Vinland Saga (ヴィンランド･サガ Vinrando Saga?) is a Japanese historical manga series written and drawn by award-winning manga author Makoto Yukimura. The series is published by Kodansha, and was first serialized in the youth-targeted Weekly Shōnen Magazine before moving to the monthly manga magazine Afternoon, aimed at younger adult men. As of December 2009, 60 chapters have been published, 49 of which have been compiled in seven bound volumes.
Vinland Saga is set in Dane-controlled England at the start of the 11th century, and features the Danish invaders of England commonly known as Vikings. The story combines a dramatization of King Canute the Great's historical rise to power with a revenge plot centered on the historical explorer Thorfinn, the son of a murdered ex-warrior. The presentation and style of the series has been compared by reviewers to the less realistically grounded segments of Kentarō Miura's classic dark fantasy manga Berserk.
Vinland Saga is set in England starting in 1013 AD, the year in which the Danish King Sweyn Forkbeard conquered most of it. As King Sweyn nears death, his sons, Prince Harald and Prince Canute, are arguing over his succession. The story draws elements from historical accounts of the period such as The Flateyjarbók, The Saga of the Greenlanders and The Saga of Eric the Red.
The story opens with the introduction of a small Viking band led by a cunning commander named Askeladd and containing a gifted young fighter named Thorfinn. The band chances on a besieged Frankish fortress and makes a deal with the attacking army to work with them in exchange for half the fort's plunder. Askeladd then hoodwinks them, escaping with his men by boat with all the riches of the fortress while the army is still battering down the gates. Despite being a valuable member of the company, Thorfinn bears a deep grudge against Askeladd as Askeladd killed Thorfinn's father when Thorfinn was a young boy. The youth incessantly demands duels with his commander in an effort to get revenge, but invariably loses.
Askeladd's company finds employment as mercenaries in the Danish invasion of London. There they face off with a larger force led by Thorkell the Tall, a fellow Viking. Thorfinn and Thorkell meet in battle, and Askeladd's band flees from what they see as an unwinnable fight. The two forces meet again later, however, when both commanders seek to capture the young Danish Prince Canute. Askeladd succeeds in capturing the prince, but is forced once again to flee from Thorkell's larger army. The company takes refuge for the winter in the frozen north of England near the Danish encampment at Gainsborough.
Canute, who is found to be girlish in appearance, is incapable of speaking in public and heavily dependent on his caretaker Ragnar. This deeply disappoints Askeladd, who changes his initial plan of backing the prince as future king to a less ambitious plan of ransoming him back to his father, King Sweyn. A sudden attack by Thorkell's brigade forces Askeladd to change his mind, and he murders Ragnar in a last-ditch effort to force the Prince to become independent.
The plan is a success, and Canute's previous timidity is replaced with a strong kingly spirit. The prince brings both Thorkell and the remnants of Askeladd's forces under his command, and returns to the Danish headquarters. He there confronts his father, who had resolved to murder Canute and give the right of succession to his brother Prince Harald. Canute successfully matches his father in a battle of wills and his life is spared, but Harald remains the king's heir. Together, Canute, Thorkell, and Askeladd devise a plot to assassinate the king and seize the crown.
Canute and his companions gain audience with the king. When King Sweyn refuses to refrain from attacking Wales, Askeladd goes on a rampage, killing the king and many in attendance. Askeladd is only stopped when he allows Canute to kill him, thus securing Canute's position as king and the safety of his homeland, Wales. Thorfinn, upon seeing Askeladd dying, tries to kill now-King Canute out of anguish. When Thorfinn is stopped, Canute decides to spare his life, but to make him a slave.
Thorfinn is next shown some time later as a slave for a farmer, with nothing of his past spirit apparent. However, Thorfinn's spirit is reignited when the leader of the farmer's mercenary security team attacks Thorfinn to test him.
Vinland Saga contains a mixture of historical, apocryphal, and invented characters in its cast. The major characters are of Danish descent—Vikings brought to England to assist King Sweyn's invasion of the country. Most are prodigious fighters, and though none are explicitly superhuman, reviewers of the series have commented that they exceed believable human limits when in combat.
- Thorfinn (トルフィン Torufin?): Loosely based on the historical personage of early Vinland explorer Thorfinn Karlsefni, Thorfinn is a teenage warrior in Askeladd's company, though he hates his commander for slaying his father Thors and has sworn to kill him in a duel. To earn the right to engage in these duels, he must complete difficult feats for Askeladd, such as sabotage or the killing of enemy generals. Thorfinn is a Jomsviking noble through his mother Helga and inherited superb physical talents from his father. He does not fight for the love of battle, but is still prone to losing his composure when in combat. This hotheadedness often costs him battles against more experienced opponents. After Askeladd is killed, Thorfinn enters a rage and tries to kill Canute, which results in him being made a slave for a farmer.
- Askeladd (アシェラッド Asheraddo?): Askeladd is the commander of a small but powerful Viking band, which owed its success to Askeladd's exceptional intelligence. He is half-Danish and half-Welsh, being the son of a Welsh princess captured by a Viking raider. He believes in the legend of Avalon, which inspired him to support Prince Canute's bid for kingship of the Danes and ultimately sacrifices himself assassinating King Sweyn in order to install Canute as the Danish King and to ensure the safety of Wales from Denmark. Ten years before the main Vinland Saga storyline, Askeladd accepted a contract to assassinate Thors, father of Thorfinn. During the Viking invasion and war in England, he manipulated Thorfinn's desire for revenge against him as a way of keeping the gifted young fighter in his service. Askeladd is one of the most skilled fighters in the series, and is particularly adept at predicting his opponents' moves in combat. Askeladd shares the name of Askeladden, a Norwegian folk character known for his cleverness.
- Bjorn (ビョルン Byorun?): Bjorn is Askeladd's second in command, a burly man who fights for the love of combat. He is a berserker, able to enter powerful rages through the consumption of certain mushrooms. Bjorn was heavily wounded in Gainsborough from injuries sustained protecting Prince Canute. The injuries were so serious that he did not have long to live, and later, he challenged Askeladd in a duel. During the duel, Bjorn revealed that he always wanted to be Askeladd's friend, and Askeladd replied that he was his only friend, before finishing him off. Bjørn is Danish for "bear", a given name commonly associated with Vikings.
- Thors (トールズ Tōruzu?): Thors is the father of Thorfinn, a Jomsviking general whose phenomenal combat prowess earns him the epithet "The Troll of Jom". Thors grows weary of battle after the birth of his children, fakes his own death, and retires to become a pacifist farmer. The Jomsvikings later discover that Thors is alive and force him to return to the battlefield. Before he can arrive at the theater of war he is betrayed by a former comrade, Floki, who hires Askeladd to assassinate him. Thors is largely considered the greatest fighter to appear in the series, having defeated the likes of Askeladd and Thorkell in single combat. Such was his strength that Floki was unwilling to engage him directly, even with an entire squadron of Jomsviking warriors. Thors' name is similar to and could be based on that of the Norse god Thor, they were both powerful warriors and had deceptive enemies with similar names (Floki for Thors, and Loki for Thor.)
- Thorkell (トルケル Torukeru?): Thorkell is a Jomsviking general and son of the Jomsviking Chief. A giant man who loves combat he defects from the Danish army to become a mercenary for the English, believing that fighting his fellow Vikings will give him a better challenge. This same love of war leads him to support Prince Canute's bid for kingship of the Danes. He remains under Canute once he becomes king. Before Thors' defection he works with and highly respects the man, and bears a fondness for his son Thorfinn in the main plot. He duels twice with Thorfinn and dominates each time, though he loses two fingers in the first duel and an eye in the second. In battle, Thorkell typically wields a pair of axes as his primary weapons, but his greatest asset is probably his vast physical strength. During a skirmish with Askeladd's band, he hurled a spear with such force that it skewered three men at once, despite having been thrown from several hundred feet away. Thorkell's character is based on Thorkell the Tall, a historical Jomsviking lord who is a mentor to Canute in the Flateyjarbók.
- Canute (クヌート Kunūto?): Canute is a 17-year-old prince of the Danes. He is initially portrayed as timid and womanly, with a bishōnen appearance and an inability to function without his retainer Ragnar. These traits, along with his strong Christianity, earn him the mockery of the Vikings with whom he works. After Ragnar's death, however, he has a sharp reversal of personality, becomes strong and kingly, and develops an ambition to create utopia on Earth before God's return. Towards this end, he plots to overthrow his father Sweyn Forkbeard and take the crown of the Danes. Canute is based on the historical King Canute the Great, the most prominent Danish ruler of England.
Vinland Saga began serialization in April 2005 in Kodansha's Weekly Shōnen Magazine, where it ran until October of the same year. It then went on a two month hiatus, resuming serialization late December 2005 in the monthly seinen magazine Afternoon, also owned by Kodansha. This switch was caused by author Makoto Yukimura, who found he could not keep up a long-term weekly production schedule.
In a January 2008 interview, Yukimura revealed that he was inspired to enter the manga industry by reading the manga Fist of the North Star as a boy. In the same interview, he said he had always wanted to produce a series which reflected the same themes of "strength and justice". He has occasionally used omake (bonus) chapters and other supplementary materials to comment on the production of Vinland Saga. In volume two, Yukimura's omake is about a research trip he took to Iceland in 2003 before beginning the series. The author's commentary sections in volumes one and three both discuss Yukimura's desire to learn about and portray the daily lives of Vikings in addition to their wars and the events of historical chronicles. Yukimura is aided in drawing Vinland Saga by four known assistants: Haito Kumagai, Kazuoki Suzuki, Tomoyuki Takami, and Daiju Watanabe.
Vinland Saga has been commercially successful in Japan, with combined sales of 1.2 million copies for the first five volumes as of June 2008, and several volumes appeared on the Taiyosha top ten best-selling manga list. The series was nominated for the 2008 Manga Taisho award. In 2009, it was awarded the Grand Prize in the manga division of the Japan Media Arts awards.
In English, because the manga is not licensed for publication, it is available only by unofficial scanlations (fan translations), a fact lamented by The Comics Journal in a 2006 article highlighting worthy unlicensed manga and scanlation groups. Despite this, the series has attracted attention in the international manga community. The first volume was glowingly reviewed by MangaCast in 2005. This review praised Vinland Saga for its fluid action sequences, remarking how well author Yukimura made the transition to the action genre from his previous work Planetes. The panel composition, realistically barbaric violence, and attention to detail in constructing the setting were praised and compared with those found in Kentarō Miura's long-running series Berserk. The reviewer's primary criticism was that he found he had to suspend his disbelief more often than he would have liked to in a historical fiction series. In addition, he worried that the then-upcoming switch to monthly serialization would slow series production "to a crawl".
Vinland Saga is written and illustrated by Makoto Yukimura and published by Kodansha. It began serialization in April 2005 in the shōnen (aimed at teenage boys) manga magazine Weekly Shōnen Magazine. In December 2005, it moved to the monthly seinen (aimed at younger adult men) manga magazine Afternoon. As of January 2009, chapters have been collected in seven tankōbon (bound volumes). The first two volumes were initially released under the Weekly Shōnen imprint, and then reissued under the Afternoon imprint after the manga's serialization switch. The Afternoon reprintings feature redesigned covers, different author commentary in the jacket, and lack furigana. Volumes three and on have been released solely under the Afternoon imprint. Despite the variation in the number of chapters compiled into each volume, the page counts are all roughly the same, around 215 pages per volume.
|No.||Japanese release date||Japanese ISBN|
|1|| 15 July 2005 (Weekly Shōnen)|
23 August 2006 (Afternoon)
|ISBN 978-4-06-363559-1 (Weekly Shōnen)|
ISBN 978-4-06-314423-9 (Afternoon)
|2|| 17 November 2005 (Weekly Shōnen)|
22 September 2006 (Afternoon)
|ISBN 978-4-06-363580-5 (Weekly Shōnen)|
ISBN 978-4-06-314428-4 (Afternoon)
|3||23 October 2006||ISBN 978-4-06-314433-8|
|4||23 February 2007||ISBN 978-4-06-314440-6|
|5||23 October 2007||ISBN 978-4-06-314473-4|
|6||23 June 2008||ISBN 978-4-06-314510-6|
|7||23 February 2009||ISBN 978-4-06-314544-1|
Chapters not yet in tankōbon format
The following chapters have been serialized in Afternoon but not yet collected in a tankōbon:
- 050. "Let Me Immunize The Venom Fang For You"
- 051. "Miscalculation"
- 052. "Hero Revival"
- 053. "King of Britain's Rage"
- 054. "End of the Prologue"
- 055. "Slave"
- 056. "Ketil Farm"
- 057. "Young Master"
- 058. "A Human That Can Be Killed"
- 059. "Snake"
- 060. "His First Friend"
- 061. "The Bloodstained Road"
- 062. "Canute's Method"
- 063. "Need a Horse"
- 064. "Need a Horse 2"
- 065. "At the Head of the Household's Home"
- Eduardo Chavez (2005-10-10). "Valhalla, I am Coming...". MangaCast. Retrieved 2008-08-26.
- Yukimura, Makoto (2007). "chapter 26". Vinland Saga volume 4. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4063144406.
- "『幸村誠先生』 その１ まんが☆天国". Manga Nohi. 2008-01-07. Retrieved 2008-08-29.
- Yukimura, Makoto (2005). "omake". Vinland Saga 2. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4063144284.
- Yukimura, Makoto (2005). "author's column". Vinland Saga 1. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4063144239.
- Yukimura, Makoto (2006). "author's column". Vinland Saga 3. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4063144338.
- Yukimura, Makoto (2007). "omake". Vinland Saga 4. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4063144406.
- Yukimura, Makoto (2008). "Author's Column". Vinland Saga 6. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4063145106.
- Eduardo Chavez (2006-10-30). "Weekly Taiyosha Rankings - for Oct 23 - Oct 29, 2006". MangaCast. Retrieved 2008-08-26.
- Eduardo Chavez (2008-06-30). "Weekly Taiyosha Manga Rankings ~ June 30, 2008". MangaCast. Retrieved 2008-08-26.
- Eduardo Chavez (2008-03-28). "And the Nominees Are... (the 1st Cartoon Grand Prize)". MangaCast. Retrieved 2008-08-26.
- "Summer Wars, Vinland Saga Win Media Arts Awards". Anime News Network. 2000-12-03. Retrieved 2009-12-03.
- Dirk Deppey (2006-10-13). "A Comics Reader's Guide to Manga Scanlations". The Comics Journal. Retrieved 2008-08-26.
- "Scanlation Spotlight:Vinland Saga". Japanator. 2007-07-06. Retrieved 2008-08-26.
- "ヴィンランド・サガ 1 (1) (少年マガジンコミックス): 幸村 誠: 本:" (in Japanese). Amazon.co.jp. Retrieved 2008-08-26.
- "ヴィンランド・サガ 1 (1) (アフタヌーンKC): 幸村 誠: 本:" (in Japanese). Amazon.co.jp. Retrieved 2008-08-26.
- "ヴィンランド・サガ 2 (2) (少年マガジンコミックス): 幸村 誠: 本:" (in Japanese). Amazon.co.jp. Retrieved 2008-08-26.
- "ヴィンランド・サガ 2 (2) (アフタヌーンKC): 幸村 誠: 本:" (in Japanese). Amazon.co.jp. Retrieved 2008-08-26.
- "ヴィンランド・サガ 3 (3) (アフタヌーンKC): 幸村 誠: 本:" (in Japanese). Amazon.co.jp. Retrieved 2008-08-26.
- "ヴィンランド・サガ 4 (4) (アフタヌーンKC): 幸村 誠: 本:" (in Japanese). Amazon.co.jp. Retrieved 2008-08-26.
- "ヴィンランド・サガ 5 (5) (アフタヌーンKC): 幸村 誠: 本:" (in Japanese). Amazon.co.jp. Retrieved 2008-08-26.
- "ヴィンランド・サガ 6 (6) (アフタヌーンKC): 幸村 誠: 本:" (in Japanese). Amazon.co.jp. Retrieved 2008-08-26.
- "ヴィンランド・サガ 7 (7) (アフタヌーンKC): 幸村 誠: 本:" (in Japanese). Amazon.co.jp. Retrieved 2009-02-23.
- Yukimura, Makoto (2005). Vinland Saga 1. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4063144239.
- Yukimura, Makoto (2005). Vinland Saga 2. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4063144284.
- Yukimura, Makoto (2006). Vinland Saga 3. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4063144338.
- Yukimura, Makoto (2007). Vinland Saga 4. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4063144406.
- Yukimura, Makoto (2007). Vinland Saga 5. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4063144734.
- Yukimura, Makoto (2008). Vinland Saga 6. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4063145106.
- Yukimura, Makoto (2009). Vinland Saga 7. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4063145441.