DVD Review: Muv Luv Alternate: Total Eclipse – Part 1
20/08/2015 Leave a comment
It’s amusing how a visual novel game inspired an animated spin-off seeing giant mecha and aliens do battle against each other; but nevertheless here we are with MVM Entertainment’s DVD release of Muv Luv Alternate: Total Eclipse – Part 1.
In 1967, mankind encountered the hostile alien BETA and the Space Race became a Space War. Despite every measure thrown against them, the BETA made their first deadly landings on Earth in 1973 and by 1998, half of Eurasia has fallen. While the rest of the world stages desperate defensive battles across a thousand fronts, a brutally savaged Japan barely manages to hang on thanks to the support of the United States, the UN, and a new form of robot/jet hybrid known as the Tactical Surface Fighter.
But even as pilots and engineers struggle to develop the newest generation of advanced weaponry, the vestiges of the Cold War threaten to cripple the efforts of the defenders, with the surviving nations fighting to prioritize their own survival. At the eye of the gathering storm, the actions of 2nd Lieutenant Yuuya Bridges of the U.S. and First Lieutenant Yui Takamura, the sole survivor of a unit lost in the battle of Kyoto, may become the focus upon which the fate of all humanity depends.
It’s not often I come away from a violent mecha-filled-anime show thinking “how did it go so wrong?” but that’s the sentiment that crossed my mind while watching the episodes contained within Muv Luv Alternate: Total Eclipse – Part 1. It’s not your typical mecha show, whereby a young adult pilots a robot to protect the earth, instead it’s more about survival; but even then that statement is clutching at straws. A brutal start, and brutal end, with product testing sandwhiched in the middle; that’s what Muv Luv Alternate: Total Eclipse – Part 1 offers and it just doesn’t sit right with me.
It all begins in 1967 when mankind encounter the alien force known as BETA, or Beings of the Extra Terrestrial origin which is Adversary of human race, and as a result the great space race of the late sixties becomes a space war to protect earth from infestation. Fast forward into 1998 and we find ourselves with Yui Takamura, a student of the Kyoto Royal Guard Academy which sees young hopefuls learning about the war, the mecha units they will be piloting and the enemies they may have to face in the future. Its your typical ‘peaceful life in war time’ scenario – as seen in most first episodes of Gundam – but as you would expect the BETA arrive and start to attack the city; which is where Yui Takamura and her friends sortie into action and attempt to defeat the BETA.
Don’t expect any happy endings from this attack; the city is destroyed, hundreds are killed and everyone Yui once cared for has now gone – only Yui manages to survive which leaves her in a pretty broken state. This is the opening two episodes of Muv Luv Alternate: Total Eclipse and yet, at first glance at least, their seems to be no point to them as by the third episode the story shifts seven years into the future and introduces our new lead protagonist. That’s right; everything seen in the past two episodes was pretty much a time-waste, the female character building, the brutality and the mecha action, was all a build-up to grab your attention and start you watching the show; however while this may seem like the case if you were paying attention then it does leave clues to some future ideas which appear in later episodes.
With Yui, our lead protagonist from the first two episodes, out of the way the story moves on to focus on our new lead protagonist Yuuya Bridges; an ace test pilot who has been transferred to a new department, known as the Argos Test Flight, in order to test a new TSF mecha suit for Japan. At this point I’d probably say “from here expect a lot of boring testing and dialogue sequences” but infact its slightly different. For starters Yuuya, along with his test-friends Stella, Tarisa and Valerio, engage in a fight to see who should pilot the new mecha; afterwhich we see numerous episodes which find ourselves in a fan-service type of situation with the main female characters in Bikini’s or cat outfits for numerous different reasons.
Meanwhile episodes further down the line see Yuuya operating the machine, both digitally and physically, in attempt to become a better pilot and further grasp the control mechanics of a Japanese built TSF machine. Ironically however despite Yuuya’s “outstanding record” he has never taken part in a real battle; which generates criticism from his commanding officer who so happens to be Yui Takamura from episodes at the beginning of the series. Interestingly however despite Yui’s constant appearence in the test programm there’s hardly any flashbacks to her past experiences – those within the first two episodes – so it seems logical to think that her appearence in the show would have had the same meritt (or impact) if the two episodes did not happen at all; but on the postive side at least two episodes were the best of those shown so far.
In hindsight product testing, evaluation and character building is mostly what’s on offer in this first half of Muv Luv Alternate: Total Eclipse but surrounding it is some intense and brutal battles that see humans fight for survival by using their TSF Mecha units. The introduction for instance – which starts on a dreary narrative – is mostly flled with combat and bloody violence; it’s a similar situation at the end of this set as during a test exercise the BETA emerge and start attacking the base; once again leaving countless dead and more critically injured.
Muv Luv Alternate: Total Eclipse has balance and mixture; but it doesn’t offer them in the right mind-set or portions, as you either have too much violence or two much narrative and never the right amount. For the time being at least this set isn’t about winning the war against the alien race it’s about surviving it so someone else can win it and it doesn’t make for an entertaining watch.
As with most titles released by MVM Entertainment the only bonus features are a selection of trailers for other anime shows and the opening and closing animations in text less form.
The trailers included are Captain Earth, which is currently available on DVD and Blu-ray within the UK, Majestic Prince and Humanity has Declined – all of which tend to use various footage from the show with music slapped on top; but its better than nothing.
Media: DVD 9 x2
Running Time: 2:29:25 (Disc 1), 2:29:24 (Disc 2)
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 224kbps (English & Japanese)
Subtitles: English (White)
Resolution: 720 x 576 (576i)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Widescreen
Frame Rate: 25 fps
Muv Luv Alternate: Total Eclipse – Part 1 would lead you to believe that it’s anime about two lead protagonists, namely 2nd Lieutenant Yuuya Bridges and First Lieutenant Yui Takamura, are earth’s last hope of fending off the alien invasion known as the BETA; and while this ‘may’ turn out to be true in the upcoming second instalment from evidence in this first half then I’d have to disagree. Sure both characters, and their supporting members, are attempting to create a new weapon and a new mecha but episodes contained within this first half namely see them test those said weapons and then attempt to escape death; and that’s when you get past the brutal introductory episodes which – at this point in time – seem rather meaningless if not entertaining.
I never expected anything from Muv Luv Alternate: Total Eclipse but yet I still found myself disappointed by what transpired; sure enough the TSF (mecha) fights with the BETA were entertaining and engaging, and so were the comical arguments between Yui and Yuuya, but everything else seemed slightly meaningless and just buffered the runtime of the show. The only ‘intriguing’ aspects of the show were two Russian characters who were also performing tests on their mecha; both of which seem to know Yuuya and have some kind of mysterious ablitiy – but once again nothing transpires or moves forward and it instead opts to keep you waiting. I Guess Muv Luv Alternate: Total Eclipse does offer one positive aspect; it tries to be different to the norm – most mecha shows tend to focus on a group constantly battling until they have won, such as Gundam, Eureka Seven or Captain Earth, but here its about testing the product and, when needed, using it to help out. I guess it’s another marmite show; I watched it and liked some ideas found within it but I didn’t enjoy the overall stay which is disappointing as I thought I would.
Its not like I didn’t enjoy it because of the English Dub either, which is yet again produced by Sentai Filmworks; as for once I actually enjoyed the English Dub. Majority of the voice actors were tailored to the characters they were trying to represent; sure some were slightly off-putting at first but over time they felt suited to that role. Of course this ‘getting used to them’ didn’t happen in the Japanese Audio track; but its all about preference and either audio track provides similar results. The only disappointing factor with the dubs is the next-episode preview has music from the opening song mixed with the English voices thus making it increasingly difficult to hear what they are trying to promote; so after the third episode I ended up skipping each next episode preview segment. It’s a similar story with the opening song; I wasn’t a fan of the song so I ended up skipping it entirely – which isn’t something I usually do.
In terms of quality control then everything on this DVD disc of Muv Luv Alternate: Total Eclipse – Part 1 pretty much works as you’d expect it to; the audio tracks are clearly audible and the subtitles are readable; additionally ‘sign and song’ subs appear when needed to – which ironically is quite a lot more than I expected. Overall the presentation and production of the show is great; I just found the way the story is presented, which drives straight into a narrative spanning 30 years before going into two episodes which act as a prelude of events to the real story, a bit of a timewaste – and that’s before you get to the main story content. If you are looking for a different take on war, one which looks at the testing and character building side, then Muv Luv Alternate: Total Eclipse – Part 1 might be a show worth looking at otherwise i’d probably give it a miss.
Muv Luv Alternate: Total Eclipse – Part 1 will be available on DVD and Blu-ray from the 24th August 2015.