Vinland Saga – An inspiration to paint

I’m setting up the next installment of the SAGA campaign at the store (kicking off on Feb.9) and looking at my Jomsvikings that are in need of priming and painting. But, I was given an inspirational kick in the pants by a co-worker who left a couple comp copies of the superlative viking manga, Vinland Saga, on my desk at work. Vinland Saga is, hands down, one of the best manga I have ever read.

20140106_125214Creator Makoto Yukimura (who also did the sci-fi epic Planetes) isn’t writing some silly bastardization of history – the man’s done his research. It’s set in early 11th century England, during the period when the Danish Vikings under Sweyn Forkbeard were trying to consolidate their territories in England. The story is about a boy, Thorfinn, who has a serious deathwish, trying to avenge himself on Askeladd, the man who killed his father. Their relationship is a complex one, and Thorfinn’s development as a character is as difficult as they come.

This story is set against a grand historical backdrop, and brings in the rise of Canute the Great, who later ruled over the North Sea Empire of the Danes. It’s well done on all levels – the art, the background, the characters, the story, everything. The depiction of Danish, Saxon and Scandinavian culture is extremely well done and respectful.

It’s also gritty and bloody as hell too, on the level, occasionally, of Berserk (if you know that one) but not gore for gore’s sake. It’s bloody because it has to be – I mean, if you chop someone in the collarbone with a sword or an axe it’s not going to look very pretty is it? This story shows how brutal and tough life was for people back then. Many characters are traumatized or hardened by the violent world they live in, including Thorfinn. It really gets into the characters’ heads and how the harsh and violent culture they live in shapes their way of thinking.

In Japanese, the series has about 12 volumes out right now and it’s still going. Kodansha is putting it out in English and while they’ve done a good job, I SO wish we could have done it. I know I would have devoted everything I had to making it the best ever. Anyway, if you’re interested in Vikings, Dark Ages history, Saga, minis wargaming, manga, and graphic novels, seriously, ALL the stars have aligned for you right here. Vinland Saga even features the Jomsvikings! Even if you don’t like graphic novels and/or manga, if you’re into Saga, I highly recommend reading this series.

And that has all inspired me to get busy on my Jomsviking minis for Saga! As the sort of Delta Force of the Dark Ages, I like the sheer range and awesome power of the abilities they have in the game. I should also be able to have the ready relatively quickly, since their army doesn’t have a high model count. It’s also got me reading a bit about the Varangian Guard, and whoever the Jomsvikings might have been. Anyway, it’s cool when your interests, hobbies and work all line up!

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