Kakumeiki Valvrave Weekly Update – Episode 6

Wife Material ThereWell, things have certainly changed for Kakumeiki Valvrave this week.

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Kakumeiki Valvrave was all about Saki this week, which is appropriate given that she became the new pilot of the green Valvrave, named Carmilla. However, more than that, she forfeits her humanity, although, due to her actions and words later in the story, it is doubtful, at least for me. She states that she wants nothing more than to be famous and to carve her existence into history, and along with a complete turn in personality, it can easily be perceived as Saki going insane. However, I feel that just isn’t the case, and it really redeemed Valvrave for me this week, and validated my viewing of it.

RevelationIn this episode, Saki explicitly announces to Haruto that she is lusting after fame, and that through the piloting of Carmilla, she can reach a wider audience and expand on her already significant popularity. My first reaction to her words was that Saki was strangely a more appropriate choice to pilot the Valvrave than Haruto because of the fact that she seemingly has less humanity to sign away. As I thought about the actions she was taking, the fact that she was actually the most human character in the show became readily apparent. She perfectly embodies mankind’s desires and fears of being forgotten. By becoming the pilot of the Carmilla, she removes the normal inhibitions that restrain most people, allowing us the glimpse of true human nature, at least in Hobbsian terms.

Overall, I think that the hidden complexity of Saki really added a layer to this episode that can be expanded on next week and beyond, making this a successful installment.

FearThis episode was a bit mercurial, so let’s just skip ahead.

Well, it’s entirely possible that I might just be thinking too deeply about Saki’s personality change, and she really is insane. In which case, Valvrave’s inconsistency with characterization is a serious problem, especially when concerning a character as key as Saki. Still, if this turns out to be the case, at least that means that Saki is honest with her motivations.

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Hopefully, I’m not overestimating Valvrave’s writing, because I think that there really is something special about the way that Saki was developed as the quintessential human when all normal restraints are removed. Here’s hoping that Valvrave doesn’t waste the characters and conflicts that it has been building up for the last few episodes.

Kakumeiki Valvrave Weekly Update – Episode 5

Valvrave00004Power outages, music videos, and shocking discoveries are all featured this week on Kakumeiki Valvrave. What more can we ask for?

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Well, contrary to my personal theories, Kakumeiki Valvrave dealt with the surprisingly realistic ramifications of Shoko’s declaration of independence. The issues of food, power, and the short-sightedness of her plan were all highlighted, and dealt with accordingly, which was fine for me. The solutions were a little convenient, but there is a lot more to enjoy about this particular episode.

Kakumeiki Valvrave made it through this outing with only minimal attention paid to the Valvrave itself, which worked well for this particular segment. I found that I missed the mecha much less than I had expected to, as there was still plenty of action to go around this week, just not in conventional forms. Not to mention, a healthy dose of Saki was delivered this week, and that was a touch I greatly appreciated.

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It’s no secret that I am ready to take Saki’s side when the battle lines are drawn, and this episode did nothing to change my opinion. If anything, I only love her character more now, after witnessing her in action. Not only does she lay the smack down on Takahi, but she also manages to star in a music video planned by the students to raise money, and steals a kiss from Haruto, reigniting the love triangle. Beyond that, based on her attempt to bite Takahi, which mimicked Haruto’s actions, and the fact that more Valvraves were discovered at the end of the episode, I can safely assume that Saki will become a pilot next week. All in all, this episode did a lot to establish Saki’s importance to Kakumeiki Valvrave.

This episode was full of head scratching moments, from the fact that the physics teacher didn’t think once to lend a hand to the freezing students, to Shoko randomly singing “Jingle Bells” to cheer up her classmates. Valvrave’s lack of solid writing became painfully apparent this week, especially with the manufactured crisis of the power suddenly running out, and the solution of pressing a big red button. Things just didn’t seem to fall into the realm of realism this week, and although Valvrave rarely actually cares about treading that line, it became much more obvious when the show slowed its pace down. With the developments made this week, however, we can expect the action to pick up soon.

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While the music video was undoubtedly one of the highlights of this week, it just felt out of place. I mean, this is a mecha show, right? Can’t we put the Valvrave to better use than as an extra for a PV?

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Kakumeiki Valvrave faltered a bit this week, with its weakest showing overall. However, its worst still is leaps and bounds over every other show this season in terms of pure entertainment value. It’s hard to pinpoint what makes this such an endearing series, but whatever it is, Valvrave certainly hasn’t lost it. Aside from a few hiccups, Kakumeiki Valvrave’s fifth installment was a solid outing that left me hopeful for the next few episodes and the developments that they will bring.

Kakumeiki Valvrave Weekly Update – Episode 4

Valvrave00014Kakumeiki Valvrave has made it clear this week that realism has no place in the escalating war between Dorssia and Arus. Despite that, Kakumeiki continues on its improbable and surprising run of solid episodes.

You know, there was once a time when I actually debated between watching Kakumeiki Valvrave and Majestic Prince. And now, after witnessing one of the most unrealistic, yet insanely entertaining episodes of Valvrave’s short run, I can safely say that I’ve made the right decision by choosing this.

This episode continues with the political drama that was hinted at in the last episode, with Senator Figaro planning to steal the Valvrave and Haruto before leaving all of the students behind to act as a distraction for Dorssia while he sneaks away. He’s the archetypical evil politician, a vibe I had gotten from him since his appearance, and he certainly acts on that side in this episode. However, the real surprise comes at its conclusion, when Haruto and Shoko take the Valvrave hostage and declare their school to be an independent nation.

Valvrave00018Wow, just wow. The lack of realism is astounding at this point, but Valvrave does such a good job of filling its episodes with juicy political drama and action that you learn to ignore it and to just enjoy what is being presented to you. As usual, the animation sequences with the Valvrave are cool, although we still only see it in limited bursts. If we saw the mecha in action more, it wouldn’t be a bad thing, but at least the scenes its involved in are done well. When the war begins to really come to a head, I expect to see far more scenes with fighting, but honestly, this episode did well without any prolonged action scenes, so it won’t be a problem moving forward.

Valvrave00007Haruto didn’t really have much to do this episode. No, the real star this week was Shoko. I’ll admit, I was on the fence about her for a while, but this week has totally vaulted her into being one of the coolest characters on the show. She is the one who essentially takes charge of the declaration of independence, and her leadership is definitely a plus for me when it comes to her personality. It’s refreshing to see a female character who is able to stand up for herself without also being overbearing and unlikable. That may come as a surprise, but Kakumeiki Valvrave has managed to create one of the more likable females of this season. Not bad for what initally came off as just another mecha show.

Valvrave00002The main problems stem from the fact that this episode was focused entirely on the independence storyline. While I do love the fact that Shoko got a lot to do this episode, I wish that Valvrave would pay more attention to the other girl in this story, Saki! I’m still rooting for her in the competition for Haruto, and it would have been nice to see more screen time for her.

Also, the Space Vampirism didn’t really get much development this week beyond the fact that Haruto cannot switch bodies with someone without direct skin contact. It seems like it will be such an important aspect of the show, and yet, we still know almost next to nothing about what exactly Haruto is going through. Hopefully, Kakumeiki Valvrave will address this issue next week.

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Again, it’s the science behind Valvrave. How do they expect to survive when they’ve essentially isolated themselves from a source of electricity and food? Unless they have their own fuel sources, which is somewhat plausible, and they have some sort of food source, which is less likely, considering that their grounds are taken up by the school, they’ll starve to death before they can do anything meaningful.

Valvrave00016As usual, there are little things to nitpick about Kakumeiki Valvrave, but if we can look past that for the overall product, Kakumeiki Valvrave is as entertaining a show as there exists this season. I for one, am thoroughly enjoying every second of this series, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next, especially since the school has established itself as an independent nation. Hopefully, this means that there will be even more action, political talk, and more Saki!

Aku No Hana Weekly Update– Episode 2

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Aku No Hana continues on its twisted and disturbing path, with no sign of slowing down.TheGood Aku No Hana00004Takao makes a key decision in stealing Saeki’s gym clothes, after the tense build up from last week as he descended into darkness. When he returns to school the next day, he is confronted by Nakamura, who reveals that she knows his secret and that she saw him steal the clothes.

Certainly, Aku No Hana’s animation and art direction are key components to its successes, which come in the form of inventive uses of the visuals to add to the plot. Takao’s feelings of helplessness and despair are only complimented and enhanced by the use of a dark colors that cut him off from the rest of the world and really allow us as an audience to delve into his psyche and to try to understand the reasoning and mentality of a teenager who is clearly disturbed.

In addition, the soundtrack is again noteworthy, serving to build tension perfectly, with sparse use of music when necessary and other times, utilizing beats that just add to every scene they are in. The different elements of the production meld together in a beautifully technical achievement that is just simply incredible to watch.

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Let’s just get to the ugly already.

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For a show that has a realistic look, I just can’t seem to completely buy into Aku No Hana’s plot, because it is just incredulous how far Takao’s thoughtlessness goes. I am already on the fence on Takao’s decision to steal Saeki’s gym clothes, because the way he seems to be unaware of what the consequences of such an act would be is just ridiculous to me. He compounds the problem by bringing the clothes to school so that he can confess to the act is even more unbelievable. Worst of all, his reaction to Nakamura’s knowledge of his pilferage is just to run away.  Not only the act itself, but the way the way that the anime depicted it in an almost comedic way was just an unnecessary tonal shift that was abrasive to me.

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Despite its problems, Aku No Hana remains one of the more interesting shows of this season, if only for its impressive achievements technically. The plot, at least for me, is challenging to believe and take as something that could conceivably happen in real life, but it shows hope and Aku No Hana should continue to be one of the most creative and unique series of the year.

OreImo 2 Weekly Update – Episodes 1-3

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Ore no Imouto ga Konnai Kawaii Wake ga Nai 2, or OreImo 2 for short, is the second season of the hit anime from Hiroyuki Kanbe that was originally released in 2010. Can this second season continue on the path that its predecessor paved?

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I should preface this review with the warning that I am unabashedly in love with OreImo, and that my opinions are slanted because of that fact. With that out of the way, let’s continue into the review!

For those who haven’t seen OreImo before, or need a refresher, it chronicles the relationship between a pair of siblings, Kousaka Kyousuke and Kousaka Kirino, whose only true bond comes in the form of various life consultations, usually dealing with Kirino’s secret otaku hobbies. I would strongly recommend watching season one of OreImo if you have not done so yet, but due to the nature of the first episode, which acts as a recap, it is possible to jump right in and not to be left behind. OreImo00014

As far as the animation goes, it stays consistent with OreImo’s first season, which was already of a very high quality and had excellent production values. The characters designs are as colorful and distinct as ever, with only small changes in the details for this season. Unfortunately, the one piece of animation that did disappoint me is the opening. For the first season, each opening was unique, and I admired the effort that was put forth. But for the second season, there seems to be one uniform opening, which was still well made and had a catchy enough song, but was inferior to seaason 1. Despite that problem, so far, all seems fine on this front.

The same goes for the story, which has not changed too much after the first episode reestablished the status quo. The characters are largely where they were at the end of the first season, and we are free to continue on with the story, with all of its countless anime conventions and references. In of itself, this is something that only adds to OreImo, as it presents a surprisingly effective and astute satire of classic otaku behavior and challenges these tendencies, to great success. In my opinion, OreImo is much smarter than we give it credit for, as it pulls off insightful social commentary about the status and stereotypes of those addicted to anime without hitting us over the head with the message. It is a subtle, yet consistent message that is delivered in a lighthearted and entertaining style. As we’ve seen with countless other anime, it is not an easy task, and OreImo is one of the few anime who have actually managed to succeed in such a task.OreImo00008

The true appeal of OreImo lies in its eclectic mix of characters and the humor derived from them. In particular, Ayase has interactions with Kirino and Kyousuke alike that are just hilarious, with one scene in particular acting upon her oft referenced yandere side, blowing it up to the extreme in an exchange that just brought a grin to my face. I also love the fact that one episode was dedicated to recounting the backstory of Saori, whose interactions with her own sister have an interesting parallel to Kyousuke and Kirino’s relationship. OreImo00018

This is easy viewing, wherein one can simply sit back and enjoy the laughs that OreImo coaxes out of us so effectively. So far, it has focused on the development of each one of its characters, with some humor sprinkled in between of more serious scenes and development, to great success. I really do enjoy the shift away from pure humor to the focus on the supporting characters because I think that every character in this cast needs their own time onscreen to come into their own, and the Saori episode did exactly that, with its distinctive mix of pop culture references and humor to keep the material watchable while also working to add significant details to Saori’s character. OreImo00016OreImo00017

And that is OreImo’s greatest virtue: entertainment. Much like OreShura did before this year, OreImo has entertained me like no other show. The way that the relationship between Kirino and Kyousuke is explored constantly and the way that sexual tension builds up between them without it erupting into a full on incestuous relationship makes for excellent viewing and draws in devoted fans such as myself. Really, I adore this show so much that I cannot really find anything bad to say about it, and that speaks volumes as to how much of an effect OreImo can have on its audience.

OreImo is definitely a smarter and more complex show than people give it credit for, as it manages to both satirize and defy anime conventions while also providing solid charactr development masked as entertainment and comedy. Even if one takes it simply at face value, there is a multitude of reasons to enjoy OreImo and I cannot wait to continue on its journey.

Kakumeiki Valvrave Weekly Update – Episode 3

Valvrave00004Kakumeiki Valvrave has put its foot on the accelerator, and doesn’t seem to be looking back. With quick action, political dialogue, and contracts being formed, Kakumeiki Valvrave continues down its road, without any intention to slow down.

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Kakumeiki Valvrave adds on to the developments of last week by focusing entirely on the advancement of the plot this week, with little regard to character development. As a result of his heroics, Haruto is praised by the government of ARUS, and more specifically, Senator Figaro, who extends an invitation to Haruto to aid the ARUS war effort, an offer that Haruto accepts without hesitation.

At the same time however, he effectively falls straight into the plans of Senator Figaro, who seems intent on using Haruto as a propaganda tool and to act as the rallying point in the war against Dorssia. Meanwhile, L-Elf breaks out of the captivity that he has been placed in and reveals to everyone exactly why he is regarded as a one man army by decimating every single soldier that comes after him.

Although the mechas were missing this week, Kakumeiki Valvrave definitely skimp on the action, with L-Elf’s amazing display that honestly was one of the better sequences of the show so far. Alongside L-Elf’s domination came the reemergence of Haruto’s vampire side, although he was quickly knocked out of it by a slap to the face by Saki, who is quickly growing on me, I have to say.

On the subject of Saki and our burgeoning love triangle, we get the sense that Saki is definitely hiding some sort of experience, evidenced by her line about not trusting adults. What that experience and knowledge exactly is, we will just have to find out as the season goes on. In addition, Saki discovered Shoko’s bond with Haruto this week, and the flames of jealousy have definitely begun to sprout up.

Right now, it seems like Kakumeiki Valvrave is intent on supplying us with as much action and content as is humanly possible to include in one season of anime, and I am not complaining. The combat scenes are well done for the most part, and coupled with the stellar animation, they are always worth watching.

Valvrave00009Kakumeiki Valvrave moves quickly, and really doesn’t spend too much time on developing its characters. At least for now, I still know next to nothing about every character not named Haruto and L-Elf. While I understand that they are the leads, I feel like Valvrave could dedicate a few more scenes to the other supporting characters once in a while.  But really, this doesn’t have much of an adverse effect so early on. As long as some sort of development happens by the end of the series, I’m sure that this will be a minor complaint.

Inconsistencies with the science once more this week, in the form of what effect open space has when the Dyson Sphere is breached. I’ve already beaten this horse to death, so let’s just ignore it and move on.

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Kakumeiki Valvrave is speeding along right now at a breakneck pace, with little concern for the small details and instead focusing on gratuitous action and political developments, not that I’m really complaining. I have yet to find a boring moment in the last three weeks, and I am hopeful that this trend continues. Valvrave is clearly not setting out to tell a complex plot with subtle intricacies sprinkled in. Instead, it aims to throw explosions, mecha and drama at us at every turn, and I’m a willing recipient so far.