Vinland Saga (manga)
Cover of the Afternoon printing of Vinland Saga volume 1, featuring the character Thorfinn
|Genre||Adventure, historical fiction|
|Written by||Makoto Yukimura|
|Magazine||Weekly Shōnen Magazine (April – October 2005)|
(December 2005 – present)
|Original run||April 13, 2005 – present|
|Anime television series|
|Directed by||Shuhei Yabuta|
|Music by||Yutaka Yamada|
|Licensed by||Amazon Video (streaming)|
|Original network||NHK General TV|
|Original run||July 7, 2019 – scheduled|
Vinland Saga (Japanese: ヴィンランド･サガ Hepburn: 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 November 2017, the series has been compiled into twenty bound volumes. Vinland Saga has also licensed in English by Kodansha USA.
The title, Vinland Saga, would evoke associations to Vinland as described in two Norse sagas. Vinland Saga is, however, 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 Cnut the Great's historical rise to power with a revenge plot centered on the historical explorer Thorfinn, the son of a murdered ex-warrior.
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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 force 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. This was Askeladd's plan, all along. Thorfinn, upon seeing Askeladd dying, tries to kill now-King Canute; Thorfinn's sole drive in life was to kill Askeladd and he felt robbed of this right by Canute. When Thorfinn is stopped, Canute decides to spare his life due to understanding Thorfinn's perspective. Canute shows mercy on Thorfinn as the common law demanded Thorfinn's death: he is granted a life of slavery.
At the start of chapter 55, a year passes after Askeladd's death, Thorfinn, bereft of his warrior-spirit, starts his life as a slave to Ketil, a rich and kind farmer who treats slaves well. He later befriends another slave named Einar who teaches him how to farm. Thorfinn and Einar are to work together as slaves and as farmers. Their farm, given to them by Ketil, will allow them to purchase their freedom through the success with their crops. Einar and Thorfinn also befriend Ketil's father and Snake, the head guard of the farms. This friendship leads to mutual assistance which grants Einar and Thorfinn tools that were necessary to clear, till, and plant on the plot of land given to them by Ketil. Einar is in love with a fellow slave, Arneis, who returns his affections. However, she is Ketil's mistress.
Jealous servants of Ketil who look down on slaves, destroy Thorfinn's and Einar's wheat crops. When Thorfinn and Einar confront the jealous servants, they both get into a fight with them where Thorfinn is knocked out and has a gruesome vision. In his dreams, many corpses are seen fighting and clawing at Thorfinn, as though they are trying to drag him down with them into eternal battle. Thors appears to his son and reveals to Thorfinn that he never wanted him to become a Viking warrior. Thorfinn assumes that this is a nightmarish version of Valhalla, where dead Vikings fight a never ending battle. Askeladd then appears to Thorfinn and reveals that it is not Valhalla nor is it a peaceful afterlife: these are all of the people that Thorfinn has slain. Askeladd further reveals that it is not too late to redeem himself so he will not end up there just like him. He tells Thorfinn to become a real warrior just like his father. Thorfinn's vision makes him regret the sins he has done and weeps for those he has slain while contemplating the lives of those he has killed. He resigns to give up and allow the mass of corpses to pull him down but Askeladd encourages him to continue his life. Thorfinn vows to never hurt anyone again and climbs out of the pile and wakes up next to Einar, who declares that they won the fight. Thorfinn declares that he will never hurt anyone again and the duo contemplates their troubles for the fight that just occurred. Luckily, Ketil found evidence of the jealous servants’ wrongdoing and told them to never bother Thorfinn and Einar again.
In 1018, Canute makes a visit to his brother Harald in Denmark, who is in poor health and very near death. The brothers have ruled England and Denmark jointly, with Canute controlling the former and Harald controlling the latter. In his visit to Harald's bed-chamber, Canute is told by his dying brother that he is to take over Denmark when he dies, allowing Canute to be the "Emperor of the North Sea." However, Canute is haunted by visions of a disembodied head of his late father, King Sweyn. "Sweyn" reveals it was Canute himself who poisoned his brother. Yet despite "Sweyn" affecting his sanity, he accepts the disembodied head as his company since it is the only "person" whom he can speak to honestly. At the same time, Thorfinn and Einar have worked hard enough to buy their freedom, with Ketil offering to hire them once he visits the King to gain favor. Unbeknownst to Ketil, Canute plans to seize the lands of rich farm owners in Denmark in order to pay his troops in England, with Ketil being his first target by using Ketil's dimwitted younger son.
During this time, a slave from the farm nearby Ketil's escapes after killing the owner and his men, Snake receives word of this and orders his men to organize a search party in groups of three. After an attempt to capture the slave goes wrong he is then spotted riding across Ketil's land and Arneis spots him an recognizes him instantly. It turns out his name is "Gardar" and he was formerly Arneis' husband. After a duel with Snake he is finally captured and tied up. Later that evening, Arneis reveals to Thorfinn & Einar that she once lived in a village where a natural iron deposit was close by and the neighboring villages argued over who owned the rights to it, and so a war would break out. Gardar & the other men in the village left the village only to be unaware that raiders came and captured everybody and sold them as slaves, killing the newborn & elderly in the process. During the night Arneis visits Gardar secretly without Snake's permission and Gardar bribes her into freeing him which she does, in the process he murders the guards and escapes into the night. During an investigation it is revealed that Gardar has been wounded several times and is in critical condition. Later Snake sets up a look out party in Arneis' house and awaits for Gardar's return, but is unaware Arneis has hidden him under the bed. Thorfinn & Einar then plot an escape plan for Arneis & Gardar in which Einar is disguised as Gardar and lures the guards away whilst Thorfinn helps Arneis' escape with Gardar, but Snake sees through their plan and begins a duel with Thorfinn. During the duel Snake reveals that he and his men are really criminals who were on the run and found shelter at Ketil's farm. He explains that they all use animal names to hide their real identities, then stabs the unconscious Gardar through the heart, but Gardar wakes up and begins strangling him. Thorfinn tries to loosen Gardar's grip on Snake but it is Arneis who manages to calm Gardar down. They then both set off to the road together in a cart, however Gardar begins to feel faint and rests his head upon Arneis' lap. He dies of his wounds.
Upon their return Ketil's eldest son, Thorgil begins to make ready for war and inform every man in the Ketil's farm that enemies are coming to attack. Ketil is depressed because of the incident with Canute but discovers that Arneis tried to escape with her former husband and so begins to violently beat her. Ketil begins to make war on Canute but when the young king arrives on the Ketil farm it turns out Ketil receives more than he bargained for; the kings soldiers begin to brutally hack Ketil's men down or severely mutilate them. Ketil himself receives a blow to the head by an axe. During the commotion Leif Erikson arrives at the farm with his apprentice, Full-eyes, and offers Thorfinn and Einar to return home with him. They begin to carry Arneis with them only to find she is unable to travel due to the extent of her injuries. She dies, thanking Thorfinn & Einar for their kindness. Thorfinn then decides to talk with Canute before leaving to Iceland. Einar follows Thorfinn to where Canute and his men are but then are stopped before speaking with him. After Thorfinn endures a hundred punches the soldiers allow him to speak with Canute. After a brief conversation during which Canute is inspired by the formerly merciless Thorfinn's new-found devotion to a life of peace, Canute has a change of heart and spares the farmers. Thorfinn and Einar then say their goodbyes to Ketil's father and Snake before sailing back to Iceland with Leif where Thorfinn is reunited with his mother and sister.
At night, Thorfinn informs his family about the life he's led and his decision to settle Vinland and build a land of peace. The group quickly realizes that in order to fund their mission they will need a great deal of money. As they have no wealth themselves, they decide to try and burrow money from "Iron-Chain Haafdan", a wealthy but ruthless man. Negotiations quickly fail when Haafdan realize Thorfinn has absolutely no means to pay him back if his mission fails.
While visiting Haafdan the group also encounters Gudrid, Leif's former sister-in-law, who is to be married to Haafdan's son Sigurd. Gudrid has no wish to marry Sigurd however, as she dreams of traveling the world as a sailor like Leif has done. Nonetheless she feels she has no choice but to obey her family's wishes to remain on Iceland and marry Sigurd. However, during their wedding night Gudrid losers her composure and ends up stabbing Sigurd in his thigh. When Sigurd strikes her in return, she panics and flees. Gudrid sneaks away to Thorfinn's group who is about to set sail for Greece, hoping to make a fortune by trading Narwhal horns. Gudrid informs them of what had happened and breaks down in despair over not being able to live the life she wants because she was born a woman. Thorfinn takes pity on Gudrid and offers her to go with them, but makes it clear that she might never return alive. Gudrid eventually agrees and the group quickly leaves Iceland. Haafdan quickly learns that Gudrid fled with Thorfinn, so Sigurd vows to chase them down and not set foot in his home until he has brought Gudrid back.
The group arrives at the Faroe Islands where they stay a night with some of Leif's friends. When they continue to the Shetland Islands they come upon a settlement whose entire population has apparently been massacred. While searching for survivors, Thorfinn finds a dog who leads them to a hidden cellar where a fatally wounded woman is hiding with her baby. The woman tells Thorfinn the boy's name is Karli just before dying.
The group now faces the additional burden of having to take care of a baby and a dog. They initially try to give Karli to another family on the island, but no-one is willing to take him in. As the group realize they have no choice but to take Karli with them, Sigurd finally catches up after having chased them for 16 days. Thorfinn distracts Sigurd by lying to him that Gudrid already died at sea. However, as he is lamenting his failure, Sigurd spots Gudrid and Full-Eyes climbing up a hill. Enraged, Sigurd gives chase but Gudrid and Full-Eyes escape by jumping from the cliff into the sea and swimming to the ship. In order to shake off Sigurd, Leif decides to sail further north.
Arriving at Norway during winter, Gudrid is amazed that the trees are huge compared to the ones on the islands. When the group goes ashore to make camp, they are suddenly attacked by a bear that is awake despite winter. The bear almost kills Thorfinn and Einar, but is suddenly killed by a crossbow quarrel. A female hunter emerges from the wood and intrudes herself as Hild, daughter of Hrafnkell. Hild skins the bear and lets the group have the meat. While enjoying a bear meat stew, Hild and the group get along quite well, chatting friendly with each other. However, Hild suddenly reveals that she recognizes Thorfinn as the one who killed her father when her home was attacked by Askeladd's warband 8 years before. Thorfinn remembers the attack and admits that he is guilty. Hild almost shoots Thornfinn with her crossbow but hesitates because Karli is strapped to his back. Hild tell the group that she poisoned the soup and will throw the antidote away unless Thorfinn follow her into the woods alone to face her. Thorfinn agrees, swearing to his comrades that he will not die, nor will he hurt Hild. Thorfinn initially keeps himself at bay while evading Hild's quarrels, but he finally figures out her position and charges her. However, he is taken completely by surprise by Hild's specially crafted crossbow's ability to reload rapidly, taking multiple quarrels to his legs. Thorfinn's comrades arrive despite Hild's threat and try to convince Hild that Thorfinn is not the person he once was, and Thonfinn himself begs for time to atone for his sins. Hild remains unconvinced and is about to finish Thorfinn off, but she sees a vision of her father and her old hunting master which causes her to miss. Although she cannot forgive Thorfinn, she agrees to give him time to try and complete his mission. Hild decides to travel with the group to keep an eye on Thorfinn and swears that if he shows any signs of abandoning his mission to create a land of peace, she will kill him at last.
Due to Thorfinn's severe injuries, the group stays in Norway for the whole winter. At spring, they set sail for the town of Jelling in Denmark, in order to trade for supplies for their long voyage. Little do they know that a war is about to break out in the Baltic Sea. Meanwhile, Thorfinn's pursuers, Sigurd and his crew, are caught and held as slaves in Jelling.
In Jelling, Thorfinn meets some of Thorkell's men. After being pressured by the men, Thorfinn has no choice but to accompany them to meet Thorkell, the Earl of Jelling whose lands were given by King Canute. Thorfinn also meets Floki who, unbeknownst to Thorfinn, was the one who ordered Askeladd to kill his father Thors. During their meeting, Thorfinn learns that a group of Jomsvikings led by Vagn is pirating the Baltic Sea to gain fame and name himself as the new chieftain of the Jomsvikings, as the previous chieftain died before he could name a successor. Floki came to Jelling to seek aid from Thorkell in the conflict. Floki cannot become the new chieftain as their order's code dictates that any warriors 50 years and over must retire, and the candidate Floki has in mind is too young for the order to admit. The candidate is Baldr, Floki's grandson, as well the son of the former chieftain and grandchild of Sigvaldi, the second Jomsviking chieftain. In case a successor was not named, it's only appropriate that the next chieftain is based on the prestige of his bloodline. To Floki's dismay, Thorkell wants Thorfinn to become the next chieftain, as he is also the grandson of Sigvaldi and the son of Thors, the “Troll of Jom”, and currently the strongest and most valid candidate as the next Jomsviking chieftain. Thorfinn refuses the offer and returns to his companions. Thorfinn, knowing the dangers of staying in Jelling, hurries his crew to set sail immediately. All the while, Floki has plans to killing Thorsfinn while away from Thorkell's lands.
At sea, Full-Eyes spots two warships tailing them. Thorfinn, along with the unwanted assistance of Hild, separates from the group, as he is the one Floki wants dead. They will meet back up in Odense, Denmark. Some of Floki's men follow them on land where they attack fishermen and burn boats to stop their means of escape. Thorfinn tries to rationalize with those men to take him to Floki but all they want is his head. With no other choice, Thorfinn fights them barehanded and backup from Hild. With only three pursuers remaining, one of them kills their leader. It turns out that the other two are part of the Vagn Battalion who infiltrated Floki's army to track their movements. The two men, Eskil and Vrage, ask Thorfinn for assistance to vanquish Floki once and for all. They were testing him during his fight against the pursuers to observe his strength and noble birth as the candidate for leader of the Jomsvikings. Even if Thorfinn tries to live his life as a traveling merchant, he still cannot escape his bloody past.
Learning that Thorfinn escaped, Floki is infuriated now that Vagn has a candidate for the chieftain position to rally support for. On the other hand, Floki's grandson Baldr was almost killed by an assassin when his guard, Garm, killed her.
Sigurd, mad that he is doing slave work, starts to fight his way to escape when he meets Thorkell. Sigurd is a big fan of Thorkell so when Thorkell leaves, Sigurd remember that he is an escaping slave but is suddenly surrounded by warriors.
Thorfinn, having no other choice, follows Eskil and Vrage to meet Vagn. Surprisingly, when Vagn sees Thors's son Thorfinn, he started crying publicly. Thorfinn finally learns that the person who ordered for Thors's death was Floki, as Thors was the mostly likely candidate to be the third chieftain. Rage crossed Thorfinn's mind but leaves to sort himself out. Alone, he questions if he can still change for the better and become a kinder person. Thorfinn also meets one of his old crewmates, Atli who is arrested for thievery. Atli says he has a family back home and “will find an honest line of work”. Vagn warns Thorfinn that people like Atli will return to stealing and killing people instead of field labor, so killing him is better than releasing him. Hild leaves after questioning Vagn on the same thing since he is also enjoying an extravagant meal when there are no animals or fields around. Thorfinn wishes to not go to Jomsborg nor fight anyone, not even to meet Floki again. Thorfinn states that King Canute will oversee the affairs of Thors's murder while Thorfinn will complete his own mission without needless bloodshed. Later, Vagn is puzzled when Thorfinn and Hild are trying to stop Vagn's men from sexually assaulting the slave girls.
Things get even more complicated when Thorkell and his new army attack Vagn's base. On Thorkell's main ship, Sigurd joins his army. During the preparations for battle, Thorfinn, Hild, and the slave girls secretly escape through the forest. In the meantime, Garm and some of Floki's men infiltrated Vagn's army.
While talking to the slave girls, Thorfinn learns that Vagn's men demanded the surrounding villages pay taxes. Those who couldn’t pay had to either give them their girls or be seized of all their livestock and wheat. Thorfinn and Hild sense four unknown pursuers so he will stay behind while the others escape. Their pursuers are Garm and his men, along with their gift of Vagn's head. Thorkell got angry when Garm killed his prey, Vagn.
Unable to run away from Garm, Thorfinn had no other choice but to fight him though he runs away again. Garm contemplates why Thorfinn chooses to run away when he has the skills to kill Garm. Garm lets Thorfinn leave while back on Vagn's base, Thorkell switches sides because Floki's assassins killed his prey.
A week passes when news of Thorfinn is heard by his other crewmates. It turns out that they are tricked by the message. Garm captures all of them and leaves Full-Eyes to tell Thorfinn to join Floki for the battle of Jomsborg. Full-Eyes tries to surprise attack Garm but is knocked out instead. He wakes up to find only the baby and dog waiting for him. The others are nowhere to be seen...
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)
- Voiced by: Yūto Uemura, Shizuka Ishigami (childhood)
- 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)
- Voiced by: Naoya Uchida
- 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. The name his mother gave him is Lucius Artorius Castus, the legitimate king of Britain. Askeladd shares the name of Askeladden, a Norwegian folk character known for his cleverness.
- Bjorn (ビョルン Byorun)
- Voiced by: Hiroki Yasumoto
- 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 Norwegian and Swedish for "bear", a given name commonly associated with Vikings.
- Thors (トールズ Tōruzu)
- Voiced by: Kenichiro Matsuda
- 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 with his bare hands. Such was his strength that Floki was unwilling to engage him directly, even with an entire squadron of Jomsviking warriors.
- Thorkell (トルケル Torukeru)
- Voiced by: Akio Ōtsuka
- Thorkell is a Jomsviking general and brother 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)
- Voiced by: Kenshō Ono
- 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 is written and illustrated by Makoto Yukimura and published by Kodansha. In April 2005, it began serialization in the Weekly Shōnen Magazine. In December 2005, it moved to the monthly seinen manga magazine Afternoon. As of December 2017, chapters have been collected in twenty 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.
The series is licensed in English by Kodansha USA where the first two volumes were released into a single hardcover book on October 14, 2013. The tenth volume was released on June 5, 2018.
Twin Engine announced on March 19, 2018 that the series will receive an anime television series adaptation animated by Wit Studio, scheduled to premiere on July 7, 2019, with the series running for 24 episodes on NHK General TV. Amazon will stream the series worldwide on their Prime Video service. It is directed by Shuhei Yabuta and written by Hiroshi Seko and Kenta Ihara. Seko is also handling series composition and Takahiko Abiru is in charge of character design, with Yutaka Yamada composing the music. Survive Said The Prophet will perform the series' opening theme song "MUKANJYO.", while Aimer will perform the series' ending theme song "Torches". The staff also revealed that the series' first three episodes will air on July 7, 2019.
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. Won the 36th Kodansha Manga Award for Best General Manga in 2012. The Comics Journal lamented that Vinland Saga had yet to be licensed for publication in a 2006 article highlighting worthy unlicensed manga and scanlation groups. Despite this, the series 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 Kentaro 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".
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- Loo, Egan (February 6, 2019). "Vinland Saga Anime's 1st Animated Promo Unveils Main Cast, Additional Staff". Anime News Network. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
- Loo, Egan (April 24, 2019). "Vinland Saga Anime's Subtitled Promo Reveals More Cast, 24-Episode Run, July 6 Debut". Anime News Network. Retrieved April 24, 2019.
- Yukimura, Makoto (2007). "chapter 26". Vinland Saga volume 4. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4-06-314440-6.
- "『幸村誠先生』 その１ まんが☆天国". Manga Nohi. January 7, 2008. Archived from the original on January 8, 2008. Retrieved August 29, 2008.
- Yukimura, Makoto (2005). "omake". Vinland Saga 2. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4-06-314428-4.
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- Yukimura, Makoto (2006). "author's column". Vinland Saga 3. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4-06-314433-8.
- Yukimura, Makoto (2007). "omake". Vinland Saga 4. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4-06-314440-6.
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- "Vinland Saga, Volume 10". Kodansha USA. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
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- Hodgkins, Crystalyn (May 18, 2019). "Rock Band 'Survive Said The Prophet' to Perform Opening Theme for Vinland Saga Anime". Anime News Network. Retrieved May 18, 2019.
- Rafael Antonio Pineda (June 9, 2019). "Aimer Performs Vinland Saga Anime's Ending Theme Song". Anime News Network. Retrieved June 10, 2019.
- Hodgkins, Crystalyn (June 1, 2019). "Vinland Saga Anime Reveals 3rd Promo Video, 13 More Cast Members". Anime News Network. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
- Yukimura, Makoto (2008). "Author's Column". Vinland Saga 6. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4-06-314510-6.
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Vinland Saga volumes
- Yukimura, Makoto (2005). Vinland Saga 1. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4-06-314423-9.
- Yukimura, Makoto (2005). Vinland Saga 2. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4-06-314428-4.
- Yukimura, Makoto (2006). Vinland Saga 3. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4-06-314433-8.
- Yukimura, Makoto (2007). Vinland Saga 4. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4-06-314440-6.
- Yukimura, Makoto (2007). Vinland Saga 5. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4-06-314473-4.
- Yukimura, Makoto (2008). Vinland Saga 6. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4-06-314510-6.
- Yukimura, Makoto (2009). Vinland Saga 7. Vinland Saga (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 978-4-06-314544-1.