OP2 Sequence

OP2: 「Paradox」 by (Survive Said the Prophet)

「暗雲」 (An’un)
“Dark Clouds”

It’s as if Vinland Saga is, somewhat indignantly, firing a shot across this season’s bow. “Don’t forget about me” – with all the flashy premieres pending and already banked, easy enough to do. This is the sort of series for which such things are largely irrelevant – Vinland would be great in any time, any era in anime history. It’s out where the buses don’t run, as I’ve said before – thematically speaking this show is just on another level entirely from most weekly entertainment. It’s the very definition of a classic that its vintage matters little, only its innate quality.

There’s so much I could be talking about here, after an episode this emotionally complex and intellectually dense, that it’s hard to know where to start. As always Yukimura (and Yabuta) are experts at contrasting the reflective and the horrific, silence and bedlam. That must have been something like what life was like for most medieval people, living in a world that was both agrarian and horrifyingly violent. Certain themes are common throughout Vinland Saga, and slavery being a toxin is among them. It’s very much on the mind this week, with an episode that was in many ways a throwback to the first episodes of the anime.

The fact is, those on and around Ketil’s farm have no idea of the storm barrelling towards them from Jelling. And they have plenty of turbulence to deal with anyway. A slave (Masumoto Takaya) has escaped from the farm of the cruel Kjallakr (Kobatake Masafumi), killing his master and his sons in the process. Whatever sort of man this slave once was, he’s an unchained beast now, clearly changed by his experience in a profound way. Snake expresses no sympathy for Kjallakr when he hears of this, says it was “deserved”, and what we see offers no evidence to the contrary. But the slave is a threat to the peace, and Snake has to prepare for that.

Meanwhile, as was foreshadowed, something is very wrong with Sverkel. He’s collapsed in his fields, and Snake’s demeanor as he searches for the old man betrays that this relationship is more to him that the exquisite bible he says he plans to inherit and sell. Age is never kind, but in this time and place it was merciless and ruthless. There’s only one way this can end for Sverkel, and he knows that. Snake remains by his side, once more revealing that his feelings for the old man run deeper than he would ever admit.

Ketil’s wife proves herself quite the opportunist, seizing on the moment to send Arnheid to take care of Sverkel. This is an act of mercy in its way – the old man has reached the point where he needs someone to make his final days bearable – but make no mistake, this is about the Mistress getting her husband’s lover as far away as possible. This is of course also an opportunity for Einar (and Thorfinn) to spend time with Arnheid, and their time together at Sverkel’s homestead has an air of family to it. Snake isn’t one to stand on rank – he cares no more than Sverkel does about who’s a slave and who isn’t.

While the climatic moments of the episode will steal the headlines, it’s Snake reading to Sverkel from the Sermon on the Mount as Thorfinn eavesdrops that most resonates with me. This scene is so layered with meaning. Snake reading to the illiterate old master is a tender thing, and his preference for the dramas of the Old Testament tells us something about him. Thorfinn takes great interest in these words about loving one’s enemies and turning the other cheek – they speak to him in his profound desire to atone for the crimes against humanity that he’s committed.

What strikes me here is that Thorfinn is still searching – for a reason to keep on living, apart from simply being alive. It harkens back to the watershed Episode 4, where the friendship between he and Einar was forged from the molten steel of Einar’s anger over what Thorfinn’s people did to his. Einar has something to strive for, even if in part it may be a mirage. What about Thorfinn? Is it simply enough for him to try and live a good life rather than an evil one? His face in this scene tells me that the answer is no, he’s desperate for meaning. He wants more, and the most important gift freedom would give him is the opportunity to search for it.

Cruelly, the events at the start of the episode seem destined to rip much of the future Einar dreamed of out of his grasp. The runaway slave is Gardar, and Garder is Arnheid’s husband. That the two of them would be living only a few miles apart and never know it is completely realistic to the situation – this was the nature of slavery. But Gardar is the enemy now – he killed his master, and now one of Snake’s men during his escape. We don’t know Arnheid’s views towards him, but her reaction to seeing him suggests she would go to him, given the choice. It’s not that simple though – it never is where slavery, which soils everything it touches, is concerned. Even before the reckoning falls on Ketil’s farm, it faces a moment that seems almost certain to be tragic in its outcome one way or the other.


ED2 Sequence

ED2: 「Ember」 () by (haju:harmonics)



  1. Thorfinn (along with Einar, ‘Snake’ and Arnheid) sharing a meal and laughing at Sverkel’s growling gut was a pretty nice, brief moment of levity and humanity I’ve seen in this series so far.

    (*Those two noisy guys continuing to be noisy close to a dangerous escaped slave.*)
    Me: “Your funeral.”
    (*Twig snap*)
    Me: “Right behind you, isn’t he? (*beat*) I knew it.”

    And now I wonder if Gardar was a former Viking warrior who was on the wrong side of a political feud and was made a slave (along with his wife Arnheid) as punishment. Not to mention that I sense that’s the kind of fate in store for Ketil’s people once King Canute’s forces seize the farm. Hope Leif (and Ketil’s sons) gets to the farm quicker than Canute’s army.


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