Anime Rewatch 2021: Total Eclipse 23-24

October 2, 2021

Original Post

The final episodes of the series continue to add some new ideas to the story. The major new addition is the Berkut, an advanced new Soviet TSF – in the original novels, the Berkut does not appear at all. The game follows the novels’ version of events as well, with the Berkut only appearing in the second half of the game, after this terrorist arc is completed. The anime staff presumably added the Berkut to the show since they understood by that point that they were almost certainly not going to get a second season to show it off.

Along with the Berkut itself, there’s another related concept that the anime introduces ahead of the game, and that is the strange pod installed in the Berkut, which glows as the Prafka phenomenon is initiated in Cryska and Inia. Although nobody would have known it at the time, this pod is actually a major component of the second half of the story, so much like the Berkut, it was probably included in the anime so that it at least gets a little screentime before the anime ends.

I mentioned before that the anime was also bringing forward from the game the concept of Yuuya wanting to help Cryska the way others had helped him. In the final episode, Yuuya explicitly lays out this whole idea in detail, explaining that he wants to help Cryska as he battles the Berkut. This is, again, not something that happens at this point in the game, as this entire concept is only developed in detail in the second half of the story. It’s another striking example of the anime including ideas from the game that they seemed to know they were not going to get a chance to explore in a second season.

I’ve talked before about how important it is in the original Muv-Luv trilogy that major accomplishments are done as a group, and that individuals are limited in what they can accomplish on their own. Since Yoshimune is also the author of Total Eclipse, you can see the mindset at work in this story as well – in fact, it is even more emphasized, since Total Eclipse is such a smaller, more personal story. One way it is demonstrated here is in the conclusion to the entire terrorist arc – whereas in most stories Yuuya’s group would be the ones who ultimately defeat the bad guys and save the day, here our heroes actually accomplish surprisingly little. The major bad guys like Christopher and Valentine are killed by other people, or, like the Master, simply get away clean. And although our heroes are instrumental in slowing the BETA advance, the actual end to the crisis comes when a bunch of American bombers swoop in out of nowhere to finish off the rest of the BETA. Instead, in true Total Eclipse fashion, the final battle of the terrorist arc is a more personal conflict between Yuuya and the Scarlet Twins.

After the terrorist incident is over, there’s a brief scene of the Master moving on to his next plan, throwing a dagger at a map. The dagger lands in Japan, suggesting that he may well be involved in the HSST incident depicted in the original trilogy. Again, this guy has his hands in a lot of stuff, and I really hope that one day we get a proper end to his story.

By the time this anime was airing, the Chronicles story Resurrection had already been released, and its story suggested that its main character, Silvio, was going to get involved in this terrorist incident in some way. As the anime entered this final arc, fans started pestering Yoshimune on Twitter if Silvio was going to make an appearance. According to Yoshimune, the anime staff originally had no plans to include Silvio (since he never appeared in the original novels), but after seeing the interest from fans, they quickly added him to the scene of Hartwig and Heinemann talking after the incident was over. We don’t really get any more detail about Silvio’s mission than that, but presumably he grabbed Hartwig and Heinemann when the shooting started and hid them somewhere safe until things were over. As far as I can recall, the game doesn’t include any information about Silvio either, so consider this another anime-original appearance.

The novels end on a rather nasty cliffhanger (and by the way, when I refer to the novels, technically most of the terrorist arc was never collected into novel form – it only exists as a serialization in Tech Gian magazine, so pretty much nobody is going to be able to read the original version at this point). The game includes the entire story of the Total Eclipse novels, including the cliffhanger, then continues the story into its second half. The anime staff, knowing that they were almost certainly not going to be getting a second season to cover that new material, chose not to adapt that cliffhanger, going instead with an anime-original ending where Yui is recalled to Japan. According to Yoshimune, that anime ending could have served as the start of a new “Yui route”, different from the story that unfolded in the game. This Yui route would have placed more focus on Yui and the political situation in Japan, similar to the Imperial Capital Burns story that kicked off the anime. Yoshimune’s planned Yui route wasn’t included in the game, and although he stated that he would have pushed for the anime to use the Yui route if it had gotten another season, that wound up not happening either. For a while he was talking about releasing the Yui route as a doujin novel, but that seems to be dead as well. Unfortunately it seems like we’re not going to get to see a possible continuation of the anime’s story in any capacity. I’ll always love Total Eclipse, though, so I’ll still hold out hope that we’ll get to see it one day . . .


Anime Rewatch 2021: Total Eclipse 20-22

October 1, 2021

Original Post

Now we’re into the first part of the terrorist arc that will close out this show, and we’re starting off with the amazing episode 20. This is almost entirely an anime-original episode – in the original novels (as well as the Total Eclipse Rising manga, which generally hews closer to the novels than the anime), all of Argos Flight, as well as Yui, Cryska, and Yifei, were already at the Argos hangar, preparing for Argos’ upcoming match with the Infinities. The anime version gives most of our heroes a thrilling race to get back to the Argos hangar, as well as new scenes depicting the major terrorist characters as they begin to take over the base. This is probably the biggest, most engaging material the anime added to the storyline, with the (arguable) exception of the first two episodes.

Like most anime-original scenes, the final game version of Total Eclipse includes the events of episode 20, but to be honest, it kind of struggles with adapting it. They’re very good at depicting TSF fights in AGES, but action scenes involving humans has never been their forte, and the events of episode 20 are chock full of them. The anime actually winds up being the better watch for this sequence, because the entire episode, being anime-original, is tailor-made to an anime’s strong suits.

Natalie is, of course, the highlight of episode 20. She brings a real emotional component to the terrorist attack, since she’s a character that we actually know. I know I’ve been on this a lot, but I just love the idea that they took this silly throwaway anime-original character and actually built in a cool twist that ties into the existing storyline from the novels. If it was planned from the beginning, it’s one of the most awesome fakeouts I’ve ever seen. And if they simply made a silly fanservice character first and only later decided to write her into the terrorist storyline, it’s one of the greatest redemption arcs a character has ever had.

When everybody is suiting up in episode 21, there’s a nice story beat in the novels that doesn’t quite make it into the anime. When Yifei and Cryska ask to be allowed to pilot the spare Strike Eagles, Vincent replies that those are American machines. This isn’t just a territorial dispute – the fact is that nobody on the base has yet been able to verify exactly who is attacking, so it’s difficult for them to trust outsiders at the moment. This is especially a problem with Cryska – as far as the American soldiers (including Vincent) are concerned, by far the people most likely to be responsible for the attack are the Soviet soldiers stationed on base. So by allowing Yifei and Cryska to take the Strike Eagles, the others are taking a pretty big leap of faith that these two are who they say they are. That’s a big ask, especially in the anime where they just learned that another person they were close to really did turn out to be a terrorist spy.

I mentioned before that the anime seems to want to cut down on the number of characters in the upper brass. There are actually a number of those upper brass characters whose whereabouts are touched upon in some way during this arc in the novels and game, but the anime reduces it to pretty much just Rogofsky, the Soviet superior officer who appeared briefly in the Soviet arc. Again, this has the effect of cutting down on the world-building aspects of the show, but doesn’t actually affect the story all that much.

If you’ve seen Schwarzesmarken, then coming back to this arc and seeing the Master behind the terrorist attack might bring up some complicated feelings. For me, it’s a reminder that the Master’s story is still yet unfinished. His story was supposed to cross over from Total Eclipse to Schwarzesmarken, and finally conclude in Duty: Lost Arcadia. His brief appearance in Total Eclipse doesn’t offer any explanations for why he’s doing what he’s doing – or, for that matter, what it is he’s doing in the first place. Those questions were supposed to be answered in Duty, but that project seems to be dead now. The art boards created for the upcoming Muv-Luv Integrate seem to suggest that they still intend to pick up where Duty left off, so it seems to me that they are still going to have to tell the story of Duty somewhere, in some form. Hopefully full closure on this character is still coming at some point.

Anime Rewatch 2021: Total Eclipse 17-19

September 30, 2021

Original Post

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.

Anime Rewatch 2021: Total Eclipse 15-16

September 28, 2021

Original Post

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 13-14

September 21, 2021

Original Post

Episode 13 kicks off with another new flashback, this time to a battle that took place a year prior. This is the anime’s only look at Kyoko Takatsukasa, the pilot of the blue Takemikazuchi from episode 2. Not that the flashback bothers to explain that. Or even who Kyoko is, beyond Yui calling her “Kyoko-sama”. It’s kind of a strange flashback in that it doesn’t explain who any of the people in it really are or what the context is. Its only purpose is to establish the Fort-class BETA as a serious threat, foreshadowing its appearance later in the episode. This flashback is a lot more interesting after seeing Kyoko’s backstory in the novel and game adaptations of the Imperial Capital Burns arc. On its own, it’s one of the anime’s less successful original additions.

One of the major plot points shown in these episodes is the BETA’s abnormal interest in the Type-99 cannon. Those who have played through the original Muv-Luv trilogy can probably guess the reason – it’s because the cannon’s core module contains G-Elements, which attract the BETA’s attention. The anime never explains this aspect of the world setting, but it’s not really their fault – no version of Total Eclipse goes into detail about it, because the G-Elements are highly classified, and nobody in the Total Eclipse cast knows it well enough to explain it to the audience. I can certainly see how that might be frustrating for viewers of the anime unfamiliar with the games, but I also think it’s an interesting narrative device to show off just how classified this technology is.

Episode 13 ends with a great battle scene between Yuuya and the BETA. It also has a nice detail that speaks to Yuuya’s mindset – as the episode closes, Yuuya calls his TSF by the Japanese name “Shiranui” for the first time – before that, he had always referred to the machine as “94-Second”. I think this particular scene might be an anime-original detail as well.

As for episode 14, the part I’m most interested in talking about is the final scenes involving Latrova and the Zhar Battalion. Although Yuuya and the others hear the report later confirming their deaths in battle against the BETA, their final moments as actually depicted are shrouded in mystery, as they are attacked by a mysterious unidentified TSF. The novels were just as ambiguous in their depiction as well, so at the time the anime aired, nobody knew exactly what happened to them. It’s one of several moments where the anime had to skirt around mysteries that were still ongoing. Eventually the game, which extends the story past the novels and anime, would explain this plot point in more detail.

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?