I love the Blue Flag arc. I think I could honestly watch an entire show based on this premise. There’s a part of me that’s really sad that the Soviet arc got expanded out to 7 episodes with anime-original content, and this arc only gets 4 episodes (I don’t count the hot springs episode as part of this arc).
Leon and Sharon are definitely a big part of the reason why I love this arc. With Yuuya making such progress in his personal growth, these two come in at the right time to remind the audience of who he once was, and their reactions to him help illustrate how far he’s come. I touched on just why I like them in my original post, but what the hell, let’s go over it again. I like Leon because, even though he’s the typical asshole rival of the main character, once you remove him from that context he actually seems like a decent fellow. He does his job well, he gets along with everybody who isn’t Yuuya (even Yui!) – he’s a good guy. And I like Sharon because she’s that rarest of beasts in anime – an ex-girlfriend who enters the story halfway through but brings absolutely zero drama. She’s not trying to get back with Yuuya, and Yuuya’s not trying to get back with her. And even though she’s with his rival Leon now, Yuuya never once gives her any shit for it. They’re just two adults who have moved on with their lives and seem to genuinely wish for each other’s happiness.
I love their intro scene, with Yuuya staring down Leon, and Sharon keeping the peace in the back. The anime spices the scene up by having a Raptor literally touch down behind Leon as episode 15 ends. It looks cool, but what the hell is it doing here? As episode 16 begins, Leon’s teammate Guylos simply pilots the Raptor back up and flies away. What was he trying to accomplish? Did he really come down just to intimidate Yuuya?
Yifei is a less successful character. She seems to have been added as a more anime-ish character to appeal to fans and make trouble for Yuuya and Yui’s budding relationship. She’s still a part of the original Total Eclipse story, and so she’s still written as reasonably mature and not cartoonishly out of place (like the anime-original scenes of Natalie dressing Tarisa up in a maid costume, which I had forgotten happens again in episode 15), but she’s rarely as interesting as she should be, considering her prominence in the cast and the potential in her setup. Her defining moment is her declaration that Yuuya has permission to fall in love with her at the end of episode 16, which pretty much says all you need to know about the character.
Yifei and Bao-Feng Flight serve as Argos Flight’s only opponents throughout the Blue Flag arc in the anime (one of many casualties of having only 4 episodes dedicated to this arc). One of the things I like most about the Blue Flag arc is the way it spotlights many different nations involved, rather than focusing solely on the XFJ Project, and you can see this in the way Yifei approaches the exercise. While the Japanese and American governments seem to have specific goals they want to accomplish with the Blue Flag program, the Chinese government seems to have decided that the whole thing is a waste of time, which frees Yifei up to treat the battle like her own personal playground without risk of punishment. This allows Yifei and Yuuya to engage in their own 1-on-1 duel for Yifei’s pride, normally a ridiculous notion in a team battle (in fact Tarisa was slapped down for doing the same thing in episode 3).
This block of episodes is a good showcase for cameos. We’ve got one at the beginning of episode 15 from Klaus Hartwig, the head of Project Prominence, explaining the Blue Flag program. I wouldn’t say he’s a major character, but he shows up from time to time in the novels and game. In general, the anime seems to have cut down on much of the upper brass, likely believing that they only serve to make the show more complicated without adding much to the story of Yuuya and Yui. And while I think these upper brass characters help flesh out the political situation in the world of Alternative, I also can’t help but feel like not all that much has been lost in cutting them out of the anime.
We also get a couple of scenes in episode 16 from Igor Belyayev, who is seen working on Cryska and Inia in some fashion. This episode is his only speaking role, but he’ll continue to appear in the background from time to time. In the original novels, he pretty much serves this same role, appearing every now and then to talk cryptically with Sandek about secrets involving the Scarlet Twins. At the time the anime originally aired, he was considered a man shrouded in mystery. Once the game came out, the second half wound up showcasing him much more, and without spoiling too much, I’ll just say he’s quite the character.
Anime Rewatch 2021: Total Eclipse 17-19September 30, 2021
What really stands out, in rewatching these episodes, is how much was pulled forward from the game, which was still in development at the time the anime aired. None of the flashbacks and new backstory were in the original novels, meaning this anime was the first time we got to see much of this new material.
For episode 17, the new material revolves around Cryska and Inia’s flashback sequence. We also get to hear the song “Snow Maiden” here for the first time – the Twins have been shown humming it a little in the previous episode, but in this episode we get to hear Cryska hum a much longer version, and we hear Aki Misato’s full version playing over the end credits. This song is heavily associated with Cryska, and both the song, as well as BGM tracks based on it, will go on to be played during important Cryska scenes for the rest of the anime and into the game.
Cryska’s question to Yuuya, about why she seems so concerned about Yuuya without knowing why, appears at first glance to be a typical “girl loves boy without realizing it” trope, with Cryska’s obvious lack of experience in worldly matters helping to drive it. Although this scene is content to leave viewers with that impression for the moment, later developments in the second half of the game will return here to expand on the concept. For now, it’s just worth noting that there is more to this idea than there initially appears.
The fight between Yuuya and Leon at the end of the episode is one of my favorite moments in the story. I think what I love is the familiarity between the characters, the fact that Sharon automatically knows that Yuuya and Leon are both ready to bolt when the MPs arrive, and the fact that Yui doesn’t quite know Yuuya on that level yet.
For episode 18, the new material revolves around Yuuya’s backstory. As I mentioned before, the game wound up moving this backstory to the very start of the story, allowing us to see Yuuya’s background in real time before he is transferred to Yukon Base. At first, I found this kind of an odd choice, since I was so used to the old version of the story, where we meet Yuuya at Yukon Base and only dig into his background with Leon and Sharon later on. However, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve come around to it – I can see now how presenting this information early on balances out Yui’s prologue and and helps the player see both characters as equally important. Introducing Leon and Sharon so early on changes the dynamic of their Blue Flag introduction as well, making them more familiar to the player.
The talk between Yuuya and Natalie is also new. This part I find interesting because it introduces concepts that the game didn’t introduce until the second half of the story, which takes place after the anime ends. The basic thrust of the conversation is that all of the people who have helped Yuuya grow throughout the story are only doing for him what other people have done for them in the past. As Yuuya comes to understand this, he begins to feel the need to do the same, to help someone who needs the same sort of help that he did, and eventually he decides that Cryska is the person he wants to help. Again, in the game, this all happens after the upcoming terrorist arc is finished. But the conversation in this episode deliberately brings this idea into the show early. Yuuya is also spending a lot more time with Cryska in these two episodes than he does in the game, which also seems to be setting up the idea of him wanted to help her much earlier as well. I can’t help but feel like maybe the anime staff (and/or original writer Kouki Yoshimune, who consulted on the anime) felt that they may not get a second season, so they wanted to bring these ideas into the first season because they’re so important to the overall theme of Total Eclipse.
So much of episode 18 is new material to the anime that I think the only major scene in the episode that comes from the original novels is the talk between Yui and Yifei at the end. As I mentioned in my original post, this is Yifei at her most interesting and effective, as she challenges Yui’s fitness for Yuuya on a more serious level. In my old post, I mentioned that I hoped Yifei would have more scenes like this in the second half of the game, but I’m sad to say she really doesn’t. This remains her most powerful scene in the story.
Natalie is put in an interesting position in this episode. She hints at a background as a French refugee who lived in squalor as a kid, which is a huge red flag since the upcoming storyline is all about terrorists who despise the current world order for allowing such conditions. Even then, I had a hard time believing she would actually turn out to be a member of the RLF, simply because that’s a serious role to push on an anime-original character who, up to this point, was largely used for silly fanservice. I would be very curious to know if this twist was planned from the beginning, or if the anime staff was simply trying to salvage a character who, bluntly, was very out of place on this show. (It’s worth noting that in the past few episodes, she’s stopped wearing that stupid cowgirl waitress getup and is instead presented in a classy bartender outfit.) Either way, this is a very successful turnaround for the character. Seeing the hints in this episode, and imagining that she might actually play a role in the upcoming terrorist arc, remains one of my favorite memories of watching the anime as it aired.
Speaking of hints, the anime adds a lot of shots of conspicuous Coeurl Express trucks driving around. I feel like there’s so many that they get a little heavy-handed, but maybe that’s just because I knew what was coming. Maybe for newer viewers, they’re a welcome clue that something really bad is about to go down.
… Do we have to talk about episode 19? It’s a complete filler episode, totally unrelated to the rest of the story. I’ve seen comparisons to the beach storyline in episodes 6-7, but they’re completely different. The earlier beach episodes still pushed the story forward by focusing heavily on developing the relationships between Yuuya, Yui, and Cryska. Even though they’re set at the beach for fanservice purposes, they’re still reasonably close to the tone of the rest of the series. This episode is just utter nonsense. The tone is dreadfully off – this is blatantly just a typical anime hot springs episode that has been dropped into a completely different show. It’s silly that all of these characters would go on this trip in the middle of the Blue Flag program, and the fact that the episode itself ridicules this logic doesn’t make it any better. What’s particularly sad is that it comes between episodes 18 and 20, which are both top-level episodes of the series.
When thinking back on this series, I often think of episode 18 as leading directly into the terrorist arc, forgetting this episode even exists. I advise everyone to do the same.
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Posted by type94