Title: Vinland Saga
Genres: Action, Adventure, Drama, Historical, Seinen
Author: Yukimura, Makoto
Artist: Yukimura, Makoto
Start Date: Jul 15, 2005
Number of chapters at review: 80
Number of chapters read by reviewer: 80
Vinland Saga is a story about a 17-year old boy by the name of Thorfinn. The story takes part in the late 10th, early 11th centuries during the era of the Viking’s invasion of Britain. It tells us the story of his life as we follow him throughout both his joys and tragedies on his journey to avenge his father’s death.
Category Ratings: (1-10 scale)
This manga has very good art. Yukimura uses a lot of cinematic paneling in his work, and his love for details makes the sceneries look beautiful. He is a master of expressing emotions without text, simply by drawing an amazing piece of art. That aside, he has some strong points in the character design department as well. His art is very good to begin with and becomes even better as the story advances.
Vinland Saga must have been the first seinen series that actually caught my attention plot-wise, and I’m not talking about intriguing stories like Liar Game. Vinland Saga’s plot is a very well thought out and steadily progressing, steadily evolving type of plot. Being a monthly series it has a couple of nuisances, but it is definitely solid. Yukimura keeps a balance between making the individual chapters interesting and keeping the overall story intriguing. What helps him the most in this case are his superb characters, but more of that in the next section.
Haters gonna hate, but out of art and story, the primary element of a manga is story. And the primary element of a story are characters. Vinland Saga does not feature an overcrowded cast, it’s actually more of the opposite. With a small number of truly main characters Yukimura can completely focus on them and give each and every one of them a wonderful character development. Add to this a couple of original character designs and it results in a whole cast full of superb characters.
Lately I had trouble with finding out the theme of a manga. And I don’t think you can blame me for that. Yukimura did a good job hiding it somewhere in the deepest depth of his manga, between the various plot-lines and character interactions. I think it was only somewhere around chapter 50, when I found myself thinking that this manga’s theme could be described as “Life”. Or, since we are in an internet community, “Real Life”.
Let me explain that. In the beginning I was thinking of using “Slice of Life”, ridiculous as it may sound, but I just couldn’t find any other fitting word. But the more time passed, the more I came to understand that this manga is more than just a continuous showdown of events that happen in Thorfinn’s life. It is about the decisions he made, and the consequences that his decisions brought. It is a complex mix of many different aspects, which, all combined, result in the series Vinland Saga.
A problem in rating the originality aspect of a manga lies in the problem of the reviewer’s amount of manga reading experience. To rephrase that, a person who has read only one series in his entire life will rate the second manga as unimaginable original even if it will scream of cliché characters and situations. The same situation happens with me right now. I’ve read more than one and more than two series, but Vinland Sage is the first to have such a huge amount of new genres and elements which I’ve never read before.
For starters, like I already mentioned, the characters are really well written, what makes them unique, what makes in their turn Vinland Saga unique, in other words original. The plot does not consist only of plot twists like the already mentioned Liar Game or Death Note, but it is so well planned out that I find myself completely indulged in Vinland Saga reading chapter after chapter. In the end, it is not the general outline of the story that is original, but the individual aspects and the details.
Even though I had doubts at the beginning, I soon came to the conclusion that Vinland Saga is without doubt one of the best manga I read. No overexaggeration here. This manga’s art is enough to make me praise the whole series, but combined with the thoroughly planned out plot and the gorgeously written characters it becomes straight out wonderful.
Definitely. Worth. Reading.
Re: Vinland Saga
I believe your rating for "themes" is to low, more reflective of the reviewer missing the themes rather than the author "hiding" them. The primary theme is the effects of the glorification and institutionalization of violence on the psyche of the individual. Thorofinn begins the story in Iceland, isolated from the warfare of the North and Baltic Seas. Unaffected by the realities of war, conquest, and plunder Icelandic society is free to romanticize the violence and destruction of the Vikings. When his father is recalled to the Baltic young Thorofinn stows away, naively hoping to start an adventure of his own. When his father is killed and he is pressed into service in the conquest of the British Isles, Thorofinn is forced to confront the realities of his idealized world. Now focused solely on revenge and killing, Thorofinn becomes almost wholly dehumanized. Hollow eyed, antisocial, prone to violence, and overestimating his own strength the Thorofinn of the Britain wars is a far cry from the cheerful boy in Iceland. Ultimately Thorofinn escapes warfare with his life but not his freedom.
Yukimura is drawing parallels with our own, modern culture where video games, gangster rap, movies, television, and the nightly news often portray violence as something without consequence while the real thing, unmediated is not how our institutions portray them. Thorofinn is ultimately numbed by his societies glorification of violence, losing his own moral bearings, personality, and freedom in the process.
A rating of 7 for themes is far to low. The story telling is far to deep for such a mediocre score. Being fair Vinland Saga is hardly worth a 10, an 8 or a 9 would be more fair, depending on perpective.
Re: Vinland Saga
About the "theme" thing, I'd say the author just wanted to make a cool story about Vikings (that's what he said in one of his "author's notes"). After making a lot of cool action, he felt bad and started philosophizing. Like, "yeah, war stories are cool, but war, slavery, and all that is pretty messed up."
So the theme has transitioned, I'd say. It's cool because the author sort-of explores different philosophical questions. A good read.
(But there are a few unintentionally funny parts, like the good ol' "They should know the joys and pain of raising wheat!!!" Hahaha, oh Einar...)