4 out of 5
The war for Ketil’s farm.
Ketil returns a broken man… until he finds out that Arnheid attempted escape with her husband, at which point, like a billion men and women over the years and decades in response to actions by their partners which they refuse to understand, he becomes rash, and brutish. And decides to go against the forthcoming King Canute, rallying his men to arms via promise of assured victory, and riches.
Spoiler: they are slaughtered.
Amidst this, Thorfinn’s resolve is strengthened to maintain his path of peace. Yukimura excellently navigates this so that it is not a typical manga protag bit of idealism: the road here has been brutal, and Thorfinn’s decision making is sound. It starts out with that taint of goody two-shoesness, but Makoto has very purposefully challenged that, and never moreso than via what Thorfinn witnesses and experiences here. His eventual re-meeting with Canute is brilliantly conceived, as Yukimura is able to effect the same balance to the king, using the haunting spirit of his father to taunt him, just as Thorfinn kinda does the same – but both with very, very different approaches, and with very different end results.
The art and choreography are amazing; the character silhouettes that guide us amongst the battles are the signs of an aware and incredibly skilled draftsman, dropping the mic on any given comic during which you might’ve had trouble picking out Characters A, B, and C from a small crowd, not to mention armies.
While I think the extended battle (about 3/4ths of these 400 pages) is justified to make the ending worthwhile – ushering us to the next “chapter” in Thorfinn’s life – there are several character subplots mixed in that I’m not sure were needed, although perhaps they’ll be revisited in some capacity later. However, at this point, it didn’t feel like those threads did much except add to the pagecount, though they’re well written and conceived in isolation.
Yet again, Vinland Saga runs the gamut: there’s insane action; some truly affecting character moments; and even some laugh out loud comedy towards the end.