Valvrave the Liberator Complete Season 2 Set Blu-ray Anime Review

Valvrave the Liberator Complete Season 2 Set Blu-ray Anime Review The scale of what’s involved grows but still manages to be quite personal.

What They Say:
Haruto Tokishima – by now every citizen of JIOR knew the name of this hero who confronted the Dorssian army’s unjustified invasion and courageously defended his fellow students of Sakimori Academy. But after seeing the sheer power of the Valvrave, both Dorssia and ARUS were ready to take this mysterious humanoid weapon for their own at any cost! With pressure coming from both of these powerful nations, the students of Module 77 decide that it would be best to head for the moon, which is a neutral territory, and declare their independence as New JIOR.

Meanwhile, Haruto, who was initially hesitant of confrontational situations, realizes that in order to survive, he and the other Valvrave pilots must fight to protect their school, country, and everything they held so dear. Why were the Valvraves created? What is hidden behind the “Magius?” Will Haruto and L-elf be able to reveal the truth of the world?!

Contains episodes 13-24 plus collectible postcards and a deluxe poster illustrated by character designer Katsura Hoshino!

The Review:
Audio:
Same as the first season, the audio presentation is pretty much what you want for a series like this as we get the original Japanese language track in its original uncompressed PCM format. The show is one that works a good balance of standard dialogue and big action scenes while also utilizing various placement aspects well since the light gravity situation means we get people floating around and moving across the screen. The forward soundstage has a good, strong and defined warm feeling to it as it plays out with the dialogue and how it tracks across it but it also has a really big and warm feeling with the opening and closing sequences. The action mix design is really quite good as the ships and mecha flit about and as it moves through a few different locales and styles across it. It’s reminiscent of old school anime in a way with what it does in this regard and the end result and working that here gives it a big, bold and really engaging mix that makes you sit up and notice a number of times. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in the fall of 2013, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episode run is spread across three discs with four episodes per disc. Animated by Sunrise, this is one of those series that really makes out well by the high bit rates that Aniplex uses to encode their stuff as there are so many extremely vibrant scenes with the mecha design, the fights in space and the weapons and lasers themselves that it’s just incredibly busy and really uses that bandwidth well. The non-combat scenes are treated just as well with a high bit rate and with good color design around the characters and engaging settings in many instances, the whole things has some good detail and layouts to it that allows the whole thing to stand out in a great way. This is a gorgeous looking transfer throughout.

Packaging:
Mirroring the design of the first season, the packaging for this release is one that has two Blu-ray cases inside a thin art box rather than a heavy chipboard one. The packaging artwork is certainly nice as we get L-elf and Haruto together on the front panel in their usual attire/uniforms while set against a white background. The back panel is one that again goes for the Valvrave artwork itself, this time with the Familiars connected to it, which gives it a darker and more sinister look to be sure. Inside the box we get a really neat foldout poster that was illustrated by the original character designer which gives us a beautiful look at the main characters for the series and we also get a set of six postcards that highlights the Valvrave’s used in this second season at various times.

The Blu-ray cases are really nicely done in a similar way as we get various character configurations and Valvrave configurations across the front and back pieces with the logo kept small to them. With no extraneous text, it’s all about the artwork here and that’s a big plus for both of them as it has Cain for the second volume, letting him stand out well, while the first volume has Maria and our virtual presence. The covers are fully reversible as well with more character artwork and mecha artwork there as well, which also avoids any useless text that detracts from the appeal of the various designs. It’s definitely how you prefer the case artwork to be when the heavy lifting is on the box itself or the wraparound, which is the case with this set.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is one that like the first set is functional, but that’s about all that you can really say positive about it. The main menu screen layout is the same across all the discs with a diamond shape series of lines across it with a lot of dark star filled space used while other pieces utilize some small pieces of animation and artwork to populate it a bit. It’s not great just in that itself, but it’s overlaid with a huge amount of text as it breaks down the episode chapter selections, language options and on the first disc a long list of the extras that are on it. Everything on the main menus works well, and it does on the pop-up menu as well, but the pop-up menus drag up slowly and feels like they’re almost stuttering as they surface.

Extras:
The extras for this release are pretty standard fare and are all on the first disc as we get the clean opening and closing sequences as well as some of the original trailers and commercials promoting the series before it aired. There’s also a six minute battle scene collection, which is pretty much what it sounds like, though it is appealing to just take in this aspect of the series.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first half of Valvrave the Liberator certainly did a lot of things I liked while also making sure it was done with some good style to it as well. Working an interesting near future storyline with humanity moving out into space, albeit just localized, offered up some good stuff in terms of designs, concepts and hints of what was to come. While there wasn’t a lot that really drove it home in a grand way, it played with some good ideas with what the Valvrave’s are all about and what our lead in Hatsuno became as well. What helped elevate it was some absolutely gorgeous animation and color design which gave it some great pop and vibrancy, especially with a really high quality release like this that works with near maxed out bit rates.

Though this is called the second season, it largely just keeps rolling along as opposed to launching us into things in a new way or from a new point. Which is good since there’s a lot going on here with what the group has to deal with in terms of establishing themselves as a government and nation, which a lot of people don’t want to see happen. But through the way they can connect with others through social media, video and more, they’ve managed to build up a lot of good credit with people all over the world and they’re getting a lot of supplies and financial support to get it all off the ground. But we also see that in their fight against Dorssia that ARUS has their own agenda and really are treating them like children as they help out in getting the management side of the place going. This is proving to be a difficult thing for Shoko to deal with, but it at least gives her something before she disappears for the bulk of the season.

Because of the nature of the situation and the intent to fight back against Dorssia, a plan is put into motion for a good chunk of the Valvrave capable and a few others like L-elf to head down to Earth to find out more of what’s going on first hand and figure out what can be done. It certainly makes sense, but it’s kind of loosely defined in a way and a good chunk of the first half of this season feels kind of loose and unfocused as they make their way there and then end up being split up a few times while coping with other things. The journey down itself really is nicely done with how they manage to go from orbit to ground while trying to not get blown up by Dorssia along the way. The most intriguing part of it though, one you know will factor in bigger later, is that Marie starts to really fall apart from everything because as it turns out, the more you fight in the Valvrave, the more it feeds off of you when it comes to your memories, which are like encoded runes to the sentience inside that wants them. Marie ends up going so far as to be nothing in the end, resulting in a real loss for the team and something that really does panic Haruto in a lot of ways.

The earthbound side of the story has some good stuff going on overall, but it moves between a lot of areas with some body-jacking going on and a mixture of events with our main group, the Royalists who are waiting for their chance to strike and some of those on the Dorssian side with their own agendas. There’s some decent time spent between Haruto and Lieselotte as he tries to help her while L-elf is intent on rescuing her, but it also turns in a way that really crushes L-elf as his whole life has been focused for so long now on freeing her. But the most important part of the Dorssian adventure is really understanding what the Magius are up to with their Council of 101 and how they control and manipulate the world. It plays to basic conspiracy theories to be sure and works that angle lightly but obviously, while making it clear that their origins are otherworldly in nature. That’s not too much of a surprise, but it’s something for L-elf to contend with later when he learns that Lieselotte herself was essentially a centuries old alien that he had fallen in love with.

While the first half of the set felt kind of listless at times without a really clearly set direction for what’s going on while on Earth, the final act of the series is a very strong piece that harkens back to the beginning of the show. With all that they’ve learned, there’s an intent on really moving forward well and cementing their position with ARUS in order to protect the people of Module 77 in their new nation. But because of the events on Dorssia, a move is made to expose the Valvrave pilots for what they are, which is “unkillable monsters,” and that sways public opinion hugely away from them. And not just those on Earth but their fellow classmates as well, which makes for some wonderfully tense and difficult scenes that only get more so because of what the Magius have done in order to survive over the centuries without being noticed. There’s this sense that while a lot went along with it because they could get a real taste of power, there were a lot that have been existing in fear while serving their cause.

Because of the variety of interpersonal issues that come up across the sprawling supporting cast, the final episodes are filleod with big, bold and beautiful action sequences as the Valvrave team really go all out to protect the people that want them dead, especially as Hatsuno’s memories are being wiped away with each action he takes. There’s some great detail to it that comes into play, especially with the way Shoko learns the truth of how he became the pilot and his own discovery that she learned it, and you really feel the kind of proper pain that they go through the roles they must play in order to protect people. The show also really works in some beautiful stuff for L-elf and Hatsuno across it as they go back and forth about what must be done and their roles in it, but after all they’ve faced we see that they have a really good bond overall and seeing that in the key sequences really makes it something special to watch.

One of the things I wish was explored more that I liked is that we do get a future sequence storyline that’s spread across the season. It gets a bit more time here as events pickup and barrel towards the finale, and it serves as an epilogue that in some ways is certainly ambiguous with what it could mean and portend. But I liked that we got this look at events of the show from the point of view of those from the future that had survived it and had seen how such a series of events ended up turning the world and humanity upside as it introduced the Third Galactic Empire. While a lot of shows don’t really merit a sequel show, Valvrave is one that offers up some potentially interesting concepts to work with in this slice of time that distances us from what the main series is. Offering that up in tantalizing ways really does leave me wanting more, though also afraid of just how easily the ball could be dropped with it since it would require a more serious look at mankind’s expansion into the universe.

In Summary:
In a lot of ways, the back half of Valvrave the Liberator didn’t live up to the potential and enjoyment of the first half for me. The final act is definitely strong because it delivers a lot of fantastic and beautifully animated action with some real heart and difficult moments for the characters to deal with as everything falls apart. The downside is that a lot of the first half feels kind of directionless and not as clearly set out as it needed to be in order to engage us. It does seed a lot of things that will play into the events of the finale so it’s not without its point, but after the excitement and world building of the first half of the series, it just felt like it didn’t know how to get to where it wanted to be. The series as a whole is definitely quite a lot of fun and the releases between the two sets are simply beautiful, making for a fantastic experience for fans of the show.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles, Clean Openings, Clean Closings, Trailers, TV Spots

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: C-
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: January 20th, 2015
MSRP: $149.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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