Archives for April 2014

Vinland Saga, Vol 2

Vinland Saga Volume 2 by Makoto Yukimura

It says a lot about the quality of writing in Vinland Saga that the most memorable moments in the manga for me aren’t the Viking battle scenes but instead quiet moments that reveal more about the characters in the story. The clash of wills between determined young warrior Thorfinn and the conniving Askeladd becomes even more intriguing with the plot development in this volume. The story opens with a bit of a flashback to Thorfinn’s early adventures in infiltration for Askeladd, when he is taken in by an English family who he ends up having to betray. Thorfinn attempts to tell them to run before the Viking invasion is about to crush their village, and his concern turns to resignation as he sees the destruction coming at the hands of the Vikings.

Thorfinn has an encounter with a crazed Viking commander named Thorkell. Thorkell’s glee in battle contrasts with Askeladd’s more cerebral and cynical approach. Thorfinn is defeated, but Thorkell cheerfully waves goodbye with the stumps of the fingers that Thorfinn sliced off, saying of the fight “I enjoyed our battle! We should do it again!” The name of Thorfinn’s father still functions as an element of protection, because Thors was such a legendary warrior that Thorfinn’s Viking opponents are immediately curious about his capabilities.

Askeladd has his own agenda to execute as his band begins to march across the English countryside. They encounter the timid Prince Canute, and Askeladd strikes an unusual bargain with the Welsh. There’s an element of impending doom referenced multiple times, as Askeladd references a prophesied end of the world. The clash of religions between Christianity and paganism is also explored, as is the absolute brutality of the Vikings as they plunder a village in the winter. Yukimura’s art is always strong, and I appreciate the clarity of the battle scenes, as well as the attention to detail with the characters’ emotions as they react to the events on their journey.

While Thorfinn fits in with the traditional model of a hero, I’m finding myself more intrigued by Askeladd, simply because he’s such an unreliable narrator. I’m not sure if his stated reasons for acting are the truth, which creates quite a bit of dramatic tension in the story. The deluxe production for these volumes is always a treat, and I’m looking forward to the next volume of this saga continuing.

Insufficient Direction by Moyoco Anno

Vertical is such a great publisher. I’m turning into even more of a fangirl because Gundam: The Origin, What Did You Eat Yesterday?, and Insufficient Direction all make me very happy. Some of the online reviews I’ve skimmed about this manga tend to focus more on the opportunity to find out what Hideaki Anno is like, but I always found myself more intrigued by getting a bit of an autobiographical glimpse into Moyoco Anno’s home life. She’s obviously fiercely intelligent, with a cynical edge to her manga like Happy Mania and Sakuran.

Insufficient Direction
is an affectionate and humorous look at what it is like to be married to the Ultimate Otaku. Anno portrays herself as a toddler wearing a one piece suit named Rompers and her husband looks like a bearded five-year-old with a beer belly, who is referred to as Director-kun. The manga details the hazards of geekdom, including how to shop for wedding outfits when one part of the couple wants to cosplay as Ultraman, anime song earworms, large collections of action figures and dvds, and superhero posing contests. Rompers gradually finds her personality slowly adjusting to Director-kun’s as she accidentally binge watches Gundam and finds herself making random geeky cultural references.

Anno’s style in Insufficient Direction is basically a cartoonish chibi way of drawing both her and her husband, but I was amused by the panels here and there where her normal manga style peeked through, when she was sitting around talking to her assistants or portraying a goofy story made up by her husband. Overall, this manga is an affectionate portrayal of a marriage, with give and take on both sides as Rompers tries to get Director-kun to be more healthy and Director-kun tries to get his wife to become the ultimate otaku bride.

There’s an essay by Hideaki Anno in the back of the book, and it is clear how much he respects his wife’s talent. I also appreciated the copious notes included in this volume, which are necessary for anyone who doesn’t have a ton of knowledge about Japanese tv shows and anime from the 60s and 70s. I enjoyed the episodic nature of this manga, which made it easy to pick up and put down if I was just in the mood to read a chapter or two. This is a must read if you enjoy slice of life manga, or if you are a fan of either Hideaki or Moyoco Anno.