魔弾の王と戦姫 第1話 「戦場の風姫」
Madan no Ou to Vanadis #01. 「Wind Princess of the Battlefield」
Source Material: Light novel series by Kawaguchi Tsukasa (川口 司)
Director(s): Satou Tatsuo (佐藤 竜雄)
Script: Satou Tatsuo (佐藤 竜雄)
Character Design: Yoshi☆wo (よし☆ヲ)
Music: Yokoyama Masaru (横山 克)
Madan no Ou to Vanadis is a Japanese light novel series written by Kawaguchi Tsukasa, illustrated by Yoshi☆wo, and published by Media Factory in its MF Bunko J label since April 2011. In October 2011, a manga adaptation illustrated by Yanai Nobuhiko began publication in Media Factory‘s Comic Flapper magazine. Subsequently, in July 2013, the anime adaptation was announced at Media Factory‘s Summer School Festival event along with four other MF Bunko J light novel anime adaptations.
Tigrevurmud Vorn is an earl who has been enlisted to fight on behalf of the nation of Brune against the Silver Meteor army, lead by Ellenora Viltaria, one of the seven Vanadis of Zhcted. When the two forces finally clash, Brune’s numbers stand at twenty-thousand strong while the Silver Meteor army only amounts to a meager in comparison five-thousand. However, with the use of a mystical and powerful weapon bestowed upon her, Ellenora leads her men to victory and crushes the entire Brune forces in only half a day. On the battlefield, Tigre is the only visible survivor of the massacre; yet despite this, when he coincidentally sights Ellenora and her six convoys from afar, he determinately decides to ambush them alone, believing that assassinating the enemy leader will invoke enough disarray to allow what is left of the Brunes forces a safer retreat. Tigre successfully shoots down two of the convoy’s horses, but can do no more before Ellenora draws her sword and unleashes an overwhelming counter-attack. Tigre wakes up in the middle of a new day and discovers that he has been put up for ransom as a prisoner of war and that if there is no pay-out from his party within 50 days, he will become property of Ellenora and the nation of Zhcted. Unexpectedly, Tigre is accommodated quite nicely for a prisoner of war; and on his first day of entrapment, he is taken to the training grounds so that his excellent marksmanship can be flaunted before Ellenora’s own soldiers. Suddenly, an assassination attempt is made upon Ellenora, and Tigre stops the fleeing assailant by shooting an arrow into his foot with a defective bow from an impressive three-hundred alsins away. As it turns out, Ellenora has fallen for Tigre strictly in regard to his skill with the bow and planned the exhibition so that her gossiping men would acknowledge his prowess and stature. Accordingly, Ellenora offers Tigre the opportunity to serve her and to be bestowed the same status he holds in Brune; but he ultimately rejects the proposition in favor for his devotion to Alsace, his home-country that he inherited from his father. Later that night, Ellenora’s men capture Bertrand, Tigre’s trusted attendant, who informs Tigre that Duke Thenardier’s forces of three-thousand soldiers are marching on Alsace. Tigre attempts to leave in order to return to Alsace and protect it, but a preemptive Ellenora awaits Tigre at the town-exit, blocking the gate.
Juding solely from the attractive promotional art (not a very good basis to judge upon, I know, it’s a force of habit), I was sincerely hoping Madan no Ou to Vanadis to be a potential comeback for the fantasy genre in anime; but while the visual appeal teased through promotion definitely retains enough of its brilliance in actual episode content, whether the dissatisfaction is just as quiet on the western front of scriptural story-telling or not is still contentious. I really do want to take a considerable moment to praise the visual production going on in this show though, as it is undeniably top-notch, and twenty-minutes of a wholly likeable art-style accompanied by fluid animation expeditiously puts it among the best of the season and almost of the whole year. As our male lead wanders an empty battlefield in the opening sequence and the clouds looming above shroud every fallen corpse in darkness, the rays of light that breach through the darkness and shine upon our other female lead when she makes her entrance truly give her a celestial introduction. It’s a rather nice and effective juxtaposition and it’s such attention to background detail that takes the atmosphere of a scene to the extra mile. This show is a great case of immaculacy being so effective that it carries the other design aspects of presentation along with it. You have less complaints about the generic spiky-haired protagonist when he’s drawn frame-by-frame with such effort. You have less complaints about cheesy, overdone dialogue when there’s a visual aspect to the scene that deserves just as much consideration. So yes, to a point, the superb visual execution does lend a huge helping hand to the opposite side of the story-telling spectrum: the writing; but, again, whether it can fully carry this ambitious show to a glorious finish line is a separate question. With that being said, there was no way I could avoid starting the episode, hearing the typical dialogue (between female and male character of this genre), “From now on, you belong to me”, and internally bemoaning, thinking, “Uh oh, it’s going to be one of those stories centered one of those relationships.” It was that line alone that made me retract every single one of my hopeful expectations going into Madan; but as the episode went on, I was glad to see the series slightly above such genericism. Like I said earlier, despite Tigre bearing a rather common character design (personally, he reminds me a lot of Hunter class from Ragnarok Online, specifically in this promotional wallpaper; and I guess if a character reminds you of a game where you get to create and customize an avatar from countless templates, that is pretty darn rehashed), the personality written into him is quite refreshing to witness during his interactions with other characters. At the very least, I’ve taken a liking to him as the altruistic lead figure. As for the actual narrative, the premiere covers a lot more expositional material than it does of upcoming developments, so I’ve yet to break down what could become the over-arching conflict other than something tenuously connected to Tigre’s personal obligation as king and protector of his country, something that can technically be manipulated (by both in-story characters and story-writers) to throw him into all kinds of messes. What of course is the most disconcerting thing about Madan no Ou to Vanadis‘s time on-air is, well, the exact time it has on-air. Despite the mythos and story having been established to be wholly far-reaching, I imagine the measly scheduled thirteen episode count can’t even dream of covering one main conflict sufficiently. And that is a damn shame, because there is a substantial amount of potential here. While this season does have its modicum share of good, becoming pretty great fantasy series, Madan has individualized itself pretty well with its premise (Despite there being seven Vanadis in this show and seven Deadly Sins in the other, there’s a great difference between a fantasy story invested in diplomatic warfare and a fantasy story invested in a banding-of-heroes-together adventure). If it were not for the scheduling caveat, I would say Madan no Ou to Vanadis could become by all means of the adjective, an epic account of fantasy. Of course, there’s always the off-chance that it displays even more so spectacular twelve episodes subsequent to this premiere and achieves the status of second season-dom. After all, that hope is what seems to be what anime-adaptation dreams are made of nowaseasons.
*With all my praise of the art-style and animation for Madan no Ou to Vanadis said and done, I feel compelled to offer a converse reaction, so I admit that I find that kind of design for baby dragons utterly ugly.