Anime Review – Muv Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse

I don’t review much anime on here, even though I do watch some of the newer seasons coming out of Japan. In all honesty, much of what I’ve seen from anime isn’t necessarily horror-related, and even Muv Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse (which from here on out I’ll only refer to as Total Eclipse) isn’t situated conveniently in the horror genre. It’s more of a sci-fi romance hybrid, an anime based on worldly problems of alien invasion thanks to the BETA. They’re a race of aliens bent on eliminating humanity, cavorting around aimlessly shooting things with their laser class or smashing things to the ground with the hard exoskeletons of other BETAs.

And it’s also about a love triangle, or better yet, a love pentagon. Total Eclipse begins as though it’s a mecha series about aliens, sort of like Blue Gender and Mobile Suit Gundam mixed together. It’s early on in the war against the BETA, and our protagonist Yui is just learning to pilot her TSF – a mobile suit, basically.

From the first few episodes, things move in a different direction. The focus on Yui changes towards one on a new recruit for an Alaskan testing facility for TSFs named Yuuya. He’s an up-and-comer, he’s handsome, and he’s also fairly stuck in his ways – he also struggles with past racism as a Japanese-American. At the testing facility, he makes up a team of fighters who pilot TSFs as a means of experimenting with different abilities, and many different nations come together to make the best TSF for those out on the battlefront.

That means there’s a lot of class and race rivalry, and even moreso after TSFs from other countries are pitted against each other in a battle. Total Eclipse tends to focus its middle arc on these rivalries, especially ones stemming from Russia. But once the show continues, much of the immediate storylines about the BETA and class warfare are lost in the shuffle between how many people have obsessions with Yuuya and the ensuing TSF battles at the base. For most of the anime, there are significantly fewer episodes dealing with the BETA than there are of TSFs fighting each other; that’s surprising considering the place where Total Eclipse began.

Then there’s the finale, which, like many anime, is super disappointing. Total Eclipse not only has so many themes running through it that it’s hard to follow, but it also never resolves them. The Russians are up to something, but there’s not an explanation because it’s interrupting by an invading group of rebels who seize control of the Alaskan base and set free BETA from the underground laboratory, a scenario that could trigger the UN’s secret “Red Shift” – a detonation of many hydrogen bombs to stop advancing BETA.

This is all jumbled and rushed together with only five episodes left – there’s no sense of foreshadowing and no mention of the rebels before they show up, and so it’s only surprising in the way that the audience could not have known about it until it happens. The final episode leaves much to be desired; it appears Total Eclipse wanted a second season, leaving many plot holes to fill in later on, but unfortunately the finale feels like it leaves giant gaping wounds in Total Eclipse‘s story. It’s mostly anti-climactic – we’ve watched this whole anime for 25 episodes, and yet not much has changed at all. There are still BETA attacks, still racial outcasts; there is still an unresolved love conflict between Yuuya, Yui, the Russian twin Cryska, and the Chinese Lt. Cui.

In the end, what began as a promising mecha/sci-fi anime ends on a very sour taste. The plot slowly revolved around its initial setup, and the intense focus on love interests, while adhering to the graphic novel game series that the anime is based on, only takes up more time that the show could have devoted to strengthening the plot. While it can be entertaining, it’s not an integral series for any anime watcher, science fiction fan or not.

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