[Review] Valvrave The Liberator – We Crossed the Line Many Times

[gg]_Valvrave_the_Liberator_-_12_[F9F3F5C5].mkv_snapshot_21.41_[2013.06.29_03.23.41]

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.

But!

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.

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8 Comments

  1. To be honest, Based on what I’ve seen so far, I’m still undecided on whether they really needed that scene or not.

    If they intend to tie up things with the Valvrn lore, it could give some justification, but the unpleasant fact is that someone needs time to realize they are with child.

    And thus this can not be confirmed in the first season.

    • but the unpleasant fact is that someone needs time to realize they are with child.

      Nobody needs to get pregnant. If Haruto fails the first time, he just needs to do it again. Sure they’d probably drop the thread in S2 if they didn’t really care but there’s enough context to support the idea.

  2. Well.. no matter how you look at it, these recent events is not something you can sweep under the rug, and it’s going to eat them from the inside.

    Given Haruto’s personality, I have reasons to believe that he will try working towards a 2nd proposal attempt somewhere along the road.

    But I’m not sure if they’ll be a 2nd vampire seizure leading to sexual assault on her again.

    That would be overdoing things? wouldn’t it? Then again this show does not seem to have that word in their dictionary.

    • That would be overdoing things? wouldn’t it? Then again this show does not seem to have that word in their dictionary.

      In the very least, we ought to expect the unexpected when season 2 comes around.

  3. Huh, was the rape actually intended for procreation? Even considering the folklore (which is genuinely interesting, sad there’s not much on it) I didn’t really see it that way.
    To be honest, I think the shock-value of Valvrave’s rape got to me. I may have overreacted a bit, but I still don’t really like it. I don’t think it’s fair to say rape should never be used in fiction, but I wish it was at least better handled. Really, a lot of things could be better handled in Valvrave, but maybe that’s part of the fun of it.
    I really enjoyed Valvrave, despite finding episode 10 and 11 incredibly weak. There’s some kind of charm to it, maybe it really is smarter than I give it credit for. Perhaps it’d be at least a little better if they did create a more definite line between jokes and seriousness (I genuinely thought they were trying to make a joke of rape when I first saw those leaks), but it’s certainly satisfying enough overall I can forgive it somewhat. Glad to know there’s at least one person defending it, because I’m still not sure if I can haha

  4. Valvrave is great, and oddly the more I think about it the more impressed I am with its actual style of storytelling. It’s risky. And I think the Valvrave team actually managed to pull it off.
    I didn’t have any of the hangups that most everyone else had. This series has been unpredictable and dramatic and crazy and dark and silly and any number of other things since the very beginning. For me it works. It obviously won’t for everyone, but that’s how it goes for any story.
    Great characters and a unique atmosphere. I’ve enjoyed this first half and will hopefully find the second half just as fabulous.

  5. Hello, just discovering your blog.

    Your review is very honest and insightful, I’m glad to read it. I’ve seen many, either ironic-“sobadisgood” or hateful, opinions about this show. Very unfair, most of them, and one-dimensional “ideological” (as ERU-ERUFU would say it).

    I think this can be the Deadly Premonition of mecha anime.

  6. GG sub had some role, too.

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