Lord Marksman and Vanadis
After having its armies brutally defeated by Zhcted, Lord Tigrevurmud "Tigre" Vorn of Alsace, upon trying to shoot down the warmaiden Eleanora Viltaria, is taken prisoner for the purpose of becoming said warmaiden's property. Normally, attempts on her life would've seen him killed immediately, but his abilities with the bow caught her interest, and now she wants him for herself.
That's not even the half of it either -- Lord Marksman and Vanadis is a much more complicated show than its visual style would have you believe. I don't necessarily mean that as a slight either, as lately, there has been a lot of really fun harem-ish shows released that manages to put a nice balance between the saucy and the serious. This show definitely wants to be a war drama first and foremost, though, set in an RPGish fantasy world with swords and sorcery aplomb, and large-scale battles on top of that.
It's easy to see how seriously it wants to be taken too, because the show starts out with a rather heavy dose of exposition before throwing our main lead straight into battle. As the synopsis stated, the battle was pretty much lost the second it started, and so Tigre starts his long journey of attracting the interest of a whole lot of women to his side, the interest being that each woman in the show is interested in Tigre for many various reasons. Eleanora, ostensibly the main female lead, mainly wants him for his skills with a bow. In all fairness, it does make a lot of sense that a woman who were raised, more or less, on the fields of war would be interested in a man because of his skills in the same, so their rapport actually does have a lot of realism to it. There is some actual chemistry going on here, an irritating rarity in anime, even ones based around romance. It's always nice to see someone valuing practicalities in a relationship as much as the doki-doki that comes from within.
I'm not entirely convinced Tigre makes such an interesting foil for the others, though, mostly because he is a bit bland, with a hint of Gary Stu. Don't get me wrong: I do like it when protagonists value honor and integrity as much as the next guy, but Lord Marksman and Vanadis really beats you over the head with it, to the point where it gets a little bit insufferable. Most of his best character traits usually comes from his interaction with the girls, and mainly Eleanora at that. It's fun, because Tigre's absurd sense of honor has to take a back seat whenever he's dealing with them, and you will occasionally get a glimpse of the nervous young man behind the mask.
I really like Eleanora. One of the reasons why the relationship between her and Tigre is so much fun to watch is because it reminds me so much of the relationship between Lawrence and Holo from Spice and Wolf. Much like Holo with Lawrence, Eleanora is almost surpremely straightforward in any dealings with Tigre, though she isn't quite as sceming as a certain wolf goddess, and much less petty. The reason why I was initially hesitant about watching this show -- since I had to buy it to do so -- is because... well, the character designs have all the hallmarks of a fanservice fest. Eleanora has a huge chest, to put it mildly, and she's not even the most voluptuous among the Vanadis. She also has a rather childish side, if her many arguments with Ludmila is any indication, most of which devolve to petty bickering. Harmless bickering, granted, but enough to see that the two are clearly not friends.
Yeah, this is the girl who gets made fun of for her chest size. And I get it; in many shows, Ludmila would actually be counted among the fairly decently blessed ones when it comes to chest sizes, but in this show, she's the "flat" one, a "fact" of which Eleanora is more than happy to remind her.
Partially because of that, and partially because her opening scenes in this show had her be annoyed and snide, I was worried she'd end up being the tsundere type who would always give the male lead a hard time, but that opinion got turned around rather handily. She merely easily gets irritated, which stems from her being put in a position she doesn't necessarily relish, which is a far more understandable reason for her overall mood. She's not stupid; with the exception of Eleanora, she is going to be the war maiden you'll see the most often, and her own capabilities are nothing to sneeze at. Yet, despite her overly serious demeanor, she has a rather sweet and hospitable side that Tigre will get to see. (Because... well, he's the male lead.) One particular scene in the fifth episode stands out as Ludmila's moment, so to speak. It's a lovely scene, because it marks her as more than just a cranky brat, and the scene is ambiguous enough that she doesn't come across as an idiot either, given the situation they were both in, which sells the potential that she knows more than she lets on.
Adding to the appeal of the ladies in Lord Marksman and Vanadis is the fact that the show avoids almost all of the most tiresome harem comedy tropes in that, no matter what, none of the girls involve Tigre in their fights. He is never asked "which girl do you prefer?", "do you like large boobs or small boobs?" or any other of the stupid rot that tends to poison harem and harem-ish shows. It looks like one, but it doesn't talk like one... not for the most part, anyway. Even past Tigre's initial scene with Eleanora, there is a scene where he accidentally walks into her bathing where, instead of just standing there and staring like a goon, he immediately apologizes and turns around, while she, for her part, takes the situation as it was; an accidental walk-in on his part. It could probably be considered annoying that they applied the scene in the first place, but it's outside, so it's far more understandable.
Sadly, we don't really get to see much of the other War Maidens, so it's hard to tell where they stand on the whole thing. Outside of Eleanora and Ludmila, you'll probably see Sofya the most. She doesn't show up often, and she serves more or less as a political mediator when she does. She's very much a Belldandy/Alicia type, all sweet natured and well mannered. Elizaveta and Valentina show up, but don't do all that much -- I honestly had to look their names up to remember what they were -- and the rest are limited to the intro... for now.
And then there's the last lady in Tigre's life, the household maid Titta. I'm... going to refrain from joking about whether her name is a comment on her figure, because she's mostly kept out of any major scenes of fanservice -- the only one being where she gets her clothes partially sliced open by Zion Thenardier, an almost cartoonishly malevolent character -- so it's not really obvious in her case. Said scene being one where it looked like he was going to rape her, I didn't really want to look or think too hard about any titillation factor. Judging by her general outfits, though, she's a good deal less developed than the others, even Ludmila, but you don't see anyone making any fun of her for it.... thankfully.
I seriously need to talk about something other than boobs for a while -- I swear, this show is doing stuff to me. So hey, let's talk about the wars. Seeing as Tigre and Eleanora met on the battlefield, and that a lot of kingdoms is caught up in a war in Lord Marksman and Vanadis, I think it's safe to say you're going to be seeing your fair share of bloodshed. Not that the series is particularly violent, but it also brooks no argument about the amount of lives that is lost on the battlefield. In a weird way, Lord Marksman and Vanadis avoids showing much action on the battlefield, instead choosing to cover most of the battles through narration and planning board representations with characters and armies being represented by symbols that look like chess pieces, both regular ones and ones meant to look like the characters in the show. The animation in Lord Marksman and Vanadis is generally above average, though, so it's a bit odd to see so much of the action on the front being repaced by these chess segments. Sure, it sounds clever enough, and I'll be the first to admit I don't know much about battle tactics, but it does rob the audience of a lot of excitement -- or horror, depending on how you look at it. Then again, maybe it's because they use those chess piece segments that they can let the remaining battle scenes look as good as they generally do, so... a bit of a give and take, I suppose?
Another plot tool comes in the form of Tigre's inheritance, a black bow with some magical abilities. With it, he gains not only increased abilities in archery, but there is also a subplot where Tigre is almost taken over by some kind of evil force, one who seems to have an interest in him. It also seems to be able to use powers from other magical relics, like Eleanora's sword, and there's that Gary Stu sense tingling again. It's not like Tigre does everything alone, and I do appreciate the show's sense of self not to oversell his abilities, amazing as they are. Still, this whole season is mostly about him, which is kind of a waste, since I'd rather they go more into the war maidens as well. I mean... they ARE definitely part of the draw of this show, but a few diplomatic meetings aside, Eleanora functions as little else than a hired sword, or, as I just stated, as an alternative power source for Tigre, which strikes me as mildly disrespectful.
It goes without saying that the anime hardly covers the whole light novel, so my worries might be for naught if they make more of this, but the last half of the show is also a bit anticlimactic. The battle scenes are already quieted down enough as it is with the chess motif, but the show also spends a lot of that time with a third, interfering force that deals with slavery as more of a side dish for Tigre to deal with. Lord Marksman and Vanadis goes out of its way to present them as people who really should be considered disposable, as they serve little else than something for Tigre to deal with and then brush under the carpet. Again, it's possible that they are featured later in the novel's story, but they are nevertheless little more than a momentary distraction before the show moves into its last story arc... which then proceeds to be sort of glossed over on all accounts. Lord Marksman and Vanadis doesn't jump the shark.. or bomb. Or jump the bombs. Or bomb the sharks. Either way, there are definitely going to be some marks when everything is said and done, be that from burns or teeth. The ending is, I'm sad to say, a bit dull.
All in all, I'm fairly happy with Lord Marksman and Vanadis. Sure, it sucks that the show kind of wastes away towards the end, but it's still got a lot of fun leading ladies and a pretty decent animation budget to its name, so... give the streaming option a chance if you can. You probably won't regret it.
A pretty weak four star, but the characters salvage most of it. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: The show isn't overtly violent, but it also brokes no argument about the consequences of being shot in the head with an arrow or being impaled by giant icicles, amongst many other weapon-related things. There's also the possibly attempted rape early in the story, which probably counts.
Version(s) Viewed: Region A Bluray, bilingual.
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Lord Marksman and Vanadis © 2014 Satelight.
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