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 J
iorapan 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.