When Total Eclipse was first launched, it was intended to be a 12-chapter side story meant mostly to advertise Volks’ A3 line of TSF figures. A fairly modest storyline was conceived for it – after all, there’s not a whole lot one can do in 12 chapters, and anyway, it wasn’t at all clear back then that there was even an audience for a Muv-Luv spinoff. The creators obviously haven’t gone into detail about their discarded plans, but I would imagine the characters remained on Yukon Base the whole series, and to the extent there was a story at all it mostly revolved around Yuuya and Yui coming to understand each other.
But plans change. The series was a smash hit. The serialization was extended indefinitely. Suddenly, a small story about test pilots on an obscure base wasn’t going to cut it. The creators now saw the opportunity to expand the story of Total Eclipse, to go bigger and feature larger conflicts that were not possible in a 12-chapter story. But these kinds of changes don’t come about immediately. They need time to plan out their more ambitious storylines, and in the meantime, new chapters have to come out every month, which can’t launch any new plotlines while they’re still laying out their new direction.
They’ve never said so directly, but it’s abundantly clear to me that this change happened during these beach episodes. During serialization, these chapters were even blatantly labeled “Intermission #01″ and “Intermission #02″. The idea is simple – having wrapped up their first major arc, they can pack the characters off somewhere on an standalone adventure for a couple of months while they figure out where to go next. The characters themselves are interesting and well-defined, and good conflict can come from simply allowing them to bounce off each other, without the need to get bogged down in plot. Afterwards, the characters return in time to embark on a new, bigger story.
As for the anime episodes themselves, there’s not a lot to say. Given the state of anime today and the sheer number of episodes they have to throw around, it was obvious to me that they would expand this section to two episodes. I will say that I keep expecting the worst from this adaptation and they keep surprising me with how relatively restrained they can be. Two episodes is a bit long for this amount of material, and it would be easy for them to pad it out with typical fanservice scenes. Instead the fluff is kept to a bare minimum, and most of the show’s running time – particularly in the second episode – is devoted to replicating the more serious conversations between characters basically word-for-word.
And that’s pretty much it. There’s not much in these episodes to talk about, because they were intended mostly as a bridge between the first, rather subdued arc, and the much larger, more ambitious arcs to follow. It was here that the creators first began to see the potential of Total Eclipse, that there was enough fan interest in the larger universe to support another major franchise, rather than a small-scale side story.