Valvrave the Liberator – 21

valv21

After the Dorssian Fuhrer reveals Rukino Saki’s immortality, he cuts to live footage of a reporter entering the hold of the Phantom and finding the humans being drained of runes, among them Iori’s father. The ARUS president declares all New JIORans dangerous lifeforms, and his soldiers commence the wholesale execution the students. He and the Furher also form a Dorssio-ARUS alliance, vowing to stamp out JIOR. The Valvraves scramble to cover the survivors’ escape, but students led by Iori trick Haruto and hand him and L-elf over in exchange for leniency. ARUS immediately double-crosses them, but Inuzuka shields them until they’re able to launch, and rescues Haruto and L-elf before dying in a blaze of glory.

It’s a near total defeat for the fledgling nation of New JIOR, as we see what happens when they play with fire and depend on such a small and fragile force to defend them. For all the weapons brought to bear on either side, and weapons they’ve endured, the ultimate weapon of their downfall turned out to be…PR. The instant wide-ranging media access meant to gather other nations to their cause was turned against them by the Council, a force far more skilled and experienced in its manipulation. Even if Shouko knew what the hell was going on, no one has the patience to hear any more explanations, as painfully demonstrated when a JIOR student comes forward to calmly explain – and gets a bullet in the head for his trouble. The bloody, merciless purge of unarmed, mortal students that follows is truly gut-wrenching and difficult to watch.

The show fixes an unblinking eye on the carnage, as classrooms are sprayed with bullets and terrified, cowering students are mowed down. As they’re being slaughtered like sheep, they turn on their once-saviors, and you really can’t blame them. For all the Valvraves’ heroics, they dug the graves of their countrymen by keeping them in the dark about so many important, dangerous things for too long. The truth didn’t kill them; being protected from the truth did. As we saw, an international summit on live TV was not the ideal time for Shouko or the world to learn such things. Now Shouko has turned away from Haruto, not knowing who he is anymore, while Haruto’s memories are literally shattering; L-elf is useless, Inuzuka is dead (in heroic fashion), Rukino is still imprisoned; and all of humanity have united against what’s left of New JIOR. They’ve never been more down, but they’re not out. Nothing is out of the question where this show is concerned.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Advertisements

Valvrave the Liberator – 20

valv20

Haruto and the rest of the team that went to earth successfully stop the Phantom headed to Module 77 and return to a hero’s welcome, as Shoko has been gathering support and media attention. She has also arranged an international summit, where ARUS and other powers have pledged to condemn Dorssia’s actions. L-elf has isolated himself in a cargo hold. When the summit starts, the Dorssian Fuhrer commences a broadcast announcing they have Rukino Saki in custody. Cain stabs her through the heart and everyone watches her revive and heal, proving she isn’t human.

Last season we weren’t shy in expressing our reservations about the viability of an independent country ruled for and by a bunch of high schoolers. We’d spent so much time with the Earth-bound team recently that we nearly forgot the bulk of the country was still on the Moon, trying not to wear out their welcome and forging alliances. Haruto also forgot that Shoko and the others were fighting while he was otherwise occupied. It’s a shock to see the fruit of his labors in the form of tearful family reunions and hard-hitting media interviews by journalist who have dealt with his naive sort before, who make him wonder if he really is tilting at windmills.

val202

Kyuuma also tells Haruto he’ll go mad if he tries to fix all the myriad problems currently on his plate, and should enjoy life while he can; for tomorrow, everything could be over. Haruto shows a glimmer of reception to that, as he’s well aware he’s running himself ragged trying to do everything when he can’t. There’s no more powerful reminder of the result of that path than poor L-elf, who executed his plan all the way to the end but ended up losing the most important thing in the world to him. Now he’s lost, inconsolable, and New JIOR is immediately worse off for it, as Dorssia proves they can fight a P.R. war with the best of them.

Now that the secret of the Valvrave pilots is essentially out, New JIOR will likely find themselves standing alone, and all of Shoko’s diplomatic work blowing up in her face. That unfortunate and sudden reversal of fortune is the Council’s doing, as they’re tired of these children and want them out of the way. Even if L-elf was 100% back on his game, the fact remained they left Saki behind. And almost as a cruel self-rebuttal to that horrible music video the JIORans made in more innocent times, the show has Saki viciously stabbed through the heart on live TV to an audience of hundreds of millions. Valvrave does not mess around.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)
)

Valvrave the Liberator – 11

valv11

As Module 77 draws closer to the neutral Moon, the new ministers of JIOR gather for a photo shoot. Haruto and Saki skip it, instead visiting an abandoned part of the city to talk privately, but Saki won’t let Haruto apologize. Their talk is interrupted by alarms; a massive Dorssian fleet is bearing down on them. Shoko speaks to their leader, Admiral Wartenberg, who shows her her hostage father being prepared for execution and offers a deal: peace for the students of Module 77 in exchange for the Valvraves and giving up on the rest of JIOR. Shoko’s dad implores her to move forward, but before she can make a decision, Haruto uses his harakiri blade to obliterate most of the fleet, killing her father and the admiral. Colonel Cain uses the chaos to break through the bottom of the module and start drilling through its core, something L-elf apparently hadn’t foreseen.

What Haruto did to Saki last week was unquestionably a sexual assault, but unlike a case where he was drunk, or high, or just a fucking asshole, it happened because of something completely outside of his control. A real-world parallel would be a mental illness for which there is no known cure. Under those circumstances, while we condemn his actions we can’t fairly condemn Haruto the person, and neither does Saki, who was in kinda love with him anyway. She doesn’t want him to apologize, not just because what happened happened because of the curse, but also because he agreed to bear that curse in exchange for the power to protect everyone else. Part of it could also be simply because she can’t give up on the one person who could deliver her from a life of loneliness and despair, at least in her mind. And when he’s not “possessed”, Haruto indeed doesn’t want Saki to feel like she’s alone anymore, because she isn’t: in the Crazy Event of the Week (CEW), he proposes to her before going to deal with the Dorssian intruders. He’s taking responsibility for what  he’s done, even if it means spurning Shouko.

Of course, you could also throw in another CEW, involving Shoko, the new prime minister. Up to this point she’d held out hope her father could be rescued and restored to his old position, and everything could go back to the way it was. But as he himself tells her, that’s thinking backwards to a time that can never be again. She has to weigh her love for him with the fate of Module 77 and all who inhabit it, and little does she know L-Elf has a gun ready to kill her before she makes the wrong choice. It’s a tense scene, especially when Admiral Wartenberg coldly lays out how adults attain ends regardless of means; they’re okay with getting their hands dirty as long as they get the desired results. It’s all well and good for Shoko to condemn this philosophy – and it sounds pretty evil to us – but let’s not forget that in order to achieve their ends, Haruto, Saki, and the rest of the Valvrave pilots resigned their friggin’ humanity. The (Late) Admiral Wertenberg would be proud of such adult choices, right?

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • The fleet is destroyed, but it worked out to be a giant diversion while Cain and his elite team infiltrated Module 77. They immediately start stirring up some serious shit, and once again the students are backed into a corner.
  • The material with Akira seemed a bit extraneous to this episode. Yeah, we get it, she’s deathly afraid of human contact of any kind. What else ya got?
  • What with the Dorssians knocking on Module 77’s door every week, utterly ignoring the threat of Valvrave falling into ARUS hands, we’re a little surprised we haven’t seen any counter-moves by ARUS.
  • Cain himself is on point this time, and he’s confident he can stay a step ahead of L-elf. We’ll see about that, won’t we?

Valvrave the Liberator – 06

val6

Ignoring Haruto’s warnings, Rukino Saki enters the cockpit of a green Valvrave and contracts with it, becoming a “vampire” and its new master. She bites Haruto and inhabits his body briefly and commits some mischief, making it appear that they’re a couple in order to align herself with his celebrity. When the Dorssians launch an attack and destroy the module’s ARUS escort, Rukino sets out to fight, but when the battle gets tough she wavers. Shouko, Takahi, and her classmates cheer her on, and she destroys X-ein’s ship. The Dorssians retreat, but Cain leaves A-drei behind to infiltrate the JOIR module and face L-elf.

Typically, in order to make a meaningful connection with a character or characters, we need to spend a little time with them; learn a little about who they are, where they come from, and what makes them tick. But we don’t know much of anything about Rukino Saki as we’re thrust into her own little personal drama. She’s a former idol, and she’s as insecure as she is selfish. She seems to take joy in messing with Haruto and using him for her own purposes. So if she’s such a bitch, why should we care about her? Because she’s cute? All the girls on this show are cute. Because we see some flashes of the unpleasantness she suffered during her idol career? Well, maybe.

The thing is, like Haruto, Shouko, and L-elf, the show itself doesn’t seem to care about Rukino Saki any more than we do…not yet, at least. That’s not exactly unforgivable, as a lot of shit has gone down in these peoples’ lives. It just means this series is more concerned with action and zany, over-the-top situations than it is fleshing out anyone at this point. The thing is, last week’s outing wasn’t particularly entertaining and its flaws outshone the insanity. This week did a far more respectable job holding our interest, but if our emotional investment in the cast remains negligible, we’re going to have a hard time sticking with this show simply for the spectacle. We like characters, particularly ones that make a lick of sense.


Rating: 5 (Average)

Stray Obsevations:

  • Some, er, choice quotes from this week: “This is amazing! I feel like a bird! Wait, I’m a vampire now…so that makes me a bat!” “Rukino, you’re overextending!” “Who cares? We’re invincible super-humans!” “L-elf! For the sake of our friendship, please die.”
  • Did Figaro really just get snuffed out? Meh…whatever.
  • This series is so far akin to a Gundam series on drugs, so it make sense that the trope of enemies retreating early and often would show itself here.
  • In case you forgot this show is nuts: Nanami the ditzy trainee teacher is made the representative of New JIOR. Long may she reign.
  • L-elf literally just stands around doing nothing…again. With A-drei near, next week he’ll probably do…something. Maybe.

Kakumeiki Valvrave – 05

Tokishima Haruto, Rukino Saki

Sakimori academy revels in its new-found independence as ARUS and Dorssia are at a stalemate where Module 77 is concerned. Things take a turn for the worse when the power shuts off and its starts to snow. Otamaya volunteers to fix the system, but as the girls are waiting in the school a fight breaks out between Saki and Takahi. The power is restored and tempers cool. The academy decides to produce a video to cheer up their families in occupied JIOR, and they end up gaining popularity and increased donations from ARUS citizens as well. While surveying the module, Haruto and Saki find more Valvrave-style mobile suits. Saki agrees to keep them a secret and then kisses Haruto.

Last week Shouko declared Sakimori Academy an independent country, and this week we find out how a bunch of kids run that country: poorly. They act like kids who are home alone for the first time, playing among ruins, making messes in stores, abusing machinery, watching porn, jumping on the bed, and generally just fucking around. Meanwhile their families are suffering under the jackbooted Dorssians. These kids can barely get along in a classroom, so why should they have any hope maintaining the infrastructure of their module? We didn’t like all the girls just huddled in the school waiting for “The Boys” to save them. If Otamaya doesn’t just happen to know how to fix the outage, everyone freezes to death. Pretty small margin for error! Where’s Plan B?

We also didn’t like how Takahi, her minions, and Saki fly off the rail so quickly; it doesn’t bode well for the future of a stable nation. We also found their heavily produced and choreographed cheer-up video not only over-long and embarrassingly hoaky, but also in bad taste, when you again consider the suffering they’re immune from simply because Haruto controls Valvrave. They come off as a bunch of entitled brats. Also, we don’t know that much about Saki yet, but this episode doesn’t help matters. She goes from mopey and emo to pop-idol-y and then seductive as she enters a contract of sorts with Haruto, sealing a love triangle between three underdeveloped main characters. She was kinda all over the place, as was the whole episode.

4_fair
Rating: 4
(Fair)

Stray Observations:

  • This episode doesn’t match up favorably to Majestic Prince’s latest episode, and here’s why: Majestic Prince kept a laser focus on its core characters and didn’t try to do too much, dealing with themes of change and new beginnings that resonated with us. Valvrave tried to juggle way too much this week and dropped the ball; we couldn’t make a connection.
  • The wildly fluctuating tone didn’t help matters either.
  • Another thing weighing down this series is that aside from all of the dozen or so students with lines, there are hundreds of others who are all basically sheep. All we’ve seen from them is they’re able to make a goody propaganda video, but we otherwise couldn’t care less what happens to them as a group; they’re so inert.
  • L-Elf literally just sneaks around the whole time. That’s it.

Kakumeiki Valvrave – 04

val4

L-elf wants Haruto to team up with him and aid in “bringing revolution to Dorssia.” Haruto refuses, but L-elf predicts they’ll contract, and tells him he’ll flash a peace sign when its time. While with Akira, Shouko overhears Senator Figaro planning to abandon the students and run, then manages to convince the student council without telling them about Akira. The students distract Figaro and the guards while Shouko, Izunuka, and Otamaya rescue Haruto, who boards Valvrave, preventing Figaro from escaping. L-elf flashes a sign, but Shouko gets Haruto’s attention first, and comes up with a bold plan to ensure Sakimori Academy’s survival.

Last week was mostly set-up, outlining L-elf’s seemingly precognitive abilities and introducing an ARUS force that looked on its surface to be the school’s savior. But once the Dorssian fleet regroups and takes it to the far smaller ARUS force, and Figaro’s back is against the wall, he decides to turn tail and run, leaving the students behind to suffer subjugation and internment by ruthless Dorssia. This week he shows his true colors, and shows that the students of Sakimori cannot rely on anyone but themselves, including their classmate Haruto, his childhood friend Shouko, and his awesome robot Valvrave, which, by the way, kills anyone who isn’t Haruto who tries to pilot her.

At the beginning of the episode, Haruto sees his new power a curse, and by the end probably still does, but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to use it. It’s just a matter of to what ends. L-elf is the first to suggest the two of them take on Dorssia together, suggesting he may have been a malcontent even before the misunderstanding that got him labelled a deserter. But it’s Shouko who gets to Haruto first, and both he and the school take to her idea with enthusiasm. It’s a sudden, drastic, and unusual step – turning the academy into its own independent state, but with Valvrave on their side, anything’s possible.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • We like Shoko’s nervous habit of clutching the hem of her skirt when she’s in a spot.
  • While it seems a bit ludicrous to literally break the entire Sakimori module off from the rest of JIOR, but as the rest of JIOR is already occupied, it’s not like they have a lot of choices.
  • Akira looks cool and collected enough while alone, but as soon as she’s in the presence of another human being she totally freaks out. Her cave fort is awesome, though.
  • Haruto seemingly says “fuck you” to everyone in this episode. Not Shoko though…that would be uncouth.
  • Wild card Yamada blocks Figaro’s truck – and gets shot in the arm for it. We doubt he’s okay with Haruto and Shoko saving him.

Kakumeiki Valvrave – 03

val3

ARUS forces led by Senator Figaro prepare to evacuate Module 77 and take L-elf into custody. Haruto learns he has hundreds of millions of friends, but nearly attacks one of them when his powers briefly awaken. L-elf escapes easily and begins wreaking havoc, foiling ARUS’ plans to evacuate the module. While searching the school Haruto runs into Yamada, who wants his robot. Shouko goes back into the school to find Haruto, but finds Akira hacking away. L-elf kills Yamada and confronts Haruto, proposing they form a contract to “bring revolution to Dorssia.”

The loudspeaker. Earthquake. Panic. 3:14. The answer is behind you.

This seemingly random jumble of words turn out to be a very accurate foreshadowing of the sequence of events Haruto will experience in the episode that follows. Either L-elf is some kind of prognosticator or he is very good at planning out his actions to the minute. We wouldn’t put either past him, as he proves just how dangerous he can be. Tied up in a chair surrounded by armed guards, he takes advantage of small details (his hands are free enough to unscrew a screw; the light above him is made of glass he can shatter) and makes the ARUS forces look silly.

So L-elf is strong and smart, which means he’s not going to try to kill Haruto, whom he already tried and failed to kill once before. He considers Haruto an anomaly – one that caused a significant change in the course of his already distinguished existence. He is now technically a Dorssian defector, and so rather than fight Haruto, it looks like he means to request his aid. Aside from L-elf’s escape and eventual meetup with Haruto, the episode does lag a bit, showing way to many helpless people milling around, taking time away from people with the power to move things along.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Stray Observations:

  • This series is going to have its work cut out for it juggling the enormous cast it has amassed.
  • Unfortunately ARUS probably won’t lean any lessons about properly handling L-elf, as he killed any ARUS personnel who got near him.
  • We’re wondering how a slap to the fact snaps Haruto out of his vampiric rage, but if it works it works!
  • We’re also wondering if L-elf will continue the practice of presaging what’s going to happen in future episodes. They could have him do the previews!

Kakumeiki Valvrave – 02

val2

Saki, Kyuuma and Aina find an unconscious Haruto and L-elf, but they’re cornered by A-drei, H-neun, X-eins and Q-vier. L-elf wakes up, shoots A-drei in the eye, helps Haruto’s friends escape, and goes with them. The Dorssians consider L-elf a deserter and take the Valvrave into custody. Haruto, who is in L-elf’s body, uses his special forces skills to retrieve his own body and the Valvrave.

Once back in his body, Haruto heads into space with Saki and a bound L-elf. Shouko calls Haruto to tell him she’s alive and trapped in a car under rubble. A-drei and Q-vier pursue and pummel the Valvrave whose overboost engages when it hits 666 heat capacity. Haruto cripples A-drei’s Ideal, and when an ARUS fleet arrives, Dorssia beats a retreat. Reunited with Shouko, Haruto still doesn’t confess.

val22

This episode debunks a couple assumptions we made about last week. First, Shouko isn’t dead, so Haruto’s services as her furious avenger are no longer required. Frankly should have known she’d be back, considering she’s a main character. Second, Haruto, who also cheated death last week, isn’t a vampire per se. Rather, biting necks allows him to “borrow” the body of the bitee, and they’ll have no memory of what he does as them.

L-elf calls him a monster for stealing his body and making it appear that he’s betrayed Dorssia. Frankly, Elfie’s a monster too for participating in a slimy, unprovoked attack on the peaceful, if naive, JIOR. Perhaps more so, since all Haruto pushed was the “resign humanity” button. But that’s enough for him to wave off his confession to Shouko. He takes L-elf’s monster label to heart, and probably fears hurting her and the others with his new abilities. He’s probably not wrong.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • For elite special forces, L-elf’s buddies sure have bad aim, right?
  • On that note, Dorssia retreats awfully fast when the ARUS fleet arrives. They don’t have a problem wrangling up unarmed innocents, but when someone fights back, they flutter off like well-dressed gazelles.
  • 666 is classically the “number of the beast”, but it may actually be 616.