Berserk is a series considered to be the pinnacle of dark fantasy storytelling by many. It boasts impressively detailed artwork and illustrations that are second to none in the industry and a narrative that delves deep into the mind of the reader to leave them in a daze of mesmerization and disgust upon the world of Midland and its inhabitants. With multiple arcs spanning 3 decades of work by the late Miura sensei, here is our list of the best Berserk Arcs (Ranked).
1. Golden Age Arc (1991-1997)
Considered the undisputed pinnacle of Berserk and one of the greatest narrative arcs in Japanese media, to say that the Golden Age Arc is a masterpiece is an understatement. The world of Berserk never felt more alive than in the Golden Age Arc, with the Band of the Hawk acting as our guides throughout the land of Midland, from its mountainous forts to its beautiful castles and towns, and characters that felt like true friends and comrades.
The iconic Trio of Guts, Griffith, and Casca also received their best characterization to date in the series along with a perfectly written origin story, which is a genius blend of joy and tragedy.
In summary the Golden Age Arc not only fulfils its duty as a perfect setup for the future arcs of the series, but it also exceeds those expectations by being such a masterfully-written narrative that could very well exist on its own without any prior context.
2. The Black-Swordsman Arc (1989-1991)
Yes, It’s that good! Words can’t describe how masterful as a setup the first arc of Berserk is. Though the story itself starts moving only after the Golden Age Arc, the Black-Swordsman Arc knows exactly what it wants to be and it delivers on it.
This entire arc is an expression of gruesome detail on a blank canvas by Miura, to not only prepare us for the world of Berserk and the hordes of evil that it contains but to also prepare himself for the narrative that he is about to embark on expanding.
This arc is a test for both Miura and the reader, a test of will and fortitude to decide whether we have the Guts to venture into this tale. Its opening page (which may seem rather crude and random at first) is the perfect introduction that Berserk needed, It is a setup that besets an idea in our mind of what to expect from this series from the very beginning, and that idea is never challenged throughout. The land of Midland is cruel, unforgiving, and evil.
3. The Falcon of the Millennium Empire Arc (2001-2010)
The Millenium arc serves as the first true continuation to Griffith’s story after the Golden Age Arc, in which he returns to the land of the mortals to embark yet again on his conquest of an empire. This arc is special for the fact that it is the first time we actually delve into the politics of Berserk and how the different kingdoms operate, We also see drastic changes in Guts’s character as he slowly opens up to people and gains new comrades to fight alongside him against the God Hand.
The arc also provides a pretty satisfying end to Griffith’s character arc from friend to evil incarnate, as his fight with Ganishka reshapes the laws of the land and acquires him the empire he always desired. But while the overarching narrative is strong, the true strength of this arc lies in its shorter side narratives that slowly accumulate into a grandiose coup d’etat for all the characters involved.
4. Conviction Arc (1997-2001)
Considering how beloved the Conviction arc is, many of you would feel jarring to see it so low on the list but let us elaborate. While it’s true the Conviction arc is no less than another great addition to the mythos of Berserk, with its expansion of the religious themes present in its narrative and how they coincide with and affect the affinity of the multiple factions of knights, cultists, and zealots that Guts comes across during his travels.
It also showcases Guts’s ideology in a very straightforward manner which stands as a really good juxtaposition to the hyper-justification that the other factions utilize to commit their deeds of debauchery. What the arc fails in however is in its own ambition that it fails to fully deliver on due to its relatively short tenure compared to the Golden Age Arc and the fact that it never truly felt like a proper continuation to it, which makes the narrative feel disjointed and misplaced.
5. Fantasia Arc (2010-)
As it is Berserk tradition, the Fantasia arc yet again delves into a subsection theme of its world that has not been explored before. While its predecessors delved into themes of religion, politics, and affinity, the Fantasia arc (as its name suggests) delves into the mystical side of the Berserk world and introduces us to the astral and mystical realms of Midland. The arc serves as the largest expansion of lore that the series has ever received along with boasting the best illustrations ever put to panel by Miura sensei before his untimely demise.
The arc as it stands still has the potential to be the greatest of them all if it plays its cards right. But currently, it suffers from the simple fact that it is incomplete and has yet to be given a proper conclusion, which just further accentuates its rather poorly done pacing between the smaller narratives of the arc.
In the end, the ranking of the Berserk arcs is purely subjective to the individual in my opinion, due to the incredibly consistent experience that all of them provide, all the while also providing something unique that will hook at least one type of reader to it’s narrative. It’s an understatement to say that the sagas of Berserk are some of the most masterfully done narratives in the industry in general, right down to the point of them gaining mythological status. The legacy that Kentaro Miura has left to the world is one deserving of Awe.