Publishers introduce a new manga series to US fans every year. Some rise in popularity, like Attack on Titan or My Hero Academia, and with help from successful anime, why wouldn’t they? However, not all manga receive the same treatment. Most manga either slip under the radar or struggle to maintain sales in the US which places them at risk for cancellation. Yukimura Makoto’s Vinland Saga is one such manga.
An Overlooked Masterpiece: Yukimura Makoto’s Vinland Saga
Vinland Saga is a historical-fiction manga by Yukimura Makoto that explores the world of Vikings. He began publishing this manga with Kodansha in 2005 where it grew immensely popular in Japan.
The series won the Grand Prize in the manga division of the Japan Media Arts in 2009. It also won the 36th Kodansha Manga Award for Best General Manga in 2012. The manga’s popularity eventually led to an anime announcement with the release date set for some time in 2019.
Unfortunately, the US does not have the same appeal towards Yukimura’s work as Japan. Vinland Saga‘s reception in the US is low; the manga risked publishing cancellation twice in 2014 and 2015. It is a mystery why the US accepts manga featuring ninjas, pirates, and shinigami but not one featuring Vikings.
Especially, when considering, Vinland Saga tells the tale so well. 2019 is just too far off for fans to discover this overlooked masterpiece. The amazing plot, interesting characters, beautiful artwork, and oh so gory action scenes are a few reasons why fans should read Vinland Saga now.
The Story of Vinland Saga
Yukimura Makoto’s Vinland Saga follows the main character, Thorfinn, in his quest to avenge the death of his father. (While the revenge plot is nothing new, Yukimura’s interpretation with Vikings brings new life to the subject.) Thorfinn infiltrates the Viking group responsible for his father’s murder in order to kill their leader, Askeladd.
He learns to fight, pillage, and kill with the Vikings as he grows, struggling to survive in their violent world. Yukimura’s work transitions into a story dealing with personal growth, portraying Thorfinn’s internal conflict as he continues life with the Vikings. Vinland Saga illustrates the harshness of the Viking era as well as the consequences of allowing vengeance to consume oneself.
The Characters of Vinland Saga
Along with its unique plot, Vinland Saga also hosts interesting characters. Each is complex and brings their own internal struggles into the story. Yukimura introduces characters who have contradicting opinions and experiences within the Viking era.
His characters range from slaves to kings who all contribute either plot-wise or to the story’s overall message. While Vinland Saga provides many unique characters, this section will focus mainly on those who most influence the story.
Thorfinn is the main character of Vinland Saga. After witnessing his father’s death at the hands of Vikings, his character undergoes a drastic change. He goes from being an innocent child to a bloodthirsty killer. Thorfinn joins the Vikings responsible in order to get closer to Askeladd, his father’s murderer, to kill him in battle.
However, despite his multiple bouts and training, Thorfinn continues to fail in defeating him. While with the Vikings, he grows agiler and learns to fight with two daggers; he is quick and merciless. Throughout the manga, readers witness Thorfinn immerse himself in the violent Viking culture, losing himself to the thirst for vengeance.
Askeladd is the leader of the Vikings as well as the main antagonist to Thorfinn. He garners respect from his men and has gone undefeated in battle. (These battles include the ones he has with Thorfinn.)
Askeladd is the one who served the final killing blow to Thorfinn’s father which leads Thorfinn to seek revenge. He is a cunning and brilliant strategist who has gained the fame and respect from allies and enemies alike. Askeladd serves as a difficult obstacle for Thorfinn to overcome but an interesting character to behold.
Prince Canute of Denmark serves as the antithesis to Thorfinn. He is weak, relies heavily on his guardian, Ragnar, and is often mistaken for a woman due to his appearance. Unlike Thorfinn, his relationship with his father is a difficult one as he feels little love from or for him.
Prince Canute is a Christian and harbors much faith in God which causes conflict between him and Thorfinn. His views contribute to the moments of internal conflict Thorfinn has regarding his actions throughout the series.
Thors is Thorfinn’s father. His death sets in motion all of the events in Vinland Saga. He is killed by Askeladd which motivates Thorfinn to seek revenge for his murder. Thors dies trying to protect young Thorfinn and his crew from the vikings. Before his death, he is shown to be a kind man who hated violence and urged his son to feel the same.
The Artwork of Vinland Saga
Yukimura Makoto is one of the most talented manga-ka currently in the industry. He is able to create unique worlds within his manga, and his artwork only brings it further to life.
His talent in creating grand settings, realistic fight scenes, and anatomically-correct characters convey the realism in Vinland Saga. All of Yukimura’s drawings portray an attention to detail that not many manga-ka show when illustrating their stories. He succeeds in maintaining his readers’ attention through his artwork alone.
The art of Vinland Saga conveys the creator’s thorough research of the era. His artwork displays the different types of weapons, armors, environments, and modes of transportation available during that time. Yukimura’s panels make an impact, especially through his display of ships with intricate small scuff details in the armor.
His images pop out of the page with their grandness alone. He also portrays every hair, wrinkle, and imperfection of his characters. Their clothing also receives top-notch attention with his addition of all the folds and textures.
Yukimura excels in his ability to draw natural environments as well. He is able to convey the severity of the sea with skilled pen strokes. Whenever he draws a forest environment, he takes the time to line every tree trunk, leaf, and stone in the setting.
The main focus of his artwork is his attention to detail. There is no part of any panel he creates that is plain; everything has its own sense of pizzazz. Yukimura places so much effort to ensure his readers have a beautifully illustrated story to enjoy. The artwork alone should be enough to convince fans to read Vinland Saga.
The Gory Action of Vinland Saga
Out of all of Vinland Saga‘s positives, the gory action is at the top of the list. Yukimura Makoto brings to life the literal hell-on-earth the Viking era was due to the wars, pillaging, and violence that took place. The hand which details the smallest line on a leaf puts forth the flesh-tearing, blood-spurting, and bone-crunching action in vivid detail.
When Yukimura illustrates a battle scene, he does not just limit it to two people fighting. He shows the landscape; the clash of weapons; the expressions on the fighters’ faces. His drawings leave an impact on the reader. He does not shy away from showing the hideousness of battle.
Similar to watching an action film, the reader is drawn into the fight scenes of Vinland Saga. Yukimura makes these panels as engaging as possible. He creates scenarios where the reader is genuinely worried for the safety of the characters. He makes the situations appear far more dire with how grotesque the action can get. When a character is injured, the reader can feel their pain and their own stomach churn.
Yukimura draws Vinland Saga without censorship; he hides none of the cruelty which occurs during a Viking raid. He displays in full detail that people face kidnapping, slavery, rape, or death. Yukimura’s vivid action sequences convey the beautiful but cruel world of Vinland Saga.
His message of violence begets violence is perfectly represented within his action scenes. Especially, in a series based on a culture that ingrains the idea of avenging family members. If fans enjoy a series without boundaries, then Vinland Saga is the one to read.