The 2013 spring anime season is here and it's a great one for mecha fans. Majestic Prince started things off followed by the promising Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet. Now it's time for Sunrise's entry, Valrave the Liberator, and things are looking good.
"Shinreki 71, 70% of all human beings have finally migrated to space due to the development of space cities. Between two organizations called the Dorushia Military Pact Federation and the Atlantic Ring United States (ARUS), there is a small neutral nation called Jiōru that has prospered economically. In the same year, Haruto Tokishima, a high school student living in Jiōru discovered a mysterious mecha called Valvrave during the Dorushia's attack in the nation." via Wikipedia
It's too early in the day for me to be writing any sort of thoughtful or thorough review so I'll be relatively brief. Valvrave's first episode was great and immediately stands out as having the potential to be the next Code Geass. In a good way. Part of that has to do with the shows sharing the same writer, Ichirō Ōkouchi, who's definitely brought some Geass influences over. More on that in a bit.
I like the simple yet detailed character designs
Valvrave's first episode starts off with some pretty common mecha tropes, many of them straight out of Sunrise's iconic franchise, Gundam. There's the younger pilot who through a unique set of circumstances gets in and heads to battle for the first time in the latest mystery mobile suit (Gundam Jacking). There's the villains who enter the protagonist's space colony to try to take a top secret prototype. And so forth, typical for a first episode. There's even what many would consider a Char. Yet, on top of all this, they added quite a few other elements, many you can find elsewhere, but which serve to give everything a refreshing new feel. The main character, Haruto, doesn't go through the stereotypical lengthy period of working up the courage to go after his love interest. It all happens rather quickly and, on top of it, they go as far as to kill her in the first episode. It's a common narrative but in this condensed format it works really well.
The Code Geass influence shows in the final sequence when Haruto bites the main antagonist, L-Elf, and we get a glimpse of his cells being very Geassy. This time though it seems more like a result of the Valvrave's influence than mystical powers. The very end of this scene has lead many to wonder if it was a simple bite or if Haruto is now a space vampire. Either way, it's an excellent way to cap off an introductory episode.
There are a quite a few characters in the show, how many are going to be key players remains unknown. It's a bit hard to follow at times, "Hey, was that the same person from before?" but I like the realism in a school setting like this. Of course there are going to be a lot of people who interact instead of the small groups often used for simplicity.
None of the background music really stood out on my first viewing but it sounded strong when I listened for it later. It's a case of good background music, where it sits well with the scene and helps immersion. In addition the animation is really strong. The cel drawn characters, the backgrounds, and the CGI mechs flow together really well. Along with the realistic character designs (though there's some big tits in there for everyone) it helps develop the setting and support the tone of the show.
Space Nazi's mechs look pretty silly but their effective use makes up for it
I will say though that between the high speed fights, and the relatively complexity of the the designs, it does make the battles (as one person described it) very Michael Bay Transformers-esk. I thought it worked really well and I'm sure a lot of viewers will agree. It'll be interesting to see if it becomes too much as the series goes on as some of the suits see in the opening sequence have quite a bit of detail in their design.
I also liked the show's use of social media. Seemed oddly accurate.
I hope my rushed review of Valvrave's first episode wasn't too awful. Frankly I just enjoyed the episode too much not to start blurting out my thoughts on it. This, apparently, makes it the initial winner compared to everything else that started off this season. Where things go from where is anyone's guess. Thinking back to all the various series' who have started well only to crash and burn over the last few years makes me pause and worry. Code Geass went down hill, Gundam AGE got sloppy, Guilty Crown drove off a bridge, and Tiger & Bunny lost its vision. I'll keep my fingers cross for Valvrave. Either way, it's going to be interesting.