Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse Part 2 (Episodes 13-24) (Cert 15)
2 Discs (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 298 minutes approx.
We waste little time in resuming the action of this mecha series in which the human race in an alternate timeline is battling alien beings called BETA via mecha defence craft called Tactical Surface Fighters (TSF).
Central hero Yuuya Bridges is a tight spot, having been forced to defend the Russian UN base in Kamchatka alone from a Russian plot to destroy it as well as a surprise BETA invasion, due to a damaged TSF. While the Zhar Battalion arrive in the nick of time to save Yuuya the fight is far from over as a squad of Laser Class BETA arrive and wipe out the entire Zhar battalion, leaving everyone to feat that Yuuya is dead.
Forgive the spoiler but he isn’t, of course, much to the delight of Yui Takamura, Lieutenant in the Japanese Imperial Guard and holder of a secret crush on Yuuya. Meanwhile the devastating attack at the Kamchatka base has spurred the UN to develop a more advanced and powerful TSF to counter the BETA. But the BETA is just one problem that needs to be overcome when a militant group calling themselves Refugee Liberation Front (RLF) infiltrate the base.
There are certainly a lot of ideas floating about this series designed to the action moving and create new conflicts which is commendable, but this being anime the execution is a little clumsy. For instance, after Yuuya’s brush with death the next few episodes that immediately follow it are fan service heavy asides that concentrate on developing a mini-harem for Yuuya.
For someone who was practically an outcast at the start of the series Yuuya has accrued quite the following among the female cast members – first Yui struggles to hide her feelings for him and now Russian pilot Cryska Barchenowa is a slushy mess whenever she is around him. Then, out of nowhere, a brash Chinese pilot Cui Yifei shows up to berate Yuuya but after he beats her in friendly combat, Cui decides that the pair are now married!
So, with the obligatory trip to the hot springs out of the way, Yuuya also has to deal with the return of an old enemy who blames him for a death he had nothing to do with, creating more unwanted stress as the pair are supposed to be team mates. We are also treated to the backstory of the Scarlet Twins, Cryska and partner Inia Sestina, amidst this run of info dumping to bide some time before the RLF strike.
Admittedly the RLF arc brings with it heavy doses of action, plot twists and extreme violence but with this development arising way too late, we are given little reason to fully appreciate the significance and impact of the ramifications of their actions. Similarly, cast members who were previously on the periphery suddenly have the spotlight lessening their emotional attachment with the audiences.
The result is another example of a series that overstretches its ambitions or at least suffering at the hands of a TV station that commissioned a twenty four episode series. Without the frippery of making light out of the interpersonal relationship and pandering to the fan service lovers, there is a solid eighteen episode series, that could have taking in both major arcs and turned them into one cohesive and contained story.
The RLF subplot may put the BETA on the backburner as the immediate enemy of the UN forces but the scenario is completely congruent, making its hurried addition to the story all the more frustrating. It’s rather well crafted in terms of how it unfolds and impacts the existing plotlines, based as it is on fear and distrust of the UN after learning of a top secret programme which changes the entire complexion of the battle against the BETA.
Granted not everything about it always make sense which is as much a fault of this particular thread been incorporated this late into the into proceedings, a slow burn simmering in the background being the best way to execute an idea of this scale. The positive though are that it lifts the pace and energy after the distractions of the personal dramas, and the action level is brisk and the violence chilling, recalling the stark terror of the carnage at the start of the series.
Other noticeable casualties are the personalities of some of the main cast, their burden being the love triangle revolving around Yuuya. In particular, Yui and Cryska are the most compromised by this going from strong willed and confident young women to snivelling wrecks when they witness their beloved Yuuya in the presence of other girls. For someone with rank Yui’s emotional fallibility reflects badly on her as a leader, least of all when she takes Cui’s marriage nonsense to heart.
As mentioned above when the focus is on action the show delivers in spades and the writers are not afraid to whittle down the numbers of the cast to reinforce the gravity of the BETA’s threat. This is the sort of drama the show excels at and should be the link to the emotional investment from the audience, not the lovey dovey stuff.
The one consistent this show can boast is the presentation and Satelight maintain a high standard of top quality animation and artwork throughout. Naturally it is at its best during the battle sequences, where the movements of the mecha are fluid against the sadly clumsy looking CGI renderings of the BETA. There is also some wonderful use of light and shade during the final episodes involving the RLF take over of the UN base which deserves credit.
Muv-Luv Alternative feels a little like a square peg being forced into a round hole, in that it is your basic mecha-by-numbers series but has plenty of fertile ground for a decent sci-fi series. However the pandering to the mass audience with trite conventions somewhat dilutes that potential to truly standout from the crowd.
Good fun but not a classic.
Japanese Language w/ English Subtitles
Disc 2 Only:
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – ***
Man In Black