Ryu’s Musings – Vinland Saga Omnibus vol 01

19087989Language: Japanese
Direction: Right to Left
By: Makoto Yukimura
Publisher: Kodansha
Type: Series
Genre: Seinen
Availability: Print, Digital, SimulPub, Omnibus

As a child, Thorfinn sat at the feet of the great Leif Ericson and thrilled to wild tales of a land far to the west. But his youthful fantasies were shattered by a mercenary raid. Raised by the Vikings who murdered his family, Thorfinn became a terrifying warrior, forever seeking to kill the band’s leader, Askeladd, and avenge his father. Sustaining Throfinn through his ordeal are his pride in his family and his dreams of a fertile westward land, a land without war or slavery … the land Leif called Vinland.

So there are certain genre’s that I honestly feel shouldn’t be touched by manga-ka, and european history is one of those genre’s. The reason is simple, they don’t fully understand the culture enough to write about it. There’s been more than a few disastrous attempts over the years which frankly hi light my point.

However, every now and then we get some amazing series that turns over that preconception and stomps all over it. Vinland Saga is one of those titles, it manages to feel authentic, while at the same time having a manga vibe to it.

So this series is being released as an omnibus series, with each volume holding two normal volumes in it. What this means is that this first volume is a really strong start for the series.

The volume starts off running at full pelt downhill and doesn’t really stop. Which leads to a fast paced story that sweeps you up, and has the potential to be overwhelming. Thankfully this dosen’t happen, the pace is just right, with breaks when its needed, and humour in the right places.

Yukimura also does a good job of establishing in the mind of the read the personalities of the characters, before really introducing them. Which again could have backfired, but I felt it was done in such a way as it actually benefits the series.

Now one of the biggest concerns with series like this is the look and feel of the art, does it make you feel like you’re looking at a viking. Generally manga art tends not to do well here, due to the art style used by most manga-ka not being sharp and harsh enough.

And while Yukimura’s art is at times like that, in general he’s done an amazing job of conveying the look and feel of vikings. The character designs were all well done, and I found I actually loved the designs for some of the characters. Though I have to admit I’m still getting used to Thorfinn’s design, its that mop top of hair I can’t stand >.> Although it’s fitting, for me personally I just hate it lol

The other area I was impressed with was the scenery and set pieces, these both felt very thematic. The battles were amazingly well drawn, being both busy, but also uncluttered. It was an easy read, which is unusual in intense battle scenes like these. I was also happy to see the ship designs were really good, as were the weapons and armour, now granted these are little things, but if they’d been bad they probably would have broken immersion.

So what about the over all story? Honestly no idea.

For a first volume it’s a really solid start, got the adrenaline pumping and drew me into the story. However beyond a bit of story exposition nothing was really revealed or set up. On the one hand it’s got the makings of a revenge story, but on the other hand it (thus far) doesn’t follow the usual path for those stories. I am find myself getting excited at to where the series is going to go. I find I do care about what Thorfinn is going to do, will he get his vengeance or fall by the wayside.

What surprised me however was I actually found myself wanting more of Askeladd, and he’s the bad guy….isn’t he?

For me that’s what makes a really good story, where you’re interested in the hero, naturally. However at the same time you draw the reader in and make them interested in the bad guys as well. Yukimura does that really well here!

Another area I’ve got to praise is in the way Kodansha have handled this english release. The quality of the translation is pretty damn good. The translation is fluid and smooth, with the fonts used being easy on the eyes.

Overall it’s a damn good release from them, with only one, minor gripe. They use double pages in their ePub files, which means they don’t fit on the iPad screen properly, unless you hold it in landscape mode. For the larger iPad Pro and other 10” tablets this probably isn’t an issue, and even on my MacBook Air 13” it’s not an issue. However on the iPad mini it doesn’t fit right, leading to wasted space.

Do I recommend this series? Based off of this volume I’d say give it a gamble, it’s a great start to what is potentially an amazing series. Kodansha pulled out all the stops on this series and it’s worth following IMO. Hopefully the series will stay as strong as it’s started!!

Author: Ryu Sheng