As I’m wont to do, let me get the niggling out of the way early so I can focus on the good stuff – and there was a ton of good stuff (and better) in this episode of Kakumeiki Valvrave. Why the hell didn’t L-Elf just shoot Q-Vier (note: I’ve wanted to do that since the first time he appeared on-screen)? It seemed like a perfect Raiders of the Lost Ark setup there – except L-Elf wouldn’t have even had to pull out his handgun as Indy did, he was already using it. I can only conclude that he actually took the time to put his gun away before taking out his knife to duel Q-Vier. Whaa?
That done, I can move on to the rest of the episode – which was one of the best in a season-and-a-half of Valvrave insanity. That gun incident wasn’t the only “Raiders” moment for me, because the ep struck me as a sort of combination of “Raiders”, Zetsuen no Tempest and Don Giovanni. I have a weakness for anime that have a sense of scope and grandiosity, it’s true, and Valvrave is proving itself to have a real operatic quality to it just as Zetsuen did. The soundtrack is even reflecting this more and more as the series progresses.
As I’ve said before Valvrave has exceeded the expectations I had for it – I knew it could be very entertaining but I didn’t expect it to hold together as well as it has. My track record with the second-split cour/sequel of shows I liked but didn’t love is pretty consistent – I almost never like them as much the second time around and often don’t find enough to even keep me watching to the finish. It’s been just the opposite here – Valvrave has grown up. It’s still absurdly expansive but now it (mostly) makes sense, and we’re getting some genuinely compelling character moments to boot.
This week featured the same nice balance of action progressing on several fronts while still being coherent and easy to follow. Cain has lamped out L-Elf’s plan (this conflict has increasingly cast itself as a battle of wits and wills between these two), forcing him to drop up Lieselotte with Haruto while he improvises an escape route using a drawbridge over the (I assume) Danube. Renbokouji has increasingly asserted himself as a surprisingly competent interim leader, holding the team together and issuing sensible commands while he waits for his Prince Charming to come save him. Saki has managed to de-shota herself and land back in her true body (let’s play “caption the photo” with this one), but A-Drei catches her mid-bite, and is understandably anxious to know what he’s just witnessed.
The second half of the episode is a mix of pure adrenaline and heartbreak, as L-Elf goes on an Indiana Jones-like motorbike rampage to try and lower the drawbridge while the team inside the museum struggles to hold on until the Valvraves arrive for backup. As this is happening Lieselotte is giving Haruto her life story and in the process, valuable intel on just what he is and what the stakes of this battle are. She’s a Magius, a being without physical form who was part of a party that crashed on Earth (just as Pino and Plue. are) “hundreds of years” earlier (the whole thing with L-Elf would never have worked, given the age difference). While the others eventually formed the “Committee of 101” to secretly wield power and ensure a food supply of runes, she rebelled and tried to establish friendly relations with the humans – for which she was punished with the “Curse of Diffusion”, leaving her eternally on the edge of death from rune depletion.
At this point of the episode it’s already pretty clear that Lieselotte’s story is going to end tragically. In fact it’s only Haruto’s insistence that keeps her from staying behind to begin with (we actually get a rare Shouko – remember her? – sighting as Haruto internally compares his situation with that of L-Elf and Lieselotte), and it’s a good thing, as it’s her presence that allows the shuttle to escape. But it’s at the cost of her own life, as she expends her remaining runes in order to repair the damage Q-Vier’s “bigger knife” did to the hydrogen booster (no, I don’t really know how she does it) and goes the way of Marie. The body count is really starting to pile up – Marie, H-Neun, Lieselotte – not to be alarmist, but we’re pretty consistently losing one per episode now. My dominant thought here is that there’s going to be hell to pay for this – L-Elf seems to have been pushing himself forward entirely out of his obsession with Lieselotte and with that gone, I’m not sure who’s in more danger – his enemies or the “allies” who are actually stuck on the same ship with him.
Who’s next to go? Well, the flash-forwards tell us who it isn’t, and we can assume the likes of Haruto aren’t going anywhere this soon. There’s still plenty of drama – Saki is behind enemy lines with A-Drei (nary a mention of her on the fleeing shuttle, though they had plenty else to worry about in the moment). I must confess I love the way the man-crush for L-Elf on the part of Haruto and Renbokouji is depicted here – he’s like their knight in shining armor, despite all the shocking brutality they’ve witnessed from him. Is all this going to end well? I can’t imagine it will – the whole thing with the Valvraves just seems like a curse generally speaking, tainting anyone who touches it. We know who’ll be left standing, but I suspect the road to get there is going to be paved with tragedy – and I’m surprised at how much I’ve come to care about that.