A thousand years after Christ, the world is raw and dangerous—the slave trade abounds, the new world is just beginning to be explored, and nations are at war. The Vikings are scattered among islands and peninsulas, many residing in peaceful villages and others living by the sword. Thors, a once great warrior, is now a leader in an Icelandic hamlet, avoiding conflict and rearing a family. But when war threatens the existence he’s built, he must once again face a violent world and decide how to navigate it, and how to lead his young son through it.
Vinland Saga arrives this summer with high expectations—the manga, from the creator of the acclaimed series Planetes, is well-loved, and aside from Dr. Stone, is perhaps this season’s most anticipated series. Licensed by Amazon, the first three episodes were released all together, and it was a smart move, as they set the stage for an epic tale; the end of the third episodes leaves us with context for the series set and the action just beginning. It only takes these initial episodes for the tension to be near unbearable—characters we already love are flung into a story and tone that tells us significant deaths on the way. A comparison will be made to Game of Thrones, and it fits well early on; just as the “Winter is Coming” and “The King’s Road” slowly set the stage for a vast story, these early episodes of Vinland Saga seem to do the same.
Braveheart, though—if we’re throwing around historical epics—is to me an even more apt comparison. A smaller main cast, a more traditional tale, roots in history (Vinland Saga is so far doing a wonderful job of blending in figures life Leif Erikson and Harald Fairhair with historical events and locations), and a focus on warriors set against beautiful backdrops bring these two together. We’ll see how Vinland Saga separates itself from that movie and GoT and others as it moves forward and continues to develop what looks to be a series that deserves the adjective to which it will constantly be tied: epic.
The first three episodes of Vinland Saga can be streamed on Amazon Prime.