Although the Vikings never quite made it to Japan (as far as we know), their culture still managed to find its way there hundreds of years after the Viking Age. But the impact has been…minimal, to say the least. After all, whenever a curious wanderer searches for バイキング (that’s ‘Viking’ in Japanese) on Google, they soon encounter a sea of images relating to food. It’ll look something like this:
So yeah, they’ve used the word for a type of buffet-style dining experience known as Smörgåsbord, which originated in Sweden. Of course, aspects of Norse culture have appeared elsewhere in Japan; a popular example might be the game-world of ALfheim Online from Sword Art Online. There are even a handful of Norse/Viking reenactment groups and associations, such as 日本ヴァイキング協会 (or, the Japan Viking Association). But the true feature of this post is a manga by Makoto Yukimura called ヴィンランド・サガ (or, Vinland Saga), which just got an anime adaptation.
This Vinland Saga isn’t just a manga rendition of the medieval Icelandic equivalents, Eiríks saga rauða and Grœnlendinga saga, though; it’s a unique, full-fledged story inspired by Viking history and Norse culture as a whole. As someone who’s read and studied quite a few sagas, I can confidently say that it shares many themes that medieval Icelanders themselves wrestled with and explored following the Viking Age, such as violence and vengeance in a changing society. But here’s the gist of the story:
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 Thorfinn through his ordeal are his pride and his family and his dreams of a fertile westward land, a land without war or slavery…the land Leif called Vinland.“For Honor and Vengeance,” the summary on the back of Vinland Saga, vol. 1 in English.
In other words, this is the ideal manga to read if you’re a Viking enthusiast who’s also into Japanese culture (like myself). The story has been inspired by (and features elements from) stories like The Saga of the Jomsvikings, historical figures like Svein Forkbeard and his son Knut the Great, as well as aspects of Norse mythology like Valkyries and Valhalla. Naturally, then, I’ve been spending some time lately reading this manga for myself and getting up-to-speed with the story—and I haven’t been disappointed. But there’s some exciting news about all this: it’s an anime now, too.
As of yesterday, July 7th 2019, Vinland Saga is officially an anime available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video, and it’s going to be epic. I’ve been keeping updated about its progress on Twitter, thanks to @V_SAGA_ANIME, but I’m sure an English account will soon be tweeting updates, as well. But if you’re not convinced to watch it yet, here’s a glimpse of what you’d be missing out on:
If that doesn’t look awesome to you, well…that’s your choice. Either way, I’ll be posting about it. I’ve decided to make a post each time the anime covers everything from a volume of the English edition of Vinland Saga. In those posts, I’ll compare/contrast the manga and anime, as well as talk about the historical sources, figures, and events that inspired the unfolding story. Sound cool? If you’re on board, then make sure to read the manga and watch the anime! And if you want to support the Hall in the process (at no additional cost), make sure to buy your copy of Vinland Saga through this link.
But until next time, keep wandering.