Kakumeiki Valvrave – 16

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Not for the first time, Valvrave the Liberator has gotten into a serious groove.

This series is one that seems to run on momentum more than most: not just the narrative drive that makes the best episodes really hum, but for 2-3 episode stretches – almost as if the story is written in blocks of that length.  It’s never been able to sustain it but this season is off to a very good start, offering some of the best material yet.  This ep is another example of the series transcending the campy “so bad it’s good” limitations and being just plain good.  Damn good.

There’s a lot to like here, but one thing that strikes me is the impression that somebody on the staff is paid exclusively to come up with gloriously hokey one-liners.  Seriously, “Shut up and enjoy the scenery” – how great is that?  Like “Moses”, “Coffee and Sugar” and all the others what makes these sound bytes so great is that they’re all perfectly in the moment.  Every time L-Elf does something truly psychotic – and now we know he indeed thought he was shooting Maria in the head for the crime of distracting Haruto – he comes up with a nugget of pure gold to remind us why he’s one of the best characters of the year.

There’s lots of classic Valvrave angst happening all over the place, and the situation is a real mess.  Just look at poor Saki – not only has she been raped by berserker Haruto and forced by bad writing to act like she was enjoying it, but now she’s been shotacon kissed by A-Drei.  Not many girls can say that?  And she’s stuck behind enemy lines to boot.  Dog and Thunder very nearly got themselves toasted by the Dorssians’ new “Kirschbaum” demi-Valvrave hybrids.  It’s a mess, but nothing compares to what poor Maria had to deal with.

I never paid too much attention to Maria to begin with, but you learn after watching this show far a while that one of the things it’s really good at is finding ways for everyone who shows up to be important to the plot without it ever seeming forced.  The explanation for Maria’s surviving L-Elf’s assassination attempt is the Occam’s Razor one – she was Unit One’s original pilot, the “test pilot” as Pino calls her.  The problem?  Her “limiter is broken” – which seems to mean that as she pilots the Valvrave and it feeds on her “runes”, she loses her memories, oldest first.  That’s why she was taken out of the program in the first place, though just how she got to Sakimori afterwards (she doesn’t remember, naturally) is an interesting question.

It’s impossible – if you feel anything positive for this series at all – not to feel sympathy for the plight Maria was put in this week.  Dog and Thunder were down, the muggles were in custody, and Haruto was trapped by the massive explosion caused by L-Elf’s booby trap and Dorssian rockets and unable to reach the Valvrave.  Her choice was to let her friends die or to pilot Unit One herself, knowing she’d lose memories for every second she did so – and she did what you knew she would, despite Pino’s pleas not to (of course L-Elf was urging her forward).  And what a job she did – it’s clear Maria was synced to the unit in a way none of the other pilots have been, because she brought out its full potential and pretty much paid waste to the entire Dorssian fleet.  But it came at a terrible cost – seemingly even higher than the terrible one Maria was willing to pay.

Is she really dead this time?  Pino’s “Sayonara” would seem to indicate so – you’d think she’d know – and if so, it’s one of the sadder and more heroic anime deaths in ages, and out of nowhere too.  Her sacrifice certainly improved the situation, allowing L-Elf’s plan for Akira to hijack the transport to work, but as mentioned Saki is still behind enemy lines in her borrowed body, alongside A-Drei.  The wrinkle is “The Royalists”, who played a role in the episode in several ways.  It was the murder of a Royalist squad-mate that caused L-Elf to scribble his message on the cave wall, and as the transport is escaping it receives a message purporting to be from Dorssian Royalists offering their support.  The internal politics of Dorssia always seemed likely to play a large role before the series was through, and we seem to have reached that point now.

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9 comments

  1. R

    Great episode, and I hope to see more powerful moments like this as the season goes on.

    I don't think that Maria is dead. She's in either a comma, a vegetative state or is now a new born baby.

  2. t

    I think she is dead. it was heroic sacrifice, and the farewell from Vlavrave-tan (pino?) mark it as goodbye from her. besides..it would be boring if no one will die.
    even the previous season there was a girl who died there. also Shoko's friend or something.
    the interesting question is who will survive besides Saki. and the blond guy.
    my guess is that Haruto will die sacrificing himself. we can see he is starting to be like Marie that way or another. he never talks about Shoko..almost like she isn't existed. I wonder how different the effect on the rune will be on him.

    if someone is alive it might be the royalist L-elf killed when he was a child.
    they also mentioned the old-royal people when Akira hijacked the system. so..I wouldn't be surprise by something in that area.

    that way or another, Valvrave's momentum has returned completely. it'll be bigger from now on untill the climax battle.

  3. K

    I don’t think Marie is dead. I think however that she is now a vegetable – not capable of the most basic of function. Alive but not truly alive.

    TQ

  4. p

    Hey Enzo,

    I don't know if you already know this, but the subs for the last batch of Space Battleship Yamato 2199 episodes have just come out. You should watch these last four episodes if you haven't already. I recall you saying that you really liked the show. With the show being over, do you think you could maybe do a series review of the show? I'm sure your readers will appreciate it.

    By the way, sorry if this post felt completely out of the blue to you. I didn't know where else to post it.

  5. I'd like to do that, but it's going to be a while before I find the time. I will get to it at some point.

  6. G

    SB Yamato was easily one of the best series of the last few years. The 26th episode was finally subbed. What an amazing story.

  7. s

    This series has limited shouko's screen time like crazy; although it has tried to make up for it by showing how important she is to certain characters of the show like Marie, Akira, and to a lesser extent (at least in recent eps), Haruto. Every thing has become so sullen this season, from the characters, to the slightly darker color palette being used, that i cant see nothing but a bitter end coming for many of these characters. Even Shouko, who was so cheerful and peppy, has lost those ebullient traits, with her drifting away on a personal level from her friends, and most importantly Haruto. Again, i can only see a bittersweet ending coming (perhaps more bitter than sweet) and everything is going to go to hell in the final few eps.

    In regards to Marie, I found myself more sympathetic about the act of her sacrificing herself for her friends rather than her character as a whole. I kinda wished we got more character depth from her in the past season like illustrating to the viewers how important her spending time with the cast was or hints of emotional turmoil about eating up at her (even though she would mostly have been hiding it behind her usual bored-looking expression). Still i am for the most part satisfied with what we got because it was still good.

  8. H

    "That's why she was taken out of the program in the first place, though just how she got to Sakimori afterwards (she doesn't remember, naturally) is an interesting question." Well, given the reveal last season that the school itself was a cover for testing Valvrave pilots (heck even L-Elf had seemed surprised that there were so many people in the school with the right skill set) I'm betting Marie was placed there both to keep an eye out for any long lasting effects and in case they could never find a new pilot who was just as good. Although now I wonder, perhaps Haruto's frenzies were artificially created later on (in the program) so that they wouldn't have another pilot risk becoming a vegetable each time they piloted it, this way he's stealing other people's runes.

  9. f

    that was heartbreaking to watch marie giving herself up for the promise of making new memories. I can't help but think that her death has to have some sort of ramifications…perhaps this opens up a new line of inquiry on how the students were selectively chosen and groomed as valvrave pilots?

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