Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse is a 2012 anime from studios ixtl and Satelight, based on the Muv-Luv visual novel franchise. The director is Masaomi Ando, who is also the director of School-Live!, which is airing this season. Part 1 of Muv-Luv Apocalypse is out on DVD and Blu-ray today, with Part 2 scheduled for October 19th. Being a romantic comedy mecha anime, there is significant focus on the relationships between characters.
The first two episodes focus on a war between humanity and BETA, a hostile alien race on the moon. These two episodes are the most interesting, with a 30-year war resulting in BETA conquering half of the Eurasian continent. In 1998, Yui is a student, striving to become an Imperial Guard TSF pilot alongside her friends. When the Asian front lines are near defeated, with Korea overrun, Yui and her friends are ordered to help the Japanese army defend Kyoto. Yui’s unit is ordered to retreat when the supply base is overrun, but each of her teammates is killed. She is rescued, and three years later, now a Lieutenant, heads to Alaska.
The remainder of the episodes focus on the United Nation’s international test corp Project PROMINENC; this project tests and experiments with TSF technology. There are a few battles within the remaining episodes, with the story tending to stick to character relationships and the two main characters, Yui and Yuuya. Yuuya is an American with Japanese heritage, who refuses to accept being called Japanese due to his childhood. The final few episodes in this release contain some intense battles with difficult decisions; the cliffhanger at the end of episode 12 readying you for part 2. After the bait and switch with episodes 1 and 2, caution is advised, however.
The animation is mostly average, with nothing particulary spectacular of note throughout; though, at times, some of the CGI can seem out of place, somewhat ruining the immersion. Being a PAL conversion on the DVD release, there is noticeable judder in the video; this is most apparent during the ED as it pans across characters. The Blu-ray release will not have been subjected to this conversion, and as such the judder should not be present. Thankfully, aside from this judder, there seem to be no other issues present. Subtitles are white, which is a pleasant change from the yellow subtitles that are present on many releases.
The OP for Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse is “Go to the Top” by Koda Kumi is one of the highlights of the anime, being suitably upbeat, but in a perfect metaphor for the series itself, the OP doesn’t quite manage to live up to those first few beats. The ED, meanwhile, is “signs ~Saku Tsuki Hitoyo~” by Minami Kuribayashi, and is far more disappointing, being somewhat slow to match the panning shots of the characters. The audio for both English and Japanese track are quite similar at face value, and stereo-only; with the soundtrack being suitable yet dull. The English dub manages to somehow further the depiction of Americans as obnoxious though; whether this is some meta-commentary intentionally created by Sentai Filmworks, or just the obnoxiousness itself at play, is irrelevant. The sprinkling of additional mild expletives such as “goddamn” when American characters talk, alongside the stereotypical accents for non-Americans, that sound forced by American VAs and are painful to listen to, really emphasise the obnoxious attitude of Americans that the show already tries to get across. Whether it is just a product of American over-localisation or meta-commentary by the dubbing studio, it works perfectly for this anime.
Though, considering that this show seems willing to show how racism can affect people, with one character, US test pilot Yuuya Bridges, opposing his Japanese heritage due to racism experienced as a child, it seems in poor taste, to me at least, that the dub utilises a variety of mildly racist nicknames between characters. Even without the dub, there are some flaws in the depiction of racism; Yuuya’s mother responds to complaints founded on negative stereotyping of Japanese people by merely positing positive stereotypes.
When it comes to extras, the second disc includes textless versions of both the OP and the ED. In addition, there are three trailers present; Captain Earth, Majestic Prince, and Humanity has Declined. Of these three, the last is the only anime not to revolve around mechas, and the first, Captain Earth, is the only one to have received a UK release. You can take a look at our Captain Earth Part 1 review here.
This anime starts off with a two-part episode in the front lines of a war, before quickly switching to a focus on test pilots, in a bait and switch that could be incredibly disappointing if your favourite aspect of mecha anime is the fights. That isn't to say a mecha anime focusing more on the everyday lives of people not actively fighting is inherently boring, but Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse manages to fall short of expectations on all fronts. As a big fan of romantic comedy anime, even the romance aspects of the anime felt lacking.
The final couple episodes of the release are more interesting than the rest, enough to make you want to buy part 2 at least, with the cliffhanger. But, after the bait and switch with episodes 1 and 2, caution is advised.