Vinland Saga (anime) Review

Vinland Saga is a 2019, Amazon exclusive, anime adaptation of the manga of the same name by Makoto Yukimura, published by Kodansha. It was first published in 2005 and is currently still unfinished. The show was produced by WIT Studios, the people behind Attack on Titan. There are twenty-four episodes

I will be touching upon spoilers so I will give my summed-up feelings towards the show. This show is instantly the best anime of 2019. The show hits all the marks. It is near flawless and has some of the best characters and character arcs in all of anime. This show easily slips into my top ten. It is a must-watch. This is also a rare case where I would recommend this show to non anime fans, I would usually recommend most anime to anime fans because they would be numb to the tropes such as the annoying goofy humour and fanservice, but it is seldom done here, almost non-existent. Go watch it. I highly recommend this show. Just watch it.

The show is set in the early 11th century, focusing on the Danish invaders of England, Vikings (straight off Wikipedia). It mainly follows a young boy named Thorfinn who lives in a village in Iceland and his father, named Thors, is secretly a former Jomsviking. After the arrival of Floki, Thors is threatened to serve the Jomsvikings again. Floki has also hired another Viking named Askeladd, one of the greatest villains of all time, to kill Thors. For the four or five episodes we see Thors, a lot of context is given to his character, his morality, other things I can’t name off the top of my head. He makes it very clear that he objects to the mass perception of a true warrior. His character is first shown to seem as if he is the perfect warrior among all the barbaric savages. This is then challenged later in the show as all the ideals that were supposed to seem right are questioned and even Thors, the one who got it right, was mistaken like the rest. It’s the mature approaches like this one sprinkled across the show that separates this show from other adult shonen anime, which usually take the same approach to themes and storytelling. Anyways, Thors is shown to be quite the warrior and is seen taking down twenty of Askeladd’s Vikings, set on killing him, on his own, but it’s when none of them are dead that we see a little more of the nature to Thors’ character and the control he has to his strength, it was pretty badass. He’s such an unstoppable force that it takes his son to kill him, as Askeladd threatens to kill Thorfinn over his life.

Naturally, Thorfinn would want revenge. So, what he does is, he tags along Askeladd’s crew, becoming stronger so one day he could face Askeladd in a duel and kill him. His progression from a happy little boy to a ruthless, murdering, dual knife-wielding Viking is honestly quite sad. The show even emphasises his downfall with his final state in the series, dirty, bruised and mad. He’s so desperate that the audience shares the feeling of despair to see this child stray so far from the words of his late father.

There’s this character called Thorkell, a former Jomsviking that is actually the uncle of Thors’ wife, Helga. He’s this big brute of a man that you just can’t help wanting to see more of. He’s such a goofy personality. He loves to eat, he loves to drink, he loves to rip you to shreds in a fight. There’s a moment in the show where an army surrenders to him and offer their services, cos they’re too scared to fight him, but Thorkell is just so pissed that there’s no fight and axes them to pieces. He’s just a fun guy. Even though for the most part he’s a bit silly, he does get serious when he has to, and sometimes he seems pretty wise.

Askeladds crew are supposed to protect prince Canute, or something like that. King Sweyn, the Danish king, has decided to send Prince Canute into battle with his servant, more like replacement dad, Ragnar, in the hopes that he will die in battle so he could let his older, more suitable, son to succeed the throne. Canute is first seen as a shy little pussy, like you would just want to punch his face so you could stain his girly hair with blood. They even give him a little backstory on why he’s so much of a wuss, they say something about how he always had to keep quiet so his other siblings would eat each other rather than him, don’t quote me on that. But that just means that he should be tougher. Thankfully, his character does a one-eighty and starts having an existential crisis and comes out staring down a warrior in the eye, even though he has no chance of winning a fight, but with the power of words, he somehow has the warriors at his mercy. He becomes quite a likeable character. At first, I didn’t like his servant Ragnar, thought that him blindly defending the prince’s cowardice was annoying, but after Askeladd murders him (I did say spoilers), it was genuinely touching when Canute reminisces the time they spent together, like he was the father that the king should’ve been to him, this happens in his existential episode.

Throughout the show, Askeladd’s character is laced with mystery. Your opinion of him alters, but ever since the beginning, you already knew that there was way more to him than it may have seemed. As you move further into the show, parts of his history are revealed, it’s by the end that we have all the pieces, we understand the entirety of his motives, his attitude towards his comrades and Thorfinn. He and Thorfinn are revealed to be so much alike, and that is where the last episode comes in. The last episode is honestly a piece of art. It’s the clash of all the main themes and character arcs in the show. Everything climaxing at once. It’s the best way to end a show. Except it’s not the end, there’s some speculation of another season. This is quite surprising as the show felt like it ended for good, it didn’t wrap up a lot of things, but the show had the maturity to pull off having the viewer feel satisfied no matter what, everything was left in a way where we didn’t need answers. As if we were supposed to assume that these character’s lives were messed up forever. But on the flip side, it creates a great basis for later events. I guess this serves as a prologue.

Vinland is first seen as a real place that warriors strive to find. But further into the show, it becomes an idea of a place where you have finally found serenity, or something like that. And even though Thors, romanticised it to Thorfinn, Thors already found his Vinland in that little village. I suppose he just wanted to give Thorfinn something more to fight for than becoming a warrior in battle.

The animation is really good. Though the show doesn’t spend a lot of time with fights, they’re still animated well. There’s a lot of dynamic movements of the camera, something really hard to do because you always have to keep in mind of the ever-changing perspective. The colours were a bit too green for my taste, but after a while, it did grow on me, it never let the idea of Vinland stray from my mind, green fields and all that.

The opening also has really good camera movement. Speaking of the opening, it’s basically a crime to skip the opening, just don’t do it, I know where you live.

The music throughout the show is also really good, especially at the end where it gets more emotional and really tears your heart out.

To conclude, I think Vinland Saga is one of the best animes to come out in the last decade. Do not take my words lightly, if you decide not to watch Vinland saga, you’re making a mistake. My taste in anime is better than yours, my opinion is the right opinion.


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