With this season finally gearing up I'm finding myself in an odd predicament...there's actually more than one mecha series on the air that actually look interesting. However one has been surprisingly both what I've expected so far, and disappointingly not quite as palatable as the others. This isn't to say I'm hating the show so far, but it is to say that maybe well...Valvrave the Liberator may be too much of a good thing. This isn't bad per se but let's look a little closer at a show that so far has felt just a little too familiar.
The first episode of Valvrave establishes that as of the year Shinreki 71, almost all of humanity has finally left the earth and settled in space colonies. Two sides are the dominant powers in this new order, the Dorssia Military Pact Federation, and the Atlantic Ring United States. Caught between them is the neutral nation of Jior. Turns out Jior has been developing a mech in secret and Dorssia wants it for themselves. It all smacks of Gundam SEED's set up right from the get go, and while this isn't a bad thing it all just feels far too familiar of other series that have come out.
Our main character Haruto becomes our accidental pilot when the Dorssians invade, shoot up the place, and our intrepid hero winds up in the cockpit of the titular Valvrave. The mech asks the simple question of wether or not Haruto will surrender his humanity, upon doing so, the mech injects Haruto with..something, my money is on nanomachines. At this point the Valvrave launches to take on the invading Dorssian mechs, and wipes the floor with them, before the Valvrave suddenly overheats and shuts down. At this point the Valvrave lands, and as Haruto emerges from the cockpit, one of the Dorssian invaders named L-Elf shows up, shoots Haruto and plans to steal the Valvrave. Only Haruto gets up, and vampires L-Elf.
So...what's all this mean? Honestly I'm not sure, and I'm hoping that the series actually does get better, because right now I just feel like we're retreading ground. An alternate title of this series could be Guilty Valvrave SEED of Iron based on what I've seen so far. Haruto very much reminds me of Shu from Guilty Crown, only a little older and a little less of an immediate wimp. It's nice to see that he commits to fighting right off when it comes to piloting the Valvrave, but I can't help but worry about his avoid fighting mentality is going to lead us to some standard mecha series cliché. The Valvrave seems to be straddling the line between Real and Super type robots, but really it's heading into Super territory with it's crazy energy, and the fact that well, like the mecha from Linebarrels of Iron, it's seemingly injected Haruto with nanomachines and made a contract with him.
Our world set up smacks very much of SEED in that two governments are at war, with a neutral country making a super weapon in secret. I wouldn't be surprised if when ARUS makes it's entrance into the series they contracted the construction of the Valvrave for their use the way OMNI contracted Orb in SEED to build the Strike and the rest of the X Series. The Dorssians appear to be space Germany with TIE Fighter winged Mecha, and I won't be surprised to find out L-Elf and his other Letter-German number squad were all genetically engineered super soldiers.
The animation is well done, and we get a sense of power behind the Valvrave as it weaves around and slashes up the hapless masses but...despite being a new 'original' offering from Sunrise it just feels in the end like, well... We've been here before. It's certainly not a bad place to be, and originality in any medium is getting harder and harder these days. This show is young, and I'll hold out hope that it becomes good enough to step out from the shadows of those that came before and maybe, hopefully, something more than the sum of it's parts.