Review: Lord Marksman and Vanadis

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In celebration of International Women’s Day (albeit slightly belated), let’s take a look at Lord Marksman and Vanadis, one of FUNimation’s latest releases. Vanadis, based on a light novel by Tsukasa Kawaguchi, originally aired in the Fall of 2014 and was produced by studio Satelight. Is this fantasy anime one of many others before it, or does it distinguish itself from the pack?

Vanadis is set in a fictional version of Europe, with war brewing between the various countries of the land. One of these countries, Zhcted, is ruled by seven powerful War Maidens called Vanadis, who answer to the King of Zhcted. At the beginning of the story, the War Maiden Eleonora “Elen” Viltaria launches an invasion against their neighboring rival country of Brune. In one swift battle, she quickly decimates the Brunish army and kills the Crown Prince of Brune, Regnas. However, in the aftermath of the battle, Tigrevurmud “Tigre” Vorn, a young archer and an earl for Brune’s region of Alsace, stands up to the War Maiden. In a strange twist of events, Elen spares Tigre, and takes possession of him. Their meeting soon leads them on quest that will have lasting effects on both Brune and Zhcted.

While the premise of Vanadis sounds interesting, it unfortunately suffers from pacing and execution issues. Like all fantasy settings, there usually is great deal of world building, which includes specific terms, places, powers, etc. However, Vanadis rarely fleshes them out; the viewers are quickly introduced to many things only to be quickly whisked off to the next scene. This often happens in many light novel adaptations due to time constraints. It simply isn’t possible to translate all the information in a novel to a show. When they attempt to, however, it usually is in the form of long expository infodumps, which some viewers cannot stand.

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I want to touch a bit on scene transition. I mentioned viewers are quickly whisked off from scene to scene, and since there are so many places the viewers visit, from cities, to towns, to camps, to battlefields, this can be overwhelming or confusing. In turn, this causes pacing issues, as one moment the characters are in a fierce battle, only for it to end very briskly and you, the viewer, suddenly watching the characters all relaxing and joking in a camp.

This is further complicated by the various subplots that happen in the show. Certain characters are constantly trying to gain an audience with the Brunish King, while Elen has to venture home to Zhcted on a few occasions to handle personal business. Not only that, characters come and go randomly. It’s not meant to be random, but you can lose track of the large supporting cast with all the stuff going on. I should mention that I personally was able to keep track of all the moving parts, and while I was slightly annoyed by the pace and lack of information and detail at moments, I still enjoyed the story and setting for what it’s worth.

A central part of this show is of course war and battles. All the battles include History Channel-like narration, with visuals of the battles presented like a tabletop game. While this is certainly an interesting take, I can’t help but feel like this was an excuse to not animate the battles. Then again, perhaps it’s for the best, since the animation during battles is…severely lacking. They’re boring and poorly choreographed, and it doesn’t help that the War Maidens (and Tigre) are more powerful than the rest. The most interesting battles happen between fellow War Maidens, but they are far and few between.

An example of the "History Channel-like" battle narration.

An example of the “History Channel like” battle narration.

What also seriously hurts the battle scenes is the terrible use of CG. Anime over the years has incorporated more and more CG, to differing degrees of success. In shows like Gundam Unicorn and Infinite Stratos, the CG is beautiful, while in Vanadis the CG detracts from the experience. Nearly all the soldiers are CG background pieces, who flail around pretending like they’re fighting. This is incredibly off-putting.

You can see the flailing CG background characters.

You can see the flailing CG background characters.

Although the animation and use of CG falls short, the character designs are colorful and detailed. The War Maidens have elaborate clothing and are all quite beautiful. Their weapons are also eye-catching. Tigre himself is kind of bland, but other men in the series, such as the Roland the Knight and Duke Thenardier, are given a fierce, dignified look. I was surprised at the amount of rugged, older men present in the series, but that’s not a bad thing. Besides the characters, the rest of the art is rather plain. Not much is worth mentioning.

As far as the characters themselves go, there are indeed many of them, although most are there as support. I want to discuss the five principal characters who have the most screen time: Tigre, Elen, Ludmila Lourie (another War Maiden and Elen’s rival), Limalisha (Elen’s attendant), and Titta (Tigre’s maid).

Tigre is very cliche. He’s kind, capable, and earnest as well as being a great leader. But as is the case with many protagonists, he’s overpowered and women flock to him for no apparent reason other than that he’s kind and OP. Kaito Ishikawa (Logy, Atelier Escha & Logy and Harutora, Tokyo Ravens) gives a good performance, but nothing memorable. Joel McDonald voices Tigre in the English dub, and I have to say, Joel portrays Tigre as much more seasoned and mature, partly due to his deeper voice.

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Elen is the confident, beautiful, and powerful War Maiden of the province of Leitmeritz. She’s playful and likes to tease, but she’s serious when the time comes. She also gets easily jealous when other girls get close to Tigre. In other words, she’s the perfect balance of rational and emotional. As Tigre’s “master” and biggest supporter, it’s clear that she’s the destined girl he’ll end up with. Haruka Tomatsu (Lala, To Love-ru and Asuna, Sword Art Online) provides the voice of Elen. She’s able to perfectly blend both Elen’s rational and emotional sides. Caitlin Glass, who also is the ADR Director of Vanadis, is outstanding as Elen (on a side note, her direction is also very good). She gives Elen a sense of refined elegance if you will. She’s not as fiery during Elen’s emotional moments compared to Tomatsu, but that’s not a bad thing. Both portrayals are very good.

Ludmila Lourie (Mila for short) is the War Maiden of the province of Olmutz and Elen’s chief rival. Although equally as beautiful (but not as well endowed) as Elen, she’s much more level-headed than her rival. She does tend to lose her cool more easily when Elen teases her (especially in regards to her smaller bust). In addition, Mila is very serious about her duty as a War Maiden, which is a plot point about half way through the show. However, she has a cheerful, caring side that rarely surfaces, making her the show’s resident tsundere. Both Mariya Ise and Jad Saxton do a great job portraying Mila. They capture her nature very well.

Limalisha is Elen’s very strict and serious attendant. She watches over Elen and cares for her well-being. There’s not much else to her, except for the fact she loves teddy bears. Compared to Yuka Iguchi, Alex Moore comes off as much more serious, which is probably a result of the deeper voice she uses (much like McDonald’s Tigre).

And lastly there’s Titta, Tigre’s loyal maid and childhood friend. She constantly dotes on Tigre and has a hidden love for her master. Like Elen, she’s very jealous of other girls getting close to Tigre. Sumire Uesaka provides her Japanese voice, while Tia Ballard provides her English one. Both capture her cute, energetic nature, but I have to admit I love Ballard’s rendition a bit more. She knows how to do cute.

An example of fanservice. Tigre and one the War Maidens, Sofya Obertas.

An example of fanservice: Tigre and one of the War Maidens, Sofya Obertas.

Some final things to note are the show’s ecchi moments and music. Yes this is a show with many beautiful women, so there was bound to be some fanservice. Most of the ecchi scenes are generic like the classic “walk in on a naked girl” or “accidentally fall and grope her boob.” Some people don’t like fanservice, but these moments were very few and very brief. To me, they provided some necessary comedy.

Unfortunately, the music in the show is very forgettable. The OP (“Ginsen no Kaze” by Konomi Suzuki) though was excellent, and one of my favorites from 2014. The ED is “Schwarzer Bogen” by Hitomi Harada. Episode 10 had a special ED called “Ryusei Requiem” also by Konomi Suzuki.

FUNimation included a few extras in their release: commentaries for episode 6 and episode 13 and the Tigre and Vanadish mini series, which features chibi sized characters that play out short segments of the light novel that were cut from the anime.

While not perfect by any means, I did enjoy Lord Marksman and Vanadis as a fun time sink in between other shows. If you like fantasy themed anime with beautiful girls, this show is for you. If you’re expecting great battles and a rich world, or something with lots of fanservice, you should probably look elsewhere.

Pros:

-Nice character designs

-Great performances from the Japanese and English cast

Cons:

-Not everything is adequately explained

-Poor pacing and execution

-Boring battles and animation

-Terrible use of CG

Rating for both Japanese and English: 3/5

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Nick

Just a simple man, trying to find his way in the universe. Image hosted by servimg.com

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