Guilty Geass: Attack of the Vampire Mecha – aka – Kakumeiki Valvrave
April 21, 2013 2 Comments
Guilty Geass: Attack of the Vampire Mecha (Aka, Valvrave The Liberator) is a truly wonderful series, one that plays with the giant mecha genre in a way that is both entertaining and self-aware. I have never been a massive fan of mecha anime, with the Gundam franchise, and a few other seem far too serious minded for my taste. There is something truly brilliant, but also rather ludicrous about giant robots fighting each other with flashy weapons and special moves, unfortunately, by taking themselves seriously, the comedy that could come from such things is often lost. This doesn’t mean that I dislike mecha, just that I tend to gravitate towards the more light hearted side of the genre, where giant robot series like Gravion and Aquarion reign supreme. What Guilty Geass: Attack of the Vampire Mecha does is take the more serious elements of global politics and super weapons and present them in a far more self-aware form that is serious enough to be entertaining.
I have seen numerous complaints about Valvrave, ranging from how little sense the science in the series makes – yes, technically speaking it would take a monumental amount of resources to make a Dyson Sphere, and in doing so most of the solar system, including the earth would have long since frozen open, but does this really matter? Details such as this and the idea that Haruto can quite happily answer his phone when in space aren’t essential to the series and merely make up the background of the story. As a work of fiction, and especially as a series involving giant vampire mecha that commit Harakiri in order to bring out its ultimate power, things such as common sense and logic don’t really matter in the long run. In the past I have found the sillier side of anime to lose its way when they try to explain plot devices in a logical manner. Anime is a place of fantasy, where reality can exist, but the worlds that are created don’t need to be bound by simple things such as the laws of thermodynamics, or the fundamental laws of physics. It is those places when Valvrave, I mean, Guilty Geass: Attack of the Vampire Mecha decides to completely dispense with even the pretence of logic that the series really shines and is allowed to simply have fun with its setting.
The very idea, for example, that Haruto is willing to take out his mobile phone when its ringing, despite hiding behind an asteroid with the distinct possibility of being vaporised by the slightly crazy A-drei (voiced by our favourite Dark Flame Master, I mean, Fukuyama Jun) is a stroke of genius. Another wonderful example of such brilliance is seeing all of these apparently intelligent scientists wondering how the Valvrave changed colour, rather than working out why and how it works. Its small details like that that remind me a little of Aquarion Evol, another mecha series that dispensed with the perception of logic and simply enjoyed itself for what it truly was, an enjoyable adventure with great music. Having said this, Valvrave does seem to have an interesting enough sub plot involving geopolitics (although they cant really be described as geopolitics considering humanity now inhabits a Dyson Sphere). There are similarities to be drawn between Valvrave and Code Geass in this context, with an almost comically evil super power attempting to gain control over the human race in its entirety, complete with silly looking robots and a uniform that seems reminiscent of late 19th and early 20th century military rule (referred to as ‘Space Nazis’ on twitter naturally).
I have seen suggestions that the nation of JIOR is perhaps a representation of Japan as the non-aggressor in between two warlike nations, but from my own study I wouldn’t necessarily see it this way. If this were the case it may be more accurate to look at JIOR from the perspective of victimisation, something that has dominated Japanese culture since the end of WWII. During its colonial period Japan was first allied with England and provided assistance during WWI, however, after invading Manchuria and the Korean Peninsula Japan left the League of Nations (after many of its allies effectively order them to leave Manchuria and to stop being so aggressive), while also signing a pact with Germany. The jingoistic excesses of this period have been rejected ever since, with Japanese film makers, writers, and the broader Japanese public looking upon the time as a dark period in their history, even ignoring it all-together. The Victimisation of Japan comes into popular culture in the form of anime like Hotaru no Naka (Grave of the Fireflies), and perhaps even elements of Code Geass and Eden of the East with the Japanese people represented as oppressed first by a militaristic leadership, and then by invaders from a foreign land.
Although such a representation of the Japanese was originally forced upon them by the occupying forces through forced censorship, but how much of this has actually made its way into Guilty Geass: Attack of the Vampire Mecha, if at all is debateable. What Guilty Geass: Attack of the Vampire Mecha does very well is demonstrate the inherent flaws in neutrality, especially when you appear to be developing a new super weapon with the power to destroy entire fleets with ease. The danger that JIOR finds itself in demonstrates that neutrality only works for so long, and that despite being economically wealthy, they may ultimately be invaded and captured by a stronger, and more aggressive nation. Dorssia are clearly supposed to be the main perpetrator of evil in the series – no nation with a uniform that involves jackboots, long white coats, and gold braiding can possibly be good, especially when their space ships are all red. But at the same time, we know very little about ARUS, and while Dorssia have been set up as the main antagonists, it seems highly likely that ARUS are far from being a force for peace and justice.
As the Valvrave mecha itself, there is the suggestion through its transformation and immense power that this is a being of almost divine abilities, one that will reshape the current state of politics and perhaps even the Dyson Sphere. The three-legged crow insignia present on the Valvrave unit is a bit of a giveaway to this (assuming you know a little about Japanese mythology of course), and points to a divine power that while clearly mind and body altering also helps to explain Haruto’s ability to survive death (other than the obvious vampirifcation and body swapping). This Yatagarasu (eight-span crow) on the robot suggests that the Valvrave mecha represents the will of heaven, and divine intervention in human affairs. That there is a clear example of Shinto belief put into a series that is ultimately a really rather silly, but above all, entertaining science fiction adventure that makes very little sense actually intrigues me. Overall I just enjoyed watching the episode, and found that I could easily suspend my disbelief at the clunky writing, silly plot twists, and the general ludicrously of the entire situation. Guilty Geass: Attack of the Vampire Mecha is not a series that should in any way be taken seriously, it is one where you need to have fun while watching it and forget about the possibilities of series politics, or the lack of logic surrounding the Dyson Sphere, or even Haruto answering his phone while in space. None of this matters, none of it really detracts from a series that is essentially about a divine robot with the power of the sun and heavens at its disposal, and one that commits Harakiri to use said power, everything else pales in comparison to this simple fact. So yes, I am really enjoying this series and hope it continues in the same vein, especially since Sunrise make some of the most beautiful anime around.
On a slightly different note, anyone who has read my blog regularly may have noticed the lack of posts in recent weeks, perhaps months. This is because I am nearly the end of my postgraduate and am currently in the process of writing my postgraduate dissertation. I will still post, but it will likely be one post a week considering the time I tend to put into writing for my blog.