Story/Art: Makoto Yukimura
Translation/Adaptation: Stephen Paul
What They Say
As Canute plots to become ruler of the entire Danish world, Thorfinn’s only ambition is to see a harvest profitable enough to buy his own life back. But the fates of prince and slave will come together once again, as Canute plans to seize Ketil Farm from its kindhearted master. What sinister tricks does the have up his sleeve, and could they dash Thorfinn’s hopes for freedom? Meanwhile, Einar’s infatuation with Arnheid takes an unexpected turn when her former husband – an escaped slave – barges onto the farm, insisting she run away with him…
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
I am overjoyed to be reviewing this title. If you’ve read my reviews of the other five volumes, you know that I love Vinland Saga, and if you’ve kept up with industry news, you also know that there was a very real chance that this manga wasn’t going to be released in the United States anymore. Thankfully, Kodansha changed its mind, and I get to once again trod the mead halls, the longships, and the fields of the Danes.
It’s been a while since I last wrote a review, so a broad recap is in order. Thorfinn was the son of Thors, a great Viking warrior called “The Troll.” Before Thorfinn was born, Thors fled that life of violence, but it managed to find him once again as a contingent of Jomsvikings—one of the most feared Viking groups and Thors’ former comrades—arrives at his farm and conscript him into one final battle. It turns out this is a trick, and the mercenary Askeladd kills Thors. Thorfinn, having stowed away on the ship, sees this and decides to travel with Askeladd until he grows in strength and is able to kill him. He becomes a temperamental but useful member of Askeladd’s group, all the while challenging Askeladd to duels. The mercenary group becomes the custodians of Prince Canute—heir to the Danish crown, but considered weak and woman-like by his father. The original plan is to ransom off Canute, but the prince convinces Askeladd to help him overthrow his father in exchange for rulership over Wales. The plan works to a point, but Askeladd is stabbed in the melee and Thorfinn, distraught over the idea that he could now never exact his revenge, lashes out, slicing Prince Canute’s cheek. Out of gratitude for Thorfinn’s role in his rise to power, Canute sends him off to be slave, rather than just executing him. Thorfinn now works on a large farm, hoping that he can lose his guilt in good, honest labor. He forms a partnership and friendship with the British slave Einar, who loves the house slave Arnheid. While he does this, Canute moves to secure his power in both the British and Danish worlds.
Canute has come a long way from the timid, God-fearing boy Thorfinn knew. He schemes and manipulates like a Danish Richard III, consolidating his power and eliminating his competitors—namely, his brother, who he has been slowly poisoning. Canute is haunted by the head of his late father, who cajoles and mocks the would-be king, acting like a cross between Jiminy Cricket and the ghost of Hamlet’s father. The irony, as Canute points out, is that this spectral head is the only person he can fully confide in.
The master manipulator’s schemes have almost reached fruition, but his position is tenuous because he desires to hold both Denmark and Great Britain, and it takes far more money and manpower to do so than he currently possesses. Canute embarks on a plan to take over the most powerful farms in the area in order to increase his revenue stream, and his first victim is the man who owns the land on which Thorfinn works.
It’s fascinating to see the intricacies of Danish culture play out in this work. Yukimura and his staff have undertaken painstaking research in preparation for this manga, and it shows in everything, from the language they use, the way they act, the way they look, dress, live, etc. We see how both the cream and the dregs of society live, providing us with an honest and nuanced picture of this time and place and people. It’s the next best thing to stepping into this world and we see all of it—the beautiful, the horrible, and everything in between.
This attention to historical detail combined with the story makes Vinland Saga my favorite manga currently being produced. I daresay that in terms of quality, no other currently-produced manga holds a candle to it. The writing is Shakespeareian in scope and theme, and the art is meticulous, vibrant, and exciting without sacrificing clarity for detail.
I always gush when I write about Vinland Saga, but that’s only because there’s so much to gush about. The quality of the writing and the art are superb and the manga continually impresses me. If you haven’t checked out Vinland Saga yet, then I urge you to do so, or else run the risk of having Kodansha discontinue the series. Dr. Josh gives this an…
Content Grade: A+
Art Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Kodansha Comics
Release Date: September 29th, 2015