Valkyrie Drive -Mermaid- – Anime Review
Synopsis: After adorable “mermaid” Mamori is transferred to one of five artificial islands, she’s cornered, attacked and eventually saved by another beautiful transfer named Mirei. Unfortunately, even after the girl intervenes, Mamori’s attackers refuse to let up. Just when they think all hope is lost, Mirei and Mamori share a passionate kiss that turns the little “mermaid” into a powerful sword. (Official Funimation Synopsis.)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
The sheer absurdity of Valkyrie Drive’s fanservice reminds me of anime, ecchi classic Agent Aika. For those unaware, Agent Aika was a late 90s anime that sought to push the bounds of fan service to the extreme. Near every shot was an upskirt panty shot, allowing for full view of those carefully crafted asses. Whether you feel anime’s fan service has become more extreme or not within the last decade, there’s no skirting the fact that Valkyrie Drive goes a damn sight farther than Aika ever dared.
Valkyrie Drive throws the lacy undergarments out the window in favor of full on bare breasts and asses, followed by heavy doses of lesbians making out, orgasming and other soft core porn visuals. It’s all quite shocking, which I think was one of the predominant goals of Valkryie Drive’s creative team: to shock and amuse the audience with the sheer creative ways and frequency with which our female heroes bounce their bosoms. There’s no beating around the bush: If you already dislike fanservice in mainstream anime, Valkyrie Drive simply isn’t for you.
If you can accept the fanservice as a quirky, comedic element (or arousing one if that’s your thing) there’s actually a lot more to enjoy tucked behind all the heaving breasts and french kissing. Starting with the animation, care has been taken in not only rendering all the carnal acts of debauchery, but in the combat sequences peppered throughout the twelve episode run. I was impressed by the quality of the animation used to depict the final confrontation between our two heroes, Mamori and Merei, as they sought to save their friends from the clutches of evil. For a show known for its relentless fanservice, Valkyrie spends a good portion of its budget on furthering its story rather than its “plot.”
The characters themselves are generally likable, if Mamori is perhaps a bit annoying. She spends much of the show either whining, insisting to people that, despite how her name is written in Kanji, she isn’t named ‘virgin’, or fawning over the sole male character on the island she finds herself trapped on. Despite this, Mamori is generally a sweet enough girl that you can overlook her failings. She also isn’t the sole lead, as Merei makes up for much of Mamori’s overly girly characterization with a stalwart silence and defiance against their enemies. She may not be all that fresh a character, suffering from the same tragic backstory as many a heroine in anime, but damned if it isn’t fun to watch her wield Mamori, as a sword, and tear up the bad guys who seem to be asking for the punishment (not literally asking for it, the show doesn’t really cover that kink.) The rest of the cast is enjoyable, from the money hungry Meifon, to the duo biker girls Rain and Lady J, the prince of the island with a secret, Akira or even the more one off oriented characters who appear episode to episode. That said, with so much time devoted to ‘plot’ or story, there’s hardly any effort spent on expanding these characters past their archetypes. Mamori’s character always centers around her kindness and desire to return home, rarely straying far from those established characteristics. The same goes for Mirei, who never actually opens up, despite the show’s progression clearly indicating that she’s meant to move on and overcome her dark past. Despite this, it’s nice to see strong female characters, even within a show that panders to the male gaze, or anyone who enjoys the absurdity of relentless fan service.
Much like Aika, there’s more to enjoy beneath the ever looming fanservice that decorates the show. While the characters may be a bit unexplored by stories’ end, Valkyrie Drive weaves a fun tale of girls trapped on an island, unfairly tucked away because they possess power that could so easily be abused. The first half of the series focuses on setting up the cast, as well as a few quirky one off stories that are executed quite well, even if we’ve seen these one offs before. In the second half, Valkryie Drive goes full into revealing its secrets and the origins of Mirei and why Mamori is so special. In fact, it dives so heavily into this aspect, that Valkyrie Drive abandons its fanservice, or at least heavily tones it down, in favor of a more action oriented flow. The whole “Exter’s (read: girls who turn into swords) must orgasm in order to turn into weapons” is downplayed, with many of the girls settling for no more than a kiss in order to save time during the precious last few episodes.
Ultimately though, no matter how much of a backseat the fan service takes (and it’s only for a handful of episodes at that) Valkyrie Drive isn’t something where you can simply overlook the fan service like Food Wars! For Valkyrie it’s an intrinsic part of the show’s nature, and dives so confidently into that aspect that there’s no looking past the bare breasts and ass if you’re someone who finds fan service uncomfortable, deplorable, or simply unappealing. If it doesn’t do it for you, comically or the other way, even censoring (available if you select the “Simulcast” version from Funimation’s menu) won’t help Valkyrie Drive appeal to your sensibilities.
In the end I found Valkryie Drive to be a load of fun thanks to the sheer absurdity unfolding onscreen. It’s easy to get caught up in, assuming you’re fine with fanservice, and makes for an enjoyable distraction from the mundane. Despite owing itself to a short-lived Multimedia franchise of the same name, Valkyrie Drive Mermaid is entirely self-contained, allowing for viewers to pop in, enjoy the absurdity, the competently told story, and walk away without a need for the expanded media.
Valkyrie Drive -Mermaid- is available for streaming via Funimation.