Director Switch-Up

July 16, 2012

So, a lot has been made of the fact that director Takayuki Inagaki’s name is no longer listed as director on the 3rd episode, replaced by sub-director Masaomi Andou.  Yoshimune gave an explanation on his Twitter sub-account:

“A lot of questions are being asked, so I’ll answer as much as I can.  You can tell if you look at how episode 3 turned out, but the studio overexterted itself working on episodes 1-2, and right now it’s in a mess.  Furthermore, corrections for the BD/DVD release will be starting soon.”

“Inagaki-san is the person at the studio who understands Alternative the most, so up until now he’s been hard at work, taking on burdens other than his primary one.  To resolve this situation, to insure the quality of the broadcast and the BD, the sub-director Andou-san will be taking over the role of coordinator, and Inagaki-san will focus primarily on the scripts and storyboards.”

“Because work has proceeded on episodes before broadcast, you will not see an immediate effect on the broadcast.  Inagaki-san worked until about episode 9, and Andou-san took over around episode 10.  I hear that the change in title occurred in episode 3 because it was a good place to mark the change.  So, it is not the case that Inagaki-san has left the production.”

“My understanding is that he was not fired, rather he volunteered to do this in order to make a better product.  It is very appreciated.”

Now, as with any official explanation, a certain amount of reading between the lines has to be done. Inagaki continues to be listed as Story Editor in episode 3, meaning Yoshimune is right that Inagaki has not simply been removed from the project entirely. So, for the most part, I’m inclined to believe that they are telling the truth about Inagaki staying on to work on the creative stuff. I suspect what “really” happened was that Inagaki, still a relative rookie director with little to no experience on a fast-paced mecha show, got completely overwhelmed by the work involved. Being a director is not just about sitting around and deciding who dies at the end – there is a LOT of administrative stuff that has to be taken care of, and Inagaki was probably not prepared for just how different directing a mecha show in particular can be. Mecha shows are widely known to be the most difficult to direct and animate, because of the sheer amount of animation shots that have to be prepared. I suspect that production simply fell behind to the point where they were forced to make Andou take over the administrative and coordination duties of a director.  Considering they still plan to keep Inagaki on staff and making the calls creatively, the powers-that-be probably could have kept Inagaki as director, with Andou being promoted to co-director or something, but I would guess they stripped Inagaki of the director title as punishment for letting production fall to this state.

As for what that means for the show itself, creatively it probably means nothing. Inagaki will likely continue to make the calls on where the show goes – and anyway, by this point all the scripts are likely either finished or in the final stages of correction. As for production values, it’s probably best to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. The CG for this episode was amazing – far beyond what I had expected – but the 2D art is starting to suffer, and unfortunately I would imagine the gap between them is probably going to get worse before it gets better.


Total Eclipse 01-02

July 11, 2012

I decided to wait until both episodes aired to write about them.  I attended the Anime Expo showing and the two episodes work REALLY well together.  I wish they had managed to air them together, similar to Fate/Zero or Aquarion Evol.

The Total Eclipse anime surprisingly kicks off with a 2-part anime-original story.  My guess is that the anime staff was concerned that starting the story off in Alaska, far from the front lines, with a bunch of test pilots with no life-and-death stakes, might not be the best introduction to the Muv-Luv universe.  These two episodes are essentially “episode 0”, serving as a crash course in the world of Muv-Luv Alternative and bringing new anime viewers up to speed, with episode 3 being the true “episode 1”, kicking off the actual Total Eclipse anime.

In many ways, these episodes feel like a condensed version of the core Muv-Luv story – the viewer starts off by watching a group of carefree kids, and then are gradually eased into the realization that a truly brutal war is being waged just off-camera, before finally thrusting our characters into it with devastating results.  A similar story structure was also used in the Chronicles story Confession.  Indeed this story wouldn’t feel at all out of place as a Chronicles story.

Yoshimune mentioned on Twitter that these two episodes were originally planned as a single episode, but got expanded into two because of the amount of material.  In fact, despite being planned as a single episode, the first draft of the script had FOUR episodes’ worth of material.  Many of the more complicated or detailed explanations of the world had to be cut to fit it into two episodes.  This is also probably why, in Yoshimune’s interview in Gianism Vol. 2, he mentioned trying to fit the Shiranui and Takemikazuchi into the first episode during the planning stage, even though both only wound up appearing in the second episode.

All of Yui’s classmates are named after old Japanese provinces.  For those who are curious, their names are: Shimako Kai (the long-haired one), Aki Iwami (the tomboyish one), Izumi Noto (the one with the boyfriend), and Kazusa Yamashiro (the rival one).  For a Japanese audience, their names subtly suggest old-school tradition, fitting for members of the samurai class.

I have to give a shoutout to the Zuikaku, which is one of my favorite obscure TSFs.  The Type-82 Zuikaku is a modified version of the Gekishin, used by the Imperial Royal Guard until it is replaced by the Takemikazuchi.  Their color indicates the proximity of the pilot’s family to the shogunate.  This is also why Yui and her squadron leader have different colored pilot suits in the anime.  (Of all the explanations that had been cut for time, I wish this one had stayed in.  Most of the other things can be handwaved away, but Yui in a different colored suit and mech from everybody else just looks puzzling.)  It has the honor of being the first TSF to be created specifically for Hobby Japan’s TSFiA column, making its first appearance in #2 “Dissimilar Air Combat Training”.  It also appeared in #17 “Colors of Duty”, which I’ll mention again later, but otherwise it has made no other appearances until this anime.  It’s pretty nice that it got some sweet screentime, since it’s unlikely we’ll ever see any more of it.

For more on the evacuation of Kyushu, play the game “Owarinaki Natsu Towanaru Shirabe”.

Yoshimune actually mentioned way back that the anime staff was making him decide for the first time just how those pilot suits are put on.  Prior to that, they were all just kind of winging it.

The battle of Kyoto has actually been touched on before.  TSFiA #6 “Sortie at Daybreak” shows the American squadron VF-103 Jolly Rogers launching in their F-14D Tomcats.  TSFiA #17 “Colors of Duty” shows Maya Tsukuyomi piloting a red Zuikaku.  Also present is Takatsugu Ikaruga in a blue Zuikaku, as well as the Jolly Rogers backing them up.  This TSFiA segment is also portrayed in the 10th anniversary Chronicles video.  So if you were wondering why those Tomcats just seem to drop off the face of the earth in the anime, now you know what they were up to.

Everybody obviously caught Yuuhi’s cameo in episode 1, but did experienced Alternative fans catch the cameos by battleship captains Ozawa and Abe in episode 2?  That was a nice touch.

Apparently even the premiere advance showings of episode 2 in Japan censored the excessive gore at the end, so as of this writing, the Anime Expo attendees are the ONLY members of the public who have seen the uncensored version.  And it really is pretty damn nasty.

Age employees are avoiding giving a direct answer to the question of who was piloting the Takemikazuchi at the end.  If it’s somebody we already know, then it must be either Yuuhi or Ikaruga.  Episode 1 suggested, and Yoshimune later confirmed, that at this point in time Yuuhi is not yet the Shogun, but just a member of the five regent houses – therefore her color would indeed be blue, not purple.  As for Ikaruga, as I said above he’s already been shown piloting a blue Zuikaku during this period, although Yoshimune implied that because of the length of the Kyoto campaign, it’s possible to get around this by saying that he changed machines over the course of the campaign.  Personally, I think it would be much more interesting if it were Yuuhi.  And they did, after all, go through the trouble of arranging a cameo for Yuuhi, possibly so that anime fans could guess that it was her, while Ikaruga is just some nobody as far as the anime is concerned.  Yoshimune also cryptically suggested that the story of just how and why the Takemikazuchi arrived could be a separate story in and of itself.

Three of Age’s employees are listed in the end credits for “Setting Supervision”.  They are: Akira Yamazaki (aka Dau Hiragane, writer for The Day After episode 2), Azusa Maxima (artist for the Alternative manga), and Musou Mitsuishi (aka Monkeychop, mecha and background artist).  Presumably they looked over things like mech designs, pilot suit designs, cockpit layouts, the heads-up display, and other picky details.

According to Yoshimune, part of the reason they got JAM Project to do the Alternative opening was to reach out from their small adult game audience to the larger otaku fanbase.  Similarly, with the Total Eclipse anime opening, their goal this time is to reach out from the otaku fanbase to an even larger general audience.  All things considered, I had been prepared for much worse than what we got.  My greatest fear was that we would get something completely off-the-wall like the Zetman OP.  I think “Go to the top” is, while not at all like a regular mecha OP, still somewhere in the same ballpark.  I especially appreciate that the lyrics (apparently written after discussion with Yoshimune) reasonably reflect the anime’s contents – not always a given when working with someone outside the anime field.  Their philosophy for this anime is that the OP would be the one to draw in new viewers, while the ED would more strongly represent the show itself, so it’s nice that they got Minami Kuribayashi to do the ED.  Getting Kuribayashi and GRANRODEO to do songs for them was probably not easy for Avex, since they are normally Lantis singers, so I appreciate the effort they put in to bring in at least a few familiar faces.  It goes a long way towards easing the sting over not getting JAM or Okui to do the OP.

Since they announced that the series will be released over 9 discs, that’s pretty much confirmation that there will be 26 episodes.  But even before that announcement, it was pretty clear it would be a 2-cour order.  You don’t do a 2-episode anime-original story unless you have episodes to spare.  It’s a pleasant surprise – I really was prepared for them to try to fit everything into 13 episodes.