Sunrise’s new mecha show recalls a lot of their past in another take on the tumultuous future.
What They Say:
A new age where 70% of the human population lives in space thanks to the development of “Dyson Sphere”, a city in space. The world is divided into two main powers: The Dorrssia Military Pact Federation, a power which grew out of a military alliance, and the Atlantic Rim United States (ARUS), which grew in power as it expanded its trade agreements. The minor nation of JIOR has declared neutrality between these two forces and maintains its peace through economic prosperity. Within the JIOR’s Sphere, Haruto Tokishima lived an ordinary life as a high school student in the division known as “Module 77”-until the Dorssian military begins their sudden invasion! But the whole world will be shaken when Haruto meets the mysterious humanoid weapon, Valvrave!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Sunrise is easily one of the biggest names in the anime industry. The studio has created many great anime from Cowboy Bebop to Gintama to Code Geass and so many others. Being one of the most prolific producers out there, it’s not fair to expect this level of greatness from everything they have a hand in, but when they come out with an ambitious-looking new original with high production values, it’s worth taking note. Their latest effort, this season’s late-starting Valvrave the Liberator, brings back Ichiro Okouchi, the writer of Code Geass, one of their most notable original productions. This story returns to a prominent theme of not only Code Geass, but many of Sunrise’s biggest properties: mecha. Sunrise has been the de facto mecha home studio since they jumpstarted the genre as we know it with the original Gundam series in 1979, spawning quite possibly the largest franchise in anime history.
Valvrave the Liberator doesn’t necessarily show drastically more or less influence from previous works than most other new anime, but it’s not difficult to acknowledge its creative talent bringing back some familiar themes to implement in this first episode. The story begins by showing us our protagonist Haruto in his daily high school life, full of whatever comical antics they can fit in but peaceful in the comfort he appears to have in it. This peaceful life is destroyed in an instant, leaving the helpless Haruto with only the choices of giving in to his helpless fate or seeking out the power to stand against it and get his revenge, giving up his humanity to save his life. The climax of the episode of course serves to display this power as he wipes out the enemy forces that have no idea what they’re dealing with. I think it’s safe to assume that few people would expect the main character to actually die in the first episode, but there’s still a moment during which one may wonder how he can survive, and unsurprisingly his newfound power is the answer, and will undoubtedly be touched on much more in the rest of the series.
Obviously there are a lot of Code Geass similarities in the above description, but beyond the Gundam plot points borrowed for Geass, this has plenty of other Gundam similarities: the characters are living in space colonies, the conflicts of various political groups starts the war and attacks that drop into the lives of the characters initially uninvolved in any major plots, and the power that Haruto is able to obtain comes from a newly developed mecha that happens to be sitting right near him, allowing him to climb inside and instantly be able to master it to combat his opponents no matter how clueless he may be about it, something which will clearly be continuing.
These familiar themes and plot points are weaved together with a harsh but motivating tragedy to bring him onto the battlefield. Whether this will continue to be his primary motivator or simply a catalyst for the infusion of power into his being that will push him forward from this point on remains to be seen, but it was definitely a very important moment for this opening episode. Only having a small part of one episode to experience the idyllic life these characters enjoyed before this, the moment doesn’t hit as hard as it might at a later time, but even without the empathy that would come from better knowing these characters, the audience is given enough to have sympathy for Haruto and understand why this is such a powerful motivator for him. The most obvious source of disconnect with the scene is the suddenness in which it’s presented, but it feels like it must be an indicator that this isn’t actually the last we’ll see of this character.
Although Sunrise productions are usually handled by Bandai Visual, Aniplex is in charge of this one, and with the ambitiousness this property seems to be attempting, it’s not surprising that there’s plenty of money being put toward making this look good. Sunrise’s size and history of success has meant some very solid production values for major projects, and this is definitely another impressive example of this. Even if the content seems a big unremarkable so far, the quality animation makes the viewing experience a pleasant one for that reason alone.
Valvrave the Liberator brings back some talented people for a new story covering some familiar ideas. Does it work? Sure; not too spectacularly just yet, but for a first episode it’s a plenty acceptable offering. The tried-and-true themes explored, complemented with strong animation, will likely hold the series up well enough throughout its run, but a bit more originality in the coming episodes, whether in plot, execution, or however seems most appropriate, will go a long way in helping it to stand on its own in the future.
Streamed By: Crunchyroll
Toshiba Satellite L655-S5191 PSK2CU-1C301U Notebook PC.