The famous mangaka of Berserk Kentaro Miura has left us due to acute aortic dissection on May 6th. Berserk, a dark fantasy manga was his first work in the manga industry and its success is widely acknowledged worldwide both controversially as well as a piece of art.
A Brief History:
Prior to working on Berserk, Kenta as a teenager worked as an assistant for the writer of Hajime no Ippo, George Morikawa. Even then Morikawa felt a strong connection to the young man and taught him to be the best he can be. Honestly, the man saw the greatness in him and it paid off. Kentaro was so talented he went on to work as an artist for the manga Fist of the North Star which was really big for the anime/manga of its time. This anime was pretty much the inspiration for popular anime like Jojo’s Bizzare adventure and of course the manga that we have come to love as a Berserk.
I could babble on about the history of Kentaro Miura but that isn’t really why we are here. On the contrary, I wish to talk about the very work that eventually killed the man. There is a term called Karoshi in Japan which is one of the most difficult thing to believe exists. The term means to overwork oneself to death. You see, we are always so eager for the next chapter to come out and we never really see the effort that goes behind it.
Take a look at Berserk, the manga came out in 1989 and it has 357 chapters. You might be wondering why that is so low. That is the kind of mentality that leads to karoshi. We are so used to seeing weekly production of our favorite anime/manga that we forget that the people working behind them are only human. Let’s take a look at some excerpts from Kentaro Miura’s book health section over the years.
I came down with a high fever of 40 degrees Celsius. Thinking about it, I’ve only had two days off this year. (1993, No. 12)
I’ve lost five kilos without doing anything. I wonder why? (1993, No.21)
In the past two months, my average sleep time has been less than four hours. Now I’ll be Mr. Satonaka soon. (No.23, 1993)
Since I moved, my average sleep time has been less than four hours. I’m going to go gammu. (1994, No.16)
I had a day off for the first time in a month and a half, and when I went out, I got heatstroke! (1995, No. 17)
I went to Okinawa for my first big holiday as a manga artist, and spent two and a half days out of four suffering from heatstroke. (1998, No.19)
My first big holiday as a manga artist was to Okinawa. (No.21, 2002)
My days off are half days every two months. I haven’t had two days off in a row for four years. I’m getting tired of it. (No.23, 2004)
I collapsed again from overwork. I missed Gwynn’s Hundred Great Books. Ugh! (2005, No.9)
It’s the first time in my life that I’ve come down with a cold twice in one month. (2007, No.5)
I’ll be 27 years old in July. Looking back, 27 years full of cartoons, is this what you want? (1993, No. 14)
It’s the same every year, but I’m working on Christmas and New Year’s Day. I want to eat Osechi once in a while. (1994, No.3)
I had a day off for the first time in a month and a half, and when I went out, I got heatstroke! (1995, No.17)
After a movie, I always go to the Loiho next to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building for a review meeting with friends and stay there until the first train leaves. (1996, No.1)
I bought some clothes and shoes for the New Year’s party. I only have two pairs of sneakers. (1996, No.2)
I’ll be 30 in July, and looking back, I’ve been drawing comics like Kintaro candy. (1996, No.12)
In a month and a half, I was only able to go out for two hours to have dinner at Jonathan’s. A petite recluse? (2001, No.24)
If I don’t see people for a long time, my mouth won’t work properly. (2002, No. 7)
My thirties are almost over. My life is a mess, with nothing but manga. But I can’t take it back now, so I’m going to keep going!
I’m going to stay indoors again this year. (2006, No.3) After all, I’m not going to stay indoors because I’m lonely. (2006, No.4)
I’ve been too busy to go out for a week, and chocolate has become a precious food for me. Thank you very much. (2006, No.6)
I drew soldiers all the time during my absence. (2007, No. 3)
Two-thirds of my body is made up of calorie mates.
So does that mean that 2/3 of Berserk is provided by Otsuka Pharmaceutical? (2009, No.19)
I couldn’t see cherry blossoms with the naked eye even once this year. (2011, No.10)
The end to the greatest:
Digging through these I felt nothing short of inhuman for my own expectations. As an avid fan of manga I always joked about how Berserk would go on till the death of Miura. I couldn’t imagine I would have to see the day where that joke was not funny anymore. I guess we can also compare this to Togashi’s famous Hunter x Hunter which is on a hiatus spree as well due to the writer being extremely sick. The mangakas work themselves this hard for our enjoyment. The thanks we give them is the constant pestering to make more, to go beyond.
I will take this man’s death as a lesson in life. Don’t waste your life working for the sake of others. Your life has meaning beyond your work. Talk to your friends, your family, take time off for yourself. Talk to a doctor if you need help and try to keep in shape. Goodbye Kentaro Miura, the black swordsman as well as you can rest now.
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