I finally bought the first volume and it's arriving tomorrow, what are yall thoughts on the deluxe version compared to other formats?
We've got a meaty thread on the topic of the Deluxe editions over in Manga Mausoleum (which is dedicated to older volume discussion). The Merchandise section is primarily for things like statues. So I'm gonna merge these threads if you don't mind.
Here are my thoughts on the Deluxe editions from when they first released in 2019:
Mine arrived! I will say it's fundamentally cool to have all of Black Swordsman in one mega-sized volume. Your mileage may vary on whether that novelty alone is worth the $30~50 retail price, given the other problems with this edition. Now that I finally have it in my hands, I can give it the book-nerd breakdown I've been waiting to read elsewhere (TELL ME ABOUT THE INKKKKKKK)
+Good paper: The paper quality is improved over the standard volumes. It's about on par with what Viz did for Vagabond (and slightly less stiff than the recent Blame! master editions). The paper is thicker, toneless, and it doesn't have that half-step-up-from-newspaper vibe of the volumes. They nailed this.
+Good ink: Possibly as a result of the higher paper quality, the lines appear sharper and less fuzzy than even the Japanese volumes. The finish on the paper is less textured, so the ink doesn't leak through the tiny lines of the paper grain. However, also possibly because of the sheen on the paper, the contrast isn't quite what it should be. This is not evident in pictures or scans, but in practice, there's a slightly reflective quality to the paper that robs it of deeper blacks.
+Big size and solid feel: This is the most significant upgrade of the bunch. The enlargement of the visuals changes the experience of scenes like the unveiling of the Dragon Slayer in the bar, and of course the God Hand reveal. As someone who has repeatedly re-read the series, those scenes feel larger because of the size upgrade. It's also hefty. It feels like a book you'd have to lug around in high school. Wrap this shit in a paper bag. That callback ages me, doesn't it?
+/=It's leather: The leather appears to be of good quality, not just fake shit. I've never personally skinned a cow and hung it out to dry. But as a leather layman, it seems legit. Now, I don't particularly give a shit about leather myself, but sure. Why not? Looks Biblical, and there's something gratifying about that. Also, small note, but because of the size and weight of the leather binding, you can lay it flat and the pages fall flat. That's a big improvement over the originals.
+Looks good on a shelf: The big, bold red-foil lettering, and the minimal arrangement of the spine all get big thumbs ups from me. Just gotta find room for it...
-Bad initial scan quality remains bad, particularly for what's supposed to be a "DELUXE" edition. This is problematic. Dark Horse admittedly improved their scan quality over time to the point where I genuinely can't think of a visual defect in the later volumes. But this set of volumes from Dark Horse has had problems since their first print, and they've never been resolved. This old example of a washed-out scan that makes fine details simply disappear from the page remains in the deluxe edition. They can and should have done better here. If they're going to upsell fans on a new edition, it warrants a re-scan, particularly given the evident problems. I scanned a new example to demonstrate the moiré pattern issues (Deluxe Edition, Japanese Edition -- note the effect around the crossbow). If the size was the biggest reason to buy it, this is the biggest reason not to bother.
-Ugly low-resolution / low-quality volume covers in the back: I don't know exactly what happened here, but they are blurry and over-saturated compared to the originals. This could be a result of color bleed on the glossy paper they chose. But it seems more likely to me that the sources they used just weren't high resolution, or in some way weren't mastered properly. Anyone who has seen what those covers look like in the Illustration File will immediately recognize the issue.
-Miura's name. If they're going to engrave Miura's name in leather, I'd prefer they actually bother using the correct ō in Kentarō. They got the his name correct in the goddamned Library of Congress entry for this book, but not the cover? Aside from that, the bio in the back also has a number of errors: 1) Futatabi is misspelled as Futanabi. 2) Noa was not a canceled series, but a one-shot. 3) Gigantomachia was published as a volume in 2014 not 2013 (it began serialization in 2013, but that's not what they were referring to). 4) The Dreamcast game came out in 1999 (2000 in US) not 2004. If it were just one or two issues, eh it's understandable. First editions are plagued with these. But add them up, and it comes across as lazy.
-Defects: These are small, but glue from the binding splattered onto the page in two instances of mine, and one corner of the leather cover is undercut, so it overhangs a bit. I don't care too much about these aside from the feeling that I just paid for a premium edition that doesn't have the fit-and-finish I'd expect of a premium edition.
If you've never bought a Dark Horse edition, I say by all means, jump on it. Bigger is better. But if you were holding out for the definitive Berserk reading experience, this isn't quite there yet.