For those who don’t know, Muv-Luv Alternative Total Eclipse is the latest version of Muv-Luv Alternative, which is itself based on a romantic/eroge visual novel. However, as Muv-Luv moved away from the visual novel format, it started to become a much more sci-fi based series, and has really changed and improved over its origin.
To start, it seems Muv-Luv can’t really decide what it wants to be. It has impressive fights and a very good sci-fi plot, but it also is fairly fanservice intense, with a bathing suit episode and putting all characters in skintight suits that act more like body paint that actual skin-tight clothing. The difference is tight clothing like spandex flattens everything out and eliminated lots of detail, while body paint fits into every nook and cranny of a body.
The first two episodes are supposed to be the intro that the rest of Total Eclipse builds on, and actually do a very good job of creating the background for the story and characters. It introduces us to Lt. Takamura while she is still a high school age trainee to pilot the TSFs against the Beta. The TSFs are the giant robots, and the Beta are the alien invaders, because saying mecha or giant robots or power armor and aliens is too easy and too easy to remember.
Either way, it builds Takamura up to be a fairly normal high school student who is enrolled in some sort of super-special ROTC type class. Naturally, the Beta invade, and they are called out to fight. Then things turn brutal, as all her friends and classmates are killed in various ways, ranging from brutal to extremely brutal, with some of it happening right in front of her with her powerless to stop it.
The end result of this when the series jumps forward several years is that a good backstory for Lt. Takamura has been established, as well as some sympathy for her, plus a good explanation for her behavior and actions. It works out well that Total Eclipse gave the backstory as the first episodes, instead of just having other characters mention such things as rumors, or explaining it in a flashback. It helps improve the flow, and gives us a character we already understand.
When the series jumps forward a few years, we get introduced to the character Yuuya, who is an angry Japanese-American who was sent to Alaska, and as such, is under the command of Lt. Takamura. the best way to describe Yuuya is angry-angry that he is sent to Alaska, angry that Lt. Takamura makes him train on a Japanese TFS, and he doesn’t really get along with anyone. We do find out very early that he has a major chip on his shoulder, which does save him from being a completely unlikeable character. The reasons he acts the way he does is explained as him having suffered a lot of discrimination due to his heritage, so it does help explain his behavior.
The net result is that Total Eclipse has a believable background with good explanations for why the characters are the way they are. However, a romantic subplot begins to appear with Lt. Takamura, along with a switch to her perspective for a short while. Unfortunately, due to there having been no previous switches and her normally stoic and expressionless behavior, the romance feels tacked on, as if Lt. Takamura couldn’t really be feeling that. Previous switches to her perspective would likely result in a series that didn’t seem to have a direction or a main plot so what would have helped best is for some other slight indication that Lt. Takamura had romantic interests.
The show is still very mixed up, which is understandable, considering its heritage. Important characters are all visually distinct, and personalities are at best a list of traits that are tacked on. Some characters have been better characterized than others, but the visual novel heritage still really shows. There really is no skimping on fanservice, with lots of bouncy moments, skin-tight suits that are much more suggestive on the women than the men, and of course, the aforementioned bathing suit episode. The nice thing is, the bathing suit episode is the exception, not the rule, so fanservice is mainly left to bouncing at random times. Thankfully, they don’t seem to sue a sound effect when anything bounces, so it really isn’t as noticeable, allowing you to concentrate on the story without an annoying bounce sound effect playing whenever a female character does anything. In fact, they don’t even have breasts bounce whenever a female character does anything, and for that, I have to congratulate them. For a basis in an eroge visual novel, they really have toned it down and allowed a good story to show through.
The harshness and brutality of war is played up very well here, and the romance plot isn’t handled as well. If they stick with the formula and devote a little more to the romance sub-plot, they can keep this series as a pretty powerful and enjoyable series.
Pros: Shows the harshness and brutality of war, while still being interesting and a good watch. Both Yuuya and Lt. Takamura are very well done characters, and others are getting there. There is some considerable talent with the writers, and it is showing more and more.
Cons: plenty of characters feel, at best, like blank slates with some emotions attached with staples. Some of the animation can get clumsy at times, or just can be not up to par, especially considering that most of it is quite good.