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Shelf Life
Lord Marksman and Vanadis

by Paul Jensen,

I took a look at the promo clips from the Terraformars live-action movie the other day. I'm not sure they made want to see the whole film, but they did make me briefly consider going back and rewatching Starship Troopers. It's not a good movie, but I find it entertaining anyway. Every decade needs at least one stupid-fun movie about expendable space marines fighting giant space bugs. Sadly, I can't offer you any extraterrestrial cockroaches in this installment of Shelf Life, but we do have some intriguing new releases to check out.

Jump to this week's review:
Lord Marksman and Vanadis

On Shelves This Week

Death Note - The Complete Series BD, Omega Edition
Viz - 1033 min, 1111 min - Hyb - MSRP $54.97|$69.99
Currently cheapest at: $40.99 Amazon|$53.89 Right Stuf

Synopsis: When genius student Light Yagami finds a notebook that grants him power over life and death, he decides to use it to improve the world by killing anyone he believes to be evil. His actions and their consequences draw the attention of the authorities and an ace detective.

Extra: I've listed two separate runtimes for this one because the more expensive "Omega Edition" includes both the TV series and the two movies. We've got plenty of reviews of this well-known series, including two takes on previous box sets here and here. You can watch Death Note on Hulu and Neon Alley.

Digimon Fusion: Season 2 Collection
New Video - 660 min - Dub - MSRP $34.93
Currently cheapest at: $24.48 Barnes and Noble

Synopsis: With the Digital World divided into seven separate lands and ruled over by the evil Bagra Empire, Mikey and Shoutmon must reunite the Fusion Fighters and Team Blue Flare in order to defeat Lord Bagra and his Dark Generals.

Extra: You can stream this series under its original title of Digimon Xros Wars on Crunchyroll. Here's an amusing anecdote: the original Digimon virtual pets were banned in my elementary school after giving rise to an underground fighting ring that met behind the swings at recess.

Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam - Part 1 BD, DVD
Bayview - 625 min - Hyb - MSRP $74.99|$59.99
Currently cheapest at: $48.74 Right Stuf|$38.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: With Zeon defeated, the Earth Federation has become a violent and oppressive power in its efforts to eliminate any remaining traces of opposition. A group of civilians, former Zeon soldiers, and disillusioned members of the Earth forces rises up to resist the government's tyranny.

Extra: You'll find a review of the Blu-Ray version of this set here. Longtime Gundam fans may want to note that the copyright issue which prevented older releases of this series from using the original opening and closing songs persists here. Nothing says "fun" like complicated international copyright restrictions!

Wizard Barristers - Complete Collection BD, DVD
Sentai - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $69.98|$59.98
Currently cheapest at: $45.49 Right Stuf|$38.99 Right Stuf

Synopsis: In a world where wizards live side by side with normal humans, crimes involving magic are tried according to special laws. Cecil Sudo, the youngest person ever to qualify to defend wizards in court, joins the Butterfly Law office's crew of legal experts.

Extra: For reasons known only to my subconscious, I consistently misread this show's title as "Wizard Baristas," which sounds like a series that someone needs to make immediately. No full reviews for this one, but we do have some Preview Guide coverage. You'll find it streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and The Anime Network.

Shelf Life Reviews

I'll be taking a look at the recently released Lord Marksman and Vanadis for this week's review. Could there be more to this fantasy series than magic swords and skimpy outfits?

Just by looking at the cover art on this set, it's pretty obvious that Lord Marksman and Vanadis aims to combine swords-and-sorcery fantasy action with a generous helping of fanservice. That can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your particular tastes, but it does place this show in a category that isn't exactly known for compelling storylines or nuanced character development. I didn't come in with lofty expectations, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that this is a perfectly decent genre piece with enough entertainment value to appeal to a pretty broad audience.

Lord Marksman and Vanadis tells the story of Count Tigrevurmud Vorn, the young ruler of a small province. Tigre and his fellow nobles march off to battle when their country clashes with a neighboring nation, and they promptly get wiped out. Eleonora Viltaria, the leader of the opposing army, takes Tigre as a prisoner of war after being impressed by his fighting skills. When his homeland descends into civil war and a rival noble sends troops to conquer his territory, Tigre asks Elen to use her troops to help him defend his people. She agrees, and the two of them become a third faction in the struggle for control of Tigre's home country.

While not especially deep or memorable, the story is presented reasonably well. The plot moves from one battle to the next quickly enough to keep things interesting, but not so quickly as to make it difficult to follow what's going on. It's a pretty standard war for control of a fantasy realm, complete with a few twists and turns along the way. The story is generally overshadowed by the cast, and the main characters are remarkably compelling for a show that features a wide variety of colorful bikini armor. Apart from some relatively generic villains, just about everyone has enough of a personality to break out of their basic character archetypes. There's some strong chemistry between Tigre and Elen, and Elen's friend/rival Ludmila adds an interesting dynamic to the group in later episodes. The characters benefit from solid performances on both audio tracks, and I was able to switch back and forth between Japanese and English without finding either one to be clearly superior.

The action scenes in Lord Marksman and Vanadis have a lot in common with the plot: they're nothing special, but they get the job done. Perhaps my least favorite thing about this show is its tendency to go into what I'm going to call “History Channel Mode” whenever something important happens during a battle. Our view of the action shifts to a map with gold and silver game pieces moving around to represent how the different armies are maneuvering. While this approach certainly helps the audience see the big picture, it tends to take us out of the moment and make the fighting feel less intense. It's easier to get emotionally involved in the individual swordfights between major characters, though the animation stops short of delivering any truly spectacular visuals.

Judging by the character designs, it'd be reasonable to expect this series to go overboard on fanservice. As it turns out, it really doesn't. There are a few brief bath scenes here and there, and Tigre stumbles into the occasional suggestive situation, but the majority of it is pretty tame. There's much more comedy than outright fanservice to be found here, and the jokes tend to be amusing if not uproariously funny. The best humor comes from the collection of chibi comedy shorts included in the set, and I found myself laughing more at these than at anything that happened in the series itself.

What we have here is a show that ranges from “acceptable” to “pretty good” in just about every area without being great at anything. That's actually something of a rarity in my experience; it's unusual for a series to run for 13 episodes without impressing or annoying me at least once. Unfortunately, that also makes it a bit difficult to figure out who this show is meant for. If you watch it for the swordfights and dragons, you'll get a competent fantasy story presented with some distractingly skimpy fashion choices. If you're in it for the sexy girls and boob jokes, you'll have a lot of politics and military strategy to sit through in between the short bursts of fanservice. My guess is that you'll get the most out of it if you enjoy all of the genres that it blends together. If you like fanservice shows but wish they had better writing and more interesting characters, then Lord Marksman and Vanadis might just be your diamond in the rough.

Personally, I enjoyed the time I spent watching this show. It held my attention from start to finish, and it ends on a much stronger note than a lot of light novel adaptations. I'd watch a second season if the fates ever conspired to have one made, but I don't see myself revisiting this set in the near future. I feel like I got everything I'm ever going to get out of it in one viewing, and sometimes that's all right. This is about as good as an anime series can be while still qualifying as a Rental in my book.

That wraps up this week's review section. Thanks for reading!

This week's shelves are from The Tsunami:

"Hello, everyone. I've been meaning to submit my collection to the Shelf Obsessed column for awhile but it wasn't quite ready until now. I've been following anime and manga for just over twenty years now, beginning as a freshman in high school (random note: I found out several years later that I graduated with ANN founder and resident Answerman, Justin Sevakis), but only over the last twelve or so have I had the necessary income to build up my collection. 

As you can see, I've put a little bit of time and effort (and more than a little bit of money) into my collection which ranges from the simple (manga, artbooks) to the elaborate (my main figure display) and of course the expensive (the Faye Valentine and Kenshin cels were easily the most expensive part of my first trip to Japan). Over time I've gathered many autographs through my trips to Otakon, which mainly consist of director autographed movie posters and voice actress signed artbooks and other memorabilia (some of which I've shared here). My furry cohorts also photobombed a couple of these pictures (they are cats, of course they did).

The most asked question I get regarding my main figure display is about the center shelf. The back of the shelf is made from a sheet of blue acrylic, with the corresponding series' logos engraved with an industrial laser (the same method was used for the Gurren Lagann desk). LED lights posted on the wall behind the shelf pass through the engraved areas resulting in the neon-like effect. The hockey jerseys hanging by the manga bookshelves are personally made as my post-cosplay convention gear. 

I look forward to seeing everyone's collections in future Shelf Life articles, it is always interesting to see the ways others show off their fandom!"

The logos on that center shelf are amazing. I wish I had the skills to make something like that. Thanks for sharing!

If you've got shelves of your own that you'd like to share with the world, send me your photos at [email protected].

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