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.