*This review is SPOILER FREE*
This series… I just…wow. This is one case of judging a book by its (beautiful hard)cover gone completely right. It just happened to catch my eye when I was cruising my local library seinen (older male) manga shelves, and I picked it up without even glancing at the premise. I’ve been sitting here trying to sum this series up into a coherent review but, nope, I just can’t right now. The art…Ugghhh, I feel…like…sigh
Noooo *metal slap*, I need to get serious here, I appreciate this series too much to not try my best to form an actual review here.
Okay so in short this on-going saga, which I have currently read every volume available in English (seven 2-in-1 omnibus volumes/100 chapters) as of today, is something I’d normally never touch in my life: A historical fiction. At that some of you may have groaned inwardly like I would have, but trust me, you’d be seriously missing out if you pass this up. For one thing the art is a MASTERPIECE, and if you’re even a halfway decent manga/art fan, heck even if you’ve never even heard of manga (Japanese comics), this series is a must. 8/10 Unicorn Horns overall.
The long explanation:
The story-line? 8/10 and Very Good. It’s like a fantasy series in picture format, but without any actual fantasy…if that makes sense. It took me a shamefully long time to notice it was historical fiction despite the names, and setting…and introduction- let’s just not talk about that -but by then it was too late and I was hooked. It’s set in England 1013 AD (in case any history buffs were curious) during the Danish-England war, and is about a young boy named Thorfinn who is traveling with pirating mercenary Vikings in order to take revenge on the bands commander, Askeladd. The story follows Thorfinn and the Viking band through epic battles, pillaging, and a tad bit of Game of Thrones-esque (though admittedly not nearly as epic) plotting. Though it hasn’t explored the full depth of its complex themes (primarily morality, human nature, revenge, and the (im)possibility of real peace/non-violence.) it’s looking like it will turn out to be a long running series so it’s likely that will change over time. It’s beautifully paced, surprising refreshing, sometimes brutal, sometimes sweet, and often profound in some ways.
The characters? 8/10 and Generally complex. Even after 14 volumes I still don’t think I have concrete understanding of most of them. They caught me off guard a few times, but not in a bad, wholly uncharacteristic kind of way, but in an unnervingly human kind of way. Though Thorfinn’s static character and single minded drive for revenge can be can get pretty irritating at times, it’s a necessary precursor for a fundamental mental shift and what I believe is part of the building blocks for future amazingness. So for those that may be bothered by his tunnel vision, just bear with it. Besides, while Thorfinn may be the main character, you get quite a bit of depth from other major and minor characters as well. I’m still in awe at how enchanting and… full the characters are.
And of course. The artwork? 10/10 Sigh. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at manga art in quite the same way. Seriously. I’ve read a ridiculous amount of manga in the short time I’ve awakened to its existence, and Yukimura’s is very likely the BEST I’ve seen so far. It’s not the typical manga style but it is f***ing MASTERFUL. The backgrounds and scenery, the fight scenes (which are remarkably easy to follow btw), and the EXPRESSIONS. UGH. The amount of detail in each panel gives me delightful chills just thinking about it. Even if the story-line was just okay I’d still buy it just for the art.
Recommendation? Everyone. Anyone. If you enjoy a gripping story, engaging, complex characters, and BEAUTIFUL art this series is for you. Even if you don’t, this series is for you.
Mmm…That hardcover though…