Shakespeare in Japan part 3: Beserek

Beserek
“Berserk” by Kentaro Miura has many similarities to Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”

 

One of the longest manga series and its anime (Japanese cartoon) counterpart “Berserk” have striking similarities to Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”. The story focuses on a fictional mercenary group “The Band Of The Hawk” and its two most powerful members, the leader Griffith and his second in command Guts. The story shows the mercenary group growing from a small group of fighters into a powerful force that has the ability to end wars. Early on in the story the band fights the demonic monster Zodd. Similar to the witches’ prophecy in “Macbeth” Zodd warns Guts and the rest of the group that Griffith will kill them all. “Here is a word of warning… No a prophecy If you can said to be a true friend to this man…Then take heed… For when his ambition collapses… Death will pay you a visit!! A Death you can never escape!!.” (Miura P. 201-202 1993).

Years pass and Griffith becomes obsessed with becoming king of the country they live in. He is willing to go to any cost to secure this position. This includes assassinating royal officials and seducing the king’s daughter. The turning point in the series is when Griffith conducts a demonic ritual in order to join the God hand, a supernatural group of powerful demons who will grant their members incredible powers. He sacrifices his entire mercenary band in the ritual just as Zodd had foretold. Guts manages to survive the ritual (minus an arm and eye) and swears to kill Griffith.

Berserk” is well known for its theme about the cost of ambition. Similar to Macbeth Griffith desires power regardless of the price. Both he and Macbeth are willingly to kill their closest friends in order to gain more power.  Guts is similar to Macduff in that he is a foil to Griffith. Guts is a loner preferring to solve his problems alone while Griffith is always using others to achieve his plans. Guts fights aggressively like a viking; Griffith fights in an elegant style similar to a musketeer. Even their names contrast each other, Griffith is called the white hawk while Guts is the black swordsman. Their relationship is the same (albeit reversed) as Macduff and Macbeth. Macduff is referred to as “Some holy angel” (Shakespeare P. 46) while Macbeth is referred to as “A hand accursed” (Shakespeare P. 48-49).

000griffith_manga Beserek

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kentaro_Miura
Kentaro Miura is the author of “Berserk“. “Berserk” shares many similarities with “Macbeth.”

Kentaro Miura the author, of “Berserk” has never talked about Shakespeare or “Macbeth” in interviews so I may just be reading too much into the story. However, it’s hard not to draw some similarities between “Berserk” and “Macbeth”.

 

 

The official english version of the “Berserk” manga is available from Dark Horse comics. The “Berserk” anime is in a strange grey area rights wise. It was originally owned by Media Blasters but they dropped the franchise in 2013. At this point your best bet is to try and purchase it through Amazon or eBay. The “Berserk” movies are available from Viz media

 

 

References

Miura, K. Berserk October 13 2004 (Johnson, D. Trans) Milwaukie OR: Dark Horse Comics (Original work published March 31 1993)

 

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