I've tried to keep it spoiler free and marked the spoilers where they are.
Ranked No.1 on most of the listing websites(Anilist,MAL etc) is the manga by Kentaro Miura named Berserk.Now the only people who don't get why is this so highly rated are the ones who can't make it through the Black Swordsman Arc (Vol.1-3) or the ones who drop it in the Golden Age Arc (Vol.3-14) because what'll wait after these 2 arcs is a purely mastercrafted and wonderfully executed tale of a absolutely stubborn man fighting against his fate and destiny.By the end of the these 2 arcs you won't be able to hold yourself to read the next chapter. (In my case I even started dreaming about what might happen in the next chapter although my dreams were quite off from what really happened in the story.)
One of the many reasons why Berserk is so good is the wide spectrum of genres it covers..
You love a man with a huge sword fighting demons?
You got that.
You love a band of mercenaries fighting armies and trying making their way to the top while also seeing the internal relationship between their members?
You got that.
You love romantic relationships and characters finding the difference between whom they love and whom they admire?
You got that.
You love witches and sorcery and elves?
You got that.
You love pirates and ship battles?
You got that.
You love seeing the tyranny and hypocrisy of religiously blinded people?
You got that.
You love seeing a
sexy priestess almost getting raped by a horse then sitting on a sword telling the wielder to cut her in half from the bottom?
Well, I hope you don't love that kind of thing but in case you do there's that too. ;)
Most importantly, You love seeing all these components put together magnificently and woven by a clean yet really detailed art?
Yes, you got that too.
Black Swordsman Arc - 7.5/10
Even though being a fairly good introductory arc it is dwarfed only by a bit old art(since it started in 1989) and by the fact that rest of the manga is so good that it makes a otherwise very good arc look like just fine. Basically in this arc mainly we come to know what Guts' character is. The main characters are Guts and Puck in this arc. Guts being a freelance stonehearted swordsman with a huge sword and puck kind of light headed simple minded elf.As I said the story is fine and serves it's purpose while also gives us the glimpse of how the rest of manga will be..
2.Golden Age Arc - 9.5/10
(Has an anime adaptation. Berserk 1997 and a film trilogy as well. Berserk Golden Age Arc 1 Berserk Golden Age Arc 2 and Berserk Golden Age Arc 3 )
Now at the end of Black Swordsman Arc the reader is left with many questions like why guts is the way he is and what are all those magic objects the God Hand and what's Guts relationship with them? All these along with guts journey from his birth to the end of the previous arc and of all the other main characters(Griffith and Casca) backstory is covered in this arc along with
The band of the hawk's rise and fall
Other than the fact that it serves as the base of all the following arcs it is in itself is a really good arc.Also this is the most human arc in the manga because magic and demons are not main part of the story yet and most of the fights are human to human as none of the sides have any supernatural ability yet.
Yes we do see Zodd and Skull Knight but they aren't the main part of this arc.
The character development is so good that when casaca,guts and co. free griffith from the tower and find him in unrecoverable position then you start feeling the frustration yourself after which guts rage feels even more satisfying.
Also the transition of magic and all the powers happen smoothly as the reader is as clueless as Guts about what's happening at the end of this arc.The character development between the band members was really good too, Guts and Griffith's binary star relation starts from here.Casca's realisation and Guts finding himself starts from here.
Oh and btw if you like seeing one of the main characters getting raped by the person she admired in front of her love and a army of demons while her love helplessly watches that and gets his eye and arm amputated? Yeah, there's that too.
3.Conviction Arc - 10/10
(It has anime adaption but for God's sake don't watch it.)
This is where the seeds sown in Golden Age Arc start to bear fruits.More Elves(fake ones this time)?An entertaining monkey?A crazy priestess tsundere?More Fantasies? More Darkness?More
Rapes?A torture chamber where people are mercilessly tortured in the name of God?Yes we got all of that.First we see the lost children chapter which is beautifully written and executed from starting to the end.The amount of character development given to the characters who are going to be disposed anyway after a few chapters is just amazing.Also this is where we see entry of the Knights of the Holy Chain who play a major part in coming chapters.After that comes the tower of conviction in whose shadow lives a entire city under feet of religious morons.Also the way that hypocrisy and and using the religion as an excuse is shown is just amazing.I won't discuss much of the details because that'll be spoiler.
4.Falcon of the Millennium Empire Arc - 10/10
Witches(cute ones too) ? More elves? Magic? A bright side(yes berserk is not just darkness) ?Trolls?Some really cool Magical attires and weapons?A whole city's population getting raped and massacred?And an ultimate armor?And a whole army of demons? Yes it gives us all that while maintaining the same level of berserk quality. Well and what's cooler than an army of demons? Yeah you guessed it. An army of demons and humans fighting an army of demons.
5.Fantasia Arc - 10/10
We already got everything on land. What do we do now? Simple.We hit the ocean. Pirates?A cool and somewhat handsome captain? Mermaids? And a whole ton of elves?And a school for witches? Yes it's their time now..
Before I start praising his willpower,craziness and stubbornness, you must know that going
to here isn't that easy.
Raised in the military where he started participating in wars at the age of 11 and with no one to look at his back with only a dic**ead acting as a father figure who ultimately sells him and avoiding death by inches countless times(getting raped by a pedo too) is our Protagonist Guts. But that won't make you into a monster itself, right?Yes, what made him look like a monster was fighting monsters much more stronger than him, sometimes winning sometimes losing but everytime surviving plus betrayal by people he considered as friends. Even though when there's no chance of winning, his body is giving up and the enemies just keep coming, this man never thinks about giving up. Driven by complete "Berserkness" but still somehow keeps his mind working in battles and uses it to turn the tables in unwinnable situations.
Also known as Faggith by berserk fans
Keeps the story cool by his funny commentary and accompanies Guts just so he isn't completely lonely
Not discussing Casca Schrieke Farnese and Isidro but every one of them have the same level of character development as Guts and Griffith.
One thing you'll notice that art keeps improving with every volume. The only part where art doesn't feel not upto the "Berserk" standard is in the first Arc but by the time of 4th arc you start to see some incredibly detailed arts like this.
Moreover everywhere art feels completely synchronized with the story. Demons do look scary.Rapes do look brutal.Fight scenes are really well drawn and sex scenes do look amazing.Plus the magic tree and elf island chapters look really bright and feel fantastic to eyes.
Berserk is one of those mangas which you'll recommend to people who are not even into mangas.It truly is an amazing story and if in future it gets a decent anime adaptation(not shitshow like 2016 and 2017 ones) then it'll be blast for sure. The story is one of those comparable to Fullmetal Alchemist but 100 times darker that. A story where there's is something for everyone. The only minus point is hiatus and yes I hate them too. Once you catch up with the releases you may have to wait upto a year for next chapter but if that means better quality(both in story and art) then I guess I'm fine with it.
Not giving 100 just because of hiatus otherwise one of the best manga out there.