Monday, January 6, 2014

Anime Review: Valvrave the Liberator Season Two

To refresh everyone's memory, I started the first season of this back in the spring, dropped it a few episodes in (since I dropped shows left and right last year), was really glad I dropped it when I heard about the rape scene, and then got kind of curious about it again. I dropped it four or five episodes in the first time which is rather late for me and, well, sometimes I want to watch shows with amazing world-building with deep characters and other times I want to watch flashy, fluffy mecha shows. So I finished it and decided that since it was one of the few shows I wouldn't have to wait a week to watch each time, well, why not?

Valvrave the Liberator: Season Two

Continuing from where the first season left off, in the future Earth has split into two main factions, the American-like ARUS and the Nazi-Soviet-Russia-like Drossia, and when they start a war it's poor little Japan-like JIOR that gets caught in the crossfire. But then some JIOR students discover something amazing, their school was actually a secret government facility for developing mechs and pilots and between these new super-weapons and a Drossian defector they stand a chance at winning their own little war, although few of the students know at just what cost their advantage comes.

Looking back on it, 2013 was apparently the year where a lot of shows decided to undergo a genre shift and, while it's not a major one, this season slowly becomes distinctly more serious than the first which I found rather unexpected. It was a good call, the plot slowly becomes more and more important and a lot of the sillier antics vanish (I have memories of Saki having an idol concert at one point?), although some of them remain (it's still a bit hard to take seriously the fact that JIOR's government is now a bunch of high schoolers, although if it wasn't then some of the communication issues would have been a bit too much for my suspension of disbelief).

My feelings on the show are therefore a bit mixed, I went in expecting crazy mecha action and while I didn't get that (or the crazy lines the characters tossed out at the most dramatic moments) I did like that the show got a bit more serious about the plot but, well, it wasn't a very amazing plot and the pacing began to fall apart by the end. Back in the first season the show started having a few flash-forwards showing that yes the students not only succeed in defeating Drossia but they also manage to successfully form their own country, which is now an empire 200 years later. Which means that the show has yet another thing to accomplish and I don't think it did very well, there's a large difference between the "we now have a good chance at winning!" ending of the story and then the "we're still here 200 years later with a mysterious prince that looks like the love child of the two male leads" epilogue, it just doesn't quite work (unless they plan on making a movie to cover that and given how many series are getting movies these days I wouldn't put this entirely past Sunrise). I now wish the series hadn't been a split cour since, while the first season ended in the perfect place for it, if there hadn't been a gap then the show could have paced itself a little differently and I think given the last bit of the story a bit more time to breath, just too many things happen too fast which I feel lessened the emotional impact the story was going for.

Production value wise not much changes, I didn't think that the CGI was that bad or that obvious myself and I was happy they brought back TM Revolution for the opening theme (and I'm now really kicking myself for not seeing that concert at Otakon, probably would have been quite a lot of fun). On the other hand, when double checking names on ANN I was surprised to see there had been two closing themes which I think says enough about how memorable they were, although I do remember thinking that what must have been the second one was a bit oddly dissonant for me (semi-cheerful sounding song as the characters stand around in burning buildings? Yeah just, it's not quite there guys!).

It's a strange show through and through, if you like crazy mecha shows (especially other Sunrise shows like Code Geass and Gundam Seed) then you'll like this and should give it a shot. If not I feel like I could recommend better mecha shows (or better shows that happen to have mechs in them, sometimes there's a big difference between the two) but if you want to give it a shot anyway the show is streaming for free both on hulu and on crunchyroll.

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