Lord Marksman and Vanadis Review: Of War Maidens and Dragons Fire
Lord Marksman and Vanadis is unashamedly medieval fantasy. It takes place in an alternate version Europe with a similar hierarchy: There is a King, Dukedoms, Fifes, several knighthoods and an elite group of females known as “War Maidens”. The original premise was crafted by Tsukasa Kawaguchi in the form of novels, then adapted to a manga series headed by Nobuhiko Yanai. I am generally a fan of most fantasy settings. I’ve played countless games, seen countless movies, read books and even done full-on campaigns in Dungeons and Dragons. There is a fair share of creativity and of course, there are some duds. Lord Marksman and Vanadis has the essential elements to make this piece of fantasy something fantastic. Does its attempts make this a master warlord or the lowest of knaves?
A Story of Five Kingdoms
Within this alternate Europe, there are a total of five Kingdoms: Asvarre, Sachstein, Brune, Zhcted and Muozinel (good luck on pronouncing those!). Side note, making complicated names that are difficult to pronounce doesn’t equal creativity, it’s just clutter. Moving on, our story begins in the borders of Zchted and Brune in the aftermath of the a battle. Here we encounter our first protagonist: Tigrevurmud Vorn, or Tigre for short. He is the lord of small fife known as Alsace. Tigre is also an expert marksman. In an attempt to bring some redemption for his failure in battle, he attempts to assassinate their leader. Despite his valiant effort, he his defeated by our secondary protagonist, Eleonora Viltaria. One of the Vanadis (a.k.a War Maidens), Elen takes Tigre prisoner and holds him hostage for ransom. Word of an attack on his territory reaches him during captivity and he teams up with Elen to protect his home. This is seen by the kingdoms as a rebellion, where Tigre loses his title as a count and is branded a traitor. This is the beginning of Tigres conquest and the premise for the rest of the story. But this is also where the problem starts from a narrative perspective. The story has a set of event types that cycle throughout. Example: Event “A” happens, Move to new oddly named location, battle happens, aftermath leads to a new revelation, Rinse and repeat. The plot line is very formulaic. The revelations I mention do add some depth, but it’s still fairly shallow by the end of it.
To the series credit, in spite of the formulaic story telling, it gets half a credit from me because of the characters interactions. I say a half credit because some of it is forced romance (with some nonchalant fan service). When the aspects of relationship building that do not involve fan service happen, they are fairly good. The connections between characters are sound on paper, but another factor leans in that some what detracts further. This is another common issue I had with Manga and Anime in general, the “Harem Effect” as I call it. It’s blatantly obvious from the second War Maiden they introduce that multiple female cast members will vie for Tigres affection. I just wish that this didn’t have to be so prevalent, or at least limit it to two characters. Another issue is that the title of “War Maiden” does not carry any gravitas. I felt that using the title basically implied “Beautiful woman with a cool magic weapon”. Not a “general or a warrior to be feared and respected”. That brings me to my next point, Character Designs.
Dressed for flash, not combat
The design choices for this series are good at best. Tigres design was actually one of my favorites. His design is relatively simple, but it made sense for a sniper such as himself. Tigres maid and lifelong friends Titta design also make sense as she’s a formal maid. Eleonora….hell, most of the war maidens designs are very fashion eccentric, but not something that should be worn into a battle. Elen has a very nice design, but there isn’t a shred of armor on it, and she’s in a relatively short skirt to boot. Some have argued “They are more capable of protecting themselves”, but I find that to be a lazy argument. There times when they go to climate changing locations where the weather would be freezing or lower and Elen is still wearing a short skirt. The Dragons Arms may have given that. A Dragons Arms is a powerful weapon blessed with magic that decides its user. Being able to wield one grants you the title of War Maiden. Ludmila who is another War Maiden states her Dragon Arms givers her a resistance to the cold, which makes more sense. None for the other characters. I do generally like the character designs of the War Maidens. Even if only one of them isn’t overly endowed for their body type. Most of the characters fit well within their set archetypes, and have some room to break away from preset notions. In the course of a 13 episode series there’s really no development to be had.
Another thing that is somewhat disappointing is the artwork that was handled by Satelight (Hellsing Ulitamte,Nobunaga the Fool). The art is good quality, but there’s nothing that really pops. The motions are smooth enough and there is plenty of color. I never felt drawn in like I did with Nobunaga. There is also the issue of over used CGI. During various parts fo the show, the CGI is used to show a mass of soldiers moving. It is also used when trying to explain things that occur on the battle field. It just seems very poorly done. The chess pieces used to represent batallions and factions look chintzy, not a word I use often. If something breaks immersion and detracts from the over all quality of what you’re working on that it probably isn’t a good idea.
Clash of steel and wit
The sound production for this show is one of its few saving graces. Characters walking around in heavy armor have the necessary clunk and weight to their steps. When Arrows rain from the sky you can hear the whistling of dozens if not hundreds of arrows. One sound effect that also catches the ear quite easily is the sound of wind. The voice acting is another strength though a lesser one. The characters have all been cast fairly well. I must give some major credit to the voice actors and actresses in this show, there are a LOT of things that even in the English language are difficult to pronounce but it almost sounds effortless for them.
Dialogue between characters sounds natural, which is good when you have conversations between allies and close friends. One thing that holds the voice work back however, is a lack of emotion during certain action scenes. When calling out the name of an attack there is often not enough umph behind the battle cry. The sound track was composed by Masaru Yokoyama and Nobuaki Nobusawa. The score is somewhat forgettable. I never felt caught up in the music nor did it really add much to the emotional bits. The Opening is guilty of the same, The opening song is “Ginsen no Kaze” (By Konomi Suzuki) is great for the show on a lyrical level, but the over all feeling just isn’t there. I was supposed to be motivated to go to battle, but I was more motivated to press fast forward. The ending strikes a better chord, the song is “Schwarzer Bogen” (By Hitomi Harada) is a nice song that ends things on a calm note.