I am excited to resurrect a column that I had done many years ago that highlights manga aimed at mature audiences. Seinen manga, or as some of us like to dub it Manly Manga, are aimed at older (usually male) demographics. We plan to highlight two manga series a month with similar themes or settings in hopes of raising the awareness of seinen series released in the U.S. Now, something to keep in mind is that not all Manly Manga is about violence and guts. These stories are also about characters living adult lives and doing adult jobs. They are also about what it takes to be tough, be it about a man or a woman. Because we all know women that are easily tougher than many of the men we know!
To kick off this new column, I am going to examine two series with similar Medieval European settings. Both share similar artistic styles with highly detailed backgrounds, lots of violence and gore, and characters you want so desperately to succeed. While Wolfsmund has a historical setting in Europe, the well-known BERSERK is a dark fantasy and both are highly recommended.
Kentaro Miura has influenced games, manga, anime, and art for decades with his BERSERK manga series. Perhaps the manliest manga around (and maybe the darkest), BERSERK will fill anyone’s need for a feudal European-based fantasy with a horrific edge and an extreme body count to boot. BERSERK follows the life of a mercenary named Guts. From birth, Guts lives with a band of mercenaries learning how to wield a sword while gaining a close-up view of the brutality of men and war. He even enters his first battle at the age that most readers were kicking around a soccer ball. Fighting from such an early age and wielding the largest sword on the battlefield, Guts becomes one of the strongest fighters in the kingdom by the age of sixteen.
Unfortunately for Guts, his life doesn’t involve anything but fighting and he never developed the ability to interact with others in a social way. However, his life as an outcast changes forever when he joins the mercenary Band of the Hawk led by the brilliant tactician Griffith. This starts Guts down a road that makes him a better fighter and introduces him to love and friendship. It also gives him a front row seat to the darkest side of the human soul and the monsters from hell that will change his life forever. This begins the dark fantasy arcs of this series with monsters and demons betraying Guts and taking everything from him.
Kentaro Miura’s art is amazingly detailed with spiraling visuals of armies battling across fields and castle walls, and the characters are highly varied from their faces to their armor and weapons. Incredible fight scenes, endless wars, and unique and disturbing monsters keep this manga moving along with never a dull moment. If you enjoyed any of the anime adaptations, you will enjoy the original manga even more!
By: Mitsuhisa Kuji
Publisher: Vertical, Inc.
Number of Volumes: 8 (complete)
Anime Adaptation: No
Wolfsmund is Mitsuhisa Kuji’s first full series. Supposedly, she worked as an assistant to Kentaro Miura. This would explain the artistic influence from BERSERK seen on the pages of Wolfsmund. However, Mitsuhisa differentiates her art in this manga with characters that are sharp and angular. Much like the BERSERK series, Wolfsmund shares themes of brutality and strife in a medieval setting. This series is set in Switzerland in the 1300s when it was under Austrian control. The crux of this story is the impassableness of the Alps between Switzerland and Italy. There are key locations where fortresses have been built by Austria to control the flow of people and goods south to Italy. The difficulty of travel through the Swiss Alps and the time period provides a great setting for a story about detestable rulers and the blood, sweat, and heart of those fighting against tyranny.
If you are looking for the ultimate villain to hate, Wolfsmund has the king of detestable rulers in the Bailiff of Wolfsmund Pass. I don’t know if I have ever hated a villain as much as I hate this Bailiff. The detail-laden battle scenarios and medieval European fortress architecture, along with Dark Ages torture and a high body count is nothing short of impressive. These details are sharp and shocking, mirrored by the author’s willingness to kill off primary characters as easily as tertiary characters. At only eight volumes, Wolfsmund is an easy investment in a Manly Manga for Manly Men and Women!
I am a big fan of both of these artists. Mitsuhisa Kuji draws a lot of detail into Wolfsmund’s characters and Kentaro Miura pens massive amounts of details into everything from characters to monsters to backgrounds for BERSERK. Both use speed lines during action scenes to great results. Much of their art, especially their use of speed lines, reminds me of woodblock art.
Not only the art for these series is exemplary, but the character development and story-telling is of high caliber. Where Wolfsmund creates a peasant versus ruler’s story of politics with dastard villains and hopelessly outmatched heroes wrapped up in eight volumes, BERSERK is an epic. Kentaro Miura takes BERSERK’s protagonist from teenager to broken old man, from the excitement of feeling loved and belonging to the pits of hell where we have to wonder if man or demon is more evil.
If you are ready for some Manly Manga, you won’t be disappointed by either Wolfsmund or BERSERK!