Lord Marksman and Vanadis
by Jacob Chapman,
Firstly, I unfortunately have to put my foot in my mouth after last week's review. Actually, since I'm talking about Lord Marksman and Vanadis here, maybe it's more of a "sword in mouth" situation, as seen in the screencap here. (I don't envy Tigre's alarm clock situation.) In my first review, I said that the enemy general Tigre and Eleonora took out was one of the Zchted princes, which means attacking him could be seen as a sign of treason. That was off base, and the actual situation is much more complicated. The hammy ex-general Zion was not the son of the king, but actually the son of Duke Thenardier, a grumpy old tyrant with a good relationship with King Zchted. Eleonora is employed by the king directly, so attacking Zion isn't a treasonous act exactly, (and I'll get to that in a minute,) but it's definitely a faux pas. I got my wires crossed on this one because the scene that introduces Zion was focused around important information about the Zchted prince, after which Zion receives the gift of a war-dragon "from his father." I assumed that meant he was the prince, but as I've noted before, my brain can get a little slushy when it comes to following worldbuilding minutiae. I'm much better at following info that builds characterization instead. I prefer the "who and why" to the "what and how." It's a good thing that's the primary strength of Lord Marksman and Vanadis, making a strong return in episode 4 after the battle with Zion has died down. (Well, characterization and boobs. The show is strong in both of these categories.)
It may not be treason, but Eleonora's decision to help an Earl of Brune kill the son of a Zchted ally gives her a lot of explaining to do back at the castle. It's through this conflict that we are introduced to some of the other Vanadises (Vanadii?) who are all very different from Eleonora. The blonde and maternal Sofya steps in to defend Elen from the king's wrath, while petite and blue-haired Ludmila seems eager to see her rival get some comeuppance. In a refreshing twist on expectations, these characters don't behave this way toward Elen just because they're meant to fulfill their stereotypes and be catty or motherly to one another accordingly. It's all rooted in character motivation. Sofya has either been elected or elected herself mediator between all Vanadis and puts the well-being of all war maidens above any feudal politics, while Ludmila's family owes a lot to the Thenardiers, so causing a rift between the Duke and the Vanadis could poison her rapport with him. Surprisingly, she hates the Duke herself, but she's still angry because she needs to maintain good relations with him, leaving her conflicted. It's not long before this brings Ludmila to Tigre's door to negotiate a cease-fire...just as Tigre decides to launch a full assault on Duke Thenardier with the now heavily-monitored Eleonora.
The combination of complex feudal fantasy warfare with some truly ludicrous boob physics and fanservice setups continues to make Lord Marksman and Vanadis a bizarre experience. There's a dream sequence in this episode that changes the show's artstyle completely to emotionally effective results, as the self-doubting Tigre remembers his father. The dream is rendered in a sketchy, crayon-like style with wildly changing perspective and time jumps that convey the disjointed nature of dreams very well. When he wakes up on the verge of tears, we feel like we experienced the turmoil with him: the dream was happy and sad all at once, in an understated way. Not ten minutes later, Tigre has to suck poison out of comrade Limlisha's chest by sucking on her boob-wound. To its credit, the scene is played completely straight, just like the sword-alarm-clock scene in the screencap above. There's no "uwaaaah!" from either Tigre or Lim, just matter-of-fact poison-sucking out of one boob while Tigre holds Lim up by the other boob. There's no camera-lingering and no overt sexualization of the act beyond the basics of the act itself. It's just plain weird. Honestly, it's the kind of fanservice that genuinely entertains me because it's weirdly respectful to the characters and appears to be taking itself seriously...but you know what the people behind it were really thinking.
There's a lot of great setup in here for the conflicts to come, and it's still up in the air whether the conflicted Ludmila will become Tigre's ally or enemy. (I'm betting on ally for now.) With Limlisha's life hanging by a thread and Duke Thenardier out to kill Tigre before Tigre can take him down to protect Alsace, there's nothing to do but wait eagerly for episode 5.
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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