Lord Marksman and Vanadis
by Jacob Chapman,
There's no one more trustworthy than a man wandering alone in the mountains dressed in a giant bearskin! At least, that's the assumption episode 5 of Lord Marksman and Vanadis is based around. After the harrowing ambush from the end of last episode, Tigre has a fuller understanding of Ludmila's power, and Ludmila has decided that Tigre is a good man, but not a great one, and opted to side with Duke Thenardier and strike him and Elen down in battle if they think of trying anything. So it looks like the question of whether Ludmila is an ally or enemy has been answered with a resounding "both and neither." If Tigre and Elen leave Thenardier alone, she'll be their amiable ally. Of course, Tigre feels like this is not an option, which means Ludmila will spear his head off if he approaches her barricade, albeit without resentment. This is muddied further by the bizarre events that take up the rest of the episode. Let's get back to that bearskin thing:
Eleonora can't just send her army stomping through a snowstorm to try and find Ludmila's fortified keep. If they're going to have any chance of taking it, they'll have to launch a surprise attack, so Elen gets the bright idea to send hunting-lover Tigre into the blustery mountains wrapped up in a big heavy bearskin disguise. His job is just to find the keep, but who should he run into but Ludmila herself after they find themselves tracking the same fox! This is where it gets bizarre. After seeing his skill with a bow, Ludmila treats Tigre (or "Urs" as he calls himself,) with incredible charity, sharing a meal, tea, and her invulnerability to the cold with him in a mountain cave, opening up about her insecurities, and then leaving without making any effort to cover up her tracks back to the keep she knows could be attacked by Elen's army at any moment if they find it.
It's a stupid decision, but it's also a sign of nuance in character writing. See, I can't tell if Ludmila made this stupid decision on purpose or not. On the one hand, she certainly treats "Urs" as if she has no idea that he's Tigre, and even handwaves his warning to her that he could be a spy and she shouldn't be so kind to him. That's downright idiotic. On the other hand, her confession to him is a guilty one: "I thought I could fight for the Thenardiers even though I hated them, to secure my reputation as a Vanadis, but now I don't know anymore." On top of that, when Tiger leads Elen's army back to the keep, it is more heavily fortified than when he first saw it. So did Ludmila know "Urs" was Tigre and sabotage herself knowingly, or is she just falling into a dumb tsundere stereotype? I think the point of this episode is that you don't really know, but I choose to believe the former because I find myself liking these characters more with every passing episode, shiny boobs and all.
On that note, it's become clear to me that the show's bizarre combination of heavy fanservice with strong female character writing is probably the author's fetish in and of itself. It's an interesting fetish at least, but the show's love of "strong women who don't care if you see them naked and nay, confidently invite the attention" is a clear overarching trend, no longer just Eleonora's thing. Tigre walks in on Ludmila in the bath this time (a prank by Elen,) and rather than getting angry, she invites him to leer with a spear to his throat. "You don't get angry when a dog sees you naked, do you? Neither do I." Of course, Tigre responds to these confident barbs with some of his own, and the potentially embarrassing situation becomes a strange nude banter exchange between them. It's fun and I'll definitely take it over the stammering, terrified "uwaahs!" that dominate most scenes like these, but it's just laser-guided fanservice for those who like a feisty dominatrix rather than a blushing flower. It's fanservice without shame on either side, and I think I'm pretty cool with that.
Not much happens in this episode outside of the gradual melting of Ludmila's icy heart (followed by the start of a battle for the keep,) but I appreciate that the show is giving each new Vanadis characterization in a way that doesn't slow down the overall story, and for now this show continues to be significantly better than I expected at first glance.
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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