Worldbuilding is one of the most essential parts of a fantastical or speculative narrative like Berserk. Whether it be the epic pastorals like Lord of the Rings or the snow-clad nights of Game of Thrones, the bizarre islands of One Piece that make sense in their own way, or the villages of Naruto with their unique cultures, worldbuilding is a staple of all media.
Berserk is Kentaro Miura’s magnum opus. It narrates the tragic tale of the black swordsman Guts as he tries to make his way in a chaos-torn world where supernatural beings rule. However, the greatest threat comes in the form of his adversary, Griffith. In the manga, Miura splendidly uses black and white colors to comment on the ideas of good and evil while subverting various notions of our own regarding the same. The best aspect of worldbuilding is when it merges the physical, metaphysical, and symbolic into a compelling narrative with themes that impact these fictional characters as poignantly as they do us.
The merits of Kentaro Miura’s world in the Berserk story
— Ely (@Exly___) August 31, 2022
The majority of slice-of-life anime programs, for example, keep to a single location, but fantasy anime frequently focuses on worldbuilding, much like an epic D&D game. Berserk gradually broadened the breadth of its setting, frequently alluding to or depicting distant lands such as the Kushan Empire and Elfheim.
Lord of the Rings-style worldbuilding was never achieved, but it wasn’t necessary. The worldbuilding in Berserk does a great job of illustrating how vast and varied this world can be, and by this point, fans can create their own maps to keep track of everything if they so wish.
The universe is a macrocosmic trinity comprising three fundamental realms of existence: the Physical World, the Astral World, and the Ideal World. Following the Great Roar of the Astral World, the universe returned to an ancient state whereby the physical and astral realms are largely intermingled in a single realm known as Fantasia.
The three worlds of Berserk
When asked if Guts and Griffith will fight in the end, Berserk Miura replied
〜In the structure of the world of Berserk, there is a god, who may or may not exist, and there is the astral world, from which reality emerges, so the influence of the astral world will definitely pic.twitter.com/DKdMF8m537
— nagare06 (@kojion) December 3, 2022
Along with the Astral World and Ideal World, the Physical World—also referred to as the mortal realm, the world of man, or Earth—is a fundamental dimension of the cosmos. Here, humanity has always spent the majority of its time in this domain.
The Physical World and Astral World were largely entwined in the past, but at some unspecified future period, they would become almost completely independent from one another. Only the Interstice, a tenuous link between the two realms, has existed between them since their split.
Along with the Physical World and Ideal World, the Astral World—also referred to as the Afterlife or the Netherworld—is a fundamental domain of the universe. The World of Spirits is the realm where ethereal beings live. More specifically, the realm is home to several legendary creatures near its deeper strata as well as powerful natural forces on its upper layers.
There’s a multi-page discussion of the current state of the world of Berserk’s economy after the astral plane merged pic.twitter.com/FJ6PeAbP5g
— Trey the Explainer (@Trey_Explainer) December 19, 2022
When humans first developed their ability to sense and communicate with astral beings, they even built shrines to honor particular spirits. However, after the extensive dissemination of Holy See dogma, people started adhering to the “rigid world,” no longer believing in the ethereal. As a result, they lost their ability to see the spirits of the Astral World.
Based on Plato’s theory of forms, according to which there exists a heavenly realm (also referred to as the hyperuranion or the “Platonic realm”) filled with pure ideas (or forms) that are ideal, immutable archetypes (or essences), which are imperfectly mimicked by all material things. As it happens, the Ideal World is conceptually Platonic in origin.
What was the Great Roar about?
So 1 week until the final fantasia BERSERK chapter, chapter #370. An all new berserk arc will begin afterwards. pic.twitter.com/pfHUMx5LwW
— LIDA 👾 リダ #ThankYouMiura (@BasedLIDA) October 7, 2022
The worldwide Interstice of Fantasia results from The Great Roar of the Astral World, a phenomenon that causes the Physical World and Astral World to merge into one. Due to the invasion of astral beings that result, Falconia, the capital city of Griffith, becomes the only place where humans are safe from harmful astral creatures.
In Miura’s brainchild, characters are inextricably linked with the fate of the world such that neither can be truly separated from the other. After being humiliated by Griffith during the Kushan invasion of Vritannis, a resentful Ganishka enters the Man-Made Beherit in an effort to transcend apostleship and reincarnates once more, this time becoming a nearly mindless, sky-scraping eldritch monstrosity.
Griffith and Zodd climb towards the emperor’s head while the Band of the Falcon fights Ganishka’s spawn. There, Griffith confronts Ganishka head-on in his released form of Femto. Femto is ambushed by the Skull Knight, who hits him with the Sword of Beherits, as he reaches out to touch Ganishka.
Colored the end of the foolish king panel in Fantasia Arc, BERSERK. pic.twitter.com/Gonj1tfAmM
— LIDA 👾 リダ #ThankYouMiura (@BasedLIDA) October 22, 2022
Femto, on the other hand, distorts the area around him in order to seize the astral rip from the sword strike and aim it in Ganishka’s direction because he foresaw the Skull Knight’s appearance. A massive astral split opens as the sword slice rips through Ganishka’s twice-reincarnated body, letting the Astral World pour into the Physical World.
The Great Roar is a wind that sweeps across the entire planet. The World Tree replaces Ganishka after the Great Roar, and Griffith’s capital city of Falconia magically reappears close to the base of the enormous tree – a spot where Wyndham formerly stood. People travel to Falconia in droves in search of safety as evil astral monsters prowl the new world of Fantasia, and it is the only safe haven still intact after the Great Roar.
What is Fantasia?
3 more days until Fantasia arc concludes with chapter 370 in BERSERK pic.twitter.com/drWyI7s1Ay
— Ⓑ𝕖𝐫𝐊غυ𝓎 𒉭 (@MrBerkGuy) October 11, 2022
The Astral World’s Great Roar, which unites the Physical World and Astral World into one, creates the worldwide Interstice known as Fantasia. Many creatures that once were thought to exist solely in the realm of the fantastical prey on people and force them from their homes.
As a result, a great number of displaced individuals set out on a mass emigration to Falconia, the only place in Fantasia where people can live in safety and wealth. Fantasia is a return to that world state where the Physical and Astral Worlds had been merged. It is considered to be an ancient recurrence rather than a novel phenomenon.
What are the creatures inhabiting Miura’s hellscape?
— wilwal2020 (@wilwal2020) June 29, 2022
It is in this world that several creatures prowl, having often manifested as metaphors or symbolic configurations of one or more characters’ emotional or mental states. Notable among these is the Beast of Darkness, who is made up only of Guts’ most hateful feelings, including his rage, contempt, and desire for retribution against Griffith. It makes many attempts to coerce Guts into continuing their destruction once he starts to rediscover his humanity. Moreover, it views Casca and Guts’ new allies as supporters of his morality and thinks that by eliminating them all, Guts’ morality may be completely destroyed.
In the same way that Guts consciously choose to protect Casca above attempting to kill Griffith, it sees its allies as obstacles to its quest for retribution. However, it also makes Guts want to treasure them, believing that their untimely deaths are inevitable, and joyfully anticipates the time when it can engulf Guts in his grief.
— Yuganimations (@DanielS15183185) February 20, 2023
Another entity is the Idea of Evil, which is a literal manifestation of its name. Through its use of causality, it is in charge of determining humanity’s fate by acting on the species’ collective unconscious will. It is a primordial being that resides on the Astral Plane’s Abyss, its lowest layer and the closest thing to Hell.
Through its use of causality, it is in charge of determining humanity’s fate by acting on the species’ collective unconscious will. It is a primordial being that resides on the Astral Plane’s Abyss, its lowest layer and the closest thing to Hell.
The need of the species for transcendental explanations for its existence gave rise to the Idea, which is the collective unconscious of humanity brought into manifestation. When Griffith asks the Idea what it wants from him, the Idea responds that because Griffith is a part of humanity’s collective unconscious and the Idea is part of Griffith, Griffith’s want is also the Idea’s desire.
The main message of Berserk and the Idea of Evil pic.twitter.com/QfP1gouADP
— Ethan Donaldson (@EthandDonaldson) July 10, 2022
Furthermore, it comforts Griffith that his activities will be appropriate for mankind regardless of whether they result in sorrow or redemption because they are ultimately intended. In a tale as complex as Berserk, where the line between literal and metaphorical is blurred by the thematical and real appearance of eldritch entities, it makes sense that people would constantly praise its worldbuilding.
The notions pertaining to evil and humanity are not isolated but are brought to life in Miura’s dark art style and storytelling strategies. In a world where Guts has to go through literal and figurative hell, his interactions with these godly or devilish beings are fascinating and simultaneously horrifying to witness. Character in Miura’s Berserk can never be isolated and studied apart from the world as the world makes and shapes these characters.
What did you think about Miura’s worldbuilding style? Is it among the best or does it leave more to be desired? Do you think the future developments of the story will help in terms of shedding light on this twisted universe? Let us know in the comments below!