Vinland Saga, Omnibus 2

Vinland Saga, Omnibus 2Creator: Makoto Yukimura
U.S. publisher: Kodansha
ISBN: 9781612624211
Released: January 2014
Original release: 2006-2007
Awards: Japan Media Arts Award, Kodansha Manga Award

The second Vinland Saga omnibus, released by Kodansha in 2014, collects the third and fourth volumes of Makoto Yukimura’s historical manga series originally published in Japan in 2006 and 2007 respectively. Vinland Saga first began serialization in 2005 and has since earned Yukimura several honors, including a Japan Media Arts Award in 2009 and a Kodansha Manga Award in 2012. Vinland Saga was a series that I had been hoping would be licensed in English for years and so I was understandably thrilled when Kodansha picked the series up. Kodansha’s edition of Vinland Saga is quite nice—hardcover omnibuses which include color pages and have a larger trim size than the publisher’s previous releases. Vinland Saga is Kodansha’s first deluxe manga; personally, I think 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 second.

In the early part of the eleventh century, England was under frequent attack by Vikings. In 1013, after years of fighting, England’s King Ethelred has been driven into exile in France while King Sweyn of Denmark proceeds with his invasion of the country. The Danes aren’t entirely united though, and many of the king’s forces are more like mercenaries or bands of pirates than they are loyal followers. Some groups, such as those led by Thorkell the Tall, have actually aligned themselves with the English in the conflict. Others, such as Askeladd’s band of warriors, fight under King Sweyn simply because he currently has the more advantageous position and the chance of reward is therefore much greater. But there is some infighting among Askeladd’s ranks as well. The only reason that Thorfinn, a skilled young fighter, follows him is for the chance to seek revenge against Askeladd for the death of his father. In the meantime, Thorfinn serves both as one of Askeladd’s most valuable and most expendable assets.

I enjoyed the first omnibus of Vinland Saga a great deal, but I think that I probably enjoyed the second one even more. Yukimura has struck an ideal balance between exciting action sequences and combat and the more personal and emotional character development of the fighters who are involved. Vinland Saga is both epic and intimate in its scope. War is occurring between nations, but it is the characters’ individual struggles that make the story so visceral and compelling. Many of the warriors in Vinland Saga are bloodthirsty, seeking glory and taking pleasure from battle itself rather than from any sort of perceived noble cause. But there are exceptions. Thorfinn despises this fighting for fighting’s sake. However, while his search for revenge may arguably be more righteous, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s in the right. Askeladd, too, has some very legitimate justifications for fighting. But while his skills as a warrior and strategist are commendable, many of his actions are deplorable.

The depth of characterization in Vinland Saga is impressive. In this omnibus, Askeladd in particular is shown to be a much more complicated figure than he may have first appeared. Vinland Saga, Omnibus 2 delves into part of his backstory, which only begins to reveal his motivations and who he really is as a person. Yukimura’s attention to detail in Vinland Saga extends beyond the characters themselves. The amount of research he has conducted allows him to portray the time period realistically, taking into consideration major historical events but also incorporating religious issues and matters of the day-to-day lives of royalty, mercenaries, and common folk. The artwork, too, can be incredibly detailed. The landscapes and environments are beautifully rendered and each character, even the multitudes of unnamed combatants, have distinctive designs. Vinland Saga really is an excellent series. I’m enjoying it immensely and am extremely happy that it’s finally available in English.


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