Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible – 09 – The Flavor of Fulfillment

It may be a new year, but for Shiraishi, not much has changed. Most people still fail to notice his existence. But when he arrives at his new class, he finds that some things that haven’t changed are in his favor: Kubo is not only still in his class, but still sitting beside him, this time near the windows.

Kubo has celebratory soft drinks with her two besties, and with the next day comes the school committee assignments. Shiraishi notes that he usually just ends up with the leftovers since the teacher doesn’t notice him raising his hand, so Kubo gives him an assist by volunteering for the environmental committee and telling the teacher Shiraishi raised his hand too.

Kubo knows Shiraishi enjoyed the environmental committee because he was able to make the flowers bloom, even if everyone thought they were blooming without being tended to. The other member of the committee last year was Sudou, who happens to remember Shiraishi because of his green thumb.

When he and Kubo end up in the same lab group as Sudou and Sudou needs an eraser, Kubo mentions that Shiraishi has five, and Sudou strikes up a little convo with Shiraishi. Later, Shiraishi thanks Kubo, as it’s the first time he’s been able to enjoy talking with someone other than her. Kubo has to temporarily retreat to blush, as him saying he enjoys talking with her catches her off guard.

When Shiraishi is trying to buy a new “youthful lemon” flavored Fanta, Kubo surprises him and he accidentally buys water. She then wonders why youth tastes like lemon. Shiraishi thinks his youth would probably be more like water—often overlooked or ignored for its lack of flavor.

When Kubo talks about all the ways he could have a fulfilling youth—making friends, having his first kiss—Shiraishi is overwhelmed, as he claims not to even have any friends to begin with. This miffs Kubo, who asks what about her?

That’s when, now nine episodes in, Shiraishi finally realizes that he and Kubo are friends. I guess I can cut him a little slack as she’s his first friend, and realizing she is his friend greatly improves his mood. So he’s slow on the uptake as usual, but thankfully no longer totally clueless thanks to Kubo.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Vinland Saga S2 – 21 – Repaying the Kindness

As Canute inspects the dead “soldiers” who fought for Ketil, Floki asks if his men can use some of the houses on the farm. Canute forbids any soldiers from setting foot on the farm, as he knows they’ll want to pillage if they do.

Floki points out that pillaging is the right of a victorious warrior, but Canute holds firm; he’ll reward the Jomsvikings another way. His father’s head laughs at Canute for showing mercy, especially after all of the lives he’s taken. He urges his son to keep paving a road of corpses until he reaches “paradise.”

With Ketil unconscious, the choice of whether to surrender is not up to Thorgil, Sverkel, or Ketil’s wife. It is up to Olmar, whom Ketil named his rightful successor under the assumption Thorgil would remain a king’s guard. Olmar, who just got back from the medieval equivalent of a field hospital, is done pretending that courage means puffing out one’s chest and starting fights.

He decides that they’ll surrender. He doesn’t care what happens to him, as long as the killing stops. Snake has his back, but I wonder if Thorgil will really head his “coward” brother’s wishes. As for Sverkel, he’s proud that his grandson has become a man. The cost—Ketil’s farm—was steep to be sure, but he considers it a good deal.

Speaking of grown men, Thorfinn approaches Canute’s camp and is confronted and repeatedly mocked by one of the biggest of the warriors: Drott the Bear Killer. Thorfinn doesn’t rise to the provocations but keeps his cool, even apologizing for any offense after he’s punched.

The thing is, he’s not going anywhere until he gets to speak to the king. Drott takes several dozen more swings, but is only able to hit air, and the other soldiers start mocking Drott and praising Thorfinn’s moves. Wulf informs Canute that a young man named Thorfinn wishes to speak to him, but Canute says that won’t be necessary.

When Einar finally catches up to Thorfinn after hearing where he went from Leif, he urges Thorfinn to come with him. No one man can stop a war. But Thorfinn didn’t necessarily come to Canute’s camp expecting to succeed. Instead, he’s simply repaying the kindness Ketil, Sverkel, Pater, and all the other people on the farm showed to him.

Considering the past he’d lived, Thorfinn didn’t think he deserved that kindness or the redemption it wrought. But that kindness was shown to him all the same, so he’s going to do everything he can to stop the fighting, even if it gets him killed.

Einar respects his wishes, and when Thorfinn hears that the soldiers are placing bets on how many punches he can take, he decides to bet on himself. Specifically, if he takes one hundred blows and is still conscious and able to stand, he’ll get his audience with Canute.

f he can’t, the men will kill him. Drott is pissed off, but Thorfinn knows how to take a punch or two or twenty. But a hundred? From the “bear killer”? That’s a tall order for our diminutive protagonist.

Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible – 08 – Learning from Hamburger Mistakes

When Nagisa, Akina and Saki go shopping for their cherry blossom picnic, Nagisa spots Junta with his little brother Seita and greets him warmly. Saki, possessive of Nagi-chan, is then utterly disarmed by the adorable-as-hell Seita, who regards her as a big sister.

That’s when Akina decides to invite Junta and Seita to their picnic. This means Nagisa, who was originally going to leave the cooking to her cousin and sister, wants to cook something for Junta.

That something turns out to be hamburger steak, which she knows he likes. But when even peeling an onion is a baffling ordeal, it’s clear she needs a lot of help. Saki is happy to guide her, but when Nagi nicks her finger with the knife, Saki asks Nagi to leave the cooking to her.

That’s when Akina comes in, sees Nagi sulking on the couch, and tells Saki to give her one more try. Nagi was careless and made a mistake, but she says her sister isn’t someone prone to repeating them, and in any case, mistakes are crucial to learning.

Nagi and Saki end up making a successful steak, and the next day the cherry trees are resplendent. Junta eyes the steak, but it’s a little far away, so he prepares to eat something closer until Nagisa serves him.

When he says it’s delicious, Nagi is on Cloud Nine-gi. But then Akina gets drunk on beer and starts hitting on a guileless Junta. This pisses Nagisa off, and she storms away to buy some yakitori at the stalls.

Seita urges Junta to make up with Nagisa at once, but when he walks up to her and apologizes, she says it wasn’t his fault and keeps walking away. That’s when Seita grabs her hem and directs her attention to Junta sulking on the ground, and asks again with his childish innocence if they can make up.

They do, and while Junta isn’t sure why Nagi got mad and apologizes for being dense, the fact he thought about her so much makes her happy. Seita suggests they hold hands, with the lil’ peacemaker as the conduit between Junta and Seita from blushing brighter than the blossoms.

Vinland Saga S2 – 20 – Icelandic Pride

Fox is a pretty tough guy. He’s killed thirteen men. He enjoys it. But these Jomsvikings are just too much, man. They carve through the hands, limbs, and heads of the ragtag volunteer force like they’re carving through room temperature butter. Fox admires how long Badger can hang in there despite losing a hand. He wants to help his friend, but his legs fail him. Snake saves Badger and orders a retreat.

Ketil, whose delusions truly know no end, protests to the fleeing non-soldiers. When he plucks one of them by the scruff and says his debts won’t be paid if he flees, the man laughs in his face. Who cares about debts to Ketil? He’s finished! Now he’ll see what it’s like to be poor.

When Wulf reports that a man who looked like Ketil was cut down by a Jomsvikings, Canute is annoyed. He wanted Ketil captured, and he ordered the soldiers not to pursue the enemy if they ran. He can’t even make little improvements in the rules of engagement, because utter mayhem is too ingrained in these warriors.

It certainly is in Thorgil, who is a pure, dyed-in-the-wool predator. Emerging from the ocean and leaping at Canute from behind, the king just manages to draw his sword and block Thorgil’s blow, but it destroys his sword and sprains his wrist. In the blink of an eye, Canute’s two guards are beheaded.

Thorgil isn’t just a typical King’s Guard. He’s one of the best. In fact, the only other one who is able to put up a fight is their commander, Wulf. He pierces Thorgil’s wrist with a thrown sword and tackles him to the ground protect his king.

As he chokes Thorgil, his eye is poked out, and Thorgil slips away before reinforcements arrive. It’s an ugly, bloody, brutal encounter between two seasoned killers, but it really doesn’t accomplish much of anything, except to put Canute more on guard.

Meanwhile, Arnheid hears the sounds of battle; the same sounds she heard when her village was attacked. It’s the sound of the world falling apart. Einar assures her the battle is of no concern to them: they’re free now, and they’re leaving the farm. Arnheid’s first question is where they’re going. Leif says they can go to his village.

Her second question is whether Leif’s land is free of slavery and war. Leif is honest: he can’t guarantee war won’t follow them there, but it’s a good place. Arnheid declines. Her husband, son, and unborn child are already waiting for her elsewhere. She asks why she should keep living in this hellish world full of war and slavery when she can go to them.

Einar is about to tell Arnheid he loves and needs her, but she closes her eyes and loses consciousness, apparently breathing her last. Thorfinn pushes Einar aside and tries chest compressions, to no avail. Arnheid is gone. May she rest in peace and be reunited with her family, and may her seiyu Sako Mayumi win every voice acting award there is this year.

Thorfinn lifts her head and tells her about a warm land far to the West where there is no war or suffering. He wanted to take both her and Einar there. These are the same words Thorfinn heard his father Thors say to a dying slave when he was just a young boy.

When the man who saw to it Arnheid would never make it there arrives on Snake’s back, Einar charges him with a full head of steam. Thorfinn holds him back, gets slugged in the face, then punches back, using violence, in this case, to keep Einar from committing violence.

Thorfinn knows all too well that killing Ketil won’t quell Einar’s rage. It only brings about a curse Thorfinn has only just begun to treat. He begs Einar not to fall down the same hole he did. Einar relents.

After Arnheid is buried on a beautiful bluff overlooking the ocean, Thorfinn walks off. Leif, who is preparing his ship for departure, wonders where he’s going and what he’s going to do. Thorfinn tells him: He’s going to go talk to Canute. Maybe there’s a way to convince him that enough blood has been spilt; that maybe there’s another way to get what he wants.

If the worst case scenario happens, Thorfinn is confident he’ll get out of it alive. He also tells Leif that the story he used to hear about how their people went to Iceland to flee war and slavery once bummed him out. He was a boy who couldn’t wait to fight; the prospect of his village avoiding fighting was lame.

But not anymore. Thorfinn isn’t a boy, and now he’s proud of his Icelandic progenitors. They had the right idea, and he’s going to try his best from now on to honor their deeds by following their path away from hate and blood and towards love and peace. But first things first: Canute’s men probably aren’t just going to give him an audience. He’ll have to take it.


Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible – 07 – Matching Pens

Shiraishi and Kubo return after about a three month delay, and I couldn’t be happier for another comfort-food series to watch early in the week. Kubo continues to indulge her crush by embracing destiny: it’s raining, and Shiraishi forgot his umbrella…but she didn’t.

While she qualifies their walking together under the same umbrella as an “experiment” to see if anyone notices him, the bottom line is she wants to walk under the same umbrella with him, so any story will do. He even makes their walk more intimate by picking a less busy route home (though he was simply trying not to be seen). But Kubo’s sister sees. Oh, she sees.

While out and about, Shiraishi spots Kubo’s cousin Saki carrying heavy bags. He offers to carry them for her, and to tell Kubo (whom Saki worships) that she carried them the whole way so she’ll be praised. While walking, Saki asks what kind of relationship Shiraishi has with Kubo.

While he says they’re merely “classmates”, not even going so far as to say friends, Saki can smell the bullshit. That’s reinforced when Kubo comes out to meet them, and makes Shiraishi prove he knows her first name, Nagisa, by saying it. She in turn calls him Junta. Saki’s right; they’re not “just classmates” anymore.

The next segment is one of the most relatable ones I’ve ever come across: not only did I use to disassemble my pens when I was bored in class, but the spring was my favorite part too! I love Kubo’s extremely perplexed expression, and how she makes lemonade out of lemons.

When Shiraishi loses the spring for his pen, she offers him one of hers, which he can keep. It has a cute rabbit-and-carrot motif, and also happens to exactly match the pen she’s using. And while she tells Shiraishi he can replace the cartridge, she swears she bought a second before she knew she could do that. A likely story.

The final segment is another relatable event: the ol’ high school sleepover with Kubo, Kudou, and Tama, complete with snacking, asking about one’s love life, and just generally enjoying each others’ company. With their second year arriving soon, there’s a possibility Kubo and her friends will be separated.

That means she and Shiraishi could also. He had considered this earlier in the episode, and seemed a bit blue about the prospect of no longer having her in his class to “find him”. But I doubt they’ll end up separated, and even if they do, they still live nearby and can find any number of other ways to spend time together.

Vinland Saga S2 – 19 – A Dark Wood

When Ketil rallies all able-bodied men on the farm, bribing them by releasing them from their debts should they join him, he has about 350 men. Not bad, but not nearly good enough against what’s coming. Snake knows this, and makes sure his men know it too. If Ketil orders them to fight, they’ll fight. But if they fight, they’ll lose.

Leif and Thorfinn’s reunion was overshadowed by Arnheid being nearly killed by Ketil, but now that they’re together again, Thorfinn says he can’t leave when Arnheid is in this condition. Leif smiles, and is happy to see that Thorfinn is wearing “a better look on his face.” He’s changed, for the better. He’ll stay one more day, so see if Arnheid awakens.

The next morning, Canute’s ships launch some arrows at the ragtag soldiers on the beach, forcing a retreat before landing and setting up camp with the sea at their back. Canute sends a messenger with terms, not wanting to needlessly stain such good land with blood.

Snake has no compunctions about the men who serve under him. They’re all free to flee as they choose, only he, as the commander, is not able to run. He’ll fight, even in a losing effort, and give it his all. When they mention that not only do they have Thorgil, but Iron Fist Ketil, Snake smirks.

“Iron Fist Ketil” was his teacher and big brother figure who taught him how to be a warrior. Eventually they went their separate ways, but when Snake heard Ketil had bought a farm, the Ketil he met was a totally different person. This Ketil is nothing but a master bullshitter.

Even so, Snake’s men don’t feel right letting him go off into battle on his own, so they take up their arms and armor and follow him to the beach.  Ketil may have begun to buy his own bullshit, because he thinks having more than a 3-to-1 edge in manpower matters.

It doesn’t, not when the 100 men are the Jomsvikings and the King’s Guard, any one of whom could probably kill 50-100 of Ketil’s amateurs. Thorgil, a former King’s Guard, knows this, and he takes Olmar aside for some strategizing.

With Ketil engaged with Canute’s soldiers on the beach, the rest of the farm is deserted. This allows Leif, “Thorfinn”, Thorfinn, and Einar to carefully load Arnheid onto a cart and escape. They go as slow as possible so as not to make Arnheid’s injuries worse. But if she stays, she dies, so they’re taking her.

As the cart inevitably hits some bumps, Arnheid experiences a dream. She’s on a cart in a dark, gloomy, spooky forest, but she has no worries. Both of her children are asleep in her arm and her lap, and Gardar is driving the cart.

Gardar tells her they’ve been through a lot, but soon they’ll be reunited and out of these dark woods. Arnheid smiles, then spots a deer and a wolf together in the forest, representing Einar and Thorfinn. She says that even though they’re leaving, others are surviving in this place.

Gardar tells Arnheid to say her goodbyes before they exit the forest and enter the hereafter. So she opens her eyes and is conscious again. Einar is overjoyed, but it’s reasonable to assume the joy won’t last long. Arnheid is too badly hurt and the closest thing to a doctor, Pater, is locked in battle. Even so, a goodbye is better than nothing.

As Snake and Thorgil predicted, Ketil’s ragtag “soldiers” are nothing but fodder for Canute’s professional battle-hardened men. But at least for Thorgil, they didn’t have to be anything more than a diversion, allowing him and Olmar to slip around the battle.

Olmar ends up on an entirely different part of the beach. He’s resigned to the fact he’ll never be his brother…and that’s probably a good thing, as trying would only put him in an early grave. As for Thorgil, well…he’s having an absolute blast doing whatever the fuck he wants, and has himself a pretty decent chance of killing Canute.

Vinland Saga S2 – 18 – Long Way Down


Content Warning: This episode of Vinland Saga contains an extremely disturbing scene of domestic violence. Extreme viewer discretion is advised.

King Canute is on the sea, headed to Ketil’s farm. Winds are favoring him so he may arrive in as soon as two days. If Ketil and his men submit, Canute will show them mercy, as he doesn’t wish to needlessly waste “assets”. But if they defy him, they’ll have none. His father’s head cackles in the shadows.

Ketil’s return home starts with a bit of slapstick, as Thorgil hucks the barrel containing his father at the retainers like he’s bowling. He then urges Olmar to come with him as they prepare for his first, and possibly their last battle. Olmar, it should be said, looks like he never wants to be anywhere near violence ever again.

Ketil comes out of that broken barrel a broken and spent husk of a man. Right now he is motivated by only one thing: the prospect of reuniting with his beloved Arnheid; of finding a small measure of comfort before Canute arrives and the pain begins.

Thorfinn and Einar are restrained at what passes for the farm’s fortress, which is in a sorry state of disrepair. Thorfinn apologizes for not being able to help Arnheid, but Einar is appreciative that Thorfinn broke his oath to help their friend.

Thorfinn still wishes a “first method” could have worked instead: one in which an issue is talked through, and violence is a last resort. You could say he did try to reason with Snake, but that consideration was outweighed by the death of five of Snake’s men.

When Ketil can’t find Arnheid in the usual spots, his wife tells him she’s tied up in the stable for trying to escape with her “old flame.” This news is the straw that breaks Ketil’s already strained back. When he arrives at the stable, a guard is rubbing her leg, telling her how things would go if the guests had a say in her punishment.

Ketil has a wooden staff in his hand, but it’s not for the guard, who he dismisses. He asks Arnheid if she tried to escape. Arnheid is his slave. She has no rights, no agency, and her life and the life of her child is in Ketil’s hands. There’s nothing she could say to him in this moment that would do her any good, so she remains silent.

Then the most gut-wrenching, brutal scenes in the entire series takes place. It’s so breathtakingly awful I had to mute my TV and only read the subtitles on the bottom of the screen with just a slight out-of-focus view of the rest. Suffice it to say, there’s no need to provide pictures of this scene.

As soon as Arnheid tried to escape and failed, that was it. As soon as Ketil learned she’d attempted to escape, that was it. He beats the everloving hell out of her, despite her telling him she’s carrying his child. He doesn’t believe her; he can’t anymore.

She’s only saved from death by Snake, who takes hold of Ketil’s staff and will only release it if Ketil completes the execution. Ketil lets go and stalks off. This is the absolute worst time in the world for Leif to ask Ketil about buying Arnheid from him in addition to Einar and taking Thorfinn.

Ketil tells Leif he’s keeping Arnheid, but he can do what he wishes with the other two. But Thorfinn and Leif’s reunion occurs off-camera with no fanfare. Thorfinn and Einar are allowed to see Arnheid, who is alive but unconscious. Pater, who did his best to tend to her wounds, doesn’t think she’ll make it.

As for Ketil, he’s now a different man than the one who flew out of that barrel. A worse man, if you were to ask me. An more evil man. He might not have done anything that anyone in his position and in this time period wouldn’t have done.

Or maybe this is who he was all along. After all, he bought and owned slaves. Every time he laid with Arnheid, it was rape, because she had no consent. The scene of her punishing her in the stable merely re-opened my eyes to the wickedness that had been hiding beneath the veneer of civility and kindness.

A battle is coming to Ketil’s farm. I don’t say this lightly, as someone who tries to live by Thorfinn’s newfound ideals of peace, but hopefully in the midst of that battle, someone will Ketil, fast or slow. It will mean there will be some justice for Arnheid. Because I’m done with Ketil.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Vinland Saga S2 – 17 – Going Home

The fight between Snake and Thorfinn is impressively badass as expected. He’s shocked a warrior of Snake’s skill is guarding a farm, and Snake is shocked a warrior of Thorfinn’s skill is a slave. But Sverkel was right: it really came down to luck who ended up as what.

Snake is a warrior of Miklagard, AKA Constantinople (now Istanbul), but he can only imagine what “monsters” surrounded Thorfinn, and how he must not have “experienced a single good thing” to be a match for him.

Call it a combination of Thorfinn being unarmed and a little rusty, or chalk it up to Snake simply being a bit better, but Thorfinn isn’t able to keep Snake away from the cart where Gardar lay. Gardar’s last line of defense is Arnheid, begging Snake not to take his life.

Snake is unequivocal: Gardar took the lives of five of his men, so he must die. He and his men may be “stupid nasty scumbags” who can’t even use their real names, but he’s right that Gardar’s life isn’t worth more than those five. So he stabs Gardar in the gut with his sword.

While he’s telling Thorfinn and Arnheid that they’ll be bound pending punishment fitting their actions, Gardar grabs Snake from behind and puts him in a chokehold. Neither Snake nor Thorfinn can so much as nudge Gardar’s tree trunk-like arms. The only one who can stop him from killing Snake is Arnheid, whose voice breaks him out of his trance.

Gardar and Arnheid take Sverkel’s cart (with his permission and blessing) and they intend to ride it home to their son Hjalti. Arnheid doesn’t tell him the truth because, well, why spoil the last moments the two of them have? Gardar drifts in and out of consciousness, and has visions of abandoned souls lining the road.

He also dreams of the day his son was born, took his first steps, pissed on his face while he was changing him. These memories are as full of love and happiness and joy as reality is full of pain, anguish, and despair. They were the best days of his life, when he was with his wife and son, at home, living in peace. No matter what happened afterwards, they lived those days together.

Gardar also relives the day he decided to leave his home and family to fight for honor and wealth, only he’s watching himself leaving while sitting beside Arnheid and Hjalti. He couldn’t see her face then, but he does now, and he’s filled with regret for leaving.

When he comes to one last time, he asks Arnheid how old Hjalti is (six), imagines he’s forgotten them but still become a prankster like him, and is certain that he’ll want to go off on Viking adventures. But he tells Arnheid he won’t let him go. Then he takes her hand and slumps over in her lap.

As Arnheid sheds tears as her husband’s life fades, Gardar finds himself riding the cart into his village, untouched since he last left it. He spots Hjalti on a sad looking morose until he spots his dad and starts running towards him. Gardar is home. Arnheid holds him in her arms, welcoming him home. Snake’s men catch up to the car and surround it, their shadows long in the low sun.

This was perhaps the most heartwrenching depiction of a death we’ve seen on Vinland Saga. In this period of Thorfinn’s life the loss of even one life is terrible and agonizing to behold, but also beautiful and sublime. Arnheid got to see her Gardar in life and Gardar will get to see their Hjalti in death. And one day, they’ll all be reunited in the hereafter; a family shattered by war and violence whose bonds of love frayed but never broke.


Vinland Saga S2 – 16 – Casting Their Lots

Einar is on the move again, with Thorfinn following him. He doesn’t know what he’s going to do, just that he knows he can help Arnheid. Maybe with violence, maybe with something else, but he can’t live with himself knowing she and her unborn child could be in danger.

When they arrive at Sverkel’s house, Arnheid is doing her regular daily chores, but it doesn’t take long for Thorfinn to realize Snake and two of his men are watching from within. Arnheid is bait for Gardar, whom Snake believes is still on the run.

Saco Mayumi puts on a powerhouse of a dramatic performance as Arnheid, trapped between her lowly station as a slave, her love for her husband, her yearning to return to their blissful past, and a wish to bring her child into a better, happier world. She truly looks and sounds like she’s carrying the world on her shoulders.

When our boys draw in close, Arnheid admits to freeing Gardar’s bonds. In the moment, she was still dreaming of a possible life with her family: her, Gardar, and her new child. When she says this and weeps bitter tears, Einar makes up his mind. If she wants Gardar to escape, she’ll have to escape with him, and he’ll help them.

Thorfinn closes ranks and agrees to help too. For Einar, it’s the only choice. For Thorfinn, it’s choosing to abandon his life of pacifism before it began, but to help his friends. Awake in his bed, Sverkel tells Snake he’s not one of those people who believe “inferior” people are destined to becomes slaves; it’s just a matter of luck. Einar, Arnheid and Gardar were incredibly unlucky.

Snake’s not in the mood for the old man’s philosophizing. Gardar killed five of his men, he must die, period. He says he can’t sit there, holding his sword, crying himself to sleep about his unavenged men. Sverkel then says she should put his sword down; his land and farm is Snake’s if he wants it, as thanks for reading the bible to him.

Snake declines the offer. He isn’t interested in working the land or growing anything. There’s a lot we still don’t know about Snake, aside from the fact he’s not Norse and has a very unusual sword. He’s also extremely sharp, so I was almost surprised when he and both his men rode after Einar in a cloak, believing him to be a fleeing Gardar.

His absence allows Thorfinn to get Gardar out from under Sverkel’s bed (he helped Arnheid when she asked) and into a cart, where the three of them will head to the border where Snake and his men can’t easily operate. But Snake eventually realizes “Gardar” was running too fast, and returned to the house, not on his horse but on foot. There, he gives Thorfinn an ultimatum: give up Gardar, or die.

Having already cast his lot with both Arnheid and Einar, Thorfinn can’t turn back now. The only way he will be able to get everyone out of this is with violence, something he was once—and still is—extremely good at. Askeladd appears beside him and places his fist on his shoulder.

He tells Thorfinn that it’s okay to fight if it’s to help people who matter to you. As long as he understands that Snake probably has a good reason to fight too…likely beyond the money Ketil is paying him.

Snake advances, and even unarmed, Thorfinn is able to knock him back and dodge his incredibly quick and complex sword swing. Askeladd then scoffs at Thorfinn, telling him he’s not going to survive a fight against Snake if he’s “half-asleep.”

If he’s in this, he’s gotta be in this all the way. So he puts up his dukes, as if he were holding his twin daggers. Snake realizes what the stance is about, and prepares for a fight. This is for all the marbles.

Vinland Saga S2 – 15 – Where People Don’t Need Swords

Whatever Gardar might be now—monster, madman—he is Arnheid’s husband, and she loves him. If he has wounds, she wants to tend to them. But when she arrives at the mercenary camp, Snake refuses to let her see him. His mistake is delegating her return to Sverkel’s to a subordinate … a subordinate who can’t say no to a woman. Arnheid isn’t even trying to convince him, but her eyes and flowing hair are enough to convince him.

When Gardar spots Arnheid, he apologizes and begs for her forgiveness for leaving her and Hjalti’s side. He promises things will be different. She need only untie his binds and the three of them can return to their quiet, peaceful lives. Arnheid breaks down and tells him she’s sorry, as he still remains ignorant to the fact Hjalti is no longer with her, but was taken away.

When the guy who let Arnheid see Gardar tells her time’s up, and places his hand on her shoulder, Gardar lunges out and bites his throat out. We get what I believe to be the first use of “Intertwined”, one of my favorite Yamada Yutaka tracks and first used to great effect when Askeladd meets with the Romano-Welsh in season one’s episode 12.

The other guards come out of the cabin, and Gardar urges Arnheid to cut his ropes … but that’s all we see of this scene. The next time we’re here, Snake has returned to find all his men killed, and Gardar and Arnheid gone. And since it’s apparent Gardar was wounded again, he can’t have gotten far.

The balance of the episode takes place at dawn, as Einar and Thorfinn wait for the sun to rise. Neither slept—Einar because he’s so frustrated by the whole situation with Arnheid and Gardar; Thorfinn because he was making sure Einar didn’t do anything reckless. For his part, Einar wouldn’t want to cause any more trouble for Arnheid.

The two engage in a dialogue about the possibility of eliminating war and slavery from the world. Thorfinn believes if you can reduce the amount of war, you’ll reduce the amount of slavery, since the latter is often the spoils of the former. He says Norse men celebrate war because their fathers celebrated it, and their fathers before them.

Changing what comes naturally and has become not just tradition or culture but possibly genetics is hard, but Thorfinn is proof it can happen. Every night those he killed visit him and ask him why he killed them, especially when he’d experienced what it was like for someone dear to him to be killed.

Thorfinn wants to grow more wheat then he trampled, and build more houses than he burned. He wants to create a place where swords aren’t needed, to which Einar asks, how do you defend that land? Sometimes violence is necessary to defend peace and freedom. But Thorfinn says that’s a trap, and he’s seen the hell it leads to.

As they talk, Thorfinn suddenly remembers Vinland, the titular paradise devoid of war and slavery, and when he talked about it with Hordaland, the former noblewoman who became a slave, to try to instill some hope in her. Back then in episode 8, Thorfinn wasn’t a literal slave like Hordaland, but he was shackled by his past and his pride, staying beside Askeladd until the time came to kill him.

Hearing Thorfinn not just speak of Vinland to Einar, but actually talk about what would be needed to actually make it happen, is thrilling. After wallowing on Ketil’s farm for so long, he now has ambitions to not just atone for all of the death and destruction he caused as a warrior, but to create a new place for the outcasts where swords really weren’t needed. A place that would make his father proud.

Of course, there are quite a number of obstacles in the way of that dream, first among them the fact Thorfinn and Einar are still very much slaves. Unbeknownst to them, Lief is smuggling Ketil and his sons home, while King Canute is preparing to requisition his land as a punitive measure for Thorgil’s treason.

Snake’s men rifle through the hay in Thorfinn and Einar’s barn. Gardar and Arnheid aren’t there, but Snake is determined to find and kill Gardar. What becomes of Arnheid thereafter depends on how much Snake, and more importantly Ketil, believe she had a hand in her husband’s escape.

And while we plainly saw she didn’t do anything to help Gardar, it simply does not look good from the perspective of those with power over her. I want to believe Arnheid isn’t doomed, but Vinland Saga has trained me to fear for the worst when it comes to its most goodhearted characters.

Vinland Saga S2 – 14 – Weathering the Storm

As son as Gardar showed up, I knew someone’s blood would be spilled under the gray storm clouds that day, I just didn’t know whose. When he approaches Arnheid, he asks about their son Hjalti, whom we know isn’t there. Before Arnheid draws too close, she’s yanked back by Snake, who isn’t having any of this.

Gardar is wounded, so once Arnheid is out of harm’s way, Snake hits his weak spot and knocks him out. The slave killed his master and is wanted by that master’s uncle, so he’ll face justice. Thorfinn has to hold Einar back from interfering, but Snake doesn’t care about a slave’s opinion on the matter.

Einar keeps stewing about it that night, but when he stands up from the table, Arnheid tells him to have a seat; dinner will be ready soon (incidently, it’s also stew). She tells Einar that in situations like these, no good can come of action, so inaction is the best course. Don’t run into the storm and get consumed; stay put and wait it out.

Arnheid then tells Einar a little about herself, and how she lost her son because of pots. Specifically the iron deposits that would make pots and sickles and such for the humble farming village in Sweden where she, Gardar and Hjalti lived peacefully, neither rich or poor.

Thanks to a friend, Gardar got caught up in a village-wide campaign to arm up and fight for those iron deposits, lest they end up in the hands of someone who will upset the balance of power in the area. This meant every young and able-bodied man left the village to fight.

This left the women, children, and elderly on their own when the Vikings arrived. The village was pillaged and burned, the old and infirm killed, and the women and children separated and taken away to be slaves. In telling this tale, Arnheid rightfully gives Einar absolutely no ground upon which to stand, for he too wants to fight when no good can come of it.

Arnheid also tells them that she’s currently carrying Ketil’s child, and intends to raise it on the farm, certain that Ketil will accept it and be pleased with it. With that in mind, there is no choice but to wait through the storm—in this case, Gardar himself, gone mad from his long suffering.

But later that night, Arnheid prepares to leave the safety of the cabin and head out to the storm, if only to clean Gardar’s wounds. She’s stopped by Sverkel, who heard her tale and offers one of his own. Like Ketil, Sverkel is not someone any Norsemen would follow if they knew the truth about how they lived their lives.

When Ketil fell in love with a beautiful young woman and an up-and-coming warlord wanted to claim the same woman, Sverkel let it happen, because he feared the consequences. That warlord ended up taking an arrow to the back from an entirely different enemy, and in the ensuing battle, the woman Ketil love died in her wedding garb.

Sverkel doesn’t intend to convince Arnheid to stay put and do nothing. He knows firsthand that even when trying to weather a storm, it can leave scars that last a lifetime. He’s just sorry he can’t help her. Arnheid decides to head out after all, to the stockade where her husband is being held, if only to look upon him one more time.

She may be inviting ruin upon herself and her unborn child by walking into such danger. Gardar may not be all there in the head, and even if he was, he probably doesn’t deserve someone like Arnheid after he abandoned her for some stupid iron.

But Arnheid braves the wind and clouds nevertheless. In a world where women cannot overturn the decisions of men, she stopped Einar from very likely getting himself killed, and has now decided to see the man she once loved and had a life with, before turning the page once more.

This episode isn’t what I’d call “fun”, but it does feel significant and important. Arnheid and Sverkel’s stories are the stories of countless people, both those who lived centuries ago in darker times, and those living in our slightly-less-dark times. That, and the emotional and visceral reaction I got from hearing these crushing tales of injustice and woe, is why this makes the List.


Vinland Saga S2 – 13 – Revolt of One

This week’s cold (or rather burning hot) open had me a little confused. Was this an older, long-haired, wilder version of Einar we’re watching as he burns down his owner’s house and kills him, leaving only his wife and infant child? That would have been quite the time jump, and brings up all kinds of questions, like why he has wrist chains, or what happened to Thorfinn…and Arnheid.

That wild, violent escaped slave looms as we transition back to Ketil’s farm, where both Snake, Thorfinn and Einar note that Sverkel should have been home by now. They find him face down in his field, but he’s alive, so they take him home. Ketil’s wife appoints Arnheid as his caretaker, and while he may not be that keen on being taken care of, there’s a warm and lovely family atmosphere to the dinner Arnheid prepares for everyone.

Einar mentioned earlier he’s considering taking Ketil up on the offer to become a retainer, if only to stay with Arnheid and possibly one day free her. When Thorfinn asks if he’s really that in love, Einar says it isn’t like that, and perhaps that’s true, and Arnheid is fufilling the role of the sister Einar lost years ago. In any case, these fun and happy times simply can’t last, because this is Vinland Saga.

Turns out the longhaired murderous escaped slave is from a neighboring farm, owned by someone Snake knew mistreated his slaves. The owner’s uncle is offering a 3-horse reward if anyone can catch him, but as stealthy as Fox is, the two men he’s been saddled with are so loud they wake the slave up from his nap before they can charge and capture him.

As Sverkel’s condition worsens, Arnheid regards her scratched and battered hands (other anime have face games, Vinland has a hand game) just as a horse whinnys; it’s the escaped slave riding hard across Ketil’s farm. Snake orders him to stop and runs for his sword as Fox and one of his men give chase (the second man was killed).

Then Arnheid gets a glimpse of the fugitive, runs out to him, and yells “Gardar!” And Gardar stops and strikes a heroic pose, declaring that he’s finally found Arnheid…his wife. That’s quite a setup for the second cour, before the next storm—Canute’s men—even arrive.

I can’t imagine Gardar will survive if Snake and his men have anything to say about, so it comes down to what becomes of Arnheid. It’s bad enough she’s a slave, but to have to watch her husband be killed while trying to be free? That’s a tough hand to be dealt.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

P.S. All due respect to Survive Said The Prophet, but their new cour 2 opening theme “Paradox” can’t hold a candle cour 1’s “River” by Anonymouz, which was so good I watched the OP in its entirety every week. Ah well…

Tomo-chan Is a Girl! – 13 (Fin) – No Complaints

The twelfth episode was so good, thirteen was going to be all gravy…as long as it didn’t undo what twelve started. That’s the one fatal mistake it could make that would sour the entire season for me. At the same time, I didn’t want the epilogue to be too fluffy. This show was so good at really digging into its characters and making them think and act in believable and compelling ways.

The episode delivered on both of these conditions, and then some. Yes Tomo and Jun are on the same page regarding their feelings, but they don’t just ease straight into a GF/BF situation at the drop of a hat. This is a transitional period, with all its excitement for what’s to come, and a few speed bumps along the way.

Jun is so relaxed, she’s so nervous, and she and Jun are getting along so well, Tomo confides to Misuzu and Carol that she feels like she lost to Jun for harboring anxieties. when they know all too well he’s harboring them to but sometimes better at hiding them. She wants to throw him off balance to even the playing field. Misuzu suggests they see a romantic film.

Now that the confessions are out of the way, it’s great to really see Jun take to boyfriend mode with aplomb. He may be self-critical, but his direct honest manner is part of what made Tomo fall for him, and that’s on display as he praises her cute look, gives her “T” earrings for Christmas, and immediately dons the muffler she knitted for him.

Throughout the date, Tomo notices that Jun is incredibly focused. He softens when saying that he never really connected with romance movies before, and considers that falling for Tomo made them resonate more. When they’re about to part ways, Tomo has to make a move, and she does: inviting herself to Jun’s house.

What ensues is a wonderfully awkward and all-too-relatable scene of two people who like each other, but have never been in this type of situation, kinda freezing with nervousness and self-consciousness. Tomo again asks to sit next to Jun on his bed, but eventually snaps and tells him she came there for a sole purpose: to kiss him.

Jun admits he wants to to that stuff too, but her father told him he couldn’t go out with her until he defeated him. This is an entirely unfair bargain, as even Jun is no match for Tomo’s dad, a legit master and gigantic dude. Even her dad seems to know he kinda fucked up royally, but you can tell he did it out of love and not a desire to control her life.

But miserable as he is (Tomo confronts him and then tells him she hates him—perhaps a first in their relationship as father and daughter) he can’t take back what he said. A warrior’s word being their bond aside, Jun has heard the challenge and can’t ignore it.

While Tomo was being coy about her intentions to, in so many words, “spice things up” by trying to “beat” Jun to a kiss, Jun makes a rookie BF mistake by keeping something extremely important (her dad’s challenge) from her. Everyone (including her dad) erred, but she and Jun are well-developed enough that you totally understand why they erred.

In the midst of all this relationship turmoil, Misuzu and Carol are left out of the lurch, as Tomo doesn’t contact them for all of winter break. Again, this is rookie relationship behavior, getting so involved that your time with your friends dwindles or vanishes. It’s something Tomo can learn from, and in the meantime, both the girls and Kousuke are willing to hear her problems and offer possible solutions.

Misuzu suspects that Tomo isn’t content to watch the two most important men in her life slug it out while she waits passively. No, if Jun thinks he has to do this, he needs all the encouragement he can get, so she comes to the dojo in the middle of their fight.

This gives Jun a far bigger boost than Tomo realizes, because while he no longer regards her from a high pedestal, there’s still a good amount of that adoration for her, such that he believes he can’t stand still for a moment lest she get too far away from him.

His inferiority issues don’t magically disappear now that they both know each others’ feelings. Instead, he holds himself to an even higher standard. Jun, despite not being the sharpest tack on the board, realizes her dad is leaving openings on purpose to compel him to come in close to deliver a crushing blow, at great risk to himself.

Tomo’s dad knows Tomo will rush ahead. He wants to make sure Jun is someone who won’t just watch adoringly, but run beside her, and back her up in this rhetorical hero scenario. Jun doesn’t know if he can put his life on the line for a stranger, but for Tomo? He’ll walk through the gates of hell.

Jun wins the duel with Tomo’s dad by delivering what would have been a knockout punch if his opponent had been anyone else. But when her dad still won’t go down (even though his hand touched the ground), her mom finishes him off with a brutal smackdown. Jun is the winner, and Tomo leaps into his arms with abandon.

With that symbolic hurdle out of the way, Tomo and Jun are free to go out. When Jun interrupts Tomo to tell her he loves her and asks her to go out with him, she curses him for beating her to it. Her punishment is to take things a step further, so she gives him a big old smooch on the lips, in the perfect time and place.

Their kiss mirrors the poster of the movie they saw, and while they’re still far from ready for some of the later steps the movie couple took after the kissing, this is still a huge deal for these two. The floodgates of love are open, some initial stumbling blocks have been overcome, and they’re poised to begin a race that will continue for the rest of their lives together: the race to make each other’s hearts race faster.

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