Posted by Lenlo on 13 August 2019 with categories: Currently Watching:, Vinland Saga

Another week, another dose of Viking murder, courtesy of Vinland Saga. This week we watch our baby boy grow up, learn a bit about Viking history, and get into the series proper. Let’s dive in!

Starting off, as always, the production aspect. This week showed us some of the cracks in Vinland’s production. For while the backgrounds still looked great, and I enjoy the lighting, the CGI was… obvious. It’s not unexpected, large battle scenes in anime like this seem to always get relegated to CGI. However it really stands out amongst the beautiful backgrounds and character work. With a horde of CGI vikings in the background walking around or fighting. Still, it could be a lot worse. None of the CGI was in the foreground, we didn’t have CGI Thorfinn fighting CGI goons. Wit only used it for background work, so as ugly as it looked, it was never really the focus. Except for maybe one shot of them all walking through the forest at least. Sadly its just something we will have to accept moving forward, because the cast isn’t getting any smaller.

As far as the content itself goes, this week was 50/50 on original vs adaptation. The first chunk of the episode, Thorfinn’s early life with Askeladd, was mostly anime original. With only that first chunk of exposition being from the manga. Setting up the geopolitical situation of the world. Explaining who the Vikings are, what they do and what their society is like. It’s a necessary evil I think, because I wouldn’t expect Japanese viewers to be as familiar with Vikings as the west are. As they have sort of captured our western cultural imagination in a way. As far as the anime original stuff goes, I liked it. We get to see more of Thorfinn as the naive child he was, before going full Viking later on. The beginnings of his transformation and how his first kills went. The time lapse in particular was a nice touch.

The second half of the episode however, involving the family, adapted chapter 17 of the manga. For me, this was always one of my favorite individual chapters of the manga. It could almost stand alone as a sort of short story of the setting. Perfectly encapsulating where Thorfinn’s character is at this moment. Remembering the life he used to/could have had with the family. Remembering his own mother and sister. Even trying to save them by telling them to run, but never really doubting what he would do in the end. Thorfinn wanted to save them, but not at the cost of his revenge. And it is that moment right there that completes his “fall”. It’s one of the most important chapters of Vinland for me, because originally it was pretty much all we got of his initial time with Askeladd. And I think Wit did it justice.

Now let’s move onto the combat and greater war of the episode. We see Thorfinn grow from a simple child into a hardened warrior throughout this episode. His first kill, to thinking nothing of raiding a village. As usual, the combat was a bit exaggerated, really leaning into that “legendary viking warrior” sort of storytelling. With hero characters that stand above normal people of the world. For a historical series, many will find this a turn off. I can’t blame them either! However, I would like to do some explaining with some of Thorfinn’s fights here. You see, most of the mooks we are going to be running into are Peasants. Not knights, not trained soldiers, just peasants given swords and sticks and thrown into a war. Of course this won’t be all of them, but the Vikings were a terror to England for a reason.

Now this episode wasn’t perfect of course. My biggest issue was actually how the languages were presented. Specifically between Thorfinn and the family. With both sets speaking Japanese, with no clear change in speech, it was never clear who understood what. I understand there are limitations to production, you can’t voice the entire thing in English or get some Danish in there, that is unreasonable. But there are a myriad of ways to present this scene that still gets it across. Give us a shot from Thorfinn’s perspective, with them speaking gibberish. Don’t translate it for the viewer, nothing, just make it clear that he doesn’t understand a word they say. Or perhaps do it in reverse. Unlike most anime, all of these characters are of Western descent, and with an anime style that makes it hard to differentiate nationality. It’s the small details that matter Wit.

So all in all, how was Vinland? Well personally, I love it. I love this adaptation and am looking forward to where Wit goes with it from here. It’s entirely possible I am being unfair with how light I am treating it, as the series has been a long time favorite of mine. And I know how hard I have been on series before on this site. However I would hope I am above that. Because I legitimately have been enjoying this series quite a bit. I love the setting, I love the music and I think Wit is clearly passionate about it. With years spent on Attack on Titan, this must be like a breathe of fresh air to them. The change to work on something new, and it shows. Starting next week will be the true test though as we get into the true meat of the series.

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