In the early 11th century, the mighty Viking warrior Thors is slain by the cowardly Askeladd as recompense for his desertion. Thors’ 6-year-old son, Thorfinn, upon witnessing his father’s death, is taken in by Askeladd’s group under the condition that he work for them in exchange for a duel to the death when Thorfinn is old enough. Vinland Saga follows the band of Viking warriors as they battle through Saxon-populated Britannia and help establish Norse rule over the land.
Following a wide array of characters and spanning over a decade, it would be easy to assume that Vinland Saga could feel spread thin. This, however, could not be further from the truth. The series has a strong emotional core, with Thorfinn’s anger and resentment for his captures only equalled by his begrudging respect those very same comrades. After growing up without a stable family, Thorfinn finds a security in those around him, even if he has resided himself to eventually killing them in his father’s name.
Vinland Saga’s manga is vividly brought to life by Wit Studios, most well known for their work on Attack on Titan and The Ancient Magus Bride. Combining the energetic whirling action of the former and the quiet sombre reflection of the latter allows Wit to craft a beautifully devastating tale of revenge, hatred and humanity. The show excels at both high-octane action and the fallout that follows.
Vinland Saga‘s high point comes from an episode on the back-half its 24-episode run, in which the story shifts from focusing on Thorfinn with Askeladd’s group to a quiet and God-fearing village girl. The episode follows her daily life before the main cast appear towards the episodes end and commit a raid on the village. The violent spectacle that once entertained becomes a horror as humanity is given to the previously faceless masses. We are reminded that Thorfinn’s struggle is not the only one in the world of Vinland Saga and perhaps he has given too much of himself to the idea of revenge to ever become whole again.
If you are looking to get into a compelling drama with guaranteed high stakes and a cavalcade of characters to despise yet begrudgingly root for, then Vinland Saga will scratch that itch. A modern-day epic, the show sits outside of generic anime conventions to tell an honest and brutal tale of grief and its effects on the soul. Vinland Saga stands out as one of anime’s modern masterpieces.
Vinland Saga is available to watch on Amazon Prime. You can watch a trailer below.