Close friend of Kentaro Miura says he’s known how the series would end for almost 30 years.

Fans around the world were heartbroken last year when manga artist Kentaro Miura, creator of Berserk, passed away due to acute aortic dissection. The artist’s unexpected death was marked with tributes and shows of respect from the manga, anime, and video game fan communities, with mourning taking precedence over answering the question of what would become of the unfinished Berserk manga.

Now, a little over a year since Miura’s passing, publisher Hakusensha has come to a decision, announcing that Berserk will be resuming serialization with new chapters this month in manga anthology Young Animal and continuing on to a conclusive ending.

Given the unique artistic and storytelling style of Berserk, fans may be apprehensive of anyone other than Miura drawing and writing it. The art for the new chapters, though, will be handled by Studio Gaga, Miura’s team of assistants and apprentices who assisted him in drawing Berserk and are thus the most capable of carrying on its visual legacy. As for the new chapters’ story, that too is coming from an appropriate source: Miura himself.

It’s unclear whether or not Miura knew his health was deteriorating prior to his passing, but Hakusensha says that he often spoke with Studio Gaga and his editors about plans for upcoming storylines and character concepts. The publisher has also found plot memos and character design drafts that Miura had written and drawn to be used in upcoming chapters. The most reassuring revelation, though, comes from manga artist Kouji Mori, who was friends with Miura for decades.

“Nearly 30 years ago, Miura called me and said, ‘I need to talk to you about drawing a rough draft,’” Mori recalls. Miura was getting ready to draw the Eclipse, a pivotal moment in the Berserk manga, but he’d planned the story out much farther than that, and spent the following week walking Mori through it. “In that very moment, the storyline for Berserk was completed, until the very last chapter. Strangely, the story for Berserk went on exactly as we discussed at the time, with almost no changes. I continued to talk to Miura often, whenever there was a big episode. We did so ever since we were students, consulting each other while working on manga,” Mori says, adding “While he was alive, Miura said, ‘I haven’t told anyone other than you, Mori, about the story in its entirety.’”

That knowledge has weighed heavily on Mori since Miura’s passing. “A great responsibility has fallen on me…I thought, should I talk to fans about it through an interview? Or should I publish an article with some illustrations? But that wouldn’t convey the scenes that Miura described to me, or the [dialogue] lines of Guts and Griffith…” While Mori was grappling with this, he was contacted by Hakusensha about Studio Gaga’s desire to complete the chapter that Miura had been part-way through before his death. That in turn led to the decision to resume Berserk’s serialization and see it through to its planned conclusion, which Mori hopes would please his friend. “I thought, if I run away now, Miura would say ‘I talked to you about it so much, but you didn’t do it!!’”, and so Mori will serve as supervisor for the remainder of the series.

▼ Promotional video for Berserk’s 41st collected volume, the most recently released

Both Hakusensha and Mori are quick to assert that they will be sticking as closely as possible to the story Miura envisioned, and not putting their own adaptational flourishes on it. “I have a message and promise to everyone,” says Mori. “I will recall the details as much as possible and tell the story. Also, I will only write the episodes that Miura talked to me about. I will not flesh it out. I will not write episodes that I don’t remember clearly. I will only write the lines and stories that Miura described to me.” Hakusensha is more succinct, pledging that “Mr. Miura said so” will be the guiding principle for the resumed manga. To further establish that this is still Miura’s manga, Berserk won’t be getting an altered title for its new chapters, and the numbering of collected tankobon volumes will continue uninterrupted, with Volume 42 the next to come. Crediting for the series going forward will be “Kentaro Miura: Original work, Studio Gaga: Manga, and Kouji Mori: Supervision.”

As for how much more Berserk there is to come, it’s looking like a significant amount. Hakusensha says that the current Fantasia arc will get an additional six chapters, after which the story will enter a new arc, so it looks like this is going to be much more than just a hasty wrap-up. “Of course, it will not be perfect,” Mori humbly admits. “Still, I think I can almost tell the story that Miura wanted to tell…Many of you may not be fully satisfied with the Berserk written without Miura, but we hope everyone’s thoughts will be with us.”

Berserk has never been a series to shy away from how cruel and ugly life can be, but there’s definitely something heartwarming and hopeful in the touching devotion Mori is bringing to his new role as caretaker for his friend’s life’s work.

Source: Hakusensha
Top image: YouTube/白泉社 ヤングアニマル
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