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Vinland Saga Season 2

Vinland Saga Season 2

Written by Archie Fenn on 21 Jun 2023


Distributor Crunchyroll/MVM Entertainment • Certificate • Price


For the last 24 weeks, Vinland Saga has been the high point of my Mondays. Now I don't really know what to do with myself on Monday evenings until Season 3 comes around in the distant future.

Following on from the incredible first season, which established Thorfinn as a ruthless killer, desperate to avenge his father in an honorable duel with the ever-dishonorable pirate Askeladd, Season 2 drastically changed its approach. Covering the Slave Arc, Season 2 started with Thorfinn in chains after the finale of Season 1 - which was officially the prequel to the main story. As covered in my first review of Vinland Saga S2, the start of Season 2 saw Thorfinn live the life of an enslaved soldier, alongside the captive English farmer Einar, as they established a new farm for their owner, in return for their freedom. Thus began Thorfinn's introspective journey into his own guilt towards the actions of his younger, angrier self.

The majority of Season 2's storytelling is slow and subtle, and it works in its favor. To tell the redemption story Makoto Yukimura aims for, he doesn't need the violent spectacle that engrossed viewers in Season 1. The large majority of Throfinn's growth happens while he tends crops, removes tree stumps, and grows genuine friendships with Einar, the other slaves, and even the surprisingly kind masters. This slower approach to storytelling lost Vinland Saga a large chunk of its viewership towards the start of Season 2, as many saw Vinland Saga as "the cool Viking show with lots of blood," missing the true purpose of the show's message.

At its core, Vinland Saga is a redemption story about one of the most skilled and ruthless Viking warriors understanding the true consequences of violence. The majority of Thorfinn's struggle is purely internal. Thorfinn struggles with PTSD, having his dreams invaded by the spirits of everyone he has killed, and those who have died as a consequence of his actions. In one such dream, Thorfinn falls into a cavern filled with their corpses, alongside which is that of Askeladd's. The deceased pirate initially laughs at Thorfinn for allowing such guilt to consume him, however, much like their twisted relationship in Season 1, Askeladd acts as a secondary father figure to Thorfinn (even after his death) helping him deal with the grief, and beginning his journey to be a true warrior - just like his real father tried to instill in him.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried numerous times throughout Season 2, occasionally from joy, but mostly from sympathy and sorrow. This season features incredible highs, like Leif's long-awaited reunion with Thorfinn, after seeing him briefly in York in season 1, as well as heartbreaking lows, like the story of Arnheid. Arnheid is one of Ketil's favorite slaves and was taken captive after her town lost a battle against a neighboring village over iron deposits. When her husband Gardar, who she presumes is dead, escapes captivity from a neighboring farm and sets out to rescue her, Arnhei is shocked at the vast disparity between the man she fell in love with, and the bloodthirsty monster who shows up years later.

Vinland Saga also uses Arnheid to explore the consequences of violence through a gendered lens, as the toxically masculine warriors spill blood for entertainment and "honor" while the female characters are left to deal with the heartbreaking consequences, which range from grieving lost sons and husbands to spending the rest of their lives in sexual slavery.

This season's slower pacing is also a commentary on the dedication it takes to change as a person. A lot of shows spend one or two episodes on a character's redemption arc, with the said character taking two hours to completely transform their personality. Vinland Saga dedicates its entire season to Thorfinn's desire to become a "true warrior" (meaning a pacifist) and frequently establishes hurdles across his journey of growth. These hurdles range from some of the farm's guards trying to beat him and Einar up, to King Canute waging war against the farm. Vinland Saga frequently tests Thorfinn's newfound pacifist ideals, often attempting to force him into binary decisions, i.e, violence or pacifism, with no middle ground.

Thorfinn holds strong throughout the 24 episodes, not only growing as a person but inspiring those around him, like Olmar, the weak son of Ketil who spends most of the season trying to be a strong warrior like his brothers and father. However, when Olmar sees Thorfinn peacefully negotiate with Canute to leave the farm, he also begins his internal journey towards becoming a "true warrior", exclaiming to Thorfinn that he wants to be like him, as Thorfinn leaves the farm to return home to Iceland.

 

Taking a step away from Vinland Saga's thematic elements and pacing, the animation is gorgeous. MAPPA took over from WIT Studio for the second season and the results are exactly what you would expect from the studio that currently holds a monopoly over the Shounen genre. Despite lacking the same action spectacle as other MAPPA projects like Hell's Paradise, Vinland Saga still turns every frame into a painting, especially in its finale episode as Thorfinn returns to Iceland under the aurora borealis.

Vinland Saga looks to continue its exploration of Thorfinn's newfound pacifistic morals in Season 3, which sees the "true warrior" raise the funds to start a new, peaceful colony in the mythical Vinland.

10
There's a reason it has been dubbed PEAKland Saga. Vinland Saga Season 2 is a perfect dissection of violence as entertainment and the reality of violence.

Archie Fenn
About Archie Fenn

Archie is a writer, journalist, and critic from South London. He spends most of his free time (and his work hours) watching and writing about cowboys in space and hip-hop samurai. His parents are very proud of him.

Throughout his growing career, Archie has written reviews and feature articles about some of the biggest franchises in entertainment, including Attack on TitanJohn WickNieR, and many more. He loves writing about how we can learn and grow from the media we consume.

You can learn more at his site theinsightfulnerd.com or his author website archiefenn.com


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