In the 71st year of the True Era, humans have successfully expanded into space and have started living in independent galactic colonies. The world itself is split between two major nations: the Atlantic Rim United States (ARUS) and the Dorssia Military Pact Federation (Dorssia)—superpowers that wage war against each other on Earth and far into outer space. In this war-torn era, a third faction comprised of Japan and Islands of the Oceanian Republic (JIOR), reside peacefully and prosper economically, maintaining neutrality between themselves and their militant neighbors.
Kakumeiki Valvrave commences in an outer space JIOR colony, where 17-year-old Haruto Tokishima's peaceful life is turned upside down as a sudden Dorssian fleet breaches the neutral colony. Their objective is to seize the Valvraves: powerful, but rumored mechanized weapons hidden deep within Haruto's school, Sakimori Academy. In the ensuing chaos, Haruto stumbles upon one of the targeted Valvraves. With his friends' lives in peril, Haruto enters the mecha and seals a contract for its power in exchange for his humanity. With the aid of L-elf—an enigmatic Dorssian agent and gifted strategist—Haruto and the Valvrave initiate a revolution to liberate the world.
They told me I could become anything so I became a vampiric mecha pilot.
Well, the idea of high school kids becoming pilots while getting their own personal mecha gadgets isn't new to the anime industry. Series such as Macross Frontier, Code Geass, and Aquarion Evol all have this theme. It involves normal students who attends a normal school like any normal day. Then, boom. Something abnormal happens and their lives are changed forever. The catch here for Valvrave the Liberator? It also deals with a supernatural twist...with some blood spilled to add to the mix.
That's right. It's not a bird, it's not a
plane, it's a Valvrave!
To be honest, I wasn't sure whether to check this series out or not at first. However, I am a fan of the mecha genre so I decided to give this a shot. What I got out though was a rather strange surprise from Sunrise's latest evolution of works. Kakumeiki Valvrave, also known by its English name as Valvrave the Liberator, is a mecha series that debuted as an original title in the year of 2013. The series is produced and handled by the animation studio known as Sunrise. And oh boy, does that spell out some controversy...
In essence, the series doesn't make much sense at various points. There's a lot going on even from the beginning. From its basis, we do know that about 70% of the current human population lives in space thanks to this development known as the 'Dyson Sphere' that is located in space. It's a city that has advanced technology above our own and holds many secrets. Then on the opposite side, there's the superpower known as the Dorssia Military Pact Federation and Atlantic Rim United States. They are an alliance that has mass amount of powers and resources. Oh and what do you know, they are picking a fight. Being a superpower and all, the Dorssia are a powerhouse with their military, technology, and elite forces. Among its members of that elite force is a powerful soldier known as L-elf Karlstein. (ERU ERUFUUUUUUU)
L-Elf is a young man who is considered many things in this anime. He has the intellectual of a military genius, the experience of an elite soldier earning him the title 'One-Man-Army', but most importantly is also labeled by Dorssia as a traitor. After a certain event in the beginning of the series, he is forced to defect from his home as he is now seen as someone who betrayed their comrades. Well, that's all thanks to a certain young boy by the name of Haruto of course. The young boy is your typical high school student with a normal life, a love interest, and friends who he can trust. But hey, what happens when you reject humanity and become someone totally different...say a vampire pilot? Sounds weird right but that's Sunrise for you. Welcome to your new life, Haruto.
Among other people in Haruto's life are his love interest, the adorable Shouko. The twist comes though when the very first episode spells out her a certain event that seemingly writes her off the series. But then, the series decides to be cheesy and return the favor. Honestly, that's just face palm worthy. So as it goes, there is also some other drama involving an idol superstar by the name of Saki. She seems to have her own issues and spells out drama for Haruto and his friends. The humor she brings into this show is hard to take seriously at all. But like I mentioned before, it's hard to take this series seriously at many occasions since it hardly makes sense in the beginning.
Valvrave the Liberator is handled by Sunrise. Fans who are familiar with the studio should know their themes and ideas that are poured into a mecha show like this. The themes of vengeance, struggle for dominance among nations, tragic romances, and mecha warfare are just a few in the series. Among other things, Sunrise decides to put all of this into a single package and tries to give entertainment to the fans. Oh it achieved that alright with some of its other absurd ideas like a little dose of high school musical and death flags seemingly triggered everywhere. Then of course, there's vampiric space pilots who are both feared and respected. It's funny in the sense that they reject humanity for absurd reasons that hardly makes any sense at all. Well, that's just the tips of the iceberg.
Among other absurd ideas is having students run an entire country. By this standard, it means that students who haven't even ventured out in the real world market are now in charge of their own destinies. It completely annihilates any sense of realism by going through its ridiculous elements.
Despite the absurdity of the series, it does maintain its premise. There is a lot of action here and there in space and on its homeland. The majority of this involves the Dorssia's military against its opposing factions and Haruto's school. Furthermore, L-Elf's “betrayal” seemingly gets one of his former colleagues' blood boiling as he views him now as a rival. The rivalry itself seems to be one sided though as L-Elf is constantly one step ahead thanks to his genius mind. It is in fact because of his tactics which resulted in several of Dorissa Army's humiliating defeats. It's no surprise how L-Elf earned his nickname. However, now the young man wants to lead a revolution. Sunrise is known for themes like this in their other works such as Code Geass and Gundam Seed. A revolution exists between different factions and each side wants to gain the advantage over the other. The catch here is that there's this mysterious Valvrave that becomes a turning tide in the struggling conflict.
The Valvrave themselves seems to have a rather strange design that fuses between machine and humanoid. Furthermore, their system makes their functions to be overpowered at many occasions. What's even more strange is the question it asks once a pilot enters its cockpit. The million dollar question is:
Do you wish to resign as a human being?
As strange as it sounds, that question and depending on the answer, will change someone's life forever.
Among other strange factors in the series is the usage of its pacing. The episode shifts between seriousness and ridiculous. It's nearly impossible to take some of the ridiculous as entertainment even with its cheesy execution. It tries to mix in way too much ideas into a little package at once. Also, some factors of the show barely makes any sense such as how Haruto is able to pilot such an advanced piece of technology given his previous zero experience in handling a mecha. Then, there's the cheesy dialogues used here and there; some related to school, some related to 'monster', and then some that makes no sense. In the more seriousness field though, there are some controversial scenes later on. Be prepared.
There's quite a lot of humor though in this series. I actually find it hilariously fun if you don't think about the plot so much. The way some of the characters behave makes them look amusing in a state of war. Then, there's the various jokes such as the Valvrave AI with a keen interest in human ideas. There's also funny gags here and there such as the humor of the '666' that symbolizes the Number of the Beast. The characters' names of the Dorissa's elite force also are based off of German origins. Additionally, we can tell that there is a lot of foreshadowing. The questions of who will pilot which Valvrave and what's to come in the upcoming struggles are just a few questions for anticipating fans.
The artwork of the series has its Sunrise production values. The way the Valvrave are structured and the characters are designed gives them that fresh look. The students' uniforms are a bit generic with nothing outstanding. However, the Valvrave machines tells a different story. The way they are designed gives off them a dangerous look and one that is very noticeable compared to some of the other mecha in this series. Among other factors, L-Elf's character makes him noticeable with his flash of silver hair. The Dyson Sphere itself also is noticeable of being out there in space with its technology to make its function while the same time giving it a futuristic look.
If there's delivery, Valvrave the Liberator nailed with its music score. Akira Senju (Full Metal Alchemest: Brotherhood, Red Garden) provides an effective OST that is quick and fits within the themes of the series. There are many times when battles are orchestrated through its nimble soundtrack to provide feedback of the action. The OP song, "Preserved Roses" by T.M.Revolution x Nana Mizuki also has a quick rhythm that provides montage of the main and supporting characters. It also creates foreshadowing through the backgrounds of the Valvraves as well as some symbolism. Finally, amongst vocal performances, the stand-out is Kimura Ryouhei who is able to maintain his calm and calculating tone of voice as L-Elf. By a measure of its soundtrack, this series does deserve some praise. Boku Ja Nai, Boku Ja Nai, Boku Jai Nai.
If you've already started watching this show, then by all means enjoy the entertainment but don't expect too much for engaging plots or characters. Rather, watch it for a way to kill time. At the same time, be sure to put those headphones on for its soundtrack. It's a 'fun' show to watch but its merits in terms of story presentation and character development is sour. Among other factors, think of this series as a hybrid of supernatural/mecha/school life/comedy/drama/romance/crazy all the same time. I mean, if you put a bunch of kids in charge of a country, there's nothing more than a eccentric ride, right?
I'm sure everyone has heard the term 'so bad, it's good'. There is something inexplicably enticing about the amusingly bad, as the cult success of cinematic embarrassments such as 'The Room" and "Troll 2" will substantiate. This applies just as much to anime as it does to movies, take this piece of space mecha action sci-fi junk, for example.Valvrave the Liberator is the latest from the once great studio Sunrise; an amalgam of the studio's worst tendencies and deteriorating quality. It's a show that is so wildly unfocused and possessing plot twists so ridiculous that it transcends being merely bad; it's entertainingly awful.
surface, Valvrave is blatantly generic. It has a well intentioned but soft-headed and somewhat wimpy boy as its protagonist, whom in a moment of desperation gets super-powers (this time vampire powers) and a giant robot, which gives him the power to defend himself and what he holds precious. He then finds himself in the middle of a galactic power struggle; at odds with a militaristic menace. Original, right!? Well, to layer on the cliches, the story involves a high school and revolution of the youth, things series composer Ichiro Okouchi can't seem to pull himself away from; having already used them in two of his major works, Code Geass and Guilty Crown. That's not the end of it, as the show is rife with overused tropes: the clueless love interest, the jealous secondary love interest who is a pop idol, the angst the hero has over his inhuman powers, and so on.
Of course, it isn't this saturation of stock plot elements that makes this show memorably bad, if anything they would make it forgettable. No, it's all in the writing and execution. The show loves to be extravagant and dramatic though its material is often too thin or silly to give any weight, and sometimes just downright misleading. For example, when Haruto's (our milquetoast hero) crush Shoko seemingly dies in the first episode, the show ramps up the drama so much it almost seems certain that she's dead. But of course, all this drama is ultimately wasted because (and I'm sorry for spoiling anyone who hasn't watched past the first episode) she is in fact alive, with nary a scratch. That's right, the blast not 10 feet away from her that blew a crater into the earth didn't kill her, it just buried her and the car she was running to under some rubble. This is just the first of the many poorly conceived plot twists in Valvrave. Haruto comes close to confessing his feelings to Shoko, but stops midway because he is "no longer human", a contrivance clearly put there to make room for some love-triangle dramatics. One of the characters is apparently such a strong strategist that he can predict events as if he is clairvoyant; a rather laughable attempt to make him look like a genius. Not to mention the contrived rape scene late in the season, and the marriage proposal it leads to. The plot has almost no focus and barrages twist after twist, with little thought of how these twists flow together or if they even make sense. The show plays all these plot twists straight, making them inadvertently hilarious. It doesn't help that the actual comedic moments in the show are not particularly funny.
Valvrave has a humongous cast of named characters, and absolutely no idea how to use them. Most of the characters just wonder around living their normal high school lives, and occasionally converge to make a collective decision. Majority of these characters are stereotypes in terms of personality and contribute very little to the plot, and yet the show inexplicably follows them around and gives them a decent amount of screen time. The main cast is also lax in characterization and fit into retreaded archetypes. Haruto is the average male lead seen over and over again in anime. Shoko is the genki girl with a good heart, and Haruto's childhood friend/love-interest. Saki is the stuck-up and guarded pop idol, who also harbors feelings for Haruto. L-elf is the unbelievable military genius, who serves as Haruto's rival and/or ally. Pretty much all the characters can be summed up in a sentence or two. The major factions are barely defined outside of their initial descriptions: Dorssia are the militarists, ARUS are greedy capitalists, JOIR are neutralists. Despite the initial promise of some political play, there is virtually none. There is only silly high school drama pretending to be political. It's every bit the farce it sounds.
There is at least one thing Valvrave gets right, the eye-candy. In all respects, this is a very pretty show. The color schemes are vivid and colorful, as are the character designs and backgrounds. The character designs by D. Gray-man mangaka Katsura Hoshino are not exactly unconventional, but they are distinctive and attractive, especially their eyes. The mech designs are sleek yet fantastical, with striking features such as multicolored wings, wheel-blade weapons, and laser swords. They are some of the coolest mech designs anime has recently produced; even the bulky Dorssian mechs look pretty awesome. The space battles and various other action set-pieces are exciting and feature good cinematography; there is a lot going on, but it never gets cluttered to the point of being indecipherable. There are some short-cuts and quality drops, but they are taken in the right places. The soundtrack is also very good, though not outstanding or out of the norm for the genre. The action tracks are the high point of the music, but conversely there are a few obnoxious insert songs. In all honestly, it is well directed on purely technical merits; which makes the poor direction in all other aspects a little less noticeable.
In truth, Valvrave the Liberator can't really be put on the same level as things like "The Room" and "Trolls 2" because it actually succeeds on a technical level, which is more than can be said for those two movies. Plus, it has better voice acting than the acting in those movies as well. Not for lack of trying, though, because the writing in Vlavrave is bad enough to rival those atrocities. It's not just bad, it is comically bad. If not for the strong technical merits and voice acting, Valvrave could have very well reached that next level of badness. While the loose plot threads can be remedied by the upcoming squeal, the question arises: with this season being so bad, what chance does season 2 have? Well, chances are it will be just as much of a trainwreck. Am I wrong for kind of looking forward to it?
If you're familiar with Sunrise, expect the unexpected. Seriously.
So in America, vampires sparkle like Tinkerbell while vampires in Japan pilot awesome-looking mechs? Sounds about right.
The story is pretty outrageous to begin with. Only requirement to pilot a specialized war machine created by a "pacifist", "anti-war" nation is to become a vampire. Along with an entire school of high school students who don't know life beyond luxury and peace to run an entire nation by themselves to compete against possibly a futuristic America and space Nazis. To this day, I don't understand how were they able to last
this long since they treat munitions like dirt and ready to turn on each other from every incident they encounter. All in all, giving the story a 5 is generous of me.
The art is amazing as the mechs are beautifully drawn. Every little detail on each mech looks like it took a lot of effort to get right. The characters are also drawn pretty well, as usual mostly pretty boys and girls with fluid animation.
The sound is another redeeming quality. I very much enjoyed the openings and endings of this show and would like to see more.
The characters... let me liquor up before I continue. One moment.
Okay, the characters. I'm quite surprised the male lead was even able to stand in the beginning. Maybe after the future, scientists discovered to attach an artificial spine to this guy. Luckily, Haruto does develop into a stern and decisive young man as season 1 nears it's end and that's a good thing. The female lead, Shoko, is your typical Jane Doe. Miss Perfect who you get tired of watching. Saki, lord knows what's in her head since I seriously think she's just bi-polar. L-Elf needs to change his damn name so that I won't hear "ERUERUFU" 15 times in 20 seconds in 1 episode by his "lover" who has a giant man-crush on him or something. Other than that, he's the cool, tactical genius with a back story that hasn't been fully shown yet. Here's to hoping, Season 2.
Even with the absurd plot and like'em-or-hate'em cast, I can't seem to stop watching this show. Another thing that Sunrise is very good at doing. So if they're able to keep my attention for that long, I'll at least give it a decent score.
It does not do this show justice to write a review on it when technically it is only half done; latter half will be airing in October 2013. But it will be a pity not to get more people to know about this show because… well, some jewels are just meant to be shared with others. If you are familiar with mecha anime like Soukyuu no Fafner, or Gundam SEED (or for the handful of you that knows Blue Destiny), or Code Geass, or Macross Frontier, heck even Guilty Crown, then you should consider giving Valvrave the Liberator a try. As for others who are
not familiar with those mecha series, don't worry because you will not be at a disadvantage. In fact, there may be less expectations or comparisons instinctively, so it is not bad, right? What one can expect, however, from Valvrave the Liberator are lots of intense actions, eye-popping WTF moments, and tons of character dramas!
First let me reiterate that this show was pre-planned for two seasons so expect LOTS of unresolved questions for now (which is why I said there is no justice in writing a review on it now). Given the script and series composition is by Okouchi Ichiro (best known as the creator for Code Geass), there are certainly high hopes out there among some people. Despite all the mysterious and unresolved lose ends, I can say that I have no regret watching it and the time was well spent. The story is very fluid and captivating, which resulted in me marathoning a large chuck of it. Set in a futuristic space setting with 70% of the human population already living in space, war broke out in an academic city and our protagonist unfortunately found himself staring at the face of a humanoid robot! The synopsis sound like a rip off of many other mecha series I know, but please trust me when I say this show is unique. On a side note, I must confess that I was not very impressed with the technological gadgets shown – or I am just being picky. When it comes to character, there are plenty to like about this show. While the character development and growth may not be apparent on them all, and at times may make you scratch for head at their decisions. But as the events unfold, the viewers will get a sense of maturity developing in them. Fighting for love, fighting for survival, fighting for revenge, fighting for independence. There are no shortage of themes and reasons for the students to engage in the ugly adult affairs of war and politics.
Even if you are not sold by the plot or character, I still suggest you look up the OP and indulge in it. Yes, it is that damn good. Performed by T.M. Revolution and Nana Mizuki, it is like instant orgasm for fans, like yours truly. Or if you prefer angela or ELISA's music, you will also not be disappointed. Simply put, all the theme songs are top notch! As the latest mech series by Sunrise, one can expect superb animation quality as well as character and mech designs. At least I believe so. Therefore, whether you are looking for a short 12 episodes series with intense actions or excellent animation or plot twists or character dramas or what-have-you, Valvrave the Liberator should be on your list as one of the potential to-watch series. Don't let the lack of closure in the series misguide you, while it is true that there will be more questions than answer (for now), this show is certainly worth keeping an eye on for the Fall 2013 term.
Anime seems to be everywhere these days, with a massive and loyal global fan base. So, this should mean that animators are going home with fat paychecks right? Well, a veteran anime technical director reveals the truth about his monthly earnings.