Peter has been a dedicated reader ever since childhood. His main interest is fiction, with mystery and fantasy being his favourite genres.
Kentaro Miura's manga, Berserk, is one of the most highly regarded of all time. How it depicts the gruesome realities of the middle ages, coupled with the awe-inspiring fantasy elements it contains, makes it one of the most captivating stories in the past few decades. I like to think of it as the Game of Thrones of manga, since both the content and impact on their respective mediums (manga and TV) are quite similar. Berserk is truly unique. Despite that, many people are seeking out stories similar to Berserk after reading it. If you're one of those people, then this article is for you. Below, I provide five manga like Berserk that I think you will enjoy.
1. Übel Blatt
Übel Blatt was written and drawn by mangaka Etorouji Shiono. Since 2004, it has been serialized in the magazine Young Gangan. It was first introduced to North American audiences in 2014. The story of Übel Blatt begins around 20 years before the events of the rest of the manga. Two nations were on the brink of war. The first nation, Wischtech, had threatened to invade the lands of the second, Szaalanden. In response, the Emperor of Szaalanden sent fourteen young warriors to prevent the invasion. The plan proved to be successful, as the attack was prevented. However, only seven of the original fourteen warriors returned alive. According to the account of the seven, three of the fourteen died during the voyage, and the other four attempted to betray the seven but were slain by them. As a result, the seven survivors were named the Seven Heroes, while the four who were killed were named the Lances of Betrayal.
Twenty years later, the Lances of Betrayal appeared again, apparently surviving the fight with the Seven Heroes. Having built up a small force, they created an encampment near the land of Gombark in Szaalanden. Before they could do battle, a young boy with a scar over his left eye appeared and killed a large troop of their army single-handedly. All that was known about him was his name, Kóinzell, as his past was shrouded in mystery.
Comparison: Berserk and Übel Blatt
Both Übel Blatt and Berserk share many themes in common, including the themes of betrayal, hopelessness, and loss of innocence. They are both set in similar worlds (i.e., medieval fantasy lands), and they both have similar protagonists. The last similarity that I would point out is that Berserk and Übel Blatt are both dark fantasies in every sense of the phrase. The main difference between the two is the art style with Berserk having a more realistic style and Übel Blatt having a style that's more typical of most manga out there.
2. Battle Angel Alita
Battle Angel Alita, (also known as Gunnm in Japan) was made by Yukito Kishiro. It began serialization in 1990 in the magazine Business Jump. It has now been collected into 9 volumes. There are also a couple of spin-off manga which continue the story of Battle Angel Alita entitled Battle Angel Alita: Last Order and Gunnm: Mars Chronicle.
The series takes place in a post-apocalyptic environment. The story follows Alita (or Gally in Japanese), a cyborg who has lost all of her memories. Her head is found intact in the Scrapyard, a city built around a garbage heap that is constantly being added to by the people of Tiphares, a city that floats above the Scrapyard. The man who finds her head is Daisuke Ido, a cyberneticist who brings her to his home and rebuilds her body. The only thing that Alita is able to remember after she is rebuilt is the fighting style called Panzer Kunst. As a result of this knowledge, she decides to become a bounty hunter and goes to work for the factories in Tiphares. On her journey, she attempts to unravel the mystery of her past and recall her memories.
Comparison: Berserk and Battle Angel Alita
While Battle Angel Alita and Berserk are set in different time periods, they share a couple of characteristics. Firstly, the protagonists of both series (i.e., Guts and Alita) endure various hardships and undergo a lot of character changes as their stories progress. They are both fighters and live as though battle is the main way to achieve their goals. The second key similarity is the darkness of both stories. Both Berserk and Battle Angel Alita explore the grittier and more chaotic parts of life in ways that will often shock you.
Vagabond was written and drawn by Takehiko Inoue. It is based on Eiji Yoshikawa's book Musashi, which itself is a fictional account of the historical ronin Miyamoto Musashi. The manga began publication in the magazine Weekly Morning in 1998. It has received various accolades, including a Kodansha Manga Award in 2000 and a Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize in 2002.
The story of Vagabond is set at the end of the 16th century in Japan. The protagonist of the series is Shinmen Takezo who is a 17-year-old teenager at the start of the story. At that age, he runs away from home with a friend to join the army and fight in the Battle of Sekigahara against the Tokugawa clan. He loses the battle, but survives along with his friend. They each go their own way after the fight. As he grows older, Takezo becomes a criminal wanted by the authorities, so he is forced to change his name to Miyamoto Mushashi in order to evade execution.
Comparison: Berserk and Vagabond
In both Vagabond and Berserk, we have two heroes who are very similar. They both live in a similar environment (i.e., a medieval land) although the land of Berserk is more fantastic (i.e., less realistic) than the land of Vagabond (which is just historical Japan). They are both lone wanderers, antiheroes, and highly skilled swordsmen. Aside from the similar settings and protagonists, both Vagabond and Berserk are manga with highly realistic artwork. The characters aren't drawn in the typical anime style, and many of the panels in each manga are highly detailed. Vagabond is also filled with large amounts of brutal fights, which should appeal to anyone who was a fan of that aspect of Berserk.
4. Blade of the Immortal
Blade of the Immortal was created by Hiroaki Samura. The series is historical fiction, taking place in Japan during the middle of the Tokugawa Shogunate's reign. The manga first began serialization in 1993 in the magazine Afternoon. There have been several adaptations of the manga, including an anime series and novel in 2008 and a live-action film.
The story of Blade of the Immortal features the protagonist Manji. Manji is a samurai who cannot be killed since he was cursed by a witch named Yaobikuni. His only skill is killing and, over time, he has grown tired of it. He makes an offer to the witch that he become mortal again if he kills one thousand evil men to make up for the good men that he has killed. The witch agrees, and Manji begins his journey to become mortal. On his quest, he meets a girl named Asano Rin. Rin is seeking to avenge the deaths of her family members after they were killed by the members of a specific dojo. Manji agrees to help her, and from that point onward, they journey together to achieve their goals.
Comparison: Berserk and Blade of the Immortal
Blade of the Immortal is a lot like Berserk. To begin with, both stories have a common theme. Namely, the idea of revenge and its effects on people underlies both series. Additionally, they are both set in medieval-style environments. However, Berserk does have a more European vibe than Blade of the Immortal, which is set in Japan. Nevertheless, the two settings are similar. Both manga also have a lot of fighting, something both series are famous for. Furthermore, the plots within both stories are varied and interweave in several interesting ways. The writers are really good at keeping you engaged in the storylines. Lastly, the two protagonists are quite similar. Guts and Manji are both out to accomplish a specific goal, and they are both incredibly skilled warriors.
Claymore is a dark fantasy series by Norihiro Yagi. It was originally published in Monthly Shonen Jump before moving to Weekly Shonen Jump and finally to Jump Square. The manga has also been compiled into 27 volumes. As far as adaptations go, the Claymore anime series ran from April to September 2007 in Japan, and a Nintendo DS game based on the manga was released in 2009.
The story takes place on a fictional island that is plagued by demons called Yoma. Humans have to constantly live in fear of these Yoma, which disguise themselves within human villages and slay helpless victims. However, there is an organization that employs half-human, half-Yoma warriors and uses them to kill the Yoma. These warriors are all female and are known as either "Claymores" for the swords that they wield or "Silver-eyed Witches" for their abnormal eye colour. Though seemingly benevolent, these warriors are viewed with suspicion by humans due to their power. Furthermore, the Claymore Organization is a mysterious entity about which not much is known. As the story of Claymore unfolds, we follow Clare, a Claymore warrior who is gradually able to unravel the mysteries behind the organization and the Claymores.
Comparison: Berserk and Claymore
The similarities between Claymore and Berserk are noticeable right from the start. Probably the most obvious comparison that you could make between the two is the setting. Both Berserk and Claymore take place in very European, medieval-style worlds. Moreover, we get similar sword fights, battles, and monsters in both Claymore and Berserk. A dark atmosphere is also present in both manga, and the theme of revenge is prominent in both storylines.
Thanks for taking a look at my list. What did you think of it? I know there are probably some manga that I missed, so feel free to comment below with your own suggestions. I know it will probably help a lot of people who are looking for more manga like Berserk.
© 2016 Peter Gracey