If only Valvrave would stop being so conservative and really go for it, it might just get somewhere.
I have to say this for Kakumeiki Valvrave – it’s definitely the best one of whatever the hell it is that I’ve seen in a long time.
Seriously – Sunrise really does have the willingness to go balls-to-the-wall crazy like few studios do. It doesn’t always work for me, but in this case whatever the alchemy they have going is, it’s definitely working. I’m not going to put it past these guys to do anything, because there really does seem to be an active effort to incorporate every plot twist not just from their own mecha shows, but every show – and not just from every mecha show, but every sci-fi show. I knew Valvrave had a chance to really fun in a “so bad it’s good” way, but I’ve been surprised at how capable it is of being just plain good.
I still feel that the rape scene in episode 10 was a mistake, and I’m nowhere near satisfied with the way Valvrave has portrayed the aftermath (especially as concerns Saki). But the last couple of eps really have been stellar action sci-fi – beautifully shot, tightly written, and absolutely overflowing with reckless abandon. We start off with another flash-forward (old hat, Valvrave already did that a few weeks ago). This time around Saki is wearing Cain’s insignia and talking to a kid who looks, I must say, an awful lot like L-Elf. It’s Year 211 of the Third Galactic Empire, and while the only thing these time-jumps spoil conclusively is that Saki lives on, the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming that Haruto is dead. It sure sounds that way when Saki talks about him.
Back to the present, Saki quickly spurns Haruto’s proposal and the focus turns to Akira. It feels like it’s been forever since we’ve heard Aoi Yuuki in a meaningful role (at least in the series I watch), and damn, it’s good to have her back. Finally Akira has some meat to chew on, and Aoi doesn’t disappoint – she can do subtle and deep, but few voice actresses can do over-the-top as well as Aoi-san can (which makes her a perfect fit for this show). If you’re going to show Akira as a dysfunctional person, if you’re Valvrave you know you’re really going to pull out all the stops – and this is bullying like we haven’t seen it in ages. I half thought those girls were urinating on her in the toilets at first, the way this series works – but the abuse she took was dramatic enough. And it left her quite the basket case. Her speech about “evolving into a flea” was both classic Aoi and classic Valvrave – manic, crazed, preposterous and entertaining.
It’s been hinted at for a while that Rainbow was going to end up as the next Valvrave pilot, and it sort of makes sense – the cockpit can be another place for her to hide from the world. That the impetus for her to take the plunge should be to save Shouko is a nice turn from the character – she did in fact leave her womb to try and save Shouko from Cain’s poison-gas giga drill breaker (more on that shortly). The subtle-as-a-kick-in-the-nuts irony that Akira said only seconds earlier that she’s rather die than leave her shell and become a non-human aside, I think she’s a very logical candidate to pilot a Valvrave given her personality, and I think she might end up being one of the more interesting ones (Dog and Thunder don’t really do much for me, to be honest). Her first mission is certainly a success – she saves Shouko, and turns the tables – and the drill – on the Dorssians.
As for that drill, we can now add war crimes to the plot threads. WMDs? Yeah, we got those – and in Cain, a world-class A-hole not afraid to use them. He’s also the dude who “taught L-Elf everything he knows” and seems to be the only one capable of surprising him. And his gambit of drilling through Module 77 and releasing poison gas along the way seems to do that, as does his rather clever trick of turning Yama Arashi’s tie-fighters into giant heating elements and “ironing” the Valvraves until they’re too hot to move. Cain definitely has L-Elf’s number, though we still don’t know the full details of just what he is – whatever connection he has to the Valvraves, both it and he have evolved well beyond even Haruto’s connection.
In addition to Rainbow being the mystery pilot, we get another blank filled in for us, and that’s the figure behind the Valvrave OS in the OP. Courtesy a little dongle from Cain’s pocket, we meet Blue – or is it Plue? – the “other” Valvrave OS (Yonaga Tsubasa). Not only does this one talk, but he actually prompts blondie to talk too – she calls him “Onii-san”. That the Valvraves were a living species has been pretty much a foregone conclusion for a while, but details are still sketchy. Cain calls Haruto a “third generation” Valvampire, which I assume makes Cain himself at least a fourth. And he takes immortality to ridiculous extremes, as he displays by laughing derisively (in spirit) at Haruto’s attempt to blast him all the way to Venus before breaking into the cockpit of Valvrave #2 and commandeering it for himself.
As if all that weren’t enough, we can add one more major trope to the pot – an ancient conspiracy. Committee of 300? Illuminati? Freemasons? SEELE? Fight Club? Who knows – but we do know they’re called “Magius” and aren’t afraid to brag about ruling from the shadows. To find out Cain is a member is hardly surprising – but that’s certainly not the case with the President of ARUS. His presence is yet another wild-card to add to the deck as we brace for a second season starting in October. And the preview shots at the end don’t really do much to clarify what to expect. What the hell does “The human experiment was suggested by Tokishima Haruto” mean? You’ll just have to tune in in three months to find out.
I’m not going to go so far as to say I have complete confidence that Kakumeiki Valvrave is going to have a stellar second cour, but this show has continued to surprise me by being more than I expected it to be. With this utterly scattershot approach there’s always the possibility that this thing could go crash and burn in a big way, but so far the series has managed to pull it off (whatever “it” is). It’s a glorious, spectacular train wreck – absurd and completely unrealistic and sometimes downright dumb, but usually damn entertaining. Valvrave is a construction of pieces from all the mecha shows and then some that came before it, but quite unlike any of them – a succession of predictable elements that are collectively unpredictable. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite so… Valvrave. And so far, that’s mostly a good thing.
Season 2 Preview: