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Lord Marksman and Vanadis Collector’s Edition UK Blu-ray Anime Review

13 min read

Vanadis UK PackagingEverything screams harem show and it is…yet it isn’t…

What They Say:
Tigre, a young noble, is captured by a beautiful female general from an enemy country. Though enchanting, her curves aren’t the only dangerous thing about her. She’s backed by an army of desirable warrior-goddesses called the Vanadis. Can the valiant Tigre survive the action-packed blend of fantasy and fan service!?

The Review:
Audio:
We have a trademark 5.1 English release and a 2.0 Japanese release – a standard set up with no real issues throughout the track in terms of synching with the video, and the general settings didn’t need to be changed. There was no issues with the synching, or with the audio quality as no adjustments has to be made on my stand settings even with the Japanese 2.0 set up – very general and acceptable.

Video:
Similar with the audio, the video is set in full screen format via NTSC transfer to PAL format with the show combining animation with some great colours with CGI for the map and certain battle scenes –with no real problems with the subtitles, the sound synching in either language, no pause lag or in general, it is a quality release – HOWEVER, there was some slowdown on one episode on disc 2 surprisingly (episode 12) considering this didn’t happen anywhere else on the disc (both in show and with the extras) and just a little at the start, however it was very noticeable and just hoping this was on my test disc.

Packaging:
There was no packaging for this test release, however, there is special edition packaging in the Blu-Ray set.

Menu:
The menu consists on both discs clips from the show – on the bottom there are your selections of Play All, Episodes, Set Up and Extras. All are easily selectable and like most Blu-Ray releases have no time delay when selecting a new menu – and again like most Blu-Rays they have a popup menu that you access during your watching (though you can’t select extras) – overall easily accessible and gives you a good taste of the show which actually does focus more on the war side than the fanservice side.

Extras:
Quite a few extras with this release – first of all, if you get the Blu-ray special edition, it comes in the special packaging and inside is a 40-page booklet with artwork and a ton of back-story/information about the show.

The releases themselves have 2 commentaries, one on episode 6 and one on episode 13. The episode 6 commentary consists of Caitlin Glass (Adr Director/Elen), Joel McDonald (Tigre), Jade Saxton (Ludmilla) and Alex Moore (Lyn) – right off the back with both commentaries I will say you won’t get much information about the show, the casting and production process, etc – it is more of a free for all – there are things talked about the show (Pronouncing the characters names, Joel more of a director, how it is different from other fanservicey shows, etc) they also do a lot of jokes, make Game Of Thrones references, do a Q&A style quiz show in the commentary, etc – this isn’t a commentary you will like if you want the info on the show, it is definitely more if you want a bit of fun.

The second commentary follows the same things – this time consisting of Rico Fajjardo (Rurick), Tia Ballard (Titta), Morgan Garrett (Sofy) and Natalie Hoover (Regin) – more of the side characters basically cutting loose, very comic and informal despite the fact the episode opens on one of the saddest scenes in the show, it quickly turns into why Rico should now shave his head to match his character whilst comparing Bertram to Alfred from Batman – there’s a lot of references to TV shows, films, geek culture, etc but not much on the show bar saying everyone loves Tigre yet it isn’t a harem show. So yes, not commentaries for people wanting info, but to listen to some silly people saying silly things.

A lot of traditional extras are here as well, we have an episode preview for episode 1, a promotional video (several clips of the show put together in separate videos with cast and pictures showcased), the Blu-Ray/DVD commercials (very similar but showcasing when they will be released), the clean opening and endings, the US Trailer and trailers for the following shows; Kingdom, Terror In Resonance, Noein, A Certain Scientific Railgun S, NO-RIN, PSYCHO-PASS, Riddle Story Of Devil and Fairy Tail.

The big extra is the inclusion of the Chibi-Theatre episodes, short 2-5 minute episodes (14 of them) which are the characters in the episodes all shrunk and being a bit more comical. These were a lot of fun and total a decent amount of time overall – the first episode sets the tone as Elen and Tigre are arguing over who is the main character and what the title truly means. The episodes then degenerate into usually something very silly – the running gag of it is Lyn, the tough ride hand woman of Elen, is really into teddy bears, giving them back stories, and when someone is about to catch her squeeing over them, they do a voice for one of the bears – and it somehow works! Otherwise we get a lot of Tigre getting into the wrong place and the wrong time (the show avoids this a lot but the omake has fun with the tropes, even getting a couple of the guys involved) – they are very fun and made me laugh several times – plus the art work is both cute and silly – with a bit of fan service added for good measure.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Sometimes when you get series that you haven’t seen or even heard of before, you wonder about the premise – the screenshots of the show screamed harem series with one guy and a lot of attractive girls. And to an extent, that is part of the show.

It is however a surprisingly minor part and this show maybe be one of either the biggest guilty pleasures or one of the biggest surprises of a series I have come across in the last couple of years. I’d go with surprise because the show is not bad, in fact it’s very good, but a guilty pleasure maybe one of those shows that the genre is not a fan of (Love Live is a good example as I’m not a fan of idol shows but love LL) and yet this one has great charm, lovely animation, uses the CGI smartly, some fun characters, good comedy and even some sad moments as well.

The initial premise is also rather surprising – we see the beautiful Eleonara (from here on known as Elen) leading an army into battle against the Brune Kingdom, where we’ve seen a young man named Tigre showcasing honour and intelligence, yet he seems to be one of a few with some egotistical jerks in the army. However the Brune army, 25,000 strong is being destroyed by this war maiden of 5,000 troops, and war maiden she is, that is her title as he holds elemental powers (of wind) to obliterate the opposition. Tigre is one of the few survivors and decides to go out in glory, aiming a very precise shot at Elen’s head. Elen however is able to deflect it, but also is amazed someone has that type of skill from distance, wind, and injury. Instead of killing him, she captures him as a POW, demands way too high a ransom and goes ‘well, looks like you’re mine now’. Thus begins a very interesting relationship which is odd in a fan service/harem type set up because it is clear Elen is interested in Tigre, and Tigre also calls her early as beautiful so he isn’t oblivious at all – however this sets up the romance as basically stare from afar, and never goes beyond that, even when other women are introduced – it is a very clever way of showcasing the fan service part but it is not going to be overshadowed by what is to come in the form of battles, strategy and tragedy.

So the dynamic now is that Tigre is a prisoner of war, but after killing an assassin with a damaged bow (and gaining the respect of pretty much everyone), one of Tigre’s servants Bertrand visits in the night to tell him that troops are mobilizing towards his home town of Alsace, which includes Zion, one of the men in the army with him that survived (and made fun of him) as the prince has now been killed – here, the fantasy element continues as we get dragons to be used so Tigre begs Elen to help her and despite not seemingly knowing his role, Elen actually gets amused by this and does help (with Alsace under her rule as her prize though – it isn’t just a puppy love thing, there needs to be actual spoils of war), as Zion is annoyed that the citizens are protected by religion or evacuated, yet Tigre’s lovely maid Titta stayed behind in case he comes back. Zion actually attacks her and nearly rapes her, but Tigre comes in time and we now get his weapon of choice, the Black Bow, which apparently contains mystical powers…

Elen and Tigre along with Elen’s trusty bodyguard Lyn (a stoic but beautiful warrior who definitely has a love/annoyance relationship with Tigre) get the advantage with some brilliant tactics (voiced over on CGI maps to make things easier for the viewer, a really good idea), where the dragons are defeated by Elen’s powers and Tigre’s bow combining with her. With their victory, more friends and allies of both Elen and Tigre become to be known including the lovely Sofy, another war maiden who acts as a peace keeper, and my personal favourite Ludmilla, who is basically Elen’s rival and they have a lot of fun moments – but Ludmilla becomes important in the next arc as she is in fact an enemy technically as she is allied with Thenardier, the big boss/king type character pulling a lot of strings around the war – however Mila as will call her now does save Tigre and Lyn from some assassins so she definitely is not all bad….

This leads to a fun battle sequence as they have to infiltrate the Tetra Fortress where Mila resides which is near impregnable – Tigre disguises himself to infiltrate and encounters Mila but she doesn’t know who he is and shows she is a nice person and the fact she doesn’t like Thenardier, leading Tigre to believe they can ally with her – Elen and Tigre manage to break the seal, and the two maiden duel but thanks to Tigre saving Mila from an assassin (and she realising he was the disguised man), his true heart of saving Alsace is shown and she declares herself neutral in the war ending the standoff and have a fun if uneasy alliance known as the Silver Meteor Storm. We are also introduced to Roland, one of the royal guards of Thenardier who has an elemental sword of his own, and despite working for the enemy, is very honourable which leads to their clashes and Elen’s group has to retreat as Tigre gets injured, which confuses Roland considering what people have told him about Tigre doesn’t mesh with what he has seen of him. This, combined with his defeat when Tigre combines the powers of Elen and Sofy with the Black Bow, makes him realise that he fighting for the wrong side. Sadly, just as we are getting to like him, stuff happens…

This leads to planning to capture new territories, as other armies (specifically a slave one from Muozinel) now get involved in the war Tigre saves one of them, a girl named Regin (who becomes way more important than you’d expect), some more strategy vs. cruelty (and aid from Mila) and the introduction of other war maidens like Sasha and Elizabeta (who Elen actually fights but Liza actually gives her some information to cause a ceasefire) leads to victory for the Silver Meteor Storm, and the reveal that Regin, the girl they saved, was in fact the prince long since presumed dead but had disguised herself as a boy, faking her death. She now has to prove her bloodline to stop the war so off they go to take care of Thenardier, as the war maidens showcase their power to take out the dragon forces and they close in on the big boss – Regin shows the Holy Grotto into the base and trying to sneak in but Thenardier saw this coming and a battle in the cave occurs. This leads to a sad moment as Bertrand gets killed in the cave, and with all the death happens it leads to conflict for Tigre…

The final episode is of course the big battle where Tigre emotions are running off the chart but thanks to Elen he is able to return to himself, and bringing Regin to the throne for peace, setting up a potential sequel…which I definitely hope for.

What makes this such a stand out series is the fact that the show could have easily gone into the cliché of fan service and the main male be the one who always gets into situations at the wrong time, girl beats up guy, etc – it has been done in a million other series. And Tigre does actually get into those situations a few times – however it is done very subconsciously (usually asleep or exhausted – the show does play up the exhaustion of war a lot) and the girls are either understandably angry but realise he didn’t mean it or in Elen’s case, are very flirtatious yet dangerous at the same time. So those clichés are there, but they are actually the most minor thing about this show despite the girls showing skin, having large breasts (Elen’s mockery of Mila’s chest is a running gag because she certainly isn’t flat, just small in comparison to most of the girls ^^) and only one main guy, the romance aspect or the fact the girls are interested in him is very minor – it is clear but it is almost like the girls are teasing each other to see who he would be interested in (though Elen is the clear winner which is obvious even before you see the other war maidens) and why?

Because the focus is actually on the war and battles – sure, the characters can flirt and such, but the fact is there is life and death through these 13 episodes, and they don’t have time to fight over squabbles despite the Mila/Elen rivalry because there is much more important things out there – one of the episodes showcases this really well as Mila and Elen team up to take out a fleet of dragons, and when they win (barely) they are sitting down, back to back, exhausted and not even thinking about the rivalry or any interest in Tigre, because war is war, and it is hell for them.

Tigre himself is a refreshing change of a harem male lead as he isn’t a lovable loser or you wonder why he gets the girls – he is a charming young man with great leadership skills, but just enough weaknesses that he isn’t perfect (gets tired easily, can’t fight without a boy, gets emotional which leads to rash thoughts, etc) to make him a much more relatable character. He gets embarrassed around the girls in states of near undress (and times full undress), is very grateful despite technically being a POW of how Elen treats him and they respect his skills, and vice versa, he respects the maidens of how powerful they are, and the amount of trust they have in him as a surrogate leader when Elen is way. There is a fun bromance between him and Rurick where at first Rurick is among those who sabotage the prisoner with a damaged bow to see his skills, but when an assassin tries to kill Elen, with the damaged bow he kills him, and then asks Elen to spare his life when she threatens execution when she learns of his sabotage. For the rest of the show Rurick is shaved bald as a way of respect and the two are good friends and comrades in arms – everyone loves Tigre according to the omake so…^^

The only major issue is actually a good thing – it is so short that we don’t even meet two of the war maidens shown in the opening credits. Granted this definitely opens as a sequel and knowing there are more light novels out there, this sets up a lot however aside from Elen and Mila, the ones we do meet (Sofy, Sasha, Liza) are only in it sparingly, the lovely Regin as well becomes an important pawn and her way of trusting Tigre is rather sweet (though a bit clichéd) but again, we don’t know much about the royal family – and even the villains are rather one-dimensional with little characterization bar the likeable Roland, who sadly doesn’t even survive a few episodes just as we get to like him.

That said, this is one of my favourite series I’ve reviewed this year – I can’t give it an A style grade just because of the shortness and lack of character development for a lot of the characters, but the ones that do, combined with not relying on what you’d expect and focusing on the art of war (literally, the animation combined with the maps are gorgeous to watch) but for what was there, this was a very pleasant surprise. I really hope there is a second series out there coming because I want to see more – otherwise I pray the light novels get translated because there is a ton out there still to explore and I want to be there when the maps are opened…

In Summary:
Lords Marksman and Vanadis is a strange title for a strange series – but the strange is that it doesn’t take the obvious route of harem lead, gorgeous girls and hijinks. This takes itself on the battlefield surprisingly series and whilst there are definitely moments of fan service and harem tropes, the majority is on the intelligent and skill of Elen and Tigre, and whilst the shortness of the series means a lot of the characters aren’t showcased enough, what is there is enough to make this a real surprise in today’s anime market. Definitely don’t be fooled by its outward appearance, there is a lot here and I want there to be more…

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: A-

Released By: Anime Limited
Release Date: June 6th, 2016
MSRP: £44.99
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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