It's been a minute since I watched a good space mecha anime. Perhaps my wanting to watch PACIFIC RIM and not being able to see it is what made me start watching VALVRAVE THE LIBERATOR or perhaps I was just killing more time between installments of ATTACK ON TITAN. Either way, I discovered a pretty good show. It's not perfect and not quite in the same league as MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM or NEON GENESIS EVANGELION, but it is a close cousin. At times an annoying imitating cousin, but mostly not so annoying or imitating. We start out with a bunch of school kids. Yeah, of course, we do. It isn't anime if there aren't school kids. And the school these kids go to just happens to be located on top of a secret lab that builds bigass robots called Valvraves. This school happens to be part of the JIOR territory too and JIOR is supposed to be neutral in the war that is being fought between Dorssia and ARUS. So why is JIOR building weapons? And under a school, no less! Watch to find out.
Our main character is Tokishima Haruto and he is just your average reasonably popular school kid. He likes his childhood friend Sashinami Shoko and he is about to confess to her (A love confession in the first episode of an anime? No freakin' way!) when Dorssia attacks the peaceful JIOR and really screws his plans up (Told ya!). Shoko is killed (or is she?) and Haruto decides that he wants to kill the Dorssia scum that killed her. But how? Well, as the lab below the school is being attacked by the terrorists, a dying scientist sends the Valvrave 1 up to surface level within convenient reach of Haruto and thus out of reach of said terrorists.
But there's something peculiar with this robot. It requests that you give up being human in order to pilot it. Haruto does so without knowing the possibly very dangerous side effects of his choice. Haruto becomes a hero though and he drives back the Dorssian forces as well as the ARUS forces trying to snare him in a political trap to steal the Valvrave.
Eventually about four other pilots in four different colored Valvraves join his fight and the school becomes an independent nation floating through space with the Valvraves serving as its army and its engine.
But it isn't easy to run a country made up almost solely of school kids. Some definite growing up is in order if they want to survive and keep order. This is where supreme badass and untrustworthy genius prick from Dorssia L-elf Karlstein comes in. L-elf is a refugee (supposedly) that helps Haruto when it benefits him and he is known as the "One-Man Brigade" even though he is 16 years old. Word of advice? Don't mess with L-elf.
Much like a mecha anime called CODE GEASS: LELOUCH OF THE REBELLION, we are given a mecha drama filled with supernatural undertones. However, VALVRAVE THE LIBERATOR also has a bit of a sense of humor and even a romantic angle going for it at first. But like a lot of anime shows the light and fluffy stuff gradually gets dropped and shit starts getting real as we approach the final episode. And I've got to say that I've seen a lot of anime. Probably more than is healthy for even the nerdiest of nerds. But there is a specific moment later on in the show (and you'll know it when you see it... I think it is in episode 10 or whatever episode is called Campaign Promises of Love) where my jaw just about hit the damn floor. Man, I just really was NOT expecting this incident to happen at all! I mean... it's just one of those things that will grab you.
The first season left some serious questions to be answered about the Valvraves and Haruto's condition and all I can say is, "Man, I can't wait for the second season to arrive in October!" Until then I'll just be cliffhanger-ed for almost three months. It's freakin' agony.
The second season will decide if this show ends up in my catalog of greatness, but if it improves upon the first season then it will be a serious candidate.