The King of Viking Anime
Episodes : Vinland Saga
Genre : Action, Adventure, Historical, Drama, Seinen
Airing Date : July 2019 – December 2019
Producers : Wit Studio
Vinland Saga Introduction and Story
Young Thorfinn finds himself delaying his quest to kill his Viking boss Askeladd further and further as their band of merry murdering pillagers falls deeper down the rabbit hole that is their mission to protect the Danish Prince Canute. The plunge will lead them to Wales, warzones, peace deals, the young cast members learning more about themselves, and to the audience learning more about the older ones.
1. That Trademark Wit
Though not always as consistent as some fans may have liked, Wit Studio has spent most of the past decade producing some of the most visually polished anime of the time like Attack on Titan or Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, something Vinland Saga seems thrilled to remind people about.
When this show wants to, it can put just about anything else on air to shame with its trademark sleek color and shading with fluid movements punctuated by just the right amount of blur that long-time Wit viewers will expect.
2. Firing a Viking Canon
Anybody who dropped Vinland Saga during its first run probably did so because of its unbalanced pacing mostly caused by episodes 5 and 6 and their egregious reliance on filler. Those people will be happy to know that not only is every episode thereafter wholly committed to the canon set by the original manga, but the series flows much smoother as a result.
1. To Render Asunder
Vinland Saga’s second cours followed in the footsteps of the first by being tragically inconsistent with its at times breathtaking visuals, with every episode having its awkward moments that bring the overall quality down considerably.
For every gloriously rendered closeup, there’s a noticeably off-model wide shot, for every background that has enough detail to feel real there’s another that looks flat, and especially, for every fluid 2D animation cut there’s a jarring CGI asset.
The show’s final half is much more tasteful in choosing what to leave to CGI, but what’s seen often feels like a career-low for director Shuuhei Yabuta, responsible for 3D direction and production on shows like No Game No Life, Shingeki no Kyojin and Inuyashiki.
Vinland Saga has always had a Game of Thrones-esque political angle to compliment Thorfinn’s storyline, which centers more around action and raw emotion. The show gives an appropriately balanced amount of exposure to both of these facets during most of its run, but by the end, our young Viking's journey of vengeance takes a backseat to Askeladd and Canute’s quest for succession.
Thorfinn isn't just sidelined, he is absent during many of the last third’s most pivotal scenes. And when his vendetta against his father’s killer comes back into play in episode 22, the resulting feeling is less “this is what we’ve been waiting for” and more “oh yeah, I guess that was a thing once, huh?”
Both halves of Vinland Saga thrive on the strengths of the adapted story and Wit's ability to give it motion but suffer from a few instances of bad decision making. The result is a series of many hits and misses, but thankfully one where the hits are more than enough to keep viewers invested through its home stretch and even after it slides onto home plate.