Sell me in 20 Minutes: Valvrave the Liberator

I dropped Majestic Prince today after finishing episode 2. It seemed confused about where it was going and the charm of the characters was wearing off pretty quickly. Fortunately, this season still had one more mecha left in stock. In a warehouse. On a shelf decently close to the top.

Sometimes an series comes along that reminds me just how jackhammery the death flags in mecha anime can be. There were all sorts of subtle and not-so-subtle hints (her showing superiority by beating him in the eating contest, the almost-confession) throughout the episode that the male lead’s friend Shouko was going to die and leave him with emotional baggage to drive the show.

Dramatic development aside, there were a lot of clever bits in the script throughout the episode. My favorite scene was the tongue-in-cheek joke about mecha nerds, who were interrupted in the middle of reciting the attacking fighters’ stat profile. I had to look up the series writer to make sure, and, sure as sand on a beach, it’s Ichiro Okouchi. Dude felt like he was freestyling the every damn chance he got, and I loved all the little things this episode managed to sneak in.

This episode’s major problem, in my view, is that it was trying to set up a typical school-life scene, showing what the characters are normally like, then smash it open like a walnut as violent space politics broke in. It’s an approach that works very nicely for a  lot of things (Escaflowne and Now and Then, Here and There come to mind). But the problem is that the hammer hit before the walnut tree could grow – the intruding transfer students were already cutting people down less than 3 minutes in. This was really hit an unhappy medium, as the slowness of the school-life opening scenes (which actually were pretty nicely handled per se) felt like they were serving primarily to slow down the “relevant” parts of the episode, what the show will actually be about. Also, the transfer students felt like attempts to be menacing, but couldn’t stay that way once they opened their mouths. Their dialogue was cliche stuff, and wasn’t really supplanted with body language or anything else to make them more imposing. That’s going to have to get better as the series advances, or it’ll be a major drag on the show.

For all the rough edges, Valverave comes across as a show with a fairly clear goal; crack the mood whiplash as hard as possible. It was good enough at it this week that I’m giving it 2 more to iron out the several non-negligible kinks.

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