If you’re around the internet a lot, chances are that someone has already told you that Valvrave the Liberator is bad. You might have come across an elaborate, well worded post on how it is both distasteful and cheap. These impressions must have strengthened the belief that Valvrave is a show best ignored, a byproduct of everything that is wrong with mecha anime. Maybe you’re a better person for not watching it.
It’s also possible that you’ve heard someone say that this is one of the greatest things ever to be conceived by the ever (in)famous Sunrise. Chances are that person happens to be me.
Valvrave is yet another Sunrise mecha anime about a boy who meets a giant robot and ends up becoming an immortal space vampire who can take over the bodies of people he bites. It sounds legitimately insane enough, but writer Ichiro Okouchi likes to take things a little further than he’s allowed to. As the series progresses, Valvrave digs deeper into the abyss of preposterous plot twists while maintaining a true sense of (twisted) humor and fun. But what many people tend to under appreciate is that underneath all that residue is a fascinating retake on all the most popular tropes to populate modern Japanese anime. It’s like I’m watching an existing character from another mecha series play a parody of himself in a story whose plotline still has real consequences.
However, the problem with a series like this is that it’s hard to tell where the jokes end and where the more serious stuff begins. The rape scene in episode 10 is was a huge wake up call for me. It’s a lot more complex than many people give it credit for. Yes, Haruto and Saki were forced to have sex for the sake of procreation with Haruto possessed (or controlled) by the AI during the act. It’s extremely controversial and a difficult topic to discuss. But to say this scene was unnecessary is something I disagree with, it ties in with the series’ theme of giving up your humanity for power and its relation to the Valvrn folklore. Humans have seen sex as an expression of love (more than anything else) but there is no love in this act, it is brutal and unflinching in its portrayal and what’s even more unsettling is Saki’s resignation after realizing that this was their “curse”. Could it have been done better? Yes. Is it as bad as people make it out to be? No, I don’t think so. This won’t be the last time this will be brought up in Valvrave, that’s for sure.
I also appreciate that it does try to flesh out its characters when it can, a stellar example of this being the shut in, Akira who undergoes an incredible progression. You saw her create a bond with Shoko, and these scenes were deliberately sprinkled throughout the show and showed some restraint, a thing that is very uncommon in the universe of Valvrave. The emotional payoff by the end of the cour truly makes Akira’s character arc a delight.
That’s a concept Valvrave understands, there needs to be some payoff and this show delivers. The season finale climax is so enthrallingly insane that you just can’t look away. It’s a memorable way to close the curtains until the second cour.
Yep, it’s going to be a long wait until October.