This is review number one hundred and thirty seven. It’s part of the Summer 2012 lineup. It’s the last one so far. I still have that Ebiten but I still need to track it down. The anime I’ll be reviewing is Muv Luv: Total Eclipse. It’s a twenty five (including the recap) episode anime about humans fighting invading monsters that came from Mars. It’s a really surprising anime. I urge everyone to try it. Let’s read on.
The anime is about the human race waging war against creatures from Mars. These are large creatures and they attack in huge numbers like ants ganging up on a moth. They invade earth and they want to kill everything moving and eat any tasty humans they see. It’s been twenty years after the first contact between humans and Martians. They’re now at a stale mate. The story follows a group of test pilots developing new weapons to combat these planet invaders. You’d think humans would band together to save Earth but when it comes to dealing with humans, nothing is ever simple.
Taking the Pants Off
This is the other anime from the Summer Lineup airing along with SAO. The poor thing was overshadowed by Sword Art Online. I wasn’t excited to see the anime though. I mean, “Muv Luv” doesn’t sound like something I’d want to immediately watch. The only thing I know about this anime was that news of plagiarism scandal on one of its promo poster. I had low expectations of the anime and the first episode gave the impression of another Rinne no Lagrange clone where it’s about a light hearted mecha anime with teenagers piloting the robots and saving mankind. After episode two though, I think I cried in a corner of my room seeing the same girls who were attending school and laughing merrily slowly dying one by one in the most horrific way. I knew right then that this anime holds more promise than what it appears to be.
The anime is about humans versus planet invaders. It’s a simple concept but the anime chose to be complex. I do appreciate the complexity because it was executed perfectly. Instead of having a story about a group of soldiers fighting in the front line, the anime is about soldiers who are stationed in the rear. There’s not a lot of monster killing in the anime despite having a war against planet invaders. Instead, it’s more focused on character development and slowly building up the story for its initial climax. The anime follows the adventures of test pilots in a base in Alaska as they develop new robots to fight against monsters.
At first, I was bummed because I wanted to see more teenagers being ripped apart by monsters and eaten. It reminds me of those graphic scenes from Blood C. I wanted a war but what the anime presented was something more deep. The anime is more character centered than action centered. In the span of twenty four episodes, the anime was more focused on fleshing out all the available characters and giving them purpose in the anime. There are no side characters that remain in the grey. You’d either love them or hate them because the anime showed enough of their personality for viewers to draw the line. It was a nice approach for a war anime. The slow character buildup proved effective when the anime hits its climax where the characters fight to eradicate the planet invaders.
The anime has a simple setup to it. It’s divided into two parts. They’re the “Peace Time” and the “War Time”. The peace time is where the characters are introduced and their roles are established. There are a lot of characters in the anime so it made sure everyone was represented fairly. It’s critical to introduce these characters during the “peace time” so their role in the war time gets more response to the viewers. Some will die and you will care that they died. The peace time of the anime eats a lot of episodes though because it is also concerned about building relationships and establishing the story. I learned from Sword Art Online that pacing is the biggest obstacle for a light novel adaptation but Muv Luv was certain the pacing is never compromised. It was able to establish the characters, the setting, the story and the buildup to the war time of the anime.
The peace time of the anime is also where the characters are laid back and enjoying temporary peace. They’re enjoying each other’s company. They’re dishing out fan service and pushing forth some romance or comedy to lighten the mood. It has time for beach episodes and other fluff like that. At first, I hated it because it drags the anime a bit. I was getting impatient. I want some action. The anime doesn’t rush itself though. Enjoy the light hearted nature of the ‘peace time” with the characters laughing and being cute because all of that will be turned upside down when the anime enters its “war time”.
I’ll use the first two episode of the anime as reference. In the first episode, the characters are introduced, the situation of the impending invasion of the Martians is established, the teenage girls are practicing with their mecha so they help in the battlefield and the light hearted nature with all the bonding/sleepovers/talks about boyfriends are dished out. In the second episode, it turns grim. The girls are plunged into war. One by one, the girls die a horrific death complete with blood and blood curdling screams. They helplessly escape while the monsters pick them off one by one. It then ends with one of the teenagers being eaten alive by the monsters. It’s complete with a graphic scene of the girl torn in half and her head rolling on the floor. This is the war time.
It’s an emotionally gripping moment for the anime. The characters were nicely introduced and we somewhat became emotionally invested in them so seeing them at war is just the best thing about the anime. The war time of the anime utilizes gore and a lot of graphic scenes like a poor man being surrounded by monsters before he die. It’s often unsettling and it’s the complete opposite of the “peace time” of the anime. No one is laughing, there is no sense of security and the anime isn’t shy of killing off the characters. It’s so brilliant that they able to inject so much during this part of the anime.
It’s also interesting to point out that the story isn’t often about humans vs. monsters. It’s pretty sad but the anime mostly features human vs. human. Despite the invasion of the monsters from Mars, humans still show their ugly side and their greedy side. The factions of the humans are divided into their nations, there is conspiracies happening almost every corner, people betray each other and some people still live privileged lives despite being in war.
The anime is over the top sci fi with monsters from another planet but it still delivers a realistic look at war. At every war, there is a person sitting in a chair deciding the faith of the people on the front lines risking their lives. These people are fighting for peace and blindly following their superiors. The superiors aren’t afraid to sacrifice these men though to save themselves or benefit from their death. It’s a really disturbing description of war but something that commonly happens in such setting.
There is a large cast in the anime but it mostly focus on some individuals. One of the main characters is Yuuya Bridges. He is an American-Japanese who grew up facing racial discriminations because of his mixed race. People do not like him being Japanese and this made him hate being Japanese. He’s a great pilot though and he is beneficial during test runs despite never stepping in the front lines. The other main character is Yui Takamura. She is the only person that survived the onslaught of the second episode and has since dedicated her life to making sure the monsters are eradicated. She has a strong sense of duty that often clashes with Yuuya’s immature attitude and outright hatred for the Japanese.
The two works in a test ground in Alaska. They are in the project “Prometheus” developing weapons to fight the monsters. They’re in a sub project called Argos along with other top pilots whose countries were long invaded by the monsters. The rest of the cast has a specific role but they were nicely utilized by the anime. During the peace and war time of the anime, these characters were able to develop nicely and their bonds are among the nice parts of the anime. Amidst the corruption and conspiracies of the anime, it was pretty reassuring to know that different nationalities can still band together.
This is the biggest surprise of the Summer lineup for me and it’s one of the strongest anime for 2012. All of its elements were nicely utilized and its pacing was very steady. The buildup of this anime is so smart and so thought out that I want more of it. Oh great anime god, please let there be a second season. This anime had sci fi, romance, fan service, gore, mecha, comedy and everything else in between. Most anime would f*ck it up but Muv Luv was able to showcase all of it. This is one of the best anime I’ve seen in a long while.
Sight and Sound
Character design isn’t that special. There’s enough to distinguish a character but its mostly plain look that suits a military setting. I do love it when the characters suit up. They wear a spandex like uniform when they ride their mecha. It sticks to their skin and it moves with their curves. For the girls, you can clearly see their boobs bounce and it often makes me laugh because they would bounce at a serious moment in the anime but my dirty mind easily caught it. The nationalities are nicely represented though. Well, in terms of anime, they were designed aptly. The Japanese girl has jet black hair, the Swedish chick has blonde hair, the Russians have silver hair and the Middle Eastern girl is tanned. The same stereotype is given to the guys but c’mon, I don’t pay attentions to the guys.
The mecha design is absolutely stunning. The CG work on it is really detailed and I love the shiny look of the robots. They get the blood of the monsters all over them when they kill it and it makes them super awesome looking. The motion of the robots is fluid and you can tell the CG work is done expertly. This was made by the studio named “Satelight” and they also did the CG mecha design/movement for the robots of Aquarion Evol and the Macross Franchise. These guys know their mecha and it was nicely represented in this anime.
The monster design is also pretty good. Their CG work is also very smooth. The monsters look very menacing and I love how there is variety among them. There are four different types of monsters. They’re the destroyer class, laser class, fortress class and soldier class. They all look different and nicely detailed.
The fight scenes are also pretty stunning. The CG work is just fantastic. I still remember the camera work on the first episode where it flew across the surface of Mars and showcased a nice shooting scene between the humans and monsters. The mecha fighting the monsters is so stunning that it always makes me jump out of my seat. It’s flashy and exciting but also pretty bloody to give a nice effect. The movements are just so solid and the CG work never felt stiff. It was top notch and it made the fight scenes so much more exciting and memorable.
The anime has two OP. The first one is “Go to the top” by Kumi Koda. Kumi’s voice is pretty incredible and it was featured pretty nicely in this song. Her blend of techno pop is also prominent in the song and I just love its catchy beat. The Op sequence features all the characters and some scenes from the anime were used in the OP. The second OP is “Doubt the World” by Minami Kuribayashi. Minami is pretty popular for doing some eargasmic OP and this one is no different. Her voice is so powerful and it nicely complements the rock beat of the song. The song also nicely fits the anime. The OP sequence features the characters and the newly introduced one. It also showcased some stunning mecha and some monsters being shot down complete with blood. It also hints of some of the event sin the second half. There’s not much since the second OP appeared on episode twenty one, which is pretty crazy.
The anime also have two ED songs. The first one is “signs ~Sakutsuki Hitoyo~” by Minami Kuribayashi. This is a more mellow song and Minami’s voice really brings out the melancholic parts of the song. The ED sequence features still poses of the characters. Nothing fancy. The other ED song is “Revise the World” by ayami. This is a more melancholic song with a slow beat. It has a nice piano piece to it. Ayami’s voice really sets the mood and stands out brilliantly. The ED sequence also features some still poses of the characters amidst flowers dancing in the breeze.
8/10 “A strong mecha anime with a deep understanding of the nature of war.”
This is a really nice anime and all of its elements combined to deliver a very solid anime. The pacing is the best part and the way the anime handled its content. If you’re a fan of mecha with a deep story about war but also love some nicely fleshed out characters then you’ll enjoy Muv Luv. I highlt recommend it.