Friday, January 2, 2009

Vinland Saga: Because Miura's Taken all Our Cash to the Bahamas

I love a good heroic story, fantastic or no. Sword fights, burning courage, blood and guts, rescuing wenches (be they be bebreasted or not), and plenty of shiny bladed weaponry. As far as manga goes, Berserk is more or less the go-to series for people of similar interests. However, adoration of Miura's treasured series poses some problems, chief among them the chronic unavailability of the translated volumes in anything resembling order, and the sentence most associated with discussion of the series: "What do you mean, it's on hiatus again?"

Enter Vinland Saga, a more historically accurate blood and guts and wenches fiesta from Yukimura Makoto. If you're looking for a Berserk replacement, or just a break from its soul-crushing qualities, Vinland Saga may be for you! I'll probably compare the series to Berserk a few more times throughout the article, and I apologize to those unfamiliar with it.

The story supposedly revolves around the exploits of Thorfinn, a brash youth whose only motivation for doing anything is to kill a far more interesting character for killing his dad. If you're anything like me, you'll often find yourself forgetting about poor Thorfinn for chapters at a time on account of Yukimura's apparent love for his co-stars. Perhaps you'll agree, since the presentation of the characters and their motives is one of the major differences I perceived between Vinland Saga and Berserk. Where Miura seems to be trying to make every antagonist (and even some satellite characters) undeniably horrible to complement his crapsack worldbuild, Vinland Saga delights in playing with the reader's expectations of just what constitutes an antagonist. I spent the first twenty or so chapters cynically awaiting the first bite of baby flesh many characters would inevitably take, only to realize that they weren't such bad dudes. They may do objectionable, blood-curdling things, but you eventually start to warm up to them.

Just look at these motherfuckers. Look at them!! You have no idea how cool they are. None. But he's fantastic. Erm, anyway, more about Vinland Saga. Aw yeah, right. I've mentioned it's a little more realistic than Berserk, right? Well, it is. That, and it features several characters inspired by actual historical figures. Leif Erikson makes several appearances, for instance. Further, he's really awesome whenever he shows up. The level of detail that the artist has gone into in creating the settings and chronology of the series is astonishing. The end of each volume treats you with a little map of Thorfinn's travels, and even little history lessons. You can enjoy bloodsoaked battlefields, and learn. Further, most of the characters are downright charming. Well, as charming as Vikings can be, I guess.

Fucking read it.

1 comment:

Lyra said...

Oh, I love this manga!! As a Berserk fan, I sometimes have my serious doubts if I will even be alive by the time the manga ends... I've been reading it for more than ten years already. So a little change is refreshing.