「ふたつの道」 (Futatsu no Michi)
“Two Paths”

As is so often the case, I’m pretty well pulped after an episode of Vinland Saga this season. My mind is like Thorfinn’s face. But first and foremost, maybe we don’t stop often enough to recognize just how incredibly, gloriously great this series is. To be able to create so much genuine emotion without ever resorting to melodrama is one thing, and a rare thing at that. But to face down huge intellectual and moral questions unflinchingly as Yukimura does, never trying to manufacture easy answers – that takes courage. He too is a beautiful man, Canute.

That’s the most important thing in my mind after that episode – just to take a step back and acknowledge what we’re seeing here. I can try and deconstruct the meaning of what we saw – I sometimes wish I wouldn’t, but I can’t resist doing it at least a little. But I can’t overstate how much I love being challenged and respected the way Yukimura does his audience. This is why fiction is such a powerful force in the world, and for me personally – not because it entertains (though that’s obviously critical), but because it illuminates the world we live in. It forces us (at its best) to look at that reality in a new way. Which, ironically, is exactly what Thorfinn is doing here.

I feel for Canute, actually, because he’s had so many strong men pulling him in different directions in his young life. I can never justify what he did to his brother (as an example), and everything Einar threw at him stuck. But in a sense there was a tug of war going on right at this moment, with Sweyn whispering in one ear and Thorfinn calmly but defiantly speaking into the other. It’s almost as if Canute killed the person he was at the moment he killed Askeladd – becoming the man he thought he had to. But that’s certainly not what Askeladd wanted. The only man alive who could understand that at the fundamental level is Thorfinn, and Canute knows that.

As great and as good as Thors was, I think it’s fair to say these two young men have this in common – Askleladd influenced them more than anyone else. They’re his son more than their own fathers’ in a very practical sense. Askeladd’s death – and the circumstances under which it happened – sent them off on opposite tacks. But now they’ve converged, physically but also philosophically. One of the things crossing my mind was that Askleladd would have been proud listening in on their conversation. Of Thorfinn, for the path he’s chosen, and of Canute for being capable of listening to another man and changing his way of thinking.

Thorfinn marched into battle armed only with the power of an idea. We may scoff at that as unrealistic, but history is full of examples of people who did the same. What Thorfinn is seeking to do may seem impossible, but here’t the truth: it takes people willing to try impossible things to make better possibilities. That’s my rebuttal to those who say Thorfinn’s (and by extension Yukimura’s) worldview is a fantasy. History changes because of people who reject the notion of impossibility and aim for something strictly because it should be done. They fail most of the time, but often they drag a resistant world a little ways behind them in the process.

None of this changes the truth of what Einar said about Canute. Might does make right, and the world he aims to create will be a hell for the unlucky ones. All those men on the farm are dead (fortunately not Pater) because Canute invaded it. But Thorfinn did manage to make Canute remember the person he was when they were together. He started off as the king’s enemy and wound up as his ally by suggesting a course that would complement Canute’s vision, rather than try and foil it. He forced Canute to look at reality – the reality he’s trying to create – in a new way.

Don’t scoff at the idea Canute was persuaded to leave the farm (there’s even some historical accuracy in the narration at the close). Those things do happen in the real world once in a while. It’s no small thing that Thorfinn and Einar use “brother” now – they’re pot committed at this point. And it’s certainly not trivial that Snake revealed his real name – Roald, son of Grim – to the departing Thorfinn and Einar. Or that Olmar told Thorfinn that he was his definition of a real man. Thorfinn renounced violence and found a new power in integrity and conviction. He truly is his father’s son now – his spiritual one, and his real one.

In truth I don’t think there can be any nobler goal for Thorfinn than to give people a reason to choose life rather than death. He couldn’t do it for Arnheid, but her death was the impetus that finally forced him to acknowledge what he had to try to do. Huge challenges lie ahead on this course, obviously -practical, and idealistic. Thorfinn and his flock (who aren’t sheep) will be tested in every way. But first, perhaps, a long-overdue moment will finally come, and with it a last opportunity for Thorfinn to steel his resolve for the task he’s chosen to confront.




  1. I know a lot of people are upset in the tempo and lack of fighting in this season of Vinland Saga, but what we’ve gotten in exchange is something you don’t see often. Especially in an anime. I really glad I’m getting to experience Vinland Saga season 2 as an adult because I don’t think I would personally have understood and appreciated it as much as I do now.

        1. You are correct (to a certain extent in my opinion). However, Vinland Saga (in my opinion) is just doing it better than I’ve ever seen. There are some really heavy themes and scenes in this show that are really getting delved into. I’ve seen a few videos or IG shorts were some people are upset that Vinland Saga Season 2 has no fighting and don’t like how Thorfin has changed. Even one of my friends was disappointed saying she watched the show for the fighting. So maybe “adult” wasn’t the right word. As Guardian Enzo said, “people with the patience to really think about what they’re watching.” might be more accurate.

          What anime do you enjoy Zemo x2?

  2. Man these last two episodes have been one hell of a philosophical tug-of-war and emotional roller coaster. (I mean, Vinland Saga is already a tug-of-war/roller coaster experience even for the anime-only watchers, but still, these last two have hit different so far.)

    First off, the ghost of King Sweyn whispering to Canute and comparing the masses to sheep reminded me of that one quote from that magnificent, manipulative bastard played by Charles Dance.

    “A lion doesn’t concern himself with the opinions of a sheep.”

    Which basically encapsulates the height of condescending arrogance displayed by certain leaders (and by certain sycophants clinging on to such “leaders”) toward those they consider their subjects (or “inferiors,” to be blunt). Sometimes to the point those subjects are no longer viewed as people that have their own thoughts, opinions and desires in life. And when that happens, it breeds resentment and hatred–and perpetuates the cycle of violence and suffering. Unfortunately, those “leaders” and their sycophants can’t even realize that even if they looked at themselves in the mirror.

    At the time, if Canute made the decision to silence Thorfinn, I’d probably go, “I knew it”. Had that happened, Ketil’s farm will be taken over, and the world in Vinland Saga as it stands will continue with its cycle of violence and suffering.

    But after Thorfinn reveals his choice to run away (and take the people who can’t live within the empire envisioned by Canute–or rather, his father’s ghost), I’m honestly and pleasantly surprised that Canute still has a shred of humanity (and sense of humor), and he realizes that inflicting suffering on his otherwise loyal populace (read: the denizens of Ketil’s farm and to an extent, those living in England) is not the way.

    Thorfinn: “If you keep oppressing people, eventually no one will be able to save you. You need to try harder. Don’t make more work for me.”

    I wanted to go back on what Enzo said: “It takes people willing to try impossible things to make better possibilities.”

    Being willing to try impossible things to make better possibilities is a form of resistance (in Thorfinn’s case, a non-violent one). And resisting because of a desire for a better world, a better way of life, is an admirable thing. It’s probably why I like protagonists like Persona 5‘s Phantom Thieves, or the people of Planet Ferrix in Andor (including the titular character himself).

    I’m no longer an idealist. I also have emotional impulses and entertain intrusive thoughts. But damn, Yukimura’s Thorfinn does inspire a person (and hopefully, the rest of the audience) to be better.

    P.S./Other thoughts:
    – Glad to see Pater survived the battle.
    – “Snake”…or rather, Roald revealing his true name to Thorfinn and Einar.
    – And Olmar did marry that girl (awww…plus he looks manlier now working the field).
    – Einar calling Thorfinn “brother”. If that isn’t a sign of the deep bond the two now share, I don’t know what is.
    – Can’t wait to see Thorfinn’s long-awaited homecoming.


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