Race, Ethnicity and Conflict in Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse
August 4, 2012 1 Comment
While the BETA are the crux of the Muv-Luv universe, providing the backdrop of an unfaltering, all conquering enemy that threatens to wipe out humanity, it is the human relationships that help to form the centre of the story. Humans must battle to survive, but with every passing day we see more territory lost to the BETA, with whole countries no longer habitable and people forced to flee. The test base in Alaska that Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse is set brings together those who have lost their country, and thus they fight to survive and to carry forward the memory of the place that they have lost. In the middle of these characters and nations stands our main characters Yuuya Bridges and Yui Takamura. They are the characters that will push forward the weapon and Tactical Strike Fighter (TSF) development, and yet they are incapable of interacting in a normal way, pushed apart by their attitudes towards each other and their own pasts.
These two characters are driven but duty, hatred, fear and perhaps loathing, for themselves as well as others around them. They are characters that have been shaped by their pasts and also by where they come from, but importantly, neither is willing to change at the moment. Unfortunately, change they must if the project has any hope of succeeding; they have to learn to live with their pasts and who they are. Furthermore, they need to work together and overcome their differences, also coming to realise that there will always be fundamental differences between their philosophies and lives that have to be acknowledged. At the very root of the problem however are the ideas of race and ethnicity and how they play an important role in the creation of identities and social spaces. We see how racial and ethnic identities have helped to form both Yuuya’s as well as Yui’s attitudes towards their own countries as well as many others.
To Yui, we see how her identity has been formed through her social background as a member of an established samurai family, she is therefore someone with heritage and high social status. To her keeping this status is important, and the creation of a new TSF will demonstrate that despite loosing half of their territory Japan is still a thriving and powerful nation. There is also a sense that other nations are inferior to Japan, focusing on things such as brute force, or perhaps never having to deal with the BETA. We are shown how watching her school friends being eaten alive by the BETA has left an indelible mark on Yui, turning her into a cold, hard soldier, but also perhaps suggesting that she may be using this project to run away from her past.
Like all test pilots, Yui Takamura and Yuuya Bridges are viewed as either too dangerous or unpredictable to be left on the front line. Furthermore, as the daughter of a legendary soldier who was instrumental in the development of the TSF Yui has an immense amount of pride and is perhaps considered to be the best person to oversee such a project. As such her attitude is one of condescending superiority, viewing other TSF as inferior to those produced by the Japanese. This attitude and drive to create a new, superior TSF is tainted by the memories of those she went to school with and watched die, she is haunted by these memories and as such continues to push forward regardless of who is in her way.
Yui views Yuuya as a tool, someone who she can order around and use as she sees fit, while also appearing to detest him, viewing him as someone who has led a comfortable lifestyle and therefore has no knowledge of the horrors of war. As a person she hopes that Yuuya is Japanese but cannot escape the fact that he was born and brought up in America, a country far from the reach of the BETA, one that has never had to deal with loss and hardship. To her, Yuuya is soft and by merit of being half Japanese and half American he is inferior, lacking the finesse, fighting spirit and pride of the Japanese, with the brashness and terrible attitude of America. There is also a hint of jealousy in there, since Yuuya is someone with natural piloting talent, who is able to gradually master a machine that it took her a while to get used to, along with charisma and natural leadership ability. He has all the things that she lacks, and wishes for, perhaps believing that if she had his abilities her friends and training partners could have been saved.
But, she is making assumptions based on simple facts with no knowledge of what Yuuya has had to go through. The problems in their relationship are in part because of her attitude, and the way she looks down on Yuuya, seeing him as an inferior human being, thus feeding his hatred for Japan. Yuuya is someone without a country, and by merit of being half Japanese and half American he belongs to neither. His mother clearly loved his father, but because his father out of a sense of duty for Japan left to help defend his country against the BETA we see that he is perceived as someone who willingly abandons his family as if they no longer have any use. Yuuya is therefore an unwanted child, living with a grandfather who evidently viewed hsi father with distrust and quickly derides his choice to defend Japan. By being half Japanese, Yuuya is also bullied and ostracised by the other children who view him as different and inferior.
His meeting with Yui only helps to reinforce his beliefs, having a haughty woman talk down to him like everyone else as if he were dirt or perhaps less than dirt. By calling her a Japanese Doll, Yuuya is describing her as beautiful, but also incapable of normal emotions, someone who cannot understand the feelings of normal people. This description is rather apt since Yui cannot understand his feelings and emotions, she is caught up in her quest to create a new TSF and avenge those who have died. Her status as an officer in Japan’s Imperial Royal Guard, along with her prestigious family background have helped to create someone who has a single minded drive to destroy the BETA and reclaim Japan. However, this drive, along with her negative attitude and feelings for Yuuya further deepens the problematic nature of their relationship by reinforcing the inequalities that he has been forced to live with.
However, Yuuya’s inability and unwillingness to accept that he is half Japanese, someone with a Japanese name, and therefore a distinct and powerful ink to the country of Yui’s birth only exacerbates the situation. The bullying and racial prejudice that he has had to endure means that he hates his Japanese self, seeing the Japanese as a prideful and haughty people who foolishly hold onto their past despite loosing half their country and lacking the resources to fight on their own. His constant mantra that he is American is damaging, limiting his ability to pilot a TSF that is radically different in design philosophy to those he has used in the past. It is not that he cannot understand the Japanese, but in doing so it would mean that Yuuya is willing to accept the part of him that is also Japanese, something that he appears unwilling to do.
The clash between Yuuya and Yui is one of ideologies and egos, with both demonstrating that they are alike in their inability to conceding anything or even attempt to understand the other. Yuuya must learn to overcome the problems of his past and embrace his ethnic heritage, accepting that he is American and Japanese. While he is a prideful pilot, Yuuya cannot imagine the pain that those who have lost their countries feel, and has to accept who he is, while also attempting to understand where all these other pilots have come from. His ability to fully control the TSF and even beat Yui show that he has begun to come to terms with who he is and where he is from. Yui on the other hand needs to overcome and let go of her past, she must learn to accept that she could not save her friends and cannot allow the events to keep such a strong grip over her.
Unfortunately it is her pride and the events of her past that have fashioned her into this strict and strong woman, someone with an unbending will who is seemingly incapable of accepting advice from others. To make her project succeed she needs to accept Yuuya for who he is and learn to trust him, acknowledging his skill and ability to pilot and lead those around him. What is interesting is that within the universe of Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse, one where the earth is overrun with the BETA, we continue to see conflicts between nations. The conflict between Yui and Yuuya simply mirrors that which exists between countries only in a microcosm. Everyone wants to test and create more powerful weapons and means to survive, but the mentality of mistrust and pride in ones inventions still persists even when humanity is on the verge of annihilation.
In essence we see that humanity has not learned anything, and that despite her experiences and background Yui is currently incapable of accepting help from people who she views as inferior or of a lower class. To succeed they must accept their pasts and move on from there, unfortunately the pain and hardship that both Yuuya and Yui have encountered in their pasts is such that it has left an indelible, and perhaps permanent mark on their character. Although arguably Yuuya has had the harder childhood, and while Yui’s experience during the fall of Kyoto were almost soul destroying, she has not had to live with the knowledge that those around her seemingly wished she never existed like Yuuya has. Ultimately Yui must let go of her pride, because it is precisely because of this that her plan could and perhaps will fail. It is the hubris attached to the attitude that the Japanese are a proud warrior race that creates superior technology that is causing the conflict between Yuuya and Yui. The BETA while an ever-present threat take a backseat in Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse, with the importance of human relationships coming to the fore.