Sunday, July 14, 2013

Valvrave: A shaky journey


Honestly, this had a rough journey, from the moment it began and up to the end of its 1st season.

As an original anime series coupled with the same author as Code Geass, I was expecting something up to the standard of Code Geass, which I would now safely say that this series is nearing, but not quite there yet.

In the early episodes of Valvrave, I was pretty disappointed at how the series delivered itself, based on the character setting and plot developments which were too clichor just purely there for the sake of being there. Some early examples were how the Valvraves were "used" at first, being simply mascot and stuff, forming a governing with students only, enemies which were exceptionally weak and not forgetting all those "rely-on-Shouko-cheers-and-we'll-win" moments.

While on the verge of that tipping iceberg, it was really fortunate when the series started to climb its way back up with views from the future, more plot developments and more questions were posed. Not forgetting more mecha actions as well, even though the Valvraves did have some disappointing designs, seeing all of them in action in the last few episodes were really appealing for the eyes.

I would say that the 6th episode basically saved the series after Saki took the pilot seat for Camilla and it was the first time where the pilot's abnormal abilities are put to the test. Immediately after that, we see a scene from the future in the next episode where Saki is still seen piloting the Valvrave but with others out of sight. From there on, the series begins to retake it's spot of being one of the better plot designs for this season.

Looking back at the entire series, based on the same author as Code Geass, there are many similarities in terms of the plot design but unique in a way where I'm really interested in seeing how this series would end. Similarly in Code Geass where Lelouch holds the power of the Geass to be able to control a person, Valvrave pilots hold a body-swapping ability which did showed how well it performed when Haruto and L-Elf swapped bodies, that enhanced the piloting ability of Valvrave Unit 01.

It was a pretty ambitious concept as well, when the Module or the school itself wanted to declare independence. As a small module being protected by Valvraves, it was seen at first as a naive move and with the idea of threatening each faction in handing over the Valvrave to the other side, it was purely a simple idea that didn't work out in the end when the Dorssia attacked. Which was rather obvious that the faction wouldn't care if they would just wipe out the entire module and hijack the Valvraves. And just when I thought that a little module that holds the school wouldn't be able to survive the assault of Dorssia, it turns out that Module 77 seems to be a well-armed module after all, with its entire purpose is to serve the Valvraves.

I can still remember how I was disappointed at the very start when it showed the Dorssia soldiers infiltrating the Module and wanted to take over the Valvraves. It was all so "Gundam-like" until the closure came and Haruto boarded the Valvrave and became a vampiric pilot who is immortal. That was when I started seeing this series differently, with pilots possessing similar but abnormal abilities. What I would have wished to see more in the series would be the focus on their abilities. We do know that the Valvrave causes the pilots to become immortal and can swap bodies when they bite someone else and recently, we know that the ability can cause oneself to lose control of his own body. Now this curse can be seen as a plus or minus point depending on how one uses it but I guess it's tipping towards the "curse" side... The unfortunate thing is that this ability, even though it's like the main focus or the story where all pilots lose their humanity, it was not really looked into yet. The only few times I see it being used was to swap bodies for fun, to escape certain situations like the body being trapped and nothing else... Would be great if we could see a more tactical usage of such abilities.

What they had created in Season 1 all seemed like a prologue of what exactly are the Valvraves and their purposed in the world. And what about the beings such as Cain himself, what are the Magius? And what exactly are the AIs of the Valvraves itself, where Unit 01 called out to Unit 02 as her brother. Furthermore with the 2 glimpse into the future where each showing Saki and some talk about the pilots as the founders, I really hope that the 2nd season would be enough to cover all these questions and end with a blast. Which was what happened to Code Geass itself. I mean I wouldn't be surprised if I were to see Haruto die in the end, since all those scene from the future doesn't seem to show Haruto in it. From those scenes, it does seem like the pilots have eternal lives too?

Looking at the Valvraves, I would say that I would personally prefer Unit 01, 05 and 06 which have Haruto, Inuzuka and Akira as pilots respectively. Unit 03 and 04 just doesn't look just as nice, with either multiple hands or multiple spider like legs. Although all those does increase the power and mobility of their units, but having those designs just doesn't look good to me. On first look on Unit 03, with it multiple hands and a focus on them reminds me of STRength from BRS, which they could possibly make the unit have larger and more productive hands rather than just having more of them. Similarly on Unit 04 or Carmilla, where I don't really think the legs should be there just to show that it has more mobility. Even I believe that some sensor or valves would be able to achieve the exact same purpose, without the legs. What looks most normal would be Unit 01 with its Harakiri blade attack, followed by Unit 05 and 06. Oh, and that adds to another question, why only Unit 01 has the Harakiri blade and only it can function after its heat reaches 666? What significance does that number hold and why does the Valvraves stop working after reaching 100? To me, that's quite a downside to the units, a very big downside in fact, since overheating would mean that the unit's a goner. I do have some preference for Unit 06's hacking abilities as well, after all it only appeared for half an episode, which means that we do get to see more in Season 2! :)

For the characters, I would say that I don't really quite like Shouko's personality at the start. Or over-optimistic I would say. Being optimistic is one thing, being overly-optimistic is another. To me, she seems like a person who believes that miracles would happen as long as one wishes for it. And that is one of the main points that to me, pushed me off the series for a while. I mean that's just too clich ? I do know that most series does have this kind of stand, but having it occurred over multiple episodes is just a big no-go. I guess that was pretty much a preview to her own character until near the end where she got devastated and a possible would-be despair once she learns about Saki and Haruto's relationship in the future. It was really painful watching how Shouko was talking to her father and which in order to save the module, her father had to be sacrificed, under the hands of Haruto, who had once vowed to help her reunite with her father. For Shouko, it wasn't a decision she could make and even if she could, there was only one plausible path she would take, which was to save the Module itself. It was a nice touch on showing the different sides of the battle where the others were cheering on the victory of Haruto while Shouko screams in pain as she loses her father. That was really depressing to watch :'( Considering the fact that she's now the prime minister and how much she feels for Haruto, I would believe that one day, she would learn the truth behind Saki and Haruto and also, the truth about her father being killed by Haruto would be exposed. For this series, it would seem that she's one of the female protagonist that is the "despair" type, where she basically can't find her real love and had to entangle with her best friend and love interest killing her father which she had no choice but to stand by and watch the blade fall.

For Haruto, he does have the "Kira Yamato" type of personality, wanting to protect everyone even if sometimes he doesn't seem to have the ability to do so. He boarding the Valvrave in the very first episode was a pretty much rushed idea since that time he only wanted to avenge Shouko whom he thought was dead, but I was pretty much disappointed in how "dilly-dally" he is in his relationship with Shouko. He does know that he himself does have feelings for her but yet still hesitates to confess to her. To him, not being human was the big thing that prevented him from approaching her but really, just because of that reason? I've seen many series that used the exact same reasoning as one side is not human etc. But all turns out just as well, I honestly thought that Haruto and Shouko would be a wonderful couple but damn you author, now all Shouko fans are devastated after seeing what Haruto did to Saki... I guess it was fortunate for Haruto to have L-Elf as his aid, since he would most probably be unable to make proper decisions for himself. Looking at the big picture, the Module's safety was of top priority and if Shouko had called Haruto to tell him that her father was on board, Haruto would definitely abandon the plan without fail. And L-Elf would have prevented that from happening by shooting Shouko dead. It really isn't much of a proper or good thing that happened there, but it was inevitable and based on Haruto himself, the module would have been placed in a large danger if L-Elf wasn't present. The sad thing is that Haruto seems to be over-dependent on L-Elf as well, where every plan he bets on L-Elf's presence and without him, it doesn't seem like he could accomplish anything. Which as the main protagonist, this falls short of his own abilities. L-Elf on the other hand, had rather less screen time after the start, where his position as the strategist merely places him on the back of the battlefield where his combat abilities are not fully utilised. Would've been awesome if he was piloting one of the Valvraves as well, honestly, I really don't think Yamada suits the image of a Valvrave pilot...

As our first female pilot, Rukino Saki does falls short of her own piloting abilities on board the Valvrave. Even though I was pretty surprised over how she manage to learn using the "DRAGOON" like system on her Carmilla and to be able to use them with ease, some basic fundamentals of piloting the Valvrave doesn't seem to quite get to her at first. Based on her personality, what she truly wants is fame, and wanting to live up to her reputation, which was why she approached Haruto in the first place, when Haruto was the center of attention with him piloting the Valvrave. Fortunately, it seems like she changed quite a lot after piloting the Valvrave and working around with others, and it was quite a bad experience to be forced down by Haruto who had lost control but honestly, I was shocked to see her rejecting Haruto's proposal, after all it all seemed quite obvious that she has feelings for him too. Based on the scenes from the future, Saki is seen taking care of a child that looks a little like L-Elf which creates another big puzzle to be fixed in Season 2: who exactly is that kid and where is Haruto? what exactly happened to the world? In fact, the future has nothing similar to what we see now.

All in all, this season seemed to me like only a prelude to what is going to come in the next season. It all feels like the real story has yet to begin and what I've watched for the past weeks were only previews of the real plot itself. Seeing how plot-dependent this series is, I would honestly say that the intro was done well, it was a shaky ride but it was worth it to see through it all.

And without further ado: here's the PV for season 2!

First things first: is that a new uniform I see? :D awesome!

From the PV, a death flag for Haruto seems to be set, most probably regarding the curse of the Valvraves and the Valvraves can change pilots? Maybe that's only possible if the previous pilot dies, or the host of the virus that was injected into them when they sat in the cockpit. And L-Elf wearing back Dorssia's uniform?! Now that would pretty means trouble for the Module (if it still exists) since everyone does seem to be alot of hope onto L-Elf himself. Nonetheless I do hope that the 2nd season will answer all the questions that were left in season 1 and that may the ending be as good as thrilling as Code Geass. Having very high hopes for season 2! :)
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