Keith Palmer (krpalmer) wrote,
Keith Palmer

Manga Thoughts: Vinland Saga 8

Makoto Yukimura's Viking manga Vinland Saga has been through enough "this volume had better sell" squeezes staying published in English that hoping the story's next instalment will arrive can feel as harrowing as reading through some of its "Dark Ages" action itself. At the end of the seventh double-thick volume, I did react with some extra relief at the story's long-enduring protagonist Thorfinn closing a painful circle that had opened at the tale's very beginning. That relief, though, might have led to the thought that if things did have to leave off there, it would at least not have to face the question of whether Thorfinn's hard-gained resolve to build a new and better world by sailing west would only carry what he was now trying to escape with him.

When I heard there'd be an eighth volume published, though, I went ahead and ordered a copy at the nearest bookstore. As the story picked up again, I did wonder a bit if Yukimura himself was trying to find his own path that wouldn't point straight to "inevitable disillusionment." To make the money to sail west, Thorfinn and the small band of companions he gathered towards the close of his previous journey have to sail east, taking a bundle of narwhal tusks through the Baltic and down the Viking trading route through Russia to the Byzantine Empire to try and sell "unicorn horns." Even setting out on that journey's not as simple as it first seems.

Roles for female characters did seem limited in the first seven volumes. It's easy enough to shrug and say "that's the way it was back then," and yet it's also possible to say "you can't get an 'ought' from an 'is.'" Gudrid, who's to be a bride but who still dreams of being a sailor, stands out among the women trying or succeeding to control "life at home." I am conscious there's a sense of anachronism about her; a chapter-opening splash page shows her as a girl holding a rather modern-looking teddy bear (a product of "customer selection" over the course of the twentieth century), and she tosses off a comment I can imagine tempting accusations of "translators at work." For that matter too, one other Viking woman resenting the wedding to be has elaborate curls with a distinct resemblance to a more typical "anime hairstyle."

At the same time, there always was a sort of "exaggerated realism" to Vinland Saga, and we get a bit more of that towards the close of the volume, which does just happen to close on a cliffhanger. Not that long after closing the volume, however, I did happen to get an email reminder it was available from that also included a preview image for a ninth volume. I can keep hoping, anyway.

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Tags: manga
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