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Thoughts on Vinland Saga (Second Half - Episodes 13-24)

To prepare for the new season, I finally watched Vinland Saga. I am highly impressed with it. While watching, I wrote down just a few notes with my thoughts. Today's post is based on those notes. Please enjoy a little random rambling about Vinland Saga episodes 13-24.

First, I have a few notes about general production. Starting at episode 13, new songs are used for the intro and ending. Both sound amazing. Personally, I prefer the first set of songs by just a smidgeon. The instrumental OST in the background was also good, often containing highly emotional pieces of music. I'm not sure who the composer is, but I'll look it up when I write my review.

The art and animation was still great overall, but I had a few tiny complaints. More and more shots of soldiers and Vikings were animated with extremely cheap and bad-looking 3D animation. That was kind of an eyesore, but I know it's needed to cut production costs. Additionally, the duels were not as good as before, showing less actual movement and less exciting moves for the characters. Still, Vinland Saga looks great overall, and does especially well with close-up shots of detailed face expressions.

(Prince Canute has changed)

If episode 13 was a little slow and dull, then episode 14 made up for it with its absorbing and heavy thematic elements. It's the episode that shows the English girl Anne and her family in the snowy village. There was a lot of commentary on Christianity, which was especially thought-provoking as someone who has no religion or belief in any "higher power." (However, I grew up Christian, and I think this episode was a pretty good representation of the basics of the religion.) There were clearly pros and cons of Christianity during this time period. It's interesting that the religion made a child believe she was going to suffer for eternity because of a one-time act of petty theft.

Anne's emotional struggle with regards to her belief system was powerful, especially after she witnessed her family and all the other villagers being killed. The massacre of the villagers was a stark reminder of the dark nature of this anime. I love it, but watching it does put a little emotional weight on viewers who process the themes. Vinland Saga has always had a strong theme that war and violence in general is terrible. If there's any bright side to this, it's that Anne survived. She deserves her own side story if you ask me.

(Anne from episode 14)

My thoughts on episodes 15 through 17 are a little scattered. First of all, the pacing of this anime slowed down and the plot's direction changed somewhat. Even so, it remained exciting and easy to watch. There was an increased focus on Askeladd and Canute, with Thorfinn's revenge quest no longer dominating the show. During these few episodes, the character development for Canute finally started. It was sad when Ragnar was killed, but it was the catalyst for Canute's drastic evolution. Supporting characters like Bjorn and Willibard (the priest) also saw some slight character development.

Episode 17 was particularly important because it finally revealed Askeladd's true motivations and parts of his character history. This is also the episode where Thorfinn "rescues" Askeladd from Thorkell. The ending of this episode felt very cinematic and intense. The build-up to this fight - Thorfinn versus Thorkell - was extremely well done. I still think Thorkell is fascinating from a psychological standpoint. He's also terrifying.

(Thorkell traumatizes Thorgrim)

When it comes to the critically important 18th episode, I have enough thoughts and opinions to write a full-length essay. It deserves its own detailed blog post. I'm not going to try to cover much of it here today, but just note that it was a thematically strong episode that sets the stage for the remainder of the show. While Thorfinn looks for meaning as a warrior, Canute looks for meaning in love. The comparison was done well. Canute also had a lot of personal and philosophical discussions with Willibard about love and its different meanings. Ultimately, it leads to Canute's enlightenment and his decision to work toward a better world using his royal power.

After episode 18, the rest of the show is centered around Askeladd as he tries to arrange for Canute to become the next king. There was a lot of political intrigue in episodes 19 to 21. Askeladd pulled off a lot of good plans with his scheming mind. A few other interesting things happened too, such as the last of Askeladd's 100 men leaving him, and the sad death of Bjorn. Lief finally found Thorfinn, too, but couldn't convince him to come home. During these episodes, I went from liking Canute to absolutely loving him. In contrast, I got less and less patient with Thorfinn and his never ending bad mood.

(He never stops glaring daggers)

In episodes 22 and 23, we learned more history for Askeladd. He's a fascinating character. A little more time was also spent on Thorfinn. When Leif came to see him and talked about sailing and Vinland, it was inspiring. I liked the imagery of Thorfinn in a jail cell, because he's in a prison of his own making mentally. An interesting theme in this anime is that everyone is a metaphorical slave to something. As for Thorfinn, he is a slave to revenge.

Then there was the last episode. Overall, I liked the ending with its sudden plot twists. Canute is now king and Askeladd is dead. It certainly leaves me wondering what will happen next, because we have no idea how Thorfinn will cope. Is he going to go after Canute next, or will he finally start to grow the fuck up already? He needs to move on. I'm not sure what those random-looking scenes were at the end of the episode. Maybe they were just scenes of random people around Europe, but I really don't know. It could have been some kind of glimpse of the future.

I'm happy I decided to watch Vinland Saga. It's an engrossing anime with some truly profound themes. The characters and their psychology are amazing too. Even someone like me, who isn't generally interested in historical fiction, ended up loving this show. I'm now super stoked for season 2. I'm not sure how much it will focus on Canute, but I'm especially looking forward to seeing more of this amazing androgynous king.


Thank you for reading~

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