4 out of 5
Hardcover collection of tankobons vol. 15 and 16.
If it hasn’t already been clear up to this point in Vinland Saga, Makoto Yukimura is taking the long game with Thorfinn. Our story rather confidently marches through what most tales would treat as asides – world-building story-paths, but perhaps distractions from a main goal – and gives them full breadth, making it clear how relevant all of these characters are to the Vinland world, and thus to the evolution of Thorfinn. The relative preamble of his youth; spending time with Askeladd; and with Einar. The first part of that makes sense – it’s directly about the main character – but as the plot embraced turning Askeladd into something beyond a villain, and, later, Einar into more than comic relief, the approach can seem questioningly languid. But whenever we get to where we’re going… it’s clear Yukimura needed the room to explore, so that we can appreciate the heft of the era, as well as the acts of randomness that often end up being the structural bones of any given person, or scenario.
Turning Thorfinn the vengeance-seeking kid into a peace-seeking adult, and doing it believably, requires this.
And now, how to make the seeking become fruitful, also without cheapening the themes, or maneuvering around Vinland’s researched realities?
Enter: Gudrid, the next character we’re taking hand-in-hand and allowing as much story space as Thorfinn.
Most of this collection concerns Gudrid, Leif’s female relative who the soon-established group of Thorfinn, Leif, Einar, and “Bug eyes” (the other Thorfinn Leif humorously picked up along the way) incorporate as they set out on their way to establish Thorfinn’s idealized bastion, in far-off Vinland. Getting a female perspective into the tale is perfect at this point, and Yukimura subtly stands Gudrid’s life of expectations – she’s to be married and a “proper” female, when all her life she’s only wanted to explore – against the swerve of pursuits that Thorfinn took, which looks to get an even more severe about face in the cliffhanger at collection’s end.
Gudrid is a fantastic character: similar to Einar, coming across as something of comic relief, and then slowly but surely filling out with detail. However, the way that Yukimura injects some urgency into things is by having her joining up with Thorfinn’s crew being part of an escape from her husband-to-be, and while I get this approach, the chase this encourages seems almost a little slapstick and silly as compared to the amount of plot attention it gets; she could’ve just been running away from home and the effect would’ve ultimately been the same.
In the moment, though, given Yukimura’s excellent comic / action timing, none of these beats miss their mark or discourage one from turning the page.
Another – expectedly – wonderful addition to the series. No real bonuses this time (a preview of a non-Yukimura comic), but the contents are worth it without any extras.