Valvrave the Liberator – 20

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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.

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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.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)
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Valvrave the Liberator – 14

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The Dorssians out of their hair for the moment, the New JIOR shuttle and Valvraves reach Earth orbit and begin the process of gaining access to the surface via follow rings. Everything is going according to L-elf’s plan when Satomi answers a call made by the Dorssians, who send a squadron of fighters after them. The Valvraves overheat quickly while defending the shuttle. Akira drifts too far away to be recovered, but Haruto goes after her. Satomi begs L-elf to leave the follow rings while Akira hacks the air traffic control network, which Satomi parses. Akira and Haruto are saved, but the shuttle ends up crash landing in Dorssian territory.

We hope you’ll forgive the rather clinical summary above for leaving out much of the Akira-Satomi plot; we’ll talk about it down here. Akira and Satomi’s dynamic makes a lot more sense now that we know more of their backstory, which remains true to the characters we know thus far. Pressured by his asshole parents to succeed at all costs, he pulled all-nighters studying for the best school’s entrance exams, giving him a fever. A concerned Akira couldn’t take it anymore, and did what she does best: she hacked the exams. She’s caught; Satomi didn’t come to her defense; and never helped her when she’s brutally bullied at school. She’s never forgiven him for that, and he’s never forgiven himself. But as Marie says, it’s better to have bad memories than none at all (she’s missing hers).

And at the end of the day, they’re siblings who still love each other, and they take the first steps towards making things right this week. Their development aside, this great episode overall, one that kept the momentum and tension going. Even if Module 77 is safe on the neutral Moon, all of the characters we care about were very vulnerable for this entire episode, aboard a fragile shuttle and with Valvraves that can’t fight forever. It’s also great that, for once, Haruto and even L-elf can’t save the day, but it falls to Satomi and Akira instead. One could definitely argue it was their fault the ship ended up crashing off-course in enemy territory, but at least they’re all alive. In Valvrave, if you’re alive, anything and everything is still possible.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • The episode starts with Rukino complaining about depending on Satomi to relay everything from Akira, which is exactly what happens in the climax.
  • The repair crew’s idle banter alludes to the past events we’re shown later in flashback form. Sometimes school rumors are true!
  • Akira’s adventure out of her cockpit (hiding her face in a box) is nice mood-lightening stuff.
  • Marie not having memories of her past is actually pretty good cover for her character being so underdeveloped.
  • More scenes of the evil Dorssians off-duty doing evil things like horseback riding inside or hitting on random chicks. They’re just like us…only eviler!

Valvrave the Liberator – 13

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Two months after Module 77 narrowly escapes destruction, they dock at the neutral Moon, where they receive sympathy and supplies but run into bureaucratic hurdles with ARUS. Module 77 plans to send a delegation to Earth, but the Valvraves shut down, their energy exhausted. Kibukawa and L-elf determine that the “runes” that fuel the Valvrave can only be gathered by attacking humans. Haruto grudingly attacks L-elf, refueling the Valvraves, and they cross the neutral zone and battle the Dorssian fleet that was waiting for them.

After a season-long hiatus, Valvrave is back to baffle, shock, and entertain us in relatively equal measure. We can’t say we missed all the mythological mumbo-jumbo about councils of the hundred, magiuses, and holy spirits, but we’re glad to be once again following the trials and tribulations of one of the high school that declared itself an independant nation, protected by five mechas piloted by students who tosses aside their humanity and essentially became vampires. We especially liked how Shouko and L-Elf had settled nicely into their new official roles, though they both faced plenty of challenges.

Reinforcing their status as horrifying burdens in addition to the only force that is currently staving off enslavement by Dorssia, Haruto gets the bad news that he’s been going into fits and viciously attacking people because he’s jonesin’ for their “runes”, which we guess is a fancy way of saying “life force”. Haruto-y Haruto that he is, he’s hell-bent on carrying as much as this burden as he can, and he’s to find the people who developed the damnable things on Earth. He wants to be human again, and if that can’t happen, he wants to destroy the Valvraves once they’ve fulfiled their use. Just one problem: when exactly will New JIOR ever not need them?


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Saki records a bestselling album, then offers her body to Haruto, who resists. Then he feeds from L-Elf. Saki probably won’t be happy if she learns about that.
  • We get to see the Dorssians in their training sweats sipping from 80’s-style water bottles. Pretty sweet.
  • Apparently the OS avatar in Haruto’s unit is called “Pino”, while the one in Cain’s is called “Prue.”
  • Cain and his superior Mirko watch with smug satisfaction as the “children” of Valvrave are constructed. That isn’t going to be good for JIOR.

Valvrave the Liberator – 12

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221 years into the future, Rukino Saki tells a silver-haired boy the story of the “Founder”‘s battles for Module 77, where he encountered the “Magius.” Back in the present, Saki rejects Haruto’s marriage proposal and tells him to go save Shouko. He meets up with L-el as the Dorssian drill is ascending the module towards the school fast, releasing posion gas as it goes. Colonel Cain outsmarts L-elf, shoots Haruto, then beats L-elf up, aiming to take the red Valvrave.

Meanwhile, Shouko is injured while racing to save Akira from the approaching drill. Akira finally leaves her shelter to save Shouko, and finds a purple Valvrave on the way to her. She resigns her humanity and boards it, and her “hacking” weapon disables the drill and all the other Dorssian bogeys. L-elf escapes Cain’s custody with Haruto and they board the red Valvrave and launch a barrage of weapons fire at Cain, but he isn’t scratched. He reveals himself as a “Magius.”

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So yeah, obviously there was going to be more Valvrave coming after this episode, because there still so many storylines not even close to being resolved yet, but we were still pleasantly surprised by the sheer amount of stuff that went down in this episode, as well as the high level of tension it maintained throughout it’s running time. Module 77 its most immediate and potentially mortal crisis, while Colonel Cain proves that even a superhuman like L-elf doesn’t stand much of a chance against his non-human “creator.”

They also chose to give Akira the most she’s ever done or said in an episode by far, and we thought her tortured emergence from her security shell was very well done. This is a girl with serious emotional trauma, but even she couldn’t sit and watch her friend get killed. That said, we wonder if she’ll ever leave that cockpit now that she’s in there! Just one of many dozens of things to be sorted out this fall, when the second season airs.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • We’re very intrigued by the Future Rukino prologues, all two of them; and that was the problem: all this bigger picture stuff like the two-century jumps forward and the Magius had to fight for screen time (and lost) with things like the presidential election and that horrible music video the school did. We want to see more.
  • Cain’s very thorough beating of L-elf was intense, for no other reason than L-elf has only ever been superior to everyone else in everything…but not against this guy.
  • Akira may share her name with an iconic film, but she and her now-vacated lair have reminded us more of an iconic anime, namely Lain. It was awesome to see her finally spring into action, and we look forward to seeing/hearing more of her.
  • That little silver-haired princess girl L-elf met when they were young – in the OP she’s grown up. Here’s hoping we get more of her story this fall.
  • “It’s THUNDER, Damnit!” The day someone finally actually calls him that is going to be some day.

Valvrave the Liberator – 11

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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?

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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 – 10

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As Module 77 nears the neutral Moon, Nanami decides to hold elections for the new Prime Minister of JIOR. Entrants include Yamada and the presumptive victor, Renbokouji Satomi. However, after talking with Haruto, who learns her father may still be alive, Shouko decides to run, and makes an impassioned speech that wins the crowd and the election. During this speech, however, Haruto suffers another attack, which had been gaining in regularity. He jumps on Saki, who is aware of the severity of his “curse”, and they have sex on the ground.

We’ve only seen occasional bursts of the price Haruto paid when he “resigned as a human” in order to pilot Valvrave and save his school from the Dorssians, but we see more of it in this episode, and he’s scared that he may not be able to control it. No biggie, says Saki; if he becomes the wild beast he fears he’s becoming, she’ll kill him, and he doesn’t have a problem with that. Being around attractive women seems to bring on the attacks; he almost jumps a scantily-clad Takahi in the elevator, and Saki is there (just in time!) to stop him.

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This is the first time his “curse” has come across as uncontrollable lust, but it justifies his decision at the beginning to give up on a relationship with Shouko. He considers himself a monster now, after all. But Saki feels she’s a monster too, and when he jumps her, she doesn’t fight him. We don’t wish to take this lightly; the show went into very dark territory here, and it’s not clear Saki would’ve been able to fight Haruto off if she’d chosen to reject his advances. But whatever Saki’s mindset, what happened happened, and there will be consequences. Haruto will surely hate himself even more and find it more difficult to interact with Shouko, Saki, or anyone else.

Meanwhile, Shouko hasn’t given up on Haruto and plans to confess to him once they get to the moon and have a school festival. She shows she’s her prime minister father’s daughter and upstages Satomi the technocrat by reaching out to and connecting with people, making them feel like she’s one of them (since she is!), and appealing to their desire to continue being kids who goof off and enjoy the little life they may well have left. Little does Shouko know that while she’s giving this rousing, hedonistic YOLO speech, the guy she loves is coming very close to raping Saki barely ten feet from where he nearly confessed to her.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Yamada tries to get Haruto and Kyuuma on board with “hijacking” the bodies of hot chicks. Yikes! Little does he know.
  • Takahi is still uncomfortable around Haruto after Saki hijacked him and toyed with her.
  • For the record, Satomi seems like the most sensible choice for prime minister, seeing as how he has a practical plan for the country’s survival. Shoko, on the other hand? YOLO!
  • The Dorssians are planning one more attack before the schoolkids reach the moon. Oh, and one of them gets the jump on the second-in-command woman, though we’re not sure why.
  • L-elf, ever the useful defector, helps run the elections.

Valvrave the Liberator – 08

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L-Elf dreams of the time he escaped from captivity and took a Dorssian princess hostage. He wakes up bound to a table, and predicts that New JIOR will fall in six hours if Haruto doesn’t contract with him. Everyone is shaken by Aina-chan’s death, particularly Inuzuka, but Kibukawa won’t let anyone else pilot Valvraves until he’s determined they’re safe to use. Colonel Cain launches another attack on Module 77, as A-drei infiltrates the module and commandeers JOIR battleships, threatening the school. As the battle inside and out goes badly, Haruto finally agrees to contract with L-Elf, who gives him and Saki precise instructions that foil the Dorssians and save the new nation with no casualties.

By portraying accurately (for once) the plight of a new nation run by students with minimal political and military experience, Valvrave delivered what we consider its best episode since its first. Dorssia was briefly sent off, but they return immediately, because they know all New JIOR has protecting them are two amateur-piloted Valvraves. Constant attacks like this are to be expected when your nation is so vulnerable. What Dorssia (or at least A-drei and Co…who knows about that Colonel Cain cat) wasn’t banking on is L-Elf joining forces with Haruto once again. If L-Elf hadn’t formulated a plan to thwart the Dorssians, it’s a good bet the entire school-nation would have been obliterated, with everyone either killed or interned.

As much as he may want to be enough to protect everyone, Haruto realizes he’s not, not even with Saki fighting by his side. Hell, even if those five other Valvraves were manned and deployed, you’re still talking about civilian students piloting them. No, this episode proves yet again that without L-Elf, this country would have died in its infancy. Once he gets the okay from Haruto, he kicks ass, takes names, and doesn’t look back. Even his elite colleagues are no match for him. And interesting, instead of pounding his desk after the defeat, Dorssia’s Colonel Cain seems to get a kick out of L-Elf’s antics. Something tells us he wants the guy in a Valvrave as soon as possible. Meanwhile, L-Elf’s just trying to reconcile that young princess giving him half her life, saving her from the guards.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Well, looks like Sakurai Aina died after all. Huh! We really thought they’d bring her back to life with some Valvrave nonsense. Oh well. Not like Kayano Ai won’t get more work!
  • Saki says she’s been practicing. She should probably practice more.
  • Potential candidates to pilot the five remaining Valvraves: Inuzuka (who wants to avenge Aina); Yamada (who wants to kick some ass); Satomi (the class president); L-Elf (naturally); and…possibly Shoko. We’ll see how we do
  • The coffee-and-sugar analogy? Kinda lame.
  • L-Elf’s flashback prison looked a lot like the Kremlin, while the bay with all the bridges from which A-drei was bombarding land looked a lot like San Francisco.