By Penny Theodorakopoulou,
As much as I would like to keep on commenting on Attack on Titan and the genius behind it named Hajime Isayama, the show must go on. So, continuing the homage of the month dedicated to anime, this time we will talk about an anime that started airing during the summer of 2019 and finished in December of the same year. It is worth mentioning that the specific anime, even though it was aired in the late ’10s, it was among the top 10 anime of the previous decade. Moreover, its grand return for season two was expected to be aired in late 2021, but due to the pandemic, it is estimated to be aired in early 2022 — fingers crossed! You may have guessed which anime I am talking about just from the title of this article, but I am referring to no other anime than Vinland Saga.
With its original run starting back over a decade ago (April 13th, 2005), Vinland Saga is a historical, action, drama anime written by Makoto Yukimura and animated by Wit Studio (they have also animated the first three seasons of Attack on Titan, Great Pretender, etc.). Consisting of 24 episodes, it is definitely an anime worth paying attention to, for the sole reason that it is neither a typical shōnen (少年, young boy from the ages 12-18), nor an anime with superpowers, but the past life of the Scandinavian ancestors: Vikings, a race that we do not often see in the big screen.
Thorfinn, the protagonist of Vinland Saga, grew up hearing tales of elderly sailors who had traversed the seas and arrived at Vinland, the legendary land. It is claimed to be pleasant and fruitful, a place where fighting is not necessary — a far cry from the frigid hamlet in Iceland where he was born, and certainly not his current existence as a mercenary. Now he lives in a war zone. Despite the fact that his father once informed him, “You have no enemies, nobody does”, Thorfinn realized as he got older that nothing could be further from the truth. Meanwhile, the conflict between England and the Danes (the Danish) deteriorates with each passing year. Death has become a way of life for the Viking mercenaries, and they are relishing every second of it. Allying with either side will result in a significant shift in power, and the Vikings are content to build a name for themselves and seize any prizes they can.
So, the story of Vinland Saga revolves around the life of Thorfinn, son of Thors Snorresson (also known as the “Troll of Jom”), a man who was known for his velocity, accuracy, and swordsman skills, but has retired — or more like, deserted from battle — because he could not fathom the meaning behind war anymore, questioning the nature of being a true warrior with questions such as, “What does it mean to be a true warrior?”. The King of Danes, Sweyn Forkbeard, orders Floki, a past fellow warrior of Thors and captain of Jomsvikings, to enlist Thors back to Jomsvikings so he could help the Danes win the war against the English. After Thors refused to become a warrior once again, Floki headed to the Faroe Islands in order to conspire with Askeladd, the leader of a band of a hundred Vikings, in order to kill Thors. After a successful ambush by Askeladd, he eventually kills Thors in front of Thorfinn’s eyes, who had gone with Thors and a group of young fellow villagers so that they would meet Askeladd.
Seeing his father getting killed by Askeladd’s “cowardness”, Thorfinn swore on that day that he would kill Askeladd no matter what, as an act of vengeance for his father’s death. Askeladd then holds Thorfinn as his captive and he and his group continue on what they knew best: pillaging villages. I will not spoil any more from what I already have, so you can, of course, go and watch it for yourselves; but let me tell you that Thorfinn has amazing character development, a feature I enjoy quite a bit in anything I watch, be it a movie, TV series, or anime. The fight scenes are one-of-a-kind, at least in my humble opinion, as well as Wit Studio’s animation (as always) and the anime’s outstanding music.
A critique on Vinland Saga: Is it historically accurate?
To answer the question: in a way. Yes, some of those people truly existed in the Scandinavian history, such as Leif Erikson (he was the first to land in Vinland around 1000 CE), Sweyn Forkbeard, former king of Denmark, Thorfinn Karlsefni Thórdarson (he followed Leif on his journey to Vinland), Esben Askelad (“Askeladden” in Norwegian, a once good-for-nothing who ended up being a prodigy), Cnut the Great (also known as Canute, was King of England from 1016 to 1035, King of Denmark from 1018 to 1035, and King of Norway from 1028 to 1035), and, of course, the place that the anime is based on, Vinland (the first season has only referred its name and what it is, but perhaps more information regarding Vinland will be shown in the second season). However, we cannot say, as we just mentioned, that it is historically accurate, as to the way or the time that the events of the English-Danish war took place.
One thing we can be certain of, however, is the depiction of the story of Vinland Saga (it is actually based on the Vinland Sagas, two Icelandic manuscripts composed independently of one other in the early 13th century. The sagas, Grænlendinga Saga and Eiríks Saga Rauða, were composed between the years 1220 and 1280, a long period after the events of 970-1030), which is astounding, fascinating, and keeps you on edge throughout every episode’s duration, especially during every fight scene. Be it historically accurate or inaccurate, it is an anime every anime, history, and Norse mythology and history enthusiast should watch. I highly recommend it!
- Vinland Sagas, wikipedia.org, Available here
- Why YOU Should Watch VINLAND SAGA in 5 Minutes, youtube.com, Available for watching here
- Vinland Saga: Anime Thoughts & Review, animegalaxyofficial.com, Available here
- Vinland Saga (manga), wikipedia.org, Available here