Muv-Luv Alternative: The Animation 06

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.

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One Response to Muv-Luv Alternative: The Animation 06

  1. invalidname says:

    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 think that’s exactly right, but it still leads back to a question of “who is this anime even for?” It can’t be for the new fans, who could only be baffled by all the references to story material they’ve never seen. But if it’s truly for the established fan base, the ones who will accept no changes from the source material, then it still doesn’t work because it feels like it’s just recreating bits from the VN without necessarily understanding or being particularly enthusiastic about them.

    I’d far prefer an adaptation that was determined to be a good anime in and of itself, taking whatever liberties it needs to with the source material. It worked for Rumbling Hearts, and (to me, at least) it worked for Schwarzesmarken; I’m sorely disappointed they didn’t trust themselves enough to do the same here.

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