Did he know, or didn’t he? That’s the question that this episode certainly hangs on, but the road leading up to that point was an interesting one indeed. You pretty much know you’re going to get insanity from Valvrave every week, but what separates the really good episodes from the rest is that they play like classic sci-fi anime – relentless pacing, tight-as-a-drum direction and internal consistency. This was definitely one of the good ones, and it felt like it ended five minutes after it started. This show can be ridiculous with the best of them, but I like it best when it also makes sense.
Really, this is a story as old as time – crash-landed behind enemy lines, cut off from support and on your own. Of course this little group of Valvamps has a secret weapon on their side, L-Elf. It might be asking a lot to accept the coincidence that for all the vastness of the Earth, they crashed walking-distance from L-Elf’s training grounds at Karlstein Academy – but if you couldn’t suspend disbelief to some extent, you’ve probably been watching the wrong series.
Everything that happens in this episode follows a tried-and-true form, and does it very well. We have the calm before the storm as the heroes hide away and prepare to fight for their lives, Marie’s introspection about just what’s going on with Haruto, and the plan being formulated. That plan involves taking over a Dorssian warship and using that to escape Dorssia, and it’s Saki and Akira that Coffee chooses for the mission – Akira because “only she” has the skills to make it work, which suggests some serious hacking is going to be required.
Meanwhile, the first clue that something was seriously off with Marie (not that we couldn’t figure out a Valvrave character with amnesia was going to have a wild past) comes when she snoops around Haruto’s cockpit (that sounded dirty) looking for clues as to his mysterious healing powers, and is recognized by the Valvrave OS (you can call her Pino). In fact, Pino is remarkably talkative and acts like an old friend (from 5 years ago, in fact) – but one which Marie of course doesn’t remember. Meanwhile L-Elf, with Akira and Saki in tow, finds what he was likely looking for – two cadets on patrol, who manage to wound Saki but who are no match for L-Elf himself. His plan – have Akira and Saki take over their bodies and infiltrate the Dorssian base, leading the adult soldiers on-hand into his trap.
Also meanwhile, Dog and Thunder are doing battle with the Dorssian IDEAL on patrol in the vicinity, with Haruto clearly expected to step in once they’d done their job. But Haruto is having the talk with Marie – during which all I could think was “this is a really bad time to be having this conversation”. L-Elf obviously agrees, as he promptly shoots Marie in the forehead to give Haruto a little shove. Always shooting first and asking questions later, is L-Elf, and it’s a pretty shocking moment – though it’s not altogether surprising when Marie turns out not to be dead at all. Again that question, did L-Elf know that Marie was… what – a Valvampire, if indeed that’s what she is? I certainly don’t out it past L-Elf to have shot someone he deemed useless simply as a means to get Haruto to move his ass, but likewise it wouldn’t be out-of-character for him to have figured out the truth before anyone else in the cast.
We’ve certainly been left with an interesting scenario now. L-Elf’s plan has worked to an extent, though relying on Akira’s composure in a crisis seems to be asking for trouble. But did he anticipate the presence of Yama Arashi in the area, or is that a wild card not even L-Elf has a trump for? I like the way L-Elf’s past and that of his cohorts has become an increasingly important part of the story, which each episode teasing out a little more about their private lives and the way they became what they are. As for Marie, I get the feeling she’s fundamentally different from the other students-turned-pilots – and the way Pino reacted to her was certainly a first. Might Marie be of the same species herself? It doesn’t seem possible, but I’m not going to put any plot twist past this series.