Madan no Ou to Vanadis: Act 2

Boobs are one hell of a drug.

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Catch up continues here on DDA.  And it opens with Wonder Woman mounting Green Arrow…

No, bad Doll, play nice. This is the series that at least pretends it has aspirations.

So after a bit of “how AWESOME is Tigre?” from the girls, we actually get consequences for what’s occurred so far.

Yes, you do have permission to take a breath. We might not be so lucky in the future.

Both Tigre and Ellen are on the Thernadier radar now.  And as bad guys would have it, they’re no longer considering Tigre “warm up” practice for the inexperienced men.  He’s now a legitimate military target, as is Zchted. To counter Ellen’s power as a battle maiden, Thernadier will be sending its own Battle Maiden. Escalation!

Unfortunately for the bad guys, they don’t have the self-awareness to realize they’re in a harem series. Sending anything with a vagina to take care of the protagonist is like trying to send a twelve year old girl into a mall alone to go to church.  If you’re lucky, she comes within sight of the target before being distracted by the cutest plushie in Build-a-Bear.

Ellen’s having a hearing with her king.  Yes king. This is unexpected. How is Tigre going to win a GUY over with the power of his dick? And not an attractive one, at that.  This is ruining all of my immersion.

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Ellen proceeds to respond to her debriefing about the incident in the most ridiculous manner possible.  The obvious answer was “No, your majesty is incorrect. I didn’t invade Brune, I was defending our newest province.” Tigre swore that oath of fealty to Zchted, yes? Wasn’t that the whole reason you tipped your scales in his direction? So why are we holding that in our back pocket?

We introduce a rival for Ellen, because it can’t be a harem series without an utterly pointless rival.  She calls Ellen “boorish” but that’s just to establish…I dunno….they’re both bitches to each other, I guess, because this is completely inconsistent with Ellen’s portrayal thusfar. It feels forced and tacked on. Unless another Battle Maiden is actually suggesting that a Battle Maiden is, by nature, un-lady-like.  But even I don’t think this show is that stupid.

Something that’s actually of interest is we’re getting a picture of the political landscape.  While Thernadier and another Duke, Ganlon, are technically subjects to the king, neither is hiding their, for lack of a more appropriate term, Daimyo status. One of Tigre’s political allies observes that he is in a unique position with his birthright and new alliance with Zchted to challenge their ambitions, to become the third Daimyo in Brune.

…Still kind of overlooking that whole swearing allegiance thing, aren’t we?

For the King of Zchted’s part, he’s okay with Ellen helping Tigre for the moment.  He’s more interested in maintaining ties to all the warring factions over supporting any individually. If he’s now stuck in the war, he’s keeping his options open.

Holy shit, we might actually get invested in this conflict if they keep this up. We’re going to have tension soon…maybe even a decent show!

Episode 5 begins and…what the hell? Why do all the women have shiny SHOULDERS? Breasts, I kind of understand. The noses thing in Blade and Soul…less so, but whatever. But at least that’s SKIN. And I thought the same thing here, but even on DRESSES the shoulders have those rubbery shine patches to them. THIS IS INCREDIBLY DISTRACTING.

So our Blue Rival, Ludmila, has deployed her soldiers to the borders of our heroes, sandwiching them in with Thernadier. Ludmila…actually gets some legitimate development that…dare I say the words…will make her inevitable turn into a harem hen convincing.  She places a heavy emphasis on birthright, she’s noble blood through and through (oh, she’s wearing all blue…I get it now). She still EARNED her title, we learn, but so did her mother and grandmother before her.  Ellen, it would seem, is not from any such proud lineage. She somehow was awarded her Battle Maiden position.

But in this, we can see why she might loathe Ellen, yet have enough wiggle room to respect Tigre. Tigre does have noble birth, and is actually in the line of succession to the throne (buried way down there, but there). He is a “legitimate” ruler in Ludmila’s eyes, so he is someone she sees herself as being able to reason with. And should she be defeated, there would be no shame in surrendering to him rather than Ellen. It’s a good explanation for why Tigre would need to emerge as our point-man for dealing with Ludmila.

Holy fuck am I complimenting the harem character development in a show?

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So more battle strategizing where, of course, only Tigre has any worthwhile ideas, because he’s the man. What are these Battle Maidens doing out of the kitchen?

So Tigre goes in disguise to…scout? I guess? But he encounters Ludmila, who’s out hunting for fun. She’s just as condescending to him, remarking that he lies to her when he claims his distance when he killed the fox they were both hunting.  But on demonstrating his prowess, she is instantly apologetic, realizing her error quite easily.  Again, points to Ludmila’s development. She isn’t stubborn because that’s her trope.  She places that etiquette above all, and speaking untruths about someone is more of a sin to her than being wrong.  Still assuming Tigre a common huntsman, she opens up to him at a campfire.  And here she hints that she doesn’t approve of the side she’s on, she’s only doing it because her family has been allied with Thernadier for almost a century.  She actually made mention of this early in the episode.

And kudos to her writers for actually making her feel warm. Often the whole kamidere archetype is overplayed to the point that being kind is awkward for them, but here we see that Ludmila is ACTUALLY a generous person. Particularly to those whose skills supersede her own. This doesn’t feel forced, or like she feels obligated to show him hospitality because “that’s what normal people do, isn’t it?” like a derp.  She makes tea because she likes doing it, and probably doesn’t get to with her retainers or fellow Battle Maidens. This feels like a genuine character trait, rather than an arbitrary melting of the ice queen.

So Tigre tracks Ludmila to her base, finding the back door. Ellen leads her forces in a sneak attack. Naturally, she’s powerless to break it down.

…Ellen is very quickly turning into The Worf for this series. She’d better do SOMETHING useful, soon.

So Tigre uses the power of the female-only dragon blade…

You just keep rearing your ugly fucking head, don’t you? You’ll have your time, as-yet-unnamed-trope. You’ll have yours…

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So Episode 6 begins with dueling Maidens.  The pair, Ellen and Ludmila, have a dead-tie record in combat against each other, and this fight ends no differently. It is abruptly cut short when the trained assassin dashes into the battlefield to attack the Battle Maidens.  We’re not sure which one he’s going for, and frankly I don’t think he does, either. We only saw Thernadier trying to kill Tigre with assassins, he said nothing about Ellen.

I’m just going to presume he isn’t stupid enough to murder to his allied Battle Maiden.  Then again, charging in after them when its COMPLETELY OBVIOUS TO EVERYONE what he’s trying to do, instead of taking them out AFTER the duel is finished when their guard is down and a thousand soldiers aren’t watching them intently probably makes this guy the worst assassin ever.

This, of course, only exists to provide a reason to expose Tigre as Ursa when he shoots him dead. Ludmila agrees to remain neutral in the conflict. She won’t back Tigre, but she’ll no longer threaten his borders.

So we have a Baron of Navarre…

Is this the REAL Navarre? They do say it’s on Brune’s Western frontier, which since from the map we see (which is alternate-Europe), Brune is roughly Charlemagne’s Empire, it’s conceivable.  But…dah, it’s just a tic, this is going to bother me how the geography works here now.

We’ve skipped ahead a month from the battle with Ludmila. Again this odd combination of historical-documentary and harem rears its head. No beach episode (not holding my breath yet on that one), no silly shenanigans to speak of much. Last episode was probably the most “fluffy” we’ve had, and even that was mostly detailing the battle-related drama.

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I still don’t like harems, but at the least, this is trying to do something fresh. And I can respect any attempt at trying different things.

Well Tigre has been named an enemy of the crown. The Royal Knights of Navarre are sent to deal with him.  His few noble allies are alarmed, but Tigre notes that if the King actually gave a shit, he’d have loosed the royal knights on Ganlon or Thernadier long ago. They formed this Third Coalition to defend their lands against the aggressive Daimyo, only because the King would not act. If the King seeks to impede that, well fuck his shit, too.

Battle commences, and Tigre saves Ellen from her duel with Roland, and what’s this? A second Battle Maiden takes the field.

So, thus far Vanadis is managing to build some momentum, relying on its continuity and rolling political dramas.  It seems to, believe it or not, actually be relying on the story plot points more than trite harem drama. If anything, that’s mostly background noise. Still a tiring distraction from the more interesting political and military plots, but still. It isn’t dominating the series.

My big complaints about said politics is that many of the nobles are faceless. I think I did know Tigre’s major ally’s name for like 5 minutes before I forgot it again. And I don’t think the other lords have even been given names. It’s an improvement, to be sure, over Act 1. It’s still not QUITE there yet, but at least I think it’s so far earned the status of “an interesting experiment”.

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