The Good Ones: Valkyrie Drive Mermaid

Welcome back to the Good Ones, a series that aims to list out some good characters in god awful franchises. For those new to this format, the idea is that I pick out a particular anime, manga, game, or other, then discuss what it is and why it's just like the worst thing ever, then proceed to pick out the characters worth salvaging from the disaster. At the end, I name the best character, and then the most “amazing” character. Our first entry was over the infamous Queen's Blade, one of the poster children of bad titty anime that gets whispered about in terrified breaths as that show that had the exploding acid boobs. This time around, I decided to go a bit more recent and look at a similar franchise that deserves some shade: Valkyrie Drive. To be specific, the first anime of the franchise, Valkyrie Drive Mermaid.



You know, in retrospect, we probably should have expected a yuri series made by the Senran Kagura guy was going to be gross. In fairness, the show has a lot of expected gross, and a lot of genuinely amazing content (Lady Lady holy shit), but it kept look at its foot and thinking “I think what this foot really needs to be is swiss cheese, the worst of the common cheeses, and also I should go kick a puppy and steal candy from children.” The sheer amount of terrible decisions in this show stops being that surprising when you realize the writers had brought up a bunch of sensitive queer topics, but their knowledge of queer topics goes about as far as “girls making out is pretty good.”

For the record, they're not wrong on that point, but there's really a lot of basic shit they should have gone over. The biggest issue is the complete mishandling of a female character pretending to be a man, but even basic stuff like “hey how about not having men rape lesbians in backstory” was shockingly ignored. Like, okay fine, I can accept the implication that something happened in this flash back you showed up. But maybe not include a scene early in the series where a villain forces a main character to relive a traumatic experience where she was gang raped and have her break from the illusion because she's been through it before and is therefore cool.

There's so much wrong with this series, but you can go check out my seasonal reviews for more info. For now, I want to focus on the stuff that actually worked, mainly the characters. Say what you will about the man who once packaged a game with a panty scented strap, him and his people get how to write diverse and compelling characters, even when they're initially based around a fetish.

Meifon Sakura

Meifon (Or Mei Fong, nobody can seem to agree) is a flat chested girl who first appears wearing a bizarre cowgirl outfit (Western, not the animal, I have to make this distinction when talking about these particular creatives) and helps the main characters escape the grasp of Waerter. She handles the role of exposition and plot device for most of the series, working as a smuggler who gets supplies to the women on the island who refused to join with Waerter's fascist ways. Her main motivation is not to do the right thing, but because she loves money. Sexually.

Like, if she could have sex with money, she would.

Most everyone in this series is either a Liberator or a Extar, the former necessary to cause the latter to turn into a powerful weapon via making out. Yes I know, please just accept this because things are only going to get weirder. Take Meifon, who is indeed a Liberator, but has no Extar. Her sexuality is never confirmed in the series, but I think this is only because any of the main sexualities gets overwritten by her being a HUGE timophiliac (aka would like to have sex with money). She loves money so much that money is her Extar. She cam make a superpowered robot suit with money. I'm dead serious. She's such a weasel and a great bit of comedic relief, and she plays a similar Nanael role of being the odd woman out commenting on the weirdness before her (and that's a lot of weirdness). Granted, she's sexually attracted to money and wears a cowgirl outfit while apparently being Chinese, so maybe she's not one to talk.

Rain Hasumi & Lady J


I'm sure may people who have seen this show will wonder why the pair of Lady Lady only get a regular entry. I was surprised as you are.  Rain and Lady J are two rebels on Mermaid Island, and also total lesbians. Like, I know that's true for most everyone in this show, but it goes triple for them. They flaunt how into each other they are, all while dressing in the loudest ways imaginable. Rain wears a leather biker fetish suit, sunglasses and has a single red streak in her hair, while Lady J has the most underboob that anyone has ever have ever. I have no idea how her outfit stays together most of the time.

On an island of shy schoolgirls and gross, predatory women only interested in power, these two stick out for how much they clearly trust each other, so much so that Lady J has no problem when Rain steals a kiss from Mirei when they first introduce themselves to her and Mamori. I'm willing to bet they've made out with half of the island, in fact. The two are a bit like Charlotte, a woman who has an entire harem of lesbians, but they also manage to likable and engaging characters in the process. Where Charlotte is a vain, angry idiot who's the root cause of most every horrible thing in this series for no good reason whatsoever, Lady Lady help out others when they have the time while working on a larger goal to help everyone on the island, all while having some of the nastiest make-out sessions the island has ever seen in front of everyone, and remember, superpowers on this island activate with nasty make-out sessions. Theirs are just that much nastier. I actually have trouble believing these two actually exist sometimes because THEY'RE SO GAY. LIKE, SO GAY.

Also Lady J turns into a motorcycle with titties.

Momoka Sagara

Ladies and gentlemen, the problematic fave. Momoka is the series main antagonist, even if she working for a more significant antagonist staying off screen. She's Mirei's old Extar and a very, very angry girl who also knows how to use sex appeal to manipulate idiots. Considering the island she's on, that is an incredibly useful skill to have. She dresses in a ridiculous evil schoolgirl fetish outfit and is usually seen playing with a lolipop, all while wearing a slightly punk variant of the Miku Hatsune hairstyle. She's basically a gyaru archetype, alongside her two friends, one dark skinned girl and one overweight and constantly peppy. That's what I like best about her, because that idiot nympho facade she gives does a good job at hiding that she is both horrifically mentally damaged, and ungodly powerful.

After Mirei was sent to Mermaid, Momoka became the subject of human experimentation and got incredible powers she doesn't need a liberator to activate. But a whole mess of terrible things also happened to her, and she blames Mirei entirely for abandoning her and refusing to kill soldiers that tried to hurt her. The end result is a very messed up girl who can absorb the life out of other extars and liberators to make herself stronger, and an enthusiasm to do so as much as possible. Causing pain and suffering is really all she has left, and the sheer amount of damage she causes in her pursuit of making everyone else as miserable as her actually manages to verge on horrifying. She's just one Hell of a great villain.

Kasumi Shigure

Kasumi is about the only level headed person on this island, and if everyone just listened to her, most every conflict in the series could have been avoided, particularly every time she said nobody should listen to Charlotte (SERIOUSLY). Kasumi and her sister ended up being brought to the island due to their abilities, and her sister did not handle the stress from the roving bands of lesbian punks too well. She helped found Waerter to protect her sister, and is generally the only person with a brain at most any sign of an issue. She has a good back story, and is also one of the most badass characters in the show, even when she has no access to an Extar (she refuses to let her sister fight in this lunacy for her own good).

She was pretty close to being the best character overall, honestly. She's very sympathetic and makes for one of the best antagonists in the series, a tragic rival just trying to do right by her sister and everyone else, but stuck in a situation where she can't really do that. Her blind devotion to Akira, whom saved her and her sister, doesn't help either, making her partly responsible for Waerter's more questionable actions. Despite this, she's the first one to realize that Momoka is bad news, and she manages to redeem herself in the finale. If anyone in this show deserved a happy ending, it's definitely her.

Best Character: Mirei Shikishima


If you're wondering where Mamori, one of the leads, is, I didn't include her for being terrible. I could rant for a year about how awful a character she is, I swear, but thankfully her better half saves things a bit. Mirei is by far the best character in this show, no contest. You know. Despite that one episode. The one that implied she was sexually assaulted by a bunch of soldiers in order to make her look cooler. I'm dead serious. This is a creative decision the staff of this show had. Major reason Valkyrie Drive Mermaid is terrible.

But hey! Mirei is still good!

Mirei was apart of the same organization as Momoka, and also lived the opposite sort of life to the sheltered Mamori. Where a Mamori had a loving family, Mirei was raised as a child soldier and was experimented upon to give her enchanted strength and agility. However, she was unable to take a life, so she was deemed worthless and was going to be destroyed, until a scientist who felt pity for her managed to smuggle her to Mermaid. Mirei's humanity is the reason Momoka lost hers, and Mirei herself didn't really have any purpose to continue on until she met and fell in love with Mamori. Her back story is solid, but it's her day to day interactions with the cast that make her great.

Despite her no nonsense personality, Mirei manages to prove herself constantly awkward, unable to handle daily life or the absurd fun house mirror version of it she constantly encounters on Mermaid. In particular, she tends to frazzle around Mamori, who is hilariously older than her, yet nowhere near as mature. She always tries to do the right thing for her, even if it means she doesn't get to be with her, but eventually learns to try exerting herself and making her own wants and desires clear. What's kind of clever about Mirei is that while the show portrays her as tough, and she is, it also portrays her as awkward.

Mamori is a people person, able to converse with most anyone in her own graceless way. Mirei, however, starts off incredibly mistrustful, then is simply unable to communicate with others properly because she never learned how. Despite how terrible a character Mamori is (WHY DOES SHE INSTANTLY GET A CRUSH ON THE ONLY MAN ON THE ISLAND SERIOUSLY WHY WHO'S IDEA WAS THIS), she is ultimately good for Mirei's growth, and her influence eventually gives Mirei the strength to confront and help Momoka. The show is basically Mirei's, despite Mamori acting as narrator. She's the one who truly grows as a person and as a hero, and what Mamori managed to awaken in her eventually resolves Mamori as well. Add in the great character design, and Mirei is a shining gem surrounded by a swamp of hetero-lens homosexuality.

Most Amazing Character: Nimi Minimi


This girl is why Lady Lady didn't get a higher honor. Nimi Minimi is, get this, an Extar with the power to grow giant, and yes, that is her real name. She is even dimmer than Mamori and very, very naked at most all times because what can you make a giant wear anyways? She gets her own weird episode where she can't find a way to shrink back down as everyone keeps suggesting bad ideas and makes her imagine the worst case scenarios where the Japanese military hunt her down as a kaiju. This all eventually leads to her storming into Waerter to find her partner, in where she knocks Charlotte away with her giant, vainy tit, which I sadly cannot show you, but it's a moment I will never forget for as long as I live.

The best part? She comes back for the finale. And thank god for that. I'd be pissed if you didn't bring back the 50-ft ditzy schoolgirl. She's seriously one of the dumbest ideas anyone has ever had and I'm so glad they didn't shoot that idea down. And they named her Nimi Minimi. Maybe there is hope for humanity.

Comments

  1. Nice overview although you missed a lot of stuff that was elaborated upon on promotional stuff for the series and the remaining bits of the franchise: Bhikkhuni and Siren. Also, I'd suggest you to track down and watch the special mini OVAs bundled with the home release of the series that also shed more light on the characters and their motivations.

    But let's go for parts.

    First Akira. I read your reviews a while bit and whereas you find her handling as a problematic take on trans people, truth is that Akira is more of a self sacrificing archetype that Japan loves so much. Akira loves being a girl and it only agreed to pull the whole Governeur shtick to please her mother and possibly, to remain faithful to her girlfriend. Because yes, Akira is madly in love with a girl she met in college named Haruka. This relationship was revealed on a short story published on NyanType during the show's emission and then was alluded to on Akira's mini OVA. The story depicts Akira as being the passive one of the relation since is unusual for a liberator to let her Extar take the lead and also shows that Akira will contain her wishes if it will bring harm to her family (Haruka suggested her to run together rather than being sent to Mermaid and Akira declined). The story was translated by fans a while back and I will gladly send you a link if you're interested.

    Kasumi and Hibiki aren't sisters but a couple. Something that again, is elaborated upon their mini OVA. Turns out that Hibiki was quite the perv before being traumatized.

    While is undeniable Momoka was twisted like that for all the stuff she suffered through, truth is she was pretty unhinged before that. Momoka wasn't upset at Mirei for not saving her in the flashback but because Mirei didn't had the spine to kill those soldiers like they were ordered to. And in her mini OVA she pretty much forces herself on Mirei, so yeah.

    And speaking of Mirei, the implication is not that she was raped but that she's so emotionally stunted for her past that she didn't bat an eye at the situation. Because (and this is important) the illusion is not a reflection of her traumas but what her attack thought it would affect her. Remember, the Akira illusion was not what Mamori though but what the Adel thought Mamori wanted. And she even messed that one up wit the whole "Shojo" thing. The Vita videogame Bhikkhuni has characters that were also former Soldiers like Mirei and through them is elaborated more what that entailed. As Soldiers they were fighting non stop, reduced to mere tools for the Organization to further their own goals and this eventually turned them on silent, distrustful individuals with serious issues to connect with other people.

    As for Mamori herself, she didn't fall for Akira per se, but for the Charming Prince idea. It was definitely clumsily handled but the idea of her crush was to make her aware of a new facet of her personality, that is, the idea she could fall in love with a woman. This is driven further by the Drama CD where Mamori gets drunk thanks to Meifong's antics and while inebriated, she admits to Mirei she was always her Prince.

    In the end the biggest flaw on the series is the fact a lot of the background is told through different media rather than being contained just on the anime, making hard for the audience to get the full picture simply by watching the anime.

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