An anime about teenage body swapping vampires fighting with giant robots in space. Just the premise alone makes this show sound strange. But Valvrave has a few tricks that make it a vastly enjoyable show.
Valvrave is set in a time where buildings are created in space, and areas of space are constructed around the Sun, these are called ‘modules’. The show follows a boy called Haruto who lives in a high school ‘Module’, everything in his live is perfect and he’s about to tell the girl he loves about his true feelings. But everything goes wrong when the school is attacked by an enemy military known as Dorssia. It’s around this time Haruto finds a giant robot called a Valvrave. But this robot isn’t some run of the mill machine. The Valvrave ‘resigns his humanity’ and turns Haruto into an invincible badass who can pilot the robot like a pro. From then on its a battle for freedom as the students fight to survive against the impending Dorssian threat.
There is so much more to valvrave then just giant robots fighting. Subjects such as depression, sacrifice, fear of the outside world, religion, what it takes to be human and even sexual assault are all presented and dealt with in a mature way. Sadly, the show does have many childish suggestive shots (such as close ups on a woman’s breasts) when it wants to be funny. But luckily these shots are only used in the first half of episodes, making them the comedic side of an otherwise twisted story. Latter half of episodes tend to be more serious and deal with complex issues seriously.
Unlike many giant robot anime (AKA Mech anime), Valvrave is less about the robots fighting and more about the character development. Some episodes have no robot fighting at all and focus largely on the characters coming to terms with what’s happening around them. Characters are believable and relatable, dealing with surprisingly dark situations with a very realistic attitude. The character of Haruto is incredibly interesting due to the developments that take place in the show, he starts off as a typical teenage hero who always saves the day, but slowly becomes someone who is scared of the power he has, and even feels compelled to ignore his own happiness for the needs of others. It’s difficult to make this type of character development work in anime, but having Haruto break down and sometimes feel scared makes him a fantastically interesting character who people will no doubt be able to relate to and support.
The show has a rough start, taking about two or three episodes before it really gets going. But once it gets the ball rolling it becomes an addictive rollercoaster of emoticons. Sometimes you will find yourself laughing at something that isn’t funny and is rather disturbing, only because it’s shocking and can catch you off guard. A reason why Valvrave is so watchable is because of the language. The story never stops to tell the viewer bucket loads of information, but instead has characters mention hints of the story on through conversation. It’s a very complicated way to telling a story this rich in detail, but Valvrave does this so well, it will make you go back to watch previous episodes to realise that a conversation that made no sense before now has a completely different meaning. The writing and pacing of the story is fantastic.
The animation is some of Sunrise’s best work. The world and characters are very well drawn and there is a great amount of detail in everything. But it’s in the Valvraves themselves where the magic shines. The mechs are CGI models that look clean and highly detailed, the movement is never awkward and the combat is fast and fluid. The quality of the animation never drops throughout the entirety of the 12 episodes and always looks great.
There is a large amount of death and blood in the show. Some people should take note that there are a number of times teenagers are shot or get blown up. There is large use of sexual language and swear words are used a lot. There is also a heavily censored ‘rape’ scene that, while it shows nothing inappropriate, can be off-putting and may make some people upset.
Valvrave the Liberator is an interesting show with a fantastic premise. The show is not for everyone, it’s cheesy and unapologetic silly. But fans of shows such as Code Geass, Gundam, Fullmetal Alchemist or Neon Genesis Evangelion will find that Valvrave is a highly enjoyable show with layers of depth.
Other anime recommendations
Giant robots in space: Any Gundam series
Teenagers with mechs and super powers: Code Geass
Giant robots powering up and fighting beasts: Gurren Lagann
Valvrave the Liberator Season one is available to stream for free on Crunchyroll.com
This review was previously posted on http://www.marcusbronzy.com/