SPECIAL

スペシャル

EN

TV Anime VINLAND SAGA Season One
Celebrating Re-Broadcast and Global Streaming

First Special Group Interview Topic: Scenario Original Author: Yukimura Makoto,Director: Shuhei Yabuta,Head Writer: Hiroshi Seko

The second season of TV anime VINLAND SAGA will start airing January 2023! To celebrate the TV rebroadcast and worldwide streaming of Season One, not only available on Amazon Prime Video, but also NETFLIX, and more. We've gathered original author Yukimura Makoto, director Shuhei Yabuta, and series composition Hiroshi Seko to discuss the story of the show.

The following interview is full of exclusive contents such as behind-the-scenes stories and highlights from Season One, as well as insights into the making of Season Two!

SPOILER ALERT: Please note that this interview contains some spoilers about Season One.

From the left of the photo:Director: Shuhei Yabuta,Original Author: Yukimura Makoto,Series composition: Hiroshi Seko

First Special Group Interview Part 1

INDEX

About the theme

Both the original manga and anime adaptation of VINLAND SAGA have obtained considerable popularity worldwide. As the creators, what has been the reason for this success?

Seko
I believe the strength of the source material played a big role in getting so many people to watch the anime. There are plenty of movies and novels featuring Vikings, but it’s rare for the protagonist to be one young boy. I think that’s one of the distinctions that helps VINLAND SAGA stand out from the pack.
Yabuta
That’s true. Also, VINLAND SAGA is concerned with themes other than a simple portrayal of Viking violence, and I think this alternative focus is an important part of giving the story its distinct voice.
Yukimura
Initially, I hadn't set out to make a story with a Viking protagonist. I thought about the theme I wanted to write about and how best to portray it, and ultimately ended up settling on Vikings.
Yabuta
I remember you mentioning this before—that when you thought about your theme of “how to come to terms with violence,” you picked Vikings because they came from a society and time in history that felt the most positive about that concept.
Yukimura
Right. The Vikings of this age had a society where it was common sense not to view those who enacted violence as even the slightest bit evil. I personally hate violence, so a key element in writing this story was relaxing my modern sense of morality. [Laughs.]
Storytelling in the Original and Adaptation

Could you tell us about what you had to look out for when adapting this story into an anime?

Seko
We had to pay special attention when making the anime-original scenes. Say someone collapsed on the ground. In modern society, someone would apply first aid or call for help, but a Viking probably wouldn't. We kept that in mind all the time.
Yabuta
True. We had to bear in mind what kind of people the Vikings were. They formed military groups, certainly, but not well-disciplined, obedient ones. Instead, they were more like a gathering of individuals. And it was a strong sense of camaraderie toward an individual that brought them together. That's what Askeladd's band is like in Season One. We portrayed Askeladd as being able to take charge because others viewed him as powerful. We were also careful not to depict the supporting characters as overly dependent on their leader, as that would diminish their individual charm. We took a similar approach with the relationship between Snake and the Guests in Season Two, making their group seem less hierarchical.

Yukimura, what kind of things did you keep in mind when creating VINLAND SAGA?

Yukimura
In a normal army, in the modern sense of the word, a superior officer's orders are absolute. If there's an order to charge, the soldiers charge—even if they know some of them are going to die. The Viking bands in VINLAND SAGA have a much more haphazard chain of command. Leadership structure essentially boils down to following whoever’s strongest. Askeladd's men follow him because they look up to his strength, but if that respect fades, or they feel following him is dangerous, they'll go their own way. I write their stories recognizing that their relationships don’t amount to any more than that.
Yabuta
They're not motivated by authority or loyalty. When Torgrim left the band, I made sure not to portray it as a betrayal. I wanted to show it simply as a rational, realistic choice and avoid painting him in a negative light.
Yukimura
There are plenty of betrayals in history, too. Heck, Thorkell switches sides all the time.
Anime-Original Scenes

Yukimura, could you tell us what left an impression when watching the anime-original scenes?

Yukimura
First, I was really happy to see a VINLAND SAGA that I didn't know play out on screen. I particularly felt a sense of gratitude regarding the fifth and sixth episodes. Thorfinn is separated from his father Thors at a young age and ends up working for Askeladd, but in the manga I skipped over what happened until Thorfinn was sixteen. The anime did a great job of showing the process of him growing up and filling in that gap, so I really appreciated it.
Seko
When I was developing the series outline, I told Yabuta I wanted to show it in chronological order to illustrate Thorfinn's growth.
Yabuta
And that really made sense to me, so I agreed. That's why we ended up putting bits of Thorfinn growing up in Episodes Five and Six. I was interested in seeing how a six-year-old would survive after being suddenly taken in by a Viking band, and I also wanted to see how Thorfinn grew from a gentle boy into the young man he becomes.

What did you have to be careful of when making Episodes Five and Six?

Yabuta
The end of Episode Six is a scene in East Anglia taken from the manga, so we had to have scenes for Thorfinn leading up to that point establishing how his character developed. In Episode Five, we showed how he gained the ability to survive and how he made his contract with Askeladd. In Episode Six, we reveal the process of how Thorfinn gained the ability to fight as well as his internal feelings in East Anglia. I thought the scene showed him truly stepping into the world of battle as part of Askeladd's band, showing his transformation into a warrior.
Of course, Askeladd and the other characters were also active during those years, so I did my best to keep them in character. I'm a reader of VINLAND SAGA myself, so I was hoping the viewers would feel a sense of Yukimura Makoto’s style in those original scenes.
Yukimura
It's a strange way to put it, but it was as if I'd written those scenes.

[All laugh.]

Yukimura
I really felt like "I wrote this and just forgot about it, right?" and "If I were writing this, this is exactly how I'd do it." A little obnoxious when talking about someone else's creation, really. [Laughs.]
Seko
Not at all! It's a fantastic compliment.
Yukimura
It's full of these ideas I hadn't even thought of, so I'm really grateful and impressed by what I saw.
A Story in Chronological Order

Going back to the chronological order of the story, Episode Seven features the battle of the fortress in the Frankish Kingdom, which is the very first story written in the manga.

Yukimura
I'd discussed it beforehand with my editor, and we had decided to start there because it had everything—it was a bombastic sequence that didn't greatly affect what came next, and it really showed the readers what Vikings are all about. It shows the readers the Viking way as well as Thorfinn and Askeladd's strange relationship, right from the get-go.
I wrote about Thorfinn's childhood after that, but since I'd started out by showing him at sixteen, it meant that no matter how much danger he fell into, the readers knew he would survive. That's an issue with telling a story out of chronological order. [Grimaces.]
Yabuta
Oh, I wouldn't say that. We have the series outlined this way because we wanted to make the anime in chronological order, but the way you started the manga serialization really had the power to capture the reader’s attention. It's the time when Askeladd's band was at their peak, and it's an incredibly fun story to read.
Seko
Definitely. The manga has a far stronger hook. I read it in Shonen Magazine when it was first published and thought it was the start to one hell of a manga. If there were a contest for the best manga starting chapter in the world, it would definitely be one of the Top 3. But since the manga was already being published when we started the anime, I decided I wanted to follow Thorfinn's story chronologically after considering the course of events written after that opening. That all comes together in Episode Four.
Yabuta
When considering the structure of a long series, working with a story that's already been largely mapped out is a big advantage. It gives us the luxury to outline the story in a balanced manner and pick what to prioritize based on later developments.

Yabuta, what did you keep in mind when drawing up the storyboard for the surprising cold open in Episode One?

Yabuta
I realized that laying out the storyline chronologically would mean it would have a much weaker hook than the manga series, so we made that scene to ensure the viewers' interest. I also thought that showing Thorfinn's growth had to start with Thors, so we tried beginning with a scene featuring Thors to make it clear that Thorfinn's tale began there. Oh, and I just really wanted to see Thors and Thorkell fighting side by side. [Laughs.]

That opening battle scene was a wonderful sequence that really gets the viewers excited for what's to come.

Yabuta
The manga has a surprising dearth of naval battles, so we decided that if we were going to show the fans something completely different, we might as well fill that niche. I made the 3D CG with the action and camerawork as a set, then had the animators animate it. I put a slight spin on the methods I'd used previously as a 3D director and tried applying them to the action scenes.
Seko
I wanted to see the Battle of Hjörungavágr, too. In this work, it was a battle where Thors was supposed to be dead, and in the historical fact, hail fell, so I thought that it would be quite dramatic. As far back as the outlining phase, I’d been thinking that if we were going to arrange things in sequential order, we should start with that scene.
Yabuta
We spoke a lot about how the scene would develop. My vision of the scene got bloated as I was drawing the storyboard, so I completed it after consulting Seko again. This is only my second project as a director, and that scene really showed me just how hard it can be to convert the manuscript into the storyboard.
Season One Highlights

What do you think are the highlights of the first half of Season One?

Yukimura
I was quite surprised by the opening scene these two were just talking about, and I really liked Episodes Five and Six's original content, as well as the attack on the fort in the Frankish Kingdom in Episode Seven. When it comes to anime, people will usually say “give it at least three episodes,” but as the author, I want to say “give it at least every episode!” [Laughs.]
Seko
In the first half, I really like Episodes Three and Four. As a script writer, not limited to this work, I always have a desire to "touch viewers heart," so I think that is the number of stories that are condensed. We really wanted those two to be emotionally hard-hitting. No matter how many times I see the unstoppable Thors and his death, I always cry. In fact, we made the series a chronological story just to show that scene, that was to portray the death of Thors on time.
I also like Episodes Nine and Ten a lot. In Episode Nine, it was Thorfinn’s first combat between Thorkell. And Episode Ten was an interval that didn't have huge plot developments, but it definitely affected the fate of Askeladd’s band. It's quiet and exciting at the bottom of my heart. You also feel that something big is about to go down.
Yabuta
I love Episode Ten. The last scene is something I really loved in the manga, so I tried to direct it in a way that would create the same emotions I felt reading it. It was a really hard but really fun episode to make.