This is review number two hundred and twenty. This is part of the Spring 2013 anime lineup. I am slowing down with my reviews. Real life is knocking and I am forced to answer. This is really why I was reviewing anime at a fast pace since I know a day will come where I’ll slow down. I’ll try to keep releasing reviews once a week though. TPAB is about to regain his life outside being a NEET and boy, the rays of the sun hurt a lot. Anyways, the anime I’ll be reviewing is Valvrave the Liberator. It’s a twelve episode anime about a mecha with some kids and they’re vampires. It’s murky but also really awesome. Stop right now and just watch this show. Let’s read on.
This anime is about the students of Sakimori Academy that lives in the neutral country of JIOR. One day, the military federation of Dorssia started attacking the peace loving JIOR thus breaking it’s pact with the ARUS federation and effectively waging war. For the students of Sakimori, they were shocked to learn that they were being attacked. After seeing his close friend die, Haruto Tokishima decided to fight back in a flurry of rage. He stumbled upon a giant mecha and decided to use it against the attacking Dorssians. The machine asks “Do you resign as a human being?” and Haruto agreed. The Dorssians are shocked that a neutral peace loving place like JIOR have strong weapons in their possessions but the whole thing explodes into a huge mess. Both Dorssia and ARUS now want the awesome weapon. The students of Sakimori Academy of Module 77 of JIOR simply want peace though. If it means facing the wrath of a military nation and the political misleads of another, the students don’t care. They decided to never rely on adults from this point on. It would appear though that Haruto’s decision of choosing “yes” holds a lot of surprises our little hero simply isn’t ready for.
Taking the Pants Off
I’ll say it right now. This is one of the best anime of the Spring 2013 lineup. As TPAB, I pride myself in watching all the anime available in a single lineup. I’m pretty close to watching everything from the Spring 2013 lineup and I can honestly say that this is one of the most entertaining anime in the lot. After all, the guy who co-wrote Code Geass was able to capture the charm of that particular anime and apply it for this particular show. Who would’ve thought that an anime about vampires and mecha can be entertaining? In the wrong hands, it would’ve easily sucked. Sunrise was able to pull it off magnificently being able to emulate the premise in a familiar gundam format but with a more refreshing take on it. Let’s be fair here though, this anime was ridiculous starting out. It had questionable plot progressions and, yes, vampire/mecha was way out there for someone who prefers watching a ninja in orange overalls. It should be mentioned that a lot of people didn’t like this anime. I was honestly skeptical when I tried this anime out, but a great anime is a great anime. Valvrave Liberator is not perfect and the various tropes used would easily turn people off but it’s a really entertaining anime. I hope this review can convince you to try this show out.
This anime had a really complex plot. It’s convoluted enough that the amount of information dumped was overwhelming but entertaining enough to follow the show despite the fact. Let’s take this one step at a time though starting with the status quo. In the distant future, humans are able to create colonies in space. In fact, 70% of the human race is living outside of Earth in manmade modules big enough to fit a big city in. The world is divided into two megapower faction: the military federation of Dorssia and the Atlantic Ring United States (ARUS). Amidst the power struggle though, a bunch of people agreed that they can achieve peace by establishing the small neutral nation of JIOR. This new nation was able to get the nod from both megapowers but the tension is still obviously there. It didn’t take long for Dorssia to start invading the nation. It captured every JIOR resident living in a bunch of modules the nation is consist off. They had a bit of trouble regarding module 77 though when a mecha strong enough to wipe out the invading Dorssian units appeared. This module, which houses the Sakimori Academy, is now on the sights of Dorssia. They want complete control of this nation but the students are ready to give them hell. It honestly feels like a familiar set up. I’m sure if you’ve seen enough Gundam anime then this kind of “war in space with teenagers as the cast” is easily recognized. The anime was able to nicely establish the status quo. Dorssia is this asshole of a group that believes in peace obtained through struggle. They aren’t afraid to kill and they’re so sound in the battlefield that they’re a force to be reckoned with. They demand success that they’ll go to any means to achieve it. Opposite them is ARUS. They’re a more democratic group that prefers talking over any bloodshed. Of course, they aren’t deadly. They mean well but they are toe-to-toe with Dorssia and there is a good reason for that. Then there is the innocent JIOR being overwhelmed by the military faction. There are honestly enough components in this status quo alone to make a good anime. After all, mecha plus war in space equals a pretty entertaining show. The anime had a lot of surprises in store though.
The anime had two plot points. The first one is about the mecha vampire angle. I was honestly a bit scared at how the anime would pull such an obtuse premise off. Rather than a simple mecha aspect with the pilots being teenagers full of angst, the “Valvrave” mecha would ask for your humanity in exchange for power. Yes, they pilots become vampire. I don’t want to spoil much but I admired how the anime tiptoed around this premise. It wasn’t fully focused on the ridiculous mecha vampire combination but more on the pilots themselves. This plot point had a nice mystery setup to it though. The origins of the mecha and its actual purpose were something the anime nicely build up. As the anime progresses, various characters would often question how the mecha was kept secret by JIOR, a neutral peace loving country. The basic rundown of piloting one, the criteria in order to pilot one and the strange effects it had when you do become a pilot are all the things this plot point is concerned with. It seems like it’s not just something a bunch of smart people put together and decided to let kids pilot it. Its actual purpose is nicely shrouded in mystery and the small paced revelation was something that I did enjoy in the anime.
The second plot point is about Module 77 and its fight with the Dorssians. This is a pretty big plot point and it does get pretty overwhelming at some point. This was the main focus of the anime though. It’s not concerned about the mecha or the war. Oddly enough, this anime was focused on the teenagers forced to fight the military faction. Thanks to the power of the Valvrave and the various individuals that rose to the occasion, it seems like this bunch of inexperienced people have a fighting chance against a military faction. I am having a hard time explaining this plot without spoiling the story but let’s just say this oddly resembles the second act of Guilty Crown. Yes, goddamnit, I’m mentioning GC in a review. GC has three acts. The second one resembles a Lord of the Flies story where the kids are stuck in their school and forced to survive. They established their own government and they stood proudly as the actual government decided to kill them. The exact same thing happened in this anime. The focus is on the various students slowly accepting the fact that they must fight to survive and they must do it together. They are a bunch of characters that were just planning for their school festival though so you can imagine how much of a toll this would be on the students. They witnessed their friends die in the raid by Dorssia, their trusted government is wiped out and a group of deadly bastards are out to kill them. It’s pretty nice to see them really hold it together and actually try their best to fight every problem coming their way.
This is one odd plot point though. The students banding together to survive is just a piece of the pie. The various musings concerning teenagers are also addressed in this anime. The first one is the lighthearted everyday life of students. This anime is a Mecha, Supernatural and, oddly, a School anime as well. Can you picture an anime with war and mecha as the basis but with the characters actually having time to sit down and have a picnic? I was pretty weirded out by this approach. It all eventually made sense though when you realize the show has a huge cast that needed to be evenly introduced and this lighthearted school fluff works great once tragedy kicks in. Don’t fool yourself. A lot of these poor bastards will die and the anime was really building it up so the shock is grander. Of course, the lightheartedness also nicely captures the notion that they really are just kids and they need all the laughter they can get. After the shock of a lighthearted fluff faded, I did enjoy the moments of the anime. The students bonding together, even when times are hard, being a symbol of hope for the rest of JIOR is a nice approach in the show. It’s all pretty great once you look at the big picture.
This is a really interesting anime wherein the story and the characters really play off each other. While the story itself is pretty great by itself, it’s the characters that really make this anime pretty fun to watch. There are a lot of characters in this anime. The wonderful part is that the focus was nicely spread through a lot of them. While there are certain main characters, the side characters are also given a special focus. It’s a smart thing since the anime is a story about war and different perspectives makes this tired and predictable concept more chances to improve. It did improve. This anime was pretty spot on with how to progress the story while also developing the characters as well. The obvious main character is Haruto Tokishima. I’ll be blunt here. Haruto is the typical main character that has no endearing personality and basically flows along with the events of the story. He is the mild mannered guy that gets pushed around but decided to push back from now on. He doesn’t really do anything remarkable besides being the pilot of the weapon that is keeping Module 77 operational. Seeing Haruto go through the events of the anime honestly reminds me of the character of Guilty Crown. Goddamn, another mention of that anime. Let’s just say they both weren’t really that good but they played their part well. The story was able to make sure Haruto keeps being interesting as you keep watching. With the secrets behind the effects of Valvrave and a subplot love triangle, Haruto does have his moments. If he wasn’t shooting down Dorssians with his mecha then he’s bound to do something stupid that the audience will like.
Haruto is easily overshadowed though by one outstanding character named L-elf Karlstein. He is a Dorssian soldier stranded in Module 77. He was a prisoner but the guy dubbed as the “One Man Army” has some tricks up his sleeves that’ll just surprise you. L-elf is the best character in the anime. He is ruthless, unsympathetic and very calculating. In fact, he has this amazing ability of predicting his enemy’s movements and uses that advantage to come out on top all the time. Throughout the anime, you see him being chased by a lot of people yet he always seems to kill them all. It’s pretty awesome to watch L-elf do what he does best. Now imagine this calculating battle hardened guy taking over Module 77. Conflicts are bound to appear and he has enough experience to pose as a threat to the entire place despite being only one guy. But wait. What if this Dorssian soldier agrees to join Module 77 in their cause? Not only do the students of Sakimori High fighting with a giant robot, they are also in the midst of a genius mastermind that literally kills people by the hundreds by himself. It’s pretty damn awesome how the events of the anime transpire simply because L-elf is involved. He also has this stupid bond with Haruto though. They are both the main characters. One is a peace loving guy that fights for what he loves while the other is a ruthless guy that gets the job done no matter the consequences. There was a bit of heated exchange between the two. What if they agreed to join forces though?
The rest of the cast had their moments in the anime as well. The different people inside Module 77 are all pretty interesting by their own right. There was a nice range of diversity in the place that makes certain interactions pretty fun to watch. It’s the typical high school setup for the most part. There are a lot of friendly people, some b*tches and arrogant douchebags, some geeks and others that fall in the middle. The anime was pretty precise in introducing the characters. There are some that really stand out in the beginning like the girl that declared the school an independent nation or the geeks that keep the module operational. There are characters though that started out as simple side characters and the anime slowly build them up to more important roles. The fun part is that almost anyone could’ve had an important role in the show since they were all evenly introduced and developed. Some of the characters all had their own little subplot that the anime focused on and it often lead to a big change for them. I’m trying not to spoil much but seeing who will affect the story in a big way was something the anime nicely executed. Almost anyone can do something heroic and you often won’t see them coming. Some of them are often pretty annoying as well but the anime still did good concealing the surprise.
The students of Sakimori aren’t the only focus of the anime. I’m actually impressed that they also had time to focus on the attacking Dorssians. There were some standout characters in the enemy side and they all contribute to the flow of the story as well. It was a nice way to really give a well-rounded feel of the battle. Seeing the enemy go wild and overwhelm the good guys but suddenly having the role reversed is pretty entertaining to watch. Especially when you’re watching freaking robots fight in space which is something that Sunrise has nicely mastered. Some of the enemies also have their own little subplots as well like L-elf’s former comrades. They are all out for blood and one of them even have this deep grudge for the guy he once called his friend. It was a nice addition to keep the story interesting. Towards the latter half of the anime, the Dorssians and their leaders slowly reveal their true colors as well. It seems that they want the Valvrave but they also seem to know a lot more about it. The plot really thickens as you keep watching. The enemies are also really interesting in how they play their role. Being a military group, they really couldn’t care less who they trample to the ground and they had countless chance in the anime to shoot innocent people like crazy. Most of them really enjoy the war and you often hope some of them would die as you keep watching.
This is a really wonderful anime. This review really cannot explain everything that was in this anime. It was packed with a lot of wonderful things and I really love how the anime balanced everything. If you pick it apart then I’m sure there are scenes that really wouldn’t make sense. As a whole though, this show is possibly one of the best anime of the year. I’m calling it now even though there are two more lineups to be released. For a twelve episode anime, it had all the opportunities to really get convoluted and stupid. I honestly even waited for it since a lot of people have decided to put this anime down as if it’s something Gonzo released (yes, I hate that studio and fear any anime they would present). Sunrise was really going for something spectacular like Code Geass and I think they really succeeded on that part. Some may think it’s a shameless clone but it had enough intrigue to set itself apart. After all, a vampire mecha anime isn’t remarkable by itself. How about a vampire mecha anime with teenagers going through puberty forced to fight a military nation with a handsome mastermind and a soft as cheese goodie two shoes leading the pack? This is a well thought out anime with something really enjoyable to present. I’m sure you’ll easily enjoy this anime as well.
Sight and Sound
Katsura Hoshino handled the character design for this anime. She is the author of D Gray Man and her style was nicely presented in the characters of Valvrave. She has a knack for creating really pretty characters with expressive eyes and a stylish body. The wonderful part of her work is how the characters become more familiarized with how the outfit works to their advantage. The futuristic School angle was nicely captured by how the characters presented themselves. While they themselves look a bit generic, it was the flashy uniforms and the sci fi additions that made them stand out. The anime had a large cast but they were all nicely designed that they would still stand out without any lines in the show. Katsura’s style also nicely comes out whenever you stare at L-elf. That guy is handsome and the particular white hair is nostalgic for someone like me that enjoyed D Gray Man. The heavy lines on the characters aren’t something I liked though. It isn’t much but the characters don’t really look any difference with or without it. The thing that made the biggest difference though is the bright color palette for the show. Sunrise did a good job of applying the bright colors to the characters because it makes them a lot more appealing. Even the enemies had an appealing light to them with how their outfit and the bright colors are incorporated. It’s pretty great.
The mecha designs are also pretty great. Sunrise does not make bad robots. It’s their freaking specialty so you can expect big awesome robots from the company that build a legacy on big awesome robots. The design is the familiar gundam type but with an odd choice in color. From red to yellow, it’s pretty interesting how a different paint makes the robots interesting. The robots also differ from one another. I’m trying not to spoil much but there are a lot of mecha robots in the anime from both sides. There are robots that nicely resemble insects with how many legs they possess and how they behave like particular bugs. Some of them are the usual humanoid type though but the added weapons on their arsenal made their style all unique. From a sword type mecha to defensive mecha with a really awesome wing it uses as a shield, there are a lot of surprises in terms of the robots in the show. Even the minion robots used by the enemy look pretty cool. They are the standard grey type with a balanced style. I love how they band together and form a big shield. The mechas even had personalities. This show is awesome.
The animation is outstanding. Again, this is Sunrise. The studio is built on awesome robots being awesome robots. The mecha battles are all amazing. The CG work on the robots is great and the movement is pretty smooth. I love how they just dance in the battlefield. There is this gracefulness in how the robots move that I really admire. This is also enhanced by the smart use of camera angles and some amazing effects on the robots. The choreography of the fights is really exciting that I often find myself jumping out of my seat in excitement. I’m not kidding. I often really scream and jump because the war battles are all so engaging. There was a decent pacing to it and every battle is different from each other. The Dorssians are adaptive creatures and they often comeback with a way to defeat the thing that crushed them last time. It’s pretty straight forward with the Dorssians attacking and the students defending but they always know to mix things up a bit. The show was smart to make sure the battles don’t become repetitive. For the movements of the characters, it’s all pretty decent. There’s nothing big to point out but the anime did a good job capturing the personalities of every character through the animation. There are also some skin to skin actions but nothing to write home about. Well, I’m also trying not to spoil the anime. The animation was pretty nice on how to establish the mood though. From lighthearted to romantic to gruesome to mecha action, Sunrise really knows how to make an entertaining anime.
I also would like to point out how graphic the anime can be. Well, nothing gory with guts and stuff but a lot of people dies in this anime. Most are nameless people but seeing characters shot and actually die is something pretty refreshing to watch. Most scenes are often surprising with how violent the characters can get. I remember one scene where a guy kept shooting on a dead person and laughing while he does it. Then there are the deaths in the mecha battles themselves. The anime is certainly not shy of killing people and they demonstrate that point in the mecha battles. Most ships with nameless characters are featured with their final moments being this scary special move most characters does. You’ll see a bright light and then the people inside the ship just die. This also happens in the minion robots. The anime just really enjoy killing people and it was a great way to really experience the awesomeness of this war. It was so enticing that I often want some main characters to die just to see how awesome it can be.
The anime’s OP is “Preserved Roses” by T.M.Revolution x Nana Mizuki. This was a wonderful song with a really awesome duet. The voices of the singer really play off each other in a really marvelous way. I really can’t stop listening to the song even though it’s your typical OP song. If you’ve seen enough Gundam anime then this OP won’t do much for you. The theme of hope and fighting through adversities was also nothing new though I love how the singers presented it. The finish of the song was also really great. The OP sequence features all the characters and a small montage of the events of the anime. It also gives a clear description of the important characters so use this as a guide map if you ever feel lost.
The anime’s has two ED. The first one is “Boku ja nai” by angela. The singer has a really lovely voice. It made this simplistic song pretty remarkable. The high notes and the impressive guitar riffs made this song pretty awesome. The theme of despair is an odd choice for an ED though. That’s just me though. The ED sequence is a black background with the characters introduced. It ends with the vampire girl in the Valvrave. She doesn’t have any role in the anime….for now.
The second ED is “Soba ni Iru yo” by ELISA. It’s the same as the first ED song. It’s nothing remarkable but the singer elevated the value of the song. Elisa has a playful voice that I really admire. The way she paces herself is pretty great to listen to. The ED sequence is also the same with just a few updates on the events of the anime since the second ED appeared on the second half.
8/10 “The BEST 12 episode anime of the Spring 2013 lineup. This is coming from the guy that literally saw every anime in the lineup.”
I actually have four more anime to watch to complete the lineup but I doubt Photokano can be as entertaining as this show. It’s complex yet easy to follow, packed with a lot of great things and it is familiar with how the mecha elements are presented. If you enjoy exciting mecha battles then you’ll love this anime. If you enjoy deep thrilling stories in your anime then you’ll love this one. If you love endearing characters in your anime then you’ll love this one. I highly recommend it.