What began as a high school dating visual novel morphed into a sci-fi saga packing mecha, aliens, and an alternative world. With Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse you get a waft of both, in a bait-and-switch, switch-and-bait formula that’s more difficult to keep up with than a mech-suit hell-bent for the skyline.
Since the first curve, US test pilot Yuuya Bridges has come to grips with the duality of his heritage, no longer shirking or shaming his Japanese side. Even less surprising is how he ends up with a little harem on the go, channelling the central function of the source material. Teased from the get go, Yui Takamura was in tsundere mode when it came to Yuuya. Now she’s gurning and blushing, and all at the cost of her character. But where Yui wanes, others come to the forefront. Of the vast roster, it’s bartender Natalie that develops into an unlikely audience ally.
For a narrative steeped in alien invasion, the BETA are fairly absent, as if to say that this is the new present and everyone has grown to accept it. Where the aliens have withdrawn, the focus shifts to the political and the bureaucratic machinations behind the front lines. A point best illustrated by the fact the arrival of the BETA put the Cold War on hold, relations between the US and USSR are tenuous at best. Factor in Japan, and it’s a volatile trinity. This climate gives way for a band of terrorists (or freedom fighters) and their uprising.
Titled the Refugee Liberation Front, they fight for better treatment and conditions for the Eurasian refugees. Aside from the lashings of gore used to illustrate their point, it’s quite an interesting tangent, and looks at warfare from a humanist perspective. But because of the stark difference between reality and the more light hearted, ecchi scenes, the two don’t quite sit comfortably together.
The CG animation of the BETA prevents them from being anything but a hulking eyesore, but in the heat of combat, with the blur of mecha and alien action, it’s hard to discern or scrutinise – especially with the rolling snare drum and brass section making everything a march. As the English dub opts for the most stereotypical accents for each character’s nationality, we suggest – nay decree – that you stick to the Japanese dub.
By balancing and blending all the elements of its source material, the tonal U-turns end up giving you whiplash. An idea mirrored in the animation quality, soft edges and hard parts; the beer swilling of the local boozer couldn’t be further away from the gruesome shoot-ups. There’s a lot of interesting things at play in Muv-Luv, and a lot to get excited about, just not all at once.
Special Features: Opening / Closing / Trailers
MUV-LUV ALTERNATIVE: TOTAL ECLIPSE PART 2 / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: MASAOMI ANDO / SCREENPLAY: TAKAYUKI INAGAKI / STARRING: DAISUKE ONO, MAI NAKAHARA, HITOMI NABATAME, MAMIKO NOTO, SAKURA NOGAWA / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 19TH