Check-out Station: Valvrave ep12 (a fun waste of time)
Well, what did I expect? The series started off an incomprehensible mess, of course it’s gonna end in a swirling storm of nonsense, shenanigans, convenient contrivances and an ending scene that places it firmly atop bullsh*t mountain. Now I have to reflect on this episode and see if I can still standby previous comments about it being “stupid but fun”.
The one moment of clear thought in this episode may be the craziest moment of the previous episode. Haruto’s marriage proposal to Saki. It’s sudden, it’s ridiculous and comes at a very inconvenient and stupid time. After all, we learn that Cain is taking the smartest, most brutal approach to conquering New JIOR. And this situation is basically an hour long race to see if these kids can figure out how to stop a drill from penetrating and poisoning their only home. And here we have Haruto acting like a complete idiot again, guided only by emotions and his own sense of right. It’s a very good thing that Saki immediately shuts him down, and puts him on the proper path. But you can see once he moves on that she’s deeply hurt by that decision. She’s hurt by it, she’s hurt bad. The excuse of being an idol that can’t be tied down to one person was a paper thin once, but it was enough to fool him.
There are dead bodies piling up quickly in this episode as the drill pushing its way through the the module is also spreading poison gas along the way. POISON GAS! Damn! Cain doesn’t give a sh*t about there being kids, or civilians or anything else in his way!
While that goes on outside, Dorssia once again shows why it’s such an amazing military as their grunts are soon able to stop the three working Valvraves (remember, Haruto’s Unit 01 has already overheated and shut down after the Harakiri attack) with a clever attack that involves heating up the shields with spikes and directly applying them to the Valvraves surface. It takes literally seconds for the Valvraves to simply stop functioning once prolonged contact has been made. It also makes the Valvraves look rather stupid and impractical, too. It takes some balls though to throw your unit up against a machine that can almost instantly kill you. It’s a good thing the Dorssia military has plenty of fodder.
Overall, the situation is getting incredibly bleak as students in and out of the command center are starting to panic, and the death toll rises as soldiers and the gas work their way through the colony. Even the combined efforts of L-Elf and Haruto are stymied thoroughly thanks to the mere presence of Cain in the hangar bay where Unit 01 was left. The overall situation quickly shows that L-Elf physically and mentally can’t stand up to Cain.
I did have to laugh when Cain shot Haruto full of holes, but hesitated to kill a just as helpless L-Elf right in front of him. Come on! Do we even care if Haruto is shot at this point, does it change anything?! You may as well not shoot him, he’s just as useless!
Surprisingly, the real focus of this whole episode is the character I’ve most wanted to see more out of. And it sure as hell isn’t Shouko! It’s Akira! (YAY!)
While all this is going on, it’s arguably Akira who has the greatest grasp of the situation. She can see Shouko’s pain as she grieves for the father she just allowed to die. She sees the students dying from the poison gas, the soldiers slaughtering and capturing their way through the module, and unfortunately for everyone she’s frozen. Not literally of course, but hikikomori senses and her phobias after being so brutally bullied by others has left her in a panicked mess.
Things only get moving when her brother Satomi (how the hell are they related?!), calls Shouko, begging her to save Akira. Akira actually steps in with a series of text messages telling them that she’s not scared, doesn’t need help, and definitely doesn’t need friends! Hell, she even goes so far as to say she’d rather die than leave her little hole! This sends Shouko into a fury over her selfishness and calousness. She rushes to Akira’s location, telling her the virtues of friendship the whole way, after all, everyone already knows that Akira is just plain lying. Too bad for Shouko that the drill pops up just as she’s walking by and she’s knocked out.
Akira is left with a very important decision. Stay in her hole and die, or go out there and save Shouko.
Of course she goes to save her friend, which on the surface to me looks like a very bad decision because that room is all the power she has, and she’s been in there so long I wondered if she remembered how to run. And when she gets to Shouko, it really does look like a useless move until something catches Akira’s eye. Somehow the drill displaced a Valvrave, a purple one, right below them. I’m sure it’s popped up in places before and I was just distracted by all the “plot” that was going on at the time, but it looks like it was placed there by god for all I know. And we all know what happens from here. Akira doesn’t give much of a sh*t about her humanity, so it takes seconds for us to get a new Valvrave pilot. And she wastes no time taking out her righteous vengeance on her opponents… Well, actually she starts off by angrily throwing her mech at the giant drill tearing the colony a new hole. Thankfully her machine notices her mindless flailing and points her towards her weapon, a scythe called the Hummingbird. And it’s special ability is the mother of all coincidences… it specializes in hacking! Come on atheists! Give it up! We just saw evidence of a god right here! Checkmate!
With this ability (and minimum input from the pilot it seems), she’s able to take control of multiple targets. I really had to laugh at how the weapon literally needs to be vigorously beaten against its target for the optimum level of effectiveness. And once Akira figured that little bit out, everything changed! The drill immediately started retreating, and she went out into space to help her fellow vampire pilots.
Still inside the colony, things get very interesting for the finale. L-Elf and Haruto are freed from Cain’s grasp and make it towards Unit 01. L-Elf implores Haruto to fire at the retreating Cain as he floats away. Haruto tries to argue about firing on a defenseless person, which I think is RETARDED, because the man is a high ranking soldier responsible for hundreds of deaths in this battle (or dozens, I have no idea how many kids are in this place), and would clearly continue killing regardless. Haruto does fire anyway, but despite their best hopes they fail to kill Cain. The main reason for this being that the MOTHERF*CKER ISN’T HUMAN (PARDON THE CAPS, THE PART WAS REALLY INTENSE)! He channels some evil glowing light and floats off towards the deepest reaches of the hangar towards the broken Unit 02. L-Elf thinks he has checkmate, because the unit is clearly not operational.
HA! Screw your logic! It doesn’t exist. Cain whips out some little amber-like jewel… the same one he kept in the birdcage in his office! Turns out that thing is actually the same creature that inhabits Unit 01’s interface. But instead of the creature being a female, it’s a very angry male, and its the brother (big brother?) to the female. Suddenly Unit 02 comes alive…
And no one is believing this sh*t. And everyone’s mind is full of f*ck right now.
The episode ends on some bullsh*t, as we see what appear to be representatives from ARUS and Dorssia meeting at some crater in the middle of the ocean (on the Moon? On Earth?), surrounded by creepy dudes who look like spectators in a Mortal Kombat game. I guess they’re Magius, and Cain’s one of them, so that answers the questions everyone has been asking about the man all episode. What the hell is he?
This episode was such a mess! Most of the episode was spent showing us how weak and stupid many of the protagonists were in this series. Only to be bailed out by the most fortunate of lottery rolls ever. The Valvraves are terribly flawed machines that at this point have the sortie length of Hot Pocket’s time to cook in the microwave. So while they may not be easy to destroy, they are simple as hell to capture at this point. It’s even more amazing to me now that Saki is still piloting one of these things in the future. Though I’m not going to completely hate or b*tch about this episode. This is Valvrave, this is what I should have expected. If it didn’t reach at least this level of ridiculousness then we’d be disappointed. Now for my thoughts on the series as a whole.
Geezus! This show gave me a new level of respect for Sunrise and their ability to put together original series. Though I’m gonna give the word original for this show the “dick fingers” and say, “original”. Because Valvrave has ripped pieces off of its other shows all over the place. I can see elements of Gundam (of course), Code Geass, there are elements gleamed from magical girl shows and Infinite Ryvius. I’d dare say there’s even some Macross in this show. Though some people will argue that those elements were originally taken from the Gundam SEED franchise, who got the inspiration from Macross. And I gotta admit, it’s mostly been damn entertaining. It’s not at all like when I started watching Guilty Crown and realized it was stupid while trying its damnedest to be harsh and serious. I don’t think anyone watching this genuinely believes this story is as epic and glorious as the show presents it as, not even the people working on it. I just can’t gather that vibe.
On the opposite side of the coin, that also works against the show. All the successful elements can also seem like way too damn much at times. The ending of this show really made it stand out for me. The stuff with aliens, secret organizations, “vampires”, teenage drama and romances. There’s even a fair amount of political drama thrown in to the scene. That along with the extensive and growing cast of characters doesn’t do any favors for focus, especially on the characters. Speaking of the characters, it may be time for a rant…
Haruto – what a f*cking naive little moron! I forgot about his shortcomings a bit because he’s been stuffed into a cool-looking pilot suit for awhile. He’s no Kira Yamato or Suzaku, which may actually be a good thing, but he’s also not much of anything to speak of himself. His memorable or redeeming qualities seem to just be his strong sense of justice, his undying love for Shouko, his purity of heart (which equates to stupidity in my mind) and the fact that he can’t die, hi-jacks bodies because of some freaky alien gnome in his blood and his machine is special and kills itself to win battles. He has terrible judgement, hence why he seems to fall back on Shouko or L-Elf to handle those things. He’s kind of a moron, which when combined with his purity of heart makes for dumb decisions like proposing marriage to someone in the middle of a battle while the girl you actually have a crush on is in mortal danger. I guess to cut to the chase, if you stripped him of his “curse” then he’d be an annoying or completely uninteresting character. He’d be more at home in some crappy harem anime.
Shouko – another of these annoying pure of heart characters I don’t really ever like. I’ve never cared for the super bubbly female characters, but I think Shouko escapes most of my ire simply because she’s so damn stupid and awkward. All she is is basically happiness, stubbornness and purity. And that is probably why she’s as immortal and Haruto ironically. Someone needs to be there when everyone is down, which will be often in this twisted mess of a series.
L-Elf – I suppose it’s just incredibly easy to like this guy. He’s a badass assassin who kills without hesitation, he comes up super precise, stone cold plans that damn near predict the future. And best of all, he also seems to be the character you can rely on to tell you when the story does something we’d consider bullsh*t. There are plenty of times where he mentions how annoying people are, how stupid things seem and how devoid of sense many of these characters are. He even seems to have a decent backstory and a goal to change the world. The show even does a decent job of showing that he has emotions, can be surprised and wrong, and that he does have actual weaknesses besides not being able to pilot a Valvrave. Definitely the best character in the show, even if it almost by the default.
Saki – and by almost I mean I find this woman to be the second best character in it. She starts off by appearing to be a snobby, sneaky and incredibly selfish and self-centered b*tch, but she does have real depth and range to her. I can see where all her personality traits come from once I’ve seen some of her backstory. Every ounce of delusion, vindictiveness and arrogance is justified in seeing this trashed idol try to claw her way back to relevance through combat and a relationship with Haruto. Conversely, my like of her and annoyance with Haruto is why I’d never ship the two, or care if they actually got together in the show. She’s too good for that moron.
Akira, that guy and Raizo – “that guy” and Raizo are characters I really don’t care about very much, but I will give Raizo credit for having the right attitude about piloting these war machines. You won’t get any whiny lamentation about killing from him. I just couldn’t care less if he or “that guy” died. Akira on the other hand has almost been the show’s mascot and pet character. It kinda reminds me of TK from Angel Beats. An episode just doesn’t really feel right without the little pet hacker staring at a screen and chewing on something. It will be interesting to see how her character arc progresses as this shut-in starts spending more time in combat and in a Valvrave. Besides L-Elf, New JIOR hasn’t had much in the way of brains when it came to combat. I still can’t believe she’s related to Saotomi.. what is that?
As for the rest of the show, the music was decent enough. I really liked the original ED theme, and was sad that it’s gone now. The animation especially in battle is super bright and colorful, it’s also fluid and fun to look at. And most importantly, the battle action was easy to follow. And since I’m on the subject of battle, I gotta once again give props to the Dorssian military. What a competent bunch of bastards. You don’t get that in a lot of anime. There’s always some overzealous, glory-hungry commander/captain pushing his advantage too far, or getting too arrogant in most shows. Dorssia consistently lost, but wasn’t for a lack of planning and execution. After all they weren’t just facing kids with special machines, they had a traitor planning against them with all their knowledge, and who was more competent than most of their best men. The Valvraves are stupid, impractical machines, but are super tough and deadly. But they consistently found ways to push them to the edge and shut them down. How the hell were they supposed to know that when one of the machines got over taxed it became super dangerous? Not to mention all the Valvraves that slowly kept coming out at the most opportune times to thwart their plans. It was like watching Power Rangers sometimes. This is strangely where Valvrave gets my respect, while other shows usually fail at such things.
Overall, I’d say this show was a strange success. I’m intrigued enough to want to check out the second season, just to see where the craziness goes, and if it will ever end. Though I will say that it also mostly fails to make me care for a majority of the cast. Part of that isn’t completely the show’s fault. With only twelve episodes to get through, and pretty much every episode being an introduction to something new, there isn’t a lot of time to intimately get to know many of the cast. The Dorssia special forces just seems like a boy band full of kids who should be taking anti-psychotics, lead by some Char-clone with super powers (actually a very scary thought). Like I said, L-Elf and Saki seem like decent characters, though Saki has a tendency to shrink under pressure, but at least she’s smarter than most of the morons piloting. Akira should make for an adorable new pilot, who I hope can blossom into something entertaining and multi-dimensional. Haruto is a moronic harem lead stuck into a mecha action show. And if there’s any more interesting cast to be had, then I don’t know where they’re coming from. And it’s because of these characters and their general shortcomings that I’m confident in thinking that despite Valvrave being a very interesting show to watch, it won’t be remembered much, nor will it leaving anything lasting behind. And don’t say that rape scene will be its legacy either, even that’s not original.
Valvrave has shown itself to be a waste of time, but an entertaining one. Now I just wait to see how the other two mecha shows from this season stack up. So far it looks like Majestic Prince is going to be the quality show that I recommend, Gargantia still has a chance. Anyway, that’s all for now. See you guys at season two!