The Fall 2014 Anime Preview Guide
Lord Marksman and Vanadis
Rating: 2 (of 5)
Review: In a fantasy setting that is apparently supposed to be based at least partly on medieval Western Europe, Tigrevurmond Vorn is a nobleman who governs the province of Alsace and is supremely-talented with a bow, a skill which is not much respected by his fellow noblemen. His country, Brune, is at war with Zhcted, but the numerical advantage that they have is more than offset by the warrior maidens called Vanadis on the Zhcted side, who all wield magical weapons. In fact, Tigre is captured when a battle in which they should have had a massive advantage turns into a rout, but he is captured instead of killed by one of the Vanadis, Lady Elanora, who respected his archery talent and willingness to stand and try to shoot her down even when the battle was clearly lost. Elanora initially claims that she's holding him for ransom but later admits that she's in love with his archery and wants him to serve her, something that Tigre is reluctant to do because of his obligations to Alsace, especially once he hears that a particularly cruel Brune nobleman has set his sights on Alsace in his absence. Elanora is not about to let him handle that problem alone, however.
The concept behind this light novel-based series is a solid one, and even has a fair amount of potential, especially since it's almost immediately apparent that Elanora is fooling almost no one but herself with her insistence that she's only in love with Tigre's skills. The execution in the first episode flashes all sorts of warning signs, however. The writing makes such a concerted effort to portray most of the rest of the Brune nobility as rotten bastards that is goes over-the-top, stereotypical anime trappings are all too cumbersomely apparent, and the handling of Tigre by Zhcted seems much too casual given that he is an enemy soldier, even if he is being treated as Elanora's “guest.” The artistic effort is not a sharp one, either – a big surprise, given that Satelight has often been on the cutting edge of anime artistry over the past decade. While not necessarily a negative, fan service is also apparently going to be a major focus, as both the character designs and the camera emphasize the busty builds of both Elanora and her chief underling Limalisha, who is also a Vanadis. (The opener and closer suggests that the other Vanadis form a cross-section of popular anime girlfriend archetypes.) One additional scene also shows Elanora to have a somewhat more enlightened view on the whole “accidentally seen while bathing” shtick, which is refreshing in some senses but also seems a little too contrived in set-up.
Thus Lord Marksman and Vanadis might still go places if it can establish the central Tigre/Elanora relationship well enough while still being credible in its plotting. It is looking just as likely at this point to be a thinly-veiled harem series set in a fantasy setting, however.
Lord Marksman and Vanadis is currently streaming on Funimation.com.
You know how Game of Thrones would frequently frame its exposition scenes with big piles of boobies, whether those scenes needed them or not? Two guys could be talking about heirs to the throne or house conflicts and maybe it's interesting by itself or maybe it isn't, but regardless, those boobs would be there to make sure you were paying attention. Lord Marksman and Vanadis is kind of like that, but more anime.
The content here is perfectly adequate, not-necessarily-interesting-yet-but-not-wholly-generic-either fantasy with heavy sociopolitical conflicts where everyone addresses one another by five-syllable names that must be dreadfully inconvenient to shout in warning during battle. ("LORD TIGREVURMUD, LOOK OUT FOR THAT ARROW--whoops, too late.") Our hero with the ten-dollar moniker here is bland but not too bland, and the hostage situation he's found himself in is surprisingly complex and charming. I say "surprisingly" because the show kept Game-of-Thrones-ing us with jiggly racks during otherwise completely serious scenes full of complicated details of land n' lore. It isn't necessary, but it doesn't really hurt either, because the couple female leads we've just gotten to know are oddly nuanced and likable rather than just being bubbly fetish targets, which makes the "shiny sex doll highlights" on their skin especially odd. It both is and isn't "that kind of show."
It's also not a bad-looking anime, aside from some very questionable equine CGI. Everyone remains on-model pretty well, and there are nice brief bits of battle animation here, mostly ones that play with the first-person perspective of an arrow on its way to its fleshy target. It's an okay first episode, but the experience is mostly world-building and backstory without enough short, sweet impact to make the epic impression it's clearly aiming for. It will take a few more episodes to see if this fantasy-novel-punctuated-by-cleavage adaptation has any real weight to it, but for now this is fairly middle of the road fantasy anime du jour, blessed only with narrative clarity and visual competence, but as evidenced by nice little surprises like the recent Chaika - The Coffin Princess, those two things can go a long way in the long run.
Lord Marksman and Vanadis is available streaming on Funimation.
Rating: 2.5 (out of 5)
Lord Marksman and Vanadis is clearly based on a novel. What makes this so obvious? For one, the hero's name: Tigrevurmud. It just screams “fantasy novel,” and in fact is the sort of name lampooned in Dianne Wynne Jones' The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. The other major giveaway is the sheer amount of information packed into this first episode. Lord Marksman and Vanadis tries to give us as much world-building information as it possible can, filling us in on the countries, some terminology, where Tigre lives and that he's sort of impoverished as counts go, that the guys he was fighting against are actually kind of nice...it's as if the entire first novel was packed into this first episode. If that's not the case, then the novels must be very densely written, because really, this is an overfull half hour.
That aside, this is a fairly generic fantasy story. Two warring countries with some different customs and old prejudices, magic, women who use that magic, and a guy with the bow skills of Robin Hood, plus one of the cutest little dragons I've seen in a while. (You've gotta have dragons.) Eleonora (the “o” is pronounced) is a war maiden, the ruler of a duchy who can use magic, and ascribes to the Red Sonja school of battlegear, meaning that all vulnerable areas are left uncovered. After capturing Tigre on the battlefield, she brings him home and offers him back to his people for ransom, which she appears to know that they can't afford. She claims to have fallen in love with him on the battlefield, and the fact that she tells him she wants him when he finds her naked in a stream would seem to bear that out. That's actually one of the more refreshing moments of the story – Eleonora makes no coy statements and beats around no bushes. It's nice to see that in an industry currently saturated with tsunderes.
The art is also pretty standard fantasy fare, with underclothed battle maidens, horseback riding that frankly looks a little odd, and pseudo-medieval clothes for everyone else. Because this is anime, there are also Victorian maid uniforms, which never fails to jar me out of the fantasy setting. The backgrounds are very nice, going from bloody battlefields with dusty air to lush forests to drafty-looking castles; really, this is the best part of the art if you don't find Eleonora and her fellow female warrior Lim's bodies a draw.
There's no clear indication of where this series is going apart from any assumptions frequent consumers of fantasy can make, but it is pleasant enough. This episode really suffers from trying to do too much in too short a time, but if you're a fan of the fantasy genre, this looks like it could shape up to be good fun in the sword and sorcery vein. It's not really anything new, but if you really like the style of story it's telling, that may turn out to be no problem at all.
Lord Marksman and Vanadis is available streaming on Funimation.
Modern fantasy anime often feels like it exists in some kind of balancing act between classic fantasy storytelling and standard anime tropes, and Lord Marksman and Vanadis is no exception. This first episode introduces our hero, the Count Tigre, who's apparently a staggeringly good archer. The story begins with him on the losing side of a great battle, being captured by the “War Maiden” Elen, who likes his skills so much she decides to keep him. The rest of the episode is spent fleshing out Lady Elen's immediate world, establishing the dynamic between the leads, and introducing a conflict that drags Tigre out from his captivity.
There was a decent amount of stuff I liked in this first episode. The drama wasn't, well, over-dramatized, which was nice - the tone of the dialogue somewhat fit with the fantasy world they're trying to establish, and including concepts like post-battle hostage ransoms made this feel slightly more grounded than a great deal of fantasy fare. I also liked Elen's “I was really impressed by the way you tried to kill me” personality, and the leads seemed to have fair enough chemistry in general. The production was also generally solid, with a little dodgy CG being made up for by some nicely animated battle sequences. However, on the plot side, there wasn't really much that leapt out and elevated this above “generic fantasy,” and the genre concessions of this episode worked directly against my ability to take anything seriously.
Judging by the opening credits, this show is actually something of a harem disguised as a fantasy, and the character designs and camera focus certainly support that. This is a boob show, frankly - lots of incredibly improbable outfits and geometry, lots of leering camera focus, and we see the heroine naked by the end of the first episode. If that's what you're here for, that's fine, but in a show like this, it feels like any weight the story could have is constantly compromised by the show's other priorities. If the plot's just intended to be a vehicle for the boobs, I suppose the show is doing what it wants to do - but frankly, I actually enjoyed the plot and character dynamics enough to feel kind of disappointed at the thought that it might turn out that way.
Lord Marksman and Vanadis is available streaming at Funimation.com.
War! Fantasy anime war, to be specific, between the neighboring kingdoms of Brune and Zhcted. Skilled archer Count Tigrevurmud Vorn, a count of Alsace (which is Brunish land) gets captured after a mighty struggle by the Zhctedian (Zhctedish?) war maiden Eleonora, who takes him back to her sunny, well-appointed castle as hostage, issuing a ransom note to Alsace. In the meantime, she flirts up a storm with Tigre, accompanied by another war maiden, the stone-faced, super-serious Limalisha. Brune won't take the kidnapping sitting down, though; an army of 3000 men is on their way to reclaim him.
If you haven't guessed yet, this is based on a series of light novels, which means there are a bunch of ridiculous fantasy names being thrown around (most of which seem like a random series of consonants, so thankfully the series shortens everything to nicknames for the most part). It feels like we're kinda being thrown into the middle of a story, with some larger political stuff happening outside of the principal cast, but we're focusing on Tigre and his run-in with the beautiful and bizarrely-clad war maidens of the Kingdom of Fanservice (I like to think the absurd name 'Zhcted' is supposed to be onomatopoeia for the sound someone makes when their face is smothered by giant anime breasts) . Based on what the show spends most of its time focusing on, the paint-by-numbers fantasy war story is secondary to the crazy boob armor that the chesty war maidens are wearing (or not wearing, once you get to the scene where Eleonora and her pet Digimon dragon are bathing out of a well bucket). This is the "take me seriously" subgenre of fanservice, where a super-straightfaced and somewhat complicated story is festooned with enormous, carefully-animated bouncing tits on parade. The show's production values are at least high enough to keep the characters on-model (...mostly, and the CG horses look pretty bad), which is a blessing, but unless the storytelling can climb its way out of so-so "I'm not bored but please give me a reason to care about this" mediocrity there won't be much to see here aside from the boobs. The opening credits suggest that there's a whole regiment of warrior ladies in increasingly ridiculous costumes, so I wouldn't hold my breath on the storytelling front, but for a fanservice show you could do a whole lot worse than this one.
Lord Marksman and Vanadis is available streaming at Funimation.com.
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