly say I wouldn’t have the courage to take the stories I write into the places they go. Miura was unafraid to show the worst and the best aspects of humanity. His brutal honesty, expressed in both his artwork and his writing, is the most poignant reminder that art is meant to invoke our emotions on a fundamental level. And in this, Miura more than succeeded. I wish he were still with us, to tell more of the story that consumed much of his live for thirty years. But he is gone and there will never be another like him.

But his stories endure. And we are all the richer for having him in this world for the brief time he was here.

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