Just the weekend prior to the drafting of this list, 13 episodes of the long awaited anime adaptation to Vinland Saga have been broadcasted. Throughout the duration of this anime, it has been filled with blood, sweat, and beer (come on, we’re dealing with a story about Vikings here). Vinland Saga tells the story of Thorfinn’s journey as he wishes to avenge the death of his father against Askeladd. As Thorfinn’s journey into becoming a man progresses, you see him take many dark turns as how his life on the battlefield has made him a man possessed. So, please allow us to present to you, our top 5 scenes. And one warning, THERE ARE GOING TO BE SPOILERS
1. The Death of Thors (Episode 4)
This very scene is the foundation that puts the story into motion. It’s not just simply the scene that makes an impact, but the build up and aftermath. On the way to England, Thors and his crew are ambushed by Askeladd and since Thors is the only seasoned warrior aboard, he single handedly takes on a large majority of the pirates and takes them down with ease. Despite being 250 pounds of solid muscle, Thors demonstrates tremendous speed, agility, and reflexes.
When Thors finally fights Askeladd man-to-man, Thors always manages to win despite some initial trouble. Since Askeladd doesn’t have the same ethics as Thors, he breaks his word by ordering his men to fire upon Thors. This scene also demonstrates who Askeladd is in how low he can go, and to him, there are no such things as rules or honor. As a result, it also sparks Thorfinn’s motivations in wanting to avenge his father.
2. Thorfinn vs. Askeladd 2 (Episode 8)
Shortly after losing his father, Thorfinn attempts to challenge Askeladd. Since Thorfinn is still a child in his first challenge, Askeladd makes easy work of him. Feeling that Thorfinn has the potential to become a good fighter based on his intensity, he spares him. For the next decade, Thorfinn continues to work as an assassin for Askeladd, and his skills continue to grow. While campaigning in France, Askeladd stipulates to Thorfinn if he can bring the head of an enemy soldier, he will give him a rematch.
Thorfinn gets the head of the enemy commander, and Askeladd keeps his word. Now that Thorfinn has grown taller and gained more experience, he manages to put up a fight and impress everyone watching. As the saying goes, fighting is more mental than it is physical, and Askeladd proves that by provoking the memory of Thors. It goes according to plan as Thorfinn becomes consumed by his emotions and it allows Askeladd to instantly gain the victory. Unlike Cobra Kai, Askeladd is willing to show mercy and even tells Thorfinn not to get angry in a fight.
3. Thorkell (Episode 9 and 12)
As the series concludes its first half, it introduces a new cast member, Thorkell. If you’ve been reading the manga, then you already know how he is. He’s huge and freakishly strong in the same manner Hulk Hogan was in his prime. He can throw boulders and 10 feet long logs across streams, and could bodyslam Andre the Giant. Not only do the scenes featuring Thorkell display his strength, it showcases how he’s pretty playful when it comes to combat. When he fights Thorfinn and cuts off two of his fingers, he actually tips his preverbal hate to Thorfinn and looks forward to fighting him again (he doesn’t freak out or get angry). When he fights his opponent, it’s not about spite or hate, he does it for the thrill of it and you don’t see many characters like him. There’s an old saying you play ball, but you don’t play fight. With Thorkell, he plays fight.
4. Respect for the Slave (Episode 1)
This past year, the notion of toxic masculinity has been a controversy. However, when you look at someone like Thors, it makes you believe that it’s all a myth, especially in a time that some would say that is when men could really be men. During the first episode, Thors and his family take in a runaway slave who is near death. Feeling that he deserves dignity before he dies, Thors buys him for eight sheep and shortly after, the man dies. Despite his daughter’s protest, it shows that Thors is a man who believes all people are equal and deserve dignity.
5. The Prince Speaks (Episode 13)
Prince Canute is the Prince of the Danes and becomes something of a hostage to Askeladd and his band of pirates. In addition to his feminine looks, he’s rather timid and is the subject of ridicule amongst Askeladd’s men. During their journey to Wales, Thorfinn openly expresses his annoyance at Canute never talking to make him finally speak (and always calling him princess)! Canute says that as a prince, anything he says could have political ramifications and wants to be careful with his words. Considering we’re in a world where some world leaders often use Twitter, maybe someone with Canute’s understanding restraint is what we need.
Vinland Saga is a wild story about family, and of Thorfinn’s coming of age. With our selected 5 scenes, we hope they all represent those particular themes. The first half has given us not only intense action sequences, but the action sequences that tell a story. We apologize for another wrestling reference, but wrestling is about telling a story and so is anime. When you watch an action sequence of this anime, that sequence also tells a story that only wrestling can manage to capture. You have a good guy and a bad guy, and yet internal conflict. When it comes to internal conflict, if it overcomes you, then you’ve lost. If you manage to overcome it, then all things are possible, which is the theme of this anime and in life.