First and foremost, I am not much of a Manga reader. I have enjoyed the VIZ Big editions of Dragon Ball Z – made it through three so far – but other than that I really don’t have a lot of experience with Manga nor do I seem to have a whole lot of interest in it. There is nothing wrong with it, for the most part, and a lot of it is done by really, really talented writers and artists that rival a lot of the “regular” comics we get on this side of the work every week.
I do, however, have a weakness for Vikings. To put it simply, I fucking love everything about them. Vikings, or Danes/Norse or however you want to label them, are awesome. I was killing time on GoodReads and happened to notice one of the people on there had selected this book to read. With a title like Vinland Saga – Vinland was what early Viking explorers called parts of Northing America they had discovered – I immediately went to check it out and see what it was all about. Well, needless to say shortly after discovering that this was, in fact, about Vikings I had my local shop put a copy aside for me and the rest, they say, is history.
…Not that I’m done this review though. Just that, you know, I got the book and read it and clearly liked it and here I am and here you are. Yeah…
Anyway. Not being big in to Manga I had no idea who writer/artist Makoto Yukimura was. I had no point of reference for his work nor did I really understand what I was about to get myself into. Well, let’s be honest here, this first book was absolutely awesome. No, it wasn’t just because the material was about Vikings, it was about the quality of the work inside the awesome hardcover collection that Kodansha Comics USA did.
I mentioned I had read some Dragon Ball Z and, of course, that stuff has lots of movement and it’s fast paced and, because I loved the show, it’s fantastic. I didn’t understand that the style and tools involved is basically the frame work for a lot of other manga, with Vinland Saga included. Now, of course, Yukimura puts his own spin on some of the traditional points and features in Manga and, of course, there’s those goofy faces you remember from shows like Dragon Ball Z and Pokemon and such, but it all works within the structure of the story. Yukimura puts some insane detail into every panel and page and his fight scenes are among the best illustrated fight scenes I’ve ever seen. His movement is definitely great, you can almost imagine this if it was a Japanimation—if that’s actually a word—TV show. Is it over the top at points? Sure, but that seems to be part of the style. It can be over the top at times.
On the writing end, Yukimura does a great job getting the reader into the characters. He has some humor, he has some serious moments and he moves the story along very quickly. Maybe it’s the smaller sized pages, or that the art seems to do the job of most of the narration so there’s not a whole lot of text on each page, but this book really reads quickly. Even if you stop and examine each page, it’s still much faster than anything you’d get on this side of the work. This collection was over 400 pages, but it didn’t feel like you read 400 pages. Before I knew it, it was over and I was looking up the release date for Book Two.
Trying to compare this to anything you see over here just doesn’t work. They really are two different entities, even if they’re of a similar base concept. Plus, did I mention the reading it backwards, from right to left? If you’ve never read Manga before prepare to have your mind blown and, maybe, even skip a few parts accidentally because it’s really awkward to somebody who doesn’t normally read like that. Once you get used to it, it’s not so bad and it reads like anything else, but it’s getting into those first handful of pages that really makes your brain work.
Unfortunately, the next book doesn’t come out until January and, according to the publisher, we’re looking at maybe another book every three months or so in 2014. Why? Because this was all done in Japanese and it needs to be translated and adjusted for North America audiences. The downside of getting into a Manga that’s not already established over here, I guess.
At the end of the day, Book One is more than worth the $20 price tag for a hardcover that’s over 400 pages. This is jam packed with great story and art from an amazing creator. Even if you don’t like Manga or have never read any Manga before this might be a great place to start. It has a bit of everything for almost anybody. You’ll have to wait a few months for the volumes to be released. Check this book out.