Thorfinn, son of one of the Vikings' greatest warriors, is among the finest fighters in the merry band of mercenaries run by the cunning Askeladd, an impressive feat for a person his age. However, Thorfinn is not part of the group for the plunder it entails—instead, for having caused his family great tragedy, the boy has vowed to kill Askeladd in a fair duel. Not yet skilled enough to defeat him, but unable to abandon his vengeance, Thorfinn spends his boyhood with the mercenary crew, honing his skills on the battlefield among the war-loving Danes, where killing is just another pleasure of life.
One day, when Askeladd receives word that Danish prince Canute has been taken hostage, he hatches an ambitious plot—one that will decide the next King of England and drastically alter the lives of Thorfinn, Canute, and himself. Set in 11th century Europe, Vinland Saga tells a bloody epic in an era where violence, madness, and injustice are inescapable, providing a paradise for the battle-crazed and utter hell for the rest who live in it.
Vinland Saga won the 13th Japan Media Arts Award Grand Prize in the Manga division and the 36th Kodansha Manga Award for Best General Manga (which mangaka Makoto Yukimura accepted in full viking gear). An animated crossover between Vinland Saga and Ponkotsu Quest titled Ponkotsuland Saga was released on October 24, 2015.
The series has been published in English by Kodansha Comics USA in 2-in-1 hardcover omnibuses since October 14, 2013. The release includes Makoto Yukimura's Sayonara ga Chikai no de (For Our Farewell Is Near) spread across the first five volumes. It is also published in Brazilian Portuguese by Panini Comics since February 2014, and in Polish by Hanami since January 2017.
Revenge, compassion, humanity, love. Pointy weapons making minced meat of people.
Vinland Saga almost has nothing in common with Makoto Yukimura's previous much praised work, Planetes, except for his passion for technical realism. He grounds his work with research, yet at the same time leaving it open for creative exploration. It’s not dry and lifeless, and at the same time it’s not completely in the realm of fantasy. Vinland saga walks the thin line well. Razor blood soaked thin.
This manga is brutal. More brutal than Berserk, Vagabond or anything of that ilk. Not to slight those manga, but one
is a fantasy and the other is an adaptation of a romanticising novel. This manga is brutal because Vinland Saga's atrocities are reality-based and certainly not romanticised, whereas other manga usually are more fantastical or divided clearly between good and bad, right and wrong, black and white, or simply 'here is the protagonist, just root for him'. Not so in Yukimura's love letter to old fashioned beheadings, as Vinland is about Vikings.
Vikings pillage villages, they rape and plunder. There is no mercy and no survivors if they can help it. There is no such thing as a Viking displaying the positive nouns mentioned in the first sentence of the review. If Vikings arrive in your village, you will be killed or if you’re extremely lucky sold onto slavery, no matter if you’re young, old, man, woman or child. Based in reality and unflinching, our youthful protagonist, Thorfinn, is a passive-observer to atrocity and active-partaker to violence when it’s in his best interest, to further his goal. Revenge for his father.
Yukimura gets Thorfinn's flashback out of the way early in the story, and it’s a good decision as the boy is so fresh-faced, so loveable and innocent; his love for his father so pure, that to suddenly cut from the flashback back to the present and all the while leaving an essential gap in-between; the question that’s on the reader's mind for most of the manga is: how the hell did that young boy end up like this?
The flashback provides us with the motivation, the reasoning, but doesn’t reveal the details, the important montage of scenes showing a boy growing up and losing his humanity in the process; we don’t see it seep out of him gradually, which would be fascinating and make for great drama. As of this review, we have yet to see this transition from normal child to adult killer, but I have no doubt Yukimura will provide us with more glimpses of what that boy went through to get to where he is when the story begins.
Thorfinn is a jaded efficient killer. Silent and moody, he rarely speaks and when he does he is blunt and to the point. He watches the world burn and die around him without blinking because he is already burnt and dead inside. He can walk past a woman getting beaten and raped without a care in the world; this is the protagonist we're meant to root for. Yukimura doesn’t go all out and have Thorfinn inflict misery on innocents, which would make the manga even more interesting, but would also alienate a large percentage of readers too. As it is, as mentioned earlier, Yukimura walks that thin line with skill.
What Vinland Saga is more about than anything else is revenge. It is one of the best ideas to base a story around. Not the 'man on a mission' revenge, but the exploration of the concept, the idea of it all. Yukimura occasionally takes a break from the main story to focus on the concept via random characters, most humorously with a Christian priest who attempts to teach some Vikings about the concept of 'love' which they just don’t get. This side-plot not only explores revenge and forgiveness, but dovetails into Thorfinn's own predicament neatly, forcing him to reflect on what he's doing with his life.
The main story follows Thorfinn’s target who he sticks to like glue, always ready to challenge him to a duel to the death, his only requirement for completing his revenge. The brunt of all this rage and inexplicable adherence to honour, is an ambitious man seemingly lacking any of it himself, Askeladd seeks to rise in power through convoluted means and avoids becoming a cliché or a bore. His design is almost amiable at times, with a laid back expression on his cunning face belying his actual ruthful nature to achieve his goals. In short, he is not a one-note villain; he is many faceted like a few characters in the manga. Yukimura flips in and out of actual history through this man’s arc, giving the reader cliffs notes on the politics of the time.
The art, to be blunt like an axe disintegrating your face, is fantastic. There is a leap in quality from the first volume to the second, and it is maintained consistently throughout thanks to Yukimura and his budding assistants. There are plenty of memorable action sequences that are staged perfectly; lots of scope and perspective, and the composition is visceral. The violence is in your face and disgusting. Knife and sword thrusts are at times awkwardly landing into skin; fingers are thrust knuckle-deep into eye sockets. It all makes you squirm but you love it because you're reading it in the safety of your own 21st century home.
So the violence is remarkably gross and blunt, sometimes gratuitous to please the crowd, but mostly it’s just disgusting. The gore-hounds reading this will love it for that, but everyone else will feel repulsed, but in a good way because this is a story set amid war and conflict in the 11th century. What do you expect, bloodless elbows into the ribs?
The story travels around Europe, from Denmark to the UK to Wales to Iceland, we watch the invasion of England affect different players to the drama and pull them in towards each other through interesting means. There are sieges, manhunts, duels, chases, explosive action, edge of your seat tension, backstabs and unexpected partnerships, Vinland Saga has it all and is addictive reading while educating you along the way with its detailed depictions of an old way of life, from clothes, weaponry to customs and traditions.
Yukimura yet again uses the manga form to bring readers something a little different, a little more reflective of life outside of the pages. Vinland Saga is a dirty mirror of a past raged by a war not remarkable for its reasons or details, but for the ancient race that battled passionately in it. Vikings. Seriously, don’t mess with them.
Childhood innocence, murder, sorrow, revenge, emptiness, redemption and aspiration. Taking place in the 11th century, the age of vikings, Vinland Saga follows the tale of Thorfinn's path of revenge which ultimately culminates into his redemption and aspiration. From the impressive story telling to complex and deep character development, and least but not less, the art style, Makoto Yukimura manages to create a masterfully written story of the brutal age of the vikings.
The story of Vinland Saga is set in the golden age of the vikings, narrating the tale of the protagonist, Thorfinn. Witnessing the murder of his own father Thors at a very young
age by the hands of the antagonist Askeladd, Thorfinn is driven by pure hate to avenge the death of his father. Nevertheless, Askeladd decides to take in Thorfinn to honour Thors. The protagonist resorts to join Askeladd's group in order to defeat Askeladd in a fair one on one duel, which will dominate Thorfinn's childhood. This leads to another great aspect of the manga: the historical context in which the story develops.
As stated earlier, Vinland saga takes place in the golden age of the brutal and battle-hungry vikings. This age was characterized by the rapid expansion of viking territory throughout the northern part of Europe. The author narrates these parts carefully by selecting only the necessary parts in order to not overflow the reader with too many details. This leads to a problem though: the so-called "time skips"; this originates at times drastic changes in the main characters, as well as lack of gradual character development, which I personally like to see.
The narrative is not solely focused upon the protagonist; a lot of attention is paid upon the other main characters, especially Askeladd, in order to flesh them out accordingly to the different events and encounters that take place. The author also lays importance upon showing the reader how the 11th century was, which is important to understand the historical context: plunder, rape, the pillaging of villages and murder. Not to mention the well carved battles displayed through the art.
This fantastic pacing can't be upheld throughout the whole manga without committing possible errors along the way: this is the reason why the manga lessens its pace and settles itself after some time for a more character oriented arc, where readers are presented with humongous and great character development across the board. Some may argue that this is by far the most boring part of Vinland Saga, yet I believe it to be of crucial importance (and also fascinating) that shapes the directions and personalities characters have in the near future. In addition, it focuses as well on the other side of the everlasting battles of the 11th century, the social well-being of that era, as well as the political side of warfare. It also expands on Viking culture a bit, which is a nice addition to the storyline.
This is the most outstanding part of Yukimura's work, regardless of the time skips that lead to sudden character changes. Characters are introduced carefully in the story, giving Yukimura enough time to develop the characters through the interactions and events that happen to the main characters and supporting cast. While the story continues, the reader can carefully observe the changes the main characters experience and undergo.
The main characters of Vinland Saga are certainly one of the best. There is Thorfinn who grows from an innocent, cheerful boy to a ruthless, straightforward, silent murder machine. Such is the impact of his father's death and hate within the protagonist. Then there is Askeladd, a viking leader with honour and pride, yet calm, resourceful and charming, who has a mysterious background. He is in fact one of the most impressive antagonists in the medium, being both fascinating and interesting as a character, his motives being fantastically supported by his past. Another character of importance is prince Canute, who undergoes drastic changes and deep character development, the same as Throfinn. The time skips may interfere in understanding the drastic character changes, though these are hinted within the story or for the reader to imagine.
Complex and deep main protagonists are not possible without secondary characters: these play a big role in the development of the primary characters. The ideals that these characters have, such as the priest or the landlord, are essential to reproduce a realistic character behaviour, as well as deep character development and intricate interactions. This happens to secondary characters too; they're likewise influenced by them, which increases the characters credibility.
The art style of the manga fits well with the historical context of Vinland saga. The brutality and gore of the battles are drawn very well, very realistic. This goes for the background of the frames too, as well as the landscapes showing the devastation of the battles that were fought. The evolution of the art is clearly visible, due to the jump of weekly to monthly releases of the manga, giving the author time to focus upon detail rather than quantity.
The facial expressions are definitely the most outstanding part of the art style. These convey properly how the characters feel at times. This was not just limited to the main characters; even background characters were not spared. The combat scenes are drawn spectacularly too, mixing well with the facial expressions of the characters.
Vinland saga was a magnificent read, I thoroughly enjoyed it in every aspect. From the intriguing story to the incredible character development and design, and the brutality of the art that catches you from the first moment, Vinland saga is definitely one of the top historical manga out there, and definitely a must read for anyone searching for a Viking based manga. Recommendable to anyone with interest in the historical, action genre, just not suitable for younger readers.
Looking for an intelligent manga with intense violence, action, complex character development with a little bit of viking touch? If you answer yes then this epic manga is a must read.
The story is set during the golden age of the Vikings (11th century) particularly during the invasion of England. The main story is about Thorfinn's quest to avenge his father's death by defeating Askeladd (his father's murderer) in an honorable duel and he plans to accomplish this by working for him and doing whatever Askelad asks and in return he is granted a chance to kill him in an honorable duel. The story however is
not just focused on Thorfinn, in fact more focus is given to the other members of the cast particularly Askeladd who might actually be the real main character of the story and other historical figures such as Thorkell and Canute and their participation during the conflict of the era.
I personally loved the way each character both historical and fictional mix together during the viking age, i mean come on there is already an abundance of samurai and knights in the manga market but this might possibly be the only manga where the main characters are bloodthirsty Vikings who enjoy killing their enemies, enjoying their women and selling their defeated foes into slavery. (Absolutely Fresh!)
The artwork is extremely well-made, the attention to detail is nothing short of incredible. Each character, not only the main characters are very detailed and you can easily tell each one apart from one another and the weapons, environments, clothes, items all really look very accurate well at least based on what I've seen on the discover channel. There are plenty of battles that really show the grotesque nature of the medieval ages and the horrors of war have never been depicted this way before in any manga I know of. Often times the fight scenes are a bit exaggerated similar to the manga adaptation of Battle Royale.
The characters simply blew me away, I have never read a manga with such deep character development. Each character has a very unique and human feel to them. The characters here are unpredictable and each major character has a very detailed background that help progress the story and keep things fresh. I especially loved the way the characters here rely on their strategy as much as they rely on their brute strength.
Overall: Vinland Saga is an intelligent epic manga filled to the brim with intense action and a large cast of complex characters that make this one of the best mangas this reviewer has ever read. The excessive violence and antagonistic nature of the characters may be too much for some readers though.
"God's divine creation is so brimming with love... and yet there is no love in the hearts of men." -Canute
I believe this work to truly be the best manga series currently running, and believe I can back this assertion with valid examples. 'Vinland Saga' is available from Kodansha Comics USA in 5 double-sized volumes (containing the first 10 Japanese volumes), with the 6th and 7th double-sized volumes scheduled to come out later in 2015.
This series is brutal and it's mature, but those two things are not the same. There's no shortage of graphic carnage and gory battles, but any mangaka worth his or her salt
can splash some buckets of blood around and call their story 'mature'. Where this story earns its praise for maturity is in how it handles that brutality. There is no romantization of the Viking Age here, the Norse glorification of violence is not just devastating the people they come into contact with, but even their own culture (suppose you're a Dane who DOESN'T want to go around murdering and raping everything in sight? Too bad- at best you'll be an outcast). In some way every character has to react to the violent culture of the Norse and their reactions are critical in determining their personality. Some embrace it, some run from it, some try to change it through politics, some find solace in religion, some despise it and lose themselves in the hatred of everything. While plenty of manga (and other media in general) simply use brutality for shock factor and call themselves 'deep and mature', this manga actually successfully uses the brutality as part of its main theme. But 'Vinland Saga' doesn't simply wallow in nihilism either (another easy trap for 'brutal' stories to fall into), it has rays of hope. Not easy to reach, not without its own cost, sometimes not without going through Hell first, but still real.
This story uses brutality well, incorporating it into a deeper theme instead of losing itself to gore and nihilism; and it uses hope to counterpoint the brutality without resorting to saccharine slap-happy schlock. The only thing keeping 'VS' from a perfect story score is that the series has yet to end in the US market (I am uncertain of how far it has progressed in Japan). So far, however, it has been magnificent. 8/10
Seriously, look at this manga! Since it's on a monthly release schedule Makoto Yukimura can afford to go for quality rather than quantity. The first chapters were on a weekly release schedule, so they are somewhat less impressive (but still excellent, it's only that the monthly chapters are utterly jaw-dropping). It's clear that a great deal of research went into this series, houses, clothes, utensils, and weapons are all highly detailed- no settling for slapping some medieval stereotypes on the page and moving on. The panels are simple squares and rectangles with clear borders between them, broken up by the occasional splash page- with a series this detailed special care must be made to make sure each image is distinct and the flow is easy to follow. The aesthetic goes for a high level of realism, with very little stereotypical 'manga' influence (no chibis or gigantic eyes here). The art is absolutely stunning. 10/10
Characters make a story. If the cast doesn't have engaging conflicts and interesting development, neither the art or the plot will be able to make up the difference. Thorfinn is a ball of rage and pain as he tries to avenge the father he hardly knew. Canute is a timid and frightened young prince who must conquer or surely die. Askeladd's mind has plots within plots and is more than meets the eye. Thorkell.... OK, he IS pretty easy to figure out, but that's the point. Even the secondary characters have distinct and believable motivations and a few surprises. Nobody feels like a plot device or a cardboard archetype who's only there to do some specific thing because 'the story said so', the cast truly seems like real, flawed (often badly, occasionally horrifically flawed) people interacting with each other. 10/10
There are only two reasons to write about a manga in this much depth: 1) It sucks on a truly incredible scale 2) It is utterly magnificent. Take a wild guess which is my opinion.
The cast is a masterclass in character development. The art is stunningly real. The story takes full advantage of its setting and subtly communicates a deep and mature theme- the ONLY thing I can see undermining this series is a bad ending when it finally finishes (not that I hope it will do so any time soon). I will confess I have a love for historical fiction that might make me more predisposed to liking a series of this nature, but given the examples I've provided I believe I can honestly this is a series any fan of serious manga needs to read. 10/10