What Comes Next: The Waiting Game

January 26, 2013

Obviously, for anime fans, the big thing coming up will be whatever is on the 9th, final BD/DVD.  At present it is still solicited at full price for “1 episode + bonus footage”, which is basically a guarantee that we will be getting some kind of OVA.  The only real questions are how many and what will they be about.  The production side seems to be keeping a lid on details right now.  When asked straight up about it on Twitter, Yoshimune mentioned only that that question would “spoil the game”.  If I had to guess, I would say that the new episode(s) will be set after the series and will offer more character closure, touching on plotlines from the end of the story without getting too deep into details.  After many conflicting reports, Yoshimune has confirmed that what we’ve seen so far – up to the terrorist arc – comprises 2/3rds of the final story, so it’s a bit much to expect the final 1/3rd to be covered in one or two episodes.

I’m sure most people have heard that the game has been delayed from February to May. I have to say that I was deeply unsurprised by this.  Age has a terrible reputation for delays, and I had doubted they could make their deadline even before they fired their main artist.  They seem to have given it their best shot anyway, but it just didn’t work out.  Again – disappointed, but not surprised.

Yoshimune mentioned that they’ve already started getting the actors in to record their lines, and he’s apparently found time to work on the next TE novel, so I’m pretty sure the script for the game is basically done.  I suspect the problem is on the game production end.  Art is a major concern, obviously – again, they were not the most punctual of companies even when they had an in-house artist dedicated full-time to TE.  Now, they’ve apparently got Gai Sugihara (aka Baka Ouji Persia, the artist for Kimi ga Nozomu Eien) as the main artist, which is a problem, because he’s also essentially Age’s second-in-command, and he’s busy with all kinds of other company work.  (When asked once why they weren’t putting out any more games with his artwork, Yoshimune replied that doing all the art for another game, with his schedule, “would kill him”.)  They’ve rounded up everybody at Age who can draw to back him up (including Yoshimune himself, who is apparently stuck drawing some of the old grizzled commanders where it doesn’t matter nearly as much whether the art is attractive or not), but it’s still not a great position to be in.  They may also be having hardware trouble – they ported the original games over to PS3 and Xbox 360, but this is the first game they’re developing for those consoles natively, and there may be unforeseen difficulties.

Anyway, I suspect they’ve delayed the game to mid-May because the 9th BD/DVD comes out at the end of May.  Like I said, they seem determined to get the game out before whatever’s on the last disc hits the shelves, afraid of spoiling the game, so this is as far back as they can push it.  I’m not terribly concerned about delays, because, as I said, I think the story is pretty much set in stone at this point, and everything after that point is just about getting the game to look nice.  This game is a big deal for them – it’s now been 7 years since Alternative came out, and this game will mark the first time since then that they have managed to finish the story for a major Muv-Luv franchise.  Think about that for a second – they’ve spent 7 years creating all sorts of spin-offs, and only now are they actually managing to finish one.

They’ll be doing a talk show at Budokan on February 11.  They might announce new info about the 9th BD/DVD there, although I kind of doubt it.  There was going to be a concert that night too, but it’s been delayed indefinitely.  Given the timing, I suspect it’s because the game was delayed.  I’d like to think that the franchise isn’t so cursed that all sorts of unrelated problems keep creeping up on separate branches of the project.

Dengeki Muv-Luv Vol. 3 comes out at the end of March.  I think this will be a good place to check in on for info.  They’ve probably got to do some restructuring too – originally the game was supposed to come out a month earlier, so they had likely devoted quite a bit of the magazine to discussing game spoilers.  That will all have to go.  I’m hoping for some anime retrospectives, since this will be the first volume to come out after the anime finished airing.  Hopefully they’ll schedule a Vol. 4 to come out after the game; I doubt they’ll keep making these after that, but I’ve underestimated this franchise before.

Also appearing at the end of March are new novels for both Total Eclipse and Schwarzesmarken.  Like I said, since Yoshimune apparently had time to work on this, I’m not too concerned about the game script.  This novel, volume 6, should wrap up the Blue Flag arc and move into the terrorist arc, which the 7th novel will presumably wrap up.  Yoshimune has consistently promised that the entire Total Eclipse story will come out in novel form, which only makes sense – the people who supported Total Eclipse as a novel, more than anybody else, are the ones who proved that a Muv-Luv spinoff can be successful, and who have brought us to this point.  It would be pretty ungrateful to leave the novels unfinished and force people to buy a console game to finish the story.

As for me, I have a lot to say about the anime after taking the whole thing in and seeing how it all fits together.  And I really do mean a LOT to say – even without having written one word of it yet, I can tell it’s going to be long as hell.  That said, I’m really enjoying writing at my own pace without forcing myself to slap everything together before the next episode hits (which is why I’ve been so slow putting up the post on episodes 20-24).  So for now I’ll say it’ll probably be up by the end of February, although it might easily go into March.

Of course, I’ll still post up news about the final BD/DVD, and once it comes out at the end of May I’ll put up a post on it too.  But otherwise, except for maybe some interviews if they interest me, I’ll be more or less done.  I started this site to promote the anime, and once the anime is finally done, I probably won’t have much to say until the next Muv-Luv anime (God willing) starts up.

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Total Eclipse 20-24

January 26, 2013

When episode 18 aired, my jaw hit the floor.  I had found Natalie to be an annoying, pointless character when she first appeared, and I was growing frustrated that recent episodes had brought her back with even greater screentime.  But all that changed when she briefly hinted at her backstory growing up.  Obviously you don’t throw around ideas like economic inequality carelessly in Total Eclipse, since that concept is so closely tied to the Refugee Liberation Front.  I could barely contain my excitement at the idea – could the anime staff really have the audacity to seed their own original character into the show as an RLF agent, disguised as a seemingly throwaway character?

They did.  With Natalie’s beautiful scene rounding out the last minutes of episode 20, I can gladly add her to the list of memorable, worthy original characters that this show has brought us.  It was such a great twist that I almost wish I could have experienced it while watching it in realtime, rather than using my knowledge of the novels to pick up on the foreshadowing too early.  Anchored by Natalie’s story, episode 20 is a strong testament to what can happen when you have strong, creative people on an anime adaptation, and allow them the freedom to change things up.  What happened in the original story?  All our heroes – Yuuya, Yui, Tarisa, Valerio, Stella, Cryska, and Yifei – were simply at the Argos Flight hanger discussing tactics for the Infinities fight when the attack began, and they all promptly suited up and got into their TSFs.  Just about everything that happened in episode 20 is completely new to the anime.

This is exactly why I get so frustrated with people who insist that an adaptation has to follow the original story word-for-word.  If you liked anything about episode 20, then it turns out you really are in favor of anime adaptations taking risks and making new additions to the story.

The other major addition to this arc is, of course, the Berkut, commandeered by Christopher and then commandeered again by Cryska and Inia.  I suspect this was added in because there isn’t going to be a second season of Total Eclipse covering the rest of the story (where the Berkut has been heavily hinted to play a major role), but they wanted to feature the Berkut in the series in some way.  It was particularly nice to see for long-time fans, since the Berkut has been shrouded in secrecy up to this point, and this was our first opportunity to see it featured up close.

I was amused to see both Kouki Yoshimune and Akira Yamazaki (one of the new main writers for the Muv-Luv franchises) laugh on Twitter about what a bastard Sandek is.  Muv-Luv has more than its share of lies and deception, but few compare to the brazen whopper he unloads on Yuuya in episode 24, that Cryska and Inia have somehow been brainwashed by the CIA.  What is so astonishing about Sandek’s chutzpah is that he obviously knows why the Scarlet Twins have really gone crazy, that he comes up with the lie in literally a matter of seconds, and – most gallingly – that he tells Yuuya that he can save them fully expecting that this dumb fool will rush in to his inevitable death.  Coming in at 2nd place is Sandek telling Yui that the Americans are behind the terrorist attack in episode 21.  Clearly Sandek is in no position to know whether that’s true or not – he says it only to convince Yui to ditch the American base and instead head towards his own Soviet base.

Silvio, from the (horrible) Chronicles story Resurrection, puts in a brief cameo in episode 24, standing behind Heinemann as he talks with Hartwig.  It seems keeping them safe was the mission he took on at the end of Resurrection.  According to Yoshimune, the animation staff added him in at the last second, due to pressure from fans to see Silvio in the show in some capacity.

If you want to see something interesting, check out the original Total Eclipse website, and watch the commercial they have in the right column.  Although this commercial was made just a few months after Total Eclipse began serialization, it pretty clearly depicts the same battle between Yuuya and the Scarlet Twins as in episode 24 – it even includes the same dialogue from Yuuya!  That suggests that, despite the numerous changes to the Total Eclipse story after this commercial was made (note, for instance, that Yuuya is piloting the original Shiranui Second Phase 1, since at the time they had no idea the story would go on long enough to make a Phase 2), they still had an ending to the story in place from the very beginning, and that they are still in some way committed to moving towards that ending.

This scene was also foreshadowed in another way.  The manga adaptation kicked things off by including a flashforward to this battle in the very first chapter.  In fact, this flashfoward appeared several months before the battle was even shown in the original serialization!  I remember quite a bit of discussion at the time about what that scene meant and how the story would reach that point.  So I have to say that, for me, it was quite a thrill to finally see that scene play out in full in the anime after years of seeing the creators tease it in some form or another.

And speaking of foreshadowing and teases, of course there’s the post-credits scene in episode 24, which comes word-for-word from the Age 10th Anniversary PV.  It seems so long ago now, but that PV was made after the Total Eclipse anime had been green-lighted, and apparently part of the purpose of the PV was to build enthusiasm for the Muv-Luv world in anticipation of the anime.

There’s still more to come!  I’ve split off what comes next into its own post.