Lord Marksman and Vanadis
by Jacob Chapman,
Like its preceding episodes, the finale of Lord Marksman and Vanadis was well-executed and backed by a strong fantasy foundation, but not very interesting or memorable. It was almost interesting! The show tiptoed right up to the line of doing interesting things before dragging its toes back fast, but it never quite got there, making its grand ending a satisfying yet completely expected experience.
It's weird to say that a series climax built on anticlimax was satisfying, but the devil's in the details on this one. Tigre and his massive army have finally converged upon the forces of Thenardier, the villain he's been chasing since his story began, but their battle is all over after just one clean shot. It's what the shot carries with it that really matters, and this nice little twist gives their final confrontation a gravity that no giant stomping battle between hundreds of soldiers could duplicate. After Tigre's finally defeated his enemy, the resolution is all gravy, complete with the implication that Tigre could become the new King of Brune someday. It's emotionally satisfying, but it's also not anything viewers haven't seen coming since episode one.
It's actually all the stuff that comes before the climax that's remotely special or interesting. Bertrand's death is given more personal weight, as we see how it affects Tigre long-term, as well as his maid Titta. The presentation is good enough to make us retroactively care about the character's demise when it was difficult to before. Ultimately, losing Bertrand helps Tigre understand that his struggle is bigger than Alsace, and it's time to leave home and his father's legacy behind. In order to defeat Thenardier, he must formally ally himself with Elen, even making it clear to Brunish nobles that he's prepared to make Alsace a territory of Zchted. He's seeing the world as a bigger place than he used to, and it's a refreshing growth of character for Captain Cardboard. (Let's face it, the Vanadis were always the interesting characters in this show, not Tigre.)
This is brought home especially strong by the show's laughable deflection of any dark-side temptation for Tigre. Ever since his bow became possessed by a dark goddess, there's been tons of foreshadowing to suggest that the bow's host deity is eager to swallow his soul. Tigre has even avoided using the bow as much as possible, but against Thenardier he has no choice. As he raises the weapon, all the rage in his heart over Bertrand's death begins to swell, and the goddess whispers sweet words of temptation inside him. With her power, he could be a god, or a demon, or...!
Nope, never mind. Elen pats him on the back and snaps him out of it. It's almost comical how much the Evil Bow that's been whispering at Tigre for episodes upon episodes doesn't matter at all. Another thing that apparently doesn't matter is the final Vanadis, Olga. Sure, Valentina wasn't given anything to do, but at least she showed up. This series is so rushed they couldn't even fit all seven Vanadis into it! At least that prevented it from becoming boring, I guess.
The best thing that can be said for Lord Marksman and Vanadis is that it was competently written, advertises the strengths of its source material well, and ends with satisfying closure and a complete character arc for its hero. All other periphery is plowed through at lightning speed, making it difficult to recommend the full experience to any but the biggest fanservice or low fantasy fans looking to have an itch scratched. The series is coated with handicaps that prevent it from being truly good or unique, but it's consistently entertaining, and in spite of the hacky trappings on its surface, the show's heart was always in the right place, filling most of its run with good (though not daring) ideas. It may not function well as a standalone series, but as a 13-episode promotion for the novels, it certainly did its job.
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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