Kentaro Muira is probably the most famous or depending on how you see his work “infamous” manga artist and writer of all time. Writing, Illustrating and Publishing manga from the young age of ten Muira started with series like “Oh -Roh” and “King of Wolves”, but his fame would sky rocket due to the creation of the highest rated manga of all time. Berserk.
Berserk at first didn’t take off due to it’s “mature content” and I emphasise mature due to the amount of killing and sexual violence that the series holds. The first volumes were highly rated but there was no name attached to the series so the first three volumes were overlooked on their release and through the next five years. Then after years of preparation Muira entered the next arc of his series arc 2: The Golden Age. The series blew up after the release and allowed Muira to write whatever he wanted, but he kept writing Berserk.
At this point in time Berserk has a weird relationship with Japan as it originated there but not many manga readers pick up Berserk due to the intensity that the series thrives on. Because of this Berserk is never shown on many stores in Japan, not even the adult manga shops display it as it has caused major controversy for its explicit nature, people going far as to attempt to sue Muira for giving them nightmares from the “Red Eclipse” chapters.
Whereas in the West (America and Western Europe) it has grown a huge following and is one of the most read Japanese publications in the West. But that is only talking about the writing and its history lets’ talk about the art of Berserk.
Materials and Mediums…
Muira has an unorthodox style for his manga as it actually draws influence from the lithograph artist M.C. Escher. Muira adapted this to ink and brush the medium used by manga artists, the result is some of the most layered art ever. I have a few images to show off, Muira is by far my favourite artist whilst I will only break down one piece I can’t only show one piece.
For me, this is some of the most beautifully framed pieces of work and the fact that its framed rounded high-quality gripping series is the icing on the cake. Muira knows how to use detail effectively using it where needed to draw attention almost like a tilt shift using minimal detail to contrast heavily with the max malistic layered detail which appears elsewhere on the page.
His work is black and white like most manga but really captures the shape, form, tone, shadow and texture mastered by Escher in his time. To show the difference in quality and style I have put two images a person swinging a sword one is from berserk and the other is from another title called “Samurai Deeper”.
Every time my eyes hone in on the image of Guts from Berserk on the right. There are several reasons for that. The one on the left hides away from showing faces during movement and each character holds an unnatural rigidness to them that feels out of place. It also breaks down the image too much into separate panels leaving a fragmented visual journey, the angles used on the left are very standard and don’t veer away from anything.
Whereas Berserk emphasises Guts’ reaction as he looks over his shoulder showing one eye before gritting his teeth and shifting his body weight to swing his sword (The DragonSlayer). The Result is three clean and inventive shots that tell a story of emotions switching in the moment. By adding faces and intensity it grounds the unnatural action (by today’s standards) of swinging a sword. Whereas Samurai Deeper leaves the viewer lost within a fragmented visual story, it honestly took me a while to work out what the writer and illustrator were trying to convey on the left but Muira’s is fully legible.
Below I have selected one of Muira’s best pages/ piece of work (in my opinion) and broken it down using the formal elements such as shape, form, tone texture and composition etc.
In conclusion, Muira doesn’t just inspire me with his art style but how he uses it, he is my number inspiration when it came to my “dry brush digital painting” as I was unhappy with the standardised style of digital painting. His philosophy of not being happy about the knowledge surrounding me is a great inspiration and drive for me to look at new sources for information no matter how far out they may be.
I also try to paint in darker colours to replicate the horrifying intensity captured within his frames as I’m fan of Berserk not only artistically but also in terms of the literature and the sources it came from.