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

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

Age 20th Anniversary Broadcast “still breathing”

October 22, 2019

What an event! A lot just happened, so let’s talk about what was announced and what it means for the future of Muv-Luv.

The event was streamed on both Muv-Luv’s Japanese and English official YouTube channels. The English stream was accompanied by a real-time translator. You can still watch the archived stream here.

The event took place at the Avex building in Tokyo. The event actually began around 11AM JST, with special themed food and a garage sale of much of Age’s excess merchandise that they’ve accumulated over the years. The stream itself began at 4PM JST, and generally played Age music for 2 hours until the talk event was scheduled to start at 6PM.

Shortly before the talk event was scheduled to start, though, they allocated a little time for a special opening act. After originally announcing his intention to hold an event, Yoshimune was contacted by a an indie game developer named Kitakuou, who wanted to make his own TSF game.  Yoshimune gave him a few minutes before the actual talk event to present his game concept to the audience.  He showed off a little gameplay, which I thought looked pretty cool – it reminded me of the Baldr series.  I think for this event he’s simply looking to raise awareness and get a buy-in from the official rights holders, and he’ll look to raise money to make this game in the future.

The talk event itself began afterwards.  Let’s talk about the people who were involved:

Kouki Yoshimune, I assume, needs no introduction – he’s the CEO Age, and he is basically the creator of Muv-Luv.

Tororo is the former CEO of Circus, another visual novel developer that was very close with Age in the Chiyoren days.

Nobukazu Sakai is the CEO of Minori, another visual novel developer.  They also did some events with Chiyoren back in the day, but they didn’t seem to be as close to them as Circus was.

Bamboo is the CEO of Overdrive, yet another visual novel developer.  He seems to have gotten close to Yoshimune a little later than the other two, probably sometime after Alternative was released.  As far as his relationship with Age, he’s probably most famous for helping produce a series of BETA hoodies, some of which were still available during the Muv-Luv Kickstarter.  He’s also the one who invited Age to Anime Expo back in 2010.

Mafia Kajita is not a CEO of anything; he is a writer, often writing articles for 4Gamer.net.  He seems to have gotten close to Yoshimune while writing up some articles about Age and Muv-Luv.  They’re close enough that Yoshimune has invited him to similar Age talk events in the past.  He’s listed as the “representative of the fans”, probably because he doesn’t really have any connection to the franchise beyond being a bag fan himself.

The MC of the event was Takao Yagi, who first met Yoshimune when he served as the director of Radio Total Eclipse.  They got along well enough that Yoshimune invited him to be a fellow host on Age’s own in-house radio program, which he worked on for almost 2 years.  Since then, he’s been invited back to be the MC for several Age talk events.

Anyway, as is probably clear at this point, the guests for this event basically consist of people that Yoshimune is good friends with, rather than people who may actually be involved in Muv-Luv.

After some introductory remarks, they moved on to looking back at Age’s 20-year history.  This was accompanied by a (very) detailed timeline of Age’s works, apparently put together by Age’s main writer/director Hayato Tashiro (who, as the commentators quip, may have a little too much love for the company’s history).  The timeline includes not just Age’s games, but also their tie-in drama CDs, manga, novels, anime, radio, and live events – yeah, it’s a little crowded and hard to read.  Yoshimune says they’ll probably put it on the website so people can actually read it.  From what I was able to read of it, there’s actually quite a bit of snark in it, so it may be worth it to go through it once it’s up.  They blaze through this part pretty quickly, and nothing of real interest comes up, so let’s skip to the next section, where they talked about:

Current (Old?) Projects: In this section, they mentioned the Android ports of Muv-Luv promised by the Kickstarter, the complete version of The Day After, and the final fan book for their old fan club Ageku no Hate.  They don’t really have a lot of updates for these projects, other than to acknowledge that they need to get done and that they still have every intention of doing so.

My personal impression has always been that Age regards TDA as a very low priority.  I think it’s pretty clear at this point that TDA (and the Chronicles series in general) was just a way for Age to occupy their time while all of the moving parts for the Total Eclipse anime and game lined up.  Once Total Eclipse was completed, they quit putting out the Chronicles series, and ever since then I suspect they’d rather focus their efforts on new projects instead.  This is especially true ever since Avex bought out Ixtl – I’m sure that Avex would rather they spend their time on what comes next instead of working on old projects.  And after seeing some of the stuff they introduced later in the stream, I’m not entirely sure I blame them.

Yoshimune insists that he is determined to get TDA out, and at one point even insists it will come out sometime next year (under the theory that setting a firm date will get things moving), but it still doesn’t sound like anybody is currently actively working on it, so I think I’m going to file that one under “wishful thinking”.

Afterwards, they had a cute section where Yoshimune pointed out a couple that had met each other because of KimiNozo, and they gifted the couple a pair of Mitsuki and Haruka illustrations by the original artist, Baka Ouji Persia / Gai Sugihara.

After that, they moved onto introducing their new projects.  They started with the surprise announcement that Totoro (who, you remember, had been introduced as the “former” CEO of Circus), is now working with Age as the Muv-luv general producer.  (They also announced more humorous titles for Sakai and Bamboo, but I’m pretty sure those were just gags.)  From there, they moved into their first major announcement:

Kimi ga Nozomu Eien Reboot: This project is what was being hinted at by the artwork posted to Age’s website a couple of months ago.  They didn’t announce any major details, except that, according Totoro, he would like it to connect to Muv-Luv.  I have some more thoughts on this below, in light of later announcements.

At this point, they showed off some video messages submitted by some pretty major guests:

Hajime Isayama, the creator of Attack on Titan, was first.  In the afterword to one of the Alternative manga volumes, Isayama proclaimed that he had “plagarized” Alternative, by which he obviously meant he was heavily inspired by it, but which was taken out of context and passed around the anime clickbait sites for a while.  Ever since then, Isayama has been a major promoter of Muv-Luv, giving interviews in support of their projects and even showing up at a couple of talk events.

Kumi Koda, the singer for the first Total Eclipse anime opening, was next.  According to Yoshimune, he had strongly pushed for Masami Okui (who had sang the original Total Eclipse opening) to do the anime opening as well, but the deal between Avex and Okui fell through at the last minute, and Avex offered Koda, one of their biggest names, as an apology.  Koda was on maternity leave at the time, but according to Yoshimune, she was very happy to work on this project.  To be honest, I’m a little surprised to see her here, as she’s much too big to be slumming it at the Age 20th anniversary, and I suspect that, much like with her original involvement, she’s making this appearance because of Avex, not because of Age or Muv-Luv.  Nevertheless, she sounds very positive here about her time working on Total Eclipse.

Granrodeo was up next.  These guys have a long history with Age.  The vocalist, Kishou Taniyama, was the voice of Takayuki in KimiNozo, and the way he tells it, one night while working on the KimiNozo anime, he went out for karaoke with Age publicist Saitou K and Lantis music producer Yoshiyuki Itou.  Apparently he impressed Itou enough that Itou offered him a character CD release for Takayuki, which is pretty unheard of for the male lead of a visual novel.  Taniyama credits this event with starting his music career.  Roughly a year later, Lantis was put in charge of the Japanese music for IGPX, a Cartoon Network co-production.  For some reason (possibly because it was a Cartoon Network project and not a lot was riding on the Japanese release), Itou decided to get creative and assigned KimiNozo-related artists to the project.  Taniyama (the voice of Takayuki) was paired with Masaaki Iizuka (a composer who worked on most of Age’s songs up to that point) for the opening theme, while Minami Kuribayashi (the voice of Haruka) and Chiaki Takahashi (the voice of Mitsuki) were paired for the ending theme.  Kuribayashi and Takahashi’s group Exige never did anything else, but Taniyama and Iizuka’s group Granrodeo went on to become a major anime band.  They would return to Age to do several songs for them as well.

Rounding out the video messages was Hironobu Kageyama, the leader of JAM Project.  He first got involved with Age when he was asked to write the lyrics for “Carry On”, a song to be sung by fellow JAM Project member Masaaki Endoh.  After Alternative was split off into its own game, he was brought back to write the opening theme and perform it as a member of JAM Project, as well as also writing and performing the insert song “Tsubasa”.  According to him, he was provided a massive tome containing the entire Alternative script, which is why the lyrics he wrote so perfectly match the game’s story.  He also tried playing through Muv-Luv itself to try to understand the story even better, but although he provided updates from time to time on his blog, I don’t think he ever got past the lacrosse section.

Afterwards, they brought in a couple of new employees at Anchor, Jun Kumano and Yoshiki Kajitani (who used to work at Square Enix), and they introduced the game they’ve been working on:

Project Mikhail: This is a 3D TSF action game intended for smartphones, although it will also be available on Steam.  They showed off some of the gameplay, which allows you control a TSF in combat, and it looks like the TSFs will also be highly customizable.  They intend for the game not to have any gacha elements; instead they’re looking at having the game run on a subscription model.  The projected release date is 2021, although they mention they will work hard to try to get it out in 2020.  Notably, they intend the game to be available in Japanese, English, and Chinese.

This may be a good time to mention that I strongly believe that a major reason Avex picked up Ixtl is because of the immense success of the Muv-Luv Kickstarter – the Total Eclipse anime didn’t make a ton of money for them, so I really think it’s the $1.2 million dollar Kickstarter that caught their eye.  Ever since Avex acquired them, they’ve been paying special attention to the overseas fans that funded the Kickstarter, including the real-time translation on this broadcast.  So the fact that this game is projected to be released in multiple languages lines up with that as well, and I would expect that to be part of the release plan for any future projects whenever feasible.

The demo for this game had a few of interesting aspects as well.  The first battle featured the Oguna Squadron, and showed 2 character portraits.  I don’t recognize Oguna 3,  but Oguna 8 kind of looks like Yuzuka from The Day After (albeit in a very strange, presumably placeholder artstyle).  The second battle features Ilfriede from Duty -Lost Arcadia- (this time identified by name), and her dialogue references the events of the Chronicles story Adoration.

That brings up a very interesting question, which is where exactly Duty -Lost Arcadia- fits into Age’s new plans.  Yoshimune seems to have confirmed on Twitter that there are no longer any plans to publish any Duty novels, so that story seems to have been left in limbo.  At the same time, Yoshimune has been very clear that they had intended to cover some very important plot points in Duty, including bringing the story of the Master from Total Eclipse and Schwarzesmarken to a conclusion.  Could they possibly use this game to cover the story of Duty instead?  Much like how they wound up using Strike Frontier to cover the story of Operation Zero?

There’s one last interesting detail about Project Mikhail, and it concerns the name itself.  Prior to KimiNozo and Muv-Luv, Age put out a game called “Kaseki no Uta”.  This game takes place in the far future, and heavily features a machine called the Mikhail System.  Essentially, in this world there are lifelike automatons called “dolls”, and the Mikhail System allows the user to enter a virtual world in order to “tune” these dolls, giving them a consciousness and molding their personality to the desired specs.  Yoshimune has hinted in the past that he specifically chose the word “tune” to describe what Takeru does to stabilize the 00 Unit, in order to imply that perhaps Kaseki no Uta takes place in the far future of the Alternative world, and that the Mikhail System is perhaps a much more advanced version of what Yuuko did to create the 00 Unit.  Yoshimune has generally dodged the question of whether Kaseki no Uta really is in the future of Alternative, or whether this is just a meaningless Easter egg with no greater implications.

Not only does Project Mikhail share the same namesake as the Mikhail System from Kaseki no Uta, the menu very clearly features a button labeled “Mikhail System”.  What does that mean?  Could that mean we’ll get some answers about the placement of Kaseki no Uta in the larger Age universe?  Or is just another Easter egg for long-time fans?

Afterwards, we got to the part I’m really excited about:

Muv-Luv Integrate: Yoshimune has been dropping hints about his ideas for “Alternative 2” for years and years now, and finally, he’s introduced a proper name and some concept art for the series, which suggests that he may finally be moving beyond just talking about and may actually be taking some steps to turn it into a reality.  He’s still cagey about the whole thing, saying he isn’t sure what format it will take or if it will actually ever be released, but I have been hungry for this for a very long time and I will take whatever hope he is offering.

This is the official sequel to Alternative, and the first story to really go beyond Operation Cherry Blossom in the timeline.  Let’s take a look at the images he introduced:

The first image is of one of the hives on the moon.  Yoshimune has hinted in the past that he would like to take the story all the way to destroying the hives on the moon.

The second image is of some TSFs inside a hive.  I don’t recognize the TSFs; they may be 4th or 5th generation.  Or I might just be bad at identifying TSFs.

The third image is pretty unclear.  There’s a massive hive in the background, much closer to civilization than I think hives usually are.  There are people on the ground – or, at least, people-shaped creatures, since their heads look kinda funky.  Are they new human-sized BETA?  Or are people actually turning into BETA?

The fourth image is quite shocking.  It’s pretty clearly the Statue of Liberty, destroyed and engulfed in flames while the BETA swarm around it.  Is America screwed in this new story?  In the background, it looks like there are two huge hives.  At first glance I thought they were attacking each other, but maybe they’re both under attack from human forces?

The fifth image is the most interesting one.  There are four characters, and upon closer examination, I think those four are, from the left: Ilfriede from Duty, Akane from Muv-Luv (she looks really different without her headband, but she’s got a Valkyries emblem and her hair and eye color generally match), Latrova from Total Eclipse, and Gretel from Schwarzesmarken.  That’s all four major Muv-Luv franchises represented in this picture.

Yoshimune says that he chose the name “Integrate” to mean “bringing everything together”, and he’s said in the past that his vision for Alternative 2 was to bring back many of the surviving characters from the different franchises.  This image really represents what I think he’s hoping for from this new story.  I don’t know how a fan of Muv-Luv can look at this picture and not get excited for what it could mean.

The last image shows what appears to be Yuuko looking rather shell-shocked, clutching what appears to be Kasumi’s stuffed rabbit thing.  She looks awfully bloodied up as well.  What happened to Yuuko?  Is it even Yuuko at all?

This more or less wrapped up the talk event.  They then transitioned to a mini-live concert.  Minami Kuribayashi came out first, and she performed “Rumbling Hearts” and “Muv-Luv”.  Afterwards, Rino came out and performed “Kimi ga Nozomu Eien”.  Finally, the two of them sang “Precious Memories” together as a duet.

Afterwards, the stream faded into the event logo, but apparently, one last video was shown to the actual attendees, with the words:

Muv-Luv Alternative in Animation

Well that was quite mean of them, wasn’t it?

So, what does that mean?  If it means that they really are making Muv-Luv into an anime, then that could potentially mean that the earlier announced KimiNozo reboot, which was said to tie into Muv-Luv, might actually be intended to tie into this new anime.  Their Comiket book Exogularity 02 included updated character designs for both KimiNozo and Muv-Luv characters, so with the KimiNozo reboot pretty much confirmed to be using these character designs, perhaps the new Muv-Luv designs are intended to be used for the new anime.  In that way, both KimiNozo and Muv-Luv would share the same type of character design, tying the two stories together even more closely.

That was a massive event!  It was exactly the kind of event that Age needed right now.  Even though it was pretty sparse on details and firm dates, it still showed off quite a bit of the game design and some concept art, which goes a long way to proving that at least something really is happening behind the scenes.  Yoshimune confirmed that he would be starting up some live news streams again soon, so hopefully they can keep up this momentum and keep fans engaged with their future plans.

The Path to Adulthood

September 2, 2019

Muv-Luv can be a very difficult story to get a handle on while you’re in the process of playing it. You start the game, immediately you’re thrown into some crazy high school shenanigans. But wait, now you’re in a completely different world! Mechs, aliens, bwuh? Oh, now we have time loops too? It’s a crazy story and you’re just kind of hanging on for dear life as you go through it, so it can be hard to see how everything is supposed to fit together. But once you finish the story, you can step back and see how all the strange, disparate pieces come together in a very deliberate way. Once you strip away all the insane twists and turns and simply take in the story as a whole, it’s easy to recognize Muv-Luv as a very classic coming-of-age story. Literary types refer to this kind of story as a bildungsroman, a story focusing on showing the growth of the protagonist from a foolish child into a mature adult, often placing emphasis on the clash between the protagonist and society. Each chapter of Muv-Luv can be understood as representing a different stage in the process of growing up.

The first chapter, Extra, represents childhood. A bildungsroman usually starts with a very immature character, and Takeru is of course a deeply childish character in this chapter, lazy and carefree, generally not thinking about anything. But the world of Extra is also deeply childish as well. This is perfectly illustrated with the KimiNozo parody early in the game – even though KimiNozo and Extra technically take place in the same world, in KimiNozo Haruka is hit by a car and is sent into a coma for 3 years, while in Extra the same thing happens to Sumika (complete with KimiNozo music) and she just gets up and dusts herself off. In the world of Extra, bad things simply don’t happen.

The original Muv-Luv describes itself as a “super-cliched romance adventure”. In other words, it takes all the standard cliches of the genre and turns them up to 11. Where other games might have a rich girl with a mansion, Extra has a rich girl who levels an entire neighborhood in order to build a mansion so massive it literally changes the face of the map. A lot of Extra is simply about being able to play with the typical tropes of the genre and taking them to the next level without having to worry too much about keeping things grounded or realistic. That’s the kind of childish logic that the world of Extra is built on.

The second chapter, Unlimited, represents the transition from childhood to adolescence. In a typical coming-of-age story, a child one day comes to the powerful realization that the world extends far beyond his previously simplistic understanding of it. For the first time, he begins to grasp that the world can be a complicated and even dangerous place. In the real world, a child would come to this realization by seeing new aspects of the world he lives in, but through the power of science fiction and metaphor, Takeru is literally brought into a different world, where different rules apply. In this world, people are not allowed to sit back and enjoy life in innocence (like a child would) – they must work hard to earn their freedoms (like an adult would). Much of Unlimited, then, is devoted to Takeru coming to terms with the fact that this is the world he lives in now. He must discard any notion of returning to the days of his childhood, and devote himself to becoming an adult. This is the process of maturing that we would describe as adolescence, and by the end of this chapter, Takeru has fully completed this transition: he understands the nature of this world and accepts that he must work to contribute to it.

(I’ve often reflected on just how much the creators of Muv-Luv must love mecha shows, to cast their story this way: in this story, there are 2 worlds, one resembling the real world and one in which giant robots fight aliens. One of these worlds represents the world of childhood, and one represents the world of adulthood. It must take a special love of mechs to decide that it is our world that is the world of childhood, and the robot/alien world that is the world of adulthood.)

The first half of Alternative represents the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Takeru begins this chapter as an adolescent, aware of his responsibility to make a difference in this world, and ready to take his first steps in doing so. But although adolescents have the drive to change the world, they generally lack the experience and knowledge necessary to understand how to best do so. This lack of experience often leads them to believe that the solutions to the world’s problems are simpler than they really are. What’s more, once it becomes clear that society has not implemented these solutions they developed, they may come to the conclusion that this is because they have managed to come up with new solutions that society has not yet conceived of – in other worlds, they have greater insight into the world and its problems than society had up to this point. This is the reason adolescents are often known for questioning authority and clashing with authority figures. Adolescent fiction often targets this sentiment, by portraying teenage protagonists with special abilities that exceed those of their peers, who have special knowledge and insight that are lacking in the adults around them, and whose special talents are the key to saving the world.

In Takeru’s case, his special talents come from his 2 extra years spent in the Unlimited world. This extra training gives him abilities far beyond his squadmates, and he largely carries his squad during his time as a cadet. The time he spent in the previous world also makes him far more knowledgeable about future events than anybody, and even an adult as smart and powerful as Yuuko has to rely on his knowledge. And his unique ability to return to the world of Extra becomes essential to implementing Alternative IV and saving the world. All of these traits fit that standard adolescent mindset, and they instill in Takeru a sense that he alone is uniquely qualified to serve as this world’s savior, a fact that he reiterates to himself throughout this section of the story with an increasingly casual and self-evident tone.

But Takeru was wrong. On his first day as an “adult” (he and his team having become commissioned officers), he discovers that all the special abilities that he believed made him so superior don’t actually allow him to succeed in the adult world. He ends up breaking down in his cockpit, helpless, and has to be saved by the adults that he was so sure he was more important than. And of course, he winds up experiencing his greatest loss to date, the death of Marimo, and is forced to face the truth that the world is far more harsh and unforgiving than he had believed, even after having learned the truth of the world and becoming an adolescent. And so, with the world demanding that he move on to becoming an adult, he instead wishes with all his heart to return to the world of childhood.

In the real world, the “world of childhood” would be a more innocent mindset that Takeru would try to return to, but again, through the power of science fiction and metaphor, the world of childhood here is literally another world that Takeru can travel back to. As I mentioned before, the world of Extra is governed by different rules than the world of Alternative. In the world of Extra, bad things simply do not happen. Only now they do. By returning to the world of childhood, Takeru has tainted it with knowledge of the world of adulthood, and this knowledge destroys the innocence of childhood. This is perhaps Muv-Luv’s greatest innovation: by setting the entire first chapter in the world of Extra, the game sets up the player to think of the world of Extra as a complete story, with a beginning, middle, and end. So when Takeru destroys the world of Extra, he isn’t robbing the Extra characters of a hypothetical future happiness – he is actually robbing the Extra characters of a concrete future happiness, one that we have already seen and that we know would have come to them with 100% certainty. This is the reason why Extra is an essential chapter of the story and cannot be skipped: it is absolutely vital to the experience that the player conceives of Extra as a complete, standalone story in its own right, with its own set of rules governing just how dark the story is allowed to get. This is a story where Meiya can be forced to leave the others and return home without any hope of meeting again – the story is allowed to get that dark, but it is not allowed to get darker than that. So when Takeru returns, there is a real sense that he is breaking the rules of Extra, that he is destroying something that should have been set in stone.

This is the most crucial part of the story, because it is the most crucial part of any bildungsroman. At his lowest point, Takeru must find the strength to accept his limits and learn how to find his place in society. It is because of this that I strongly feel that Muv-Luv is not a story about despair – it is a story about hope. Bad things happen in this story, yes, but this is not a story about bad things happening, it is a story about finding the strength to overcome those bad things. For such a story to work, the bad things that happen have to be very bad indeed – they have to be so bad that we can really believe that Takeru might not be able to overcome them, because we can really believe that we might not be able to overcome them ourselves if they were to happen to us. That’s what makes it a true accomplishment when Takeru actually overcomes them. In the end, Takeru does indeed find the strength to accept his responsibilities as an adult and returns to the Alternative world, now as a full-fledged commissioned officer, signifying the end of the first half of Alternative and the beginning of the second half.

(One thing I find interesting is the symbolic importance of the clothing that Takeru wears. For the first part of Alternative, Takeru spends this part of the story in a commissioned officer’s fortified suit, as if signifying that he considers himself an adult already, even while serving in a cadet squadron. Of course, after the 207th Squadron is commissioned, the whole team switches to the officer’s fortified suit for the XM3 trials. However, after Takeru’s failure during the battle, Takeru and his team switch back to their trainee uniforms for the scene where Takeru tries to recover from Marimo’s death, suggesting how they still have one more step they have to take before they can truly become adults.)

The second half of Alternative represents adulthood. This part of Alternative shows Takeru as a true adult, having transitioned from his adolescent mindset. In the first half of Alternative, Takeru was constantly talking about how he would save the world by himself. The actions he took – traveling to the Extra world and retrieving the formulas – were completely off the grid. Aside from Yuuko and Kasumi, nobody knew what he was up to – not his teammates, not the military, not anybody in the world of Alternative. But from this point on, Takeru operates as a standard member of the military. The vast majority of the story revolves around Takeru taking part in UN-sanctioned missions. Even his work with Sumika, while highly secretive, is an official part of the UN’s Alternative IV project, and many other people (like Lt. Pyatykh) are involved with it as well. A bildungsroman often deals with the conflict between the protagonist and society, and this conflict is often resolved with the protagonist coming to accept the values of the society. In this case, it is Takeru who has come to embrace the role that this society expects him to take.

Alternative places great emphasis on working in a group, instead of working as an individual. In Alternative military doctrine, the smallest valid military unit is the Element (a group of 2 TSFs) – individual action is not permitted. (Try not to pay too much attention to the numerous instances where pilots break their Elements for dramatic license.) But Alternative goes much further than that. Even a full TSF squadron is not enough – the Isumi Valkyries are talented pilots, but they are not overwhelmingly more powerful than any other squadron in the military. They cannot execute missions on their own; they must coordinate with other squadrons in order to accomplish anything. And even a whole fleet of TSFs is not enough – Alternative always makes sure to show that other types of military units, like ships, helicopters, or shuttles, are indispensable to the mission as well.

One of Alternative’s major messages is that the power of a single individual is extremely limited. To accomplish anything of importance requires the strength of an entire society, with each member of the society bringing their own unique strengths to bear on the problem at hand. Takeru winds up accomplishing great things, and can even be said to have saved the world, but he is only able to do so because he played his role in a vast operation involving every major society on the planet. And to emphasize this fact one last time, we learn at the end that even this effort didn’t result in a complete victory. Even after destroying the Superior and the Original Hive, there are still Hives left all over the world, and an unimaginable number of BETA left across the universe. Takeru and his team played their parts, and achieved a historic victory, but that is the limit of their strength. True victory will only come if the people that come afterwards play their part in achieving additional historic victories.

If the second half of Alternative represents the world of adulthood, then it can be said that after the final battle at the Original Hive, Takeru’s life in the world of adulthood comes to an end. But Takeru doesn’t really die – rather, like in the “fairy tale” of Muv-Luv’s tagline (“a fairy tale of love and courage”), Takeru vanishes into light and ascends directly into heaven. In the game’s Final Episode, Takeru is granted the wish he has been longing for the entire story – he has returned to the world of his childhood. But his wish wasn’t simply to return to this world. His experiences in Alternative prove beyond a doubt that “you can’t go home again” – what Takeru truly wishes for is not just to return to this world, but to return to the days of innocence that this world symbolizes, and he can’t do that with his knowledge of adulthood. That’s why the only way Takeru could even truly be happy here is to return to childhood completely. Alternative clearly shows the dangers of an adult trying to return to childhood – but now that he has fulfilled his responsibilities as an adult and has passed on, surely he has earned that reward?

The Final Episode of Alternative, then, represents the afterlife, a place in which Takeru is finally granted his greatest wish – to return to the carefree days of his youth, and spend his days with the people he loves in peace and innocence.

Memories of Age at Anime Expo

August 31, 2019

Muv-Luv creator Kouki Yoshimune has started planning a live event to be held on October 22 (the first day of Muv-Luv) celebrating Age’s 20-year anniversary. It’s still in the early stages (he seems to have just thought of even doing it less than 24 hours ago), and he created the hashtag #age20th to discuss the event and solicit ideas, but the hashtag quickly became a way for fans to celebrate Age’s 20th anniversary in general and share memories.

I wanted to share my own memories of what Age and their work has meant to me, but they’ve been a part of my life since 2003, and I have almost too many memories to mention. So I thought I would focus on a very special time instead – the years Age came to Anime Expo.

Age first came to Anime Expo in 2010, as a special guest of MangaGamer. Officially, their major guest was Minami Kuribayashi, the main singer for Age’s games. They also brought artists Sou Miyata (Total Eclipse, Kimi ga Ita Kisetsu) and Kyousuke Himukai (Owarinaki Natsu Towanaru Shirabe, The Day After). But what they didn’t announce was that Kouki Yoshimune himself would be coming along to take a look around. At the time, Muv-Luv was pretty much a complete unknown in America, and I can only assume that they thought nobody would be interested in meeting him – the artists, at least, could draw some shikishi for fans, even if nobody knew what they worked on. However, Age was running a weekly radio program at the time which I would listen to, and Yoshimune happened to mention on it that he would be taking a week off from the program to fly to America for the convention. For me, this was the biggest news I could hope for – I could never have imagined I might actually get a chance to meet this writer who I respected so much. So I packed my copies of Muv-Luv and Alternative and flew down to LA in hopes of meeting him.

At Anime Expo, MangaGamer had a massive booth in the exhibit hall, and they had set up a stage for their guest singers to perform at various times during the day. Off in the corner, they had also set up a special Age section, where Miyata and Himukai would draw shikishi and sign autographs for fans. Here Age staff would also sell Volks A3 TSF figures, which I imagine was something of a struggle since nobody knew what a TSF was. (In later years, Age staff would become fond of telling the story of an American fan who was looking at a Raptor figure, and finally asked a staff member, “Is the Raptor the strongest model in this universe too?” The staffer responded “Yeah!”, which convinced the fan to buy it.)

On the first day, I dropped by the booth to see Kuribayashi sing. Afterwards, I actually managed to spot Yoshimune hanging around off to the side, just observing this strange foreign convention. Mustering up all of my courage, I managed to approach him and, in my pitiful spoken Japanese, ask if he really was Kouki Yoshimune. He confirmed that he was, seemingly astonished that somebody in America might actually know him. He asked how I managed to recognize him, and I told him I recognized him from the pictures they post every week on their radio program’s website. I asked if he would sign my copies of Muv-Luv and Alternative, and he was delighted to. I’m pretty sure that makes me the very first person to get his autograph in America, and those copies remain one of my most prized possessions.

. . . By the third day, I saw him sweeping in when people would buy A3 figures, point to the box, and proudly proclaim “I wrote that!” in English. He would then more or less force his autograph onto the unsuspecting buyer. So if he was ever at all shy at the prospect of offering his autograph to a foreign audience, he obviously got over it. I remain amused at the idea that some of those fans may still have those boxes in their closet somewhere, completely unaware that the strange man who autographed them was actually the creator of Muv-Luv himself.

Two years later, Yoshimune would return to Anime Expo 2012, this time as an official guest. He was here to present the brand-new anime adaptation of Total Eclipse, set to premiere that summer season. This time around, he was accompanied by singers Minami Kuribayashi and Ayami, as well as Alternative manga artist Azusa Maxima. Things kicked off with a panel on the first day introducing the Total Eclipse anime. The panel was pretty sparesly attended, which was disappointing but not surprising, considering Muv-Luv was still not a well-known property in America. In one especially amusing moment, when the moderator asked Yoshimune to describe the world of Total Eclipse, he began by saying, “A man named Everett created the many-worlds interpretation, suggesting that there are many parallel worlds . . .” Meanwhile, the hapless translator looked on in increasing horror – I suspect he thought the answer was going to be something simple like “There are aliens, mechs fight them”, and was caught off guard by the incredibly complex answer he was going to be forced to translate.

Even worse was what happened at the end of the panel – Yoshimune announced that he wanted to say something important. He then began talking about the earthquake that had hit Japan the previous year, and how he had been moved to see many different countries come to their aid. He said that he was thankful for the opportunity to come to America and express his gratitude. When the time came for the translator to translate what Yoshimune had said into English, he froze up. I think he panicked at the weight of what Yoshimune had been saying, the sense that he had been saying something that was actually important and not just about silly cartoons, and the responsibility of it crushed him. He literally spent at least 2 minutes frozen in silent terror, which is an absolute eternity when the whole room is waiting for you to speak, and the panel literally cannot move forward until you finish. It was the most awkward moment I have ever experienced. Eventually Yoshimune led the entire room in clapping and encouragement just to cheer this guy up and get him to do his job and translate what Yoshimune had said.

On a lighter note, when explaining the background of the Alternative world, Yoshimune stated that it was the Americans who destroyed the 2nd BETA landing site, and the Americans who created the TSFs that allowed humanity to fight the BETA. (Yoshimune pretty obviously chose for this panel to focus on the things America did right for an American audience, skipping over America’s more problematic actions.) He concluded by declaring, in English, “Thank you America!” This, of course, ignited a passionate round of “USA! USA!”, which Yoshimune seemed amazed by. He spent the rest of the panel (and indeed the rest of the entire weekend) randomly goading the audience into more USA chants, and never seemed to tire of it.

On the third day, they scheduled an official preview screening of the first 2 episodes of Total Eclipse ahead of their debut on Japanese television. Unfortunately, the screening was heavily delayed, apparently due to both the previous event running over and the need to set up the room for the mini-concert they would be holding. My recollection is we had to wait outside the venue for over an hour. Towards the end, Alternative manga artist Azusa Maxima actually walked up and down the line, showing off a laptop playing a trailer for Alternative, in order to hype up the crowd. The actual screening went well; I was particularly excited, seeing as how it was the very first time we got to see a Muv-Luv property on the big screen. I had been expecting the screening to introduce Yuuya and Argos Flight, a story I was very familiar with, so it was an amazing moment when Yoshimune announced that what we would be watching was in fact a completely new story that had never been told before.

One memory that stands out is when the title of the episode, “The Imperial Capital Burns”, appeared on screen, some wiseass cried out “Spoiler warning!” Which, well, he kind of had a point, right?

The screening was the same as a similar screening they had held in Japan the day before – the especially gory parts were shown uncensored. The version that was aired on Japanese television and streamed on Crunchyroll was censored, meaning that for several months until the series was released on home video, only those of us at the Japan and Anime Expo screenings saw the uncensored version. After the screening, Yoshimune came back on stage to encourage us to watch the series that summer, and Minami Kuribayashi and Ayami came on stage to sing their Total Eclipse songs.

Yoshimune would return to Anime Expo in 2015 to support the newly announced Muv-Luv Kickstarter. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend that year. They announced that Muv-Luv would have a presence at Anime Expo just a week before the event began, and there was simply no way I could arrange to attend with such short notice. From the pictures and stories from the people in attendance, it looks like Degica set up a booth in the exhibit hall where Yoshimune would sign autographs. I would have loved to have been part of the festivities celebrating the official release of the original games in English, but I’m glad it sounds like everybody had a great time.

Yoshimune would return again the next year, for Anime Expo 2016, which I was determined to attend. Like the previous year, Degica set up a small booth where Yoshimune would hold autograph sessions. He would also hold little mini-panels at the booth, where about 15-20 of us would gather, and he would tell stories and answer questions about Muv-Luv. Notably, the booth featured an early demo build of the first Muv-Luv game that people could actually play. It was the first time I was able to see the English translation they would be using, and seeing it really put my heart at ease.

Muv-Luv was not able to score an actual panel in Anime Expo’s crowded schedule. Luckily for them though, popular artist Sayori was another guest at Anime Expo that year. Sayori had worked for Age for several years and was still on very good terms with Yoshimune, and together they arranged for Sayori’s own panel to bring Yoshimune on as a surprise guest, essentially transforming her panel into a combined Sayori / Muv-Luv panel. Unfortunately, the panel was held in a room far too small for the number of fans interested in Sayori, let alone Muv-Luv as well, and I wasn’t able to get in. Reports are that Yoshimune was as animated as usual, cracking jokes and telling lots of funny stories.

So that’s the story of the 3 times I managed to meet Kouki Yoshimune, and other Age/Muv-Luv related staff, at Anime Expo. I remain hopeful that whatever Age is up to, it may lead to another visit to America, and another opportunity for us American fans to show our support in person.

Photonflowers Released! (And hope for the future)

August 3, 2019

Photonflowers has been officially released (after a typical Muv-Luv style delay).  You can get it on Steam now, and you can read up on what exactly Photonflowers is in my earlier writeup.

But that’s not the only exciting news to hit the Muv-Luv world.  Both the Kickstarter page and lead translator Evan Ward’s Twitter account have posted images from the 2nd collection of Muv-Luv side stories, Muv-Luv Photonmelodies, showing that progress is well underway.

But the really big news is on the Japanese side, as Age has now posted a new page featuring a brand-new illustration of KimiNozo/Muv-Luv character Haruka Suzumiya, drawn by Kina Kazuharu, on the 18th anniversary of the original release of KimiNozo.  That may not sound like much, but it represents the first news from the company in a whole year.  Although they’ve advertised crossover events with the mobile games Super Robot Wars X-Ω and Phantasy Star Online 2, they haven’t so much as hinted at actual new content since their Comiket book Exogularity 02 last summer.  That book also featured hints of new designs for both Muv-Luv and KimiNozo characters, and while the art there wasn’t credited, it certainly looks like the same artstyle as what was just posted.

What exactly the image means, Age hasn’t said.  Many people have leapt to the obvious conclusion, that this image hints at a full-blown remake of KimiNozo.  (Age hinted at such a possibility back at Anime Expo 2016, although it’s not at all clear how serious they were being.)  Others have seized on what looks to be a hidden “0” at the bottom-right of the image, which could mean a full game version of Operation Zero.  Operation Zero covers the events surrounding the KimiNozo characters in the Alternative world 3 years ago.  Although they had hinted at such a story ever since their 10th anniversary video, it remained nothing but a hint until they finally adapted the story as a chapter in their mobile game Strike Frontier.  Afterwards, Age had posted 2 videos rendering that Strike Frontier chapter in AGES (they can be found here and here), but perhaps now they’re looking at creating a full game version of it, possibly with voices.  Or perhaps, like with the KimiIta remake and Confessions, they’re doing both – releasing a full remake with Operation Zero as a pack-in bonus.

Or perhaps it really is nothing more than what they’ve announced it to be – just a celebration of the 18th anniversary of KimiNozo.  But even that would be news – it at least shows that Age isn’t dead, that they consider it still worthwhile to keep fans engaged and hopeful for future projects.  After a whole year without any output from the company, even that would be newsworthy.

And speaking of voices, there was one last piece of news yesterday – Minami Kuribayashi, singer for most of Age’s games and the voice of Haruka and Kasumi, and who had been working under the single name Minami for the past few years, announced that she would be returning to the name Minami Kuribayashi, and will be celebrating the KimiNozo anniversary with a new version of her very first song, Rumbling Hearts, the theme song to KimiNozo.  Hopefully, it means Kuribayashi and Ixtl/Anchor/Avex have buried the hatchet and we’ll be seeing more from them soon.

It’s been quiet on both the Japanese and English sides for a very long time, but now both sides have unveiled some exciting news on the same weekend.  We can hope that this means the Muv-Luv franchise will finally start moving again.

Photonflowers Release

July 21, 2019

The Muv-Luv team has announced that Muv-Luv Photonflowers will be released in a few days, on July 22, so that means it’s time to come back and spend some time on this blog.

So, what is Photonflowers? Well, Age has created a ton of side-stories for Muv-Luv over the years, and eventually they collected most of them into a pair of games called Photonflowers and Photonmelodies. Since the stories in Photonflowers were made over such a long span of time, I thought going over the context in which they were written might give people some additional insight into them. So, let’s cover the stories in Photonflowers, in the order in which they were written:

Muv-Luv Side:

Extra Short Story Collection: The 4 non-Meiya stories were the earliest Muv-Luv stories to be released to the public. They actually started out as text stories hosted on the Muv-Luv website back in 2002 when the game was first announced. As such, they’re meant to introduce the characters and give a general sense of their personalities and relationships, as well as the general tone of the game. The actual Muv-Luv game itself makes several references to the events of these stories, particularly Sumika’s, and the game is clearly written with the understanding that many players will have already read these short stories.

Meiya Short Stories: The 2 Meiya short stories were also meant to introduce Meiya and her crew, but they were not hosted on the Muv-Luv website. Instead, they were included as a special bonus in 2 issues of Tech Gian, a visual novel magazine, a few months before the original Muv-Luv was released in 2003. Unlike the other short stories, which were only text and accompanying pictures, these stories were rendered in game format, although without any voice acting. Indeed, part of the purpose of these short stories was to show off Age’s new AGES graphics engine, which is why Meiya starts out the story by moving the camera in every direction. This kind of camera work was revolutionary in a visual novel at the time.

These 6 short stories were eventually gathered together in the Muv-Luv Supplement fandisc. For the 4 non-Meiya stories, this meant rendering them in game format for the first time. For the 2 Meiya stories, this meant including voice acting for the first time.

Before the Cherry Blossoms Bloom: This is a mid-sized story set after Sumika’s Extra story, and was originally the centerpiece of Muv-Luv Supplement. It was put together in something of a hurry as kind of an apology to fans after Age realized that they would not be able to release Alternative in 2004 as promised. I think one of the most interesting aspects of it is the expanded role it gives Kashiwagi, who was an extremely minor character in the original Extra. In this game, she is finally given a first name (Haruko), as well as numerous new sprites, allowing her to be portrayed as a more expressive character. We learn a lot more about her, and she gets to participate in hijinks alongside the other characters, helping to set her up for her larger role in Alternative.

All of the stories on the Muv-Luv side are credited to the same team as the original series, with the same team of writers (notably Age head writer Hayato Tashiro and series creator Kouki Yoshimune) and original artist Bou.

Alternative Side:

Atonement: Atonement is a short story depicting Marimo’s past. It is essentially an expanded telling of the story Marimo tells Takeru after the XM3 trials. Much like the Meiya short stories, it was originally released as a bonus pack-in game (without voices) in an issue of Tech Gian, just a few months after Alternative was released in 2006. It’s written by series creator Kouki Yoshimune with art by series artist Bou.

Inheritance: Inheritance is a short story focusing on Akira, Michiru’s sister, and is set shortly after Alternative. Like Atonement, Inheritance was a bonus pack-in game included with the Dengeki Hime magazine, just a month after Atonement was released. It’s also written by Kouki Yoshimune, with art by Gai Sugihara, the original artist for Kimi ga Ita Kisetsu (the game that Michiru and her sisters come from), as well as Kimi ga Nozomu Eien. Of special note are the voices for Michiru’s sisters, who are all carried over from the original KimiIta game – if you’ve ever played the KimiIta remake from 2011, you won’t recognize these original voices. If you listen hard, you might be able recognize Marika’s voice – she also played Mikoto in Muv-Luv. But no matter how hard you try, I doubt you’ll be able to recognize Akira’s voice – even though she also played Yuuko!

Both Atonement and Inheritance were eventually collected in Age’s 4th fanclub game, alongside Ayu-Mayu Alternative. Much like the Extra short stories, Age took this opportunity to add voices to the 2 stories. Since both of them were recorded at the same time, they both share the same quirk – much like Age’s first 2 fanclub releases, these 2 stories have all of the lines voiced, even the narration lines from Marimo and Akira. This collection was also the debut of the Chronicles opening and ending credits – the original magazine releases didn’t include them. As such, both Atonement and Inheritance share the same opening sequence, including CGs from both stories.

Chicken Divers: Chicken Divers is a short story depicting an orbital dive team during Operation 21st. It was actually originally a piece of fanfiction. However, Age was impressed with the story, and they happened to be looking for people to put out some smallers works for them, so they contacted the author, Wei Luxin, to license the story. He took down the story from his website, and Age included it in their first Lunatic Dawn book for Comiket. Later on, Age decided to render it in game format (without voices) and released it as part of their offerings for a later Comiket. The artist for the game version was Sou Miyata, who by this point had taken over as the main artist for Total Eclipse.

Rain Dancers: Rain Dancers is a short story depicting a European team field testing Typhoons in the 90s. After releasing Chicken Divers, Age asked Wei Luxin to write a new short story to be released in their newest Lunatic Dawn book for Comiket. Like Chicken Divers, a few Comikets later Age again rendered this story in game format. The artist for the game version was Azusa Maxima, who was drawing the manga adaptation of Alternative. Of note, this is the only story in Photonflowers not to have any connection with any characters or events from the original trilogy. However, Luxin named the lead character Monica Giacosa with the intention that she would be the older sister of Valerio Giacosa from Total Eclipse.

Both Chicken Divers and Rain Dancers were eventually collected in Muv-Luv Alternative Chronicles 01. Since they were both existing stories, they were the obvious choice to kick of Age’s series of Chronicles game releases. Like with Atonement and Inheritance, voice were added to both stories at this time. They also share an interesting quirk – for Chronicles 01, Age experimented with adding lip flaps to the game CGs, not just character sprites. However, Age seems to have abandoned this idea afterward, so these 2 are the only Chronicles stories to include them. Like with Atonement and Inheritance, both Chicken Divers and Rain Dancers share the same opening sequence.

Confessions: Confessions is a mid-sized story depicting Michiru’s past. Like with Atonement, Confessions is basically an expanded telling of the story Michiru tells Takeru during their first meeting. Confessions was a bonus game included with the 2011 remake of Kimi ga Ita Kisetsu (although given their relative quality, many fans have taken to referring to Confessions as the main game and the KimiIta remake as the bonus game). Confessions is written by Kouki Yoshimune with art by Sou Miyata, who also drew the KimiIta remake. I imagine most Muv-Luv fans are surprised by the art, particularly during the beginning and ending when the entire Alternative cast is remade in Miyata’s artstyle. At the time, there seems to have been a push to get everybody redrawn by Miyata, who had become Age’s de facto lead artist, with the intention of using the Miyata versions for all future projects. The Miyata versions would appear again in the Chronicles story Resurrection (coming soon in Photonmelodies!), but otherwise these new versions of the characters wound up falling by the wayside after Miyata was removed from the company for, um, reasons.

That’s all the stories included in Photonflowers.  There are 3 more stories that will be included in Photonmelodies, including the one I’m sure everyone is waiting for, the one set in the Final Extra world.

(Also, if anybody is still interested in what I have to say about the original Muv-Luv trilogy, I actually have a number of articles written up – it became necessary to split them up due to how many topics I wanted to cover – and I’ll be posting them over the next few weeks.)

The Road to Muv-Luv Alternative

September 18, 2017

[Personal note: Unlike the Road to Muv-Luv, I was actually around to experience most of these events, so this time around, I’m going to add these personal notes to the timeline. I hope they provide a more in-depth view of what the long wait for Alternative was like.]

February 28 2003
Muv-Luv is released.

October 05 2003
The Kimi ga Nozomu Eien anime starts airing.

[This is where I started. I watched this show as it was airing, and I was so impressed by it that I took the plunge and picked up the game before the anime even ended. I played through the main story in a single weekend and I was absolutely blown away by the power of the story. This was the first visual novel I had ever played and I was stunned by the storytelling possibilities of the medium. So when I looked up what else this company had done, and discovered that they had made a follow-up to this game – and what’s more, that it featured mechas, the great anime love of my life – I was all in.]

February 23 2004
Age finally updates their Muv-Luv website. Most notably, they announce that they will definitely release Alternative sometime in 2004.  They also announce that they will release a DVD-ROM version of Muv-Luv (the original release was on CD-ROM).

[This was around the time that I had finished up Muv-Luv, so my earliest memory of Alternative was knowing that they would release the game sometime later this year. This struck me as a very reasonable amount of time to wait. Of course, for Japanese fans, this was a far more frustrating announcement.  Keep in mind that an entire year has now passed since Muv-Luv was released, with almost no news whatsoever.]

April 10 2004
Age puts on a live event called “Songs From Age The Live”. During this event, JAM Project performs the Alternative theme song “Asu e no Houkou” and Hironobu Kageyama’s “Tsubasa” for the very first time.

[I still remember that awesome shock I felt when I first read that JAM Project would be doing the theme song to Alternative. I’m sure that nowadays it’s obvious that the two go together, but at the time it was almost unthinkable for an adult game to get a mainstream name like JAM Project. It was an amazing feeling of two of my favorite worlds colliding in a way that I absolutely would have sworn was impossible.]

April 30 2004
The DVD version of Muv-Luv is released.

[It’s been a very long time since I played that original CD version of Muv-Luv so I can’t remember specific details, but my general impression is that the DVD version didn’t make too many enhancements over the CD version.  I do recall that they recast the role of Kashiwagi, replacing the original actress with the one who has been playing her ever since.]

October 21 2004
The Age website announces 2 release dates: December 17 2004 for Muv-Luv Supplement, and April 28 2005 for Muv-Luv Alternative.

[Fans were, of course, enraged by such a massive delay from what they were promised. Personally, this was the first time I had experienced one of Muv-Luv’s patented delays, so while I was disappointed, I was willing to suck it up. Before this, I had more or less put Muv-Luv out of my mind, confident that I would be able to return to it by the end of the year. Knowing now how long it was going to be before I could actually play the game, this was the point when I started actively seeking out news about Alternative.]

November 25 2004
The Akane Maniax OVA begins its release.

[It’s pretty sad to look back now and realize that Akane Maniax was the closest that the Muv-Luv characters have gotten to being animated. I still like to come back to this OVA and watch the Muv-Luv scenes in particular, and imagine what might have been. Years afterward, Yoshimune confirmed what everybody had suspected – that Akane Maniax was indeed intended to lead into a full Muv-Luv anime, and the final handover scene of the OVA was written with that in mind. That’s why Bandai Visual took over distribution of the final episode of the OVA. However, stuff happened behind the scenes and the project never came together. Bandai Visual would eventually make the KimiNozo Next Season OVA in order to salvage something from the deal.]

December 17 2004
Muv-Luv Supplement is released.

[From the moment it was announced, it was obvious that Supplement was simply something Age threw together in a hurry as an apology to fans for breaking their promise about Alternative. As such, I tend to be rather easy on it, since I never expected much from it to begin with.  For me, and I imagine for many fans, the real draw of Supplement was the video of the Alternative OP included with the game. The OP included far more new images and video of Alternative than Age had released to this point. There was a time when I would watch the OP several times a day – it’s fair to say this is when I started getting very obsessed with Alternative. This version of the OP is so seared into my brain that, to this day, the 16:9 version of the OP that plays in the actual game still feels really weird to me.]

February 02 2005
Muv-Luv Alternative is delayed 1 month to May 27. Age would eventually claim that this was due to the events of the 2004 Chuuetsu earthquake and the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake which had taken place over the past several months. Originally, the end of Operation 21st would have depicted a large tsunami devastating Honshu at Niigata. However, Age felt that this event needed to be changed in light of the real-life devastation of Niigata, followed closely by the real-life tsunami rampaging across the Indian Ocean. Changing this event, and in particular Kashiwagi’s original role in it, required changing many other sections of the story that originally referred to it as well. Remnants of the originally scripted tsunami remain in the final story, but its effects are largely glossed over.

[Of course, Age wasn’t going to spoil their own story by explaining this when announcing the delay, so from our perspective it just looked like Age can’t release their game on time once again. By this point, I was so invested in Alternative that even a month’s delay was painful.]

April 19 2005
Muv-Luv Alternative is delayed 2 months to July 29. Age would eventually claim that this was due to the anti-Japanese demonstrations that had broken out in China and across East Asia earlier this month. This required changes to the depiction of Imperial Japan in the game in order to downplay elements that could be misconstrued as promoting Japanese nationalism.  One thing that has come up several times in interviews is Age’s fear that the game will be perceived as a right-wing, nationalistic work. They particularly fear that, as an adult game, they won’t be cut any slack or be allowed to argue about the larger artistic themes being portrayed. They’ve consistently cited it as one of the major factors that scares potential partners away from working on an anime adaptation of Alternative.

[You’ll note that this is a new 2-month delay announced only a month before release. Up to this point I had been trying to cut Age some slack, but this latest delay pushed the game out to 7 months past the “end of 2004” date I had originally heard about, so I was definitely starting to match the anger that the Japanese fans were feeling. Keep in mind that this was around the time that Alternative was supposed to be released according to their announcement back in October, which just made this latest delay even more difficult to swallow.]

May 21 2005
The gaming magazine Tech Gian includes a major feature on Alternative, including an official demo. The demo starts with a sneak peek at the attack during the XM3 Trials, before moving into Chapter 1 of the game, finishing when Takeru officially joins the 207th. The demo also shows off the games’ major new features, such as the 16:9 aspect ratio, talking/blinking animations, and the removal of the textbox. The game’s official website is also updated.

[For me, this demo was a big, big deal. The story being teased was so promising, but I was especially taken with the sneak peek included at the beginning of the demo, which depicted an actual battle between our heroes and the BETA. Much like the 4:3 version of the OP included with Supplement, I played through this section so many times over the next 9 months that it is burned into my brain – to this day, I can’t play through this section of the game without thinking of the old demo.  Nowadays, things like the 16:9 aspect ratio and the talking/blinking animations are pretty standard, so it’s hard to describe how amazing this game looked at the time. I think Alternative was one of the very first visual novels, if not the very first, to do 16:9. This game looked like a BIG FUCKING DEAL – it felt far more advanced and important than anything else on the market.]

May 25 2005
JAM Project’s “Muv-Luv Alternative Insertion Song Collection” is released. This mini-album includes JAM Project’s “Asu e no Houkou”, Hironobu Kageyama’s “Tsubasa”, and Masaaki Endoh’s “Carry on”.

[Finally, after 5 months of endlessly playing the OP video from Supplement, I could finally listen to JAM Project’s new song on its own. I listened to these songs constantly over the next 9 months, and pored over the lyrics sheet trying to figure out how they fit into the game. “Tsubasa”, in particular, was clearly written to reference a specific storyline in the game, and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how the story would develop. I failed, of course.]

July 11 2005
Muv-Luv Alternative is delayed indefinitely. Age would eventually claim that this was due to the 2005 London bombings, which brought terrorism back to the front page. This necessitated another round of changes, particularly to the 12/5 Incident, in order to avoid accusations that they may be portraying terrorism in a sympathetic light. Due to this, scenes showing the events from the viewpoint of the rebels were cut – in the final game, the entire incident is shown pretty much exclusively from Takeru’s point of view. Age may also have wanted to simply put distance between the London attack and the release of their game, hence the indefinite delay until they felt the political atmosphere had cleared.

[The game was scheduled to be released July 29, meaning this delay came only 18 days before the game was to be released. After waiting for so long, I felt that delay like an almost physical blow to the gut. This was the moment when I finally lost all faith that Age would ever release something on time. Much like the five stages of grief, I had finally moved to Acceptance – the peaceful knowledge that Age’s release dates are not to be trusted, and that is simply the way things are. Moving into this stage is a crucial part of becoming a Muv-Luv fan.]

August 10 2005
Minami Kuribayashi’s single “Muv-Luv” (Alternative version) is released.

[If you’re paying attention, that now makes all 3 theme song releases for Muv-Luv (including the original “Muv-Luv” single from 2002) that were timed to release alongside the game, only to be stranded when the game got delayed. I can’t imagine Lantis was amused by having all 3 of their releases go out without the product they were supposed to support.]

November 15 2005
Muv-Luv Alternative is officially scheduled for February 24 2006.

[By this point, I was finished with all the speculation, the analysis, going back through the game to find clues to Alternative, trying to piece together all the different scraps of info we were given . . . I just wanted this date to be true.  For the love of God, just let this date be true.  There were definitely fans who now believed that Alternative would never come out, and everything Age said to the contrary was a filthy lie.  I couldn’t bear to believe that . . . just let this date be true.]

February 24 2006
Muv-Luv Alternative is officially released.

[Having now waited 3 full years for the conclusion to the story, Alternative needed to be the greatest game in the world for fans to turn their opinion around…]