Yeaaaa Valvrave. I had a lot of fun with this one, as I hope is clear in my review. I couldn’t get in all my favorite ridiculous quotes and moments, but Valvrave offers so many that it’d be impossible not to miss some. I also get in some discussion of narrative tension and plot twists that somewhat echoes my earlier post on the subject. The one interesting thing I couldn’t find time to mention was the show’s focus on social media as a form of power – I liked how consistently Valvrave returned to that idea, but since it didn’t really go anywhere and didn’t directly play off any of the other stuff I talked about, I couldn’t find a way to gracefully include it in the review. And the review was long enough as it is – this is close to my longest piece for ANN, actually.
My full ANN review is available here. If you want the loose notes that actually get to revel in Valvrave’s silliness, they’re below!
Humanity’s expanding into space
Dyson Spheres accelerate that process – spheres that surround stars, gaining power from their proximity
The show is bright and colorful
Opening with an eating competition
The character designs are wispy and angular – detailed eyes, lots of fluffy hair
Haruto is the dude, Shoko is the girl
“EHHHH?” count: 1:30
Oh shit, someone already murdered! Things are moving fast
Dorssia and ARUS are the two major nations, apparently?
Emphasizing people using tech to connect to each other – everyone talking by texting. A nice trick
And quickly scanning a huge number of characters
Haruto likes Shoko, of course
Marie is Shoko’s quiet friend
“She’d be a babe if she were quiet.” What a lady’s man Haruto is
The spies here are preeetty obvious
White-hair is clearly a calculator
“I wish we lived in a world where there wasn’t stuff like winning and losing.” OH HARUTO
White-hair HATES compromise… and actually goes over to challenge him on it
“Happiness can’t be split into ‘halfsies’. What will you do if someone hits you even if you don’t want to fight?”
Wow, super professional, crazy superspy
Time for swimsuits!
The show’s disconnect between drama and silliness is already pretty clear
The art is so shiny
And the superspies are in
Haruto’s gonna confess!
L-elf is the white-haired dude
And his commander is basically a space general
“Shoko, I’m in…” BIG EXPLOSION goddamnit these shows
Love confessions interrupted by space invasion. Valvrave in a nutshell
Are the flying craft traditionally animated? Dang
The Dorssians are attacking!
Okay, JIOR is actually the small neutral country
Wow, L-elf just killed like a dozen dudes
Aaand L-elf’s companions are totally nutso
And Shoko gets blown away. Motivation: established
“Shoko, this is no time to be playing hide-and-seek!” This writing
“You just have to accept it! She’s dead!” THIS WRITING
AND HE GETS IN THE ROBOT
This is a show you kind of have to watch with a sense of humor about the whole thing. It starts pretty dumb
And off he goes in the robot
The robot has katanas, of course
“Do you resign as a human being?” Nice interface
Tech girl uses her internet powers to virally show off the attack on JIOR. I really like that element of the show
“Dying without getting revenge?” That’s not very peaceful of you, Haruto
“If you can’t concede, you have to fight.”
Crazy glowy effects for the mech transformation
“We won’t lose to a military that’s never known war!” Even the random baddies are hamming it up
The mech has a scythe, too? Alright
Wow, the fights look fantastic. Glowing particles and graceful movement. There’s CG, but it’s really well implemented
And Marie just fondles the teacher’s boobs. Okay
They keep focusing on social networking
Stabbed by L-elf! Twists left and right!
“I won again, Lieselotte.”
BUT HARUTO’S A VAMPIRE NOW DUN DUN DUN
That first episode. lol
The robot’s Valvrave, of course
L-elf shoots a gun out of his friend’s hand BEHIND HIS OWN BACK, looking the other way. Brilliant work
All of L-elf’s friends’ names are equally ridiculous
Oshit, it’s Haruto in L-elf’s body. TWISTS EVERYWHERE THEY CAN’T STOP TWISTING
And now L-elf’s subordinate gets his own primal scream
The show uses bright colors, deep blues, lots of neon – there’s just a lot of vibrancy in the aesthetic. The robot designs are colorful, too
Dorssia now controls their home
“Why should I hand over my cell to you people?” Cellphones are power
The JIOR homeland has surrendered. “The country of JIOR no longer exists!”
They decide to accept it’s Haruto after rocks-paper-scissors
Wow, lovely sunset shots. Full array of colors
A-drei is the angry, mopy subordinate
Now Haruto’s killing people like crazy too. THIS SHOW IS SERIOUS
“Why did they make it humanoid?” It’s nice to see a scientist asking that about a robot
And now Haruto’s friend is piloting a helicopter. “I guess this doesn’t handle like a bike!”
“This will turn me back to normal?” “That’s how it usually works in the movies.” Makes sense. This whole show runs on Hollywood logic
Sure is fast-paced, though! We’re really running through content at a fun clip
Haruto’s plan is to kick the enemy stronghold until they go away
Space looks so good in this show
Alright, now it’s clear the mech is CG. But it still looks great
And oh my god, those energy shimmers behind it are gorgeous
Great explosions, too. Top notch visual production
A-drei’s gonna fight!
The enemy mechs aren’t humanoids, because why would they be? Again, a nice detail
The kind of show where enemies dramatically announce their superiority and attacks
Rukino’s the black-haired girl
“I didn’t shoot anyone!” actually you shot a lot of people
And crazy subordinate is just excited to fight L-elf
SHOKO’S ALIVE UWAAAAA
She got in the car, and that protected her. My god, this show
Reception’s pretty bad in spaaaaace
He has to come back to confess! TIME TO FIGHT
The mech goes past 100 heat, and starts moving towards SIX SIX SIX
“What comes after 666.” “POSSIBILITY.” OH MY GOD
I’m not drunk enough for this
POWER MODE ENGAGED
And why is L-elf helping him, anyway?
The robot commits seppuku to power up
The ARUS fleet has arrived!
Ono, now Haruto thinks he’s a monster!!!1
“Shoko, your t-shirt is lame!” “UWAAAAA”
WA WA WA
“I’ve been turned into a freak! I don’t have the right to tell her how I really feel…” HOW COULD SHE EVER LOVE A MONSTER LIKE MEEEEE
Every plot twist elicits half a gasp and half a giggle, but the giggles tend to win out
Dorssia is the new Europe/Asia/Africa (so basically the evil Russian empire), ARUS is the Americas (so basically the useless United States), and Jior, the tiny, peace-loving Japanese middle ground
And L-elf just somehow predicts the next crisis down to every detail, and gives Haruto a cryptic message to figure out about it. This show is DUUUUUMB
The music works pretty well – it’s a little overbearing emotionally, but the whole show is that way, so it works
Senator Figaro of ARUS has come to save JIOR! I bet he’s totally trustworthy
Black-haired girl is determined to turn this into a love triangle
Everyone loves Haruto!
“We’re all safe now!” Hurray, show over
“You kept our brigade of 5000 men held down all by yourself.” Oh L-elf
Shower scene time
“Adults are sleazeballs.” Rukino has baggage
ONO VAMPIRE MODE
Oshit they said the V word
Figaro wants to talk to Haruto. HMMMmm
Speak to your people, Haruto!
Soccer teams inviting Haruto to their match from the field. Social media is powerful!
Obviously ARUS want to use him as a symbol
“Really losing is when you die.” HARUTO DON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT THAT
L-elf… unscrews a screw from his chair, throws it into the light above him, uses the falling glass to cut himself free, and murders everyone. “FREEDOM ACQUIRED.” my god
“BLITZENDEGEN.” Yeah alright so they’re the evil Germans
Haruto’s being a willing pawn to avoid fighting
Shoko’s the childhood friend, even
Student council pres, the snooty blond dude, is the big brother of the tech girl
“Hand mic… but… THAT’S WHAT I’M HOLDING RIGHT NOW”
L-elf muttering his CALCULATIONS to himself
He’s like Lelouch and Suzaku at once.
“I can’t believe it took them fifteen minutes to realize I escaped. Proficiency Assessment: E” THIS GUY
Aaand now they just can’t shoot him. And he leaps down a massive shaft, and just… rolls off the end? What?
Now he’s sending dudes into space
God, this animation’s great
“THE ONE-MAN BRIGADE”
“Next up is an earthquake? Come on, we’re in space.” TIME FOR A SPACEQUAKE
Shoko finds tech girl, bruiser dude finds Haruto
A SMOKE ATTACK! Which… somehow defeats a spaceship. Because obviously spaceships all rely on line-of-sight window technology
Tense guitars and strings! Just standard background music, though
“Plan D7… complete.”
“Make a pact with me, Haruto. We’re going to liberate Dorssia.”
ARUS is going to use JIOR’s technology. No!
L-elf wants to change Galssia FROM THE INSIDE
“With your abilities and the Valvrave, my revolution will come five years earlier.” Once again, a direct line stolen from Geass
Techy girl is freaking out about someone finding her
More about Haruto having to “get his hands dirty”. He’s already killed a bunch of people, though
“My predictions are effectively prophecies.” Yeah, that’s a problem
“We’re not on the same wavelength at all.” Oh L-elf, so cold
And the Valvrave blows up the soldier who tries to use it
They’re abandoning the students! Stupid ARUS jerks!
“KINDNESS IS JUST A GAME” FIGARO YOU FIEND
“I’M AN ADULT. WE LIE.” This show is super smart
The kids will have to solve this!
“I’M NOT LYING. I KNOW, I’LL TAKE OFF MY SHIRT.” and it… it… works???
Does this show even have writers? Was there a writing staff?
And they distract the guards by singing the school song!
IT’S SYMBOLIC. BURNING YOUTH
This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen
“You’ve been held prisoner? That means you didn’t hang up on me!” Oh Shoko
Punk dude is blocking Figaro’s tank
“Call me Moses. I’m ABOUT TO PART THIS SEA OF STUDENTS.” A work of genius
And yeah, Haruto’s power is just a knockoff version of the Geass
I mean, Code Geass wasn’t a shown known for its narrative brilliance, but this…
Everything but the school is captured by Dorssia!
Shoko will sway Haruto’s heart!
Shoko suggests threatening to give the robot to ARUS if Dorssia does anything to their families
And now we just get a huge pile of robot space fights. Guess they had some animators with hands free this episode
“Instead of relying on others, let’s stand on our own two feet!” Yeah! Let’s separate our module from the array, and stop relying on the sun’s energy! wait
And now they’re going to form a country
When plot twists are this dumb, there’s never any tension or “of course!” moments. There’s just “what dumb thing will this show think of next”
Yeah, the battle/pump-up music is all pretty generic
Shoko is the daughter of the Prime Minister
L-elf lets out an evil laugh
Starting off with the kids raiding the supermarket now that they’re apparently a country. Yes, this is a long-term solution to their problems
“We’re establishing a set of rules, and are getting by.” Yes, I’m sure that’ll cover it
“We’re enjoying ourselves in this Neverland, that’s free of adults.” This show hates adults so much jeez
Scientist-doctor dude appears
And there’s some fanservice
The ARUS citizens like the kids, and so ARUS is siding with them for the political points
Dorssia is like half Germany, half Rome
“The state is power!”
“What demon did you make a deal with?” Valvrave technology is way past what humans normally can do
Ah, the one adult guy is the physics teacher. He’s gonna try to figure out the Valvrave
Oh great, they made a donation page for their country
And now the entire sphere has lost power, somehow. Unsurprising
Off to fix the sphere!
Thug dude is saving nerd dude!
Ono, student council girl is challenging Shoko’s authority!
But Rukino won’t take no shit
“I don’t want any more of my classmates to die on me!” Thug’s got a heart of gold. There’s not really much to any of these characters
Aaand Shoko tries to defuse the situation with Jingle Bells
Takahi (student council girl) is apparently also into Haruto. Everybody is!
Aaand now they’ve decided to make an idol music video. Sure
“I know I am hero in my life”
This episode was basically just a bunch of stuff happening, and this song is… yeah
And now Rukino kissed him!
And the robot says “Is this sex?” WHAT IS THIS SHOW
“Why did you…” “I want to be famous.” Yeaaah go Saki!
“Give up my humanity? That’s fine by me. I hate humanity!” Go Saki! Clearly the best character so far
And she grabs a tarp to be her cape. It’s nice to see someone just enjoying having an awesome robot
A shame no one aside from Haruto buys into his dumb “I’m a monster” spiel
Some top-speed Saki backstory. WAIT SHE’S LYING DAAANG
And Saki seduces Takahi in Haruto’s body
Ono, angry German dude has been taken off the mission
Saki’s marketing herself as Haruto’s love interest to play off his popularity. Saki’s taking the show’s focus on popular support/social media in a good direction
Aaand now Haruto’s being literally pulled between two women. Welp
“I need to become famous. If you don’t leave your mark on the world, you just fade away and become forgotten.”
Dorssians are attacking!
Yeah Dorssians, you do that telling exposition to each other thing
Saki’s robot is named Carmilla
Wow, Saki’s robot kicks ass. Flying disk things
Fight scenes still look great
Again, the show’s colors are a highlight
Uh oh, their opponent this time is a glasses pusher
Welp, there goes Senator whatshisface
Takahi literally puts on a cheerleader outfit to cheer them on
Shoko abuses Saki’s need to be a star to get her moving again
And now she has a new power – dancing through space, I guess
The show works off emotional logic more than plot logic, but there’s so little going on beneath the surface…
Insert songs! Eh
Overcoming her bad childhood memories through BEING FAMOUS
And Team Dorssia blasts off again
“Third Galactic Empire, Calendar Year 214”
“Even after 200 years, a promise is a promise.” FUTURE SAKI. VAMPIRES NEVER DIE
“Vice President, go fetch the ‘Student Council Property’ stickers.” Yep, put stickers on the robots, that’ll keep ‘em safe
The characters being silly teenagers is actually respected by the plot. There’s no sense to it – the show just loves teenagers so much
I really have to emphasize the thread of obsession with childhood thinking and fear of adults in this show. But it’s written by adults, obviously. Is it pandering? What is it?
Oh no, the robots were grown!
The punk’s name is “Thunder.” Lol
Haruto feels like his body isn’t his own. Like he’s actually dead
Aina’s the pigtailed girl. She just got her first character moment scene, guess she’s dead now
Aw jeez, Takahi isn’t interested in Satomi (the prez) anymore
TIME FOR A COOKING EPISODE
L-elf just hands Shoko his cheat sheet for winning everything. “BUT IT’S SO LOGICAL. WHY DOESN’T SHE UNDERSTAND.”
His “rationality” and cleverness basically immediately fall apart when the show wants to create arbitrary conflict
“I don’t think you’re a monster. I think you’re touched by God.” Oh Aina, you’re so nice. AND SO DOOMED
Why did L-elf even send Haruto a recording from earlier if… you know what, nevermind
Burst out laughing at Haruto getting shot up. Woops
The show just works to set up big dramatic moments, but there’s no grounding for them. It just drags the plot towards them however it can
Ono, the enemies developed an anti-Valvrave sticky tape thing!
“Do you seriously expect me to trust you?” Haruto u so dumb
God, the stupid victory song. So tired of this music
“Our plan has failed! Retreat, Team Dorssia!”
And Haruto discovers an image of a girl in L-elf’s pocket
True Calendar, Year 61
And now we’re in the weird Russia-Germany of Dorssia
L-elf’s a prisoner as a child
And somehow runs into the pink-haired princess
Yep. “Your highness”
Nice crazy strings here
“Six hours. That’s how long you have until this country of yours falls.” OH L-ELF
God, the lighting and color work in this show is so nice. Lovely sunset with Saki on the hill
And they show Haruto AINA’S BLOODSTAINED GLASSES
I swear, Aina’s boyfriend still hasn’t had his name mentioned
Aaand they also don’t mention it in this scene
Every single person is freaking out over Aina’s death. Surely people died during the initial invasion?
No, this is just a dumb show. People only die on-screen, and wars only involve five or six deaths tops
Everything this show does just desperately fights against its own desire to be taken seriously
A-drei still holds out hope for L-elf!
“Akira’s talking to someone besides me?!?!?” Prez is freaking out
Sweet, Haruto’s got a badass red suit now
Aina’s boyfriend wants a Valvrave
Man, this CG sure does look good
Oooh, I like the wailing guitars of this part. Solid score
And now somehow Dorssia is attacking them with actual boats. There’s just no rhyme or reason to their defenses or non-defenses
Damn, really nice shot transition to glasses-pusher assessing the field. The show is pretty professionally constructed
“Aina, I’m going to avenge you!”-gets shot immediately
THE SPIRIT OF AINA INFUSES HARUTO
“EIGHT PEOPLE. Give me the chance, and I’ll defeat the Dorssians at the cost of only eight lives.” L-elf just never speaks like a real person. He speaks like a plot contrivance, and it’s incredibly aggravating
Haruto so sentimental
And L-elf just sits up on the table, the straps falling away from him. Amazing
Ooh, attacking the ocean to both cool their Valvraves and fuck up the boats is the first legitimately clever plan they’ve had
The princess was nice to him. “You and your halfsies. That sentimentality…”
And some dumb space vampire stuff
Aina memorial online
“Rest in peace.” And everyone clicks the “Like” button. Cut to her boyfriend sitting alone in the rubble. The show is actually pretty sad and clever when it comes to the social media stuff
The Valvrave AI is hungry
“Module 77 is on route to the Moon, which is neutral territory.”
“Nothing is a bigger nuisance than the hopes of people who have no talent.” Nice, L-elf
Aina’s boyfriend is practicing rifle assembly to get revenge
Haruto and Shoko are both worried about him. They’re pretty cute
The Dorssians are attacking!
The show doesn’t really have any forward narrative momentum – the kids are just floating through space and occasionally getting attacked. The overt plot is largely just an excuse for repeated conflicts to give the kids room to move along their character journeys
But really, the two should be moving in sequence – dramatic, plot-shifting events should result in individual character changes
Shoko will warm L-elf’s frozen heart!
The Dorssians really are Team Rocket
Thunder and Inuzuka arguing over Valvraves
“I don’t want to do this for everyone. I want to fight for myself!” Go Inuzuka!
And it’s all according to keikaku, of course
Yeah, the point of this episode doesn’t have anything to do with Dorssia – it’s just 100% about this particular teenager learning to do things for himself. The overt plot is entirely a backdrop for small character journeys – but those characters and character journeys are simplistic, and the plot is so ridiculous that it kinda draws attention. Plus the show wants the plot to be exciting
God, their robots are so silly
“It has eight arms?!” “Ten, including its original two!” “I know that!”
SPIRIT AINA BLOCKS THE LASER BEAM
Inuzuka’s back to his old self again
And the show finally reveals that all of Module 77 was dedicated to the Valvraves
Valvraves were made possible by the Runes
“Every last student here is genetically modified”
“This is your classic ‘immortal anti-hero’ deal! Do we have a special pose or something?” Oh wow, Thunder is actually the first person to call out the contrived nature of their situation
“So much for being alone together…” Poor Saki
Shoko being friends with Akira
Inuzuka’s the first one to suggest actually experimenting to see how their bodies work
Time for an election for the prime minister of JIOR!
Thunder’s pretty great
Aaand Haruto attempts to attack the vice president, and Saki plays it off as… him trying to sexually assault her? Okay
Shoko has to be convinced to run. Fortunately EVERYONE LOVES HER
Oh dang, seems like Shoko’s dad is dead
See, this stuff just comes up in single episodes. There’s no continuity to the drama, because the show seems to only be plotted five minutes in advance
Saki’s trying break ‘em up now
“When we get to the moon, let’s hold a school festival!” Nice, Shoko
This show’s theme is basically “be young”
“We’re fighting a war. We don’t have the luxury of holding a school festival!”
“We don’t know when we might die. That’s why we have to hold a school festival!” Oh wow
And then it happens
And it’s contrasted against Shoko’s speech. Cheaaaaap
“This says that Shoko won” says Saki. Wow. It’s just… yep, they just use it to continue both the trite love triangle nonsense and the silly space vampires lore.
I mean, of course they do. What else would they do? This show’s a child – it can only frame any choices it makes in terms of its own childish priorities. Nothing means anything
Oshit, Shoko’s dad is on trial with the Dorssians. Well, I’m sure he’ll get a fair shake
“Once we get to the Moon, everything will be okay.” DUN DUN DUN
And now the whole student council is essentially the cabinet of this new country
“I refuse to let you apologize to me.” Alright Saki
Yep, they’re just using this to further the love triangle crap. Wow
And now Akira’s panicking. Gotta respect her anxiety, Shoko
And now Saki and Haruto are basically… going on a date
Yep, Saki’s using this to gain power in the love triangle. I guess that kind of works for her character, but it’s just… guh
Enemy of the week time
Now that they’ve got four colors of light trails, the fights look even more glorious
L-elf’s plan relies on the enemies being dumb and predictable as fuck. Fortunately, they always are
L-elf’s superpower is knowing his enemies are cartoon villains
“You cowards!” “To adults, that’s a compliment. Worrying about methods and aesthetics is a childish affectation. Using any means, however dirty, to achieve one’s objective is what an adult does.” DAMN ADULTS!
Shoko has to make the order to KILL HER OWN FATHER DUN DUN DUN
“Abandon the other citizens of JIOR!”
“It’s an adult’s job to return to the earth to make new flowers grow…” Wow, the first Good Adult and their line is “I must die for the children.” YEP
Oh no, it’s L-elf’s master! He knows all his moves!
OH MY GOOOOOOOOD
“Rukino Saki, will you marry me?” WAAAAAT FUCK YOU SHOW
Back with future Saki, and what looks to be L-elf’s son. QUESTION MARKS???
“I want you to let me spend the rest of my life paying for what I did.” GOD DAMNIT HARUTO
Thank god Saki turns him down. Saki continues to be the one decent character in this show
Wow, they’re killing the students with poison gas.
“That’s so like you, Cain, a man who puts results ahead of methods.” This dialogue
Such dynamic direction in this space fight stuff!
Pretty sure half of Thunder’s dialogue has been “It’s Thunder!” in response to people calling him Yamada
“She had a rough time at school a long time ago. That’s why she’s scared of going outside.”
Ono dead students
“WELCOME, MY GREATEST MASTERPIECE. SHALL WE BEGIN THE GRADUATION CEREMONY?” Oh Cain
And now Team Rocket’s plan is to heat irons and attach them to the Valvraves to overheat them
“Impossible… how can he be beating me?” Because the plot has decided you don’t win this one, L-elf
Funny that they’re making the Akira-Shoko narrative as central as the other plots here. Reflective of Valvrave’s ultimate character focus
AHAHA THE DRILL SENDS SHOKO FLYING
Nice character animation
The Akira stuff is actually the best part of this episode. At least it’s based in a legitimate character conflict
It’s another Valvrave! Akira time!
Akira saves the day!
THE HACKING VALVRAVE, OF COURSE
CAIN IS GLOWING SHIIII
AND NOW HE’S FLYING AWAY WAAAAHH
And his mech has its own little AI person, who’s apparently Haruto’s mech’s brother
The Magius! SPACE VAMPIRE COUNSEL DUN DUN DUN