A Classic Manga Finally Gets Its Dues
- Episodes : 24
- Genre : Action, Adventure, Historical, Drama, Seinen
- Airing Date : July 2019 – currently airing
- Producers : Wit Studio
Vinland Saga Introduction
Growing up in 11th century Iceland, Thorfinn always admired his Viking father, Thors, for his bravery and ruthless efficiency in battle. Even though Thors tried to instill peaceful values in his son, Thorfinn tosses them all aside once an unscrupulous warrior named Askeladd kills Thors right in front of him. And thus begins Thorfinn’s journey—he weaves himself into Askeladd’s army so he can one day become strong enough to avenge his father in a duel to the death with his murderer. But the harsh life of a Viking will mold Thorfinn into a battle-hardened soldier, far from the empathetic family man that his father wished he would be...
1. A Classic Manga Has Come to Life
Makoto Yukimura’s opus Vinland Saga has been in continuous publication since 2005, but until this year, it had never been adapted into an anime. Fans of grand historical epics have been begging for Vinland Saga to get its time in the spotlight, and Wit Studio’s stellar production blows the adaptations of poor Berserk and Kingdom out of the water. Can Wit just be in charge of every historical anime from now on?
2. It’s Based on Real-World Viking History
Thorfinn, Thorkell, Prince Canute, and others are based on actual people from the 11th century. Although the exact details of their lives are often fictionalized, their famous deeds and the society in which they lived are presented with the utmost accuracy. This anime is as much a history lesson as it is an entertaining action show!
3. It’s as Dark and Violent as It Should Be
Life as a Viking wasn’t pretty. They didn’t just pillage villages—they killed the men and raped the women as well. The idea of dying honorably on the battlefield was so deeply ingrained into their culture that they would sooner burn to death in a pointless skirmish than retreat. Vinland Saga doesn’t shy away from showing any of these gruesome details, portraying the horrors of war with the kind of unflinching realism that sticks with you long after you finish an episode.
4. The OP is Killer
“Mukanjyo” by the band Survive Said the Prophet is exactly the kind of hard-hitting rock song that should accompany Vinland Saga’s dark tale of violence and revenge. The lyrics are told from Thorfinn’s perspective as he screams to the heavens, demanding to know “what went wrong” to leave him so empty inside after he becomes a murderous warrior for the sake of vengeance. Make sure not to skip this opening!
5. It’s Able to Tell the Story in Chronological Order
The manga’s first chapter actually begins with the skirmish among the Franks that happens in episode 7 of the anime, and then flashes back to Thors’ backstory and Thorfinn’s upbringing. While this was necessary for a new manga that needed to make a memorable first impression, it’s a bit confusing and disrupts the flow of the narrative. Luckily, the anime already has a guaranteed audience, so it can tell the story in chronological order and show Thorfinn’s progression into a battle-hungry teenager more naturally.
1. It’s Trapped in Amazon Prime Jail
If you don’t have an Amazon Prime account, there’s no good way to watch Vinland Saga legally until it comes out on DVD. And since Amazon’s streaming service isn’t very well designed, it’s difficult to find the show in the first place. Why couldn’t it have been on Crunchyroll...?
2. The Pacing Takes Its Sweet Time
Even though it’s nice to see the story play out in the correct order, new fans may have a difficult time staying invested throughout the first six episodes that focus on the younger, brattier Thorfinn. Try to enjoy these slower paced episodes for what they are; this is a lengthy, epic narrative, so it doesn’t operate at the same rapid clip as other seasonal anime.
3. The Foreign Language Representation is Confusing
Thorfinn’s journey takes him across England, Wales, French-occupied territory, and all kinds of other foreign lands, so it’s only natural that language barriers would crop up now and then. In the manga, the characters speak their actual language and a translation is provided in parentheses underneath their lines. But the anime goes for a somewhat confusing approach where everyone speaks in Japanese and just comments about how they can’t understand one another. Granted, hiring English and French-speaking voice actors would be a hassle, but it would’ve been worth it.
4. It Can Be Spoiled Just by Skimming Wikipedia
The only bad thing about Vinland Saga’s characters being based on real people is that the events of their lives can be spoiled just by looking up their real-world counterparts on the internet. Most of us weren’t taught ancient Norse history in school, so we’re hearing these stories for the first time (unlike, say, the Revolutionary War as portrayed in Hetalia). So stay away from Wikipedia when it comes to this series!
5. The Darkness Hardly Ever Lets Up
Vinland Saga is a bit like Black Mirror—if you watch too much of it at once, you’ll lose your faith in humanity. It hardly has any moments of levity to distract you from the grimness of wartime life, so you may be better off watching only one or two episodes at a time rather than marathoning everything in one sitting. Watch some cute dog videos to cheer yourself up between episodes if you have to.
Vinland Saga is a seminal work of historical seinen manga, finally brought to vivid life by the incredibly talented staff at Wit Studio. This first cours has been more than we ever could’ve hoped for in an adaptation, and we can’t wait to see what the second cours has in store!
What did you think of our review? What are you looking forward to seeing most in the Vinland Saga anime adaptation? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!