After more than three years of waiting, it’s finally here! Yukimura Makoto’s historical fiction manga epic receives its continuation with an anime adaptation of the “Farmland Saga” arc. This part of the story features a major tonal shift from what was seen in Season 1’s “Prologue” arc, and to demonstrate that fact the story opens not by immediately catching up with Thorfinn. Instead, it follows the life of Einar, an Anglo-Scandinavian man from the Danelaw region of northern England, whose father was killed in a Viking raid when he was a boy. Then, in a gut-wrenching sequence early in the episode, we see him watch his mother and little sister be killed by a second Viking raid, while he himself is dragged off into slavery in a traumatized state of shock. From there, Einar witnesses one casual cruelty after another as he’s taken from England to Denmark as merchandise to be sold. Any fight left in him is slowly beaten out of his soul by the fact that even when he’s not being guarded or kept in physical chains, he still cannot escape. Nobody in Denmark has anything to gain by helping a runaway foreign slave, so they simply won’t do it. The single instance of sympathy Einar receives comes from a wrinkled (and to us viewers, rather familiar looking) old man searching for a relative of his, a short blonde man named Thorfinn who seems to have been sold into slavery at some earlier point. The episode ends with Einar being bought by a man named Ketil, who takes Einar to his vast farmstead and introduces him to his other slave: a small, dead-eyed, and utterly passive young man named… Thorfinn son of Thors?!
THORFINN!? What happened to you?
Perhaps I’m too much of a fan of the original manga to be entirely objective, but I’ve been eagerly waiting this season ever since it was announced, and the first episode was everything I could have asked for. Vinland Saga receives its third-straight banger OP (which will be repeating in my head for days with no complaints for me), and the animation, backgrounds, and attention to detail are excellent. Given that the original manga’s story is a masterwork, all MAPPA had to do in that department was simply not mess it up, but even the anime-original scenes early in the episode are excellent. They flesh out parts of Einar’s early life that the manga brushed over, but the material fits into the story seamlessly. One thing that I must make absolutely certain to hammer home to anime-only viewers is that this season will not be like the first. This arc is going to be centered on Thorfinn’s first true example of character development since his father’s death, and he’s going to have to start from zero given that he’s always been an empty young man. But a man who has been broken down to nothing can be remade into anything, and Thorfinn’s journey to put himself back together will be a memorable one.