Anime Rewatch 2021: Total Eclipse 11-12

September 15, 2021

Original Post

Much of these two episodes is padded out with the inclusion of the anime-original character Corporal Yamamoto, so it’s almost inevitable that this post will largely revolve around him. In the original novels, Yui is alone when she returns to the hangar to destroy the Type-99 cannon. In the anime, Corporal Yamamoto, a mechanic on the team, hangs back and winds up assisting Yui in trying to destroy the cannon. This expands the Soviet arc quite a bit, as Yamamoto’s new anime-original scenes dominate the second half of episode 11 and the first half of episode 12.

There are other anime-original scenes that expand the Soviet arc even more, such as new scenes of Yifei and Bao-Feng Flight (in the novels, they were introduced later in the Blue Flag arc, and were only indicated through dialogue to have been present during the Russia mission), as well as several flashbacks, of Yui’s trainee days in episode 12 and (skipping forward a bit) of Kyoko in episode 13. I like all of these additions to the universe, but in retrospect, I’m not sure it was such a good idea to stretch out the Soviet arc this much. Part of that is because I think Total Eclipse is best as a quieter, character-focused story, and while the Soviet arc does push Yuuya’s character forward in important ways, overall I find this arc to be one of the weaker ones, and having to go through so many episodes of it is kind of a slog. I dunno – if you’re more into the life-and-death battles with the BETA, maybe you might appreciate having more time spent on this arc.

I do like the idea of giving Yui an epilogue to the Kyoto story, by allowing her to put Yamamoto out of his misery after having failed to do so for Yamashiro. I appreciate that follow-up, giving Yui that closure. Is that really worth the equivalent of an entire episode to set up? I’m not sure.

The Total Eclipse anime wound up adding a number of new ideas and scenes to the story, and the game adaptation that came after incorporated pretty much all of them (although the game was already in production at the time, so it’s hard to say what was truly anime-original and what was already planned to be in the game and got incorporated into the anime during development). Yamamoto’s appearance here, surprisingly, is not included – I suspect it’s because, as I said, Yamamoto’s story is intended as an epilogue to the Kyoto story, and that story wasn’t included in the original release of the game.

That said, sometime late in development, the game devs got the idea of including a special nod to Corporal Yamamoto. Although Yamamoto does not appear in the game itself (like in the novels, Yui is alone in the hangar in the game), there is a specific nameless, faceless mechanic who appears several times in the game, during Yui-centric scenes. This character is supposed to be just some minor grunt character, but the creators decided to cast Taishi Murata, who played Yamamoto in the anime, to play this role. Neither the dialogue nor the in-game text box identifies the character, but the end credits do indeed list Murata’s role as Yamamoto. So this character, apparently, is a version of Yamamoto who did not stay behind at the hangar and wound up surviving.

Anime Rewatch 2021: Total Eclipse 8-10

September 14, 2021

Original Post

My impressions of these episodes haven’t changed much since I wrote the original post, so this will probably be pretty short. These three episodes comprise the first part of the Soviet arc, with the highlight being episode 9, Yuuya’s first battle with the BETA. As a smaller, character-focused story, this show doesn’t get to show off a lot of big hero moments, so Yuuya’s firing of the Type-99 cannon is definitely the biggest one we get. It’s a great scene that stands out as one of the most memorable of the series. Later episodes will put this accomplishment in more context regarding who does or doesn’t deserve credit for it, but the episode itself is allowed to end with Yuuya scoring his biggest win.

As for the other two episodes, episode 8 is more of an introduction to this arc. The extended conversation between Yuuya and Yui is definitely the highlight. This is the first time in the series that they are shown talking to each other like real human beings. Some of it is due to their shared experience on the island, some of it is just the passage of time – according to the calendar, it’s now been three months since they started working together. Now that they both feel that they are actually on the same team, they work really well together, and it’s easy to see why their feelings start to change, with Yuuya coming to see Yui as someone he looks up to, and Yui feeling something more.

Episode 10 is just a real talky episode. Some of it is good stuff – the first half generally focuses on Yuuya growing as a person, and it largely works. The second half is pretty much just political maneuvering, and it kind of drags. I mentioned in my old post that this episode adapts the entire third novel of the original series, which I had forgotten about. That alone illustrates one of Yoshimune’s great weaknesses as a writer, which is that he lets these talky scenes drag on forever. There is some room for that kind of thing in a novel or game (depending on the reader), but not in an anime. In my old post, I said this episode does a good job of cutting these scenes down, which I still think is basically true, but it honestly could have cut them down even a little more. The upcoming Alternative anime is going to have to deal with adapting these kinds of scenes too, hopefully finding ways to cut them down as well, so good luck to the staff on that.

Anime Rewatch 2021: Total Eclipse 6-7

September 9, 2021

Original Post

Well, it’s a pair of beach episodes. And for all that, I think they’re actually still pretty good. Yeah, there’s a little fanservice, but the vast majority of this arc is spent telling a surprisingly serious story. The focus is on establishing the relationships between Yuuya, Yui, and Cryska. Especially for Yuuya and Yui, this is an opportunity for them to have an experience outside of being superior officer and subordinate. Yui still tries to assert her rank some, but it quickly becomes obvious that this is not a situation that Yui can order her way out of.

Total Eclipse is largely a story about Yuuya and Yui coming to understand each other, and with the previous arc wrapping up with Yuuya getting a glimpse of Yui’s frame of mind, this story is a way to flip things around by allowing Yui to get a glimpse into Yuuya’s past. Later in the Blue Flag arc, Yifei will call Yui out for never making the effort to understand Yuuya, so it’s notable that this instance of it is basically involuntary – she overhears Yuuya explaining his backstory to Cryska, rather than taking proactive steps to find out.

As for Cryska, this is an opportunity for her to interact with Yuuya in person, rather than through a TSF or pointing a gun at him. Establishing a relationship between the two here helps the story through the next arc, as the characters travel to Russia.

… This story really doesn’t need to be two episodes. It would have been perfectly fine as a single episode. That seems to be a simple case of pandering, except there’s surprisingly little pandering going on. Seeing how many boob gags were added in the previous set of episodes, I would have expected the series to go all out at the beach. But instead, the runtime is mostly padded out with long pans of the three leads after getting stranded. It’s kind of restrained, keeping the focus on the characters rather than beach mishaps. Not that I’m complaining, see.

Anime Rewatch 2021: Total Eclipse 3-5

September 8, 2021

Original Post

Rewatching these episodes now, what stands out to me most is how much the anime-original Imperial Capital Burns arc may affect the experience of watching this show for first-time viewers. Because I had already been immersed in this story from reading the novels, I understood that the purpose of the first two episodes was to introduce the general world of Muv-Luv before settling in to the actual story of Total Eclipse. Now that I’m coming back to it with fresh eyes, I can see how obvious it is that those first two episodes somewhat unfairly set up the expectation that this is going to be a blood-soaked, action-packed story, when it is actually a much quieter, character-focused story. I think that’s a real shame, because I love the character work that goes into defining Yuuya and Yui in these early episodes.

The other thing that those two opening episodes do is place the viewer’s focus completely on Yui. She’s the star of the series for those first two episodes, so the first-time viewer’s sympathies likely stay with her for this arc as well. I think that can really hurt the viewer’s acceptance of these episodes, because it’s critical in evaluating Yuuya and Yui that the viewer focuses on them equally. In the original novels, the story is told from a third-person perspective, which allows the reader to understand both characters at the same time. The anime, by opening with Yui’s backstory, places too much emphasis on her. This is especially clear when several of the arguments between Yuuya and Yui are accompanied by flashbacks to those first two episodes in order to drive home Yui’s point. For the anime viewer, this makes it almost impossible to assign Yuuya’s viewpoint the same weight as Yui’s. The game version that was released after the anime helps restore balance by starting the game with both a Yui prologue and a Yuuya prologue, which helps define both characters from the beginning and establishes early on that the two characters are of equal importance to the story. The Yuuya prologue consists of the flashback sections from episode 18 of the anime, including the death of his squadron leader, and if, for example, these early episodes had included those kinds of flashbacks as well, that could have helped balance out Yui’s flashbacks.

Of course I love those first two episodes and what they add to the universe, but I can’t help but think now that there are some real downsides to including them as the opening arc of this anime, which wasn’t fully appreciated by the anime staff. I don’t know what I would recommend they should have done in hindsight. Maybe, like the game does, they should have included an additional episode for Yuuya’s backstory as well, before diving into the actual story of Total Eclipse.

The other thing that frustrates me about these episodes, watching them again, is the emphasis on typical anime gags. Stuff like Valerio showering in the women’s area, Tarisa getting dressed in a cat maid outfit, and of course, numerous gags about boobs. The setting of Total Eclipse is, of course, more relaxed than on the front lines, but these are supposed to be adults, and these cheap anime laughs make them look like kids. This lighter tone spills over into how it portrays military discipline. As I mentioned in my old post, in the novel and game versions, Ibrahim actually slugs Yuuya at one point for not showing proper respect to Yui, his superior officer. Nobody ever seems to discipline Yuuya for mouthing off in the anime, which adds to the sense that military discipline is more lax here.

Luckily, my memory of the anime is that these kinds of anime antics are confined to this set of episodes only (aside from another anime-original hot springs episode later on that is even worse). The next major story arc ships the characters off to Russia, and by the time they return for the Blue Flag arc, they’re behaving much closer to how I expect them to. Possibly that may be due to the change in director as well.

I still love the character work for Yuuya and Yui done in these episodes. But you have to look past quite a bit of anime-original messiness to get there.

Anime Rewatch 2021: Total Eclipse 1-2

September 6, 2021

Original Post

Now we’re getting into stuff that I’ve already blogged about, so hopefully these should be shorter. For the rest of this series, I’ll include a link at the top to the post I made when these episodes originally aired, so check that out for more detailed information. I’ll try to avoid repeating stuff I went over originally.

This is, of course, the original two-part story developed specifically for the anime to introduce new viewers to the world of Muv-Luv. It was originally intended to be only a single episode, but the script became so massive that it could’ve accommodated four whole episodes, so the decision was made to devote two episodes to it instead. Eventually, original creator Kouki Yoshimune wrote an entire novel based on the original concept, which was offered as a reward to everybody who bought all of the Blu-ray releases. And a few years after that, they turned that novel into its own game, which was bundled with the PC release of the Total Eclipse game. (Unfortunately it sounds like we might not be getting it bundled with the English release.) Most of the new additions that were made to the novel and the game are heavily political in nature. They flesh out the current political situation in Japan to a far greater degree than we’ve seen up to this point. We also get much more focus on the five regent houses and their various relationships.

I mentioned in my original post that the structure of the story is similar to the Chronicles story Confessions, another story about Imperial trainees. Now that Confessions is available in English, I think fans should be able to see how this story is pretty clearly patterned on that one. They even include a similar orange coloring on the Gekishins marking them as trainee machines.

Although the story is supposed to be targeted to new viewers, we nonetheless get cameos from Yuuhi, as well as Captains Ozawa and Abe (who Muv-Luv fans may recognize from Operation 21st). In addition, the Total Eclipse Design Archive, a collection of lineart from the anime, includes a design for Yuuko, suggesting that at one point she was up for consideration for a cameo as well.

After these episodes originally aired, some fans questioned whether or not Instructor Sanada was related to Saki Sanada and Hisanobu Sanada from the fanclub game Haruko Maniax. To be honest, I kind of suspect he wasn’t originally planned to be – Sanada is a fairly common name, especially since many of the names in this story are intentionally steeped in Japanese history. But whether or not it was originally planned, it seems like the fan response moved Age to confirm in the game version that they are indeed related.

There was a lot of discussion at the time over who piloted the blue Takemikazuchi at the end. As I mentioned in my original post, the only existing characters who were a part of the five regent houses and thus qualified to pilot a blue TSF were Yuuhi and Ikaruga. It turned out to be a completely new character, Kyoko Takatsukasa, who would go on to make a (very) brief appearance in episode 13. She gets fleshed out much more in the novel and game versions of this story, establishing both her existing relationship with Yui and her role in contemporary Japanese politics. She turns out to be a nice character, but a part of me still wishes it was Yuuhi in that Takemikazuchi. To be honest, I feel like giving her a cameo earlier in the story is a deliberate red herring for long-time Muv-Luv fans – why is she in this story at all if not to foreshadow that?

Anime Rewatch 2021: Kimi ga Nozomu Eien: Next Season

September 3, 2021

Sorry, but I don’t have many nice things to say about this one.

From what I understand, this OVA was the result of Bandai Visual wanting to salvage something after having obtained the license to make a Muv-Luv anime and then having the project fall through. So they went back to the well to make another KimiNozo anime instead, this time centering on Haruka’s route instead of Mitsuki’s. They had originally intended to make a straight adaptation of Haruka’s route from the game, but Age talked them out of it, on the basis that the Haruka route shares too much in common with the Mitsuki route that had already been animated (and keep in mind that the old anime also adapted several plot points from the Haruka route as well).

Instead, they came up with the idea of creating a new story, set after the Haruka route. Age wrote out the basic plotline and provided it to the anime staff, which then fleshed it out into a 4-episode OVA. Age would also go on to adapt that basic plotline into its own afterstory route, alongside other afterstory routes for both Mitsuki and Akane, and released a new version of the game with these new routes, labeled “Latest Edition”. This new version of the game also updated the entire game to use the AGES graphics engine that was developed for Muv-Luv.

The fundamental problem with the OVA is that there is absolutely no need for a story set after the ending of Haruka’s route to begin with, and the show struggles to find a reason for one. The basic plot of the OVA is that Haruka breaks up with Takayuki because… he’s being too good of a boyfriend? I think the idea is that Haruka, having been asleep for 3 years, is scared that Takayuki has matured so much more than she has, but the show utterly fails to convey that in a compelling manner that justifies spending 4 episodes on it. The characters instead sit around moping, and at the end, Haruka decides she was wrong, and simply calls Takayuki up and gets back together with him. Takayuki himself is almost completely removed from this entire process – Haruka decides on the breakup on her own, then gets back together with him on her own. Takayuki pretty much just decides to keep on doing what he’s doing for the entire OVA, and waits for Haruka to change her mind.

The way the story unfolds seems to cast Haruka as the lead character, since she’s the one who makes the major decisions that drive the story, but the OVA then undermines that by shifting the focus off her for most of the story. The OVA is structured to focus on Haruka in the first episode, Mitsuki in the second episode, and Akane in the third episode, before returning to Haruka in the final episode. So because Haruka is the lead character, that renders the middle two episodes essentially worthless in terms of moving the story forward. Episode 2 is particularly bad, as the entire point of Haruka’s route is that Mitsuki moves away to avoid any interaction with the other lead characters, so her episode is just her narrating the events of Haruka’s route to her random friend who we’ve never seen before. I also can’t help but notice that her description of Haruka’s route is a little self-serving, as it completely skips over the part where she turned into a crazy person. (You can still see a little of it in Akane’s flashback in episode 3.) On the plus side, she does offer a summary of the missing 3 years that is closer to the game, so you can compare it to the TV anime’s version and see just how much more melodramatic that version was.

Akane’s episode is a little better, since Akane is actually allowed to interact with the other leads. We get to spend more time getting to know Akane, including the obligatory cameo from Chizuru, but ultimately it doesn’t lead to anything – it can’t, since Haruka is the only one capable of moving the story forward. This episode also has the most cop-out cliffhanger imaginable, as Haruka collapses again after Akane yells at her – in the next episode, she gets back up immediately and continues on as if nothing ever happened. She doesn’t even check in with the hospital about it.

The final scene of the story, with Takayuki successfully meeting Haruka at the meeting place from 3 years ago, is nice, if a little cheesy. It’s abundantly clear, though, that the story was created by coming up with that scene first, and then trying to work backwards to figure out a compelling reason for them to reunite there. They clearly didn’t work hard enough, because the moment doesn’t feel earned at all.

I continue to be baffled at what led the creative staff to make this story. I’m not a big Haruka fan, but it seems to me that if I were, this isn’t the story I would want to see animated. What I would want to see is the story where Takayuki meets Haruka on time 3 years ago, avoiding the accident and concluding with a happy ending for everybody. That’s the story that was included in the KimiNozo fandisc, and from the moment this OVA was announced, I was sure that that was the story they were going to be adapting. The original anime crammed the entire high school story into only two episodes, so I thought there was plenty of material that was originally skipped over that an OVA could cover. Four episodes that adapt the game more faithfully, ending with Takayuki and Haruka going on a successful date. Doesn’t that sound great? Why did we get this instead? I don’t understand that now any better than I did back when this was first released.

Anime Rewatch 2021: Ayu-Mayu Theater

September 2, 2021

Now here’s a weird one. Ayu-Mayu Theater started out as little skits that would run at the end of an episode of Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, where a next episode trailer would usually run. They were comedic shorts that had little if anything to do with the actual KimiNozo episode. They ran at the end of episodes 3-13 of KimiNozo, and then returned for episodes 2-3 of AkaMani. The final episode ended with a gag suggesting that the show’s director (as depicted in the show) actually intended to create a full Ayu-Mayu Theater series. So now comes an actual Ayu-Mayu Theater series, picking up where that episode left off.

This series has a very strange release history. The “prologue” episode #0 was included in Age’s Comiket release, previewing the upcoming series. The first four short episodes were then streamed on Age’s KimiNozo Radio website once a month. Afterwards, they released a full DVD of the entire series, including the prologue episode #0, the four episodes that were streamed, and three other episodes that were never shown. It’s usually described as a “web anime”, which is kind of true? Only half of the episodes in the full release were ever streamed though.

As I mentioned, it streamed exclusively on Age’s own KimiNozo Radio site, so it was targeted only to Age’s most diehard fans, and you can tell by the content. It’s composed almost entirely of in-jokes and obscure references, most of which probably fly over most English-speaking fans’ heads. Perhaps most importantly, even though it was never advertised as such, it contains numerous in-depth, spoilery references to Muv-Luv Alternative, which had only been released earlier that year. In fact, it could be said that the number of references to Alternative in what is supposed to be an Ayu/Mayu series reflects what Age fans in late 2006 would have wanted – having waited 3 years for Alternative to come out, we definitely still had Alternative on the brain at the time. It cannot be stressed enough that this series spoils so much of Alternative that it should be watched only after completing that game.

I usually spend most of my time on these posts going through a thematic analysis of the story, but of course this is just a bunch of short skits with no story, so instead, we’ll just go through some of the more obscure references. Episode 0 features the conflict between Ayu and Meiya. In fact, there is an entire conflict in the KimiNozo/Muv-Luv universe between the Daikuuji and Mitsurugi companies, with both competing in a wide variety of businesses. Ayu and Meiya are themselves apparently well acquainted with each other as well. This conflict is pretty much only ever hinted at and teased in Age’s actual works. Throughout Muv-Luv Extra, Meiya always makes a bit of a face or pouts whenever the Daikuujis’ Sky Temple restaurant from KimiNozo is brought up. She seems frustrated that Takeru and his friends seem to be such big fans of the Sky Temple, and she seems to interpret that to mean that the Mitsurugis’ family restaurant division isn’t doing enough to reach the common man. In the fanclub-exclusive game Daikuuji Kiki-Ippatsu, Meiya actually accompanies Takeru and Sumika into the Sky Temple in one scene. Ayu spots her and immediately ducks out of sight, afraid to let Meiya see her working in the restaurant. Episode 0 of this series actually features what I believe is the first extended conversation we’ve ever seen between the two, as Ayu taunts Meiya over having received her own series. To be honest, this conflict between the two is something I’ve always wanted to see more of, and in some ways I find the interaction between these two to be the highlight of the entire series for giving me more of that.

Episode 4 features Radhabinod calling out for “Fuguta-kun”. International fans may not realize this, but Radhabinod’s voice actor, Norio Wakamoto, is most famous in Japan for his role as Anago in Sazae-san, and the way he says “Fuguta-kun” (one of the show’s main characters) is one of his most recognizable lines.

Episode 6 features the original lead characters from Age’s fanclub-exclusive games. Everyone will recognize Jouji Gouda from Akane Maniax, of course. The other guy, Jun Ibuki, is the lead character from Daikuuji Kiki-Ippatsu. Just as Akane Mainax featured Gouda chasing after a largely-indifferent Akane, Daikuuji Kiki-Ippatsu tells much the same story with Jun chasing after Ayu. And just as the game version of Akane Maniax centered around an extended parody of Tekkaman, Daikuuji Kiki-Ippatsu centers around an extended parody of Saint Seiya, with Jun using his “Nayuta” (Saint Seiya term: Cosmo) to transform into a “Sakimori” (Saint Seiya term: Saint). And just as Akane Maniax went big in getting veteran actor Tomokazu Seki to voice the lead, Daikuuji Kiki-Ippatsu gets even more veteran actor Nobuo Tobita to voice Jun. This is Jun’s only anime appearance, so it’s nice to see the two of them sharing the screen. Easily the other highlight of this series.

The special “SP” episode features a showdown between Ayu and the 00 Unit. The 00 Unit has her Susano-O Mk IV, but Ayu’s mech might look unfamiliar. It’s the Hinokagutsuchi from Ayu-Mayu Alternative, a fanclub-exclusive game that depicts the characters from their earlier game Daikuuji Kiki-Ippatsu in a non-canon version of the Alternative world. Both the Hinokagutsuchi and Ayu’s fortified suit from this sequence come from that game. However, Ayu-Mayu Alternative actually hadn’t come out yet at the time that this show was released. They had already announced the game, but like all things Muv-Luv, it got massively delayed and didn’t come out until after Ayu-Mayu Theater (they eventually suggested that part of the reason for the delay was because they were now a “serious” company that needed to work with sponsors for a possible anime deal, and they were told that for the sake of maintaining good relationships, they could stand to tone down the parody elements that their fanclub games were known for).

When the first 4 episodes were streamed online, they actually came with their own ending credits, with the Ayu-Mayu Theater theme song playing over some cute SD drawings unique to each episode. These drawings were cut from the home video release, as all of the episodes were stitched together with only one ending sequence playing with full animation at the end. As far as I know, the web versions with the original ending sequences aren’t available anywhere.

The ending theme itself was actually released on CD with an accompanying music video, featuring the KimiNozo cast as cameos. At the time, most of the KimiNozo cast (specifically the actors for Takayuki, Haruka, Mitsuki, Akane, Ayu, and Mayu) recorded a weekly radio show called KimiNozo Radio that was streamed online every week, and was actually fairly popular – popular enough that the program continued, in various formats, all the way until 2010 (keep in mind the anime ended in 2004). Ayu-Mayu Theater streamed on the KimiNozo Radio website, and arguably it was only made because of KimiNozo Radio’s popularity in the first place.

All in all, I enjoyed it for what it was, keeping in mind that what it was was not much of anything.

Anime Rewatch 2021: Akane Maniax

August 31, 2021

Now that we’re done with Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, let’s move on to Akane Maniax. Akane Maniax started out as a special 5-part mini-game that was included in 5 issues of adult game magazine Tech Gian. It’s set after KimiNozo, and its purpose was to introduce players who had just finished KimiNozo to the world of Muv-Luv (which they had originally intended to release later that year). Eventually the 5 parts were collected into a single game, and released as Age’s first fanclub-exclusive game, now with full voice-acting (the original Tech Gian releases were unvoiced).

If you’ve only seen the AkaMani anime, you might be surprised to learn that the original game version is even more wacky and wild. That’s because the game, much like the KimiNozo game, strictly follows the first-person perspective of its main character, in this case the completely nutso Jouji Gouda. By contrast, the KimiNozo anime introduced the concept of Mitsuki as a POV character to great effect, and here, it does the same thing for Akane. The game version of Akane is simply a MacGuffin for Gouda to pine over – the anime, by introducing Akane’s perspective, can dig much more deeply into her own issues. The end result is that the AkaMani anime is much more sentimental than the game ever attempts to be.

As I mentioned in the KimiNozo posts, the AkaMani anime takes the time to more properly depict aspects of Akane that the KimiNozo anime kind of glossed over. The game doesn’t really bother, in large part because Akane’s true feelings are properly addressed in the KimiNozo game, both in Mitsuki’s route and in Akane’s own route. So there isn’t really anything left ambiguous for the game player. But because the anime stopped short of going into Akane’s issues in full, there’s room here to explore that space. In that sense, AkaMani actually becomes something of an epilogue to KimiNozo, with some material that is well worth experiencing, whereas the game version of AkaMani is pretty much completely throwaway material.

Even on Gouda’s side, the anime radically changes up the kind of crazy stuff that he actually gets into. The game leans heavily into a parody of Tatsunoko’s old Tekkaman anime. He still relies heavily on Yuuko for advice and direction, just like in the anime, but he also takes advice from a PE teacher named Andorou Umeda, a parody of a Tekkaman character named Andro Umeda. He also clashes with another student, the improbably-named Takeo Takeo, who serves as the school festival committee member for Class 3-D alongside Akane. In what the game has the cheek to declare its “true end”, the parody comes full circle as Umeda reveals that aliens are invading and that Gouda must fight them off. Takeo then transforms into the robot Takes, a parody of the Tekkaman robot Pegas, and Gouda then climbs inside and transforms into the superhero Tekkumen and flies off while a parody of the Tekkaman theme song plays in the background. In the anime, Takeo does not appear directly, but Akane briefly mentions him in episode 1 as the person who will likely serve on the committee with her. Umeda does not appear in the anime at all, although he does appear in the special trailer for the anime (itself a shot-for-shot parody of the Char’s Counterattack trailer).

Gouda does look up to one other person in the game, and that is Mikoto from Muv-Luv. Mikoto saves him from drowning in the ocean while Gouda was trying to practice swimming. In return, Gouda practically worships him as the Emissary of Gaia, while Mikoto, in typical Mikoto fashion, neither knows nor cares what exactly Gouda is doing with him. His interactions with Mikoto are completely cut from the anime, but you can still catch glimpses of it in dialogue in Muv-Luv Extra.

The anime does away with all of this, particularly the Tekkaman stuff, and depicts the insanity surrounding Gouda as a delusion of a generic super robot story. As Gouda gets to learn more about Akane, his opponent begins to take shape as a parody of Takayuki himself. This, surprisingly, helps establish some structure to his delusions in the anime, whereas in the game he could be all over the place. As I said, even though the anime looks silly and random, the anime staff have actually put in quite a lot of effort to forge the original game into something more coherent.

Let’s talk a little about the casting. Gouda is voiced by Tomokazu Seki, and while they only appear in the game, Umeda is voiced by Yuuji Ueda and Takeo is voiced by Hiroyuki Yoshino. These are really big, mainstream names, considering this is a pretty disposable fanclub-exclusive game. At the time, voiced adult games were just getting started, and did not feature recognizable names (none of the KimiNozo voices were very well-known at the time that game originally came out). Even though Akane Maniax was not an adult game, it was still made by an adult game maker, was set in the same world as other adult games, and was originally serialized in an adult game magazine. I remember it was considered a very big deal at the time to land names as big as this, especially because all of them used their real names on the project rather than pseudonyms.

Did you know where Gouda’s name came from? His given name, Jouji, is the same as the lead character in Tekkaman, continuing the Tekkaman parody, so nothing surprising there. But his family name, Gouda, actually comes from Tech Gian itself. Tech Gian is commonly nicknamed “Gouda” by Japanese fans, as a reference to the Doraemon character Gian, whose real name is Takeshi Gouda. So Gouda’s name is actually a reference to the magazine that originally serialized the game.

Seeing the final Ayu-Mayu section of the OVA is a little bittersweet. Age has basically confirmed that there were indeed plans to follow up Akane Maniax with a full Muv-Luv adaptation, just as the Ayu-Mayu section implies, but the project fell through. Seeing this section again after all this time, just a few weeks before an actual Alternative anime is about to premiere, brings back a lot of emotion for me. I’m sad that many of the people who should have been a part of this, like director Tetsuya Watanabe and the old cast, won’t be there. But I wish the actual cast and staff of the Alternative anime the best, and hope they’re making something amazing.

Anime Rewatch 2021: Kimi ga Nozomu Eien 12-14

August 29, 2021

It’s the end of the road for KimiNozo, and there’s a lot to talk about, but can I start by saying it’s just like Takayuki to end episode 11 whispering Mitsuki’s name to nobody, then start episode 12 by whispering Haruka’s name to Mitsuki. Wouldn’t these final episodes have been so much simpler if he could just manage to do those in the right order?

So, the big development in episode 11 for Mitsuki’s side is her breaking up with Takayuki. And the hell of it is that, even at the beginning of this episode, Mitsuki still seems to have had some hope left. As she herself says, it’s the fact that Takayuki doesn’t get mad at her having slept with Shinji that seems to be the final straw. If Takayuki can’t even show an emotional response after she’s gone that far, then what is left of their relationship? But what Mitsuki doesn’t realize is that Takayuki doesn’t get mad because he feels he no longer has the right to. He knows that he’s the one who pushed Mitsuki to this point. It’s a tragic scene, where both sides know they’ve done wrong, and are merely waiting for the other side to get mad. But the relationship is dying, because neither side feels they have the right to make the first move to save it.

This would be the point where Takayuki would try to escape the reality of the present-day by going to Haruka to immerse himself in the past, but he can’t even do that anymore, so it’s back to the Sky Temple for him. It’s clear by this point that the Sky Temple is another place for Takayuki to escape from reality, and Shinji calls him out on it in this episode, but there’s more to it than that. Did you ever notice that while at the Sky Temple, Takayuki engages in a lot of arguing and banter with a loudmouthed, long-haired girl, while being kind to and taking care of a clumsy, short-haired girl? No less than the game’s creator himself, Kouki Yoshimune, pointed that out on his live stream once – somewhere deep inside, Takayuki subconsciously behaves at the Sky Temple the same way he did in high school. Much like visiting Haruka at the hospital, his job at the Sky Temple makes him feel like he’s returned to the past, when life’s problems could be resolved with a simple punchline, and he doesn’t have to deal with the issues waiting for him outside. So although the Sky Temple setting can sometimes feel superfluous, it actually furthers the show’s central metaphor of nostalgia and yearning for the past.

Speaking of the past, over on Haruka’s side of the story, Haruka manages to wake up again, this time fully able to understand the amount of time that has passed since the accident. Throughout the series, Haruka has represented the past – everybody who interacts with her must return to the past and shut out the true events of the present. Over time, our lead characters, Takayuki and Mitsuki, become trapped by the past due to Haruka’s presence. In a way, then, by awakening this time with full awareness of the present, Haruka becomes the first of the three to break free of the past and begin to move forward.

Moving ahead to episode 13, then, the first thing I notice as the episode starts is that we’ve completely skipped over the moment when Takayuki first meets Haruka after her awakening – we begin the episode with the two of them already talking. That seems a little disappointing, since the entire show seemed to be building up to the true reunion between the two, without having to hide the truth. In fact, what strikes me on rewatching this episode is how much I wish we had gotten to see more of this version of Haruka. We really only get this one episode, and maybe half of the final episode.

I’ve mentioned before how only Takayuki and Mitsuki seem to be real characters in the story – Haruka, lying in bed and unable to understand the truth, doesn’t have enough agency to drive the story in the same way. Now that Haruka is fully aware of the true passage of time, we’re finally getting to know Haruka as a character. She slaps Mitsuki when Mitsuki reveals the truth of their relationship, she shows her strength in going through therapy, and then she shows her weakness that night while lying in bed. That final scene is honestly the first time we get to dig into Haruka’s hidden emotions – and it only appears in the show in order to further Takayuki’s story. It really drives home the fact that this is truly Takayuki’s and Mitsuki’s story – developing Haruka into a character in her own right is simply not a priority.

Let’s talk about that slap a little. There’s a similar slap in Mitsuki’s route in the game, but the context is completely different. Most importantly, in that version, Mitsuki is actually the one who slaps Haruka, for insinuating that everybody else had it easy while Haruka is the only one who suffered. In the anime, Haruka slaps Mitsuki for confessing that she and Takayuki had been dating – and, I think, for trying to shift all of the blame onto herself. What I think is most interesting about the contrast between the two is that in the game, Mitsuki was still strong enough to stick up for herself and Takayuki. She’s clearly had a rough time of it, but even so, she was still on speaking terms with Takayuki at that point. The Mitsuki of the anime has clearly been brought down far lower than in the game. I think that may be the reason the anime switches things up – it’s almost impossible to imagine the Mitsuki of the anime slapping anyone at this point.

And that, then, brings us to episode 14, the finale. The finale is basically broken into two halves, a final scene between Takayuki and Haruka, and a final scene between Takayuki and Mitsuki. And what I want to touch on here is that the anime actually swaps the two scenes around. In the game, Takayuki goes to Mitsuki first, to get back together with her for good. Only then does he go to Haruka, to tell her what he’s decided. The anime starts with the Haruka scene, and moves the Mitsuki scene to the end. I can see why the anime does it that way – it’s because they want to end the series with the climactic reunion between Takayuki and Mitsuki, which is a much more dramatic finish than ending with the Haruka scene.

The only issue I have with it is that a number of people seem to have interpreted this new order of scenes to mean that Takayuki had still not made up his mind when he goes to see Haruka, and it’s only when Haruka says goodbye that he returns to Mitsuki. I don’t think that’s true – I think, even in the anime, the subtext of the scene makes it clear that Takayuki is here to inform Haruka of his decision, and it’s only once Haruka recognizes that that she proposes to say goodbye. But the idea that some people may interpret the final episode that way makes me a little sad, because it’s critical to the story that Takayuki make that final decision by himself.

Throughout the story, Haruka has represented the past, and Mitsuki has represented the future. So, dealing with the show’s central metaphor, choosing Mitsuki at the end is the only ending that makes sense. The story simply can’t end with Takayuki choosing Haruka, because the entire story has been about the dangers of becoming so obsessed with the past that you begin to neglect your future. The game has numerous routes, and it doesn’t explicitly label one as the “true route”. But thematically, Mitsuki’s route is the true route, which is why it’s the one that Akane Maniax and Muv-Luv follows. Some visual novels are written broadly enough to support multiple endings; KimiNozo is written, from beginning to end, solely to support Mitsuki’s ending. You can also see that in the fact that it is only in Mitsuki’s route that we learn the contents of the picture book, Mayauru no Okurimono – its contents are tailored specifically to Mitsuki’s route. That may be a major reason why the anime ends up working so well for a visual novel adaptation, because unlike many visual novels, KimiNozo builds cleanly to a single endpoint rather than multiple endings.

So with that, all that’s left is a few items to note from the show’s epilogue. A recurring subplot through the series has been an offer for Takayuki to become a full-time employee for the Sky Temple. As I mentioned earlier, the Sky Temple is another metaphor for the past, so it only makes sense that Takayuki turns down the job at the end of the show. In fact, when Takayuki turns down the position, he explicitly says it’s because of Mitsuki. This entire subplot is yet another anime-original addition to the show, which I suspect was added to bolster both Takayuki’s story and the importance of the Sky Temple location.

As some people may know, the epilogue features cameos from both Kimi ga Ita Kisetsu and Muv-Luv – Yayoi Isumi can be seen cleaning Takayuki’s apartment after he moves out, and Chizuru Sakaki can be seen cheering Akane on sometime in the future. According to director Tetsuya Watanabe, though, Yayoi’s cameo wasn’t planned at first. Originally the script simply read that the character was to be some nondescript landlady. However, Age informed the anime staff that the landlady of Takayuki’s apartment was, in fact, an existing character, something that the game does indeed establish, although we never see her in the game. So it turned out to be just a coincidence that the anime staff’s plans for the scene happened to incorporate a KimiIta cameo.

So how does the story actually end? Some find the final moments, with Haruka standing under the tree, then turning around and smiling, to be ambiguous. But pay close attention to the final shot of the show – it depicts the four characters of Haruka’s book, reunited under the tree. And it is a reunion, not a flashback, because the tree is now fully grown. By placing this final shot after the shot of Haruka smiling, the show clearly implies that this final shot shows what follows in real life as well – that after many years, our four leads have managed to put the past behind them and come together once again as friends.

Anime Rewatch 2021: Kimi ga Nozomu Eien 10-11

August 26, 2021

Episode 10 is the big one, the culmination of all the build-up spanning the last few episodes. I’ve mentioned before that the anime is directed to be much more melodramatic than the game, and the ending to this episode is definitely the go-to example of that, in that both Haruka and Mitsuki hit their rock-bottom lowest point at exactly the same time. The two events aren’t connected in any way, they just happen to occur simultaneously, leaving the viewer with an intense double-whammy to close out the episode.

I said earlier that trying to get the viewer to forgive Mitsuki in episode 5 is one of the biggest “asks” I’ve ever seen in an anime, but in terms of raw emotional impact, trying to ask the viewer to get over what Mitsuki does in episode 10 may be even rougher. Part of that stems from the fact that this event doesn’t play out in the original game the same way. The anime is, of course, based on Mitsuki’s route, the game’s true route. However, the event where Mitsuki winds up sleeping with Shinji comes from Haruka’s route. So in Mitsuki’s route, the player is never asked to come to terms with Mitsuki sleeping with Shinji. In Haruka’s route, on the other hand, this event basically marks the end of Mitsuki as a sympathetic figure altogether – from this point on, Haruka’s route treats Mitsuki as more of an obstacle to be disposed of than a real character. By choosing to incorporate this event into Mitsuki’s route, the anime sets a far higher bar for itself, trying to maintain Mitsuki as a sympathetic character even after seeing her cross this line.

Part of what the anime does to make it work is, as I’ve continued to emphasize, make Mitsuki a POV character almost equal to Takayuki himself. In Haruka’s route in the game, the player see things exclusively through Takayuki’s eyes, so they learn of Mitsuki’s infidelity at the same point that Takayuki does: after the fact. By focusing on Mitsuki’s POV, the anime more vividly portrays what happened to Mitsuki to bring her to this point. Takayuki has been giving her the cold shoulder for basically three episodes straight by this point. She doesn’t seem to have any other friends; her normally-friendly boss is coming down on her due to her increasingly sloppy work. She really is all alone at this point. And so when Shinji comes rushing in to stop Mitsuki from sleeping with some sketchy rando, Mitsuki actually breaks down laughing. Shinji is the first person to actually show some concern for Mitsuki in what feels like forever. Seeing her break down, and knowing what has happened to bring her to this point, is probably the saddest moment in the series.

Is it enough to keep the viewer’s sympathy after seeing what happens next? I dunno. Like I said about episode 5, it’s a big ask. If I may skip ahead to episode 12 for a moment, I think the show does an excellent job of showing how Takayuki could forgive her for what happened – he is, after all, in no position to throw stones, and he seems to understand that the ultimate blame for what happened can easily be laid at his feet. So I totally buy that Takayuki can move past it. And maybe that’s all the show really wants. Maybe the show doesn’t necessarily need the viewer to forgive Mitsuki, it only needs the viewer to accept that Takayuki does.

As for Haruka’s side of the story, it’s actually also drawn from someone else’s route. In Mitsuki’s route, Haruka discovers the truth from the picture that the four of them took. The anime version draws inspiration from Akane’s route, which also depicts Akane blurting out the truth. As I’ve mentioned before, the anime is definitely drawn to melodrama, and the Akane version is definitely much more dramatic. I imagine this change was also made to give more focus for Akane, who we really haven’t gotten to dig into much in the anime despite her importance to the story.

It’s striking to me to find that, after writing so much about Mitsuki’s side of the story, there’s almost nothing to say about Haruka’s side other than what is shown on the screen. I think that drives home the fact that Haruka has not really been a full-fledged character in this story so far. Because of the nature of her condition, we don’t get to dig into her character and learn more about her, despite the fact that her condition is what drives the story. I’ve said a lot about how Mitsuki carries the show as a POV character alongside Takayuki, but that’s simply impossible for Haruka the way she is now. Keep that contrast in mind as we head into the show’s endgame.

After the explosive end to episode 10, episode 11 is a slow recovery episode depicting the fallout. On Mitsuki’s side, we’ve got Mitsuki and Shinji trying to figure out what to do now. I have to say, I actually feel pretty bad for Shinji in this episode. Takayuki is a screw-up and Mitsuki is a mess, but Shinji seems like he’s only trying to do what’s best. It’s just a shame that he has no idea what’s best at this point. Shinji is definitely not blameless here – it takes two to tango, and he shouldn’t have gone along with Mitsuki – but I can’t be too mad at him. He’s dealing with two crazy people and he unfortunately wasn’t strong enough to resist getting washed away in it.

Akane’s side of the episode is largely devoted to wrapping up Akane’s role in the story, by allowing her to lay out her side and then letting her bow out. What I find interesting about her big scene in this episode is that even though she does explain that much of what she did was for Takayuki’s sake, the anime seems to back away from having her say the most important part explicitly, instead leaving it to the viewer to make that last leap. I think maybe the anime wanted to avoid making the core love triangle too complicated? The show more-or-less says explicitly that Shinji had a crush on Mitsuki, but it seems to stop just short of having Akane say the same about Takayuki. But don’t worry, if you want to get into more detail about Akane’s true feelings, Akane Maniax will have your back.

After hitting rock-bottom in episode 10, the show needs to start building back up towards the finale, so we close out episode 11 with the first glimmer of hope the show has offered in a long time, as Mitsuki returns to the apartment to find Takayuki collapsed on the ground. Er, that didn’t sound too hopeful, did it? It is, I suppose, a very KimiNozo-ish way of offering hope – despite the circumstances, it’s the first time in a long while that either of these two have actually expressed concern for each other. It’s a nice way of bringing the two of them back together so that we can start moving into the endgame.