Vinland Saga

Title:Vinland Saga
Keywords: , , , ,
Notables: Animation - Wit Studio
Thorfinn is son to one of the Viking's greatest warriors, but when his father is killed in battle by the mercenary leader Askeladd, he swears his intent to have revenge. Thorfinn joins Askeladd's group in order to challenge him to a duel, and ends up caught in the middle of a war for the crown of England.
(Summary Courtesy of Anime News Network)

24-episode anime that premiered on July 6, 2019.
Animated by Wit Studio.

See also: Vinland Saga Season 2.
OverallArtAnimationCharacter Design MusicSeries StoryEpisode StoryReviewer
Buy 10 9 9 9 10 9 Ggultra2764 [series:3715#1552]
Vinland Saga is set in 11th century Europe as it focuses on a young Icelandic boy named Thorfinn Thorsson who is allied with a band of Viking raiders to have an opportunity to kill their leader, Askeladd, in order to avenge his father's murder at Askeladd's hands. Unbeknownst to him, Askeladd exploits the boy's hatred of him to manipulate Thorfinn into following his orders under the condition of getting one-on-one duels to him. Overtime, Askeladd's raiders eventually find themselves dragged into conflict with Danish royalty during their occupation of England.

Before I comment on the story and characters of Vinland Saga, I do first want to dabble into the impressive historical accuracy that went into the making of this series. Vinland Saga is basically a historical fiction series that draws inspiration from a number of real-life historical Danish figures such as King Cnut the Great and Thorfinn Karlsefni, mixed with portraying major stories of Viking history as depicted from the real-life Vinland Sagas. There is a great deal of detail and care put into faithfully depicting the historical time period of Vinland Saga with the weapons, attire, beliefs, and resources available to the people of the era. This accuracy goes as far from the obvious details such as Danish control over England to as minor as Vikings showing prejudice towards those following the Christian faith due to believing it makes them weak-willed and the sailor Leif having found the Americas. These details help enhance the great amount of effort that was put into Vinland Saga's story to make its story fit in with the time period and people that are being depicted.

As far as the story and characters go, Vinland Saga does a great job at keeping focus on a narrative direction and gradually shifting focus elsewhere as it progresses. The first half of the series explores Thorfinn's life living with his family in Iceland before Askeladd's arrival to kill off Thorfinn's father, Thors, and driving the boy to join Askeladd's raiders for the opportunity to avenge his father's death. The series clearly show's Thorfinn becoming hardened by this experience as he becomes single-mindedly devoted to avenging his father's death and overlooking the consequences that this impulsiveness has on his future and reconnecting with his surviving family members and village.

Gradually, focus shifts to Askeladd's raiders coming at odds with the Danish royalty when Askeladd becomes devoted to trying to have the king's son, Canute, succeed as the new king of the Danes. This point in the series aids to flesh out Askeladd's character as being more than the easygoing, ruthless, and manipulative man he comes off as from earlier episodes in Vinland Saga. In addition, it also focuses on developments with Canute's character, who undergoes a good amount of character development in the show's second half when he aligns himself with Askeladd's raiders.

But perhaps the most intriguing element of Vinland Saga is offering an antithesis to the Viking way of life. Raiding, conquests, and revenge are seen as major elements of the Viking lifestyle as they seen these elements as necessary to obtain glory, expand territory, and save face with their society if family or group members are killed. In Vinland Saga though, these aspects are seen for how cruel and merciless they can be as the series isn't afraid to show how violent and pointless that the Viking way is for both those involved and the victims suffering from their conquests. This is especially seen through some major characters in the series like Thors, Thorfinn, and Askeladd who find themselves either sucked into the Viking way or becoming repulsed at how the lifestyle affects them.

Visually, Vinland Saga is easily one of the best-looking anime titles I got a chance to see this year. With well-detailed scenic shots and character designs, the series does very well at depicting the choice of clothing and settings of early Middle Age Europe and even sports great cinematography and fluid animation that is shown off during battle sequences with armies and even one-on-one battles between characters.

Being quite meticulous in faithfully depicting the times of the Viking era while mixing in story and character developments that explore the pitfalls of the culture's lifestyle and offering one of the best visual presentations for the year, Vinland Saga easily stands as one of the best anime I had the pleasure of seeing this year and is one I would strongly recommend checking out if you have yet to do so.

Last updated Monday, December 30 2019. Created Sunday, December 29 2019.
Unevaluated Stretch [series:3715#628]
(Five episodes watched):

I wish our introduction to Thors hadn't been by depicting him as an unstoppable, invincible, implacable killing machine. In a naval battle he never makes a mistake, never displays fear, and every blow he hurls kills an opponent (and his chainmail hauberk somehow doesn't drag him to the bottom of the sea when he falls overboard). But we had no idea at that point whether he would be a hero or a villain and I was not attracted to such a murderous person. Afterwards we get to know him a little better: he doesn't like slavery, apparently, and bristles under the repressive political system--it's odd that such a fearsome warrior doesn't hold a higher spot in the political system. The climate of Iceland is nothing to brag about, either. For various reasons, he decides to take his family and move to Vinland (North America). I felt that his motivations were vague and unfocused, and the time spent showing him in battle would have been put to better use in defining them better and getting to know him--or his son, who will be the main character--more thoroughly. Of course, slaughter is always good for ratings. So, I was not thrilled by episode one of Vinland Saga but having an interest in history there was no doubt that I would continue watching for the time being. I was surprised to read in the synopsis above that Thorfinn would somehow wind up involved in a power struggle in England, when the title of this anime implies that the story would take place in North America.

Episode two was better. Thors has had enough of making war, but is drafted to take part in a campaign in England. But it seems pretty clear that the real reason he was recruited was to assassinate him, thus creating a vendetta for Thorfinn to pursue. Who wants to bet that, while the plot is ultimately successful, Thors doesn't go easily and kills half a dozen or so of his would-be assassins? Still, I was fairly intrigued. In episode three he and his lads are lured into a trap. It was difficult to suspend disbelief enough to accept him knocking out numerous sword wielding opponents with nothing more than his fists and elbows. The plot in general didn't give me many surprises or thrills. Askeladd will bushwack a hero, slaughter the inhabitants of a town, but not bother to kill the helpless and annoying Thorfinn? The tension wasn't being ratcheted up much. Maybe if we learned some more about Askeladd rather than leaving him a two dimensional evil anti-hero things would be better. Did he have a reason to kill Thors other than just money? Perhaps the biggest problem is that I don't like Thorfinn all that much. He seems like a typical Viking boy, out to distinguish himself in battle (and later pursue revenge), but he hasn't really done anything to make me think he is an admirable person who I want to succeed all that much. You might even say that he is kind of boring. So, when you get right down to it, my impression of Vinland Saga is that the plot is unconvincing and doesn't surprise or thrill me. The Viking premise is about the only novel thing about it. Perhaps I could tolerate this for twelve episodes, but I have heard that this will be a two-season show.

Last updated Saturday, October 05 2019. Created Thursday, July 18 2019.

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