Vinland Saga Anime Review: A Brutal, Viking Epic.

So, I’d been wanting to watch Vinland Saga for a long time but had a hard time finding it online.
Then, when I got Amazon Prime to watch the adaptation for Wheel of Time, I was delighted to see that the anime was there, so I could finally watch it.
And it did not disappoint.
Adapted from the manga by Makoto Yukimura, directed by Shūhei Yabuta, and developed by the great Wit Studio, Vinland Saga tells the tale of Thorfinn (Yūto Uemura), a young man from Iceland, looking to avenge the murder of his father, the former Jomsvikings warrior, Thors (Kenichiro Matsuda).

The first season of Vinland Saga follows Thorfinn’s journey to avenge his father.

However, this is not your typical revenge story because, while most stories of this nature would have the main character tracking down the antagonist to get their revenge, Thorfinn does not do this.
No, instead Vinland Saga goes in a completley different direction from any revenge story I have seen, with Thorfinn actually accompanying the man who killed his father, Askeladd (Naoya Uchida), in the hopes of dueling him to the death one day.
This makes none of our central characters good people, as they’re all the type to do the raiding and murdering commonly associated with the Vikings of history.
Speaking of that history, it’s interesting to note how many of these characters are interpretations of real people, with creative liberties taken.
The best example of this is Askeladd, who is based off a folk tale character, and is also by far the best character in the show.    

Askeladd is fascinating from the beginning of the season to the end.

He is whitty and charming, despite being an absolutley terrible person, and how his backstory is woven in and expanded upon is excellent, especially with how it ties into his actions at the beginning of the story.
Even the conclusion of his character for this season is amazing, making his overall character seem like both an antagonist and an anti-hero, while being neither at the same time.
Make no mistake, though, Askeladd still regularly commits atrocities, despite him being the best character in the show.
Thankfully, his horrific actions and those of the other characters are never glorified.

This leads to some pretty bleak episodes, like Episode 14, “The Light of Dawn.”

Episode 14 is a real gut punch, reminding us just how cruel our main characters can be.

I am going to remember many scenes from Vinland Saga, both the uplifting and the bleak, with many of the stories’ characters developing from these scenes, not just Thorfinn and Askeladd.
Most notably we have Canute (Kensho Ono) and Thorkell (Akio Ōtsuka), both historical figures who have great importance to the story, especially Canute, who goes on to serve as a fantastic parallel to Thorfinn in the manga.

Caunute is my favourite character of the season, next to Askeladd.

Speaking of the manga, the section that the anime adapts is actually a prologue to the true story of Vinland Saga, with the final episode literally being titled “End of the Prologue.”
The manga then goes in a direction that I honestly was not expecting, yet still quite enjoyed.
I do perfer the story telling of the first season, though, primarily because of Askeladd’s excellent development as a character.
The entire story of Season One is also aided with some fantastic animation and music from Wit Studio and composer Yutaka Yamada, tying everything together into an excellent adaptation of the manga.
Vinland Saga is an amazing anime, and I will soon be reviewing the manga and then Season Two, whenever that releases. 

Japan Sinks 2020: At This Point, I Wouldn’t Even be Surprised.

3 stars
2020 has been a disaster of a year so it’s only fitting that an anime comes out, set in that year, where massive earthquakes cause Japan to begin sinking.
It also makes sense then that the anime is a bit of a mess, again, just like 2020.
Directed by Pyeon-Gang Ho and Masaaki Yuasa, Japan Sinks follows the Muto family who are caught up in the disaster of their country sinking beneath their feet.
The family consists of aspiring runner Auyumu (Reina Ueda), her brother, the gamer Go (Tomu Muranaka), and their parents, dedicate father Koichiro (Masaki Terasoma), and Filipino working mother Mari (Yuko Sasaki).
Over the course of the anime, they struggle to survive, encountering many other survivors who join them on their journey, but not everyone makes it out alive.

muto family
Japan Sinks doesn’t pull any punches with what can happen to any character at any time.

The first three episodes of  Japan Sinks are very well done, for the most part, depicting the horror that such a disaster would have expertly, except for a few weird scenes like characters taking family photos in the midst of this.
These episodes also establish that no character is safe, which makes for a lot of tense moments, considering that I came to like a lot of these characters.
Surprisingly, my favourite characters came from outside the Muto family, primarily Haruo Koga (Hiroyuki Yoshino), Auyumu’s former friend turned introvert, and Kite (Kensho Ono), a famous YouTuber.
Both these characters have great arcs that made me really care for them as the show went on.

haruo
Haruo had a pretty great arc, going from introvert to hero.

I wish my care for certain characters had extended to a love for the show but, unfortunately, it couldn’t for a variety of reasons.
The primary reason though is that episodes four to six are a complete waste of time, introducing mostly terrible characters, and some awful animation.
It took me ten days to watch the entire show and, of that time, it took me five days to get through episodes four to six.
That should tell you how much of a drag those episodes were.
On the plus side though, episode six did provide the most unintentionally hilarious death scene I have ever had the pleasure of seeing.
Other problems persist throughout Japan Sinks, like the animation issues, amount of unexplained events and coincidences, and characters acting like no real person would, for example, seemingly moving on immediately after a loved one dies.
These problems are seen throughout the show and really drag its high moments down, although there are a fair amount of these high moments.
After episode six, the story picks up again and the episodes are actually enjoyable, delivering a reflective finale that brought a smile to my face.
Then there are the themes, which are very well handled.
For example, the show tackles racism in Japan with the mixed family of the Mutos experiencing a lot of it from purely Japanese people.
Also, I like a lot of the subtlety for certain characters, like Kite, who we learn something about in the final episode that I honestly didn’t catch until another review pointed it out to me.

kite
I didn’t expect to like Kite at first so I was surprised when he became one of my favourites.

There is a lot of good things about Japan Sinks. 
It’s just a shame that the majority of those good things are dragged down by some truly awful episodes, animation issues and inconsistencies.
Japan Sinks is a mixed bag that delivers plenty of good moments but also a lot of bad moments.
So, I guess you could say that the show is 2020 in a nutshell.