Saturday, March 12, 2016

Manga Review: Vinland Saga (volumes 1 - 5)

Well this is not the reasonable time I hoped to have this review up, my apologies. So let's not waste anymore time and talk about vikings. 

Vinland Saga (volumes one through five) by Makoto Yukimura

Some fear that the year 1000 will bring about the end of the world and in medieval England the Danish invasion may as well be Ragnarok. Danes pour over English soil and among them is Thorfinn who follows along not for plundering but to avenge his father. Revenge is a messy thing however and in a world where everyone else is also plotting and planning this death seeker may not stay alive long enough to see what else the world has to offer. 

I'm probably the only person who is going to compare A Bride's Story to Vinland Saga but here me out; they are both among the most heavily researched manga I've read and neither are afraid to show it. With Bride's Story it's most obvious in Kaoru Mori's intricate art which painstakingly mimics a world long past, here the art is also rather detailed but Vinland Saga show's its researching chops by diving into an even more distant past and tackling the messy way that kings, gods, and commoners clashed and conquered. The art is on the gory side, I'm sure that's not a huge surprise to folks but it's rather detailed gore at times. Stories about vikings are a bit unusual, both in manga and in the wider context of current English literature, so while a lot of viking-starved fans should absolutely check this title out it's not one for kids under 14 or 15.

I did like this manga more than I liked Planetes but in Planetes I could also very easily pinpoint why the story wasn't working for me, I didn't like the lead! Here it's so much harder, when I get into the flow of the story I enjoy it but it still feels like I'm reading something for school that I'm enjoying. It's nice that I'm enjoying it but I don't feel motivated to continue outside of my "assignment". I first checked out these five books back in July or so (the DC library system changed their renewal system so that you can renew up to 10 times now right before I checked the books out) and it took me until January to finish. I felt like I couldn't just pick it up, read a little bit in-between other events in my life, and then come back to it later which significantly slowed me down and also makes me feel like I won't be buying the series for myself. I buy to reread and again, while I enjoyed this, I just don't think I'm going to want to devote the time to rereading this anytime soon.

Similarly, I haven't checked to see if my library has gotten the other two omnibus volumes. It's hard to remember but I just read 10 volumes and there are 6 more, that's getting pretty long for a manga in general and despite how dense it is, I still feel like the story drags at parts. As of where I've read, Thorfinn has nearly completed a hero's journey but the story took an inordinate amount of time building him up as a tragic character on his way to a greater fall, it almost felt as if it was stalling at points. Yes the manga did focus on characters other than Thorfinn (and they're certainly more nuanced than he is for a good chunk of the story) but it's rather telling that once Thorfinn's situation changes and he's around different characters we don't (yet) return back to the older cast. This is a story about Thorfinn, the other characters exist around him to move his world and therefore dictate what he can do. This isn't a surprise, after all the real Thorfinn was responsible for the founding of the Vinland colony, but I feel as if the manga dabbled in telling an even larger story before snapping back to focusing on just Thorfinn. Maybe in a few months I'll be curious enough to try and find the other two omnibuses but for the moment I think I've had enough vikings.