Berserk: How One of the First Yuri Manga Inspired the Series’ Development

Kentarou Miura has always been upfront about his influences when creating the decade-spanning dark fantasy manga Berserk. Some of those influences, like Fist of the North Star, are obvious just from one look at Miura's art. Less obvious but no less important is the influence of the classic shojo yuri manga The Rose of Versailles. Though stylistically very different, The Rose of Versailles' story about the years leading up to the French Revolution heavily influenced Berserk's focus on human drama and sadness.

The Rose of Versailles Diversified Miura's Perspectives on Storytelling

In Miura's own words, manga like The Rose of Versailles helped him expand his viewpoint on what manga could be, especially going into The Golden Age Arc -- the most widely beloved story in Berserk's history.

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In an interview published in Dark Horse's Berserk Official Guidebook, Miura stated that when working on the Golden Age Arc, he started to draw from his love of manga aimed at women in order to better realize not only Guts' character but also the characterization of his extended cast:

No matter how fully formed the character of Guts was in my mind, this was a newcomer's manga, and it wasn't going to live up to Mr. Buronson's established reputation. I also like girls' manga, so I thought about changing my approach by taking from stories with sad and painful human relationships and emotions. Until then I'd been charging down the Fist of the North Star route, but that made it much harder to contend with the original himself, Mr. Buronson [laugh]. It was a good opportunity, so I thought I'd switch weapons and come at it from the angle of The Rose of Versailles (by Riyoko Ikeda) and Kaze to Ki no Uta (by Keiko Takemiya). And as this was new ground for me, I figured maybe I could put people around me into the story, as well as memories from my youth.

Later on, in the same interview, Miura is asked about Guts' traveling companions, following the Golden Age Arc. When asked specifically about his influences creating Serpico, one of the central characters in Berserk starting with the Conviction Arc, he cited influence, yet again, from The Rose of Versailles:

Serpico is those female readers' "dream". My intuition was that he's the kind of man they would want to have around. To be frank, he's André from The Rose of Versailles. For a woman exhausted by society, he sees to her needs and considers her before all else. I thought this might be a woman's everlasting dream.

How The Rose of Versailles Might've Influenced Berserk in Other Ways

Miura discussed how The Rose of Versailles influences Berserk's plot structure and characterization, but there are other ways that Berserk was impacted by this iconic queer manga. Most directly, both stories deal with the interplay between royalty and the soldiers that serve them. The Rose of Versailles focuses on Oscar, the Captain of the Royal Guard and defender of Marie Antoinette. Berserk focuses on Guts, a member of the Band of the Hawk and companion to Griffith, its leader. Both focus on political upheaval stemming from the growing realization that the royalty is corrupt and incapable of ruling.

On the surface, Griffith has a lot in common with Oscar. Both are found attractive by people of all genders, both have ambitions separate from the crown and both want to gain glory on their own terms. They both suffer due to the whims of royals, with Oscar's fate being sealed based on Marie Antoinette's whims and Griffith being tortured due to the king of Midland's grudge against him. The key difference between them is that Oscar is actually a good person who wants others while Griffith is a manipulative sociopath. Oscar is a victim of circumstances outside her control, while Griffith's downfall is entirely due to his own actions. Oscar is what Griffith pretends to be.

Both The Rose of Versailles and Berserk's Golden Age end in horrible tragedy. The majority of characters in both series die due to circumstances outside their control. In The Rose of Versailles's case, the French Revolution happens, while Berserk's Golden Age ends with the infamous Eclipse. Considering Fist of the North Star was ultimately a hopeful story despite its post-apocalyptic setting, The Rose of Versailles actually has more in common narratively with Berserk than Fist of the North Star does. Seen from this lens, it's possible that The Rose of Versailles was the single most important influence on Berserk.

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