I’ve heard some commentary along the lines that something of the magic of Kyousogiga was lost as soon as it was possible to actually understand most of what was happening. And while I don’t share that view myself, there was moments during the first couple of weeks of the TV airing when it did cross my mind – that exhilarating confusion seemed to be a worthwhile result in and of itself, and losing the sense of mystery somehow a cause for regret. But I think the ONA experience was an altogether different experience than the TV experience – it was a bewildering thrill ride that was a feast for the senses. Now that the story and characters are established and the degree of care with which the series was constructed apparent, I’m enjoying Kyousogiga on a deeper and more profound level.
How does that tie into Valvrave the Liberator? I think it’s undergone an existentially similar type of transition, from the days when it was enjoyable mostly for it’s utterly insane speed-dating with tropes and nonsensical plot twists and camp dialogue, to the present – where it’s working as a traditional and coherent anime sci-fi epic. Did it lose something when the lunacy gave way to competence? Maybe as with Kyousogiga it felt that way briefly, but as with that show I’m now enjoying Valvrave on a completely different level. And let’s be honest, it’s still one of the most balls-out crazy shows on the air – it just makes sense now.
One thing that I find impressive about Valvrave is that now that it’s entered the “tying it all together” phase, it got most of the big stuff right. I’m sure there are nitpicks, but thematically I think the show is pretty consistent, and it turns out that all those plot twists actually fit together pretty well. It’s never been in doubt that L-Elf was basically using Haruto and the Sashinami gang for his own ends – it was only a question of when those ends sufficiently parted with theirs. We may have seen it happen now, as he abandons the others midway through a mission to rescue JIOR-ian prisoners after he discovers that Lieselotte is likely being held in the same compound. In the end, this seems to have been his larger goal all along – to stake out a “place we can run to”, swoop in and rescue her, and run. For now at least it seems that goal still aligns with his allies in a broad sense, but the veneer of trust that was always wafer-thin is pretty much transparent at this point.
There’s a lot of important stuff happening in that old castle complex in Dorssiana (which looks a lot like Vienna to me). The Sashinami kids are trying to steal an old rocket from a military museum, and the JIOR deportees are being held deep underground – the group of scientists who started the Valvrave project. It seems obvious now (though it always did, in truth) that Dorssia’s interest in JIOR was always driven by that project, and it’s also been proven out that Sashinami Academy was indeed in its entirety a cover for the Valvrave program, known as V.V.V. (which of course also means that Shouko’s – remember her? – father was complicit). At the very heart of the conspiracy is Haruto’s father (Seki Toshihiko, adding to his “Narrator” credit), who used his own son as the centerpiece of the experiment. Let’s just say the father-son reunion wasn’t exactly heartwarming (touching portrait of Haruto’s genetic code notwithstanding).
If you’re looking for good guys in this story, they’re few and far-between outside of the kids themselves (and not all of them, either). The scientists may not have intended the Valvraves purely as weapons, but taking the military’s money is the hope of developing a master race of “2nd-Generation primates” isn’t exactly Nobel Prize territory. Dorssia clearly sees the Valvraves strictly as machines of war, and the political conflict in that country is taking on a larger and larger importance in the plot. The military coup of 10 years earlier may have seemingly taken total control of the country, but the Royalists are clearly a major force even now, and just as clearly one with their own nefarious purposes. They seem to be aligned with the Magius – who it might be supposed see both the Royalists and the military dictatorship as tools for their own dreams of avarice. In fact Lieselotte is scolded by Cain for having “betrayed the Magius” – I think it’s entirely possible she has her own nefarious goals that we just haven’t been made privy to yet.
Sadly, the circumstantial evidence is that H-Neun is dead – Q-Vier and X-Eins are certainly acting that way – though he may still be alive and being “harvested” or saved as a potential host body. A-Drei has tracked L-Elf down, but he’s of course about to be betrayed by the young boy he assumes is a Karlstein cadet but is actually Saki. And then there’s L-Elf himself – whose real name is revealed to be Mikhail (or Michael), the clue that tips him off that Lieselotte is in the house. He’ll need the Sashinami gang for a while longer, at least, to aid in their escape – assuming Lieselotte agrees to go with him this time. What’s to be done with those JIOR scientists though, now that the truth is out? If nothing else, stealing them from the Dorssians would set their military back, so it makes sense to rescue them even if they don’t really deserve it.