Kakumeiki Valvrave – 24 (End) and Series Review

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Having left themselves so much to do in 22 minutes, it really couldn’t have been expected that Sunrise would ace the final.  But I’d certainly give them a passing grade.

Where does one begin to go in describing that episode?  I can’t imagine the bulk of the viewership is going to be satisfied, not so much because of the content of the ep – which I thought was generally quite good – but because of the ending itself.  There’s a lot that seems quite tragic and pointless, but what’s likely to be even more of a disappointment to some is that so much is left unexplained.  There are a couple of real corkers in that department, which I’ll get to shortly.

It isn’t often (though by no means is this the first time) I say this, but I think if the final couple of minutes of the episode had been lopped off – basically everything from the ED credits crawl onwards – the whole ending would have held together better.  In fact, in hindsight I think it would have been better without the timeskip altogether, because things got to a point where we had a memorable and well-done – if very sad – emotional climax, and the audience would have done just fine coming up with the rest in their imaginations.  It’s that last bit – which those flash-forwards necessitated – that raises most of the continuity and character issues.

Things started out very well, with the aftermath of Amadeus’ being outed taking on an interesting turn.  There was a nice Evangelion call-out – “The Magius are in their shadows, and all’s right with the world”.  The Committee of 101’s plan to dismiss the whole incident as a hoax appears to be working well at first, although the ARUS President seems to be taking the opportunity to try and double-cross the Magius and consolidate all power around himself.  Meanwhile the Royalists in Dorssia choose this moment to rise up (wisely, I would say) and a giant war of information and misinformation flares up, throwing the world into chaos.  It’s good stuff.

I liked where things were going with Coffee and Sugar, too.  Cain took to the air in Valvrave 002 – with Plue at its core – and it’s a nasty beast of a machine, proving more than a match for the fast-fading Haruto and Akira, and even the intervention of the remnants of the A-Drei squad less Q-Vier can’t turn the tide.  X-Eins is the first to go, in an attempt at a suicide run to take Cain out in revenge for H-Neun, and it’s A-Drei himself who (at fucking last) takes out the irritating little homonculous Q-Vier (I know it’s not his fault he keeps getting cast in these roles, but no one can do annoying as hell like Kaji Yuuki).  That leaves A-Drei himself as the last man standing – which is a good thing for the Royalists, as he’s also their leader.

The important point is that L-Elf finds Haruto after Cain blows him out of the sky, and suggests that the only way to beat Cain is with a body swap.  I’d been more or less waiting for this moment, and I thought my wild guess about the flash-forwards might be coming to pass, but it seems Haruto’s runes are just as vulnerable even when he’s inside L-Elf’s body.  The swap itself is a classic moment, especially when L-Elf emits a little “Erm!” when Haruto bites him – and Ryouhei Kimura turns in a terrific performance doing Ohsaka Ryouta’s voice during the several minutes Haruto is inside L-Elf’s body.  I like the fact that it was only by combining their powers that these two could defeat Cain, and the reunion of Plue and Pino after Cain is finally put down in a spectacular clash of Valvraves is handled with real elegance.

It can’t be said that Haruto’s death (by my count every male in the series who piloted a Valvrave is dead) is in any way a surprise.  It’s been hinted at in literally every episode, and all the more so in the second cour.  If anything the only surprise is that it was so not unexpected that you thought they might just throw us a curve – but no, it went down exactly as the series has led us to believe.  Truth in advertising, then – and it was a great moment, too, with Haruto waking up without any of his memories, even of his own name.  L-Elf finally acknowledging Haruto’s courage and, more importantly, as a friend was something that needed to happen.  It was a well-earned moment, the high-point of the episode and for me, the ending would have been better if the credits had started a silent roll after Haruto punched L-Elf’s shoulder and expired.

They didn’t, of course.  Some would have complained if they had and no explanations were offered, but I don’t think the postscript really answered any questions anyway – in fact, it added new ones.  Like the whopper – just why, exactly, is Shouko still alive?  Not to mention just who did it with who to give birth to chibi L-Elf – there’s absolutely no indication that L-Elf himself paired up with anyone, and in fact he seems to be officiating at Takahi and Satomi’s wedding (A-Drei catches the bouquet).  There’s also the question of how the relationship with the Valvraves – which now ask “Do you believe in human beings?” – has changed.  Above and beyond all that, though, everyone just seems a bit too happy considering that Haruto has, you know, died for their sins and all.  I know it’s hundreds of years later and you get on with life, but for us it’s only seconds – and it doesn’t feel right to me, somehow. And seeing a room full of busts commemorating the fallen heroes and Shouko wearing Haruto’s flight suit (is she Unit 1’s pilot now, too?) doesn’t change that feeling.

Will there be an OVA or even a third season somewhere down the line to clear some of this up?  It’s certainly not impossible – Valvrave has been a decent if unspectacular seller on Blu-ray – but I’m operating under the assumption that what we see is what we’re going to get.  I really wish there’d been another episode or two because I think that’s all it would have taken to “fix” the ending.  Why?  Because I don’t think the issues are with where we ended up, but how we got there – and unlike many two-cour shows, I don’t look back at Kakumeiki Valvrave and see a lot of time wasted on filler.  The show has been busy and practically every episode has been plot-critical – they just needed one more to finish the job.

I guess, in the end, a mixed-bag of a finale is somehow appropriate for Valvrave the Liberator.  I’m not going to look back on this series as a classic, but it sure was a hell of a lot of fun.  The first cour succeeded mostly because of sheer bombast and an embrace of abject silliness, and the second mostly as a well-produced and tightly-scripted sci-fi thriller, though there were elements of each in both cours.  For me the series had a very impressive growth curve, and as much as I enjoyed the first cour I wouldn’t have believed Valvrave could play it straight as often as it did in the second and still step up its overall game.  This was Sunrise having fun with its own mythology and sensibility, yes, but in a way that was ultimately respectful of the body of work the studio has compiled in this genre over the last four decades.

Sci-fi and mecha are no different from most genres in that they mostly succeed or fail based on characters, and this was a real strong suit for Valvrave.  Not only were the main cast more interesting and colorful that in most series, but the supporting cast was far more relevant and distinct.  I’m not terribly happy with the way most of these character arcs were brought to a conclusion, but they were still a strength of the series.  There were strong moments in the finale – the aforementioned L-Elf-Haurto farewell, and also Saki’s rather ghoulish admission that she was actually glad that Haruto was losing his memories, because it might have leveled the playing field between she and Shouko.  Saki emerged as an appealingly morally ambiguous character early on, but she didn’t have nearly as much of a role in the second season – one of the few respects in which I’d say it trailed the first.   Shouko might be argued to have fared poorly in the second season as well, but I don’t think I’d agree.  She did disappear for a while but in the end she was actually more relevant than Saki, and while I didn’t find her behavior over the last few episodes with respect to Haruto and her decision-making especially admirable, in a way it made her more interesting as a character.

The big draw, of course, was L-Elf and Haruto, with Ryouhei Kimura especially delivering one of his best performances as the former.  Together they formed a sort of mismatched buddy cop team, “Coffee and Sugar” indeed.  Haruto certainly had the more thankless role, but he filled it admirably, never transcending his limitations but gaining a kind of nobility by fighting on despite them.  L-Elf got most of the money shots and best lines – “Shut up and enjoy the scenery” and the like – and it was the fact that he and Haruto were so opposite that made the story of destiny tying the two of them together such an appealing one.  Haruto never got the chance to set things right with Shouko (talk about a doomed romance from the start) but at least he had a final moment with L-Elf to give his journey a kind of apotheosis.

That, then, was Kakumeiki Valvrave.  Alternately spectacular and bizarre, hilarious and absurd, and ultimately a little frustrating.  I think what makes Valvrave work is that yes, it doesn’t take itself too seriously – but it takes itself seriously enough.  That’s why all this matters in the end, because Valvrave recognizes that for all the gloriously cheesy dialogue and mash-up of Sunrise tropes a series like this has to have a certain scale and sense of grandiosity.  Kakumeiki Valvrave may be a kind of deconstruction of both its studio and its genres, but it understands those things encyclopedically, and while having fun with them never makes fun of them.  Both very modern and very old-fashioned, I think Valvrave is a series for people who really understand the history of science-fiction and anime and speak its language.  Flaws and all, it’s a great ride and I’m glad I stayed on-board to enjoy it.

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ED Sequence:

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  1. R

    Going to miss Valvrave and all of its shenanigans. Enjoyed all of your posts on the series Enzo and now im off to marathon Nagi no Asukara.

  2. K

    Is this really the end Enzo? What about season 3? And why is it I get the feeling that Haruto isn't really dead?

  3. I don't expect a S3, though it wouldn't be a complete shock. As for Haruto well, we didn't actually see the eyes go blank, but if he's not dead, he's going to be pretty ragged after two hundred years.

  4. t

    this was a closed ending. namely, this is the end. unless Sunrise will somehow create another season..but it won't be the same (different plot and all).
    Valvrave has ended. but if you;re really missing, try Buddy complex next season. another Mecha series from Sunrise. and something tells me that it's gonna be similar to valvrave.

    as for Haruto..what makes you think he is alive? it's like the case with that girl with the black hair, the one who was a beta-tester for the valvraves..Haruto died in the same manner.

    that aside, I totally agree with Enzo's final impressions on valvrave. I share the same feeling.
    I enjoyed valvrave "bizarre, hilarious and absurd, and ultimately a little frustrating" nature.
    it wasn't perfect, it had flaws, but it was OK show (passing grade HaHa).

    thanks for blogging (:

  5. YW

    I'm not sure I see this as necessarily a closed ending. That doesn't require haruto to be alive (although I would still say the fact that we never saw his eyes "go out" might be intentional) because there's a ton of other threads they never really tied up. Don't think it'll happen, but I also don't think Sunrise closed the door.

  6. Z

    There is a season 3. It's called Buddy Complex.

  7. s

    Id say that valvare is more of a subversion of sunrise tropes than a deconstruction. A deconstruction would imply something else that i dont think this series ever achieved. I completely agree with this finale being mixed (honestly the writing and plot progression seemed a bit off in the last few eps) but i think besides L-elf and hauto, the finale felt lacking because some character drama didnt get the closure i felt the series was building up to and overall the finale was a little anti-climatic.

    Still, a solid effort by sunrise. In regards to "chibi-l-elf, I dont think he is chibi-l-elf but rather chibi A-drei. It's kinda implied that when A-drei caught the bouquet, Saki was the woman on his mind which might explain the kid. Shoko submitted herself to the valvare so she became an immortal (didnt want that to happen but i guss now shoko can be a badass) and the satomi we saw in one of the flashforwards was actually his grandkid. That's the impression i got.

  8. F

    I don't think the chibi child is saki's, there's one future cut scene saying the Prince(chibi) grandmother has the same surname as satomi and Anita. And 2 hundred years in the future makes those immoral pilot at least a 3rd generation and above. So it couldn't be saki's child 🙂

  9. c

    gah, this serie sort of left me feeling uneasy in the end…………….i watched the episode this morning and i'm still thinking about it in the evening: it was a great ride, but i still have so many questions, i think one more episode that would have explained more detailed what happened after the revolution and Haruto's death would have wrapped up the ending in the right way: this is not the first time i have thought this about an anime: just one more episode could make the difference between good and perfect! (Natsuyuki rdv also desperately needed one more episode to make it really work).

    well too bad…………………..

  10. S

    Ah, man. Honestly, I think I liked this show a lot more than you or probably most of the readers here…honestly, I freaking loved this show. Disappointed that Saki had to take a back seat for most of the second cour, also, because she was fantastic– but overall, I don't think I've had just that much fun watching an anime in awhile. The second cour was much more serious, but it was still so exciting– although I imagine that was more me being caught up in the moment than an objective view of things. Not one of the best shows I've ever seen, objectively…but I enjoyed it so much.

    That ending, though, really did kind of give away a bit too much. Too many questions– the 200 year timeskip I think gave away a bit too much, and they really had to race to reach it. In addition to Shoko, Renboukouji is also present in the flashforward, and if he is then I imagine Takahi is as well…so. Yes, it would have been better if it ended a tad more ambiguously, right after Haruto "dies"– it's kind of similar to how I felt about the ending of The Dark Knight Rises, where I thought if the movie had simply ended with the final shot of Alfred (and maybe the small hint of a smile?) that it would have been better.

    And I guess maybe Saki and A-Drei got together? Only silver-haired character left, plus they're the only male/female pair that's got any level of interaction remaining. Ah well, mysteries abound.

  11. M

    It seems that not even war can cure your sweet naiveté.

    It was definitely Saki x A-Drei's offspring, as I'd previously shipped. But the characters basically all look the same (except slightly distinct haircuts and eye colour), so you could chalk it up to be anyone's. As for the rest of the timeskip queries – who cares? I can't say the show ever wanted you to, what with all its contrived and coincidental plotting Sunrise has mastered. While it tried to pull itself together in the second season (revealing that it wasn't as committed to batshit), VVV is still a mere shadow of the greater Code Geass and ultimately a tiring attempt to cash in on 4 decades of sunrise history – which if you've bothered revisiting is far from spectacular. Valvrave is a successful reincarnation of that. Bring on Buddy Complex!

  12. m

    I agree with everything you wrote. I didn't like it at the beginning, but I decided to continue watching Valvrave, I'm glad I gave it a chance .

    They decided to focus on L-elf and Haruto and at least they got the chance to have a emotional and nice end. It's a shame they didn't develop Saki and Shoko enough, but at the end that's what we got. It's not perfect, but it's not that bad either.

  13. H

    " Ryouhei Kimura turns in a terrific performance doing Ohsaka Ryouta's voice during the several minutes Haruto is inside L-Elf's body." Ah I was wondering about that, it would make more sense not to switch the VAs but that sounded just so much like Haruto that I wasn't sure.
    In any case, to throw my two cents in I'm sticking to my theory that the little prince is somehow a L-Elf/Haruto clone, he's got Haruto's eyes and everything else looks more like L-Elf than A-drei, just makes more sense to me. And honestly I'm less confused about Shoko still being alive (in a way it makes sense that she would take up Haruto's role since she was one of the few who actually knew what it was going to entail), I'm more confused why Satomi is still alive after all, did he become a kamitsuki after his wedding or are they just cloning everyone in the future?

  14. Coffee and sugar together forever, eh?

    Maybe they just up and asked everyone, "OK – do you want to die in a normal human lifespan, or be immortal as an inhuman monster?" And these were the ones who chose the latter.

  15. H

    That almost sounds too normal for Valvrave. XD

  16. E

    You guys forget something !
    Somewhere along Season 1 I think there was a fight between Rukino Saki and some random rebel guy (my guess) and when defeated he said: "As expected from one of the Golden Seven !"
    So from that I conclude that during those 200 years, maybe a few years after that fated battle they remade the destroyed Valvraves (they seemed to have a few spare ones in the lab) adding Unit 07 with some of the students becoming their pilots.

  17. D

    I interpreted this series far more pretentiously than anyone else it seems. I know on the surface it was Sakimori versus Magius, but I saw the main theme as children versus adults. The brilliance here being that adults won.

    I began my rewatch of the series and noticed that any time we cut a meeting room of ARUS or Dorrsian politicians, they never acknowledged Sakimori or thier move for independence. It was like they didn't exist; and the one time someone from ARUS did point it out, it was immediately overlooked. No one focused on them until they were already a part of the action. The kids took a lot of risks with their decisions, only to get bit in the ass for every single one of them. If it weren't for the brute force of the Valvrave's and L-Elf, who was apart of the more mature Dorrsians, no one would have lived. And of course, the characters had to mature and spill their beans before they ever stood a chance and the series finally let them win.

    Just my thoughts, but I found this to be a brilliant slap in the face to most series with the concept that adults will just never understand children. Because they do, they just know kids are ignorant.

  18. E

    I may be a bit late to the party but I did a bit of backtracking to look a bit more into detail of how Marie and Haruto died. Marie lost all her memories and then began talking to Haruto the same way L-elf did to Haruto at the end.

    The only difference is that Marie, with no memories attacked using the 666 overheated attack which not only destroyed her recent memories of Haruto talking to her but also shattered a blank memory which I believe is her mind as a whole.

    But the BIG difference between their deaths is that when Marie died, her eyes faded just after that one last attack and used up lots of ruins. Haruto did not use up more ruins after he finished and therefore his eyes did not fade away and that last blank memory did not shatter which leads me to believe he either fell unconscious or is in a coma of some sort.

    Just thought I would mention my opinion because I was so pissed off that Haruto got nothing from all that he had done. He was just being pushed back and constantly rejected with only the other Valvrave pilots and L-Elf who stick with him. What sort of a moral teaching is that!

    If that is the case then I wonder if L-Elf and Akira hid away Haruto's body and preserved it somehow, wakes up and slowly regains his memories!. OK, now i'm going too far into this, ha!

    Hope there is a new season!

  19. Yes, I've pointed out the eye-blank thing, it is an interesting difference. But the fact is that Shouko speaks quite plainly about the busts for the "heroes who died to create the new nation" and Haruto's bust is quite plainly one of them.

  20. E

    True. However L-Elf and Akira recovered his body, or at least we are shown and Akira gave Haruto's helmet to Shouko. There was no proof (i think) of anyone else actually seeing him dead. It could be possible that he is hidden away.

    To be honest, I was trying to look for ways to keep Haruto alive and looking past details that didn't show that.

  21. z

    Yes.. i think hARUto still alive, ,,maybe he was just in a COMA .. he is a immortal so it doesnt matter how many years have passed . ..maybe i'll hope for an OVA .. 😀

  22. S

    the ending gave me some really mixed emotions, all positive, as a recent anime lover who stopped watchin i can say this was such a good anime to begin with again, loved the voice acting, dialogue, just realy sad that haruto died like that…the op's are so good, so i wont be forgetting this in a while, so yeah… I REALLY LOVED IT! IM HUNGRY FOR MORE

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