Sunday, December 30, 2012

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse

There's been a lot of strange series that debuted in 2012. If there was another to name, one would definitely be Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse. No, it's not the end of the year (yet) for us but in the world of the Total Eclipse, it's walking down that path. The series is based off a LN (light novel) of the same name and takes place in a science fiction world where mecha, aliens, and hot women with suits of iron dominating the series. It's definitely not everyday that you get to see chicks fighting otherworldly beings and still getting the time to relax. Let's look and see for ourselves what Muv Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse has to offer:

The series is set in an alternative timeline where our planet Earth has been invaded by aliens forces known as the BETA. This sort of genre can be traced into many science fiction series such as Strike Witches, Gunparade March, and even Neon Genesis. The BETA has caused the Earth resistance to develop jet/mecha hybrid called Tactical Surface Fighters or TSF to eradicate them. Mankind now is in a state of war, horror, and survival where the skies rains with blood and the ground leaves the scars of battles. Muv Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse focuses on the exploration of these battles, characters' interactions, and the survival of mankind. 

The first episode isn't what we might expect. When I watched it, there's seems to be a sort of “mindfuck” reaction. In fact, it's not what most of us expected but a rather dark flashback with Yui in her final days of high school. To be honest, high school is never too fun for most people but in Yui's case has gotten that much grimmer. In a tragic twist, she is forced into immediate combat with her classmates for the first time against the powerful BETA. And with that, blood is spilled with a brutality of violence is presented to the viewers. If you thought this was a show about hot girls doing hot things, then think again. 

From there though, everything shifts to present time and we get to see the other characters of the series. It seems Yui has become that much more confident and with her status now as lieutenant. Starring opposite her though is the ever stubborn, short-tempered, confident Yuuya Bridges. He is of the Japanese American descent who follows his roles a strong soldier against the forces of the BETA. His short temper and characteristics forms a barrier between most of the other characters in the beginning with him presenting an attitude of “don't fuck with me” personality. 

And speaking of personalities, this series mixes in different characters with different characteristics. Let's take for example:

The Scarlet Twins -
Cryska "Scarlet Twin" Barchenowa who is of the Soviet descent has a cold personality and is afraid to let people get close to her because the state of her mentality. She is the cold beauty of the series with an equally cold ability to fly the unfriendly skies of the series and doing what she does best. On the other hand, we got Inia "Scarlet Twin" Sestina. She is Cryska's most precious individual (and “sister”) in that twisted world . Unlike Cryska though, Inia is much more gentler and treats other people with kindness especially Yuuya who she adores like an older brother.

The other characters in the series has different personalities as well. Tarisa Manandal, whom Yuuya teasingly calls her Chobi acts as the more comedic side of the series despite some of the more serious violence tone going on around. Later on, we also meet Cui Yifei, a pilot of the Chinese descent that brings out the inner tsundere from Yui. 

These lovely ladies all have their different personalities but the show occasionally tries to hard. For example, some of the filler episodes involving the beach and the onsen presents us nothing more than just pure fan-service that's irrelevant to the story. Furthermore, the women of the series are drawn in a way that reflects their figures directly to the viewers with those tight suits. Who can forget those suits honestly? I bet most people here watched the trailer and added it to their PTW just from that. 

There is more than just beyond the fan-service though for this rather underrated series. As more episodes progressed, we can see a more political side of Total Eclipse involving the various genetic heritages of the main characters. The nickname “Japanese Doll” given by Yuuya Bridges to Yui serves as a comedic but also political reference to his personality towards the race. The other characters' heritages also strikes a distinguishing background for the series that makes it more realistic despite being a science fiction. 

The series traces its roots with the survival of the fittest theme although it doesn't involve any game elements. Instead, it's a military type series that involves with one force and the other. There can only be one winner on each side: mankind or the BETA. As such, the battles in the series are often intense when they happen that draws the violence, brutality, and blood from the skies. The characters drawn are visually presented well and gets their points across. However, the mecha department lacks a bit of this quality. Although crisp, the mecha themselves seems to be trying too much to become..mecha. However, the emotions and drama mixed in is a surprisingly exciting watch. It shows the dangers mankind have been and will be facing. 

Yet despite the serious tone of the series, there is a lot of interactions between the main characters later on. For later on, Yuuya becomes less aggressive and more caring towards his colleagues treating them as friends rather than comrades. His interaction with Yui is one of the more dynamic focuses in the series as he inspires her that she can create a path the way she wants. This opened up new doors of opportunities for a more caring relationship between the two. Hmm, maybe not because it seems that there are also other women interested in Yuuya. In some of the later episodes, Yuuya becomes the center of attention who attracts the attention of the many other female characters in the series. It's funny in a strange way to realize that in such a dark atmosphere that the BETA has already created, there can also be some space for fun and laughter. 

As said before, the artwork of the series is presented in a way that reflects the more serious tone of the Muv Luv world in which survival of mankind depends on these new generation of trained pilots. The pilots themselves are drawn well and those tight suits the ladies wear are the eye candies. On the other hand, the mecha drawn are less than average and focuses too much on themselves. They are just there for the military purposes of battling the BETA with not too many special characters. The BETA themselves however gives off that alien invasion like feeling with their artwork designs of the horns, teeth, stingers, etc. Their behavior in the series shows that they are there to invade and expects nothing less than a fight to the death. 

The overall music/soundtrack for the series is above par but sometimes tries to be too forceful. "Go to the top" by Kumi Koda shows a montage of all the main characters as well as a few glances of the vicious BETA. Some of the more emotional flashbacks gives off a soft melody that reflects the sadness of the Muv Luv world. A few of the characters went through a harsh past and it ultimately made them who they are today. 

All in all, Muv Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse is one of those mecha series where it tries to balance out the grim reality of the war and the drama between the main characters. The reality of the war is there as we can see from Yui's past and what she has gone through. But at the same time, there is new hope as she finds new friends and allies to move on from that past. Yuuya's interactions with the other characters also shows that he is a caring person rather than just an obnoxious self-centered pilot as some of us believed him to originally be. There is also the blushing, the potential romance, as well as what is in hope for a better future. 

Ultimately, Muv Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse is an underrated series that some of us may have looked past this year. Perhaps if we faced a more harsher reality in today's world, we might become more self aware. But it's worth giving it a shot especially if you're digging into some science fiction drama.

Source: http://myanimelist.net

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