「悲しみは降る雪のごとく/ 曝かれたカミツキ](Kanashimi wa Furu Yuki no Gotoku/Abakareta Kamitsuki)
“Tears Like Falling Snow/The Holy Spirits Exposed”
Oh, Valvrave – it’s like I’m watching you grow up before my very eyes…
I’m pleased to be able to step in and shepherd Kakumeiki Valvrave to its conclusion here on RC. This series has been a wild ride, and I think the second season has been an upgrade over the first in every way. Thanks to O-Kairi for providing this week’s caps!
As I’m wont to do, let me get the niggling out of the way early so I can focus on the good stuff – and there was a ton of good stuff (and better) in this episode of Kakumeiki Valvrave. Why the hell didn’t L-Elf just shoot Q-Vier (note: I’ve wanted to do that since the first time he appeared on-screen)? It seemed like a perfect Raiders of the Lost Ark setup there – except L-Elf wouldn’t have even had to pull out his handgun as Indy did, he was already using it. I can only conclude that he actually took the time to put his gun away before taking out his knife to duel Q-Vier. Whaa?
That done, I can move on to the rest of the episode – which was one of the best in a season-and-a-half of Valvrave insanity. That gun incident wasn’t the only “Raiders” moment for me, because the ep struck me as a sort of combination of “Raiders”, Zetsuen no Tempest and Don Giovanni. I have a weakness for anime that have a sense of scope and grandiosity, it’s true, and Valvrave is proving itself to have a real operatic quality to it just as Zetsuen did. The soundtrack is even reflecting this more and more as the series progresses.
As I’ve said before Valvrave has exceeded the expectations I had for it – I knew it could be very entertaining but I didn’t expect it to hold together as well as it has. My track record with the second-split cour/sequel of shows I liked but didn’t love is pretty consistent – I almost never like them as much the second time around and often don’t find enough to even keep me watching to the finish. It’s been just the opposite here – Valvrave has grown up. It’s still absurdly expansive but now it (mostly) makes sense, and we’re getting some genuinely compelling character moments to boot.
This week featured the same nice balance of action progressing on several fronts while still being coherent and easy to follow. Cain has lamped out L-Elf’s plan (this conflict has increasingly cast itself as a battle of wits and wills between these two), forcing him to drop up Lieselotte with Haruto while he improvises an escape route using a drawbridge over the (I assume) Danube. Renbokouji has increasingly asserted himself as a surprisingly competent interim leader, holding the team together and issuing sensible commands while he waits for his Prince Charming to come save him. Saki has managed to de-shota herself and land back in her true body, but A-Drei catches her mid-bite, and is understandably anxious to know what he’s just witnessed.
The second half of the episode is a mix of pure adrenaline and heartbreak, as L-Elf goes on an Indiana Jones-like motorbike rampage to try and lower the drawbridge while the team inside the museum struggles to hold on until the Valvraves arrive for backup. As this is happening Lieselotte is giving Haruto her life story and in the process, valuable intel on just what he is and what the stakes of this battle are. She’s a Magius, a being without physical form who was part of a party that crashed on Earth (just as Pino and Plue. are) “hundreds of years” earlier (the whole thing with L-Elf would never have worked, given the age difference). While the others eventually formed the “Committee of 101” to secretly wield power and ensure a food supply of runes, she rebelled and tried to establish friendly relations with the humans – for which she was punished with the “Curse of Diffusion”, leaving her eternally on the edge of death from rune depletion.
At this point of the episode it’s already pretty clear that Lieselotte’s story is going to end tragically. In fact it’s only Haruto’s insistence that keeps her from staying behind to begin with (we actually get a rare Shouko – remember her? – sighting as Haruto internally compares his situation with that of L-Elf and Lieselotte), and it’s a good thing, as it’s her presence that allows the shuttle to escape. But it’s at the cost of her own life, as she expends her remaining runes in order to repair the damage Q-Vier’s “bigger knife” did to the hydrogen booster (no, I don’t really know how she does it) and goes the way of Marie. The body count is really starting to pile up – Marie, H-Neun, Lieselotte – not to be alarmist, but we’re pretty consistently losing one per episode now. My dominant thought here is that there’s going to be hell to pay for this – L-Elf seems to have been pushing himself forward entirely out of his obsession with Lieselotte and with that gone, I’m not sure who’s in more danger – his enemies or the “allies” who are actually stuck on the same ship with him.
Who’s next to go? Well, the flash-forwards tell us who it isn’t, and we can assume the likes of Haruto aren’t going anywhere this soon. There’s still plenty of drama – Saki is behind enemy lines with A-Drei (nary a mention of her on the fleeing shuttle, though they had plenty else to worry about in the moment). I must confess I love the way the man-crush for L-Elf on the part of Haruto and Renbokouji is depicted here – he’s like their knight in shining armor, despite all the shocking brutality they’ve witnessed from him. Is all this going to end well? I can’t imagine it will – the whole thing with the Valvraves just seems like a curse generally speaking, tainting anyone who touches it. We know who’ll be left standing, but I suspect the road to get there is going to be paved with tragedy – and I’m surprised at how much I’ve come to care about that.
As we get closer to the end of this series one truth is certainly emerging – Valvrave is suffering. It doesn’t seem that any of the good guys are immune to it – dying, losing parents, being raped by friends in vampire mode, slowly getting your memories sucked dry by an alien Hoover until you expire, losing the love of your life who you’ve been chasing since childhood. Being a protagonist in this series isn’t a pretty job. I’ve opined before that this is the sort of show that could go full-on tragic for an its ending (writer Okouchi Ichiro certainly isn’t afraid of tragedy) and it seems more and more a realistic possibility with each passing week.
This was definitely a step-back episode in terms of action, but not in emotional gravity. L-Elf set the tone: rather than go off on a rage-induced spree of violence, he retreated literally and figuratively into a shell. He holed himself up inside a storage room and obsessively searched for where he’d gone wrong, what he could have done to save Lieselotte – and found nothing. It might seem out of character but generally speaking, Valvrave has been more thoughtful and restrained this season so I think it sort of fits. It certainly is the case that L-Elf’s motivation has almost entirely been driven by Lieselotte, and losing it has rendered him effectively useless to Sakimori Academy and its cause, for now anyway.
Again choosing the quiet and somber approach over bombast, Valvrave turned to politics as the battlefield this week. Shouko has been busy in the absence of the others, working behind the scenes to get Dorssia condemned internationally and try to force the world into helping take back JIOR. Politics is every bit the dangerous game warfare is, and even more treacherous – and it’s easy to see that this isn’t going to end well for Module 77’s plucky underdogs. Much of this is framed through the device of Barnet, a cynical journalist with the highest-rated new show on the net – thanks in no small part to his coverage of the Sakimori rebellion.
Barnet is an interesting character (and an excellent character design – as someone who grew up watching American TV news, I can say that Barnet really looks the part) – this series is very good at making characters without much screen-time interesting. Even as he exploits the students for his own career it’s clear he feels a certain sentimental attachment to them, though not at all clear that it’s enough to motivate him to do anything more than pity them. It’s his brief interview with Haruto that’s the most interesting – he asks if Haruto doesn’t see himself as Don Quixote, with Dorssia as one giant windmill to be tilted. If you’ve read Don Quixote (shame on you if you haven’t) you know how it ends, and judging from Haruto’s reaction he knows at least the gist of it. Then again, Barnet also says “All the successful revolutionaries I’ve known had one thing in common: they were naive.” Does he think Haruto is too naive, or not naive enough?
Things come to a head when Shouko manages to attract an international conference to Module 77 to address the JIOR problem. The first thing that struck me was that gathering all the free world’s leaders in one place was a very bad idea and I thought that’s where this was going, especially after we saw the Committee of 101 declare that they’d lost patience with those annoying kids and needed to silence them once and for all. This impression is further strengthened when Barnet tells his team (minus his young producer, who’s missing) to bug out because he’s gotten a tip that “this is going to get ugly”, and the rescued JIOR scientists mysteriously disappear.
But once again, Valvrave chooses quiet despair over spectacle – to a point. And the point is the blade that runs a shackled Saki clean through on the webcast that the Magius interrupts the conference with. This is an interesting approach – rather than attack head-on the Committee (via their Dorssian puppet Amadeus) strikes at the heart of public opinion by outing Saki as a Valvampire. It’s funny to hear one monster calling out another, but the point is made – and even the vast majority of Sakimori students (who weren’t in-the-know) are horrified. This would seem to undercut the JIOR cause politically to an almost total extent, but then there’s Saki herself – it seemed as if there was remarkably little concern over her when the others arrived back home (indeed, I never heard her name mentioned until she appeared on-screen), but she’s in a world of hurt. The only ray of light I see is A-Drei, who seems to have a certain sympathy for Saki – indeed, there are growing signs that the surviving members of Yama Arashi (minus the utterly vapid Q-Vier) are questioning their loyalties in light of H-Neun’s apparent murder and the clues he left behind. As the stirrings of revolution rumble through Dorssia, it may be that the hope to bring down the Magius comes not from the Quixotic outsiders, but from within.