Welcome to Type-94

October 21, 2019

Welcome!  I’ve been a fan of Muv-Luv since 2003, and I’ve been running this blog since 2012.  I started this blog to bring attention to the newly-announced Total Eclipse anime.  At the time, it was difficult for English-speaking fans to find information about Muv-Luv, so I hoped to fill that void at least a little.  I started out by translating interviews from the Total Eclipse cast and staff, and eventually I began providing my own commentary as well.

Below I’ve highlighted the posts I’ve devoted the most time into writing.  I hope you find them interesting.

Muv-Luv Trilogy:
The Road to Muv-Luv
The Road to Muv-Luv Alternative
The Path to Adulthood

Total Eclipse:
Total Eclipse 01-02
Total Eclipse 03-05
Total Eclipse 06-07
Total Eclipse 08-10
Total Eclipse 11-14
Total Eclipse 15-19
Total Eclipse 20-24

Man vs. Budget
Morality and Belief
Reverse Adaptation
Grow Up!

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse Game Review/Analysis

Anime Rewatch 2021: Total Eclipse 1-2
Anime Rewatch 2021: Total Eclipse 3-5
Anime Rewatch 2021: Total Eclipse 6-7
Anime Rewatch 2021: Total Eclipse 8-10
Anime Rewatch 2021: Total Eclipse 11-12
Anime Rewatch 2021: Total Eclipse 13-14
Anime Rewatch 2021: Total Eclipse 15-16
Anime Rewatch 2021: Total Eclipse 17-19
Anime Rewatch 2021: Total Eclipse 20-22
Anime Rewatch 2021: Total Eclipse 23-24

Schwarzesmarken:
Schwarzesmarken 01-03
Schwarzesmarken 04-07
Schwarzesmarken 08-12

Anime Rewatch 2021: Schwarzesmarken 1-3
Anime Rewatch 2021: Schwarzesmarken 4-5
Anime Rewatch 2021: Schwarzesmarken 6-7
Anime Rewatch 2021: Schwarzesmarken 8-10
Anime Rewatch 2021: Schwarzesmarken 11-12

Kimi ga Nozomu Eien:
Anime Rewatch 2021: Kimi ga Nozomu Eien 1-2
Anime Rewatch 2021: Kimi ga Nozomu Eien 3-4
Anime Rewatch 2021: Kimi ga Nozomu Eien 5-7
Anime Rewatch 2021: Kimi ga Nozomu Eien 8-9
Anime Rewatch 2021: Kimi ga Nozomu Eien 10-11
Anime Rewatch 2021: Kimi ga Nozomu Eien 12-14
Anime Rewatch 2021: Akane Maniax
Anime Rewatch 2021: Ayu-Mayu Theater
Anime Rewatch 2021: Kimi ga Nozomu Eien: Next Season


Muv-Luv Alternative: The Animation 08

November 30, 2021

This episode wastes no time in taking us deep into our first truly serious storyline of the show, a full-on coup d’etat by a rogue military faction within the Japanese imperial forces. And I really mean it wastes no time – it launches straight into the story without any lead-in from the previous episodes. At the same time, though, it also pulls together many of the strands of foreshadowing that have been laid throughout the series. It brings back into the foreground the hints of dissatisfaction with the way the civilians have been treated by the government, which had been seeded in several episodes. It also brings back both Undersecretary Tamase and Chief Yoroi, and pays off the shady hints involving Kei over the last few episodes. Indeed, as Yoroi notes, all five of Takeru’s teammates are now deeply connected to this incident. That all gives this episode an extremely dark feel, in contrast with the relatively more lighthearted feel of the series so far, especially the last few episodes which have focused heavily on Takeru’s return to his original world.

But then, that’s the entire point of doing the episode this way, to shock Takeru – and the viewer – with a sudden, darker shift in tone. That’s how the story has always depicted Takeru’s growth – each time Takeru has matured as much as he can in his current status quo, the story exposes him to an even darker truth hiding beneath the surface. That’s what happened when Takeru was originally transported from his original world to this world, a world under attack by the BETA. And it happened again at the start of Alternative, when he was brought back to the beginning of this timeline, this time with the knowledge that the world was operating under a strict timeline, counting down to December 25 and the end of Alternative IV, which he had no idea about his first time around. And the launch of this coup d’etat is the next step in that process, as Takeru is exposed for the first time to the deep political divisions that govern this world, as well as the fact that his interventions in the timeline can have negative repercussions as well as positive.

Longtime readers of this blog will know that the complex political conflicts of this world are one of this franchise’s biggest draws for me, so it’s no surprise that this is exactly the kind of episode that I love. However, while Total Eclipse focused more on international relations, and Schwarzesmarken on the state of Cold War Germany, Alternative is set in Japan, and this political arc centers on Japanese domestic politics. Perhaps what’s most surprising to me is the extent to which the anime is being allowed to portray this storyline at all. Age has suggested before that the heavily political nature of this arc had scared off some of the previous potential sponsors for an Alternative anime. Just the very concept of a modern-day Japanese Empire is already fertile ground for potential controversy. So when the story also adds in a Japanese nationalistic coup d’etat attempt clearly inspired by similar real-life Japanese nationalistic coup d’etat attempts, you can see how people might get squeamish.

In that context, what is most important to this arc is Takeru’s position in the story. This particular episode, despite featuring a bloody coup, is actually really light on action. Instead, this is a very talky episode, dedicated mostly to laying out some of the philosophies of the various factions. You of course have Naoya Sagiri’s faction, the people responsible for the coup. The story also brings in Lieutenant Tsukuyomi, representing the Imperial Royal Guard, part of the upper echelon of the Japanese forces, which opposes the coup but is also fiercely loyal to the Empire and opposes outside intervention in the conflict. And you have the UN forces, who are not part of the Imperial forces and whose objectives may differ.

But Takeru stands apart from all of them, as he is not a true member of this country. Even the UN forces of Yokohama Base are largely Japanese. Meiya, of course, is the one who expresses the most sympathy for the rebels’ stated grievances. But even someone like Yuuko, who is supposed to be working for the greater good of the entire planet, can’t help but express her opinion in this episode as a Japanese citizen. Only Takeru is different. As Tsukuyomi notes, it’s inconceivable to her that a Japanese person could be so indifferent to outside intervention after seeing what America has done to Japan. But Takeru wasn’t around to experience any of that, so he’s incapable of seeing things from that perspective. Takeru is only concerned with saving the entire world from the BETA. He doesn’t understand or care about the political implications involved. When dealing with such a sensitive topic, it’s crucial that the audience come into this conflict through Takeru’s more neutral viewpoint. This will become even more important as the political arguments develop over the course of this arc.


Muv-Luv Alternative: The Animation 07

November 23, 2021

This will probably be a short one. After a fairly rocky start, this show has settled into a much more consistent and predictable level of quality, so I don’t feel like I have as much to say from episode to episode as I used to. This week’s episode is fairly straightforward, so we can get through it pretty quickly.

The majority of this episode belongs to Kasumi. After Takeru returns to the Alternative world, Yuuko reveals the secret to Kasumi’s backstory, which then allows Takeru to understand her better and grow closer to her. In fact, with this anime having been so fast-paced for so long, what stands out most is just how much time this episode is allowed to devote to Takeru and Kasumi’s long conversation. It’s the longest conversation Takeru has been depicted as having with anybody, not counting the largely expositional conversations he’s had with Yuuko. It’s yet another good sign that the anime is slowing down now that it’s through its setup phase, and is allowing scenes to play out a little more.

One thing I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet is just how much smaller Kasumi seems in the anime compared to the game. She’s remarkably shorter than I imagined her to be, but her face and her proportions in general are all smaller as well. She’s also a lot more expressive in the anime as well – while she still talks in the same somewhat monotone voice as in the game, she shows many more facial expressions in the anime. She’s pretty much always staring straight forward in the game; I can’t imagine her shifting her eyes like she does in this episode when she claims she’s not trying to make fun of Takeru. I actually think I like her more in the anime than in the game – she certainly feels like the only character that the anime has put a lot of thought into how to depict, beyond simply following the game.

This episode is also Sumika’s debut appearance outside of flashbacks, but with the episode’s heavy focus on Kasumi, and on the possible connection between Kasumi and Sumika, Sumika herself winds up feeling a little like she’s in Kasumi’s shadow this time around. It’s still a good scene that gets across how important Sumika is to Takeru, but by its very nature, it’s a very short scene where Takeru struggles to recapture his old relationship with her, having seen so much in the three years since he last saw her, so we don’t get to see much of what they’re usually like together. It’s a scene that, as far as the anime is concerned, is more relevant for how it affects Takeru than for actually introducing Sumika herself into the story.

The final section of the episode is devoted to setting up the show’s next major storyline. It starts with a few cutaways to characters within the Imperial Japanese Army, including Sayoko Komaki, the lead character from the anime’s first episode. Along with Komaki, these scenes also bring back the hints of unease with the Japanese government’s actions, which had been developed during the first episode as well. The scene of them walking through the refugee camp is a striking one, particularly because the images of the camp are original to the anime. While the manga (which the anime continues to follow fairly closely) first introduced this scene, the anime portrays the camp with far more detail and impact.

The episode then ends by setting up some of the major conflicts within Takeru’s Squad 207B, and the major one is between Takeru and Meiya. We’ve seen throughout this anime that Takeru’s goal is to change the future and push his own squad’s training forward, so he is elated by the news that a group of civilians has been evacuated from Mount Tengen. His internal monologue indicates that he and his squad were part of the evacuation team during the previous timeline – the anime doesn’t go into much more detail than that, other than a couple of quick flashes. That’s probably for the best, since I’ve been saying constantly that the anime needs to minimize those kinds of references – what actually happened in the previous timeline is not as important as the simple knowledge that they didn’t go on the mission this time. Meanwhile, we’ve seen glimpses of Meiya’s own concern for the welfare of the Japanese civilians during the BETA alert in episode 4, and this time around, she’s worried about the implication that the civilians may have been evacuated by force. That sets up a fight between the two of them over the righteousness of the evacuation. The argument itself goes by fairly quickly, and as this plotline is only introduced in the final minutes of the episode, it will obviously be followed up on in more detail later. In that sense, these last minutes of the episode can be considered more of a preview for where the next episodes are headed.


Muv-Luv Alternative: The Animation 06

November 15, 2021

With this episode, we officially move into the next stage of Muv-Luv Alternative’s story. We are now past the part of the story where Takeru retraces events he experienced during his last time through this world. Starting this episode, Takeru is now experiencing events that he has no prior knowledge of, and it immediately gives this episode a different feel from the ones that came before.

Perhaps appropriately, we kick things off with the introduction of Mikoto’s dad, who proceeds to list all the ways that Takeru has already changed this timeline, notably intervening in the BETA attack from Sadogashima and the HSST drop that coincided with the visit from Miki’s father. Seeing these events laid out at the beginning of the episode almost feels like the anime itself signaling to the viewer that it’s time to start expecting that these changes to the timeline will start affecting how the anime plays out.

The introduction of Mikoto’s dad is one of those things that will simply play differently between the original game and the anime. In the game, we’ve already had plenty of time to get to know Mikoto’s personality, and receive all sorts of hints about what kind of person Mikoto’s dad is. He’s an unseen character throughout the earlier chapters, and his reveal here is the payoff to a long series of insinuations about him. In the anime, not only have we not heard of him before, we haven’t even gotten to know Mikoto well enough to see how her dad reflects her own personality.

Instead, her dad’s introduction is more important in the anime for what it suggests about the future. We’ve heard before that all of the other members of Takeru’s squad have complicated family situations. The show then introduced Miki’s dad (a UN undersecretary) last episode, and it follows up by bringing in Mikoto’s dad (an Imperial intelligence agent) this episode. It is definitely a sign that the show is beginning to follow up on that thread, and that we’ll continue to explore those family situations in the upcoming weeks. And then, of course, there’s the message that Mikoto’s dad actually brings, the vast majority of which is currently incomprehensible to Takeru (and the viewer), but which is obviously foreshadowing for future events.

The rest of the episode is dedicated entirely to the storyline of trying to send Takeru back to his original world. And the way this storyline plays out in the anime helps illustrate just how much better the show flows now that we’ve moved past those early episodes. Before, the episodes were forced to juggle numerous storylines at once due to the fast pace at which it was trying to introduce the major elements of the story. Those storylines were also heavily dependent on Takeru’s knowledge of the previous timeline. Now that all of that early setup is complete, though, it’s able to build new storylines based on the existing knowledge that has been established within the anime, rather than knowledge from the previous timeline, making it much easier for the viewer to follow the story.

The actual return to Takeru’s original world is another moment that is built up to much more in the previous chapters of the game than in the anime, but unlike the introduction of Mikoto’s dad, I think the anime itself has laid enough groundwork that the moment still lands effectively. The show has used flashbacks to his relationship with Sumika to establish his nostalgia for his old world, and we can sympathize with his desire to return, even if we haven’t actually seen much of it. His talk with the Yuuko of the original world also makes clear how different she is from the Yuuko of the Alternative world – she’s much more friendly and encouraging, whereas Alternative Yuuko is more calculating.

Now that we’ve reached the halfway point of this first season, I think it’s fair to look back and evaluate how the anime has gone so far. My sense of it is that the anime has focused, for better and for worse, on being a good adaptation rather than on being a good show. When the source material works well, the anime has generally delivered a good rendition of it. But when the source material has needed adjustments (mostly due to having started with Alternative rather than the earlier chapters), the anime has generally failed to make those adjustments. It has consistently erred on the side of staying true to the original work, rather than trying to make the show more accessible to new viewers. As I’ve mentioned before, I think a lot of it is due to a fundamental belief within anime nowadays that fidelity to the original material is good, and changes to the original material are bad. I see that philosophy at work in this show’s early episodes – a philosophy that says that they only need to concern themselves with getting the original material onto the screen, without worrying about how it will play in the eyes of a new viewer.

The bad news is, that philosophy overwhelmingly affects the first few episodes (episodes 2-4), which are the episodes that make the most reference to the previous chapters of the game – and those are the episodes that will most affect a new viewer’s perception of the show. But the good news is, if you’ve managed to stay interested in the show through those episodes, then you’re over the hump. You’ve probably felt that the episodes that came afterwards (episodes 5-6) have been enormous improvements, and that’s not a coincidence. Now that the show’s setup phase is complete, it becomes far less important to adapt the story’s structure, and far more acceptable to simply put the original material onto the screen – and that’s playing much more to this anime’s strengths. So there’s every reason to think that this show is only going to improve even more from here, especially as the original material’s story is about to ramp up as well.


Muv-Luv Alternative: The Animation 05

November 7, 2021

The 5th episode of the Alternative anime is a milestone episode in some important ways. As I mentioned last time, the previous episode was the last to introduce a lot of characters and concepts from Takeru’s old experiences, which was a major factor in those early episodes feeling rushed and unsettled. Although this episode still focuses on events that mirror those of Takeru’s previous timeline, it is largely able to root them in terms of his present-day context, which goes a long way towards allowing the viewer to stay on the same page as the show itself. The result is that, for the first time, it feels like we’re watching an episode of the Alternative anime that flows the way it should, rather than getting bogged down in flashbacks and references to unseen events.

The first part of the episode focuses on the visit from Miki’s father, the UN undersecretary. It largely follows the same flow as the equivalent event in Unlimited (the previous chapter), meaning it’s basically the Alternative anime’s only look into Unlimited’s much more light-hearted sense of humor. Alternative itself generally doesn’t indulge in quite so broad comedy, and the anime seems to relish its one chance to go this over-the-top. Again, even though this event mirrors the one from Unlimited, the anime doesn’t play into that connection too much, allowing the scene to unfold solely based on what has already been presented in this timeline. The result is a much more enjoyable scene for new viewers.

The next part of the episode brings back the ticking clock that has been relegated to the background recently, the December 25th deadline. It also introduces a major new plot element, which is that the Yuuko in Takeru’s original world (the world of Extra) appears to have solved the very problem that this Yuuko is struggling with. Again, the episode seems to have decided to root the scene in terms of its implications to the current timeline, keeping the flashbacks to the relevant scene in Extra to a minimum. This is the section of the episode that feels a little too rushed, considering the weight of the revelation being presented. I would probably have spent a few more minutes on this scene, but the anime staff may have decided that they can spend more time on it later, since, as should be obvious from the importance of what was revealed, the show will double back to this plot point later.

The final part of the episode, which ends up forming the bulk of the episode, is the TSF mock battle between the members of 207B. It’s a definite highlight of the episode, being the first time we get an extended TSF sequence with our main characters. The first episode had a big TSF fight as well, but that episode depicted a huge battle which switched perspectives constantly. This fight scene is both longer, and focused on a smaller number of units. It’s a great showcase for Graphinica, the CG company working on this series.

What’s become clear, watching these early episodes, is that the anime has heavily de-emphasized characterizations for Takeru’s squadmates. For instance, in the game, the events in this episode had space to get to know Miki during her father’s visit, and Chizuru and Kei during the mock battle storyline, but the anime instead focuses more on the comedy in the former, and the TSF battle itself in the latter. Unfortunately, that may simply be an inevitable consequence of moving through the early plot so quickly. These first episodes clearly struggled to fit everything in, so the anime needed to figure out what to focus on and what to cut. In these last few episodes, what the anime has mostly chosen to focus on is Takeru himself, and the story revolving around his attempts to change the timeline. As a result, his teammates in 207B wind up getting pushed to the side. And the unfortunate reality is that if the anime is really struggling to include both in its limited runtime, then the correct choice is indeed to focus on Takeru, at the expense of his teammates.

Not all of that is the anime’s fault, though. The truth is that much of this is the result of the original Alternative game itself doing the same thing. In the game, Takeru’s teammates receive most of their character development in the game’s first two chapters, Extra and Unlimited. Having done so, Alternative then largely shoves them to the side, effectively demoting them from starring characters to more of a supporting cast, hoping that the player’s existing knowledge of them will carry them through without having to spend too much time on them in Alternative itself. In a very real sense, then, there isn’t much the anime can do with them, since the original Alternative game doesn’t leave much space in this section of the story to do anything with them.

So, this episode could have included some of the characterization that the game had, but it wouldn’t have brought those characters up to the level they were at in the game. Maybe a really strong anime adaptation could have gotten around this by modifying the early episodes even more to include more characterization moments, but those sorts of major changes seem beyond this anime. This anime seems to have decided to follow the Alternative game’s lead in demoting the lesser members of 207B to supporting characters, similar to Marimo, for example, or the Valkyries (who we got to see a little more of this episode). Like those other supporting characters, Takeru’s other teammates will continue to get their own strong emotional moments as the story goes on (particularly as this season concludes), but they are definitely not intended to be on the same level as the show’s actual main characters: Takeru, Meiya, Yuuko, Kasumi, and Sumika.

Speaking of Sumika, I’m actually warming up to how she works in this anime. In the game, she’s a character we already know and love, and we can’t wait to see her return. In the anime, she comes off a little differently. Now she’s a character we’ve seen brief glimpses of, enough to know that Takeru is close to her, but as the anime continues to stretch on without her, we start to look forward to her entering the story properly, so we can see exactly what kind of character she is. It’s a different kind of anticipation, but I actually think it’s starting to work. The brief moments we get with her, like Takeru remembering her at the tree on the hill at the start of this episode, do wonders in keeping people interested in her.

That scene, like several others in this episode (like Miki’s Haruhi pose, and the Valkyries scene), comes from Azusa Maxima’s Alternative manga adaptation, which I keep mentioning every week. In many ways, Maxima faced the same challenges in his manga adaptation that the anime does – while there were technically manga adaptations of Extra and Unlimited, Maxima didn’t draw them, nor were they particularly in-depth adaptations to begin with. So his Alternative manga also had to deal with the idea that there was no good way for a manga-only reader to have the correct context before reading it. I think scenes like the vision of Sumika at the hill were his way of trying to establish that context within the manga itself. In that sense, then, it’s a very wise idea for the anime to stick close to adapting the manga, since they can pick up on these sorts of ideas that Maxima put in to make the story work better without Extra and Unlimited.


Japanese/English Cast of Project Mikhail

November 2, 2021

Project Mikhail, the customizable TSF action game, is now available on Steam for Early Access!

. . . That’s not the point of this post.

What I really wanted to talk about was how the official website has now updated with the cast of the game. The Japanese cast is the same cast as the anime, meaning we can use the cast list to determine the new voices for characters who have yet to appear in the anime. The Japanese cast is:

Takeru Shirogane – Kouichi Kamiki
Sumika Kagami – Tomori Kusunoki
Meiya Mitsurugi – Karin Nanami
Chizuru Sakaki – Miku Itou
Kei Ayamine – Iori Saeki
Miki Tamase – Takako Tanaka
Mikoto Yoroi – Lynn
Kasumi Yashiro – Kanon Takao
Marimo Jinguuji – Sayumi Watabe
Yuuko Kouzuki – Ruriko Aoki
Irina Pyatkh – Hitomi Sasaki
Mana Tsukuyomi – Hirone Yanagisawa
Michiru Isumi – You Taichi
Mitsuki Hayase – Hibiku Yamamura
Haruka Suzumiya – Mana Hirata
Misae Munakata – Anna Yamaki
Touko Kazama – Azumi Waki
Akane Suzumiya – Ayasa Itou
Haruko Kashiwagi – Maria Noda
Surface Pilot 1 – Satoru Fujinami
Surface Pilot 2 – Izumi Chiba
Surface Pilot 3 – Kayu Machida
Surface Pilot 4 – Yuki Okada
Asfana Shepsut – Haruka Kitagaito
Isfana Nepherte – Misaki Shiode

However, even more interesting, to me, is the fact that the game is completely dubbed into English! The English cast is:

Takeru Shirogane – Stephen Fu
Sumika Kagami – Lindsay Shepard
Meiya Mitsurugi – Kira Buckland
Chizuru Sakaki – Brittany Lauda
Kei Ayamine – Elizabeth Maxwell
Miki Tamase – Emi Lo
Mikoto Yoroi – Sarah Williams
Kasumi Yashiro – Lindsay Shepard
Marimo Jinguuji – Daisy Guevara
Yuuko Kouzuki – Elizabeth Maxwell
Irina Pyatkh – Maureen Price
Mana Tsukuyomi – Natalie Van Sistine
Michiru Isumi – Morgan Laure
Mitsuki Hayase – Corey Petit
Haruka Suzumiya – Carrie Savage
Misae Munakata – Michelle Rojas
Touko Kazama – Michelle Rojas
Akane Suzumiya – Leah Clark
Haruko Kashiwagi – Tia Ballard
Surface Pilot 1 – Matt Shipman
Surface Pilot 2 – Emi Lo
Surface Pilot 3 – Michelle Rojas
Surface Pilot 4 – Matt Shipman
Asfana Shepsut – Kristen McGuire
Isfana Nepherte – Brittany Lauda

Although the website doesn’t list this information, the English cast members have been tweeting about their participation in the game, and it sounds like it was recorded at Studio Nano, a newer dubbing studio located in Dallas-Fort Worth. Obviously, they use a lot of local talent associated with Funimation, but like a number of newer studios, they are also able to record a lot of LA-based actors online.

Interestingly, they managed to get back Carrie Savage as Haruka and Leah Clark as Akane from the old KimiNozo dub. That’s a pleasant surprise, particularly Carrie Savage. I had the impression she wasn’t doing much anime/game stuff anymore, but maybe she’s still up for reprisals. It seems like they couldn’t get Colleen Clinkenbeard back as Mitsuki, which is a shame, since they were already going 2 for 3.

I don’t know how anybody can hear about Project Mikhail game being dubbed and not immediately wonder: could this mean the Alternative anime is getting an English dub as well? So let’s go over the points for and against that possibility:

Against:

  • Crunchyroll hasn’t announced official numbers or anything, but I think most people would assume Alternative is probably not doing great numbers for them.
  • Crunchyroll already announced a slate of dubs for the fall season, and Alternative isn’t on it.
  • Studio Nano hasn’t done any dubs with Crunchyroll yet, to the best of my knowledge.

For:

  • Well, they literally just launched a game with an English dub, right? Usually it’s the other way around – if there’s an anime and a game being released in America, it’s much more common for the anime to be dubbed and the game to be left in Japanese.
  • According to the show’s end credits, Crunchyroll is on the production committee for the anime, so it would seem to me like they might have a greater-than-normal interest in producing a dub for the show.
  • Despite having announced a slate of dubs for the fall season, Crunchyroll seems to be suggesting at the end of the above article that they might have more dubbing news at Anime NYC. So maybe they’re not done announcing all their dubs yet?

Of course, I hope we get a dub for the show eventually – just like with the anime itself, I like to see different takes on the same material, regardless of whether it turns out good or bad.

Anyway, that was a lot of talk about English dubbing, so let’s close out with another, more esoteric topic. See those names at the bottom of the cast list, Asfana and Isfana? They’re original characters in Project Mikhail (whose role in the game I don’t know – I haven’t actually played the game yet, sorry). But they sounded very familiar, so I thought and thought and thought, and finally I remembered: their names are, I believe, references to characters in Age’s old game Kaseki no Uta. For those who don’t know, Kaseki no Uta takes place on a distant planet in the distant future. Age and Kouki Yoshimune have also hinted that the game may or may not actually take place in the far future of Muv-Luv Alternative’s timeline. There are certain words and terminology that they chose to include in Alternative to hint at the possibility of such a thing.

The name Project Mikhail is itself a reference to Kaseki no Uta – Mikhail is a very mysterious and important word that appears in the game. Does this mean that Project Mikhail is heavily related to Kaseki no Uta? There was an interview with one of the developers where he basically said, not really, it was just an Easter egg since he was a fan of Kaseki no Uta. You’re free to decide how much you believe him – personally, I haven’t made up my mind yet on the subject. I will say that the apparent premise of Project Mikhail is not a million miles away from the truth behind the Mikhail of Kaseki no Uta.

Kaseki no Uta also had two other characters named Astana and Isphana – those names don’t match the Project Mikhail characters directly, but they’re obviously close enough that they must be intentional references. That said, the Project Mikhail characters look (and presumably act) completely different from the ones in Kaseki no Uta, so that I really could buy as just an Easter egg with no greater significance.

If Project Mikhail winds up actually having some plot significance with Kaseki no Uta, I’m sure I’ll end up explaining the context. For now, I guess we’ll just have to see where its story goes.


Muv-Luv Alternative: The Animation 04

October 31, 2021

There isn’t a lot I want to say about episode 4. The show is very much still in its setup phase, with the bulk of the story centering around Takeru reliving the same events he did his first time through this world. The adaptation itself continues the trend we saw last episode, cutting down on the number of flashbacks to unseen events and turning out much better for it. The episode’s major flashback is to Takeru’s original world this time, giving us our first real look at Sumika. The flashback works much better than most of the ones we’ve seen in this anime up to this point, because it actually takes the time to give us an in-depth look at what it’s trying to establish, rather than cutting away quickly. In general, the show continues to improve after a very shaky start to the main storyline in episode 2.

The first half of the episode focuses on introducing the last major pieces that Takeru recognizes from his previous time through this world, particularly the TSFs. As is usual with this adaptation, this part of the episode continues to reference Takeru’s unseen previous experiences, and continues to be a little difficult for new viewers to follow. It’s also a little crowded, with the start of 207B’s TSF training, the introduction of the Takemikazuchi and the Imperial Royal Guard, and the conflict with the senior officers, all of which get more or less equal focus.

The second half focuses almost entirely on Takeru explaining his video game approach to TSF piloting, and it definitely flows much more smoothly because of that focus. This seems similar to last week, which also devoted its second half almost entirely to covering the upcoming BETA attack from Sadogashima. In general, this anime seems to be trying to keep its focus on the events where Takeru is actively trying to change the timeline – last week, he was trying to prevent the BETA attack, and this week, he’s trying to make changes to how a TSF is operated. By contrast, events where Takeru is largely only reacting to things that also occurred in his previous timeline tend to be glossed over with a minimum of explanation.

(Both episodes also throw in a final plot point in its very final minutes – episode 3 with the CCSE island exercise, and episode 4 with the impending HSST drop. Neither one of them handles it all that well, although at least the HSST drop will get more follow-up next episode.)

Since this episode is our first real look at Sumika, it’s also our first chance to hear Sumika’s new voice. And my opinion is, it sounds fantastic. Sumika is definitely the character I was most concerned about, because she has such a unique voice. The new voice doesn’t match completely – the old voice is just too distinct for that – but it comes a lot closer than I would have thought. Honestly, all of the new voices just sound astonishingly close to the original. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a full recast where the entire new cast sounds so much like the old cast.

Just as with last week, this episode draws from the manga adaptation for inspiration, this time in using the SD Fubuki to illustrate Takeru’s explanation of combos and cancels. As I mentioned last week, if the anime is drawing heavily from the manga, then that spells good things later on, since there are a number of manga-original scenes that I would love to see animated.

It’s also worth noting that the manga adaptation also plows through this early section extremely quickly. Not to the extent that the anime does, of course, but it’s still clear that the manga wanted to hurry up and get through this first part of the story so it can focus more on the part of the story that’s actually really good. Once it got past this section, it slowed down considerably and spent a lot of time allowing scenes to play out, including, as I mentioned, adding new scenes to supplement the story. That’s one of several reasons why I suspect the anime is going to do the same thing. We’re already through the worst of it by this point – the next episode should be the last one covering this section of the story, and given the material it will be covering, it should be much more coherent than the previous episodes. And after that, we’ll begin to enter the true story of Alternative, and I suspect we’ll start seeing what this anime can really do.


Muv-Luv Alternative: The Animation 03

October 21, 2021

That was a massive improvement on the previous episode.

As I mentioned last time, the show is significantly better when it isn’t loaded up with flashbacks to Extra and Unlimited. So of this episode’s two halves, the first half, which is mostly dedicated to introducing Kasumi, is the weaker one. Unfortunately, too much of Kasumi’s character is tied up in the mysteries introduced in Unlimited, particularly her final “Takeru-chan” scene that explicitly suggests a possible connection to Sumika, so even though the flashbacks generally hurt the flow of the anime, there’s simply no getting around the need for them in this scene.

I particularly liked the inclusion of the TSFs discovering the human brains within the Yokohama Hive at the beginning of this episode, since the episode uses it to tie in directly with Kasumi’s introduction, maintaining that theme throughout the first half of the episode. It’s precisely because these early episodes of an Alternative-only adaptation are so complicated by their very nature that I think it’s important for the show to make it easier for new viewers to follow the immediate story. What is the importance of the cylinders with the human brains inside to the actual story of Alternative? If this scene had been shown at the beginning of the story, like it is in the game, it becomes just one more aspect of the show that would confuse new viewers. By including it here, it becomes another aspect of Kasumi’s backstory that is covered in the episode’s first half, so viewers understand the importance of it by the episode’s end.

The second half of the episode is the more important one, because it illustrates Takeru trying to change the course of history for the first time, meaning it’s the first time the show is actually pushing Takeru’s story forward rather than drowning in flashbacks to the past. And this section of the episode just works. Takeru’s conundrum in trying to change the future in a concrete, measurable way is told well, and the episode also gets across the ruthless ends-justifies-the-means morality that embodies Muv-Luv, where Takeru is considered naive for thinking that he can change the world without sacrifices. And even though this story also depends heavily on knowledge from Unlimited, the information is conveyed with a map that Takeru presents to Yuuko, rather than through flashbacks, which makes the whole thing go down much more easily. As I said before, if this represents what the show will be like once it gets away from the need for all these flashbacks, then I’m feeling pretty good about it.

The final moments of the episode, which blaze through the entire Comprehensive Combat Skill Evaluation, are probably the most controversial part of the episode, but in my mind, there’s no question they made the correct decision to skip it. The entire island storyline contains critical character development – in Unlimited. In Alternative, it’s included because of the nature of the time loop, but it’s just long and boring, with no major plot or character development whatsoever. To the extent that anything interesting happens in it, it’s exclusively by comparing the developments in Alternative with the same developments in Unlimited, showing how Takeru can get through the exercise much more easily now with his increased physical capabilities and knowledge of the future. In other words, it’s another section of the story which the anime would have to load with flashbacks for the story to make any sense at all, without any major benefits to the show in return. So it’s absolutely the correct decision to skip it, both because it’s a boring section of the story and because the anime needs to cut down on flashbacks in general. The idea that Takeru can change the future is already well established with the BETA attack storyline earlier, and the truncated CCSE works well as a capstone to this episode emphasizing that point, rather than as a storyline in itself.

In general, I think I’m coming around to the idea that, for an adaptation like this to work, references to the previous installments of the story should be kept to a minimum, so that new viewers aren’t being constantly reminded of scenes they didn’t see. The scenes of Takeru laying out his suspicions that Kasumi reminds him of Sumika are too important to cut, so they need to stay in. On the other hand, I would probably have cut lines like the one where Takeru implies he didn’t get Kasumi to introduce herself properly last time, since those kinds of lines yank the viewer back into Unlimited without a compelling plot or character development reason. Kasumi’s personality comes across fine in the rest of the episode even without them.

For the same reason, I’m OK with the episode cutting out the bulk of Mikoto’s introduction. Her introductory scene is another one that is almost completely dependent on comparisons with Unlimited, which will just bog down the episode even more. The anime instead treats it as a segue into the BETA attack story that dominates the second half of the episode, by reminding Takeru about the passage of time and the need for action before the December 24 deadline.

I was intrigued to find that several aspects of the episode are drawn from the expanded manga adaptation of Alternative, rather than from the original game itself. This includes the cameo appearance from the Valkyries, an original scene from the manga which is duplicated almost exactly in the anime. A major reason I find this interesting is because I had predicted in my previous post about the breakdown of anime episodes that this block of 12 episodes will end with a major story arc, and the manga heavily expands on this story arc with a lot of new scenes, including a number of scenes set before that arc which develop the world of Alternative more thoroughly than the original game did. Might we possibly get those kinds of scenes depicted in the anime as well? I would be very fascinated if this means we’ll get to see more scenes in the anime that weren’t in the game. If the anime is cutting stuff like the island arc to make room for new worldbuilding scenes, that’s a deal I’ll gladly take.

I’m particularly interested in another scene in this episode that is original to the manga, during the BETA attack where Meiya worries about the people living in harm’s way. Maybe it’s intentional or maybe it’s just coincidence, but that makes 3 out of 3 episodes now that specifically draws attention to the plight of the Japanese citizens and the role of the government in protecting them – Komaki explicitly blames the government for letting them down in episode 1, Takeru and Meiya have a conversation about civilians and their relationship with the government in episode 2, and now Meiya worries about civilians caught up in a military operation in episode 3. What interests me is that 2 out of 3 of these examples were not in the original game, meaning the anime seems to have made a deliberate choice to include these scenes.

So: a strong improvement on the last episode, especially in its second half, with the promise that things may only continue to improve as the anime begins to move away from the need to refer to previous events and starts establishing its own storyline.


Crazed Speculation About the Alternative Anime’s Story Structure

October 18, 2021

In this post, we’ll talk about how the Alternative anime might play out. We’re obviously going to be going into Alternative spoilers, so new anime viewers please skip this post.

Read the rest of this entry »

Muv-Luv Alternative: The Animation 02

October 16, 2021

I’m not going to lie: that was a rough episode.

I think most people understand why, so I’m not going to belabor the point. As the first episode to introduce the main cast and story, it absolutely needed to be accessible to new viewers, and it just isn’t. I know some people will just shake their heads and say that it was simply never possible to start with Alternative and have the story make sense, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true. With the right amount of effort put into adjusting the script, this episode could have been at least reasonably understandable for people new to the franchise, and I think it’s a shame that that level of effort wasn’t put in.

I’m not going to pretend to understand the mindset of the people who made the show. It’s very possible that they genuinely believed this to be the best way of presenting the story. But I will also say that nowadays anime fans have a well-known hatred for changing the source material. I’ve seen several interviews with producers and the like where they’ve straight up said that they’re too afraid to make changes to an anime adaptation because they know fans will revolt against them. From my perspective, this was a shift in anime fandom that solidified around the mid-to-late 2000s – prior to that, it was much more common for anime adaptations to change things around. I’ve long said that something like the Kimi ga Nozomu Eien anime – which freely changed things around to make the story flow better as a standalone dramatic show – could never be made in today’s environment. I had hoped that a similar process could be applied to Muv-Luv Alternative to make it more understandable to a new audience. Again, I can’t know exactly what the anime staff members were thinking, but it’s hard for me not to suspect that this aversion to change was at least part of why this episode turned out so literally.

The hell of it is that the anime has already made a lot of changes to appeal to a new audience. The character redesigns and the new voice actors are the biggest change, of course. I’ve already pointed out how they changed the fortified suits to remove the chin section, and the visuals for the opening theme reveal that they’ve revamped the trainee suits, just as everyone has always suspected they would have to. And obviously, they’ve added the anime-original episode 1 to ease new viewers into this world. I suppose I took these changes to mean that this anime was willing to make radical changes to the original work, which is why I was taken aback by just how “faithful” this episode was to the source material.

Maybe the biggest problem with the episode is its failure to identify for the viewer which parts of the story are supposed to be confusing. Some parts of the episode – mainly the flashbacks to previous events that Takeru has experienced – are supposed to be fairly straightforward, and only become confusing because the episode plows through them so quickly. But other parts of the episode are supposed to be confusing on purpose, such as why Yuuko allows Takeru into the base and goes along with what he is saying, or just what exactly Alternative IV is and how it is related to fitting billions of parallel circuits together. These are things that Takeru himself doesn’t understand, and they are supposed to be questions that the audience should keep in mind as we go through the story. The episode fails to differentiate between the two, and I have a feeling new viewers come away with no idea that some of these are things that are OK not to understand at the moment.

I think the most frustrating thing about how difficult this episode was to get into is that I actually enjoyed the parts that didn’t deal with trying to explain the previous chapters of the story. Once the episode moved out of Yuuko’s office and got on with moving the story along, I really got into it. I like the new character designs, and I like the new voice actors. According to Yoshimune and the cast members themselves, the new actors were cast based largely on their ability to sound like the original cast, and I think they all sound the way they should. By the time the episode closes on Takeru and Meiya’s nighttime conversation, I was wishing I could see even more. I feel like this show is going to get much better once it moves away from the need to constantly reference unseen events from the previous chapters of the story. I just hope that at least some people stick around that long to see it.

I still don’t like the opening and ending themes, but the visuals do a lot to make them more palatable, especially the opening. Evan Call delivers some excellent background music, just as he did on Schwarzesmarken. Having just come off a rewatch of Schwarzesmarken, it’s immediately obvious that his work here is a straight continuation of what he was doing there, but that’s no bad thing.

For new viewers, the best way to watch the series right now is to focus on the revelation that Takeru has near the end of this episode, that he needs to graduate and move up the chain of command as quickly as possible. The episode helpfully provides a flashback showing why that’s so important – in the previous timeline, the base commander refused to tell Takeru and the others exactly what Project Alternative entailed, because they were mere cadets and could not be trusted with that level of responsibility. So this time around, Takeru focuses on the immediate goal of graduating more quickly than last time, so that they can be more of use when the time comes. This is a concept introduced early in this series that will tie into many of its larger themes, and even an episode as convoluted as this one makes sure to emphasize this thematic line throughout the episode for viewers to follow.

For viewers who have already played the game, I can only say that there is a frustrating tendency for veteran fans to “gatekeep” the experiences of new fans. They insist that there is only one “true” way to experience a work, and any other way is by definition inferior. I despise this mindset and I have spent a lot of time trying to combat it. I think it’s clear from the posts I’ve made on this site that I love seeing fresh, different interpretations of an existing work. My favorite parts of watching the older KimiNozo and Muv-Luv shows have been when they’ve diverged from the source material to do something that makes the show better. Certainly I would have loved to have seen the entire Muv-Luv story brought to life as an anime. But the moment the decision was made to make an anime of Alternative only, the anime ceased to be a faithful adaptation of the game, and became something else entirely. It won’t deliver the same experience as playing the game – that’s simply impossible. It’ll be a completely different experience, and that’s not a bad thing at all. That remains true regardless of how the anime actually turns out.

Anyway, after seeing this episode, I have some thoughts on how the anime’s story structure will shake out, which I’ll split into its own, spoiler-marked post.


Muv-Luv Alternative: The Animation 01

October 7, 2021

15 years after the game was first released, 5 years after the last related anime episode aired, and 2 years after this project was first announced, today the first episode of the Muv-Luv Alternative anime aired. No matter how things turn out from this point on, this is an exciting moment for us all.

The first episode, as had already been announced, is an anime-original episode taking place 3 years prior to the main story. Its main objective is to introduce the world of Muv-Luv Alternative and show off an amazing battle between TSFs and BETA. It inevitably invites comparisons to the first two episodes of the Total Eclipse anime, which did exactly the same thing. This episode takes place roughly 1-2 months after those Total Eclipse episodes – the capital of Kyoto has fallen, as depicted in those earlier episodes, and the BETA have now made their way east to Sadogashima.

Our point of view character for this episode is Sayoko Komaki. Komaki is a pre-existing character, although she didn’t appear in the original game – she was created for the manga adaptation. (Azusa Maxima, the artist for the Alternative manga, seems over the moon that one of his creations scored the lead role for the very first episode of the anime.) From there, Komaki made her way into a major role in the side game Muv-Luv Unlimited: The Day After. Both the manga and the TDA games are now available in English, by the way.

Most of the other characters are new to this episode. The only ones who have appeared elsewhere are the naval officers Hisaya Ozawa and Tomohiko Abe. They are minor characters from the original game who also made cameos in the second episode of Total Eclipse, where they served the same purpose they do here – to stand around helplessly as another part of Japan falls to the BETA. To be honest, seeing them here again, unable to save Sadogashima just as they were unable to save Kyoto, really drives home the despair that permeates this world. I can only imagine that their lives must just be a constant repetition of this exact scenario, hopping from place to place only to keep losing to the BETA.

Incidentally, none of these three returning characters are voiced by their old actors. It seems pretty clear, then, that everybody has been replaced, with Norio Wakamoto only returning as Radhabinod due to the impossibility of finding anyone else who sounds like him.

Comparing this episode with the first two episodes of Total Eclipse, what’s clear to me is that, by using two episodes instead of one, Total Eclipse was able to establish its new characters much more thoroughly, by devoting the entire first episode to characterization and world-building and then the entire second episode to battle. By having to do all of these things in a single episode, this story more or less gives up on trying to establish its characters to that extent. Komaki is our lead character, and everybody else gets the bare minimum needed to understand how they are related to her, and nothing more.

Instead of characterization, this episode focuses on showcasing the actual battle. A lot of that means simply enjoying the fight sequences as they unfold, of course. But the battle also helps establish the power balance between the TSFS and the BETA for new viewers. The reason humanity loses in this episode is not because a BETA is stronger than a TSF – we regularly see each individual TSF kill tens, even hundreds of BETA throughout the episode. It’s because there’s just so damn many of them, that even the ability of each individual TSF to kill hundreds of BETA seemingly makes no difference in the long run. This episode is more interested in setting that tone than telling a story about these characters.

We also get little glimpses of the politics at play in this world. Komaki complains at one point that their government isn’t doing enough to take care of its people, when talking to Kusano about forced evacuations. And when the BETA attack, the American forces don’t respond to the Japanese calls for help, in violation of the security treaty that is supposed to bind America to come to Japan’s aid when it is under attack. These small, seemingly throwaway lines help illustrate that the world is not fully united in response to the BETA, and these threads will become more important as the series progresses.

Did anyone notice that the fortified suits depicted in this episode are missing the chin section? It’s definitely a deliberate design decision, not some kind of animation mistake. Azusa Maxima suggested that the reason could be to cut down on the difficulty of animating the mouth movements when the pilots talk, which is not an insignificant amount of work. Maxima is not part of the anime staff, but the show’s director, Yukio Nishimoto, retweeted his comment, so maybe he’s on to something. If that is the reason for the design change, then I think it’s a reasonable change to make, one which saves time and energy on the animation without sacrificing a major part of the suit design.

So, we all agree that the walls in this episode are a clear reference to Attack on Titan, right? The visual language used to depict them is just too obvious to ignore, and it’s utterly unlike any existing depiction in Muv-Luv. As a lot of people may know, Attack on Titan creator Hajime Isayama is a big fan of Muv-Luv, and has openly cited Alternative as one of the inspirations for his manga. So this episode seems to be simply paying him a little tribute in return.

The little girl who Komaki saves in this episode (who doesn’t even get a name – she’s listed in the credits as simply “The Sadogashima Girl”) is voiced by Isekaijoucho, one of the members of Virtual Witch Phenomenon, the group responsible for the anime’s opening theme. She’s one of the few characters to survive the episode, and the direction seems to linger on her a little more than necessary, even taking into consideration her role in the episode giving Komaki a small measure of hope at the end. Do they just feel like highlighting a special cameo from an associated music act? I would certainly be interested if they plan on bringing her back somewhere down the line.

Speaking of characters the episode dropped hints about, there’s also Komaki’s wingman Kusano. Now, Kusano won’t be coming back – he died in the episode’s most memorably gruesome segment. But what should we make of his statement that he came from Yokohama? Yokohama is where the bulk of the series proper will take place. Does Kusano have a larger connection to the story? Or is this just the show’s way of segueing from this opening episode to the main storyline?