Golden Kamuy – 10 – Spring Thunder

Tanigaki, armed with only one bullet, uses the mountains to assist him in preemptively striking his hunters, using the kill of a bear and a fire to lure Nikaidou out.

The bear takes Nikaidou’s ear off and mauls him, while Tanigaki’s shot goes right through Ogata’s chest. The apparent success of his gambit leads Tanigaki to say “boner” in honor of Nihei.

When one of Tsurumi’s forward scouts finds Tanigaki, he’s sure he’s not involved with the lieutenant’s betrayers. However, Tanigaki’s shot was a little too right down the middle; it missed Ogata’s heart and lungs and he’s able to kill the scout.

Tsurumi and his men arrive in time to capture Nikaidou, with the sadistic L.T. taking off his other ear and eventually gets him to spill the name of the other betrayer by saying he’ll let him kill Sugimoto. Tanigaki uses the chaos to slip away unnoticed.

It’s amazing how gorey and gross this show can be one moment, and how lighthearted an slapsticky the next.  Case in point: Sugimoto, Asirpa and Shiraishi goofily note the blooming of the first flowers of spring as the snow starts to melt, and they come upon a lake where a fish called huchen can be found.

Unfortunately, Shiraishi’s penchant for getting bitten by animals applies to fish as well, as a massive legendary huchen pulls him under the drink right after Asirpa mentioned such a fish kamuy exists.

Shiraishi is saved by Kiroranke Nispa, an old friend of Asirpa’s father, and also a veteran formerly of the 7th (though not Tsurumi’s unit). He also has some shocking news: Nopperabo, the prisoner who tattooed all of the others, is Asirpa’s father; the one who stole all the Ainu gold.

This news is extremely distressing to Asirpa, not to mention it nullifies her entire reason for joining Sugimoto on the hunt for the prisoners—to avenge her father. She wants to learn the truth from Nopperabo’s own mouth, which means they’ll have to travel to Abashiri Prison on the other side of the island.

In their time with Kiroranke, Sugimoto and Asirpa give a lot away, but he seems to be someone they can trust for now; he may well have just been curious how many other tattoo map skins they had. His own goal is to give the gold back to the Ainu; if the others are fine with their fair share not totaling 100%, he’ll gladly join their mission to locate and retrieve it.

To that end, he suggests the group take horses and make for Sapporo in order to secure sufficient arms and other supplies with which to infiltrate the prison in one piece. Shiraishi gets a really little horse. But awaiting them in Sapporo on a stormy night is a very suspicious woman who runs a hotel. Looks like next week will be a murder mystery a la Clue…which will hopefully somehow tie into the search for the gold.

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Golden Kamuy – 09 – Henmi’s Last Gleaming

While Golden Kamuy isn’t the prettiest anime around by any means, it excels at building tension, constructing intricate close shaves, and making coincidence feel more like providence.

Asirpa discovers Henmi’s victim just a hair too late to warn Sugimoto, who follows when Henmi sends him outside so they won’t be interrupted. When the 7th arrives, Henmi takes Sugimoto to the big shot’s mansion, and Asirpa spots them from afar and follows them.

When Henmi and Sugimoto go up the stairs, the two 7th soldiers they find already on the upper floor catch just enough of Sugimoto’s cap to know it’s him. Henmi improvises, using the trusty giant knife he brought to kill them, but gets shot by one before he dies.

Sugimoto assumes the man just defended himself, and is even willing to carry him out when they happen to bump into Lt. Tsurumi (asking the whaling tycoon for weapons factory funds). Even Tsurumi is caught off guard when the old man decides to take matters into his own hands and unleashes the power of his prized Maxim machine gun.

Sugimoto escapes with Henmi in the chaos; Henmi’s infatuation for the Immortal only deepens as they run along the beach hand-in-hand. He’s about to kill Sugimoto with a blow from behind when he’s shot with an arrow from…Asirpa, who had been hanging back and watching things unfold.

Sugimoto proceeds to stab Henmi several times, but their position on the beach makes them vulnerable to orca attack, with one particular specimen chomping up Henmi and taking him away.

Henmi couldn’t be happier with how he’s meeting his end; shot by an Ainu girl, stabbed by Sugimoto the Immortal, to be finished off by an orca. Who could ask for more?

But Sugimoto doesn’t let the orca have the last act; stripping down (as Asirpa kinda sorta averts her eyes) and diving into the ocean to rescue Henmi, depending once again on his apparent inability to die. It pays off, but Tsurumi learns he’s working with the Ainu, while Hijikata learns more about Siraishi’s “friends.”

Back at the Ainu village Tanigaki is back on his feet and has been accepted by elder and child alike, but enters the elder woman’s hut to find Ogata and Nikaidou there, essentially holding the two Ainu hostage. Tanigaki lies (badly), but ultimately Ogata says he’ll let him be—only to fire off a shot from outside, so as to kill only Tanigaki and not the innocent witnesses.

Ogata misses only because Osoma pulled Tanigaki’s head back at just the right time to avoid the bullet. Some cat-and-mouse ensues, with Tanigaki testing Ogata’s accuracy, then putting up a smokescreen to escape the hut.

After retrieving Henmi (whose whimsical insanity I’ll miss), skinning him for the tattoos, and having some dinner at the Yanshuu canteen, Sugimoto, Asirpa and Shiraishi are approached by an old man who turns out to be Hijikata, in a nice bit of up-close-and-personal observation. Shiraishi knows full well who the old man is, but Sugimoto and Asirpa are oblivious. But the message to Shiraishi is clear: copy the tattoos and report back.

Back at the village, Ogata and Nikaidou have retreated after the smokescreen gave Tanigaki the upper hand. But he’s still wounded, and Ogata has no intention of giving up the hunt. Only Tanigaki won’t be unarmed; Osoma presents him with the late Nihei’s rifle, which holds only a single bullet. But hey, one is better than none!

Kino no Tabi – 04

This week KnT switches things up a bit, following Shizu and Riku’s Journey rather than Kino and Hermes’. We saw a moving country on the land last week; here, it’s a moving country on the sea; a Ship Country.

Shizu is invited aboard and brought before the ruling “Tower Clan”, who look like black mages. They offer him a choice of roles while aboard: serve them as a kind of rent-a-cop, or join the common people. Unsurprisingly to us, the humble prince chooses the latter.

He meets a cute, tiny girl named Tifana, or Ti for short, who doesn’t speak, but takes him and Riku all over the ship (despite choosing manual labor, he never has to do any). The general sorry state of the ship, periodic shaking, and numerous flooded compartments tell the tail of a ship that has long been neglected and may not even be afloat much longer.

As per usual, KnT doesn’t skimp on the gorgeous environment; quite a departure from the clean, gleaming, well-maintained Moving Country. When he finds what looks like a long-abandoned control room, he has Ti point out all the places where there’s flooding. The situation is dire, and the rulers of this country have much to answer for…or so he thinks.

Ti, meanwhile, conveys so much despite never speaking; she takes a liking to Shizu, and doesn’t seem to have anyone else. It’s a lovely, immersive moment when Shizu shields her from a sudden rainfall with his jacket and the two quietly listen to the nice, calming sound of the rain hitting the fabric.

Ti then takes him to the country’s roof, and the endless ocean sprawling out before him makes him feel like he’s flying above it. After experiencing this unique and exhilarating sight, he turns to the tower at the country’s center, and remembers that this could all end up under the see unless he does something.

That “something” means confronting the Tower Clan, and when they rebuke him, readies his sword. But another traveler arrived aboard the country who chose the opposite path: that of serving the leaders. When this traveler lifts their mask to reveal Kino, I was nearly bowled over. There‘s Kino!

She and Shizu aren’t on opposite sides long, as the clan quickly accuses her of plotting with Shizu, changes course, then sentences the two to remain aboard to die with the other people.

Shizu and Kino quickly answer by storming the tower and easily overpowering its haughty occupants. When they reach their Jedi Council-like observation deck, Shizu is asked by their leader if he wishes to be the new king, to which he says if necessary. With that, the black cloaks and hats fall to the floor, no longer occupying bodies.

It’s Shizu’s country now, and he promptly points it towards land, opens the gates, and has everyone come out. He tells them that the days of the country functioning properly, or at all, are numbered, something he may well be right about. However, he didn’t consider the fact that the people don’t care. They don’t want to live on the land; they never have. They’d rather die at sea. In trying to be the hero, Shizu only made himself the villain.

When Shizu turns Ti away to join the others, she suddenly stabs him in the gut with a knife, cursing him for leaving her nowhere to return to (as she says, speaking for the first time.

Hermes fills Kino, Shizu, and Riku in on who Tifana really is: the abandoned daughter of passing travelers who shares her name with the ship itself. Hermes also describes the country’s inhabitants as the descendants of children whose parents were killed by a plague, leaving them alone and with no one to lead or take care of them; enter the Tower Clan.

Now that he knows the truth, Shizu commits to taking care of Ti from now on, for which she’s very happy and grateful. But as Shizu, losing blood, starts to pass out, Ti fears he’ll die and leave her alone again, and pulls the pin on a grenade to end them both.

Fortunately, Kino’s there to shoot the grenade away and tend to Shizu’s wounds. Once he’s healed enough, she and Hermes take their leave, hopeful they’ll cross paths with Shizu, Riku, and Ti again. I hope so too; they make a fun team.

Madan no Ou to Vanadis – 04

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Suffice it to say, I found last week’s Vanadis unremarkable. It wasn’t truly terrible, but I don’t feel empty superhero worship and fan-wank warrant much attention. Little did I know Vanadis aimed to trump itself in episode 4 with what felt like an endless stream of Dudes Frowning and Boob Jiggle.

Short review: Vanadis’ fourth episode is very long on misogynistic boobsploitation and very short on character development and world-building.

Long Review: This was a stinky turd. So hold your nose! We’re diving in!

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Dudes Frowning…

Titta the twin-tail maid is super in love with her boss and, well, owner, Count Tigre but she has a problem: her character type has been done to death in anime and, when you scrape away the dead skin of her loli-type harem appeal, Titta serves one purpose: she shows us that Tigre is desirable to women, without Tigre having to do that on his own as a character.

Gekkan-Shoujo Nozaki-kun exposed this phenomenon last season and the summary is that visual storytellers don’t always have time (or any idea how to) convey that their characters are stylish/sexy/powerful so they fill their side characters’ monologues and dialogues with “isn’t that character cool” and “wow he’s so powerful” filler.

It’s a remarkably effective tool, even when used poorly, but when you start to see it in use, the shine wears off and it feels cheap.

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Dudes frowning and Sexy jiggle…

Speaking of cheap, Vanadis wastes no effort on humor. Instead, it spoon feeds us shovels full of yuk-yuks like Titta walking in on Lady Eleonora straddling Tigre with her sword in his mouth. I guess gender reversal oral rape humor is funny.

Apparently, not so much to Titta or Tigre though…

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…boobs frowning, sometimes also jiggle…

Then Ellen returns to her kingdom’s capital to report to her king and meets a bigger pair of breasts (Sofya Obertas) that support her and an angry little pair of breasts (Ludmila Lourie) that hate her. She doesn’t help the relationship by insulting the angry Ludmila for being small nor does she capitalize on Sofya’s assistance.

At least, not while on camera. It’s later stated that Ellen spent more time having important conversations about politics while there, and that the king gave very interestingly worded orders to her that are intended to put Alsace in the ‘screwed’ category.

But, for all we know, she could have spent hours watching Sofya’s boobs slowly enter the frame like a squishy star destroyer chasing down rebels, and crushing their star systems…

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We don’t actually see anything other than Ellen make the king angry for potentially dragging his kingdom into an unprovoked war and Ellen instigating a fight with Ludmila Sure, Sofya fills us in on some background and points out Ellen’s poor choices, but it’s all very talky — and not very talky about anything of note!

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I can’t really tell, but I bet this dude is frowning too!

Then Ludmila shows up at Tigre’s house and is all like “Ellen is rude as shit but I just wanted to say you’ve got some enemies you probably can’t win against and we should go somewhere else to talk about it because reasons.”

Then Tigre, Ellen, Ludmila and Lim go on a horsey ride where there tits can bounce really well — so well and from so many angles that I’m insulted how poorly the battle graphics have been rendered in previous episodes — because they need to go to another location because reasons.

Then Ninjas attack!

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Lady Limalisha’s right breast gets bitten by a snake during the attack and Tigre has to suck out the venom and pretty much everything I’ve said about how terrible this episode was seems trivial by comparison.

This scene makes absolutely no sense as it was animated. One second, Lim is able to cut Ninjas out of the sky, the next she’s surprised by a snake falling from the sky and unable to swing her raised sword at it. Must’ve been a ninja snake.

Then, as Tigre is sucking, even more Ninjas attack and Ellen is totally not ready to kill them with her magic wind sword that she’s holding at the ready so Ludmila saves everybody by casting an ice spell that either we see in super super-slow-mo or the ninja’s ‘fall’ from the sky at a leisurely pace.

I mean, Ludmila has like ten seconds to cast a spell that kills the ninjas that are currently falling at them from the trees. It’s a fucking joke, and I do not use profanity lightly!

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Dudes frow… oh never mind!

Vanadis is fanservice. Fanservice with no spin and no purpose other than keeping our eyes on a show that doesn’t even bother showing us it’s exposition scenes but tells us they happened off-camera!

In simple terms, it’s insulting and cynical. Women hate women — and hate on women over their physical attributes and squabble over men. Even powerful women are half-useless half the time and, when it comes down to it, a man’s gotta suck their fat tits to save their lives anyway so why not paint them like cows and be done with it?

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This dude is frowning and so am I

Its story is an empty shell of uncooked politics and military drama, drawn in with acceptable but unremarkable quality. Without its tits, Vanadis is nothing and in this day and age, where well-drawn boobs are free and plentiful, Vanadis has no right to exist. Vanadis is horrific, hateful garbage.

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Preston’s Take

I’ll admit, Franklin’s review of this episode spooked me into waiting this long to watch it for the purposes of keeping up for next week, which is my turn to review. But having  finally watched it, I’m struggling to see exactly what all the outrage was about. This wasn’t a particularly good episode of anime, or even Vanadis; (the first episode of which remains its best by far.) But it was far from appalling. 

His arguments for why the episode wasn’t good definitely hold water, to be sure. There were more boobs in this episode than previous ones, but we knew from the OP we’d be seeing more war maidens and thus more boobs. I’d kinda gotten used to Ellen and Lima’s boobs, but so many more are stuffed into the frame this week, it got a bit silly.

There were a couple of women who weren’t shown in the best light; Titta’s character really is just “she loves Tigre but it will never be”, while Lima…wow…that breast bite was random! But I just wasn’t nearly as offended by this episode as Franklin. Horrific and hateful never really entered my mind so much as dumb and unremarkable.

Whether next week improves significantly will determine whether we continue reviewing this show at all.

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Madan no Ou to Vanadis – 03

Titta does not like Tigre and Elen's present status. No she does not!
Titta does not like Tigre and Elen’s present status. No she does not!

I’ll admit, Lord Zion Thernardier is an irredeemably evil scoundrel, coward, and lowlife, rendering him rather generic and boring. The battle waged by Tigre and Elen’s forces on the Molsheim Plains to defend Alsace? That’s another story. Even if Zion’s existence was a chore, the episode that ended with his timely and welcome demise was well-orchestrated piece of fantasy warfare.

Alright Legolas, don't get cocky
Alright Legolas, don’t get cocky

This was a great battle, full of careful preparation and build-up but plenty of withheld information to make the specific unfolding of the battle a surprise. Elen’s army is only 900 against Zion’s 2,700, but if they maintain their kill ratio of 3-to-1 as they did in repelling the raid on Alsace, they shouldn’t have a problem. That ratio is made possible thanks to some clever tactics devised by Torn. Oh, and having his steward nearby to toss him fresh quivers – good to see the episode took logistics into account.

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The movements of both armies are covered by an occasional cut to a strategic game board-like construct with CGI figures representing the units, and a well-informed narrator delivering the play-by-play. I actually really liked this method, as it not only satisfactorily explained what was going on in the action sequences, but split them up to avoid monotony.

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As soon as I saw those two dragons last week, I knew Elen would be facing off against one or both of them. She for one, wasn’t expecting a dragon, but as a War Maiden/Vanadis, she’s more than capable of dispatching one on her own, albeit by breaking out a heretofore rarely-used Rey Admos, which she doesn’t use on people.

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“SIGH…Why do I have to work for this shitstain?”

Lima’s unit of knights retreats, luring Zion’s flying column of knights, whose horses trip over a great rope made from smaller ropes gathered from the townsfolk of Alsace. After the earth dragon falls and a force of 2,000 enemy cavalry appears on the horizon (with only 100 riders, but it’s dark and the ruse works), Zion orders his knights to retreat and challenges Tigre to a duel. Tigre, who has been taking out enemies three per loosing of his bow.

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Zion initiates the duel believing his prowess at jousting will win the day over the lowly huntsman, but he doesn’t consider the fact that if enough arrows go to the same place in his thick shield, eventually a hole is going to be made – one that goes right through his arm. But as Tigres and Elen’s forces fight each other, Zion escapes on the flying dragon, abandoning his forces altogether.

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We did it!

Tigre – and I – curse the fact Zion still isn’t dead (even if there’s a good chance he’ll succumb to infection), but then his bow starts to glow blue and talk to him in a gentle female voice, urging him to shoot the dragon. When he nocks, the bow borrows and merges with the power of Elen’s blade Arifar, and the arrow cleaves Zion’s dragon in two. Daddy’s gonna be pissed.

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Halved ‘im!

So this was a fun battle with lots of cool tactics and ruses that a military tourist like myself can really get into. It also showed us just how much ass Elen can kick when she chooses to. I’m not opposed to seeing more battles like this, but it suffered a bit from a weak, boring enemy (Zion) whose defeat was a foregone conclusion. Also, he fell in a lake and still may not be dead, which would frankly suck. But still, well done this week, Vanadis!

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Madan no Ou to Vanadis – 02

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Before picking up where it left off last week, Vanadis back-pedals a bit to give us a peek into House Thenardier. They’re pretty much empty villains, with eyes on the throne and no real interest in Alsace.

They simply want to burn Alsace to the ground and pillage it before another powerful house has the chance. It’s also a good chance for their heir to grind some easy experience and break in his new dragons…

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“I’m so evil I can’t control my emotions face, face”

Okay, so there are a few (unconventional) signs I use to predict whether an anime is going to be crap over time, and this episode just trotted out one of them. Again, this may seem strange, but when a character makes the above face, I know a show is trying too hard to make someone evil in the most starkly black-and-white way possible.

Characters like that exist to shock us but usually don’t, because they are also usually quite incompetent (yet hard to kill for stupid plot reasons) Such characters also give us no drama and no nuance because they are what they are: pure, irredeemably evil, which is very boring to watch.

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Flashing forward, that ‘look’ is part of a pointless scene where Zion Thenardier decides to go to Tigre’s house alone and then decides to torture/rape Titta, Tigre’s maid because…evil reasons.

Why he’s there alone or cares at all about Tigre is not meaningful. He’s the villain this week, and probably in the future because he’s non-fatally shot with an arrow before he can do anything rapey-er than rip up Titta’s clothes. It’s dull and predictable.

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As far as plot developments, we learn Eleonora’s sword’s name, and that she can control the wind by slashing it. We also learn that she and Limalisha had a bet over how Tigre would respond to being kept from his fiefdom, and that he chose an option neither expected.

Ultimately, the result is Tigre giving Alsace to Eleonora in exchange for troops and then a brief overnight ride to save his (or now her?) lands. They somehow avoid (or haven’t noticed) the two dragons overlooking the town for now but…next episode.

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Tigre also ends up with his family’s magic bow. It’s black. Probably powerful. Nothing exciting here.

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You’re going to hear this a few times over the next two weeks, if it wasn’t obvious already: this fall season is stacked with excellent shows and there are simply too many to watch. Unfortunately, given it’s decent-but-not-astounding opening, and now a stumbling, uneventful, second episode, I can’t imagine Vanadis will make the cut.

Should it? That’s up to you and Preston, who will get to review it next week. For now, tell me why I should stick with it and I’ll lurk in the comments below.

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Madan no Ou to Vanadis – 01

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While I’m already busy with Akame ga Kill and planning on watching Chaika’s second season (among other shows), Madan no Ou to Vanadis makes a relatively strong case for itself joining those two on my list to form a Fantasy Triad. It won me over not necessarily with its setting, plot, or fantasy elements, but primarily with its characters. The show looks to become more jumbled as more and more cast are introduced, but I was frankly fine with the first two we meet: Count Tigrevurmund Vorn (Ishikawa Kaito) and Ellenora Viltaria (Tomatsu Haruka), or Tigre and Ellen.

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It doesn’t really matter why Zhcted and Brune are at war, they just are, and after an Ellen-led Zhcted routs the five-times-larger Brunish army, she’s disappointed, having hoped for a more entertaining time. Enter Tigre, who isn’t done fighting and even takes out the horse of Ellen’s lieutenant Limalisha, and aims his last two arrows at Ellen herself. Ellen being one of the Vanadis (war maidens), she cuts them easily away, but Tigre has her full attention, and her disappointment turns to exhilaration.

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Tigre may be a wealthy count, but he dresses down and uses a bow, which irks his peacock-like peers who condemn him as a coward. Were they around to see him survive the rout, they’d probably use that as evidence of him using his skills simply to survive like a craven, rather than fight and die like a warrior. But as a count, he must worry about his life, for many other lives depend on him staying alive and strong: his subjects in Alsace.

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But Ellen likes Tigre. She likes his bow and the spirit he showed on a battlefield, even though his cause to single-handedly take her and her retinue down was a hopeless cause. One reason I like her is that she reminds me of Maou in Maoyuu Maou Yuusha: powerful yet bored; willing to make common cause with her sworn enemy to their mutual benefit, and said enemy intrigues her. She’s also tough, and doesn’t even flinch when Tigre sees her in the bath. Again, she’s a war maiden; embarassment is weakness. Her baby dragon’s cute too.

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Still, as pretty as Ellen is and as pleasant a place as Zhcted seems to be, Tigre is still a prisoner on the wrong side. He can’t very well protect Alsace in enemy custody. So when Ellen asks him to join her, he must refuse, and when his arrested attendant warns of a raid on Alsace, and he has to go. But Ellen wants him to stay, and will insist as much with her sword and war maiden skills. The lovebirds are already at an impasse.

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Franklin’s Take:

Vanadis is unremarkable from a color and design stand point but it’s also not as over the top as other show’s we’ve seen. I’m especially impressed that they got the cavalry rendered as well as they did, even if we only see them charging and not actually fighting.

That said, Eleonora and Limalisha were hard for me to identify at the beginning and everyone has a terrible to remember/type name.

Over all, Vandis is most appreciable for it’s “Yes, buts”:

Yes, it’s bloated with fanservice, but that’s done with a little more finesse than most. (boobs but a surprising amount of thighs, skirts sliding ever so close to crotch lines during conversations)

Yes, it’s a simplistic romantic set up but Elen is thankfully not a cliche tsundere nor a man hungry monster nor a bubble head nor a shy girl and Tigre’s annoying blush is the full extent of his perviness. Thank goodness too — nothing turns me off like a male protagonist who’s portrayed as an honourable hentei in this kind of show!

If I have any concerns, it’s the cute dragon. That is almost always a death flag for mid/late season adolescent stupidity that could break an otherwise sensible, even keel show. It’s a doozy, but I’m willing to give Vanadis a chance in the near term.

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