Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse – First Impressions
July 5, 2012 Leave a comment
The idea of an alien threat, one that exists simply to wipe humanity off the face of the earth is hardly new, (it has been used in films like Independence Day for example) but it is one that when done right can produce a fascinating story. The Muv-Luv universe is one where humanity is on the brink of annihilation, faced with an enemy know as the BETA (Beings of Extra Terrestrial orign which is Adversary of human race) who are seemingly unstoppable. The first games and the manga adaptations followed one specific character as the trained to be a Tactical Surface Fighter (TFS) pilot surrounded by a group of beautiful women.
Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse apparently followers a similar trend, which is to be expected considering the kind of games that this universe was based on. However, what made Muv-Luv so fascinating is that underneath all the banter and harem antics there was this ever-present threat of annihilation by the BETA. Much like the snipers and submariners of WWII these TFS pilots messed around when they could precisely because it may be the last day that they are alive. In essence the Muv-Luv universe allows for humour and joking around while still maintaining the ever-present threat of the BETA, something that comes across quite clearly during the Muv-Luv Unlimited manga.
The story in Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse starts in a classic fashion showing us the progression of the BETA and the successive failures of humanity to stop them. What is interesting however, is how we are introduced to one of the central characters of this series, Yui Takamura who is attending a Imperial Royal Guards school in order to become a TFS pilot. It is fascinating to see how she interacts with her friends, all of whom are training to be pilots and join the Imperial Royal Guard. The setting of Imperial Kyoto, capital of Japan is one that is far removed from the horrors of the battlefield, and you get the sense that the BETA may not even exist. The peace and tranquillity of Kyoto belies the fact that a war for supremacy is going on, hiding the fact that the fate of humanity is on a knife-edge.
Yui is doing her best, clearly determined to become a pilot that her father can be proud of, along with living up to the Takamura name. In the Muv-Luv universe the Japanese empire in a sense never fell, thus the capital was never moved to Tokyo, and the imperial family, along with its vassals remained in power. The Takamura family is one such family, with generations of great and famous samurai, something that Yui clearly wishes to continue. What is so interesting of course is that her family clearly think differently, and while Yui is keen to show her prowess at piloting the TFS that her father was instrumental in creating, her uncle sees things differently. For him, the idea of this young generation having to fight for survival is a terrible idea, and one that should never happen. He knows the true horror of war and understands that if Yui were to fight the BETA she may die having done nothing other than to uphold her families’ honour.
Interestingly enough is the tone of the series and how even during the practice fights and battle simulation there is this ever-present sense of foreboding, as if these girls are training to die. This first episode never lets you forge that the BETA have overrun large parts of the earth and that despite all these ‘absolute defence lines’ that the various armies of the world have set up they keep on advancing. Yui and her friends may be training their hardest, and yet none of them even really know or understand the horrors that they are about to face. Furthermore the dangers of their training are shown to use in dramatic fashion when a TFS crashes killing its pilot, the shot of a poll or blood along with a severed limb brings the horrors and dangers of war into the minds of those girls who are still training.
One of the biggest strengths of this episode is the lack of the BETA, they are this ever-present threat, one that we are told appear to be simply out to exterminate the human race. And yet we never really see them, there are various shots of BETA limbs, along with a thermal image, but the remain this mysterious and unknown threat, one that has immense power but remains invisible. By hiding what they look like, all the while demonstrating their overwhelming power and destructive abilities a sense of dread creeps over this episode. It is as if these girls that we have seen through their training no matter how short and flying to their deaths, something that becomes apparent when you realise that this episode along with next weeks episode are little more than an introduction to the series.
We have yet to meet the other central characters of this series, or even see where the majority of the action will take place. While we are shown the initial training of Yui Takamura, Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse takes place several years in the future when Imperial Japan and the United States band together in order to develop the next generation of TFS. The series takes place at a UN test base in Alaska where Yui meets Yuya Bridges, along with several other test pilots. While it is clear that there will likely be some harem action along with comedy, what is so fascinating about Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse is this introduction. It might be a series set in the future with a older Yui but it is making it quite clear that despite any ecchi action these pilots are working for a very specific reason.
They are there precisely because humanity faces extinction, and unless they help to develop this next generation of TFS they too will die. This first episode offered a gripping insight into the Muv-Luv universe, one where humanity is no longer the dominant race on earth and where they must take extreme measures in order to ensure its survival. The idea of seeing high school girls training in order to be pilots may at first seem strange, but when put into perspective it is clear that they are essential to the renewed efforts of humanities struggle against the BETA. This was a very interesting first episode that helped to demonstrate the importance that humanity places on the TFS along with the ever-present threat of the BETA even when you are supposed to be in the Imperial Capital of Japan.
Having watched this episode I really want to see the other central characters in this story and see how they all interact together along with what experiences they bring with them that effect their attitude towards the BETA as well as each other. It is quite clear now that Yui may see horrors that harden her attitude towards the BETA and quite possibly make her a very difficult yet brilliant person to deal with. I am particularly fascinated by how she will react to Yuuya and his presence as a test pilot in later episodes, hopefully it doesn’t disappoint since I think it has had an excellent start.