Kakumeiki Valvrave has quite the pedigree, with Sunrise producing this new mecha anime and Okouchi Ichiro handling the writing. As far as Sunrise goes, there has been quite a history with mecha anime that gives Kakumeiki Valvrave more credibility and interest than most. With that being said, can this series become anything more than a Gundam clone, or is it resigned to a life of mecha mediocrity?
Kakumeiki Valvrave is the story of Tokishima Haruto, a high school student in the nation of JIOR, who is characterized quickly as being less competetive than his friend and secret crush Sashinami Shoko. In the future that Valvrave presents, about 70% of the world’s population resides within large space structures called Dyson Spheres, which are able to house life up to the size of a small country. Right in the first episode, we start off with an attack by the nation of Dorsia, which is a less than subtle reference to Germany, with terms like Blitzendegen(Blitzkrieg) and Waffe (Luftwaffe) being tossed around. And then follows the death of Shoko, in a surprising sequence that definitely took some risks early on. In a rage, Haruto utilizes the large robotic humanoid weapon, the Valvrave for the first time, and there, we have our anime!
First things first, I thought that, for the first episode, there were quite some developments that quickly laid out the groundwork for the rest of the series. The death of Shoko is dealt with less than fifteen minutes in, which provides the perfect kind of catalyst to develop Haruto into the hero that he is all too likely to become by the end of the series. Say what you want, but Sunrise definitely didn’t pull any punches with this first episode. The fact that one of the characters dies so quickly into the show’s run gives the series the implication that life is going to be dangerous and brutal for all of the characters, with real stakes.
Also to note is that the story sets up future developments, with Haruto’s initial denial of Shoko’s passing, despite having witnessed it with his own eyes. It’s clear early on that her death shakes him, and shapes his character into something different than what he was before, both mentally and physically. In particular, there is one line about Haruto forfeiting his humanity that makes me believe that Kakumeiki Valvrave is going to host to an interesting plot. The conflict with residual guilt and depression over her death, along with the essential loss of his humanity is something that can be used later on to provide ground for some interesting situations later. This is the point of an introduction: to set the stage for bigger developments.
In terms of the animation, it is a solidly made work. Overall, the productions values are high, which is to be expected in a show produced by Sunrise. The main focus, being that this is a mecha show, is obviously on the Valvrave, which gives off a sleek and yet deadly aura, with its dark blacks and deep reds that just amplify the strength and power of the machine.
As far as the character development goes, there really isn’t any. Sure, we get a sense of who Haruto is, and I do like the fact that they took a risk by killing Shoko and giving Haruto a reason to make the decision he makes. However, at the same time, we didn’t get enough time with the cast to truly understand or care about them. I think that Kakumeiki Valvrave would really benefit from having a few episodes dedicated to the relationship between Shoko and Haruto, so that we can truly comprehend why he has a crush on her, and why her death affects him so profoundly. To draw comparisons with another Sunrise product, in Gundam 00, we cared about Lockon’s death because he had been developed as a character and we had time to create a bond with him. Still, there is only so much one can do in the introduction episode, which is why I don’t think that this is a huge issue.
Being only the first episode, there isn’t really much to find horrendously bad about Kakumeiki Valvrave so far. I suppose that if I had to nitpick, I noticed that the sphere was pierced in one area during Dorsia’s attack, creating a hole into outer space. However, it seemingly had no effect on the atmosphere within the dome and the people living inside didn’t even seem remotely panicked that the hull of their Dyson Sphere had been breached. However, that is a minor complaint that shouldn’t have any real bearing on the story.
So far, Kakumeiki Valvrave seems like an intriguing show so far, with good animation, strong potential developments, and cool mecha, which is all I was really expecting from it. I have to admit, this series has me wanting to see every development in the next few weeks, and I can’t wait to continue my coverage for the rest of this show’s run.