Kakumeiki Valvrave – 21

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It’s probably never a good idea to let yourself believe there are things Kakumeiki Valvrave won’t do.

I made mention that last week’s episode was a relatively low-key one by Kakumeiki Valvrave standards, choosing gravity and emotional reflection to a much greater degree than this series usually does.  Well, anyone who’s watched enough anime knows what that usually means, especially with a show as serially demented as this one – and to no one’s surprise (certainly not mine) it turns out Valvrave was just saving up the crazy and brutal for a truly super-sized dose this week.  The only thing that might be surprising is that it was able to deliver so much insanity in an episode with so little L-Elf.

Why is it that Valvrave keeps putting me in mind of poker analogies?  This is a riverboat gambler of an anime, like a poker player who never bluffs.  You let yourself think “he couldn’t possibly have the flush” so you call the bet – and he turns over the two spades he needs.  That’s Valvrave – there’s no bluff, just bombast. And in addition to never bluffing Valvrave is always raising the stakes, going all-in – this is a show that’s been pot-committed (and probably should have been just plain committed) from the first episode and has never really looked back.

So here’s my first question – was Barnet (Sakaguchi Shuuhei) in league with the Magius all along, or was he a tool merely used by them?  In either case this amounts to a masterpiece of political sleight-of-hand by Cain – in effect he and the Magius outed themselves, but managed to cast the entire thing as the doings of JIOR and themselves as the braver defenders of humanity.  Willingly or not Barnet’s reporting inside The Phantom (where his producer was one of the victims of the rune-harvesting operation, which doesn’t necessarily absolve him of complicity) was the key that opened the door to Cain’s plan, and this was an instance where the secrecy Haruto and the others employed about what was really going on with the Valvraves came back to bite them, hard.

Another good question would be just how much of what was about to transpire the ARUS president knew going into this conference.  We know he’s in league with the Magius, but what seems most likely is that he saw where the Fuehrer was headed and did a good job of improving – indeed, seeing this as a golden opportunity to rid himself and the Committee of a potential threat once and for all.  There are still long-term problems for the Magius with this plan – even if they aren’t themselves identified as monsters I’m sure they would have preferred that the mere existence of a non-human element have been kept secret – but under the circumstances it was clearly a case of choosing the lesser of two evils (or the greater, depending on how you look at it).

Way back in episode 2 I noted that Valvrave seemed like a sort of wish-fulfilment alternate history, where instead of being allied with the Nazis Jiorapan was a plucky and fiercely independent center of freedom and ingenuity.  I don’t believe that any less now than I did then, and there’s a sense of martyrdom here as JIOR is caught between the corrupt and duplicitous ARUS and the abjectly evil Dorrsia, an obvious hybrid of Nazi Germany and the communist USSR.  But Valvrave has proved itself to be solidly rooted in modern Japanese cynicism too, as the more of JIOR’s backstory is revealed the more ugly and venal it appears.  The citizens are the victims – they’re idealistic and brave and resourceful – but their leaders have been using them in a way that’s no less evil than what the leadership of Dorssia of indeed the Committee of 101 have been up to.  And now most of the them have paid the ultimate price for the moral failures of their old leaders – and the inexperience and naiveté of their new ones.

The upshot of all this is that despair and death are everywhere.  The ARUS president isn’t content with anything less than the murder of every child on Module 77, and his stormtroopers do a good job of trying to meet that goal in some of the most graphic brutality of the anime year.  He and Amadeus declare a new “Dorso-ARUS alliance” to meet the “threat” of Module 77 and the monsters it’s been hiding.  Worst of all, though, is the way the students turn on Haruto and the others once they see Barnet’s report and the ARUS troops start shooting.  Iori – who’s just seen her father sucked dry of runes – leads the charge, and after she lures Haruto onto the shuttle the students will eventually use to escape she turns a gun on him, shooting him through the heart.  The greatest blow of all, though, is that Shouko herself turns on Haruto once she sees the proof with her own eyes that he’s no longer human – especially given that he’s started to lose his memories of her as his runes start to run dry – and agrees to turn him over to ARUS in exchange for safe passage.

If there was any part of the episode that didn’t really work for me, that was it – I know what she saw was pretty damning but it seemed quite out-of-character for Shouko to turn on Haruto even so.  Not to mention the fact that any idiot would have known the ARUS president wouldn’t follow through on any promises he made – it more or less felt like the dreaded stupid stick was waved around pretty liberally in order to facilitate the plot.  That said, it was still an effective gut-punch – especially when Inazuka becomes the latest addition to what’s becoming an alarmingly impressive body count (though he leaves no body), sacrificing himself so that the others can escape (including possibly Coffee and Sugar, though their status isn’t 100% clear).  Inazuka was always on the fringe of the story but his death was still significantly impactful, coming on the heels of being called a monster by Iori.  In a sense he sacrificed himself for Haruto and Shouko specifically, though given what we know about Haruto’s condition and where it inevitably leads, as well as he and Shouko’s conspicuous absence from the flash-forwards, it seems very likely that will have been in vain.

You have to look pretty hard to find any sources of hope in Valvrave lately, but if there is any it seems to lie in the remnants of A-Drei’s old squad.  L-Elf remains completely apathetic in the wake of Lieselotte’s death, but A-Drei himself is not – in addition to being Saki’s probable path to survival, he hasn’t lost interest in L-Elf for a moment.  X-Eins too is wavering in the wake of H-Neun’s death and what he suspects about it – and for that matter, we haven’t seen a body either so H-Neun himself can’t totally be counted out.  Something is going to re-start L-Elf’s engine sooner or later, and it’s seemed to me for quite some time that Yama Arashi (with the possible exception of the hopelessly dense and single-minded Q-Vier) are likely to end this series once again fighting for the same side, and probably side-by-side.

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Valvrave - 21 -26 Valvrave - 21 -27 Valvrave - 21 -28
Valvrave - 21 -30 Valvrave - 21 -31 Valvrave - 21 -32
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18 comments

  1. s

    See kids…this is what happens when you tell lies. I got some serious end of evangelion vibes watching that purge…as much as I thought the ep did a great job painting an atmosphere of despair and brutality….how events transpired to that point where a bit.too.quick and forced…and yes I COMPLETELY agree with the whole shoko selling Naruto out being completely out of her character…I felt that they tried to push that tension between them a little too hard and made me just exclaim BS when she betrayed him.

    Still, a part of this series is Shoko n Haruto's journey of trying to be together and I guess this was meant to be the major hurdle they need to overcome..now dat Haruto has declared that he wont stop loving her…sigh…they're both gonna die..that's what I see

  2. s

    *haruto*….stupid phone

  3. I was getting Eva vibes in this episode too, no doubt.

  4. c

    Glad I'm not the only one who thought Shouko got handed the Idiot Ball with this episode. Did she really think that ARUS would let them get away after the way they were gunning down the other (obviously not immortal) students? I guess this is where the episode title comes into play. If Haruto had agreed to L-elf's plan and come clean about the Valvraves so that the burden of having to supply runes was shared, things probably wouldn't have turned out they way they did.

    I'm not sure if it was just the version I watched but was there no preview for next week's episode? Here's hoping that L-elf's plan making ability makes a comeback soon.

  5. Z
  6. M

    I think it's outdone that.This had way more to it than a massacre.How part of the students turned on their protectors was the real tragedy here.

  7. Z

    The similarities between them are greater than the differences. I recall the Black Knights turning on their protector, again thanks to information being leaked by one of the opposing sides. Series composition is handled by the same person, so that accounts for something.

  8. Let's not spoil Code Geass for someone who hasn't seen it yet and might want to.

  9. K

    Can anyone really blame Shouko? She was out of the loop. She was given limited information. From her point of view, the lies that those Magius made up might as well be the truth. I can understand her and truth be told, her reaction is absolutely reasonable.

    TQ

  10. A

    Agreed. What most people don't want to admit is that when shit goes down, sometimes they act like total idiots. The fear and panic takes hold and everything you thought you knew is obliterated. A good example is Life of Pi: A vegan and a lover of 'all god's creatures', Pi would never once think of killing and eating a living thing. However, once he's shipwrecked on a small boat and hunger sets in, he breaks all his rules to survive his situation. I see this as a reflection of what happened with Shoko and the others: they're willing to do anything to survive, even murder/betray in cold blood.

    Like I said: When shit goes down, most people react in the most selfish, inhumane ways possible if it means they might get out of that situation alive. There are too many parallels in history to discount this little tidbit, imho.

  11. d

    Yes, people can be idiots, and sometimes they grow up and / or be trained to behave better than idiots in extreme situations, but I will still call them on being idiots.

    Shoko was, in another word's, given the idiot ball this episode. Supposedly she was representing their nation in multiple stressful situations with a cool head before. Unfortunately, for the purpose of plot, the only person with a functional brain this episode was L-Elf (other side being Cain, and possibly a few others notwithstanding), so she should've behaved a little more skeptically or trusting if she were consistent with her character.

    She was not. She turned full blown drama batshit cry-fest 'how dare you, I don't love you anymore and I'm leaving' jump-ship.

    Japanese drama likes to do this tidbit, because it entertains them to see the moment of heightened emotion confession, but not because it is internally consistent with the character.

  12. S

    I agree it was a little out of character for Shoko, but given the circumstances I think this worked out. Along with the massacre going on right in front of her, the people she was "leading" turned on her to capture Haruto. But the fact that Haruto came back to life, didn't remember their past together, and lied to her gave her the first signs of doubt she's had in Haruto. She irrationally trusted Arus tried giving him (who seems to not be the Haruto she knows and loves that also knew about the phantom) over to have even a chance of saving what lives she could.

  13. M

    Shouko should have shot Haruto herself – then thrown him into space. He's a complete dunce, especially now that L-F is just a generic emofag.

    Counting on Saki x A-Drei to save then from the ARUSES.

  14. H

    "Way back in episode 2 I noted that Valvrave seemed like a sort of fulfillment alternate history, where instead of being allied with the Nazis Jiorapan was a plucky and fiercely independent center of freedom and ingenuity." Completely agree, I've been thinking that since the first episode back in the spring (especially when they started bringing out the Space-Russian-Nazi! imagery) and in a weird way it fits in with a number of other anime I've seen. It's late where I am so I can't think of any really good examples but I remember what killed Rideback for me was the overt "omg the Americans are teh evilz and the Japanese are being persecuted!1!" mood to it which I've seen in other shows too. I've heard that Japanese otaku weirdly enough are often more conservative (just like how hardcore bronies in the US bizarrely seem to lean more libertarian) which I've also heard tend to be the staunchest supporters of the idea of rearming Japan. And looking at what the Japanese government is doing now that's rather alarming….

  15. I must confess I don't find that to be true from what I've seen. There are certainly some right-wing anime like Majikoi, but in general the industry is hostile to the right and the right (like Ishihara) is hostile to the industry. And I think that's mostly reflected in the fanbase, which if anything is pretty politically disconnected but from my experience definitely runs more progressive than the country as a whole.

  16. Z

    Sunrise is really fond of that theme.

  17. H

    Hmm, perhaps I've just been seeing more Sunrise mecha anime than I thought, although I'm still serious about that brony comment. XD

  18. J

    Wow is all I can say on what is going on. If this show can end before the year is up, it will definitely run away with mecha of the year, as well as making me think on some other categories as well.

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