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Sep 03

Anime Review – Valvrave

Liberate THIS

While Gargantia wasn’t really a traditional mech show, you could never say that of Valvrave. Tonnes of mech on mech action in space with the usual mix of burning passion and angsty teens in the pilot seats? Stop me if you’ve heard that before. Add in some political stuff and a few darker tones and Valvrave the Liberator (or Kakumeki Valvrave for those moonrune inclined) had all the makings of a great show, so read on to learn more and find out if its worth watching the second season starting next month.

The show opens in what is seemingly the traditional way now, a space empire attacks our hero’s world suddenly, forcing lead guy Haruto who’s never had mech experience before to hop into a mech and undergo trial by fire as he learns to pilot it to save his hometown. People die as is necessary to provide motivations for the future pilots, the credits roll and it seems it’ll all be normal and dandy until they end at which point you watch the lead be shot and killed by an enemy spy. And then as he goes to take the Valvrave (the name for the mechs, bet you couldn’t guess), Haruto gets up with his face some kind of neon lightshow and takes a bite outta his killer. It was that scene that truly sold me on the show, a feeling that there was going to be a lot more going on than first appeared.

And so the story goes on, taking its time to develop ValvRed’s pilot Haruto and ValvGreen’s pilot, popular idol Saki, and their relationship along with the one Haruto has with his obvious-yet-never-spelled-out-because-anime-never-confirms-relationships girlfriend Shoko, and much more interestingly the one he has with that enemy spy from before, “L-Elf”, whom has his own agenda separate to everybody elses. It’d give too much away to explain all the other twists and turns of the show, but the cast makes it as much as the mech fights do.

I mentioned at the start that politics were also a factor here. With Shoko being the daughter of the president of the “good” huge galactic alliance, she helps create the space station that herself, Haruto and the rest of their school live on become independent, to escape a life under military control from the “bad” huge galactic alliance. The show does allude at some times to their roles as good and bad guys being blurred, but for the main they stick to type. Either way, when the kids aren’t defending their home, the show raises a lot of the issues of going independent and the near-impossibility of having a bunch of kids trying to keep a country functioning, and as you can probably guess the psyche of the pilots is frequently at the forefront too, with Saki stealing the show in that regard.

“I’ll just google for an image of her and woah boy half of these are spoilers”

Sadly, the pacing falls apart towards the end, as having spent two-thirds of the show developing two pilots, there’s a sudden need to have a few more before the next season, so two of the choices seem very forced, with the show doing its best to force rapid character development on them, but the difference in pace is jarring. Luckily at this point the show can fall back on its mech battles, which don’t disappoint.

Animated brilliantly, the Valvrave’s look damn good zigzagging across the sky with their neon wings and various forms of attack, and even the throwaway enemy mechs have neat designs instead of just being forgettable chumps. There’s a fair amount of thought put into the actual fights as well. ValvRed is great at close range, while ValvGreen needs space to bounce around and do its long-range attacks, and the other three Valvrave’s that appear during the series are similarly unique and pair up well with their respective pilots. What’s more, the enemy very quickly catches on to their biggest weakness, overheating, and regularly get the upper hand on our hometown heroes, making for some interesting solutions, although the occasional fallback of introducing a new mech which is exactly what’s needed is peeving (especially so for the fifth and final Valvrave).

So, a summary to this wishy-washy look at Valvrave? Well, I preferred it to Gargantia. There was always enough going on that you could look away from the weaker parts to focus on the better stuff, and for the main the cast were great to watch, and the show had no problem throwing curveballs at a moment’s notice. I didn’t even get a chance to mention some of the darker elements like the “host” of the Valvrave’s, or the side-effects of becoming a pilot (when they say “do you resign as a human”, well…) So while I wish they’d not rushed the ending, on the whole its a great show for mech fans, and here’s hoping the second season keeps up the good work.

Also here’s hoping next time I review something more recent that I can remember more of… >_>