Vinland Saga is a Viking classic for the ages

The violent and unforgiving world of medieval Vikings is a popular setting deeply explored in fictional media. The grisly violence and political intrigue make for a thrilling journey into the realm of blood-stained feudalism. But Vinland Saga, a Viking epic by mangaka Makoto Yukimura, isn't just about brashness and violence. It also builds on top of the central war motif by taking the viewers on a spell-bounding journey of revenge, redemption, and self-discovery. 

The story follows Thorfinn, the son of a famed Jomsviking named Thors who renounced his life as a ruthless war machine to seek a peaceful future. However, Thors would still be murdered at the hands of a Viking gang, permanently scarring his son. This incident fuels Thorfinn to embark on a hate-filled journey toward becoming a great warrior worthy of avenging his father.

The first season wastes no time in throwing Thorfinn into the clutches of an actual battlefield where the limits of survival are put to the test at every nook and corner. Moreover, almost all 24 episodes feature limitless action as the Danes and English seek to annihilate one another. Villages are mercilessly torched down and people are incapacitated or sold off as slaves. 

Despite this overarching theme of war and slaughter, the first season of the show only serves as the prologue to Vinland Saga's true story.

Season two shifts gears drastically moving away from the earlier action-filled, gnarly sequence of events and embracing one of the series' very first messages – no one has any enemies. This principal lesson was first introduced through Thors, who realised the error of his ways and tried to impart the same ideals to Thorfinn. The latter may have rejected that during the first half of the show due to being blinded by revenge, but as season two rolls around, he realises just how pointless it all was and devotes himself to pacifism.

This ability to smoothly adjust the narrative thread based on the characters' lives points towards one of Vinland Saga's massive strengths. Additionally, the change in tone reveals just how well-paced the show is. Even though a big chunk of the season is dedicated to the mundane events in Thorfinn's new life as a farmer, certain mysteries, and growing conflicts in the other parts of the country are revealed to maintain just the right amount of tension. It also reiterates the fact that the path to redemption and self-discovery is a slow-burner, and that couldn't be truer for the protagonist's case.

On a production level, Vinland Saga needs no prior introduction. Handled by Wit Studio and MAPPA throughout the years, the set pieces have always looked stunning and the art style breathes life into Yukimura's luscious world. The smooth animation in the action scenes, coupled with the perfect musical scores, constantly keeps the viewers on their toes.

Vinland Saga might be imperfect, but the thematic ambition of discarding the very hook that attracted most of its fanbase speaks volumes in favour of the show's structural metamorphosis. At its core, it might just be a tale of a young man searching for his place in a world that has displaced him, but the nuanced, complex, and bold approach makes it a must-watch.

Ayaan immerses himself in dinosaur comics and poorly-written manga. Recommend your least favourite reads at [email protected]