Vinland Saga, Omnibus 1

Vinland Saga, Omnibus 1Creator: Makoto Yukimura
U.S. publisher: Kodansha
ISBN: 9781612624204
Released: October 2013
Original release: 2005
Awards: Japan Media Arts Award, Kodansha Manga Award

Makoto Yukimura’s Vinland Saga is a manga series that I have been hoping would be licensed in English for years. Understandably, I was thrilled when Kodansha Comics announced that it would be publishing the series. Not only that, Vinland Saga is Kodansha’s first foray into deluxe, hardcover manga. Kodansha’s edition of Vinland Saga uses a larger trim size than its other manga, contains color pages, and is being released in an omnibus format. The first volume of Kodansha’s Vinland Saga, published in 2013, collects the first two volumes in the original Japanese edition of the series, both of which were released in 2005. Vinland Saga is a critically acclaimed, award-winning manga. In 2009, Yukimura earned a Japan Media Arts award for the series. Even more recently, Vinland Saga won a Kodansha Manga Award in 2012. Even if Vinland Saga wasn’t already so well received, I would still want to read it. Yukimura is a the creator of Planetes, which I love, and I also happen to have a particular interest in Iceland among other things.

When he was only six years old, Thorfinn’s father was killed before his very eyes. Thors was a great man and a great warrior, but that was a life he tried to leave behind in order to live with his family in peace in a small Icelandic village. Thors’ past is inescapable and ultimately leads to his death, but in the process he is able to protect what is most dear to him. Even at such a young age Thorfinn vows to avenge his father. Ten years later he has grown into a hostile and stubborn young fighter serving under the very man who was responsible for his father’s death. Askeladd is a shrewd and cunning leader, his band of mercenaries willing to take on any job for the right price. Their battle prowess is fearsome, relying not only on their sheer strength and power but on underhanded strategies and their willingness to be utterly ruthless. Askeladd and his men may be uncouth, but they are also a terrible force to be reckoned with.

Vinland Saga is historical fiction and the series is inspired by actual events and people as well as by Norse sagas. The great adventurer Leif Ericson plays a significant role in the first omnibus of Vinland Saga and Thorfinn himself is loosely based on another explorer—Thorfinn Karlsefni. Considering that the manga deals with eleventh-century warfare and Vikings, a northern Germanic group of seafarers notorious for raiding and pillaging, it’s probably not too surprising that Vinland Saga can be rather violent. The battles in Vinland Saga are particularly well done. Some of the physical feats may be astounding or even slightly exaggerated—there are some very good reasons that Askeladd’s mercenaries are so feared—but the flow of the battles are very realistic as are the resulting deaths and injuries. Yukimura hasn’t forgotten the use and limitations of technology and tactics in Vinland Saga and they are appropriate for the era being portrayed. In general Yukimura’s action sequences are very exciting and leave quite an impression.

Vikings are often depicted as savage, bloodthirsty invaders in fiction but this portrayal misses some of the nuances and complexities of the historical reality. Yukimura notes in the afterword of the first volume of Vinland Saga that he wanted to show more than just a stereotypical representation of Vikings in his story. I think he is very successful in that. Much of Vinland Saga, Omnibus 1 focuses on brutal skirmishes, battles, and duels, but the development of Thorfinn and his family—particularly his father, but his mother and sister, too—as well as their Icelandic village and the other people who live there is also very important. The exceptional events surrounding the outbreak of war may be some of the major driving forces behind the story but the more mundane affairs of everyday life, such as the concerns over the changing weather and the coming winter and disputes over land for grazing, provide additional depth and realism to the series. I thoroughly enjoyed the first Vinland Saga omnibus and am looking forward to the release of the second.

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  1. Sounds promising but I’m also a little leery as I remember my experience when the Gundam omnibus came out and I was less than impressed or everyone was praising Twin Spica and I’m like “I quit after two volumes because it didn’t do anything for me”.

    Than I’m left feeling like the “Otaku hick from the Midwest” because I seriously don’t see why people like this, or this kind of cloistered ivory tower mentality develops where the logic is almost like, “of course this thing is popular all my other critic friends like me like it so it has to be popular right?” And while it may be legitimate love on the individual critic I wonder sometimes if a “hive mind mentality” some times is in effect.

    You know like I don’t want to not have read it or say I don’t like it because than I look like some kind of uncultured git. But than again this is probably me more than anything

    All that being said it is nice to see that this got a legal release and seems to live up to the expectations of those who looked forward to it.

    • I can’t speak for other reviewers, but had I been disappointed with Vinland Saga I would have definitely said so. Happily, I wasn’t. :) I’ve gotten pretty skilled over the last few years at picking manga to read (and therefore review) that I have a good chance of enjoying to begin with.

      But, I’ve also had the experience where I’ve read something that other people love or recommend and it just doesn’t work for me. It can be frustrating. One Piece is one of the the most popular manga there is; I’ve tried reading it several times, but it hasn’t clicked for me yet. On the other hand, there are also manga that I read and enjoy that I know other people dislike or even find offensive. (Apocalypse Zero comes immediately to mind.)

      Since we’ve only recently “met,” I don’t have a good sense yet of all of your likes and dislikes when it comes to manga, so I can’t say if I think you’ll like Vinland Saga or not. All I can say is that so far I’m enjoying the series. And if you give the manga a try and don’t end up liking it, I don’t see that as a problem! Different people simply like different things and I have yet to discover a book that will appeal to everyone. :)

      • Okay oh boy! My tastes as concerns Manga well started out reading almost nothing but Shojo Manga and 4-Panel Manga (Azumanga Daioh was the first Manga I ever read). Over the three years I’ve been reading Manga I’ve read and enjoyed everything from Fruits Basket to Tenjho Tenge.

        Favorite series range from Dance In The Vampire Bund which I think has some of the best girl friendship writing in Seinen and Gunslinger Girl which got me to research everything from Ballet and Renascence era art to North Africa.

        To Shojo Manga like Fruits Basket and High School Debut and the various Magical Girl series although my two favorite Magical Girl series (Lyrical Nanoha and Madoka Magica) started out as Anime.

        Than there’s the light novel adaptation Manga wich of the one’s I’ve read Mayo Chiki has to be the one I like the most (it’s even my background wallpaper.) Than there’s all the sundery “Otaku stuff” like favorite character tropes (Tsundere) or character design and what not.

        As far as Vineland Saga goes I figure I would like it but had to decide between this and Showa: A History of Showa Japan by Shigeru Mizuki and went with Showa that and since I plan on reading The Tale of Genji and the best translation I could find is $27.00 and I don’t have unlimited income things either have to be put on the back burner or passed over.

        If anything thanks for being a sympathetic ear if nothing else and putting up with my “cyber scrawl” essays on your’e blog

        • It sounds like your taste is just as varied as mine! :)

          It can be hard to choose when there are so many great manga being released. I’m really looking forward to the Mizuki’s Showa, too. Drawn & Quarterly has done a nice job with his work in the past. Which translation of The Tale of Genji are you hoping to tackle? I read Royall Tyler’s unabridged translation a couple of years ago. It took me quite while to finish, but I was very glad that I read it. It was a lot funnier than I expected it to be, plus I loved all of the court intrigue and scandals. I’d actually like to reread it sometime soon. I’ve also been meaning to read Ivan Morris’ The World of the Shining Prince.

          • Also the Royall Tyler version and I put The World of the Shining Prince on my wish list because I saw it on your’e blog,

            I figured since I’m currently only following eight series (Bleach, A centaur’s Life, Haganai, Love in Hell, Mayo Chiki, No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!, and Voice Over! Seiyu Academy).

            I’d use my down time between series to catch up on my study of Japanese history. Japanese literature, and culture. In fact seeing the fact that you’ve reviewed Mishima kind of inspired me to take this task on.

            Not to mention the series that I plan on reading that are not due out till next year Seven Seas has really been hyping Arpeggio of Blue Steel and I love mecha musume stuff so the Strike Witches manga out in February looks good as well


  1. […] it’s a series which deserves the special treatment. I was not at all disappointed with the first omnibus of Vinland Saga and so was eagerly awaiting the release of the […]

  2. […] available, and in a deluxe hardcover edition no less. I couldn’t be happier. If I loved the first omnibus, I loved the second omnibus even more. Vinland Saga has easily become one of my favorite manga […]

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