Posts Tagged ‘muv-luv alternative total eclipse’

h1

Yamato Damashii, Muh Freedom, & Something-Something Nash Ura

January 13, 2013

“When was it… that the living stopped counting the dead?”

Second Lieutenant Yui Takamura, Muv-Luv Alternative Total Eclipse

cropped-muvluv-alternative-total-eclipse-shiranui-second-demostration-colors.jpg

TONIGHT. YOU. ME. BEHIND THE BUILDING.

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse is the Muv-Luv series’ first foray into animation. There’s been minor things like Akane Maniax, an OVA sequel to Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, that the characters from Muv-Luv have made an appearance in (and the lesser-known Ayu-Mayu Gekijou, that’s another tale for another day), but Total Eclipse is the first series set within a Muv-Luv universe.

Total Eclipse (let me shorten it to TE for ease) is set in the world of Alternative, one of the three universes featured in the Muv-Luv series proper. To sum it all up, Muv-Luv takes place across three and/or more worlds, and Alternative is one of the major ones. To know more, you can go to the Muv-Luv Wiki.

TE is a sidestory in the world of Alternative where humanity has been ravaged by a 30-year war with aliens known as BETA, across the Eurasian, Middle-East and Asian continents. Faced with the prospect of total annihilation due to a variety of reasons, mankind has been combating the BETA with giant bipedal robots known as Tactical Surface Fighters, or TSFs for short. However, the BETA’s numbers are such that even the invention of the TSF, which allowed humanity to equal their footing against the BETA, were unable to gain any leverage or advantage against them for the next 30 years. Therefore, humanity has been constantly improving their warfighting potential and their technology in the hopes of one day reclaiming everything that they have lost.

2nd Lieutenant Yuuya Bridges, a TSF pilot of the US Army, has been assigned by his superiors to Yukon Base, located in Alaska. This base borders the portion of Alaska leased to the Soviet Union (yes, Soviets, not Russians), and as such both the Soviets, the Americans and the United Nations use the base as a gathering point for Project Prominence, a plan enacted by the United Nations to encourage multinational cooperation in the development of new TSFs. Yuuya himself has been assigned to the XFJ Project, a plan organized by the Empire of Japan (yes, not Japan, but the EoJ) to improve their own third-generation TSF, the Type-94 Shiranui. Yuuya, a half-American, half-Japanese with his latter side being a subject of extreme touchiness, is thus placed in a situation where he has to confront both his heritage and his past, and learn about the world beyond the shores of the USA. Alongside him are two Soviet pilots, Cryska Barchenowa and Inia Sestina, Yui Takamura, the XFJ Project head, and his teamates; Valerio Giacosa, Tarisa Manandal, Stella Bremer and his long-time friend, Vincent Lowell.

Now, before I continue in earnest, let me warn you that I’m a massive Muv-Luv fan. I’ll try and rid myself of bias while talking about TE Anime, keyword try, so just keep that little thing in mind. Also since I’m biased like that I’ll do a picture talk on how my love-hate relationship is with TE.

Now, given that TE is the first work set in a Muv-Luv world that involves the BETA, it’s pretty much its chance for the entire franchise to make it big. So with the first two episodes, they start by showing what exactly is the BETA; an unstoppable menance that doesn’t give two fucks about how strong or spirited you are, using one of the characters’ past, Takamura Yui, to showcase us what happened when the BETA got serious about crossing the Sea of Japan from Korea.

https://i1.wp.com/images4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20120809112209/muvluv/images/2/26/Tadaima_incoming%2C_dodge_you_phaggots.png

We’ll never let you into Kyotooooo! – Anonymous pilot

To speak from a newcomer’s viewpoint, that would have been a great introduction. This is literally “tossed into the fire”; within the first two episodes half of Kyoto is gone and Yui just got twenty achievements related to being a sole survivor. Given that, there were some moments where even without being a Muv-Luv fan, I would have furrowed an eyebrow, that being the scenes involving the nameless soldiers that died after being charged by the BETA without a care. I understand that it’s cool and all, but damn if it didn’t put a bad impression on humanity behaving like a bunch of idiots; and this after Yui tells one of her friends to remember their training of shooting Destroyer-class BETA in the back. I supposed said friend dying to laser fire courtesy of the BETA does set a preceedence that flight is N-O, not allowed, NOPE.gif.jpg.avi.

Speaking with fan knowledge mode on, well, at least have them fire the 120mm cannons on their guns, those are useful when double/triple/quad/quicktapping the trigger. Using 36mm is either animation laziness or just plain notafuckwasgiven.gif on the studio’s part.

Overall while it does give a bit of depth to Yui’s character as compared to her previous mentions in Hobby Japan’s TSFiA or the TE light novels, the lack of the EoJ’s entire force: F-15Js, Type-94s, some fanservice in the form of a certain handful of blue, red and grey Zuikakus and more of the US Navy Jolly Rogers and other such stuff does mark down the episodes as “higher than moderate” rather than “fucking awesome”. Quality is pretty okay, but flat and unshaded Fort-class is not good by any measure, as was omitting one of the rare chances to see Yui in a cockpit system exoskeleton, or at least the Feedback Interface.

https://i2.wp.com/images.wikia.com/muvluv/images/1/11/Caught.JPG

… Meowday? – Uncredited

After those two episodes, TE goes straight into their main storyline. This is one gripe I hear often about the series; this sudden switch. Granted, web summaries do tell of “This thing takes place in a hick base testing hick country machines”, but the ferocity of the first two episodes might wipe that from many a first-timer’s mind. Basically, there wasn’t enough explanation given; rather than having Ibrahim, the XFJ Project’s flight leader explain the XFJ project, it would have been better to show an older Yui drop one or two lines to her uncle, the IJA/MDF colonel Iwaya Eji, about how the Type-94 is going to turn into a rustbucket soon and the F-4Js are so shitty the machines are exploding by themselves, so they need something like the XFJ Plan.  There’s that one scene with an F-4J that fails to escape in time because it wasn’t fast enough, that would have made a good flashback scene and perhaps allowed the viewers to understand more rather than “lmao suddenly project testing”.

The other following episodes aren’t much to say about. For new-timers the show is going at a moderate pace to introduce the characters, particularly Yuuya’s general dislike, sometimes full-blown hatred of anything Japanese, Yui being hyaku-pāsento TSUUUUUN, Cryska and Inia setting the mood for Soviets in general and the rest of the XFJ Plan’s Argos Flight members having a movie to watch about those two. The sterner-eyed will realize that the character animation has been going on a gradual but steady drop, and things aren’t helping with the trickling action and addition of (while admittedly fun) random items as pictured directly above. When they finally reach the obligatory swimsuit arc, most will finally flip their tables and go “what the fuck?!”

As a fan, I’d just like to extend a pat to the back for those who felt betrayed, because truth be told TE dug its own grave with those first two episodes, which originally weren’t in TE, but had to follow the source material afterwards. TE, being character-driven in such things, naturally has to extend the swimsuit episode to two; understandably a choke-hold to those who were entralled by the action and couldn’t give two fucks about the tits (I know, I was one of them). The only consolation is the character development during said swimsuit arc (surprising, I know, compared to other such story arcs in anime), but while I thought it was okay it’s really up to personal preference to see whether it was good for what it did or a total waste of time and effort.

By this time, the lack of sneaky rescue troops (which appeared in the TE manga) is already setting off a silent alert in some of the fans’ heads.

https://i2.wp.com/images.wikia.com/muvluv/images/2/23/Mother_russia_and_her_peoples.png

Show these lower life forms the might of Zhar! – Lt. Colonel Fikatsia Latrova

Things don’t really pick up until the XFJ Plan proceeds to the Soviet territory of Kamchatka, and this is where TE begins to regain some of its lost shine when the fight returns to giant robots versus giant aliens; for the fans, this is the first animated appearance of the Su-series of Soviet TSFs, which are established in the general fluff as some of the more brutal TSFs in close-quarters combat; unfortunately, as is to be expected, the only bloody brutalizing comes from one of the main characters’ TSFs, which, while still a Soviet one, doesn’t do much for the reputation of the entire TSF series for reasons better understood by watching yourself than having me spell it out for you who is reading this.

Oh, the pain of budget and adaptation.

Anyways, added in is some of the politicking that made Muv-Luv Alternative so well-liked by a percentage of those who played the VNs, and while it is part of the original TE plot this is essentially what the fans have been waiting to see. For the first timers, I can only imagine their reaction at seeing the Soviets go at other Soviets; maybe a bit of surprise at the sudden mood change (akin to recieving news about an emergency test two hours after school’s out for the day and you’re halfway to your friend’s house, perhaps), celebrating the return of gun action, or maybe just plain confused as to why the nations of the world aren’t united. It might be naive to think so, but TE on its part could have done a better job at explaining the setting; things like this, while a probable reality even in the face of an alien invasion, don’t translate themselves well to reality. Then again, given how truncuated the anime is in comparison to the light novels, any more additions will turn TE into a 39-episode thing. Not that I mind, since we’ll see a proper tournament arc (more to come on that), but there’ll be a lot more talking than fighting.

Yuuya and crew, particularly Yuuya, gets to come face-to-face with the BETA for real for the first time. Simulations and practice rounds are one thing, but compared to Valerio, Stella and Tarisa, what goes on in Kamchatka is something they’ve seen before and grown used to, since all three are from frontline nations. It does take a while, but Yuuya eventually learns not to be so dismissive of others or to be quick to anger; the Soviet battalion commander, Latrova, is a fan favorite for a reason, one of them being that she’s a calm and knowledgable contrast to Yuuya’s volcanic impulses. I can confidently say that while not everyone might like Latrova’s battalion members, not many people actually dislike her, and when crunch time comes Yuuya takes her lessons to heart; a good thing that he makes references to later in the series.

For the fanbase though, I suspect it has more to do with her rather decently-sized Soviet mountains.

https://i0.wp.com/images2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20121027074632/muvluv/images/9/9d/Level_87_legendary_mad_chinese_butcher.png

Dem seduction moves by Miku.cn. – 4chan Anonymous

Next to come is the tournament arc customary of a great many old-school animes. Probably a few newer ones too, but I don’t watch those so I can’t really judge.

After the semi-disaster and semi-victory that is the Soviet arc, the XFJ Plan returns to Yukon, where the Blue Flag exercises, a multinational military exercise pitting flights of four TSFs each against each other is announced  in order for all involved to share battle tactics and technology. We get a smattering of what TE should be like, but from a newcomer’s perspective it wasn’t much; they only showcased three battles (two of which were  jobber fight and the last one a sure-win because of lolplot) out of at least five or more. Trust me, this hurt the fans more than it hurt the newcomers; we lost the chance to see China vs Africa (J-10X vs Mirage 2000 Modified), Soviets vs Middle-East (Su-37UB vs F-14Ex), United Nations vs COSEAN (Argos Flight vs Garuda Flight) and USA vs East Germany (F-22A EMD Phase vs MiG-29OVT), to name a few; the Japanese wiki for Muv-Luv has listed win-loss-draw ratios for each team, so at the very least, there should be more backstory material released to show the match lineup.

Given the sparse fights, the show quickly turns to more character interactions, this time with a cast expanded from the Yui/Cryska/Inia trio to includ Chinese pilot Cui Yifei, former Yuuya’s flame Sharon Heim and new rivalry in the form of Leon Kuze (basically Yuuya 1.0 without the anti-Japanese part). Not much happens other than some horsing around between all of them, but Yuuya gets his backstory mentioned, which lends more credence to his early ice-man image/hostility in-series and with Leon, Cryska and Inia’s origins are dangled in front of us with promises of more information that’ll never be revealed in the series, and some mumbo-jumbo about world settings are given out as well by the barkeep that frequently shows up whenever any of the Yukon crew go to town for a drink. The arc ends on a good enough note with a hot springs trip, only to bring us to…

https://i1.wp.com/images.wikia.com/muvluv/images/7/7d/VLCpic-Black_Boss.jpg

Heh… as if. – Major Christopher

… The finale, known to some as the terrorist arc. This stuff comes straight after the hot springs, and the genre shift just ups and smacks you across the face. For one thing, this finale takes the human-vs-human suggestions in the Soviet arc and just skyrockets with it; you’re going to rage, newcomer or no, if you can’t stand religious fanatics and one-track extremists. At the same time the various hints dropped throughout the series about racial inequality and the general shit conditions of the world’s frontlines finally make sense rather than just try and pull your heartstrings, since the terrorists are really doing it out of sheer hatred; there’s alot of it on the surface and even more that’s underlying, and the extra violence does its job well of showing them as a rag-tag bunch of either misguided fools or murder-obsessed opportunists.

For the fans, well, I won’t speak for them, but this is where my love-hate comes from. For one thing, the entire process of the arc is completely different; the MiG-29OVT (I admit I was looking forward to seeing it in action) is relegated to a backstage role; for a mechfag like me you could say I would call an Exterminatus out of sheer rage if I could. Instead, the main pilot antagonist, Christopher, gets a spanking new Su-47 complete with mysterious pod (which I can confirmed is filled with squick, so that’s that). It does cheapen the Su-47, considering that most fans’ first introduction to it was having it easily outmaneuver the Su-37UB, which previously held the title of the most brutal TSF in TE. We can’t get the same if he’s fighting Yuuya, so the Su-47 doesn’t move as envisioned. Fan expectations, and all that.

Then there’s the terrible fight cheorography when the main terrorists took on the remainder of the base crew that didn’t get themselves caught or killed; namely, the main cast. It’s just tons of shooting at each other and other such inane stuff, although to be fair that’s probably how it the original novelization had gone and how the light novels would have went had they been written up to that point; the terrorists specialized in cornering people with superior numbers, not one-on-one battle tactics, considering that their opponents are a sword expert, a US pilot trained in human-to-human warfare, a Gurka knife expert, and are joined by two bloodthirsty Soviet battle espers, a war-hardened veteren and a mad Chinese butcher pilot of the UFC. Pretty much my biggest gripe was that Yifei didn’t manage to show off her kung-fu skills in an F-15 (mind you, that was an actual thing in the written material) before becoming an almost-victim of a suicide run.

Then of course, the entire thing with Cryska and Inia going berserk is completely changed. Granted, given that Muv-Luv is prone to occasional retcons that tend to shake the fluff up abit (at this point all we’re missing are a few hundred pricey pewter miniatures and a few more years of retcons to begin calling Yoshimune Kouki our Spiritual Despair Lord) the fans shouldn’t have expected much more at this point. I would have taken anything so long as they had given us the MiG-29OVT, but noooooo, you gotta go to Euro Front for that.

That’s all for TE in general. About a couple of good points I can think off is how the show made sure to reference earlier events; Yui learns from her first battle and flashbacks to it a couple of times (it lends especially great impact to her reaction in the final arc), and it helps explain her no-nonsense attitude at what she percieves is all Yuuya’s fault (he does share the blame, but she’s not exactly an amicable superior either). Yuuya, for his part, has his past with his parents and Leon fleshed out well enough, and his lessons with Latrova are carried on into future episodes. It may seem small, but things like this are the rails helping TE to stay on track, since it switches tones so often to throw the first-timers off that it gets quite jarring. The other characters that aren’t directly involved in the Yuuya/Yui/Cryska and Inia quad don’t get much; Tarisa’s story is another tale for itself, VG doesn’t get anything beyond a womanizing reputation and a relation to another character in another story, and characters like Stella, Ibrahim, Sandek and Yifei won’t get much to go on unless the fluff gets an update.

Despite this being the first actual animation for TSFs in general (not counting all the one-two minute promotional materials released over the years) the quality goes up and down; the 3D models are generally fine, but the animation varies depending on the intensity of the fight. I’m not asking for Unicorn-style high-speed hand-to-hand combat every episode, but when they’re supposed to gun for each other at high speeds, they should at least look like they’re doing so, and a bit more effort put into dodging motion rather than have all bullets mysteriously miss would be welcome too.

Honestly speaking, TE would have been better as a light novel or the VN that they’re finally releasing next year; it throws a lot of the world setting at you without going into the basics, which they expected people to have went through in the initial Muv-Luv Alternative visual novel. Had they gone for full adaptation we would have had a lot more technicalities thrown around that wouldn’t have made sense unless the viewer was a fan of the original VN too.

It may sound odd for me to say this, but the best story for an adaptation of the Alternative world would have been something like Faraway Dawn; an unofficial hex-map turn-based strategy game made by a fan that pits the Empire of Japan’s forces against the BETA in 2001 after a recent attempt at invading the Japanese mainland. Given the defend-and-retaliate premise of Faraway Dawn and the way the story is set, there are solid opportunities for action, plenty of space and more than enough characters to use for development, flashbacks, talks and space gods forbid, even shipping. They might even create new characters for the inter-squadron dynamic (the original only showed squadron leaders); more moe people to feed to the blood gods, egad?

But the key points are Faraway Dawn’s good usage of established tactics within the Muv-Luv universe and adaptation potential of being bug-war o’ clock for a full 12/13 episodes, not to mention it might, for once, shut up the tankfags (despite what the Kamchatka arc shows, they’re not that useless; far from it). Below is an example of what you get in Faraway Dawn:

seen too much shit to give half a penny fuck

I was at 9/6 in Dalian for its entirety, the rearguard at Gwanju, Kyushuu, and the retreat to Maidzuru, spent two weeks in Kyoto during its defence, was a cornerstone during the Kanto Seige, took the front at Yokohama and camped at Niigata for the BETA! Twice! And I’m still a shitty Lieutenant! AND STILL STUCK IN A GODAMNED F-4J GEKI-FUCKING-SHIT-!

Imperial Army Lieutenant Horie

What a cute name. Well, no, he doesn’t actually say any of that at all, but it would have been either a massive hilarious lie and he was actually on reserve all this time, or else he’s one stone-cold baller to have survived all those major engagements.

So wrapping up thoughts of TE, well, I can’t say I can give a honest thought about it. It’s pretty okay, solid in its own right I guess; if you’re new to Muv-Luv TE would prove to be a good starting point, if only to get you aquainted with what to expect from the rest of the franchise; otherwise, it’s not particularly on the high end of “must watch before the year ends”. The character designs aren’t bad, honestly speaking, and as long as the show is not slapping you with its occasional flashes of QUALITY the people might even prove endearing to you so long as you’re not a spasm-prone oldfag to eveything harem.

I mean, seriously, with such jokes like people accusing TE of ripping off Infinite Stratos. Harem cliches are so stone-set nowadays compared to back then, that I can throw a stone and hit a series with a main traditionalist girl, twintails, royal duchess, stone-cold-dere and a hyperactive ball. TE does, however, deviate slightly from this by using the last three as viewership trollbait as opposed to serious love interests.

The action might not match up sometimes, but when it gets good it does a pretty good job of portraying the events well; not counting the good TSF fights, the fans will not forget Flying Tank-class for a long time, and once they fixed the Laser-class we got a pretty cool lightshow at Kamchatka. Of course, if you’re spoiled on SAO-levels of fights then you can tone down the expectations a little for this; not everything gets a big budget adaptation after all. Mechs are pretty nicely done, and after seeing the quality discreparency of the characters and the rare occasion where the mechs were hand-drawn, going CG might have been a blessing after all. Man, it’s like the only guy worth dynamic mech anime action nowadays is Obari.

We shall see if that’ so in 2013.

For a more comprehensive on TE anime, you can also refer to the Type-94 blog, which not only explores the anime in general comparision to the written works, but also the backstage real-life goals and expectations that have shaped the anime. Finding excuses for a show is not something I’ll ever do, but some things like directing and in a certain case, poor scripting (coughgsdcough) are really elements that shouldn’t be blamed on the show itself.