Mugen no Juunin – Immortal First Impressions (1): Finding the evil ones

Click here to check this post out on my personal website.

Manji loses his sister

I guess I’m behind again, but I’m here for the grit. This episode put a lot of effort into looking dramatic, and I think it did a good job of selling the tension of its setting. Overall, the theme of the series seems interesting overall, and I like the concept behind Manji as a character. I think that the action has me wary so far, but it’s still too early to tell (I’ll probably check out the second episode fairly soon).

Rin visits her father's grave

The story follows Rin Asano, the daughter of a dojo master slaughtered by the followers of Itto-ryu. Left as the sole survivor of her family, she seeks vengeance against everyone involved. In order to reach her goal, she enlists the help of Manji, an immortal swordsman seeking atonement for the death of his own sister. The two work together to eliminate the swordsmen of Itto-ryu.

Rin is sent to seek out Manji

I’m sure that I’m exactly the wrong person to comment on this, but I thought that the opening scene of the first episode was a bit much. I guess it looks cool, but it’s a bit too much flashing for my taste. As a general comment, the action in this episode as whole seemed like it was being skipped. Many scenes seem to cut to black as sword strikes happen. I think it fits with the general style of the episode, but I hope it doesn’t last forever. I’m kind of hoping for something like Dororo.

Manji must kill evil men

As I mentioned before, I think that Manji’s character is really interesting. He’s apparently tasked with killing evil people, and he seems to consciously work towards that. I liked that he questioned Rin when she gave her request, attempting to make sure he wasn’t being lured into something nefarious.

Rin just wants revenge

Manji also has a decent point when he comments on Rin’s grudge. From Rin’s perspective, it certainly would seem like her family’s fate was completely unjustified, but she has no idea what motivated the swordsmen who attacked them. Since Manji seeks to defeat evil, it’s something that he would think about, which makes for an intriguing scene.

Manji attempts to kill Sabato

The episode seems to cut to encounter with Sabato fairly quickly. Still, I think he’s a great first enemy for Rin. He makes her question what she truly wants out of her quest by offering to kill himself. Rin essentially acknowledges her weakness and prepares to “settle” for one death when she attempts to kill herself. I like the scene as a callback to her earlier conversation with Manji, when he asks her to prove her resolve. In this scene, I’d say that she proves the opposite.

Vinland Saga Episode 13: Bloodlines

Click here to check this post out on my personal website.

Askeladd returns to Wales with his mother

I guess this episode is meant to confirm that Askeladd is here to stay. It turns out his character is a lot more interesting than I gave him credit for. In addition, Canute finally starts opening up, and it’s to Thorfinn of all people. The relationship between the two is starting to look promising. I really like how subtle this series is. I feel like the episode makes no attempt to throw things in your face, but there’s plenty going on under the surface.

Canute is put on the spot

While I certainly sympathize with Canute for being put on the spot by Askeladd, I didn’t expect his personality to be quite like this. It ends up making sense, but he’s more haughty than I was thinking he’d be. I suppose he’s royalty, after all.

Askeladd's lineage is revealed

The revelation that Askeladd is half-Welsh makes things interesting. His stated hatred for the Danes makes sense given his mixed lineage, and I like the idea that he’s been hiding amongst the Danes this whole time. His relationship with Artorias probably explains why he tends to act with more pride than the other pirates and why he respected Thors.

Askeladd hates the Danes

Most importantly, Askeladd’s vendetta against the Danes makes him directly relatable for Thorfinn. It makes so much more sense now that he kept Thorfinn around. They both resent the people around them and seek vengeance for a parent. I especially like that this is combined with a shot of the two walking together through a blizzard in the opening animation. I’m looking forward to seeing how that turns out.

Canute admits his flaws

Canute’s speech in this episode is also cool. It’s perfectly reasonable for him to fear the ramifications of his actions. You can clearly see him hiding behind Sweyn in the conversation, stating that he can’t act without permission. I would say that he’s still technically acting like a coward, but there’s a logic to it. He probably sees himself as unworthy and refuses to take the responsibility of leading.

Canute is annoyed with Thorfinn

It would be cool to see Thorfinn break Canute out of this mentality, though. After all, Thorfinn has learned to act independently because he doesn’t ever expect anyone to bail him out.

Vinland Saga Episode 12: Journey to Wales

Click here to check this post out on my personal website.

Askeladd meets a friend

Oh hey, I guess we’re in Wales now. It’s kind of weird how deceptively calm this episode is. It delivers a suspenseful ending with an ambush, which makes a lot of sense given that we’re at the halfway point for the series. But I didn’t get a heavy sense of drama from the episode either. The events still feel like they’re progressing reasonably. Maybe the series just doesn’t overreach or something.

Askeladd refuses to explain himself

I do like how deceptively tense this episode is. A large part of the first half is focused on the men marching to Wales, attempting to keep pace with Thorkell. It doesn’t seem like much, but the episode does a good job of portraying overall morale and how it factors into the crew’s effectiveness.

Canute sleeps

I still have no idea what to make of Canute. We finally get to see more characterization for him in this episode, and he’s pretty much as meek as he seems. That being said, Askeladd seems to be reserved about his opinion of Canute. In a later part of the episode, it almost seems like he’s praising Canute, so I’m not sure what his overall impression of the prince is.

Thorfinn is assigned to watch over Canute

Well, this isn’t the most unexpected development in the world, but Thorfinn’s interaction with Canute was funny. Thorfinn has developed some impressive people skills.

Also, the scene where the crew meets up with Gratianus was cool. It was a suspenseful end to the march that even had the crew fooled.

The priest explains love

This guy seems great for morale.

Leif appears again

The episode also ends on an interesting reveal that Leif has seriously been looking for Thorfinn this entire time. Hopefully, this is an indication that his search will soon be over.

Vinland Saga Episode 11: Coming to the rescue

Click here to check this post out on my personal website.

English beer is good

I feel like not too much happens in this episode from a story perspective, but I find the action of the series entertaining enough to make up for it. My impression was that the main reveal of the episode was Canute’s real face, which didn’t seem too impactful to me. That being said, the relationship between Thorkell and Thorfinn has me curious, and I still wonder what the series is planning to do with Canute.

The Danes talk about Christians

These kinds of conversations always get me thinking. I’m sure it’s not meant to be realistic, but I’ve studied historical Christianity to a minor extent. It makes me wonder how the religion was truly perceived at the time. I guess the trope of the jovial Viking is the main piece to this bit, so maybe the reality was much harsher.

It would be hilarious if this priest has a larger role later in this series. Also, I’m definitely not sold on Ragnar as a character. He worships the prince so much that I can’t help but find him annoying. It would make more sense if we knew why he cared so much, but all we get is the constant praise and such.

Askeladd sends Thorfinn on another impossible mission

I do wonder how much this scene was meant to indicate a shift for Askeladd. His typical indifference was probably genuine in the beginning, but I like the idea that he may have come to trust Thorfinn as an ally.

Thorfinn faces everyone

Also, I’m starting to get a bit frustrated with Thorfinn’s plot armor in this series. I get that it’s a story, but he basically gets put at impossible odds in every episode. I can only suspend disbelief so far, right?

Thorfinn vows to protect the prince

I think it would be great if Thorfinn presents himself as an unlikely hero in this situation. We as the audience know his true motivations, but it would be interesting if Canute were to interpret this scene differently. It could lead to a fun dynamic between the two characters.

Thorkell questions Thorfinn

I’m curious about this scene. It makes sense that Thorkell would know Thorfinn’s father, since they fought side-by-side. But I wonder what the significance of Thorfinn’s mother is. She’s still alive, after all, so she has the potential to contribute if she’s significant.

Vinland Saga Episode 10: Finding the right message

Click here to check this post out on my personal website.

Thorkell is bored

Well, we’re back after a break with a fairly chill episode. As the war rages on, Thorfinn basically spends the episode talking with his two father figures, Thors and Askeladd. It was a surprisingly interesting set of conversations. I think the series does a great job of making Askeladd seem like more than what he shows. His actions, especially at the end of the episode, feel deceptively complex.

Canute prays while the battle rages

I’m still wondering what the series is planning to do with Canute. He hasn’t said a word yet, and now he’s becoming a weird kind of damsel in distress. Surely, there’s more to him than that, right?

Thorfinn dreams of his father

I like that this episode effectively gives Thorfinn the same message in two drastically different ways. In a dream, Thors tells him that he should just appreciate what he has and return to his family. Part of me wonders if Thorfinn’s dreams of his father are meant to represent his struggle to understand his father’s final message. At least, that’s probably what I want to believe.

Askeladd tells a story about the Saxons

On the other hand, Askeladd arrives at a fairly similar conclusion with his largely nihilistic view. In the end, he tells Thorfinn that his revenge quest doesn’t matter because Askeladd is eventually going to grow weak anyway. I’ll be curious to see how Thorfinn eventually gets himself out of the hole he’s been in, especially based on these conversations.

Canute's forces aren't enough

I guess I’m a little curious about Thorkell in this episode. He seemed to react quickly when he heard that Canute was in charge. Does he have a prior relationship with Canute or did he just react to Danish royalty?

Askeladd commands everyone to save Canute

Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I find it hard to believe that Askeladd wants to save Canute solely for the massive reward that royalty can give. As I’ve mentioned before, there seems to be more to him, so I wonder if this is just his innate pride expressing itself again.

Vinland Saga Episode 9: The log master

Click here to check this post out on my personal website.

Askeladd faces off against Thorkell

I think there’s something funny about Askeladd and his crew randomly sailing into the war to help the Danes. Thorkell ended up being the battle junkie I expected him to be, but his fight with Thorfinn in this episode was entertaining. I think this series as a whole handles the war battle aspect well, so I liked this episode as a whole. As I mentioned last week, I do look forward to seeing how Canute handles the battle for London, given that we’ve spent a lot of time with a pirate crew.

Askeladd sends Thorfinn to fight Thorkell

I had no idea what to expect when Askeladd sends Thorfinn to kill Thorkell. I guess Askeladd is just constantly escalating the difficulty of the tasks he gives to Thorfinn, but this one felt like a sharp leap. That being said, I’d have trouble believing it if Thorfinn was able to beat Thorkell despite his issues with fighting Askeladd.

Floki moves forward to convince Thorkell

Floki’s appearance in this episode got me thinking. I think it’s interesting that he appears before Thorfinn and the pirates without any issue despite being the ultimate mastermind behind the death of Thors. I know there’s no way for Thorfinn to know this, but I do wonder how finding that out would affect Thorfinn’s revenge quest. He’s been devoted to it for a while now.

Floki attempts to reason with Thorkell

I don’t think there’s all too much to Thorkell’s personality, but I guess he works to embody the lifestyle that Thors walked away from. Thorkell’s jab at Sweyn seems like what you would expect from someone who was obsessed with battle. It makes sense for a leader to take favorable fights, after all.

Thorfinn analyzes Thorkell

Have we gotten to hear Thorfinn’s thoughts in battle before? I feel like he typically executes his actions silently, so maybe this is just an exceptionally difficult opponent. Also, I interpreted this scene as saying that Thorkell’s natural height made it harder for Thorfinn’s typical fighting style.

Thorfinn is annoyed with Thorkell

Thorfinn’s last line in this episode was probably the most interesting one in the episode for me. This is a kid who was sneaking aboard a ship to join his father in battle, and he’s become completely frustrated with battle. The thought might even reflect something similar to what Thors went through, given that Thorkell was part of the battle when Thors walked away from his warrior life.

Vinland Saga Episode 8: Back to war?

Click here to check this post out on my personal website.

Askeladd's ships arrive

This week’s episode didn’t quite go the way I would have liked, but I’m curious to see where it’s going. It’s probably asking too much to have Thorfinn become strong enough to actually beat Askeladd. But as I’ve mentioned before, I would like to see Thorfinn get away from Askeladd already. On the bright side, the episode ends by introducing Canute and returning to the war between Denmark and England, so I might just get my wish anyway.

Thorfinn fights Askeladd

Outcome aside, the duel between Thorfinn and Askeladd was pretty cool. It’s nice to see how far Thorfinn has come, and his strategy in the fight made a lot of sense. Similarly, Askeladd fights the way you’d expect, taking advantage of Thorfinn’s weaknesses to win. I can’t tell if it’s playing dirty or a lesson in disguise.

Askeladd muses about slaves

It’s a weird scene, but I do think this line from Askeladd is interesting. His general view that everyone is a slave to something fits with his carefree personality and lifestyle. Also, I like the idea of Gorm submitting himself to money while simultaneously chastising his own slave.

Thors comforts his son

I don’t know where this conversation is coming from, but I liked the scene. Thors says things that don’t really fit with a ghostly vision, but he finishes by admitting that Thorfinn might need to just learn for himself. The idea that his words won’t be enough makes his presence effectively nothing, which fits better with the ghost thing.

Hordaland wishes to run

I have a sneaking suspicion that Hordaland is destined to die, but I hope she succeeds in inspiring Thorfinn to seek out his path. I like that she’s able to get Thorfinn to talk about Vinland, a story from before he lost his father. It makes it sound like Thorfinn’s close to being on the right track.

Canute looks over the ships

I’m not sure what to expect here, but I welcome the change of pace by switching focus to Canute. He’s a historical figure I recognize, and I think it would be good to get a break from pirating.

Vinland Saga Episode 7: Storm the fort

Click here to check this post out on my personal website.

Sweyn must withdraw

Thorfinn really seems to be having trouble making progress. Anyway, it looks like this week’s episode is bringing the war back into the story. The action in this series is cool so far, so it’s nice to see more of it. This week’s episode features a random time skip, so I’m starting to wonder how long we’ll continue to watch Thorfinn follow these pirates around.

Askeladd joins the Franks

I thought it was funny to see the pirates joining with the invading Franks in order to get some treasure. That aspect of their roaming allegiances is interesting to see. I’m not sure I even remember hearing which country the defending army belonged to. I feel like I’m just watching the pirates do their thing.

Thorfinn invades alone

Thorfinn’s constant solo missions make me question him as a character, to be honest. I know he’s the protagonist and all, but he seems to push the limits of his plot armor. I don’t mind that Askeladd thinks of him as a sacrificial lamb who has a chance of improving the battle outcome, but there’s a limit to how effective he can be. I think it’s been fine so far, but I do wonder how far it will go.

The pirates charge

This scene was a fun one. It’s probably too obscure of a reference, but it reminds me of a unit from Totally Accurate Battle Simulator, which is just a bunch of dudes that carry a ship and throw it on enemies. I’m sure this is based on a real historical strategy, but I certainly don’t know what it is.

Thorfinn slices an enemy

Thorfinn’s battle sequence had some questionable moments where the camera zooms out weirdly, but I still thought it was nice. I liked seeing the return of the first-person view of the attacks. I also like that we’ve only seen that style with Thors and Thorfinn so far. You could maybe call it a family trait.

Thorfinn challenges Askeladd again

Given how dead Thorfinn’s eyes looked in this episode, I really want him to get his fight with Askeladd. I think it would be great if he wins the duel, and it finally gives him the breathing room to look at what he’s become. Then, he starts on some sort of journey to discover who he is without his vendetta.

Vinland Saga Episode 6: Passing through the years

Click here to check this post out on my personal website.

Denmark goes to war with England

This episode really makes me wonder how sad this story is going to get. It was nice to see Thorfinn progress into a warrior, but it was rough to see him become helpful to the pirates who killed his father. I also like how this series feels like it’s validating some of the English history that I’ve learned recently. For once, I feel partially prepared for a historical show.

Thorfinn is attacked in the chaos

Watching Thorfinn become a fighter out of the chaos of battle felt pretty somber. It’s clear that he needs to survive, but it’s hard to watch him go down the path his father didn’t want for him. But at least he stopped screaming, right?

Thorfinn gets a kill

On a side note, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the battles in this episode. I’m okay with giving Thorfinn a pass because we literally watch him grow throughout the episode. However, the larger battles seemed to suffer from the problems you’d expect (people barely moving, for example). The blood visual effects were cool, though.

The mother criticizes the king

Fun fact: Ethelred is known in history as “Ethelred the Unready”, so the perception of him as a bad king is legitimate. Also, his nickname doesn’t come from the modern meaning of “unready”. Rather, the word at the time meant “poorly advised”. It’s supposed to be making fun of his given name, which meant “well advised”. English words are fun.

An English family takes Thorfinn in

The language barrier plays out weirdly in the show, but I guess it wasn’t that important. I was hoping to see Thorfinn turn things around, but he instead betrays the people who help him. It’s heartbreaking to see him get cleaned up just to turn around and call the Vikings to the village.

Thorfinn tries to save some people

That being said, I’m curious to see where Thorfinn goes from here. I’m hoping he takes something from this experience. He tries to help in the end, after all. It was interesting to see the English woman crying for Thorfinn as he kills the soldiers. It comes off as pity for a boy who has grown up in harsh conditions.

Vinland Saga Episode 5: Braving the wilderness

Click here to check this post out on my personal website.

Thorfinn struggles to survive

This week’s episode was a bit of an odd one. When I take a step back, I feel like nothing truly happened from a plot perspective, but it was interesting to see Thorfinn turn into a survivalist. I was honestly expecting this week’s episode to skip over to Thorfinn as an adult, so I wonder how much we’re going to dwell on his younger self. He’s getting better, but he’s still a brat.

Thorfinn stands over Askeladd

I liked that the episode didn’t try to draw too much attention to itself with long-winded narrations or monologues. I truly felt like I was watching the internal struggle in Thorfinn’s mind. He’s almost forced to rely on the pirates who killed his father for his own survival. In the end, I was surprised to see he largely had the pride to follow through on his own. We see a similar sense of pride when he refuses to kill Askeladd in his sleep here too.

Askeladd is asked about Thors's death

Askeladd himself is also a surprisingly intriguing character. He seems to have a complexity to his thought process, which I’m curious to learn about. It’s almost like he regrets killing Thors, and wants to somehow make it up through Thorfinn. It’s true that he generally acts brash and selfish, though, so I wonder how much of my impression maps to anything real.

Ylva handles her chores

Ylva also has a nice scene in this episode. It wasn’t too hard to guess where it was going when she tried to initially shrug off her father’s death, but I still thought it was a strong emotional note. Also, I want to take the time here to mention that the backgrounds in this series look really good. It’s like something out of a painting…

Thorfinn tries to catch Askeladd off-guard

Even though it was clumsy at best, I liked seeing Thorfinn’s duel with Askeladd. Thorfinn is clearly not at his father’s level, but I thought the episode gave his fight proper respect anyway. I’m almost sad that Thorfinn’s surprise attack didn’t end up working.