What They Say:
Episode #6. “The journey begins”
Thorfinn goes to battle for the first time as a member of Askeladd’s army. After witnessing the harsh reality of the war to conquer England first-hand, Thorfinn tries to run away, but later throws himself into battle in order to get revenge for his father by defeating Askeladd. One night, Thorfinn gets wounded in battle, and is saved by a mother and daughter living in a village by the sea.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Amusingly, that Amazon blurb for the episode states something that doesn’t actually happen. Thorfinn never tries to run away from battle. He is disgusted, scared, untested and unsure, but never attempts to run. Where would he go? He doesn’t speak (old) English and Askeladd’s men have been raiding the English countryside.
Thorfinn is tolerated among the others but otherwise ignored. He gets no real help from any of them and still scavenges for much of his food. Upon arriving at one camp the group finds the place littered with dead men from a battle, and Thorfinn is shocked at the carnage and rotting bodies. During a negotiation attempt for another job the raiders are attacked and it’s do or die time.
Thorfinn wields his father’s knife and is driven by Askeladd’s words to prove himself in battle. A seven-year-old boy should have been ignored by the attackers, but one man marks him as being with the pirates and Thorfinn is only saved at the last moment by Askeladd. The next man who attacks the boy is met with an embarrassed, enraged, and terrified boy who realizes its kill or be killed and acts accordingly.
This episode lacks some of the eye candy and delicate action of the previous episodes. It’s not a bad looking episode by any means, but far more standard. For example, the scene where Thorfinn cries out after having taken his first life comes off as a bit silly because of the lack of facial animation for Thorfinn screaming. He looks like a gaping fish.
From there, time pushes forward. Thorfinn, over the shock of his first kill, continues to kill. His speed and size make him a surprise to the others they fight. Askeladd uses the boy as a scout, and Thorfinn gains a second blade to use in tandem with the one from his father. He becomes a strong enough force on the field to pay Askeladd back for the time the man saved him.
During one scouting mission, Thorfinn takes an arrow to the arm and collapses in a river. We’re back up to manga events now, and we watch as Thorfinn is nursed back to health by a grieving mother and her daughter. She sees in Thorfinn her dead son, and Thorfinn recognizes in her a mother. Yet the farce cannot last long, and by taking Thorfinn in she made a horrible mistake. Thorfinn has chosen his side, and it’s that of revenge above all. The moment of kindness they shared, his attempt to warn them away, ultimately none of it matters. Thorfinn has become what his father didn’t want him to be.
Vinland Saga builds chronologically, showing us what it takes for an innocent child to become a cold-hearted killer. In a kill or be killed world of raiding and pillaging, the only way for Thorfinn moving forward is one of death, of killing, of survival. The animation in this episode is a step down from the previous, but I appreciate seeing the moments of development that were glossed over in the manga. Next week we loop back around to the actual first chapter of the manga, and we’ll really get to see what Thorfinn is capable of.
Episode Grade: B
Streamed by: Amazon