What They Say:
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.
Contains episodes 1-12.
The audio presentation for this release is done with the original Japanese language track in stereo as well as the new English language track, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that works really well in both dialogue and action, which it exercises both regularly. While it is a familiar mecha show in a lot of ways, it works the inside and outside of the machine well while the action itself has a pretty good amount of impact with it. The directionality is one that definitely works well in the bigger scenes with the way the creatures attack and the way that the TSF’s go at it. Dialogue is generally a bit quieter and more nuanced at times as they go through the various events, but it has some solidly emotional areas as well that really carry through in a great way, making those scenes as important as they should be. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout at all levels and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in the summer of 2012, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across two discs with eight bilingual episodes on the first and four on the second. Animated by Satelight, the show has a really great look here with some very fluid animation in both character and action sequences while the mechanical design is spot on in standing out well here. The colors are really impressive throughout in the backgrounds, especially some of the clouds and sky sequences, but just in the overall approach of it which is encoded beautifully here. There’s a great vibrancy to it that gives it some great pop while also being very solid. While there’s a lot of quiet scenes here without a lot of animation, there’s also some very active scenes and episodes with a lot going on to balance it out. Overall, this show was one that looked great in simulcast form and looks even more appealing here with the higher bit rates and space to work with.
The packaging design for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs against the interior walls. The front cover gives us some good character artwork of Yuuya and Yui together in their piloting uniforms while the Shinarui is behind them, but it’s done with a sunset off to the side so there’s an orange and yellow haze about it that could be a little disconcerting. It gives it a really neat feeling overall though for me, especially with the reflective aspect of the suits and the mecha, and it definitely stands out in general with appealing character designs. The back cover goes a bit darker and murkier with a more oppressive feeling about it as it shows off a little artwork of Inia and Cryska to the left while the right has a small selection of decent shots from the show. With a dull gray interior location background to it, the premise is decently legible overall with a yellow font while the discs extras and epsiode count is clearly listed. Production credits round out the rest of the cover along with the technical grid that covers everything cleanly and clearly.
The menu design for this release is pretty solid as it goes with a familiar but simple design to bring things together well. The layout has the navigation along the left with the eclipse aspect shown halfway but done with a blue hue that’s definitely appealing. The navigation provides for both episode numbers and titles in a clear way with a mixture of whites and blues on black that’s easy to read.The right side has static artwork that’s more illustration in style, especially for the second disc, where each shows off different pairings of characters. It’s not a mindblowing menu design or artwork that radically changes how you think of it, but it all comes together well and looks great.
The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the visual novel game world, Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse is a twenty-four episode series that arrived in 2012 with animation from Satelight. I had not prior experience with the game prior to the simulcast of the series and had no clue what to expect. The show ended up becoming one of the real highlights of 2012 for me with what it did and I was saddened to see that it didn’t get picked up right away and instead took until last year for it to finally find a home with Sentai Filmworks. Thankfully, they’ve given it a solid dub here and a great looking transfer to bring it all home in a way that makes it all the more engaging to watch. With a show like this, it’s able to do things that you don’t always get with mecha shows since there’s actual death, danger and loss along the way along with a whole lot of action.
What really sold me on it at the start was that it spent the first two episodes doing pretty much back story and foundational material. What we learn here is that mankind experience its first encounter with aliens on the moon where it turned into the first Lunar War in 1967. It didn’t take long for things to shift to Earth after the loss there and for the next several decades there’s been a slow but steady loss of ground to this varied race of disturbing looking creatures that are called the BETA. History was certainly changed here along the way and we pick up with things in 1997 where, in Imperial Japan, we meet Yui, a high school student whose father is high within the command as there’s very much a clan aspect to how things work here. We get a good sense of how there’s a war footing here in Japan as Yui and the others are all focused on learning to pilot and fight against the BETA, but also just how intense things are as some of the first attacks on Kyushu hit and she and her friends understand the true horrors of war.
There are no punches pulled here and over these two episodes you really get a good sense of just how dark this show can get at times. While you get a little nervous over it being another schoolgirls save the world story, instead it’s about crushing that last bit of innocence as Yui’s entire team ends up killed when they were just providing mild support as cadets. When the BETA invade the base and take all of them down, she ends up seeing the bodies of her friends being torn apart and eaten by these things in a grisly way. Even worse is when another of them is still in her mecha, a Tactical Surface Fighter, and as the BETA tear it open, she begs for Yui to kill her rather than suffer what’s in store for her. Yui can’t do it and we see the girl torn apart in front of her. It’s one of those moments that really defines a character and makes it clear why she does so much of what she does going forward.
Surprisingly, the show doesn’t continue from there but rather shifts to 2001 where she’s now further up in the ranks and is working with testing out the next generation TSF fighters. What they’re doing is using a UN base in the Yukon to bring together a variety of pilots from nations that have succumbed to the BETA as well as researchers to figure it all out. This has her running this one group which is made up of a decent mix of characters from around the world and the arrival of the difficult to work with Yuuya Bridges, a half American half Japanese pilot that has made it impossible for him to team with others. It’s no surprise that he rubs everyone in this new unit wrong even as he’s become the star player because of his position in handling the new test fighter. You can see plenty of the kinds of arcs that will sprawl from that in the first half of the series here in how it takes time for the team to come together and understand each other and the difficulties Yuuya has when it comes to authority figures. Which is why he’s in the military, right?
It may be predictable in some senses, but there’s a good unpredictability about it all as well as it progresses. What this series does that wins me over with it is that it really does play a bit more real world in a lot of ways. Even though they’re all facing extinction, there’s a lot of nationalism going on here, which you can understand from those that have lost their nations. That doesn’t quite turn to racism in places, though there are brushes with it, but we get a lot of ethnic stuff coming in at times and that gives it a rougher feel that definitely feels rather right with it here. You get the Russian superiority side in a later arc that’s very blunt and some of the call outs they make are interesting. But the best is that we get some self-hate going on with Yuuya as his Japanese father left before he was born and his mother’s father was very racist. That made him dislike himself in a lot of ways which got reinforced by the way other kids made fun of him and avoided him for his Japanese heritage. That plays into the problems that Yuuya has in working under Yui, who in turn finds him to not be properly Japanese which makes her more critical of him. It’s not something you see in anime in general and it’s a rather engaging element to bring to it.
Applying those trappings to the world under siege adds a lot of style to it that makes it all the more real, even if the team is largely on the outside of things. We see them going through various stages of training and testing and getting to see the kinds of issues that come into play with someone likely Yuuya as the “Top Gun” of the place, but we also get some fun times as well. The series certainly knows when it can play to fanservice and while it does get blatant in several areas, it’s hard to fault it because it does it so well. Sometimes you can really do it in a stylish way that makes it work. The action component is an important part of the series as well, which is masterfully executed because it does try to play it realistic while not going overboard with it. It’s not constant action and it’s not hugely over the top but it does it with great detail and an approach that draws you in as it does play it tactically. We even get a nearly four episode arc towards the end that shows a good blend of action, alien drama, political intrigue and more.
Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse is an absolutely goofy name in general that’s tied to an extensive visual novel and series of spinoffs and other works over the years. The anime series here is one that completely stands on its own and doesn’t require any knowledge of any of it. What it does here is really invest in making this a strong property all on its own and to push forward with it in a big way. There’s a solid cast here, a really good story that’s expansive but personal and some great action alongside mechanical and character designs that elevates it all. I thoroughly enjoyed this series when I first saw it on a weekly basis and marathoning here just reinforces that as you see all the threads of the narrative in a clearer and more engaging way. There’s no skimping here as we get the kind of action and alien invasion show that I wish we had a few more like it each year instead of those that play cute and simple without anything challenging to it. Very recommended.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Openings, Clean Closings
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: January 20th, 2015
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.