Vinland Saga is hella dope! It’s quite possibly my penultimate go-to manga at this very moment, and I’d be hard pressed to discover anything to replace its greatness. A tale of war, revenge, and Vikings mad with fury and bloodlust, what’s not to love about it? Like seriously, you could get even the pickiest manga reader hooked onto this masterpiece. To sum it up, Vinland Saga is basically what happens when you take Vikings, Game of Thrones, and Lord of the Rings, and mesh it together into a comic book extravaganza.
When I heard Vinland Saga was getting an anime, from Studio WIT no less, I was ecstatic. My favourite manga, adapted by the same studio behind the likes of Ancient Magus Bride, After the Rain, and of course, the legendarily popular and insanely well animated Attack on Titan… It was like a dream come true. They were finally going to bring this epic story to the silver screen with, hopefully, top notch music, jaw dropping animation, and fantastic background art. In fact, I’m going to be doing episodic reviews of this show once it comes out. I usually don’t like writing them, but its for my favourite manga, so why not?
I have a lot of faith in Studio WIT. Unlike Lidenfilms (who worked on Arslan Senki and Berserk 2016), and Pierrot (who worked on Tokyo Ghoul and Kingdom), WIT is a very competent animation studio that’s well known for their breath-taking visual effects. Say what you will about the story of Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress or Attack on Titan, but you can’t deny the fact that they look stunning.
My impressions of the staff members working on this project are pretty mixed, but also somewhat positive too.
The director: This is so far my biggest complaint. Shuhei Yabuta is most notably known as a 3D director first and foremost, s thoe majority of his resume has him lending 3D work to shows like Mahouka, Guilty Crown, and Steins Gate, amongst others. He even worked on WIT shows in the past like Kabaneri and Attack on Titan. His first directorial debut was for Inuyashiki which, while still primarily a 2D production, had a lot of poorly integrated 3D models, particularly during fight sequences and any scenes involving mechanical beings moving about the environment. The positive news here is that Yabuta’s is pretty competent when it comes to CG work, but the idea of him working as primarily a 3D director in the past, has me worried. I don’t want Vinland Saga to have excessive 3D animation integrated into its 2D landscape. Sure, there’s no doubt there’ll be 3D (longboats, long distance battle sequences, and weapons may be too taxing to animate without it), but I don’t want there to be unnecessary amounts of it. I want to see Thorfinn fight Thorkell with near flawless sakuga animation, not 3D models awkwardly clashing together.
Script: I’ll be frank with y’all, I’m kinda mixed on this one as well. Hiroshi Seko has had a fairly sizable resume scriptwriting for certain shows, some of which have had gigantic fanbases to back them up, some of the series he’s worked on are trainwrecks. Seraph of the End was an awful battle shonen that incorporated all the worse elements of the genre, Kabaneri was basically an inferior Attack on Titan clone through and through, and Ajin was a half-assed attempt at turning a well-received seinen manga into a low fps CGI mess. Plus, considering he worked on the script for Terror in Resonance, a very disappointing and badly written show, I’d be hard pressed to guess that Shinichiro Watanabe was the one responsible for its failure, rather than Mr. Seko over here. But, I’ll reserve judgement for when the series premieres. After all, he’s also worked on some solid shows in the past too, such as Mob Psycho 100 and the currently airing Banana Fish. He’s also collaborating with Kenta Ibara, who also worked on the script for Ajin and Terror in Resonance, and wrote for The Saga of Tanya the Evil (which I haven’t seen, but I hear it’s a fun time waster).
The character designer: On a more positive note, the character designer is the same guy who worked on Hunter x Hunter (the 2011 adaptation). Takahiko Abiru was responsible for some of the most beautiful artwork to come out of its adaptation. That hand drawn scene depicting Komaru and the Chimaera Ant king? He drew that! To see some of the more poignant and downright gorgeous panels in Vinland Saga, adapted to television format with his talent is something I really want to witness. There’s a reason why Hunter x Hunter fans rave about this guy.
Background art and special effects: Background art is being done by the same group behind Ancient Magus Bride. Nothing more to say here, the backgrounds in Magus Bride are beautiful. I’m perfectly fine with this and hope they’ll bring forward their A-game for this adaptation. Meanwhile, the special effects are being helmed by Madbox, responsible for the CGI in past Studio WIT shows, most notably Attack on Titan. All that CGI used in the 3D manoeuvring sequences were assisted by them, so its nice to know that at least if there is a lot of CG, at the very least its in good hands. As long as it doesn’t look like that awkward CG colossal titan from Season 2 of Attack on Titan that is.
Now, as for the key visual itself:
I like it. The art here is very reflective of Makoto Yukimura’s extraordinary manga panels, with its gorgeous details and expressive character designs. This key visual I’m guessing is meant to be a homage to a panel from chapter 2, where Thorfinn is contemplating his actions while the rest of the army is celebrating their victory against the Brits in a mead hall. I like the design of Thorfinn here; the sharp blackish outlines and the immense details on his hair make him stand out in a good way against the photo-realistic background. He looks a lot like an Attack on Titan character, which I guess is to be expected, seeing as its being animated by the same studio. The longboat he’s slumped upon has a very striking Viking look and feel to it, particularly with the wooden dragon’s head reaching upward to cast its gaze across the scenery. This, imposed against a snowy backdrop, makes the image appear extremely picturesque to my liking.
So, there you have it, my two cents on the announcement of the key visual and the staff. I’m stoked, honestly, but there’s also a degree of scepticism to be had surrounding this adaptation. First of all, I haven’t even seen a trailer. Sure, the key visual itself, makes it look as if the series will use minimal CGI at best, but who knows? Looks can be most deceiving; I learnt this the hard way after witnessing Berserk 2016’s first visual, which was entirely in 2D. We’ll have to wait until the first trailer arrives to determine how much CGI will be utilized. But in the meantime, please do check the manga out if you haven’t already. It truly is one of the greats!