The artist, who died of acute aortic dissection, had a large pop culture influence via his long-running saga about a sword-wielding mercenary.

Kentaro Miura, the manga artist behind the groundbreaking, long-running, yet unfinished series Berserk, died May 6 of an acute aortic dissection, his publisher announced Wednesday. He was 54.

Born July 11, 1966, in Chiba, Japan, Miura began writing and drawing manga at a very early age but was best known for Berserk, which began publication in Young Animal magazine in 1989. It went on to become one of the best-selling manga of all time. Berserk centers on the mercenary Guts, also known as the Black Swordsman, an incredibly powerful fighter who wields a massive sword.

Even those who have never read Berserk have probably encountered Miura's profound influence on the pop culture of the past few decades. The massive Buster Sword wielded by Cloud in Final Fantasy VII (recently remade for the PS4) owes a big debt to Guts, and that homage has continued throughout the series. In the massively multiplayer online role-playing game Final Fantasy XIV, there exists a character class (or "job") called Dark Knight, whose armor design and, yes, massive sword are also partially modeled on the Berserk protagonist. After news of Miura's death hit the internet Wednesday night, legions of Final Fantasy XIV players gathered their Dark Knight characters together on the server, standing in a line and brandishing their weapons as a tribute to the late artist.

Books of the 'Berserk' manga collection on display at the Paris Book Fair in 2019
| Credit: JOEL SAGET/AFP via Getty Images

Berserk also exerted a significant influence on other video games, particularly Castlevania and the Dark Souls franchise — not just for Guts' big sword, but also for the series' dark fantasy aesthetics and general world designs. Berserk got turned into video games in its own right, and like most iconic manga it was adapted into anime as well. The first Berserk anime series aired in Japan in 1997, followed by a trilogy of anime films in 2012 titled Beserk: The Golden Age Arc (adapting roughly the same story arc that the first series had tackled). A second anime series launched in 2016 with the same voice actors as the films, picking up the story where they had left off. That latter show is currently streaming on Crunchyroll for any newly interested viewers.

Having begun publication more than 30 years ago, Berserk has since run to over 40 volumes. It was known for prolonged hiatuses, but Miura kept returning to it. New chapters were being published in Young Animal as recently as this January.

"We have never seen Mr. Miura's angry face," members of the Young Animal editorial department wrote in a tribute. (Note: This is a rough translation of the original Japanese.) "He was like a boy who always seemed to have fun."

Related content: