Assassin's Creed Valhalla is consuming every hour of my free time, the kind of game I'm thinking about at the store, in the car, on the toilet—not to imply anything about its quality. The opposite is true. Like Steven said in his review (opens in new tab), Valhalla is also my favorite Assassin's Creed game. And a big reason why is that I'm just not very familiar with the history of the Vikings, so Valhalla's gentle cable TV treatment of the period already has me ordering history books and looking for every unique take on the setting.
On the more fanciful side of things is 2019 anime Vinland Saga, which is required watching if you're loving Valhalla—watch the first season, free with Amazon Prime here (opens in new tab). Think of it like an amped up Valhalla sequel, not because it has anything to do with the Assassin's Creed universe, but because it stars a pissed off Viking assassin on a quest for revenge over 100 years later after the Danes conquered most of England. Relatable.
That doesn't mean things have settled down. Kings are still trying to kill other kings, and the splintered Viking forces are swinging plenty of sword.
While writing, I stumbled into a legit Valhalla-Vinland crossover comic, part of a promotion in Japan. In case you didn't think the overlap was obvious enough, Ubi went ahead and made it official—but not canonical, of course.
Valhalla's near episodic structure complements Vinland's literal episodic structure well. In Valhalla, each region is its own self-contained story about the struggle for power between the Danes and whatever sovereign force took root after the collapse of Rome.
Vinland does something similar, following the young warrior Thorfinn on his lonesome journey to avenge the death of his father. Thorfinn's solo venture sees him align with new factions and characters quite often, each episode introducing historical figures in exaggerated proportions while gradually laying track for the events that actually took place way back the 1000s. Thorfinn himself is based on Thorfinn Karlsefni who—well, I guess history could qualify as spoilers here.
Valhalla and Vinland both reinterpret actual historical figures as characters in their own stories, weaving drama and stylish hyperviolence into the record. For Valhalla, that means a braiding old timey occultism and light touch sci-fi with an otherwise grounded historical drama. In Vinland, it means making Thorkel the Tall as big as a tree and then, appropriately, giving him a tree as a weapon.
There's no sci-fi framework to speak of, but the action is exaggerated and inflated to comical proportions. It's exactly what I love about anime.
Berserkers basically go super-saiyan after a mushroom snack, entire crowds of men are chopped into pieces regularly, and there's no end of friendships obliterated by greed and deceit. Vinland does tend to bathe in melodrama, but the extended internal monologues are sustained by gorgeous animation and color work.
It's not surprising, especially given how the manga is such a strong foundation to build on. I get major Berserk vibes from the bits of art I've seen, though I've yet to read the manga myself. I might have too soon: the printed story is much further along than the show, which is limited to the 24-episode first season for now.
A second season is supposedly on the way, there's just no word on when it'll come out. But that's OK. I'm 40 hours into Valhalla with no end in sight. I think I'm set for a while.