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From Kodansha USA:
FOR HONOR AND VENGEANCE
As a child, Thorfinn sat at the feet of the great Leif Ericson and thrilled to wild tales of a land far to the west. But his youthful fantasies were shattered by a mercenary raid. Raised by the Vikings who murdered his family, Thorfinn became a terrifying warrior, forever seeking to kill the band's leader, Askeladd, and avenge his father. Sustaining Throfinn through his ordeal are his pride in his family and his dreams of a fertile westward land, a land without war or slavery...the land Leif called Vinland.
Note: Was nominated for the 2008 Manga Taisho award. Won the Grand Prize in the manga division of the Japan Media Arts awards in 2009. Won the 36th Kodansha Manga Award for Best General Manga in 2012.
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Clichéd settings on a new turf? Huh?
I can understand why someone might dislike Vinland Saga, which features a potentially unsympathetic anti-hero, his Machiavellian contemporaries, and plenty of emphatic gore. However, any criticism regarding the mangaís originality, or lack thereof, deserves a response, particularly when the so-called clichés are fundamental plot threads found not only in most shonen/seinen manga, but in film and classical literature, as well. Why not accuse Shakespeare of being uninspired for incorporating Greek mythology in his work? My point is that Yukimura Makoto is in good company, and it seems a bit churlish to fault him for the few unavoidably familiar elements in an uncommonly intelligent plot. The political intrigue is well crafted, and Thorfinn and Askeladdís relationship is more complicated than any simplified notion of the formerís vengefulness might imply. Also, the oft-lamented flashback is interesting (in my humble opinion) and essential to the story for introducing Thorfinnís suitably iconic fatheróa multi-dimensional legend worthy of his sonís admiration and ours. Many popular titles are redundant in their mindless and melodramatic application of manga tropes and conventions. Vinland Saga is not one of them. I think fans of the genre would actually appreciate the degree to which the story does embody certain recognizable traits. I would hazard to add that, contrary to BimboSillyís assertions, one does not have to be new to historical action adventures or a Norse fanatic to enjoy the series. Even if the plot is not to your taste, the art and exposition are laudable and hardly worth the lowest rating possible.
... Last updated on July 3rd, 2009, 9:57am
doesn't work as a historical, but good despite that
Full disclosure: I've a PhD in Icelandic sagas. That should have automatically made me a hater of Vinland Saga - thru' "how can some mangaka know moar about my subject than me" line of reasoning. But truth be told, I still enjoy it - I just understand, while I'm at it, that it has nothing to do with Norsemen. Not that it has factual mistakes - on the contrary, it's pleasingly accurate there, good job on the homework, man! - but the mindset... It's not medieval Scandinavians, it's Japanese posing as the guys. A completely different world-view, set of ethical priorities etc. So, as a history tale, it fails; but when taken simply as an action-packed psychological drama (guess that's the most accurate description) in an exotic setting, it's a winner - lush, realistic art, 3D characters, a good doze of suspense and plenty of emotion. I still wish Yukimura would have continued his previous series, Planetes, longer, or done a new series in that vein, but Vinland Saga is nevertheless high-class seinen.
Breathtaking and accurate. Holy crap.
Being a total history dork, when I saw 'Vinland Saga' in my RSS feed, I kinda flipped. Started reading out of sheer curiosity, and totally fell in love.
First, it is incredibly historically accurate, even down to the helmets! No horned helmets here! The references to Norse folklore are fantabulous. The characters are wonderful and 3-D, and Thorfinn is a refreshing change from the usual shounen hero. Canute as well - his character has been fleshed out nicely. The gore is mostly kept to a tasteful level.
All in all? I'm addicted. Very few manga can keep me bouncing in my chair, eager for more, but this one does it. It's a shame this series is so underrated - won't stop me from cosplaying Thorfinn, though. =]
It really is a extraordinary series. Unique, engaging, badass, with a solid comfortable blend of drama, good quality humour, amazing action/war scenes and true real life gritty realism. You might think the plot would just be the usual revenge story, but it turns out to be a lot more than that, with plenty other directions being involved. It's pleasantly unexpected. The art, of course, is very well drawn, detailed and overall great.
The characters are also remarkable. They are quite real, with great interactions and very complex in many ways - not just the usual black and white. Also, they can get dirty, they can be affected by the stresses and brutality of daily life, or they can actually die. No more perfect unhindered hair or porcelain skin and clothes as emphasized in everything else, which just adds to the authentic intensity. In general you will definitely have at least one genuinely favoured character (Or one you love to hate). And for the ladies, if it matters: there are some really good looking men!
It really stands out against SO MANY other mangas out there. In retrospect, if you are a fan of the "Song of Ice and Fire" novel series by George R.R Martin (Like I am) you would likely enjoy this manga. And overall, works for an older audience who might feel weary/uninterested with other typical mangas and their themes.
And yes, after all the Viking travels, battles, great dramatic moments, and the rise and fall of certain princes/kings who are fighting amongst one another, there is a Farmland/slavery bit that has offput some people (And I can understand why, it can feel slow, considering how long it takes for updates to occur. I was lucky enough to not have to wait at that time since I got into the series only a couple months ago, and just read through easily). But one has to comprehend the importance of journey, realization and personal will, instead of everything that are just handed over to characters or having the story depend only on constant typical action scenes. Everything in this series is so much more deeper and meaningful. The Farm chapters also offer a whole new other buildup for the next dramatic segments, as is tension of a ruler desiring to come in and take over everything through force, and there are other inner conflicts growing within the dwelling. Besides, during the farm era segment, you also get inbetween chapters that follow another main character who is going through the process/stress of being a rising and conquering king.
The only downside is sometimes the chapter updates can be a tad bit of a torture to wait, with cliffhangers of course existing in a healthy amount. But, considering the intricacy of the whole thing, I reckon it is better to get slower updates in order to obtain quality instead of faster updates and have everything rushed or poorly done.
It's not historically perfect of course (I mean, it's rare that anything is anyhow) but it is nevertheless quite satisfactory - it still does it's job. I'm Viking descent myself afterall, so it pleases me well enough. There are a lot more worse books, movies and whatnots out there that totally butcher history.
Anyhoo, definitely a recommended read. It's a gem, and a top personal favourite.
... Last updated on April 29th, 2012, 8:11pm
Better than most
If you're looking for something realistic, psychological and with a fair amount of gore and blood, Vinland Saga is probably it.
I can't comment on the historical accuracy of the portrayal of the Vikings etc but I like how Yukimura Makoto doesn't shy away from the key issues of war, slavery, sexism and such. It's important to remember that history isn't all vanilla. Rape was a common occurrence and slavery even more so. No romanticism of war and violence here which is a relief from the normal tropes of manga.
Personally I think that Thor's character development is really, really good. No insane character heroics or anything. He's someone looking for his own views on life and the world around him and that's part of the process of growing up.
Quite a few people have complained about the farmland saga part. I would say don't worry. It sets up beautifully for a reunion with the earlier part of the story at this point in time and looks to be just as good as earlier part of the story.
Please don't complain about how the manga's release is so slow. Good things take time. The amazing art in the manga is probably very time consuming. Scanlating it also takes time. Appreciate what you've got!
I anticipate upping my ranking to a ten by the finish of this one. Yet another manga for which I breathlessly await the next release.
I'm going through a Viking phase right now. So my preference for this manga is probably a little biased. I don't know much about the actual history of the Viking invasions of England, but the clothing, ships, housing, weapons, and details of day to day life have been rendered with fair accuracy in Vinland Saga.
The fighting, maybe a little over the top, yeah, especially the horse punching episode. Still, I didn't find the gore to be excessive. When I picked this book up my biggest worry was that it would be one long slaughterfest full of lovingly drawn images of blood pumping from cloven torsos. When it comes to Vikings, it's especially easy to glorify the violent aspects and gloss over the reality of such acts with a load of heroic pap. Vinland Saga doesn't do that. Many battles are portrayed as are heroic intentions. I think what balances it out is that all the battles arise out of strategic context, and motives from greed to stupidity to nation building, to ideology, to revenge are portrayed. The characters fight for good and bad reasons, and the characters are rounded enough so that you can really sympathize with their choices.
I've read a lot of shounen/seinen where the young warrior character gets idealized as some pinnacle of manhood and the reader gets a load of poorly supported philosophizing that comes across as justification for being a thoughtless brat who "solves" complex problems with violence. I also worried that Vinland Saga would follow this formula. Fortunately, this story is nothing like that. Yukimura Makoto philosophizes about war in a mature and complex way. He does not beat his reader with a moral hammer or dissolve into sentimentality. He is building a construct of a "true warrior," but he's been adding layers for 58 chapters now, I don't quite know where he's going with it, and I remain immensely engaged with his ideas.
There's also plenty of between battle content that fleshes out the political situation of the time as well as the various cultures of Iceland, Denmark, England, and Wales. Yukimura handles pacing fairly well, interspersing these scenes with the battles in a way that keeps the story flowing evenly. The plot moves along nicely but never feels so rushed that you can't take in the scenery.
I picked up Vinland Saga with a lot of reservations, all of which have proven baseless. This is a really engaging story, and I think it will appeal to more than just history nerds. Read it through that first long flashback and see if you can resist getting hooked.
As good as it gets today
This phenomenal seinen manga is recommended to all fans of Berserk, Blade of the Immortal and historical fiction only found on HBO/Showtime or european comics. The first volume burns slow(it was a shonen manga then) but is full of promise and soon becomes a ravishing drama about revenge, slavery and the price of freedom. The mature tag is not only because of the unflinching violence but of the deep psychological anguish some of the leads go through. The art is also as good as it gets within monthly deadlines(my darling Berserk i am looking at you). The reviewers below me validly complain about the slow pacing of the farmlands arc and i understand but don´t agree. The slow pace was needed to properly show the mundanely and insignificance of the live of a slave and represented the leads inner turmoil rather well. When it finally kicked its gears up the manga delivered the best volumes jet, so get reading already and find out what this high rated masterpiece is all about.
... Last updated on September 28th, 2013, 12:38am
It survived !
I loved Vinland Saga from the start, and I still do. But I honestly had some worries about the way it became. Some will say it changed, some, that it lost its charm, some even that it's downright depressive as of now but I just think it evolved. Of course I miss the fighting and the war and the awesome characters from before. But it's an historical manga, not just some action manga about blood and guts and all that. As it gained depth, it strayed from the bloodstained path, and just as confused as I was at first, I understood it was needed because life is not about war. Thorfinn needed to understand that for this manga to be a complete manga from this Yukimura Makoto, known for his realistic art and psychological style.
Still, I think we're not through with the war. It's coming back. This was an Thorfinn goes farm big awesome arc. That or he'll die before becoming a warrior again
Very good and engaging story!
I am a fan of history and historical stories and Vinland Saga is very very good. For a manga, which by nature has usually limited ability to round out characters, this one breaks that trope. I found the characters to be very 3-D in personality and the story flowed well. Of course some of the action scenes were a bit over the top, but not by too much, based on how battle was fought back then. For the people complaining about all the gore and blood, well what do you think a broad sword was for? It wasn't designed for fencing, it was to inflict the most damage in the quickest manner. Beheading, limbs and torsos hacked off and through really did happen. War and battle back then was a nasty brutish thing and a lot of blood was spilled.
Now I do doubt one man back then killed quite as many other men in one battle as some of the protagonists do in this story, but it's just a small exaggeration. Half the number was probably pretty accurate. So IMO, the battle scenes are relatively realistic.
Except for maybe, that horse getting punched out. Yeah... that was pretty funny!
Over all I would highly recommend this manga.
... Last updated on May 25th, 2009, 12:24pm
It's a real story of vengeance, and more
It's a real story of vengeance...by a boy. The characters hold true to their personalities. They make choices different from the other and see the world in very different perspectives too. The topics discussed in the manga are emotional, interesting, and realistic. What is a true warrior? Where is a land without war and slaves? Is there love among us? It does so without being cheesy; this isn't some sort of shounen story talking about the power of love and friendship. This manga isn't about preaching, but showing. I cannot tell you exactly what VS is about. Right now, it's moving to a different direction because it's a dynamic story like that. The first half of the story had been resolved and we're about to move on to something else - something bigger.