Reviews: Valvrave The Liberator
Good start, poor finish
Valvrave is an ambitious series, that aspires to do a lot. But unfortunately, it only maybe does half. That said, its best to talk about the seasons separately. Now in all likelihood, you've seen this premise before; evil empire invades peaceful nation, and a student gets some great power and fights for truth, justice, and the Japanese way. Nothing new there, but the series makes up for it with some good action, some creative details, and some intriguing characters. And while you may have seen some of these tropes before, I doubt you've seen them all in one product. The story, while done before, is done in a unique, and creative enough way, that it kept my attention, and the characters have a definitive arc they go through. Unfortunately, the second season is where the series starts to lose footing. Let me start off by saying that there's a framing device for this series, which you probably will figure out fairly quickly, but I won't say. While that's often a good thing, the framing should be built around the story, not vice-versa. It seems like the writers thought of the framing device first and then decided to do the story, and were more interested in filling out a checklist than a plot. Starting with the second season, the story becomes increasingly expansive and intricate, enough so that the story starts to buckle under its own weight. Come the conclusion, so much has happened, that there's no way to really wrap it up. We're sort of told what happens, but we never see it, and I was left with more questions than answers. Aside from that, the second season had the problems. While the characters are fine, the romance takes a nose dive. Shoko and Haruto started with some good chemistry (and so did he and Saki, who is a far better character in my opinion), but they spend so little time together come season 2, that the chemistry evaporates. Ultimately, while I did enjoy some of the series, I find it hard to recommend it purely on its own merits.
Leaving Preconceptions Aside
Valvrave the Liberator is a mecha anime with the premise of a peaceful nation attacked by a belligerent one, only for an otherwise ordinary (maybe even below-average) student to find a super prototype mecha and defeat the invaders with it. That's all I knew going in, and that's all I needed to know. I saw it was new on Hulu, I didn't bother doing any research into the development team or check out promo materials, I just thought 'I like mecha. Let's give it a shot. When watching this show, I didn't try and compare it to other mecha shows, or even recent anime that I watched, I just took it at its own face value. And that value is pretty good. Valvrave isn't a groundbreaking show, but its still solid. The action scenes are great, and it shows a just enough about the characters without making me feel like I was drowning in back story. There's lots of drama and terrible things happen to some of the characters-as often do in a war. The added twist with the nature of the mecha was neat. With each episode, I didn't bother trying to predict what would happen, but rather I went with the flow and enjoyed the twists of the plot. Valvrave is a fairly dark show with many light hearted moments, which fits the setting-teenagers in war. However, this is caused more by the characters being themselves than anything out of character (L-Elf is always serious, for example), and the juxtaposition of the mundane drama of highschool (which is low-level, but feels high-level to anyone in high school) with the actual extreme drama of war makes for interesting moments. The music of the show is great also (excellent use of Psycho Strings in the first episode, for one thing) and the animation is really solid. I think the reason for a lot of negative responses that I've seen is that people were expecting something different and so they were disappointed. Like if you thought The Spirit was going to be like Sin City when it was more like Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Valvrave isn't the best mecha show I've ever seen (some episodes don't have enough action for my taste), but its still pretty good. It gets very graphic at times, but when I saw the whole 'mature viewers disclaimer' on Hulu, I figured I was in for some roof stoof. If you're ok with that, and can let a show go in its own direction, you'll like this show.