Sorry, haters – that ep was simply awesome, and no amount of bitching can change that fact. Stick that in your Guilty Crown.
For starters, I can only give you what is without question my favorite exchange of ridiculous dialogue this season:
“It seems that not even war can cure your sweet naiveté.”
“Coffee’s best with sugar. You’re bitter. With the two of us together, it’ll taste just fine!”
Best couple of the season.
I don’t think there’s another series airing right now that would have even attempted that preposterous exchange, but only in Valvrave the Liberator would it amount to a moment of triumph. This series really is fearless – it tries anything at any given moment, and sometimes it even works. But this ep was quite a bit different than the ones that came before, which mostly endeared me the series for its sheer bombastic silliness. It wasn’t “so bad it’s good” per se, but this episode was just plain “so good, it’s good”. Without a doubt this was Valvrave’s most successful episode by conventional standards.
Don’t get me wrong – there was still plenty of the “throw every plot element you can think of in a blender and suck it out with a straw” here, and the episode was non-stop frantic action and drama from wire to wire. But it was actually coherent, with a really well laid-out attack on JIOR playing out, and the drama advancing on several fronts. As usually happens the best moments probably belonged to L-Elf, but there was plenty of glory for everyone concerned, including the second-tier cast members whose roles are becoming clarified as the series progresses.
For starters we have Kyuuma, who’s indeed following the path of the tragic former best friend driven to darkness by rage and a lust for revenge. He’s determined to be the next Valvrave pilot and he rather unfairly blames Haruto for what happened to Aina, but he’s being driven even farther into the catacombs under the opera house by his growing self-loathing, as he’s unable to accomplish anything much himself except getting shot. We also have Raizou in full-throated Grizzly-kun roar, raging at the world and playing the alpha male goon to the hilt. He too is determined to hop behind the wheel of a Valvrave or at the very least kick somebody’s ass, and increasingly pissed off at other guys (and girls) hogging all the GAR moments for themselves.
Then there’s Satomi, a role which finds Namikawa Daisuke increasingly stealing scenes with his creepy intensity. I think my favorite moment was when he saw Shouko with his sister – “Whaaa – she’s with someone else besides me?!” There’s something in that delivery which both makes you curious to learn more about the real story there and kind of hoping you never do (and I definitely hope we get to hear more from Aoi Yuuki, who’s been pretty underutilized so far). Satomi also tries to step up in his role as Kaichou (for some reason he always makes me think of the ED from Seitokai no Ichizon S1, episode 11 when he does this), even pulling a gun on L-Elf in an attempt to get him to plead for his life and save the school. Poor Satomi is definitely in the wrong weight class in that matchup.
The banner moments of the episode are the full-on siege of Sashinami by Dorssia – how many times does that make now? – even including pillaged JIOR battleships, as well as L-Elf being… L-Elf. Whether it’s looking like a relaxed boss tied to a table as chaos reigns all around him, busting his restraints as soon as it suits him, courting Haruto’s love, kicking Dorssian ass down to the last detail or patiently floating in space waiting for his Haruto to rescue him, L-Elf always does it in style. Even reminiscing about his past with the Alvis look-alike Princess Liselotte, L-Elf does it with style and panache. In a cast full of ridiculous characters, he reigns supreme – the most interesting man in the world. But no less impressive is the pacing and direction of the battle itself, which is by far the best extended action sequence of the series and even offers some Gainax moments with the animation.
As usual we have plot overload, both from what we already know and with what we’re left to guess. The Dorssian Commander Cain is apparently a Valvampire too, who despite every loss in the field seems to see events spinning their way towards the eventual goal where “Our race can finally connect lives together”. Then we have the fact that Kibukawa-sensei (“I’m a physics teacher”) is very possibly in league with Cain, or at the very least working towards his own dubious ends, not to mention the Kaichou spinning out of control and the erectile-dysfunction duo of Raizou and Kyuuma sure to do something stupid, and soon. And let’s not forget out love triangle, still simmering on the back burner waiting to be brought to the table. Subtle and refined this isn’t, but if your taste is for full-flavored fare Kakumeiki Valvrave is proving itself to be quite tasty.