Much to the dismay of publisher Hakusensha, the launch of Kentaro Miura’s new manga Duranki in their new monthly magazine Young Animal Zero was not met with anticipation. Rather, it was met with a fair amount of anxiety on the part of Berserk fans, who feared that a new manga would only serve to worsen the series creator’s already erratic production schedule. As if to soothe these anxieties, Comic Natalie sat down with Kentaro Miura for a new interview, where he discussed the reality of Duranki‘s production, it’s origins, the current state of Berserk, as well as it’s future.
The Reality of Duranki‘s Production
Miura was quick to start the interview off by outlining how he is less involved in the production of his new Duranki manga than had initially been thought, meaning that Berserk’s publication shouldn’t be affected all that much.
As it turns out, Miura himself is only doing storyboards and rough copies for the series – it’s his assistants over at his production company, named Studio Gaga, who are doing the majority of the work, including all of the inking.
Miura described his role in the production of Duranki as that of a ‘director,’ in that he provides the general direction for the series both in terms of story and artwork, and has the final say before sending off to the publisher, Hakusensha.
Because his assistants are doing the majority of the work, Miura is confident that the publication of Berserk shouldn’t be affected too much by this new series. In fact, Miura admitted that he does much of the work for Berserk by himself anyway (which is partially why the series takes so long to release), with his assistants only really helping him out with backgrounds. So Duranki will hardly affect their workload – if anything, it’ll actually allow them to make better use of their time.
The Origins of Duranki
With those fan anxieties eased (at least, in part), Kentaro Miura then moved on to the next part of the interview, where he discussed where the idea for his new series Duranki came from.
In general, Miura professed that he comes up with cool ideas for new manga all the time, but is often too busy with Berserk to do anything with them – as you might expect.
However, it was his editor over at Hakusensha who suggested to Miura that he take a more hands-off ‘director’ role in the production of Duranki and leave the bulk of the work up to his assistants, given that the concept sounded pretty compelling and because they needed new series for their new magazine.
This immediately struck a chord with Miura, not only given that this meant that Berserk wouldn’t be affected, but also because of the peculiar nature of Studio Gaga as a production studio.
While many mangaka employ assistants to help them in the serialization process, most only employ people part-time. This cuts costs, as well as gives assistants time to work on their own manga, but Miura’s Studio Gaga is slightly different.
Each assistant employed at Studio Gaga is actually a full-time employee, which provides stability not just in terms of workflow, but also lifestyle for the assistants – Miura revealed during the interview that many of his employees had actually bought houses and raised families while in his employment, which isn’t something you can often do with a regular, part-time assistant gig.
But this also means that Studio Gaga assistants don’t have much time for any manga beyond Miura’s, which is often branded quite clearly with Miura’s own name with no mention of the assistants to be found – something which didn’t seem quite fair to Miura, who was once an aspiring creator himself, after all.
Launching Duranki as a new series clearly branded with the Studio Gaga name alongside his own (see below) provides, therefore, a way for Miura’s assistants to get properly credited for their work, as well as develop themselves as artists and creatives due to the fact that the majority of the work will fall to them.
Yet Berserk remains a top priority for the studio, particularly in terms of improving the pace of serialization and avoiding hiatuses.
To this end, Miura recently renovated the entire Studio Gaga workplace, fitting it with new state-of-the-art computers and tablets, as well as hiring new assistants like crazy (there’s currently 5 in total).
But this has also meant that many of the assistants aren’t quite used to Miura’s style just yet – especially with Berserk going on hiatus so much.
Doing Duranki alongside Berserk, especially when so much of the work falls to the assistants, therefore provides a way in which the assistants can get up to scratch sooner rather than later, which should improve the pace at which Berserk is published.
It’s quite evident from all of this that there’s plenty of practical reasons for Miura launching another manga in the form of Duranki, but it’s not all about practicality – Miura was also compelled as a creator to put together the series, stemming from his own roots as a mangaka.
Kentaro Miura admitted during the interview that he’d always wanted to do a series based on mythology, mostly due to how much he loved such manga as Saint Seiya, Arion, and Triton of the Sea in his youth.
He’d also always been fascinated by the aesthetic of the myths of ancient Greece and Mesopotamia (sometimes called Asia minor), particularly when it comes to gender and body image – hence why Duranki follows a genderless protagonist who travels throughout mythological landscapes that draw from real-life myths, as well as Miura’s own imagination.
Of course, Berserk does draw from ancient myth and fables (even featuring its own genderless character protagonist in the form of Puck) but Duranki is more of an out-and-out tribute to this particular type of story. But it was perhaps the fact that Miura has already dealt with myth in Berserk that made him, at least initially, want to do something really out there – an isekai series.
Now there are two words I never thought I’d see together: Kentaro Miura and isekai. But however crazy that sounds, Miura did decide quite early on to drop the isekai element due to how many isekai series exist in the current manga market – quite a smart move, but one that does have me wondering what a Kentaro Miura isekai series would have ended up looking like. Something along the lines of The Rising of the Shield Hero, but darker? Probably.
The Current State of Berserk
With Duranki out of the way, Kentaro Miura then moved on to talk about the current state of Berserk in the interview, clearing up some long-held fan misconceptions along the way.
Fans have long since tried to guess at the reason behind Berserk’s constant hiatuses in Young Animal, and while some have suggested that he simply doesn’t care about the series anymore, it’s quite clear from the interview that Miura has some more than valid reasons.
Firstly, Miura made the shift from traditional artwork to digital in 2015, around volume 38 of Berserk, which meant that Miura had to basically relearn everything from scratch.
That shift wasn’t as sudden as it first seems, however. As Miura revealed during the interview, he had actually already been using digital tools in tandem with traditional pen and paper for a while before that – sketching first in pencil and then inking digitally, after copying over the sketch, during the notorious ‘Sea God’ or ‘Boat’ arc.
Miura then decided to completely switch over digital as he believed it’d be more efficient, but several problems still remained.
He admitted during the interview that, while he’s also fast at doing storyboards and sketches, it’s inking and drawing where he often trips up, as he often focuses too much on detail – even getting shouted at multiple times by his editor for literally going pixel by pixel in his digital drawing software.
Even so, Miura views that level of detail as vital for his manga. Not only is he influenced by the so-called ‘baroque’ period of manga, as exemplified by the dense artwork of Tetsuo Hara’s Fist of the North Star and Katsuhiro Otomo’s AKIRA, but he also believes that the manga panel acts as a ‘window to another world’ – with detail needed to sell this illusion.
All of this meant that it was fine with Miura, even perhaps necessary to miss a chapter or two every now and again if that meant being able to get the level of detail he desired, but even he admits that he might have bitten off more than he could chew with the series’ current ‘Fantasia’ arc.
The arc’s setting of the mystical island of Elfheim has necessitated even more detail and therefore more time spent on each panel than ever, as creating a believable ‘window’ to another world so steeped in magic and the unreal becomes harder and harder. More characters than ever also appear in each panel due to how many Elfheim inhabitants are diminutive in size, which only adds to the headache that this arc is proving for Miura.
The Future of Berserk
Don’t worry, though – we’ll be done with that arc and off the island of Elfheim very soon. Speaking very candidly about the future of Berserk during the interview, Kentaro Miura revealed that the story of Berserk is ‘approaching it’s back half’ and that ‘many surprises are in store.’
Of course, he’s mostly referring to where the character of Casca will go from here on out.
Spoilers ahead for chapter 359 of Berserk.
As I’ve outlined before, what happens to Casca now that she’s been ‘cured’ will decide the entire trajectory of the story going forward, as well as what the rest of our characters end up doing.
Given that this is such an important moment, I’d like to quote the Kentaro Miura interview directly with regards to the fate of Casca and the subsequent future of Berserk:
‘I was also really moved [by Casca’s revival]. The thing is, it’ll be difficult for Casca from here on out. To fully revive, she has to analyse and understand what happened to her on her own terms. She has to face up to what Griffith and the demons did.’
The interviewer then talked about how while a happy ending for Guts and Casca is possible, it’s unlikely that such an ending would occur in a manga such as Berserk and how Miura needs to have the ‘conviction’ to do a proper ending, even if it takes a while.
Miura agreed, saying, ‘This is a story about human beings, so it’ll probably end up that way. I have to think properly about what humans would do in this situation, or I won’t be able to create a proper story.’
The chances of a Casca/Guts good end are, therefore, quite low. But I doubt any Berserk fans thought that it’d go that way anyway – as the interviewer stated, Berserk is not exactly a happy story.
That being said, there are surely a number of fans who still sincerely doubt whether they’ll ever be able to see what will come of Miura’s words, given how erratic Berserk’s release schedule currently is.
With regards to this, Miura was asked (quite frankly) during the interview whether or not he was ‘tired’ of drawing Berserk after 30 years of publication, to which he responded emphatically:
‘Actually, everything to do with drawing manga is fun. I’ve never really thought that drawing manga is tough or painful. I have thought, at times, that it’s a bit of a pain, but even that can be fun. If it wasn’t, then I wouldn’t have done it for so long (laughs).’
So, while fan anxiety surrounding Berserk was at an all-time high in light of the announcement of Duranki, this Kentaro Miura interview should serve to clear up most, if not all, of those worries.
Not only is Miura’s involvement in the production of Duranki limited, leaving the majority of the work up to his assistants at Studio Gaga, the whole idea of doing Duranki alongside Berserk was actually in order to improve work on the latter – all with the added bonus of a new Kentaro Miura manga, in turn.
This, therefore, means that prospects for Berserk’s continued serialization are actually brighter than before, as the pace of serialization should pick up with the training provided by Duranki. Furthermore, moving out of the ‘Fantasia’ arc and off the island of Elfheim should mitigate the problems that the setting poses for Kentaro Miura as a detail-obsessed artist in particular.
It’s also quite clear from the interview that Kentaro Miura is committed to finishing his iconic dark fantasy series in the best way possible, even if it takes a little longer. He’s also still finding enjoyment in drawing manga, which is a good thing.
Whether or not he finds drawing manga as enjoyable as playing The iDOLM@STER, though? That, unfortunately, remains to be seen.
You check out Comic Natalie’s full Kentaro Miura interview on their website.