Valvrave: Why It Matters
I had planned to speak no more on Valvrave until this week’s episode, so I could speak with more authority on the direction of the show. But the discussion of this Valvrave episode continues, so I thought I would outline with detail the problems I had with this episode. I cannot speak for anyone else, or answer anyone else’s specific criticisms. But I can highlight issues I had with the episode and explain why they are problems.
As we all are aware now, episode 10 ends with Haruto, under possession of the vampiric “lust” of the Valvraves, raping Saki. As it happened, most people understood it was rape, but now we are seeing some people walk it back, claiming Saki really wanted it.
Quick test: If words or body language says “no”, it is rape. People seem to intuitively understand what happened, but they’re trying to rationalize it now. And funnily enough, the rationalizations they’re giving for the scene sound an awful lot like the rationalizations juries give when they return a “not guilty” verdict.
Now I have been a big Valvrave fan from the beginning, and I understand the context of the scene. It’s really about Saki’s understanding and coming to terms with the Faustian bargain she and Haruto agreed to, and her understanding of why he didn’t want her to pilot the Valvrave. Her holding his hand is symbolic of this. In a show with more gravitas, like maybe Shiki, this scene could have been pulled off. But this is Valvrave, a show previously known for music videos and giant chalk drawings on the sidewalk. Maybe Valvrave can earn its gravitas, but it’s got a lot of heavy lifting to do.
Valvrave doesn’t exist in a vacuum, though. It exists in a world where rape rationalizations really do exist, and a lot of the way this scene plays out feeds directly into some of those rationalizations. Take a tour of some of the shadiest internet forums and you will see these justifications being played out even now, while we speak, even if Valvrave the show itself can recover.
There’s no reason Valvrave needed to even broach this topic. Vampires themselves are all about rape, and have been since Bram Stoker envisioned Dracula as defiler of the innocent virgins of Victorian London. If Saki struggled, and Haruto sucked her blood, it would have sent the same message metaphorically instead of literally. If sex was necessary for procreation in the story, both Saki and Haruto are vampires. They could have both been overcome with vampirism and attacked each other.
But Valvrave decided to go with rape as a trope, and in doing so, it sends the following messages. If you didn’t pick up on these messages or justifications, that probably means you’re not looking for excuses to take advantage of people. However, some people do want to take advantage of others, and seeing messages like these only serves to encourage them, considering these beliefs are widely held by great numbers of people.
- He couldn’t help himself – Now, in the show, this is true. Haruto was possessed by vampires. But in the real world vampires do not exist, and we STILL have to hear this one: He was overcome by his lust because she was leading him on, or her skirt was too short. It’s also the classic abuser’s excuse: “That wasn’t me, baby. That was the alcohol talking. You know I love you.” In the real world, Haruto would have been responsible, no matter what Saki did. In the show, the Valvrave was responsible, despite the number of people still saying Saki was to blame. Yes, people are blaming Saki even now, when there’s a supernatural villain that is clearly responsible.
- She secretly wanted it – There’s no way to tell this. The only person who knows what Saki wants is Saki, and if she wanted to have sex with Haruto, she could have easily let him know. Previously, she kissed him out of the blue, so she isn’t shy (and even this led to accusations of her being a slut). Her holding his hand and patting his head do not retroactively make it not rape. Even in the show’s context, you’re reading the signals wrong. Saki does this out of pity and trying to come to terms with her fate, not because of some retroactive consent (which does not exist to begin with).
- The good girl/bad girl cutaway – Perhaps the most tasteless element of the scene is how it cut away from Saki to see Shoko’s triumph in the election. Considering the conservative sexual morality of most anime, Shoko has been the good girl, focused on only one guy, blushing, keeping it a secret, and planning to confess to the one guy she loves the most. Saki has been the “bad girl” (or slut, depending on where you ask), kissing Haruto, and stealing his body to flirt with another girl. The cutaway serves to reinforce the message that some people deserve to be raped if they are “bad” or somehow not virtuous enough.
The best way I can think to sum this up is to imagine that Saki decided to press charges and this case went to court. You’re on the jury. Is Valvrave guilty or not guilty of rape? If you vote guilty, you get it, and none of the people who are upset are mad at you at all. Just know that there are people who blame Saki for this, would vote not guilty, and would use the three tropes listed above as proof that no rape occurred.
If you don’t believe me, spend five minutes on 4chan. This is why people get upset.
And this is exactly why Valvrave started to play with fire the moment it introduced these themes.