Series Recommendation: Kakumeiki Valvrave

Do you resign as a human being?
We have seen many wars, wars between countries, wars between planets, wars between Earthians and aliens, but there is a type of war that we don’t usually see: a war between a school and a whole country. Produced by Sunrise in 2013, Kakumeiki Valvrave – aka Valvrave the Liberator – portrays a unique conflict between young people forced to stand up for their survival against a systemic military force run by greed and thirst for power.

Even though the world has achieved much technological advancement, human still wage war against each other. Three factions – the Dorssia Military Pact Federation and the Atlantic Ring United States which focus on militarization and JIOR (Japan and Islands of Oceanian Republic) which focus on economic progress – are constantly at odds with each other with JIOR taking a neutral stance. However, things escalate when the Dorssia invaded JIOR, including the school that our protag – Haruto Tokishima – was attending. Haruto – in true mecha MC fashion – discover a top-secret super-advanced mecha called Valvrave. Haruto made a pact with a supernatural force to protect his friends and fight off the invaders.

+ Plot: Valvrave can be said to be a Gundam-equivalent yet not-so-Gundam series. Usually, there is an organized force behind both sides and what usually happen is they send the youngster into battle while they provide the logistic and rear support, however, Valvrave change it up by having the teenage students fend for themselves completely, with very little to no adult support. And that create both a very unique but also…frustrating scenario that perfectly describe “what would happen if we let the kids run everything?”. The struggle of naïve and young minds against a cruel and systemic military is usually a theme for Real Robot series, but Valvrave really let the children hold the reins of their own destiny, which often lead to very stupid decisions but also very realistic.

The characters in Valvrave behave very typical of their age – which is incredibly frustrating at times. Basically rebellious teenagers that never have to think about their livelihood for a day in their lives, suddenly thrown into a vicious battle of survival, no, a full-blown war. They do not know how to organize themselves and how to regroup themselves into a functional organization without guidance. Of course, the series balance this out by introducing L-Elf – a young man with exceptional brilliance in both intelligence and physical prowess. L-elf’s mind and Haruto’s might are what keep them afloat, and also create a very interesting dynamic in their relationship that also influence other students. A bloody coming-of-age story where one either grow up and become responsible or literally die is Valvrave’s core setting. Of course, those that actually grow up will also have to shoulder the mission of protecting others and taking the pain unto themselves.

+ Animation: This is around the time where Sunrise is quite comfortable with 3DCG. The mecha is animated with cell-shaded animation over 3DCG to make it look a bit more 2D with the smoothness of 3D. You can definitely see the 3D with how the mech moves – but the art strokes are quite similar to Gundam and their other 2D works. Of course, characters are still hand-drawn. The 3D studio also change up the models of the mech during certain shots to “emphasize” the Valvrave’s details – which is a staple of Sunrise’s mecha series: the “fluidity” of mecha’s proportion to achieve dynamic scenes. Overall, the animation is very, very well done. Compared to other series that also use 3D like Cross Ange and Akito the Exiled, Valvrave achieves the same smoothness but also manage to look deceptively 2D.

+ Mecha Design: The Valvrave designs aim to re-create the human body (ironic considering what they require the pilots to do). The design was drawn up first then turned to 3D models. The Valvrave is definitely the start of Sunrise’s fascination with “clear parts” as they have LOADS of those on each model, and subsequent Valvraves have more than the previous one. There’s also a clear theme of specialization with a “squad-settings” where different units share the same core body but has different colors and unique equipment for different roles. The design department of Valvrave has all kinds of big-names working on it, such as Kenji Teraoka, Kunio Okawara, Takayuki Yanase and Naohiro Washio. The Valvraves also evoke a “samurai” feeling, most notably with the first unit – Hito – since its name is literally “Man of Fire”. The armored big thighs and slim calves, with really heavily armored shoulders really strengthen the warrior vibe.

+ Music: It’s not just the mecha designers that are famous, but Sunrise really brought their entire S-tier for Valvrave. We got Akira Senju for the music and a variety of top-tier performers: Nana Mizuki, T.M Revolution, Angela, Haruka Tomatsu, etc… The OST of Valvrave is both energetic yet dyed with a very deep sadness at the same time. It feels like someone rebelling against their fate, which is pretty suitable for a “Liberator”. The youthful beat and voice of T.M Revo, the epic vocals of Nana Mizuki and angela, Valvrave really bring it home in the soundtrack department.

+ Conclusion: Overall, Valvrave the Liberator is a series with both familiarities and uniqueness. The settings remind you of Gundam but not quite, the characters remind you of Guilty Crown but not quite, and the mechs are quite distinct. Mixing both the familiar with the twists help Valvrave stand-out. And while the series might bring some very mixed emotions to the viewers, it is what Sunrise has been doing with their Real Robot series, depicting normal humans getting swept up in the waves of war and how they choose to cope, to grieve, and to fight.