There’s a truth in advertising element to Kakumeiki Valvrave in that for all its balls-out plot overload, it’s basically mixing and matching mecha and sci-fi cliches rather than reimagining them or creating new ones. So when it hints that “Dog and Thunder“, Kyuuma and Raizou are likely to follow their testosterone-fueled bliss and do something stupid (let’s be honest) and climb into the cockpit of a Valvrave, you can pretty well they’re going to do so with extreme prejudice. And so it was this week.
In the larger picture, the last two episodes for me have really been about testing whether Valvrave can succeed as a conventional series. As much fun as it was, there was no possible way the sheer lunacy of the first 7 eps could continue for two cours – sooner or later the series had to settle into a groove and try to succeed with a semblance of a conventional narrative. I would judge last week’s ep a glorious success – easily the best Valvrave so far – and this one more of a mixed bag, though with the majority of the returns on the positive side of the ledger.
Part of the issue is that at least for me, Kyuuma and Raizou aren’t quite as interesting as some of the other characters in the cast. Even by Valvrave standards Kyuuma’s grieving and wounded male pride and Raizou’s comic-book delinquency are pretty perfunctory. Indeed, while their own ascent (descent?) into being Valvrave pilots was neither surprising or emotionally involving the most interesting element was the way L-Elf (as usual) had events dancing on the end of a string. With yet another Dorssian attack underway – this time against a JIRO newly fortified by L-Elf’s defensive modifications – my initial reaction when Haruto and Saki went chasing after A-Drei was that it was an obvious trap and they were being lured away, and how odd it would be for L-Elf to miss that.
Well of course, he didn’t – he knew full well what was happening, he just didn’t bother to tell Haruto. In fact it seems clear now that getting Dog and Thunder into cockpits was one of his main goals all along, which makes perfect sense – the more Valvraves he has under his command, the more power he has to wield against Dorssia (or whoever he chooses). The Dorssians are certainly gluttons for punishment – they keep getting spanked and coming back for more, and the casualty rate was off the charts this week, including the flagship with it’s requisite duo of middle-aged Commander and hot-chick second-in-command. Kyuuma killing hundreds if not thousands of pilots as part of his noble quest to revenge Aina is one of those things it’s probably best not to think too much about, to be honest – Valvrave has more than a few of those, so it’s nothing new.
On the conspiracy front, there are some developments which again far exceed Kyuuma and Rizou giving up their humanity in interest-level. Most importantly L-Elf has officially put his name on Haruto’s mailbox, and as part of his
life partner roommate duties is punching Haruto in the gut whenever his valvampiric urges strike him. Interestingly when Haruto had that attack the Valvrave A.I. said “Onaka ga suitta” – “I’m hungry”. It seems Haruto is the only one having these attacks – at least we’ve seen no one else show symptoms and Saki has been a valvampire for a while now. Cain makes reference to the Valvraves having “reproduced”. We also get the juicy tidbit from Kibukawa-sensei (after L-Elf shoots a gun out of his hand, with which he appeared about to shoot one of the Valvraves) that everyone in module 77 – teachers, students, staff – was there for the purpose of the covert Valvrave program. Not a surprise, but it’s interesting to note than Rion-sensei – if Kibukawa is to be trusted on this – was the only one not part of the military. Why would you need one teacher in a school that’s a front for an experimental weapons program that isn’t part of the program? It’s an odd little quirk that I’m sure we’re going to hear more about in the weeks to come, especially since Valvrave has already shown a strong tendency to make minor characters more important than you think at first they’re going to be.