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Lord Marksman and Vanadis
Episode 12

by Jacob Chapman,

Tigre and Elen are ready to confront Thenardier once and for all. Thenardier has set his sights on the not-quite-dead Prince(ss) as she rushes to reclaim the Brunish throne, and the ensuing battle will require a great sacrifice from the Silver Meteor Army, one that Tigre was never ready to make. By all accounts, this was meant to be a "big" episode of Lord Marksman and Vanadis, but for some reason, it sure didn't feel like it.

I think the problem lies in this episode's extreme simplicity. The show's sandbox of tropes has always been shallow and boilerplate, so the material was elevated through the complexity of character interaction and the allure of the unknown as the plot twisted and turned. Usually, I have to pay very close attention to keep track of all the moving pieces in the story's plot and the shifting motivations of its characters. Not so in episode 12, which opens with a cliché "girls bathing and sizing each other up" scene (yawn,) middles with a plain explanation of the world's lore and the relationship between gods and dragons (eh,) and ends with a tragic death that plays out like a textbook "tragic death" in a fantasy novel, sans much emotional investment for the victim in question (shrug.) There just isn't any of the narrative complexity or character chemistry that makes the show anything special at all, and the remaining "climactic" events feel like they could happen in literally any other fantasy novel.

That doesn't make it a bad episode though, just a little flavorless compared to the mild spice Lord Marksman and Vanadis usually offers up. Easily the standout moment this week belongs to Duke Thenardier. I don't mean a specific scene he has, I just mean any scene he's in period. From his first appearance in the temple underground, (eek a monster!) to his banter and battle with Eleonora, he's an imposing force, a mountainous noble with a booming voice and a two-ton sword he seems to have no trouble swinging around. Elen is a powerful Vanadis, but the show makes a strong case for Thenardier's ability to swat her down through the sheer virtue of his size and the bulk of his weaponry. It's no wonder this guy likes to work with dragons so much, he pretty much is one! Still, it's not a one-sided fight, and the mixture of swordplay and wind powers in their duel makes for the greatest pure entertainment in the episode.

Outside of the Thenardier fight, this week's episode is stunningly paint-by-numbers, filled with events and dialogue that could have been copied and pasted from any number of other fantasy war stories. It's large-scale endgame conflict on paper, but without any flavor from the show's cast, as they are instead restricted to spouting action movie dialogue as they hop from penultimate story beat to story beat. We understand why Tigre has been thrust into his dark night of the soul when victory is so close, and we recognize the connection that his fallen friend held to Alsace and Tigre's late father that has now been lost, but for my part, I didn't feel it even a little bit because I've seen this story executed in this exact way too many times before. For once, I'm actually disappointed that the story "slowed down" to focus on very basic moments and ideas in this episode. It was all too simple, didn't surprise me or make me feel anything emotionally, and became too easy to recognize as necessary setup for the final confrontation.

Hopefully there will be more going on beyond the surface in the show's final episode next week. I don't want it to be needlessly complicated (although it probably will be since there's one more Vanadis to introduce,) I would just prefer climactic events with a little more emotional punch than the Fantasy Novel 101 session we got this time.

Rating: C+

Lord Marksman and Vanadis is currently streaming on Funimation.

Hope has been an anime fan since childhood, and likes to chat about cartoons, pop culture, and visual novel dev on Twitter.

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