To say this is a tough episode to “grade” is putting it mildly. On the one hand, I think it was the most conventionally successful Valvrave episode in the entire series, apart from the stellar episode 8. On the other, if – as many defenders claimed – the true measure of the series would be in the way it handled the aftermath of the shocking event last week, I think it thoroughly failed. So I guess all you can do is figure out what your priorities are with a show like this one, and go from there.
It may be an illustration of the Law of Unintended Consequences, but I think Kakumeiki Valvrave fundamentally altered the relationship with some viewers (certainly with me) by ending last week’s episode the way it did. It no longer seems so easy to laugh and embrace everything in good fun in classic “Dare to be Stupid” Valvrave fashion. As a result, even though this ep was full of classic Valvrave bakayarou antics, it didn’t make me smile nearly as often as it would have two weeks ago. We had that hanging over everything, and while the episode teased that it was going to confront it, it didn’t do so until the very end – and even then, in a classically stupid Valvrave way.
Why is that important? Maybe it isn’t to some (that seems clear in the reaction to episode 10) but when you toss something like that out there, you better not drop the ball in dealing with it. The issue is not that Valvrave introduced rape as a plot point, or that rape should be out of bounds for anime. The problem is that the two most widespread justifications for rape are “she was asking for it” and “if it’s inevitable just lie back and enjoy it” – and Valvrave lobbed a fat hanging curveball right over the plate for those myths. And having Haruto propose doesn’t confront the issue – it just trivializes it. Of the two I have less problem with Haruto’s reaction: yes, I do think he’s largely not at fault, because it’s clear he was effectively not in control of his own body at the time, and he seems as horrified by what happened as he should be. My problem is and always has been with the way Saki has been depicted – starting with her actions during the vile act itself, and her subdued reaction this week. That she was neither as angry or grief-stricken as she should have been only ties into the whole repugnant “consensual rape” vibe, the stink of which is all over what happened.
But that’s done – the genie can’t be put back in the bottle, and Valvrave has punted on the chance to redeem itself in the aftermath. It certainly redeemed itself with a very good episode (though some might say that’s like saying the 40’s were a great decade apart from the war and all). As with episode 8, th e series proved it can deliver a taut, action-packed and coherent episode from start to finish. This time around Module 77 is approaching the Moon, and you know Dorssia was going to make one more stab at upsetting the apple cart before they got there (and Shouko’s blathering about how wonderful everything is going to be doesn’t help). We have the usual Dorssian setup – disposable cannon-fodder fleet commander with hot chick attaché – and the usual L-Elf prescient planning. The twist this time is that Commander Wartenburg (heh) has Shouko’s father as a hostage on-board the flagship, and he’s using that as leverage to try and get the so-called Prime Minster to hand over the Valvraves once and for all.
This element of the episode was very well-done indeed – hardly original, but nevertheless very effective. It does seem that this was one event event L-Elf didn’t see coming, and I loved the way he fingered and even cocked his handgun as he was standing behind Shouko, watching her wrestle with this terrible decision – allow Haurto to use his Harikiri blade, wiping out the enemy and saving Module 77 but killing her father at the same time? It was a reminder that L-Elf is by no means domesticated – he’s a cold and brilliant killing machine, and everyone under his sway is alive only because they’re useful to him.
I also like the way the story is going with Renboukouji Satomi, whose growing sense of panic as events spiral out of his control is highly entertaining. His relationship with Rainbow just gets stranger and more unsettling the more it comes into focus, and it becomes clearer just how messed up she is. L-Elf makes use of him to direct events on the bridge while he accompanies Shouko to negotiate with Wartenburg – because Satomi is good at following a script, and L-Elf has idiot-proof directions for any eventuality. But apparently not every eventuality, as events suddenly go off-script after Haruto wipes out 74% of the fleet (and Sashinami-san). What’s not clear here is whether Cain has, finally, gotten one step ahead of L-Elf – or whether the latter has foreseen even this development and is, as he says, “luring the enemy in to annihilate them”. What is clear is that Yama Arashi is on-board Module 77 and the shit is hitting the fan, and Satomi is at a loss about how to handle it.
If there’s a victim in all this, I suppose it’s Shouko, who genuinely does just seem to want to do the right thing. But she’s made a lot of her own problems too, it seems to me, with her general lack of common sense and often bizarrely placed priorities. It was a bad week for her, indeed – and she doesn’t even know that Haruto has proposed to Saki (not that I suppose she’ll accept – in fact I suspect she’ll insist Haruto not even admit that it happened). We’ve seen characters tested over and over in Kakumeiki Valvrave, but this was certainly the harshest one for Shouko – it’ll be interesting to see if she maintains her “anchor” role in the cast, the bright light for everyone else’s darkness, or whether she makes an extended visit to the shadows herself.