Vinland Saga is a historical manga written and drawn by mangaka Makoto Yukimura. The series was published by Kōdansha in Weekly Shōnen Magazine in April 2005 before being moved to the monthly magazine Afternoon in December 2005. The manga is inspired by several Icelandic sagas and refers to the discovery of North America by the Vikings. An adaptation of an animated television series by Wit Studio is currently ongoing. But, the focus of this article is going to be the manga itself, as we are going to bring you a list of the 15 best manga like Vinland Saga you definitely need to read.
Original Run: August 1989 – present
Number of Volumes: 41
What it’s about: Berserk tells the story of the meeting of Guts and Griffith, leader of the Falcon Troop, a band of mercenaries in the pay of the kingdom of Midland. From this meeting will be born an ambiguous friendship, but nevertheless efficient: the presence of Guts, a warrior with the disproportionate sword, will quickly prove essential to the ambition of the young Griffith, swashbuckler and outstanding tactician.
The manga is thus the account of the rise and fall of the Falcon Troop and the relation between Guts and Griffith. It examines the particularly complex relation of interest (Griffith uses the force of Guts), mutual respect (both see each other as soldiers), and deep affection (each inexplicably needs the other’s presence).
What it’s about: Berserk is probably the closes you’ll get if you want something like Vinland Saga. It is dark, it is realistic, and Miura made sure that the plot was both thrilling and intriguing, which is why you’ll love this classic for sure.
2. Blade of the Immortal
Original Run: June 25, 1993 – December 25, 2012
Number of Volumes: 30
What it’s about: The story of Blade of the Immortal is set in Japan in the Edo era. The protagonist, Manji, is a warrior who has a great advantage over his rivals: no wound can kill him. In the past, he killed 100 other samurai, including his sister’s husband. An elderly nun, who is said to be 800 years old, grants him the gift of immortality through worms called kessenchū, which heal any wound and even restore amputated limbs even though the amputation was hours ago.
The death of his sister leads him to accept the mission that will end his immortality: he must kill 1000 evil men to redeem himself. Manji crosses paths with a young woman named Rin Asano and promises to help her avenge her family, who was killed by a group of expert swordsmen led by Kagehisa Anotsu. Anotsu killed Rin’s father and her entire dojo.
What it’s about: Blade of the Immortal is more Eastern than Western, but it does capture the spirit of Vinland Saga perfectly. The drawing style is also quite similar, so fans of Vinland Saga will definitely be able to enjoy this great manga as well.
3. Lone Wolf and Cub
Original Run: September 1970 – April 1976
Number of Volumes: 28
What it’s about: The great warrior and master of the Suio Ryu Ogami Ittō had become the shogun’s executioner, the Kogi Kaishakunin, a position of great power used by the Tokugawa Shogunate (along with the oniwaban and assassins) to bolster the Shogun’s power over the daimyō. For those samurai and feudal lords who were ordered to commit seppuku, the Kogi Kaishakunin would assist them with their deaths by decapitating them to ease the pain of cutting their own stomachs.
Shortly after the birth of his son Ogami Daigorō, Ogami Ittō returned to his home to find his wife Azami and all of his servants brutally murdered, and only his newborn son Daigorō alive. They were all supposedly killed by three former samurai from a disbanded clan, whose feudal lord had been executed by Ogami Ittō.
What it’s about: While Lone Wolf and Cub may be a Japanese story and thus different than Vinland Saga‘s Nordic setting, there is absolutely no doubt that this manga classic is exactly what you’re looking for if you want a story as captivating that one.
Original Run: January 25, 2003 – present
Number of Volumes: 11
What it’s about: The story begins with Hermias, one of Aristotle’s students, being tortured and interrogated in Assus, a city on the western edge of the Persian Empire. He is confronted by a Persian commander, Memnon, who asks him if his teacher is really worth dying for. The story then jumps ahead a few days to the ruins of Troy, where Aristotle, one of his students, and a slave find Eumenes in a boat trying to make oars.
They spend the night there, talking about various topics such as philosophy and slavery, and leave the next morning. Eumenes is then sought out by a Persian named Barsine, who questions him about the previous night’s visitors.
What it’s about: As the title suggests, this is a historical manga, but it is set in Ancient Greece and has the same atmosphere as Vinland Saga. With great historical accuracy and brutally realistic drawings, Historie is definitely another title you can add to the list.
Original Run: June 6, 2001 – October 4, 2014
Number of Volumes: 27
What it’s about: The events of Claymore take place in a made-up universe where humans and a demon species known as Yoma—natural predators of humans—coexist (in the manga, they are also known as Specters). The Yoma’s unique ability to assume human shape enables them to live covertly among people.
Only the female fighters known among humans as Claymores, who are beings made from humans by a covert organization, are capable of identifying these monsters and eliminating them. Due to the enormous blade they wield known as a claymore, these warriors have earned the name. Despite having a remarkably human-like look, they contain certain oddities. Their silver eyes, which stand out the most physically, have also given them the nickname “silver-eyed witches.”
What it’s about: Whether you’re looking for something like Vinland Saga or not, CLAYMORE is a classic manga title and you definitely have to read it; the good thing is that is quite similar to Vinland Saga, but it has more theological and supernatural elements.
Original Run: February 4, 2003 – June 15, 2004
Number of Volumes: 5
What it’s about: When the feudal lord Ieyasu Tokugawa finds himself unable to decide which of his two sons should replace him at the head of the empire, his adviser suggests an atypical contest. Just let the Emperor’s two ninja clans (one from Iga province and the other from Kōga province) fight to the death, with 10 ninja masters from each clan fighting for one or the other of his sons.
The winning clan will determine who will succeed to the throne. Ieyasu accepts this competition, stating that the Iga clan will represent his eldest son Takechiyo, and the Koga clan his second son Kunichiyo. The leaders of both clans happily accept the fight, having been in a Cold War situation for generations until then. Finally freed from the non-aggression pact forged by leader Hattori Hanzō, the members of the Iga and Koga clans immediately begin killing each other with almost sadistic abandon.
However, to complicate matters a bit, the heirs of each clan – Gennosuke of Koga and Oboro of Iga – are deeply in love with each other. Thus begins a cruel war in which two lovers are turned against each other, forced to confront their loyalties, and meet on the battlefield.
What it’s about: This manga is yet another example of a great Japanese take on the genre, as it combines all the best narrative and stylistic aspects of Vinland Saga in a truly intriguing story that you will definitely love.
7. Demon Slayer
Original Run: February 15, 2016 – May 18, 2020
Number of Volumes: 23
What it’s about: In Taishō-era Japan, Tanjirō Kamado is the first child of a family of coal merchants whose father has died: to support the family, he sells charcoal in the village below the Mountain. Despite the difficulties of life, they manage to find little happiness in their daily lives. One day, due to rumors circulating about a man-eating demon hanging around after dark, he is forced to spend the night with a Good Samaritan in the village. Only, everything changes on his return when he detects, thanks to his keen sense of smell, a strong smell of blood: he rushes home and finds his family massacred.
What it’s about: We actually decided to include this shonen title on the list because it has a lot of similarities with the revenge theme present in Vinland Saga, and the style is somewhat similar. It does have a lot more supernatural elements and expects less brutality, but Demon Slayer is still worthy of your attention.
8. Rurouni Kenshin
Original Run: April 25, 1994 – September 21, 1999
Number of Volumes: 28
What it’s about: The story takes place in 1878 in Tokyo. Kenshin Himura, a former assassin nicknamed Battosaï, literally “master in the drawing of the sword”, during the time of the Tokugawa reign, hides a very heavy past. Become a wanderer since the establishment of the Meiji era, he travels the country equipped with his sword with an inverted blade, with the desire not to kill again.
What it’s about: As far as classic samurai stories are concerned, Rurouni Kenshin is definitely one of the best. The style is just a tad different than in Vinland Saga, but the narrative and the whole idea perfectly fit this genre so definitely give it a go.
Original Run: November 1992 – November 1996
Number of Volumes: 11
What it’s about: In ancient China, at the time of the “Kingdoms of the Fighters”, the war between the different kingdoms is raging. At that time, several schools were in competition, including the famous school of Mo, where a single student had the ability to arrest more than 10,000 men. The secret of the power hiding behind the disciples of this school is their knowledge of military strategy and their ability to defend any town or village when they are allowed to take command of operations.
Among the greatest disciples of this school, Ke-ri, a man expert in combat and military strategy. His role: is to organize the defense of cities that have asked for help from Mo’s men. Ke-ri will protect many cities, meet companions, and, above all, have to face the most formidable enemy he has ever known: his own clan led by Pei-Ping whose conduct seems to go against the original philosophy of Mo’s men.
What it’s about: Bokkō is a lesser-known title among those on this list, but we still think that it is worth your time. This is a story set in China and it offers all of the intrigue and realism of Vinland Saga, but with some additional elements connected to the locale.
10. Fist of the North Star
Original Run: September 13, 1983 – August 8, 1988
Number of Volumes: 27
What it’s about: The story takes place in a land devastated by a nuclear war, which has caused the evaporation of most of the seas and oceans as well as the destruction of much of the vegetation, in the 1990s (which was then a reasonably near future). One can see “199X” during the series’ introduction, which refers to an ambiguous year near the end of the 20th century. In this post-apocalyptic world, the survivors are either frightful bandits organized into gangs that plunder and terrorize the people, or they are poor villagers struggling to survive.
What it’s about: This title is a bit different than most of the others on this list, but we have included it both because it is a classic and to give the list some diversity. Fist of the North Star has some stylistic and narrative similarities with Vinland Saga, and although it is a modern, dystopian tale, you should take a liking to it.
Original Run: September 17, 1998 – May 21, 2015 (on hiatus)
Number of Volumes: 37
What it’s about: In 1600 the terrible battle of Sekigahara took place, which established the power of the Tokugawa shogun. Shinmen Takezo, the son of a great samurai, is ready to do anything to survive among the fighters. Returning to his native village, he is rejected by the inhabitants for having deserted. Pursued, he then begins a long wandering with a single objective: to become the greatest samurai in Japan.
Vagabond is a long initiation manga, which leads the hero to discover, to understand the world around him and himself, dedicating himself to the way of the sword. Changing his name to Miyamoto Musashi, he challenges and confronts the most powerful samurai, carried away by a murderous spiral, and torn by his love for Otsu, his childhood friend.
What it’s about: This is yet another classic samurai manga and you definitely need to check it out if you liked Vinland Saga. The setting is quite different, but the style, story, and atmosphere are something you’ll absolutely love.
Original Run: 1998 – 2015
Number of Volumes: 34
What it’s about: At 16, a talented young high school student slaughtered his own parents. Placed in a reformatory home, he will suffer the violence and humiliation of his fellow prisoners and guards. Beatings, bullying, sexual assault – you name it. Meeting a strange political prisoner, a certain Kenji Kurokawa, an expert in karate, will change the course of his existence and make him a real fighting bull, ready to do anything not to get killed.
After he will have served his sentence, he will become a male prostitute for women, a henchman in a gang, and then a high-level sportsman, evolving on the fringes of westernized Japanese society and building his own karate over the course of encounters.
What it’s about: This is a modern-day yanki manga, but we think that Shamo has enough similarities with Vinland Saga to actually satisfy all your needs. You will have to adjust to it a bit, but if you give it a chance, you will most likely be satisfied.
13. GOBLIN SLAYER!
Original Run: February 15, 2016 – present (light novel)
Number of Volumes: 15
What it’s about: In a whimsical universe where everyone’s fate is ruled by dice rolls by the destiny rolls of deities, adventurers in search of wealth and glory come from all over the world to join the Adventurers’ Guild. An inexperienced young priestess who has joined the Guild joins a group of rookie adventurers, but her first quest turns into a nightmare when the rest of her team is slaughtered by Goblins: she owes her salvation only to a mysterious man in armor, the Goblin Slayer, an adventurer knight whose one and only objective is the eradication of these creatures.
What it’s about: Also added for the sake of diversity, GOBLIN SLAYER! is a very brutal title that will give you everything you need if you want another great revenge flick. At times, it might even be more brutal than Vinland Saga, but also do expect a lot of shonen tropes.
14. The Heroic Legend of Arslan
What it’s about: In an ancient fictional world, a war opposes two powerful kingdoms: Lusitania, in the west, which venerates the unique god Yaldobaoth and seeks to impose its religion on the other kingdoms and Parse, in the east, a rich polytheistic kingdom whose power rests on slavery. On the plains of Atropatenes, Andragoras III, king of Parse, prepares to face the army of Lusitania.
He is extremely confident in his cavalry, whose reputation has crossed borders. Alongside his father, the young prince Arslân will fight his first battle at Atropatenes. But Atropatenes turns out to be a deadly trap: aided by the traitor Kahllan and led by a mysterious general hiding behind a silver mask, the Lusitanians inflict a crushing defeat on the Parses, capture King Andragoras III, and set out to besiege Ecbatana, the capital of Parse.
What it’s about: This is a fictional historical work, but it does have everything you need if you like such stuff. It is quite similar to Vinland Saga and although it might not be your first pick, you should still have a lot of fun reading it.
15. Sōten Kōro
Original Run: 1994 – 2005
Number of Volumes: 36
What it’s about: The events that occur in China’s Three Kingdoms era while Cao Cao, the primary character and the final Chancellor of the Eastern Han Dynasty (155–15 March 220), are alive serve as the basis for the story of Sōten Kōro. Cao Cao’s ongoing ambition to free China and its people from their outdated ideologies and ways of thinking and to promote an emphasis on pragmatism rather than hollow idealism runs throughout the entire plot. This frequently puts him at odds with the accepted Confucian beliefs and those who uphold them.
Why you should watch it: This is a Chinese take on the genre and if you’re actually into such topics, regardless of the locale, Sōten Kōro is undoubtedly a title you will enjoy as well, as it will provide you with more than enough intrigue for you to enjoy.