Lord Marksman and Vanadis
by Jacob Chapman,
It's time for a Vanadis deathmatch! Eleonora faces off against Ludmila in a fight for the future of Alsace, where only one combatant can survive! At least, that's how it looks for about five minutes until Tigre's perfect bowmanship interrupts the fight, Ludmila recognizes him as Urs, and decides to call a truce after all. I'm glad that the Urs/Tigre reveal was handled in an ambiguous way here, where it's not entirely clear to what extent Ludmila knew that they were the same person, and the answer doesn't matter either way. Her reaction to being rescued from assassination by her own enemy mid-battle is admirable, and whether it was Urs or Tigre who showed such nobility is irrelevant to her. She immediately makes the decision to cut ties with Thenardier and let the consequences fall where they may. Her change of heart is once again supported by strong character writing here, as she comes to this decision only after sussing out Tigre's true ambitions. Is he just another Thenardier looking to expand his empire? No, Tigre is true only to his home country and people, and the protection of their freedom. Ludmila shares these values, which is why she hated serving the power-hungry Thenardier for so long. Ultimately, she lowers her spear and decides to ally herself with the side she most admires rather than the one she was raised to serve. (Sort of. Technically, she's a "neutral" party in the war now, but it's pretty obvious her army will side with Tigre's in some future eleventh hour battle.)
At the same time, all that pussyfooting around the conflict for two episodes straight does seem silly now that Ludmila is finally Tigre and Elen's ally. Of course she was going to become a good guy sooner rather than later. She was too likable and transparent about her resistance to defending Thenardier to ever become Tigre's enemy. Besides that, he's got a harem to build, and it was missing a small, self-conscious, flat-chested tsundere, so now that's covered.
Detour or not, the roundabout journey to winning Ludmila's heart made for some nicely paced episodes with enriching character development, which is sorely missed in the chaos of episode 6. There have been fan complaints of the anime rushing through the material from the original novels, but as someone new to the story, I hadn't felt the sting of any rushed pacing until now. Episodes 1-5 moved at a constantly engaging clip, heaping on dollops of worldbuilding, character introductions, and high-stakes action, but all the right emotional beats were given time to breathe, so I never felt as though the series was moving too fast. Episode three was the peak of series' pacing finesse, and completely won me over to the show. However, episode 6 needs to slow down. Way down.
In the fifteen minutes following the aborted battle with Ludmila, Tigre marches Elen's army back to Brune, reunites them with a Brunish army in an allied town, meets (gigantic naked) Vanadis Sofya, who puts some clothes on and then informs Tigre that the Brunish King has stripped him of his noble title and declared him a traitor for working with a Zchted army, despite Sofya's peaceful protests. It's a shocking enough game-changer that the episode could have spent its remaining time on that revelation alone, but we're not done yet! Sofya then discusses the positions of numerous other Vanadis with Eleonora, and the episode is bookended with the introduction of a horrifying new threat. Duke Thenadier has somehow noodled his way into a royal order commanding an order of holy knights, led by the invincible General Roland, to slaughter Tigre's army. So the episode ends on the eve of that huge battle, right? It certainly looks that way as the focus shifts to a scene of Tigre trying to win the good faith of Brunish nobles to his cause despite the king's decree against him. But nope, the battle between Roland, Tigre, and Elen plays out in the last few minutes of this already-packed episode, with intense action resulting in disastrous injury and the surprise intervention of Sofya. Then the credits slam into us like a freight train off a cliffhanger.
It's kind of insane. On the one hand, it's hard for me to imagine taking one or even two of these events and stretching it out to fill an entire episode. That would be needlessly sluggish. On the other hand, this episode packs so much into such a tiny space that none of it has time to land emotionally, and I'm also somewhat lost on the timeframe for the whole whirlwind of events. (It was a month, I think? Maybe two months by the end!) I'm excited to see what will happen next, but I wish the battle with Roland had been pushed to next week instead of plowed through rapid-speed for the sake of intensity. He's clearly more than just a bullheaded disposable boss character and should probably also get his own full episode to develop. Lord Marksman and Vanadis needs to cool down and let the strength of its material shine. Trying to keep track of everything in this episode gave me serious whiplash.
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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