Hello everyone and welcome to the first of what hope to be a series of blogs on Valvrave the Liberator. The purpose of this blog is to promote discussion and to promote viewing of this series if it is very good. Before I begin talking about the series, I should first explain what drew me into the series.
For one thing, the anime series was produced by Sunrise Studios, a studio well known for its Gundam Franchise and for Code Geass. Since I had seen at least 4 Gundam series and both seasons of Code Geass, naturally I was interested. Although I have mixed feelings about the most recent Gundam series, I did enjoy Code Geass and was curious to see what they were going to do this time since the studio would not have to be restrained to the Gundam universe and tropes.
Valvrave the Liberator starts off with your typical Mecha anime series set up. In fact the episode mostly plays out like a typical Gundam episode; this is not surprising since this was produced by Sunrise Studios. There are two fractions making war with each other. In the middle of this conflict, there protagonist's home is attacked by one of the fractions and he ultimately chooses the side that does not slaughter the people in his city. In this case, there is a third neutral country that is caught up in the midst in the warring factions and the protagonist is situated in this country called Jior.
The episode beings with a food eating contest between our protagonist Haruto and his friend Shoko to decide who will use the track. The goal of the contest does not matter as much as the reactions of the contestants to the outcome of the match. Haruto, who loses to Shoko, laments that he had never even wanted to participate in the contest in the first place. It is during that moment that we learn that our protagonist is a bit of a wimp and the anime emphasizes that trait. We see that Haruto is passive in everything he does and does not do. When confronted by Shoko as to why he is too passive, Haruto simply answers that he wishes for a world where there is no winning and losing and where everyone could have share happiness. Haruto's answer then provokes L-elf, who takes offense at such a statement, as implied in the posters, L-elf will be foil to Haruto's character in the same way that Athrun was to Kira in Gundam Seed. L-elf is practically the polar opposite of Haruto in every. Unlike Haruto, he's part of an elite group in the Dorssian Military Pact Federation, which is as far from Haruto's peace loving hippie philosophy as you can get short of turning into Hitler. When he talks, there is not only more assertive voice, but one that commands a person's attention. L-elf is so different from Haruto that he even punches him for having a different opinion.
After the incident with L-elf, the rest of episode consists of Haruto spending time with Shoko and showing the audience how the elite Dorssian insurgent group had managed to bring the Valvrave to the surface of the Dylson Sphere. For the most part, the series tries to get the audience to connect with Shoko so the audience will actually care when they "kill" her at the end. For me, the scene where Shoko "dies" was pretty effective because I did not suspect that the series was building up to the death of a character because that usually never happens in a story.
For those who have seen a Gundam episode before, you will instantly recognize some familiar tropes. For example, there's a scene where one of characters is completely "destroyed" by a laser, and the remaining characters mourn by wondering where the "dead" character was before he or she is disintegrated by a laser. There's also a point where the hero is forced to pilot the new experimental machine in order to protect his friends and city. However, Haruto's motives for getting into the mech differ when compared to other pilots. In his case, he is piloting the robot to get revenge instead of protecting his friends. The episode also differs from the real robot genre in that the series does not explain how Haruto is able to pilot the mech so effectively or if the mech is controlling its actions for him. This is a huge departure for a franchise that made its tent pole franchise by focusing on making their series more realistic. The bits of fan service littered through some parts of the episode were also distracting. For example, there is a scene where the hero is attacked and the scene cuts to a part where a girl grabs the breast of the girl next to her for no particular reason other than to distract the viewer from the action.
For the most part, I enjoyed the first episode of Valvrave. Even with some of its missteps, the climax at the end is enjoyable and action packed. The mech designs are creative and the animation is not distracting. The cliffhanger at the end also compels me to at least take a look at the second episode despite the funny sound effect that goes with it. All in all, I would say that the first episode is worth a look whether you're a fan of the genre or not.
For more discussion of Valvrave, check out the discussion page.