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CSBG Archive

Manga in Minutes: Vinland Saga, Vol. 1

Welcome to the latest installment of Manga in Minutes! Before I get into the standard weekly review I just wanted to give readers a quick heads up. I’ll be trying out a few new things with the column in the coming months, whether any of them will stick around or appear more than once depends on several factors, including my own fickle mood. With that in mind, this week I’ll be adding a small round up of manga related news, articles, and other links of interest. We’ll see how it goes, enjoy!

And now, on with the review!

Vinland Saga, Vol. 1Vinland Saga, Vol. 1
Created by Makoto Yukimura
Kodansha Comics, 470 pp
Rating: Older Teens (16+)

With the second volume having hit store shelves last week, I thought now would be a good time to take a look at Makoto Yukimura’s Vinland Saga, Vol. 1! For years this has been one of the most requested titles from manga fans and now, thanks to the fine folks of Kodansha Comics, the multiple award winning series has finally arrived in the US. Vinland Saga is a historical epic, set roughly during the middle of the Viking Age in the late 10th and early 11th century, following the life of young Thorrfin as he seeks to avenge his father’s death at the hands of the viking commander, Askeladd.

We’re thrown headfirst into the action, and are introduced to Thorfinn and the band of Vikings he’s partnered with as they essentially gate crash (no pun intended) a city siege involving two Frankish forces. Yukimura uses this opportunity to display Thorfinn’s lethality and set up his grudge with Askeladd. From there things shift into an extended flashback which dominates the volume. We’re given an in-depth look at Thorfinn’s childhood, his relationship with his parents and siblings, and the events that lead to the death of his father, Thors. Yukimura does a fantastic job at using the flashback to not only establish Thorfinn’s motivation, but also to give us a glimpse into the ins and outs of Viking society, with some interesting and tantalizing hints of the larger wars and conflicts abroad. He also does an absolutely amazing job with Thors. He’s not just a symbolic figure whose death drives the tale, but a wonderfully fleshed out character in his own right. In fact, the flashback spends so much time with Thors that it was easy to forget about Thorfinn’s quest for vengeance, the core plot of the series! That’s not a bad thing at all however, and the amazing job that Yukimura does with Thors can’t be overstated. It’s something that adds a lot to the emotional impact of his death, and I found myself wishing we could have spent more time with him and learned more of his own background and adventures. I can only hope that we’ll get to see more of his past as the series progresses.

One of the central hooks to the series is how the status quo at the beginning of the book came to be. Unlike many vengeance driven tales which often sees one character hunting another down, Yukimura throws readers a major curve ball. Thorfinn knows exactly where Askeladd is at all times, because he’s working for him. Not only that, but the grudge and his quest for vengeance is public knowledge. His desire to kill Askeladd in one-on-one combat keeps him taking up missions for Askeladd in exchange for a duel with each success. It’s a relationship I can’t help but feel parallels that of Rin and Anotsu in Blade of the Immortal. In that series Rin has also found herself allied with Anotsu, her father’s killer, from time to time and much like Thorfinn, she’s also passed up opportunities at vengeance for one reason or another. It’s an interesting dynamic there and I’m eager to see how a similar relationship came about within Vinland Saga and I imagine that the development Thorfinn’s and Askeladd’s weird relationship will probably be one the driving forces in the series as it continues.

The few color pages we get are lovely and had me wishing there was more color art within the volume. Makoto Yukimura’s artwork is top notch, with every character looking interesting and different enough so as to avoid any confusion as to who’s who. The amount of emotion he’s able to pack into their facial expressions and eyes are wonderful, with only a few lapses into more goofy looking expressions and comical reactions. The grim determination upon Thorfinn’s face is palpable from our first glimpse of him, and when Askeladd first appears there’s little doubt that this is a clever and wily figure. While it’s not the goriest or most violent manga I’ve come across, there were a few moments that are bound to jump out at readers. Yukimura doesn’t shy away from depicting things such as an eyeball impaled upon an arrow, limbs flying through the air, and decapitations. His backgrounds are wonderfully fleshed out and depict setting, background characters and more in such a way that it really helps ground the story in what feels like a real, lived in, populated and substantial world.

Story continues below

One of the things I’m curious to see with Vinland Saga is how it’s Japanese publishing history will affect the way the story and art develops. It started out as part of Kodansha’s Weekly Shonen Magazine, only to be moved to Afternoon about ten months into its run. Afternoon is a seinen magazine, aimed at older readers and has been home to series such as Blade of the Immortal, Parasyte and Mushishi. The move seems like it would allow for changes in the tone and approach to the material. Also, unlike Weekly Shonen Magazine which is released, well, weekly, Afternoon is on a monthly schedule. The slower pace and longer time between releases seems like it might result in more detailed artwork and possibly a shift in pacing as well. It’ll be interesting to see whether there’s any noticeable difference in the series once the Kodansha Comics release reaches the material published after this change.

With likable characters, a sympathetic lead, exciting action scenes and some lovely artwork, Vinland Saga is off to a very strong start, and one that leaves me eager to see where Thorfinn’s exploits take him and how he reached his current situation. The series feels like it has the potential to connect with both traditional anime/manga fans and American comics fans who enjoyed Northlanders and the few similar series out there. Regardless of whether it does, I’ll certainly be sticking around and look forward to getting a hold of volume two.

Vinland Saga, Vol. 1 is available now from Kodansha Comics.


Vinland Saga is great. I’ve been reading it for years (illegally) on the internet. It only gets better.

I wasn’t aware the 1st volume was already out. I’ll snatch up both volumes. This is yet more proof that there is a manga about everything(too bad there aren’t a lot of sports comics from U.S. comic publishers like there is in Japan).

I’ve bought the first two Vinland Saga books. They’re towards the top of my To-Read pile.

I wonder if Kodansha will give “Planetes” the hardcover treatment?

@T. – Loving it so far! Give the physical releases a look if possible, they’re pretty nifty. Hardcover, color pages, etc.

@Diarra Harris – The first one came out in… Oct I believe? The third is due out in April, so it looks like they’re sticking to a quarterly schedule. And yeah! There’s a huge variety in manga genres and we only get a sliver of that over here. The US fandom doesn’t seem really enamored with certain genres though. Sports manga almost always struggle over here, and like you mentioned, there’s virtually no sports comics in the US.

@Chris – I’d love that. I’ve got the first two volumes of the TokyoPop release lying around here somewhere, but I’d really like a chance to read the whole thing at some point. Maybe a nice two volume ombibus release or something?

I am going to buy the hardcover releases. Even tho I read manga illegally I always try to buy the good books when they come out in paper form in the US, even if I already read the book illegally.

[…] Manga in Minutes: Vinland Saga, Vol. 1 Over at the Anime News Network, Vertical publisher and marketing manager, Ed Chavez, appears as a guest on the latest ANNCast to talk about the state of the company, their current releases, future releases, and answer some listeners' questions. If that … Read more on Comic Book Resources […]

Great series, though the Farmville saga was a bit of a drag, especially when Makoto switched to monthly releases.

Love this series, it’s beautiful stuff.

“I wonder if Kodansha will give “Planetes” the hardcover treatment?”

Hoping for the same, as I’m missing the last two volumes. Kodansha was asked somewhere–Tumblr, maybe?– and gave a “who knows, maybe if Vinland Saga is a big enough hit” kind of answer.

@T. – Hurray!

@Minuteman – Argh… maybe it’ll go faster in big chunks? Kinda like the prison arc from Blade of the Immortal.

@Niels van Eekelen – Fingers crossed then!

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