Sunday, November 24, 2013

Berserk 37 by Kentaro Miura

While Berserk by Kentaro Miura has not come to an end in the manga version, it has slowed considerably. This volume, afaik, is the last one we'll see in a while. Ironically enough, the movies have been moving forward. Hopefully we'll see more Berserk and of Guts in that field while the manga lays fallow.

This volume concludes the 'Sea God' story and brings in more magic and more visibility to the changes that have rocked the world since "the Wind" event where a strange wind blew through the land and heralded the age of magic and monsters returning to the world.

The art is up to Kentaro Miura's usual high standards. He, George Pereze and John Buscema all have a great timeless talent and I hope that if Berserk is on hold for a while that we'll be seeing his work in some other forms. Perhaps even an art book or something.

In terms of gaming?

1. Judge not by size. When Guts is 'fighting' the Sea God, he's fighting an island. Like several other similar situations where the character's size is of such insignificance, Guts is able to deal damage based on a weak point of the creature, in this case, it's heart. Designing such an opponent is like designing a dungeon. There are 'anti-bodies', various monsters that make their home there, there are parasites, there are creatures too small for the entity to notice. There are also natural hazards like stomach acid, drowning in blood and other unpleasant bits.

2. Red herrings: Guts is aided in this volume by Merrow and by a magical child. It's strongly been hinted, or at least argued online, that the child is Guts and Caska's child that is only able to reach the mortal world during the period of the full moon. This volume throws a wrench into that theory though as we're given two other options. The first is that the character seeking the elves to restore Caska, have been given a guide. The other is that the boy is a manifestation of King Hanafubuku. I'm sticking with it being Gut's and Caska's child.

3. Blow up the Outside World: Because Guts is at sea on a voyage, he doesn't know what's happened to the mainland. With all of the magic and monsters roaming freely through the land, man has retreated to shelter under Griffith's new country. Growing from outside the country are huge arcs of crystal called "Wing Stones" due to their appearance like wings. These keep out the 'wild' monsters and keep the humans and the Apostles, demonic creatures that serve Griffith, 'safe'. The real question is are the humans safe from the Apostles long term?

In addition to these Wing Stones, there is also the World Spiral Tree, an object so huge that it casts its branches over mountains and its visible against the moon when it first rises.

Lastly, we have the newly raised, in whole through magic and ritual, city of Falconia, a city where harvest season never ends, allowing people to continue to survive as well, people. Food and shelter are now not issues and they can continue to bring in outsiders.

These elements are a far cry from where the series has been prior to the Wind incident. In the past there were elements of ancient India and the Dark Ages of Europe. All that is potentially washed away but what it's replaced with is not certain. Only by effecting HUGE change can this be done.

Now I can hear some people saying, "I could swear that you didn't like it when WoTC blew up the Forgotten Realms." and yes, that is true but that's because of the manner in which it happened. There was no opportunity for the players to experience the events as they happened but rather, they get to play in the aftermath of that, and in many cases, the setting, at least in the novels I read, read much the same with a few nods to the vast changes. And when I say nods, that's what I mean. For example, Dragonborn? Not in the novels I read. Real effects to magic and the Spellplague? Again, nods to it, but effectively no. The whole point of putting the setting in that far reach having little impact on the characters.

Putting the characters IN the middle of that action however? Completely different beast.

Berserk 37 may be a temporary close to the story of Guts, but it's visual impact remains long after the last page is turned.