Muv-Luv Alternative: The Animation 08

November 30, 2021

This episode wastes no time in taking us deep into our first truly serious storyline of the show, a full-on coup d’etat by a rogue military faction within the Japanese imperial forces. And I really mean it wastes no time – it launches straight into the story without any lead-in from the previous episodes. At the same time, though, it also pulls together many of the strands of foreshadowing that have been laid throughout the series. It brings back into the foreground the hints of dissatisfaction with the way the civilians have been treated by the government, which had been seeded in several episodes. It also brings back both Undersecretary Tamase and Chief Yoroi, and pays off the shady hints involving Kei over the last few episodes. Indeed, as Yoroi notes, all five of Takeru’s teammates are now deeply connected to this incident. That all gives this episode an extremely dark feel, in contrast with the relatively more lighthearted feel of the series so far, especially the last few episodes which have focused heavily on Takeru’s return to his original world.

But then, that’s the entire point of doing the episode this way, to shock Takeru – and the viewer – with a sudden, darker shift in tone. That’s how the story has always depicted Takeru’s growth – each time Takeru has matured as much as he can in his current status quo, the story exposes him to an even darker truth hiding beneath the surface. That’s what happened when Takeru was originally transported from his original world to this world, a world under attack by the BETA. And it happened again at the start of Alternative, when he was brought back to the beginning of this timeline, this time with the knowledge that the world was operating under a strict timeline, counting down to December 25 and the end of Alternative IV, which he had no idea about his first time around. And the launch of this coup d’etat is the next step in that process, as Takeru is exposed for the first time to the deep political divisions that govern this world, as well as the fact that his interventions in the timeline can have negative repercussions as well as positive.

Longtime readers of this blog will know that the complex political conflicts of this world are one of this franchise’s biggest draws for me, so it’s no surprise that this is exactly the kind of episode that I love. However, while Total Eclipse focused more on international relations, and Schwarzesmarken on the state of Cold War Germany, Alternative is set in Japan, and this political arc centers on Japanese domestic politics. Perhaps what’s most surprising to me is the extent to which the anime is being allowed to portray this storyline at all. Age has suggested before that the heavily political nature of this arc had scared off some of the previous potential sponsors for an Alternative anime. Just the very concept of a modern-day Japanese Empire is already fertile ground for potential controversy. So when the story also adds in a Japanese nationalistic coup d’etat attempt clearly inspired by similar real-life Japanese nationalistic coup d’etat attempts, you can see how people might get squeamish.

In that context, what is most important to this arc is Takeru’s position in the story. This particular episode, despite featuring a bloody coup, is actually really light on action. Instead, this is a very talky episode, dedicated mostly to laying out some of the philosophies of the various factions. You of course have Naoya Sagiri’s faction, the people responsible for the coup. The story also brings in Lieutenant Tsukuyomi, representing the Imperial Royal Guard, part of the upper echelon of the Japanese forces, which opposes the coup but is also fiercely loyal to the Empire and opposes outside intervention in the conflict. And you have the UN forces, who are not part of the Imperial forces and whose objectives may differ.

But Takeru stands apart from all of them, as he is not a true member of this country. Even the UN forces of Yokohama Base are largely Japanese. Meiya, of course, is the one who expresses the most sympathy for the rebels’ stated grievances. But even someone like Yuuko, who is supposed to be working for the greater good of the entire planet, can’t help but express her opinion in this episode as a Japanese citizen. Only Takeru is different. As Tsukuyomi notes, it’s inconceivable to her that a Japanese person could be so indifferent to outside intervention after seeing what America has done to Japan. But Takeru wasn’t around to experience any of that, so he’s incapable of seeing things from that perspective. Takeru is only concerned with saving the entire world from the BETA. He doesn’t understand or care about the political implications involved. When dealing with such a sensitive topic, it’s crucial that the audience come into this conflict through Takeru’s more neutral viewpoint. This will become even more important as the political arguments develop over the course of this arc.


Muv-Luv Alternative: The Animation 07

November 23, 2021

This will probably be a short one. After a fairly rocky start, this show has settled into a much more consistent and predictable level of quality, so I don’t feel like I have as much to say from episode to episode as I used to. This week’s episode is fairly straightforward, so we can get through it pretty quickly.

The majority of this episode belongs to Kasumi. After Takeru returns to the Alternative world, Yuuko reveals the secret to Kasumi’s backstory, which then allows Takeru to understand her better and grow closer to her. In fact, with this anime having been so fast-paced for so long, what stands out most is just how much time this episode is allowed to devote to Takeru and Kasumi’s long conversation. It’s the longest conversation Takeru has been depicted as having with anybody, not counting the largely expositional conversations he’s had with Yuuko. It’s yet another good sign that the anime is slowing down now that it’s through its setup phase, and is allowing scenes to play out a little more.

One thing I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet is just how much smaller Kasumi seems in the anime compared to the game. She’s remarkably shorter than I imagined her to be, but her face and her proportions in general are all smaller as well. She’s also a lot more expressive in the anime as well – while she still talks in the same somewhat monotone voice as in the game, she shows many more facial expressions in the anime. She’s pretty much always staring straight forward in the game; I can’t imagine her shifting her eyes like she does in this episode when she claims she’s not trying to make fun of Takeru. I actually think I like her more in the anime than in the game – she certainly feels like the only character that the anime has put a lot of thought into how to depict, beyond simply following the game.

This episode is also Sumika’s debut appearance outside of flashbacks, but with the episode’s heavy focus on Kasumi, and on the possible connection between Kasumi and Sumika, Sumika herself winds up feeling a little like she’s in Kasumi’s shadow this time around. It’s still a good scene that gets across how important Sumika is to Takeru, but by its very nature, it’s a very short scene where Takeru struggles to recapture his old relationship with her, having seen so much in the three years since he last saw her, so we don’t get to see much of what they’re usually like together. It’s a scene that, as far as the anime is concerned, is more relevant for how it affects Takeru than for actually introducing Sumika herself into the story.

The final section of the episode is devoted to setting up the show’s next major storyline. It starts with a few cutaways to characters within the Imperial Japanese Army, including Sayoko Komaki, the lead character from the anime’s first episode. Along with Komaki, these scenes also bring back the hints of unease with the Japanese government’s actions, which had been developed during the first episode as well. The scene of them walking through the refugee camp is a striking one, particularly because the images of the camp are original to the anime. While the manga (which the anime continues to follow fairly closely) first introduced this scene, the anime portrays the camp with far more detail and impact.

The episode then ends by setting up some of the major conflicts within Takeru’s Squad 207B, and the major one is between Takeru and Meiya. We’ve seen throughout this anime that Takeru’s goal is to change the future and push his own squad’s training forward, so he is elated by the news that a group of civilians has been evacuated from Mount Tengen. His internal monologue indicates that he and his squad were part of the evacuation team during the previous timeline – the anime doesn’t go into much more detail than that, other than a couple of quick flashes. That’s probably for the best, since I’ve been saying constantly that the anime needs to minimize those kinds of references – what actually happened in the previous timeline is not as important as the simple knowledge that they didn’t go on the mission this time. Meanwhile, we’ve seen glimpses of Meiya’s own concern for the welfare of the Japanese civilians during the BETA alert in episode 4, and this time around, she’s worried about the implication that the civilians may have been evacuated by force. That sets up a fight between the two of them over the righteousness of the evacuation. The argument itself goes by fairly quickly, and as this plotline is only introduced in the final minutes of the episode, it will obviously be followed up on in more detail later. In that sense, these last minutes of the episode can be considered more of a preview for where the next episodes are headed.

Muv-Luv Alternative: The Animation 06

November 15, 2021

With this episode, we officially move into the next stage of Muv-Luv Alternative’s story. We are now past the part of the story where Takeru retraces events he experienced during his last time through this world. Starting this episode, Takeru is now experiencing events that he has no prior knowledge of, and it immediately gives this episode a different feel from the ones that came before.

Perhaps appropriately, we kick things off with the introduction of Mikoto’s dad, who proceeds to list all the ways that Takeru has already changed this timeline, notably intervening in the BETA attack from Sadogashima and the HSST drop that coincided with the visit from Miki’s father. Seeing these events laid out at the beginning of the episode almost feels like the anime itself signaling to the viewer that it’s time to start expecting that these changes to the timeline will start affecting how the anime plays out.

The introduction of Mikoto’s dad is one of those things that will simply play differently between the original game and the anime. In the game, we’ve already had plenty of time to get to know Mikoto’s personality, and receive all sorts of hints about what kind of person Mikoto’s dad is. He’s an unseen character throughout the earlier chapters, and his reveal here is the payoff to a long series of insinuations about him. In the anime, not only have we not heard of him before, we haven’t even gotten to know Mikoto well enough to see how her dad reflects her own personality.

Instead, her dad’s introduction is more important in the anime for what it suggests about the future. We’ve heard before that all of the other members of Takeru’s squad have complicated family situations. The show then introduced Miki’s dad (a UN undersecretary) last episode, and it follows up by bringing in Mikoto’s dad (an Imperial intelligence agent) this episode. It is definitely a sign that the show is beginning to follow up on that thread, and that we’ll continue to explore those family situations in the upcoming weeks. And then, of course, there’s the message that Mikoto’s dad actually brings, the vast majority of which is currently incomprehensible to Takeru (and the viewer), but which is obviously foreshadowing for future events.

The rest of the episode is dedicated entirely to the storyline of trying to send Takeru back to his original world. And the way this storyline plays out in the anime helps illustrate just how much better the show flows now that we’ve moved past those early episodes. Before, the episodes were forced to juggle numerous storylines at once due to the fast pace at which it was trying to introduce the major elements of the story. Those storylines were also heavily dependent on Takeru’s knowledge of the previous timeline. Now that all of that early setup is complete, though, it’s able to build new storylines based on the existing knowledge that has been established within the anime, rather than knowledge from the previous timeline, making it much easier for the viewer to follow the story.

The actual return to Takeru’s original world is another moment that is built up to much more in the previous chapters of the game than in the anime, but unlike the introduction of Mikoto’s dad, I think the anime itself has laid enough groundwork that the moment still lands effectively. The show has used flashbacks to his relationship with Sumika to establish his nostalgia for his old world, and we can sympathize with his desire to return, even if we haven’t actually seen much of it. His talk with the Yuuko of the original world also makes clear how different she is from the Yuuko of the Alternative world – she’s much more friendly and encouraging, whereas Alternative Yuuko is more calculating.

Now that we’ve reached the halfway point of this first season, I think it’s fair to look back and evaluate how the anime has gone so far. My sense of it is that the anime has focused, for better and for worse, on being a good adaptation rather than on being a good show. When the source material works well, the anime has generally delivered a good rendition of it. But when the source material has needed adjustments (mostly due to having started with Alternative rather than the earlier chapters), the anime has generally failed to make those adjustments. It has consistently erred on the side of staying true to the original work, rather than trying to make the show more accessible to new viewers. As I’ve mentioned before, I think a lot of it is due to a fundamental belief within anime nowadays that fidelity to the original material is good, and changes to the original material are bad. I see that philosophy at work in this show’s early episodes – a philosophy that says that they only need to concern themselves with getting the original material onto the screen, without worrying about how it will play in the eyes of a new viewer.

The bad news is, that philosophy overwhelmingly affects the first few episodes (episodes 2-4), which are the episodes that make the most reference to the previous chapters of the game – and those are the episodes that will most affect a new viewer’s perception of the show. But the good news is, if you’ve managed to stay interested in the show through those episodes, then you’re over the hump. You’ve probably felt that the episodes that came afterwards (episodes 5-6) have been enormous improvements, and that’s not a coincidence. Now that the show’s setup phase is complete, it becomes far less important to adapt the story’s structure, and far more acceptable to simply put the original material onto the screen – and that’s playing much more to this anime’s strengths. So there’s every reason to think that this show is only going to improve even more from here, especially as the original material’s story is about to ramp up as well.

Muv-Luv Alternative: The Animation 05

November 7, 2021

The 5th episode of the Alternative anime is a milestone episode in some important ways. As I mentioned last time, the previous episode was the last to introduce a lot of characters and concepts from Takeru’s old experiences, which was a major factor in those early episodes feeling rushed and unsettled. Although this episode still focuses on events that mirror those of Takeru’s previous timeline, it is largely able to root them in terms of his present-day context, which goes a long way towards allowing the viewer to stay on the same page as the show itself. The result is that, for the first time, it feels like we’re watching an episode of the Alternative anime that flows the way it should, rather than getting bogged down in flashbacks and references to unseen events.

The first part of the episode focuses on the visit from Miki’s father, the UN undersecretary. It largely follows the same flow as the equivalent event in Unlimited (the previous chapter), meaning it’s basically the Alternative anime’s only look into Unlimited’s much more light-hearted sense of humor. Alternative itself generally doesn’t indulge in quite so broad comedy, and the anime seems to relish its one chance to go this over-the-top. Again, even though this event mirrors the one from Unlimited, the anime doesn’t play into that connection too much, allowing the scene to unfold solely based on what has already been presented in this timeline. The result is a much more enjoyable scene for new viewers.

The next part of the episode brings back the ticking clock that has been relegated to the background recently, the December 25th deadline. It also introduces a major new plot element, which is that the Yuuko in Takeru’s original world (the world of Extra) appears to have solved the very problem that this Yuuko is struggling with. Again, the episode seems to have decided to root the scene in terms of its implications to the current timeline, keeping the flashbacks to the relevant scene in Extra to a minimum. This is the section of the episode that feels a little too rushed, considering the weight of the revelation being presented. I would probably have spent a few more minutes on this scene, but the anime staff may have decided that they can spend more time on it later, since, as should be obvious from the importance of what was revealed, the show will double back to this plot point later.

The final part of the episode, which ends up forming the bulk of the episode, is the TSF mock battle between the members of 207B. It’s a definite highlight of the episode, being the first time we get an extended TSF sequence with our main characters. The first episode had a big TSF fight as well, but that episode depicted a huge battle which switched perspectives constantly. This fight scene is both longer, and focused on a smaller number of units. It’s a great showcase for Graphinica, the CG company working on this series.

What’s become clear, watching these early episodes, is that the anime has heavily de-emphasized characterizations for Takeru’s squadmates. For instance, in the game, the events in this episode had space to get to know Miki during her father’s visit, and Chizuru and Kei during the mock battle storyline, but the anime instead focuses more on the comedy in the former, and the TSF battle itself in the latter. Unfortunately, that may simply be an inevitable consequence of moving through the early plot so quickly. These first episodes clearly struggled to fit everything in, so the anime needed to figure out what to focus on and what to cut. In these last few episodes, what the anime has mostly chosen to focus on is Takeru himself, and the story revolving around his attempts to change the timeline. As a result, his teammates in 207B wind up getting pushed to the side. And the unfortunate reality is that if the anime is really struggling to include both in its limited runtime, then the correct choice is indeed to focus on Takeru, at the expense of his teammates.

Not all of that is the anime’s fault, though. The truth is that much of this is the result of the original Alternative game itself doing the same thing. In the game, Takeru’s teammates receive most of their character development in the game’s first two chapters, Extra and Unlimited. Having done so, Alternative then largely shoves them to the side, effectively demoting them from starring characters to more of a supporting cast, hoping that the player’s existing knowledge of them will carry them through without having to spend too much time on them in Alternative itself. In a very real sense, then, there isn’t much the anime can do with them, since the original Alternative game doesn’t leave much space in this section of the story to do anything with them.

So, this episode could have included some of the characterization that the game had, but it wouldn’t have brought those characters up to the level they were at in the game. Maybe a really strong anime adaptation could have gotten around this by modifying the early episodes even more to include more characterization moments, but those sorts of major changes seem beyond this anime. This anime seems to have decided to follow the Alternative game’s lead in demoting the lesser members of 207B to supporting characters, similar to Marimo, for example, or the Valkyries (who we got to see a little more of this episode). Like those other supporting characters, Takeru’s other teammates will continue to get their own strong emotional moments as the story goes on (particularly as this season concludes), but they are definitely not intended to be on the same level as the show’s actual main characters: Takeru, Meiya, Yuuko, Kasumi, and Sumika.

Speaking of Sumika, I’m actually warming up to how she works in this anime. In the game, she’s a character we already know and love, and we can’t wait to see her return. In the anime, she comes off a little differently. Now she’s a character we’ve seen brief glimpses of, enough to know that Takeru is close to her, but as the anime continues to stretch on without her, we start to look forward to her entering the story properly, so we can see exactly what kind of character she is. It’s a different kind of anticipation, but I actually think it’s starting to work. The brief moments we get with her, like Takeru remembering her at the tree on the hill at the start of this episode, do wonders in keeping people interested in her.

That scene, like several others in this episode (like Miki’s Haruhi pose, and the Valkyries scene), comes from Azusa Maxima’s Alternative manga adaptation, which I keep mentioning every week. In many ways, Maxima faced the same challenges in his manga adaptation that the anime does – while there were technically manga adaptations of Extra and Unlimited, Maxima didn’t draw them, nor were they particularly in-depth adaptations to begin with. So his Alternative manga also had to deal with the idea that there was no good way for a manga-only reader to have the correct context before reading it. I think scenes like the vision of Sumika at the hill were his way of trying to establish that context within the manga itself. In that sense, then, it’s a very wise idea for the anime to stick close to adapting the manga, since they can pick up on these sorts of ideas that Maxima put in to make the story work better without Extra and Unlimited.

Japanese/English Cast of Project Mikhail

November 2, 2021

Project Mikhail, the customizable TSF action game, is now available on Steam for Early Access!

. . . That’s not the point of this post.

What I really wanted to talk about was how the official website has now updated with the cast of the game. The Japanese cast is the same cast as the anime, meaning we can use the cast list to determine the new voices for characters who have yet to appear in the anime. The Japanese cast is:

Takeru Shirogane – Kouichi Kamiki
Sumika Kagami – Tomori Kusunoki
Meiya Mitsurugi – Karin Nanami
Chizuru Sakaki – Miku Itou
Kei Ayamine – Iori Saeki
Miki Tamase – Takako Tanaka
Mikoto Yoroi – Lynn
Kasumi Yashiro – Kanon Takao
Marimo Jinguuji – Sayumi Watabe
Yuuko Kouzuki – Ruriko Aoki
Irina Pyatkh – Hitomi Sasaki
Mana Tsukuyomi – Hirone Yanagisawa
Michiru Isumi – You Taichi
Mitsuki Hayase – Hibiku Yamamura
Haruka Suzumiya – Mana Hirata
Misae Munakata – Anna Yamaki
Touko Kazama – Azumi Waki
Akane Suzumiya – Ayasa Itou
Haruko Kashiwagi – Maria Noda
Surface Pilot 1 – Satoru Fujinami
Surface Pilot 2 – Izumi Chiba
Surface Pilot 3 – Kayu Machida
Surface Pilot 4 – Yuki Okada
Asfana Shepsut – Haruka Kitagaito
Isfana Nepherte – Misaki Shiode

However, even more interesting, to me, is the fact that the game is completely dubbed into English! The English cast is:

Takeru Shirogane – Stephen Fu
Sumika Kagami – Lindsay Shepard
Meiya Mitsurugi – Kira Buckland
Chizuru Sakaki – Brittany Lauda
Kei Ayamine – Elizabeth Maxwell
Miki Tamase – Emi Lo
Mikoto Yoroi – Sarah Williams
Kasumi Yashiro – Lindsay Shepard
Marimo Jinguuji – Daisy Guevara
Yuuko Kouzuki – Elizabeth Maxwell
Irina Pyatkh – Maureen Price
Mana Tsukuyomi – Natalie Van Sistine
Michiru Isumi – Morgan Laure
Mitsuki Hayase – Corey Petit
Haruka Suzumiya – Carrie Savage
Misae Munakata – Michelle Rojas
Touko Kazama – Michelle Rojas
Akane Suzumiya – Leah Clark
Haruko Kashiwagi – Tia Ballard
Surface Pilot 1 – Matt Shipman
Surface Pilot 2 – Emi Lo
Surface Pilot 3 – Michelle Rojas
Surface Pilot 4 – Matt Shipman
Asfana Shepsut – Kristen McGuire
Isfana Nepherte – Brittany Lauda

Although the website doesn’t list this information, the English cast members have been tweeting about their participation in the game, and it sounds like it was recorded at Studio Nano, a newer dubbing studio located in Dallas-Fort Worth. Obviously, they use a lot of local talent associated with Funimation, but like a number of newer studios, they are also able to record a lot of LA-based actors online.

Interestingly, they managed to get back Carrie Savage as Haruka and Leah Clark as Akane from the old KimiNozo dub. That’s a pleasant surprise, particularly Carrie Savage. I had the impression she wasn’t doing much anime/game stuff anymore, but maybe she’s still up for reprisals. It seems like they couldn’t get Colleen Clinkenbeard back as Mitsuki, which is a shame, since they were already going 2 for 3.

I don’t know how anybody can hear about Project Mikhail game being dubbed and not immediately wonder: could this mean the Alternative anime is getting an English dub as well? So let’s go over the points for and against that possibility:


  • Crunchyroll hasn’t announced official numbers or anything, but I think most people would assume Alternative is probably not doing great numbers for them.
  • Crunchyroll already announced a slate of dubs for the fall season, and Alternative isn’t on it.
  • Studio Nano hasn’t done any dubs with Crunchyroll yet, to the best of my knowledge.


  • Well, they literally just launched a game with an English dub, right? Usually it’s the other way around – if there’s an anime and a game being released in America, it’s much more common for the anime to be dubbed and the game to be left in Japanese.
  • According to the show’s end credits, Crunchyroll is on the production committee for the anime, so it would seem to me like they might have a greater-than-normal interest in producing a dub for the show.
  • Despite having announced a slate of dubs for the fall season, Crunchyroll seems to be suggesting at the end of the above article that they might have more dubbing news at Anime NYC. So maybe they’re not done announcing all their dubs yet?

Of course, I hope we get a dub for the show eventually – just like with the anime itself, I like to see different takes on the same material, regardless of whether it turns out good or bad.

Anyway, that was a lot of talk about English dubbing, so let’s close out with another, more esoteric topic. See those names at the bottom of the cast list, Asfana and Isfana? They’re original characters in Project Mikhail (whose role in the game I don’t know – I haven’t actually played the game yet, sorry). But they sounded very familiar, so I thought and thought and thought, and finally I remembered: their names are, I believe, references to characters in Age’s old game Kaseki no Uta. For those who don’t know, Kaseki no Uta takes place on a distant planet in the distant future. Age and Kouki Yoshimune have also hinted that the game may or may not actually take place in the far future of Muv-Luv Alternative’s timeline. There are certain words and terminology that they chose to include in Alternative to hint at the possibility of such a thing.

The name Project Mikhail is itself a reference to Kaseki no Uta – Mikhail is a very mysterious and important word that appears in the game. Does this mean that Project Mikhail is heavily related to Kaseki no Uta? There was an interview with one of the developers where he basically said, not really, it was just an Easter egg since he was a fan of Kaseki no Uta. You’re free to decide how much you believe him – personally, I haven’t made up my mind yet on the subject. I will say that the apparent premise of Project Mikhail is not a million miles away from the truth behind the Mikhail of Kaseki no Uta.

Kaseki no Uta also had two other characters named Astana and Isphana – those names don’t match the Project Mikhail characters directly, but they’re obviously close enough that they must be intentional references. That said, the Project Mikhail characters look (and presumably act) completely different from the ones in Kaseki no Uta, so that I really could buy as just an Easter egg with no greater significance.

If Project Mikhail winds up actually having some plot significance with Kaseki no Uta, I’m sure I’ll end up explaining the context. For now, I guess we’ll just have to see where its story goes.