As we get closer to the end of this series one truth is certainly emerging – Valvrave is suffering. It doesn’t seem that any of the good guys are immune to it – dying, losing parents, being raped by friends in vampire mode, slowly getting your memories sucked dry by an alien Hoover until you expire, losing the love of your life who you’ve been chasing since childhood. Being a protagonist in this series isn’t a pretty job. I’ve opined before that this is the sort of show that could go full-on tragic for an its ending (writer Okouchi Ichiro certainly isn’t afraid of tragedy) and it seems more and more a realistic possibility with each passing week.
This was definitely a step-back episode in terms of action, but not in emotional gravity. L-Elf set the tone: rather than go off on a rage-induced spree of violence, he retreated literally and figuratively into a shell. He holed himself up inside a storage room and obsessively searched for where he’d gone wrong, what he could have done to save Lieselotte – and found nothing. It might seem out of character but generally speaking, Valvrave has been more thoughtful and restrained this season so I think it sort of fits. It certainly is the case that L-Elf’s motivation has almost entirely been driven by Lieselotte, and losing it has rendered him effectively useless to Sakimori Academy and its cause, for now anyway.
Again choosing the quiet and somber approach over bombast, Valvrave turned to politics as the battlefield this week. Shouko has been busy in the absence of the others, working behind the scenes to get Dorssia condemned internationally and try to force the world into helping take back JIOR. Politics is every bit the dangerous game warfare is, and even more treacherous – and it’s easy to see that this isn’t going to end well for Module 77’s plucky underdogs. Much of this is framed through the device of Barnet, a cynical journalist with the highest-rated new show on the net – thanks in no small part to his coverage of the Sakimori rebellion.
Barnet is an interesting character (and an excellent character design – as someone who grew up watching American TV news, I can say that Barnet really looks the part) – this series is very good at making characters without much screen-time interesting. Even as he exploits the students for his own career it’s clear he feels a certain sentimental attachment to them, though not at all clear that it’s enough to motivate him to do anything more than pity them. It’s his brief interview with Haruto that’s the most interesting – he asks if Haruto doesn’t see himself as Don Quixote, with Dorssia as one giant windmill to be tilted. If you’ve read Don Quixote (shame on you if you haven’t) you know how it ends, and judging from Haruto’s reaction he knows at least the gist of it. Then again, Barnet also says “All the successful revolutionaries I’ve known had one thing in common: they were naive.” Does he think Haruto is too naive, or not naive enough?
Things come to a head when Shouko manages to attract an international conference to Module 77 to address the JIOR problem. The first thing that struck me was that gathering all the free world’s leaders in one place was a very bad idea and I thought that’s where this was going, especially after we saw the Committee of 101 declare that they’d lost patience with those annoying kids and needed to silence them once and for all. This impression is further strengthened when Barnet tells his team (minus his young producer, who’s missing) to bug out because he’s gotten a tip that “this is going to get ugly”, and the rescued JIOR scientists mysteriously disappear.
But once again, Valvrave chooses quiet despair over spectacle – to a point. And the point is the blade that runs a shackled Saki clean through on the webcast that the Magius interrupts the conference with. This is an interesting approach – rather than attack head-on the Committee (via their Dorssian puppet Amadeus) strikes at the heart of public opinion by outing Saki as a Valvampire. It’s funny to hear one monster calling out another, but the point is made – and even the vast majority of Sakimori students (who weren’t in-the-know) are horrified. This would seem to undercut the JIOR cause politically to an almost total extent, but then there’s Saki herself – it seemed as if there was remarkably little concern over her when the others arrived back home (indeed, I never heard her name mentioned until she appeared on-screen), but she’s in a world of hurt. The only ray of light I see is A-Drei, who seems to have a certain sympathy for Saki – indeed, there are growing signs that the surviving members of Yama Arashi (minus the utterly vapid Q-Vier) are questioning their loyalties in light of H-Neun’s apparent murder and the clues he left behind. As the stirrings of revolution rumble through Dorssia, it may be that the hope to bring down the Magius comes not from the Quixotic outsiders, but from within.