Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t the word Beta seem to be synonymous with trouble? Hot on the heels of the farcical Street Fighter 5 Beta, which was plagued with connectivity issues, we now get the BETA – a Martian race that loves to gobble up humans. The peckish extra terrestrials appear in Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse – a twenty-four-episode anime series that is presently available to buy in the UK courtesy of MVM Entertainment. Much like the Fate series, Muv-Luv began its life as an adult visual novel, which went on to garner mainstream popularity thanks to its smut free sequels. The question on everyone’s lips is, does this mech franchise rival Fate’s anime adaptations in terms of entertainment? Read on to find out.
After watching the first part of Muv-Luv: Total Eclipse (turn around, every now and then I get a little bit lonely) I have to say that the show’s pacing is all over the place. The DVD starts off lively enough with a couple of episodes introducing us to Yui Takamura – a teenage girl who is learning how to pilot mechs at a Japanese military academy. When Yui’s unit is dispatched to battle the invading BETA she soon learns why most recruits only have an average lifespan of eight minutes. Yui barely manages to escape from the encounter unscathed, but the same cannot be said of her comrades. The human forces are soundly beaten and devoured by their giant foes in a bloody opener that channels Attack on Titan.
One quick time skip later and a more mature Yui transfers to Yukon – an Alaskan base, which is researching anti-BETA armaments. It’s at this point in the series that the role of protagonist shifts from Yui to test pilot Yuuya Bridges, signalling a halt to the exciting action viewers had been treated to previously. Instead of life and death battles we now get training sequences and team building exercises at the beach (a convenient excuse to showcase the cast’s buxom ladies in revealing swimsuits.) Flimsy reasoning for showing skin aside, the team building exercises are probably necessary as the test pilots based at Yukon are constantly arguing with each other.
The two characters that feud the most are Yuuya and Yui. Given that the two frequently bicker, there is zero chance that their relationship will ever become romantic (sarcasm.) Yuuya’s grievances with his commanding officer may stem from the fact that he loathes the Japanese. Does he distain the Nippon nation because they refuse to release Evangelion 3.0 in the States? Nah, his feelings emanate from the fact that his Japanese father deserted his American mom back when he was a young lad.
Yuuya also quarrels with his teammate Tarisa Manandal. The diminutive pilot from Nepal reminds me of a Chihuahua, partly because of her stature and partly because she enjoys yapping at people. Despite her temperament Tarisa does care for her friends, leading to some classic tsundere moments. The remainder of Yuuya’s squadron consists of chummy Italian Valerio Giacosa (who speaks in a cheesy accent) and Stella Bremer (a stereotypical sexy blonde Swede.)
With the first dozen episodes under my belt, I am of the opinion that Muv-Luv is a decent (albeit unspectacular) mech show. The series starts on a compelling note, but begins to lose steam once its story shifts away from the visceral alien warfare seen in episode two. Thankfully things begin to heat up again towards the end of this DVD collection, when the prototype Yuuya is trialling is sent out on a mission to gather data from a real life combat situation.
From a visual point of view Muv-Luv is a bit of a mixed bag. In some scenes the animation is fluid, but other times the studio resorts to using shaky cam in front of still images. The character designs are fine, if not realistically proportioned, although sometimes they do go off model. Even though the series is devoid of the sexual elements found in the original Muv-Luv visual novel, there is still plenty of eye candy. The skin-tight flight suits emphasise the form of both the top-heavy girls and the blokes who all have perfect abs. Like with many other mech shows, CG is used to animate the clashes between the giant bots and their Martian opponents. The robots look fine, although the design of the BETAs could be better (or should that be BETTAR?) I think the creatures are inspired by H.R Giger’s Xenomorphs, as the BETA have eyeless craniums and a tongue designed for gripping prey.
It’s tough to accurately assess a series until you have seen it all the way through to the end. At this halfway point however I think Muv-Luv: Total Eclipse deserves three stars. Although the show is entertaining, I am hoping that the next instalment ups the ante. More gory action, akin to what we got in episode two, would be nice and I would also welcome some badly needed character development for the cast. I am also hoping that the mystery surrounding the Soviet pilots known as the Scarlet Twins gets a satisfactory payoff. Right now I would say that I like the series, but I don’t (Muv) Luv it.