The Brilliant Minds Behind VINLAND SAGA Season 2by Neysha Campbell,
VINLAND SAGA, the critically acclaimed historical anime, has taken audiences on a breathtaking journey through the Viking Age, combining thrilling battles, complex characters, and a gripping narrative. As fans eagerly watch VINLAND SAGA Season 2 each week, we had the privilege of sitting down with the brilliant minds behind the show's captivating visuals and artistic prowess.
At this year's Anime Central, the Twin Engine team behind VINLAND SAGA Season 2 treated fans to an exclusive panel event and a special screening of episode 20, offering a tantalizing glimpse into the continuation of this epic saga.The character designer is Takahiko Abiru, whose artistic vision breathes life into the diverse and compelling cast of Vinland Saga. Working in tandem with Abiru is art director Yūsuke Takeda, who meticulously crafts immersive environments that transport viewers to the stark and brutal world of Vikings. Behind the scenes, producer Naokado Fujiyama orchestrates the production, ensuring that it is executed in a timely manner.
I had the privilege of sitting down with the Twin Engine creative team to discuss how they managed high expectations from fans for Season 2 while balancing the quality of the series' story, as well as gain insights into their collaborative process behind bringing Makoto Yukimura's epic manga series to life through immersive anime series.
The first season of VINLAND SAGA was a smash hit, with many people still raving about it today. Knowing there would be a lot of hype for Season 2, how did your team manage high expectations while delivering an equally entertaining experience for fans?
Fujiyama: We really endeavor to surpass the fans' expectations. As the producer, I don't personally create the work, but I try to create an environment that helps the work be as good as it can be. So, for example, with Season 1, it was only available on Amazon Prime, but with Season 2, bringing that to other places like Crunchyroll and Netflix and trying to deliver it to as many fans as possible to create an environment that the work can be as great and as successful as it can be, and hopefully surpass fans' expectations.
VINLAND SAGA Season 2 has been stunning visually and narratively. How did your team approach adapting this new arc in the series?
Abiru: Our fundamental approach didn't change from Season 1 to Season 2. We had a lot of good ideas that had been built up over Season 1, and so we started from a very strong position with Season 2. And we just tried to take that further and build up more and more good ideas and try to really realize the theme, the theme of Season 2.
In Season 1, Thorfinn's design reflects a lot of his emotions and state of mind during that timeframe. He looks angry, haggard, and battle-worn. In Season 2, we see a completely different Thorfinn. How did you go about capturing his new appearance?
Abiru: The director's number one order to the animators was to really make the characters and Thorfinn as expressive as possible and really to focus on their expressions.
We were told with Season 1, the range of expression was somewhat constrained. And so with Season 2, we tried to expand the scope of that and try to make it a much wider range of expression.
Your team has done an exquisite job of bringing the world of VINLAND SAGA alive through animation. In Season 1, we saw a lot of the battlefield and action shots. What was it like to shift and focus on a different setting, like Ketil's Farm?
Takeda: As the art director, I was really the first starting point to receive the director's vision or order. It really comes down to how we interpret the vision and the requests from the director and convey those to the viewers.
And so for Season 1, there was a lot of trial and error, and I think there's a lot have manual work to try to realize that vision. But I think with Season 2, we understood the basics from Season 1, and we were able to build on top of that. I think Season 2 actually went more smoothly because of all the hard work we had done to realize that vision for Season 1. And so we really built on a strong foundation.
Fujiyama: I'd like to add to what Takeda-san and Abiru-san said. As a producer, I've never worked on something in this kind of profound setting before. But I think from my perspective, whether it's selecting, you know, key arts or key visuals, trailers or creating videos, it is how to deliver that vision to the fans. So, in this case, we're not just focusing on Japan but bringing VINLAND SAGA to the world. And that's how I approached it.
Season 2's story starts off with a different tone than Season 1. It is less action-packed right from the start than its predecessor. and takes time for the climax to build up. What do you think is the main appeal of the story and characters in Season 2?
Takeda: So even if it is not a battle or war scene, it is still a battle of emotions between characters. So while Season 1 had a lot of action and a lot of cameras moving around all over the place, in Season 2, there was a still camera in a specific location, and the focus was really on the faces. And this battle of the wills or battle of the spirit of the different characters, for me, was just as exciting to watch.
Abiru: I feel like one of the appeals of Season 2 is that the visual quality just keeps getting better and better compared to the past, and it just keeps improving.
Fujiyama: With Season 2, I think there is a sort of timeless concept like what it means to fight. What it is to live? What it's like being a slave of war? These are unchanging things that I think are very relevant to our modern day, and while there's not a war going on in Japan currently, these are all themes that I think we all as people need to consider and think about and by bringing this out in an entertaining work I hope that we can deliver this to as many people as possible and have them think about these important themes.
Season 2 deals with the subject of violence and human slavery very directly. How does Ketil's Farm serve as a microcosm for these subjects?
Fujiyama: Ketil Farm is an interesting setting, and there are very difficult things that happened with Canute and the attack. There's a very difficult turn of events on what was once a peaceful farm. It's kind of difficult to say, but there's something that can be a catalyst in that setting.
I think one of the appeals of Season 2 is the flow of the characters Thorfinn, Einar, and Ketil. Ketil, for example, starts out as this great person, a great human, but even Ketil is eventually absorbed into violence. I think this shows that there's no easy answer.
It recognizes that people are complicated things. Sometimes certain situations will bring out attributes that a person didn't think they had, like violence. And I think that's one of the appeals is that it's not straightforward.
Any final comments to fans? Or anything else you would like to add about Season Two?
Abiru: We are still working on Season 2. We actually left it to come here to Chicago (laughs). We are going to fight to the end to make sure that the level of quality stays high all the way to the end of Season 2.
Fujiyama: I think a big theme that we're looking forward to is people's reaction when we show episode 20 when they see what happens to Thorfinn. See what choices Thorfinn faces and what future he will choose. And I think an important theme of Season 2 is to see how Thorfinn evolves and what choices he will make, and how the character will continue through the end of this season.
Takeda: We have got up to episode 20 finished. Now we have four more episodes to go, and we're really going to have the story go through some interesting expansions and turns. And we really hope fans look forward to it and enjoy it.
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