Vinland Saga (manga)
Vinland Saga (Japanese: ヴィンランド・サガ, Hepburn: Vinrando Saga) is a Japanese historical manga series written and illustrated by manga author Makoto Yukimura. The series is published by Kodansha, and was first serialized in the youth-targeted Weekly Shōnen Magazine before moving to the monthly manga magazine Afternoon, aimed at young adult men. As of November 2019, the series has been compiled into twenty-three bound volumes. Vinland Saga has also been licensed for English-language publication by Kodansha USA.
Cover of the Afternoon printing of Vinland Saga volume 1, featuring the character Thorfinn
|Genre||Adventure, epic, historical fiction|
|Written by||Makoto Yukimura|
|Original run||April 13, 2005 – present|
|Anime television series|
|Directed by||Shūhei Yabuta|
|Music by||Yutaka Yamada|
|Licensed by||Amazon Video (streaming)|
|Original network||NHK General TV|
|Original run||July 7, 2019 – December 29, 2019|
The title, Vinland Saga, would evoke associations to Vinland as described in two Norse sagas. Vinland Saga is, however, set in Dane-controlled England at the start of the 11th century, and features the Danish invaders of England commonly known as Vikings. The story combines a dramatization of King Cnut the Great's historical rise to power with a revenge plot centered on the historical explorer Thorfinn, the son of a murdered ex-warrior.
Vinland Saga had over 5 million copies in circulation as of 2018. In 2012, the series won the 36th Kodansha Manga Award for Best General Manga.
Vinland Saga is initially set mostly in 1013 AD England, which has been mostly conquered by the Danish King Sweyn Forkbeard. As King Sweyn nears death, his sons, Prince Harald and Prince Canute, are arguing over his succession. The story draws elements from historical accounts of the period such as The Flateyjarbók, The Saga of the Greenlanders and The Saga of Eric the Red.
Fifteen years ago the Viking commander, Thors Snorresson, deserted a sea battle and commenced a peaceful life in Iceland with his wife Helga. Now, in the year 1002, their young son, Thorfinn, longs to see the paradise called Vinland. One day, the Jomsviking Floki arrives at Thorfinn's village to enlist Thors into battle, who is revealed to be a former Jomsviking himself. However, Floki's true motive is to murder Thors as punishment for deserting fifteen years prior. Thorfinn sneaks on his father's ship despite his orders to remain home, and the ship is eventually lured into a trap at the Faroe Islands and ambushed by a band of mercenaries led by Askeladd, with whom Floki had conspired to kill Thors. The peaceful-minded Thors fights off as many of them as he can without ever using deadly force, but eventually dies in the fight. After his father's death, Thorfinn joins Askeladd's crew in order to avenge his father and constantly challenges his commander to various duels. By 1013, Askeladd's company find employment as mercenaries in the Danish invasion of London under Thorkell the Tall.
The two Viking bands later clash when their commanders seek to capture the young Danish Prince Canute, Askeladd's company succeeding but are forced by Thorkell's forces to take refuge for the winter in the frozen north of England near the Danish encampment at Gainsborough. Upon finding the effeminate Canute timid and heavily dependent on his caretaker Ragnar, a deeply disappointed Askeladd briefly changes his initial plan of backing the prince to hold him ransom. But a sudden attack by Thorkell's brigade forces Askeladd to change his mind, murdering Ragnar to force Canute to stand up for himself. The prince brings both Thorkell and Askeladd's remaining forces under his command as he confronts his father, who decides not to kill Canute after he proves his worth, while adamant to have Harald as his heir.
Canute and his companions formulate a plot that requires Askeladd to be killed by the prince after he slaughters Sweyn and his attendants during an audience, Askeladd then securing Canute's position as king while stopping Sweyn's intent to invade his homeland, Wales. But Thorfinn, feeling denied of his revenge, attempts to kill Canute before being stopped. Canute, understanding Thorfinn's pain, spares him the death penalty and instead sentences him to life as a slave.
A year after Askeladd's death, Thorfinn is working in a farm owned by Ketil, a rich and kind farmer who treats slaves well. He later befriends another slave named Einar who teaches him how to farm. With Einar's help along with Snake, the farm's head of security, and Sverker, Ketil's father, Thorfinn learns to let go of his dark past and is encouraged by dreams of Thors and Askeladd to pursue a life of peace and away from the Vikings' violent lifestyle. As Thorfinn and Einar work to earn their freedom, Canute had become both King of England and Denmark after poisoning his brother Harald. But Canute is driven mad by being haunted by Sweyn's ghost, planning to seize Danish farmlands to fund his armies.
Canute begins his campaign with Ketil's farm, tricking Ketil's sons, Thorgil and Olmar, into justifying the seizure with Ketil's men easily defeated by Canute's Jomsvikings. With Ketil injured during the battle and gone mad due to his mistress betraying him to save her former husband, Thorfinn confronts Canute to convince him to spare the farmers. Canute renounces his claim to the farm after seeing the formerly merciless Thorfinn's new-found devotion to peace. With Thorfinn and Einar now freed, they say their goodbyes to Sverker and Snake before sailing back to Iceland with Leif, an old friend of Thorfinn's father.
Reunited with his mother and sister, Thorfinn explains his intent to settle Vinland and build a new life of peace. In order to gain the funding for the trip to Vinland, Thorfinn, Leif, Einar and Leif's adopted son, Thorfinn "Bug-Eyes", plan to travel to Greece and sell Narwhal horns there. Thorfinn's crew is later joined by others including Gudrid, a tomboy who wants to travel the world and is running away from her fiancé; Karli, an orphaned baby boy and his pet dog who are survivors of Viking raid; and Hild, a skilled hunter who wants revenge on Thorfinn for killing her father during his time in Askeladd's company, but is convinced to spare him long enough to see if Thorfinn has truly changed.
Thorfinn's crew then continues their journey through the Baltic sea while being pursued by Sigurd, Gudrid's fiancé, who is determined to bring her back to avenge his honor. Unfortunately, he is captured by some Jomsvikings after attempting to fight them and then put into service under Thorkell. Thorfinn's crew arrive at the trade town of Jelling and Thorfinn is escorted by Thorkell's men who take him to meet Thorkell and Floki. The former suggests to Floki that Thorfinn lead the Jomsvikings following the recent death of the Jomsviking chieftain Sigvaldi. Thorfinn refuses and recommences his journey with his crew, but is then pursued by Floki's assassins after Floki realizes who Thorfinn is, fearing retribution for Thors' death.
Thorfinn and Hild draw away the assassins around a set of islands while the rest of the crew escape toward Odense. After using non-lethal combat to protect some villagers from the Jomsvikings, two spies among them take Thorfinn and Hild to meet Captain Vagn, the leader of a rebel camp of Jomsvikings who seek to usurp power from Floki before it goes into the hands of Floki's grandson Baldr. Vagn reveals to Thorfinn that Floki had Thors assassinated and would also have various prominent Jomsvikings killed in order to help Baldr became chieftain. A surprise attack is launched at the camp by Thorkell and Vagn is assassinated by Garm, a psychopathic warrior who is eager to fight to the death.
The surviving men of Vagn's camp swear allegiance to Thorkell who promises revenge against Floki for using Garm as an assassin. Leif, Einar, Gudrid and Karli are taken hostage by Garm and sent to Jomsburg, leaving Bug-Eyes behind to tell Thorfinn where they are. A series of battles erupt between Thorkell and Floki's forces at Jomsburg, including a duel between an unarmed Thorfinn and Garm, leading to the latter's non-lethal defeat. Thorkell's army defeats Floki and capture him and Baldr, who was earlier revealed to be Thorfinn's cousin. Baldr is uninterested in power and feels a sense of remorse for his grandfather's evil actions.
Thorfinn is temporarily made leader of the Jomsvikings and, with help from Thorkell, carries out orders from Canute to disband the Jomsvikings and spare Floki and Baldr from execution, despite protest from the warriors. Floki and Baldr are sent into exile. Gudrid, admitting her feelings for Thorfinn, talks Thorkell out of a duel that Thorfinn promised him and they're allowed to leave and continue their journey to Greece. Sigurd returns home without Gudrid, but realizes he never had romantic feelings for her and sets her free. He leaves his father's estate behind to explore the world with his first wife and their servants.
Two years later, Thorfinn's crew return to Iceland with the wealth they acquired from selling the narwhal horns. Thorfinn and Gudrid get married and raise Karli as their son. With the resources promised by Halfdan, Thorfinn begins to assemble a crew to colonize Vinland.
Vinland Saga contains a mixture of historical, apocryphal, and invented characters in its cast. The major characters are of Danish descent—Vikings brought to England to assist King Sweyn's invasion of the country.
- Thorfinn (トルフィン, Torufin)
- Voiced by: Yūto Uemura, Shizuka Ishigami (childhood)
- Loosely based on the historical personage of early Vinland explorer Thorfinn Karlsefni, Thorfinn is a teenage warrior in Askeladd's company, though he hates his commander for slaying his father Thors and has sworn to kill him in a duel. To earn the right to engage in these duels, he must complete difficult feats for Askeladd, such as sabotage or the killing of enemy generals. Thorfinn is a Jomsviking noble through his mother Helga and inherited superb physical talents from his father. He does not fight for the love of battle, but is still prone to losing his composure when in combat. This hotheadedness often costs him battles against more experienced opponents.
- Askeladd (アシェラッド, Asheraddo)
- Voiced by: Naoya Uchida
- Askeladd is the commander of a small but powerful Viking band, which owed its success to Askeladd's exceptional intelligence. He is half-Danish and half-Welsh, being the son of a Welsh princess captured by a Viking raider. He believes in the legend of Avalon, which inspired him to support Prince Canute's bid for kingship of the Danes and ultimately sacrifices himself assassinating King Sweyn in order to install Canute as the Danish King and to ensure the safety of Wales from Denmark. Ten years before the main Vinland Saga storyline, Askeladd accepted a contract to assassinate Thors, father of Thorfinn. During the Viking invasion and war in England, he manipulated Thorfinn's desire for revenge against him as a way of keeping the gifted young fighter in his service. Askeladd is one of the most skilled fighters in the series, and is particularly adept at predicting his opponents' moves in combat. He is the son of the Viking Olaf and a slave woman whom he treated badly. His mother gave him the name Lucius Artorius Castus, the legitimate king of Britain, but he received the nickname Askeladd (covered in ash) as a boy while working for a blacksmith. Askeladd shares the name of Askeladden, a Norwegian folk character known for his cleverness. His backstory is based on the early life of Olaf the Peacock, an Icelandic chieftain and major character of Laxdæla saga.
- Bjorn (ビョルン, Byorun)
- Voiced by: Hiroki Yasumoto
- Bjorn is Askeladd's second in command, a burly man who fights for the love of combat. He is a berserker, able to enter powerful rages through the consumption of certain mushrooms. Bjorn was heavily wounded in Gainsborough from injuries sustained protecting Prince Canute. The injuries were so serious that he did not have long to live, and later, he challenged Askeladd in a duel. During the duel, Bjorn revealed that he always wanted to be Askeladd's friend, and Askeladd replied that he was his only friend, before finishing him off. Bjørn is Danish, Norwegian and Swedish for "bear", a given name commonly associated with Vikings.
- Thors (トールズ, Tōruzu)
- Voiced by: Kenichiro Matsuda
- Thors is the father of Thorfinn, a Jomsviking general whose phenomenal combat prowess earns him the epithet "The Troll of Jom". Thors grows weary of battle after the birth of his children, fakes his own death at the Battle of Hjörungavágr, and retires to become a pacifist farmer after moving his family away in secret. The Jomsvikings later discover that Thors is alive and force him to return to the battlefield. Before he can arrive at the theater of war he is betrayed by a former comrade, Floki, who hires Askeladd to assassinate him. Thors is largely considered the greatest fighter to appear in the series until his death, having defeated Askeladd in single combat, and being the only man in the world who was stronger than Thorkell back when they were young. Such was his strength that Floki was unwilling to engage him directly, even with an entire squadron of Jomsviking warriors.
- Thorkell (トルケル, Torukeru)
- Voiced by: Akio Ōtsuka
- Thorkell is a Jomsviking general, brother of the Jomsviking Chief, uncle-in-law of Thors and grand uncle of Thorfinn. A giant man who loves combat, he defects from the Danish army to become a mercenary for the English, believing that fighting his fellow Vikings will give him a better challenge. This same love of war leads him to support Prince Canute's bid for kingship of the Danes. He remains under Canute once he becomes king. Before the defection of Thors, Thorkell worked with and highly respected the man, resulting in a fondness for his son Thorfinn. He duels twice with Thorfinn and dominates each time, though he loses two fingers in the first duel and an eye in the second. In battle, Thorkell typically wields a pair of axes as his primary weapons, but his greatest asset is probably his vast physical strength. Due to his colossal power, Thorkell is considered the strongest viking and warrior in the series, with one character believing that 4000 men aren't enough to stop Thorkell. Thorkell's character is based on Thorkell the Tall, a historical Jomsviking lord who is a mentor to Canute in the Flateyjarbók.
- Canute (クヌート, Kunūto)
- Voiced by: Kenshō Ono
- Canute is a 17-year-old prince of the Danes. He is initially portrayed as timid and womanly, with a bishōnen appearance and an inability to function without his retainer Ragnar. These traits, along with his strong Christianity, earn him the mockery of the Vikings with whom he works. After Ragnar's death, however, he has a sharp reversal of personality, becomes strong and kingly, and develops an ambition to create utopia on Earth before God's return. Towards this end, he plots to overthrow his father Sweyn Forkbeard and take the crown of the Danes. Canute is based on the historical King Canute the Great, the most prominent Danish ruler of England.
- Leif (レイフ, Leifu)
- Voiced by: Yōji Ueda
- Leif is cheerful old man from Greenland. A sailor, he claims to have travelled to a distant western land called Vinland. When Thorfinn joins Askeladd's band and is assumed dead by the other Icelanders, Leif does not give up hope and devotes his life to finding him. He is based on the historical Leif Erikson.
- Einar (エイナル, Einaru)
- Einar is an Anglo-Norse farmer from Northern England who, following attacks on his village, was sold into slavery and eventually ends up on Ketil's farm. As a result, he is outspoken in his hatred of war and injustice. Einar meets Thorfinn at Ketil's farm and the two become close friends and brothers. Einar has little skill in combat, but proves a loyal companion.
- Gudrid (グズリーズ, Guzurīzu)
- Gudrid is a young woman originally from Greenland. As a child, she heard stories of the outside world from Leif and dreamed of becoming a sailor, but, as a woman, was not allowed to become one. She is Leif's sister-in-law, the widow of his brother Thorvald. She is set to remarry to Sigurd, son of Halfdan, but escapes on their wedding night and joins Thorfinn and Leif's party. Two years later she marries Thorfinn and they have adopted a son named Karali. Gudrid is based on the historical Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir.
- Hild (ヒルド, Hirudo)
- Hild is a female hunter from Norway. Originally an inventor and carpenter, her life changed when Askeladd's band attacked her village and killed her family. Many years later, she encounters Thorfinn and tries to kill him as vengeance. However, she is intrigued by his desire to create a peaceful society and temporarily spares him; she joins the party to ensure he is serious about it, and pledges to kill him if he returns to violence.
- Karli (カルリ, Karuri)
- Karli is the baby son of one of Leif's friends. A feud between families resulted in a viking massacre on his village, of which Karli was the sole survivor. Orphaned and without relatives willing to take him in, he was adopted by Thorfinn and Gudrid.
- Garm is a psychopathic mercenary who wields a custom spear which can separate into two short spears whenever he desires to use them. He was considered an idiot and later a beast as a child due to his lack of morals, believing that war is a game and everyone fighting in it is his friend. Similar to Thorkell, he is obsessed with fighting those who are strong and tries to fight with Thorfinn multiple times throughout the Baltic Sea War saga and was responsible for the death of Jomsviking Captain Vagn as he wanted to fight him. He is defeated by Thorfinn and declares that he would face him again for a rematch, believing that the two are friends as he leaves.
Vinland Saga began serialization in April 2005 in Kodansha's Weekly Shōnen Magazine, where it ran until October of the same year. It then went on a two-month hiatus, resuming serialization late December 2005 in the monthly seinen magazine Afternoon, also owned by Kodansha. This switch was caused by author Makoto Yukimura, who found he could not keep up a long-term weekly production schedule.
In a January 2008 interview, Yukimura revealed that he was inspired to enter the manga industry by reading the manga Fist of the North Star as a boy. In the same interview, he said he had always wanted to produce a series which reflected the same themes of "strength and justice". He has occasionally used omake (bonus) chapters and other supplementary materials to comment on the production of Vinland Saga. In volume two, Yukimura's omake is about a research trip he took to Iceland in 2003 before beginning the series. The author's commentary sections in volumes one and three both discuss Yukimura's desire to learn about and portray the daily lives of Vikings in addition to their wars and the events of historical chronicles. Yukimura is aided in drawing Vinland Saga by four known assistants: Haito Kumagai, Kazuoki Suzuki, Tomoyuki Takami, and Daiju Watanabe.
In November 2019, Yukimura announced that the manga has entered its final arc.
Vinland Saga is written and illustrated by Makoto Yukimura and published by Kodansha. In April 2005, it began serialization in the Weekly Shōnen Magazine. In December 2005, it moved to the monthly seinen manga magazine Afternoon. As of November 2019, chapters have been collected in twenty three tankōbon (bound volumes). The first two volumes were initially released under the Weekly Shōnen imprint, and then reissued under the Afternoon imprint after the manga's serialization switch. The Afternoon reprintings feature redesigned covers, different author commentary in the jacket, and lack furigana. Volumes three and on have been released solely under the Afternoon imprint. Despite the variation in the number of chapters compiled into each volume, the page counts are all roughly the same, around 215 pages per volume.
The series is licensed in English by Kodansha USA, and it is being released in a two in one hardcover book edition. The first volume was published on October 14, 2013. The eleventh volume was released on December 17, 2019.
Twin Engine announced on March 19, 2018, that the series would receive an anime television series adaptation animated by Wit Studio. The anime aired from July 7, 2019, with the first three episodes, and finished on December 29, 2019. The series ran for 24 episodes on NHK General TV. Produced by Twin Engine, Production I.G, Wit Studio and Kodansha, the series is directed by Shūhei Yabuta, with Hiroshi Seko handling series composition, Takahiko Abiru designing the characters and Yutaka Yamada composing the music.
The first opening theme is "MUKANJYO." by Survive Said The Prophet while the first ending theme is "Torches" by Aimer. The second opening theme is "Dark Crow" by Man with a Mission and the second ending theme is "Drown" by milet.
Due to the pending arrival of Typhoon Faxai on September 8, 2019, Episode 10 was delayed due to broadcasting news, and resumed on September 15, 2019. Due to the airing of the World Para Athletics Championship sports tournament on NHK, Episode 18 was delayed and resumed on November 17, 2019.
When the anime finale aired in Japan, Wit Studio director Shuhei Yabuta wrote, “This big incident changed everything for Thorfinn, but his story will continue!”. A special montage video was released by Wit which showed future story events from the manga.
Vinland Saga has been commercially successful in Japan, with combined sales of 1.2 million copies for the first five volumes as of June 2008. It had over 5 million copies in print as of 2018. Several volumes have appeared on the Taiyosha top ten best-selling manga list.
The Comics Journal lamented that Vinland Saga had yet to be licensed for publication in a 2006 article highlighting worthy unlicensed manga and scanlation groups. Despite this, the series attracted attention in the international manga community. The first volume was reviewed by MangaCast in 2005. This review praised Vinland Saga for its fluid action sequences, remarking how well author Yukimura made the transition to the action genre from his previous work Planetes. The panel composition, realistically barbaric violence, and attention to detail in constructing the setting were highlighted and compared with those found in Kentaro Miura's long-running series Berserk. The reviewer's primary criticism was that he found he had to suspend his disbelief more often than he would have liked to in a historical fiction series. In addition, he worried that the then-upcoming switch to monthly serialization would slow series production "to a crawl".
Upon its official release, the first volume was reviewed by Rebecca Silverman for Anime News Network. She described it as a "deeply engrossing book" and praised it for its attention to detail and "fairly faithful" depiction of Medieval times, but felt the art was "a bit generic" and expressed disappointment at the lack of female interesting characters. Johanna Draper Carlson of Comics Worth Reading described the action in the first volume as "fast-paced, well-illustrated, and detailed" but "didn’t transcend its premise"; she was instead more impressed by the scenes depicting family life, saying "that's where the insightful character work I expected from Yukimura came through." In a review of the second volume, Carlson changed her assessment, finding the jockeying and intrigue between competing factions to be compelling, and praised the series for showing how "all this battle, visually astounding and emotionally exciting as it may be, has a human cost." Carlson also praised the scenes depicting domestic life as providing grounding context for the story, as well as weaving in religion and politics, finding Vinland Saga "a fascinating read on multiple levels."
The series was nominated for the 2008 Manga Taisho award. In 2009, it was awarded the Grand Prize in the manga division of the Japan Media Arts awards. It won the 36th Kodansha Manga Award for Best General Manga in 2012.
IGN listed Vinland Saga among the best anime series of the 2010s. In a poll conducted by Kadokawa Game Linkage of the most satisfying series of 2019, Vinland Saga ranked in ninth place. It won as Anime of the Year in the 6th Anime Trending Awards.
Rafael Motamayor of Polygon praised the anime series and compared it to Vikings. Motamayor commended the characters' development shown in its first three episodes and ultimately called it an epic story that shows "the horrors of being a Viking at the turn of the 11th century, while also serving as a coming-of-age tale set against the background of a bloody and thrilling war".
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it follows a band of Viking warriors through an epic story of vengeance, blood, tragedy, royal intrigue and more blood.
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Makoto Yukimura's Vinland Saga, a true manga epic, captures the contradictory aspects of ancient Norse culture
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Vinland Saga volumes
- Yukimura, Makoto (2005). Vinland Saga 1. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4-06-314423-9.
- Yukimura, Makoto (2005). Vinland Saga 2. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4-06-314428-4.
- Yukimura, Makoto (2006). Vinland Saga 3. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4-06-314433-8.
- Yukimura, Makoto (2007). Vinland Saga 4. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4-06-314440-6.
- Yukimura, Makoto (2007). Vinland Saga 5. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4-06-314473-4.
- Yukimura, Makoto (2008). Vinland Saga 6. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4-06-314510-6.
- Yukimura, Makoto (2009). Vinland Saga 7. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4-06-314544-1.