Kentaro Miura’s Berserk is about a guy who listens to the 2013 hit Eminem song Berzerk on loop. That’s an insanely obscure song reference and will most likely go over everyone’s head (alright, it's not that obscure.) Still, hoever gets the joke is really cool and is probably an all-around decent human being that pays their taxes. In reality, what Berserk is to comics and manga is what Game of Thrones is to television.
Berserk focuses on a mercenary named Guts who journeys through a fictionalized Medieval Europe called Mid-Land. The wandering warrior has been orphaned since birth. No joke, baby Guts is found under his mom’s hanging corpse when the story starts. Guts ends up being raised by a band of mercenaries. As an adult Guts meets another ambitious mercenary named Griffith. Guts attempts to help Griffith accomplish his dream of eventually becoming the ruler of Mid-Land.
However, through a series of tragic circumstances, Guts becomes branded by demons—haunted by evil spirits every single night. Swords, creatures, death... sound enough like Game of Thrones yet? To know more about what makes these two stories so special, check out the list to see the biggest similarities and differences between Berserk and Game of Thrones!
10 Similar: Violence
One can’t help but wonder if George R.R. Martin and Kentaro Miura are competing to see who can come up with the most creative way to dismember a person. The most obvious similarity between the two stories is that they are both not afraid to depict graphic violence. Characters are constantly meeting their violent ends through all kinds of medieval action.
Kids shouldn’t be allowed within a hundred feet of Game of Thrones and Berserk. That statement isn’t being said in a try-hard dude-this-stuff-is-so-gnarly kind of way. The actual violence being depicted in both stories carry a lot of purpose and thematic weight that only adult readers will comprehend. Plainly stated, there are actual narrative consequences to the violence within each story.
This isn’t to say that the action scenes in Berserk and Game of Thrones aren’t aesthetically amazing to behold. There isn’t a single comic book artist that draws violence as beautifully as Kentaro Miura.
9 Similar: Amazing Characters
Game of Thrones and Berserk’s characters are more three-dimensional than a cheese cube. How cheesy was that statement? Gouda admit it was pretty clever.
Completely irrelevant cheese puns aside, it’s time to talk about how Game of Thrones and Berserk have the ability to make their large ensemble of characters feel like real people. What we mean by "real people" is that each of the characters have clear goals, fears, and strengths. Although Berserk and Game of Thrones are both epic in their scope, they never forget that the most interesting stuff lies within the characters’ personal conflicts.
8 Similar: Shocking
If Game of Thrones will be remembered for anything, it’ll be remembered for how it always played things safe and never killed off its main characters. Sike. The Red Wedding, The Purple Wedding (is Game of Thrones just a show about weddings?), and Ned Stark’s fate. These are all shocking narrative turns that are forever cemented into pop culture. There’s a good reason for that.
It’s because these moments are both unexpected, but also logically sound at the same time. Audiences aren’t traditionally used to their heroes dying, but Game of Thrones is always careful to make sure that the narrative is inevitably going to lead into these moments. Berserk is no different. Characters that we believe are supposed to stick with us to the very end either die or make choices that seem utterly reprehensible. But, guess what? It all makes narrative sense. Berserk strives to break the reader’s heart, and it constantly succeeds in doing so. People will most likely need therapy after the emotional trauma caused by reading Berserk, but it’s compelling trauma that burrows deep into a person’s soul... if that ever was such a thing.
7 Similar: Fantasy
Game of Thrones and Berserk are fantasies. However, these aren’t your grandma’s lame Cinderella foo-foo lala Mickey Mouse fantasies. Both stories approach their fantasy trappings with complete respect for the genre.
What’s even more interesting is that Berserk and Game of Thrones introduce these elements in the same way. They slowly tease out the dragons and fairies until finally blowing the lid wide open with all kinds of other fantastical monsters. Remember how the characters in the first couple seasons of Game of Thrones were always surprised whenever they’d see a dragon? Berserk initially approaches the introduction to its creatures in a similar fashion. Introducing them this way allows the audience to identify with the characters’ own shock and awe.
6 Similar: Power Corrupts
It’s a well-known fact throughout time and space that, whenever a person is given unlimited power, they will always act responsibly and never be tempted to abuse said power. Wait... on second thought, don’t listen to literally anything that was just said. Berserk and Game of Thrones explore all kinds of themes. However, the major thematic through-line of both stories is the idea that power corrupts people.
Within the context of Berserk and Game of Thrones, it's the notion that a person’s desire to rule a kingdom will even corrupt seemingly good people. What’s great is that both stories repeatedly use their characters to echo this theme. Even if we completely disagree with the selfish choices the characters are making we at least understand what’s motivating them to make these choices.
5 Different: Flashbacks
Berserk has more flash than a polaroid camera and more back than a rack of ribs at Chili’s. Does that make sense? Of course it does(n’t). Let’s be blunt. Game of Thrones acts like it has an allergy to flashbacks. Yes, Game of Thrones has some flashbacks. However, those sequences are so far and few between that one can’t help but feel like the writers used flashbacks when they absolutely could not find any other way to tell their story. We’re not hating, (Hold the door is incredible) it’s just the truth.
Berserk, on the other hand, would be nothing without its use of flashbacks. There are three central characters in Berserk: Guts, Casca, and Griffith. The characters are each given rich backstories that are told in long and compelling chapters. Readers get to learn about how Casca becomes such a tough and resilient lady warrior. Griffith makes incredibly questionable choices, but his backstory provides logical reasoning behind his ambitions. Then there’s Guts. To quote the immortal words of Shrek, our boy Guts is like an onion. The flashbacks revolving around Guts are tragic, intense, and hopeful in equal measure. It’s just the best.
4 Different: Monsters
Game of Thrones has some pretty dope looking dragons. But, does Game of Thrones have a monster with a goat head who also happens to have a middle-aged man’s body? Berserk and Game of Thrones populate their worlds with incredible fantasy creatures. It’s safe to say that Game of Thrones prefers to have its deeper fantasy aspects on the peripherals of its story.
Conversely, Berserk goes all-in. The second half of Berserk’s overall narrative revolves around its main character slicing through the most messed up looking monsters ever conceived. The best comparable for these beasts would be something out of a Guillermo Del Toro movie. There’s an undeniable beauty that comes along with these grotesque creations. The coolest aspect of the creatures is that they are all monsters that can be found in classic fantasy literature. Berserk has fairies, trolls, and all kinds of other beasts. However, creator Kentarou Mirua completely reinvents these monsters in a way no-one has ever seen before.
3 Different: War
How strange would it be if a manga titled Berserk didn’t feature any violence or war? Then again, there’s an actual manga titled I Want To Eat Your Pancreas that happens to be a romance... and no one’s pancreas is ever eaten!
Game of Thrones will dedicate entire episodes detailing the intricate machinations of sieges and war. Berserk’s approach to its war sequences are a little different. Aside from a mind-blowlingly detailed war scene in one of the later volumes, Berserk normally chooses to use its war sequences as window dressing for each character’s personal conflict. We’d go as far as saying Berserk is more interested in showing smaller scale combat than anything else. Well, that’s if people consider Guts single-handedly battling one-hundred soldiers smaller scale.
2 Different: Humor
Did anyone else know Berserk is a comedy? Not really. Admittedly, Game of Thrones has plenty of levity. Tyrion and Tormund got jokes for days! However, Berserk—it’s second half especially—is constantly packed with comedic moments. It’s kind of funny when people have conversations about why Game of Thrones is so effective. It’s because, like, it’s like super dark and brutal, bro!
What these people also don’t think about is that the reason why audiences can digest the dark moments is because the story also contains comedy to alleviate the tension. Berserk truly contains some of the gnarliest and most disturbing content in any mainstream manga. But, there’s a little character named Puck that acts as an audience surrogate while reading Berserk. Puck is Guts’ elf sidekick. He will frequently break the fourth wall and spout out one-liners about Berserk’s dark nature. The author realizes that Berserk has the potential to get lost in its own darkness if the storytelling choices aren’t precise. Thankfully every comedic choice is methodically placed and it helps readers stomach Berserk’s gruesomeness.
1 Different: Main Character
The rule of thumb in Berserk is that every character is named after their defining trait; Guts has a lot of guts, so he’s named guts. There’s also a guy named Nose because he’s got a huge nose. Another person is called Bald because he’s exhibiting hair loss at an extremely alarming rate. Is this joke irritating anyone else yet? Anyway, what separates Berserk from Game of Thrones is that the former’s entire story is completely beholden to its main character.
Game of Thrones, on the other hand, is a sprawling narrative in which people can argue about whose story it is. However, every story beat in Berserk completely revolves around Guts. For one to understand Berserk’s greatness, one must first understand why Guts is such a compelling character. If being haunted by demons every night weren’t enough, absolutely every horrible thing a person can think of has also happened to Guts. When we say everything, we mean EVERYTHING. So what makes Guts so cool? Is it just the fact that he has gone through so much tragedy? Not at all. Rather, it’s Guts’ resilience and decency despite these tragedies that makes him so inspiring. Mid-Land is full of a lot of darkness, but Guts holds onto the hope that doing the right thing will always be the best way to combat evil.