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Muv Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse Complete Collection 2 Blu-ray Anime Review

12 min read

Muv-Luv HeaderEven in the face of overwhelming alien invaders, we are our own worst enemy.

What They Say:
Even in the face of annihilation by the invading BETA forces, the persistent hostilities between the surviving nations continue to undermine mankind’s chances for survival. Desperate to gain the Type 99, the Soviet Command puts not only their own pilots but the rest of the human race on the firing line as they sabotage the Kamchatka base self-destruct codes in an attempt to salvage the railgun for their own purposes.

Caught in the crossfire, Yuuya, Yui, and the other TSF pilots must fight their way to safety through a nightmarish series of traps and counter-traps before the base is bombed or the BETA take them all. Only a series of heroic sacrifices can save them, and that’s just the beginning of the danger. The mysterious arrival of an unidentified TSF and an escalating competition to dominate the new world’s power and military structures ignite a new chain of events that further threaten to undercut humanity’s chances.

Contains episodes 13-24.

The Review:
Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
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 this time around is one that feels a little forced on the fanservice side to sell it with Cryska leaning back a bit and her hair fluttering in the imaginary motion of it all. The character design is good, but it just speaks the wrong way here. The color design is solid and having the mecha side of it in the background with the shades of blue is strong and appealing. The back cover goes a bit darker and murkier with a more oppressive feeling about it as it shows off a little artwork of some of the supporting characters from later in the episode 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.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
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)
Muv Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse was a lot of fun to revisit in its first half in marathon form after initially seeing it as a simulcast. While the larger threads could be seen easily enough, I enjoyed seeing how some of the character stories were woven a bit tighter this way and you could see the arc flowing better amid all the action and chaos of fighting against the invaders known as the BETA. Having not been involved in playing the games at all, I found that this stood on its own just right and made me curious, but I didn’t feel like I had to really play them to get more out of it. Add in the nationalistic aspect of the characters, the movements around the world and some amusing personalities and that opening block set the stage well – particularly with a couple of episodes at the start given over to just back story for the premise and for Yui.

With this half of the series, which doesn’t bring the overall storyline with the BETA to a close, we do have a lot going on that gives us a sense of closure to a degree. Because of the structure of the series, this set starts off by finishing off the events of the previous one with the testing phase that was going on and the chaos there of the Russian base being overrun by the BETA. It’s been a difficult, grisly and ugly situation with what was going on as there was a grand plan to eliminate a lot of the competition and move towards larger goals in the Eurasian continent, but it’s all kept fairly personal as it involves Yuuya doing his best to keep Yui alive even as the base gets covered in the BETA of all stripes. There’s some really great creature design at work here and it has a solid sense of fear since you can’t be sure who all will survive in this kind of situation.

What worked in particular for me here is seeing the way the characters interacted in the face of realizing that what they thought should happen ended up not happening and that they were being sacrificed. Yuuya’s intent on saving Yui is logical from his perspective and while she initially fights him a little bit over it, she also realizes that it’s what he has to do and what she should do. It’s almost like they’re going by actual military structure and rules of engagement here. For Yuuya, he also gets to learn a different lesson later while fighting with those from the Zhar side as they help him escape after other events unfold across the base and they all realize what the Soviet command is actually up to. It’s one of those less than subtle moments, but it works well to reinforce to him that they’re fighting for each other and not for larger, nationalistic goals. That’s something that comes back into play as Yuuya has realized how accepted he’s been in the group he’s with now and that he’s become better for it – and would go the distance for them as well.

The fallout from that event isn’t small, but a lot of it is mostly swept off to the side for a bit outside of some commendations, some dark planning and an understanding of just how dangerous each side that’s vying for power in this world is. Thankfully, after as brutal as it got at times and the losses they had, we do get some down time for the group where they to go off and have a little fun. This admittedly does give us out hot spring episode and all that it entails, but it’s used to push forward things with Yui realizing more and more of her feelings towards Yuuya, but also the introduction of other characters that have come into play and in competition to get Yuuya as well, such as Lt. Cui. The introduction of more characters isn’t a surprise as the show works a good international flavor, something that’s definitely an appeal as it avoids going comically over the top with their nationalistic attributes, and something like this is a fun way to introduce them to each other. The series has played the fanservice side well in my mind with what it wants to do, so some material like this worked well for me and as a chance just to catch our breath and have fun. It can’t be super serious all the time.

Where the show surprised me a bit in its second half is that it pulls an odd move of having the UN bring together a range of countries to go to the Yukon base in order to participate in something called a Blue Flag competition. The idea is to have the top teams from different nations come together to show what they can do, learn from each other and potentially figure out some larger plans to deal with the BETA. The idea is that they should all be working together against the alien threat. Which plainly isn’t happening and doesn’t happen here either as it goes on. Instead, the TSF teams get really competitive, the mechanics engage in some serious odds making with the gambling side and tensions pick up a lot as fight break out amongst the pilots, some of which have longstanding grudges of different types. And with the way the US team is made up of different nationalities, that also introduces its own tension to the mix, particularly as Yuuya’s former comrades are there with their issues with him.

There are some decent moments within the competition as we see the various teams jockeying against each other and techniques are brought out. In particular, we see that Yuuya has really grown as a pilot and combatant but also in how he thinks of the team as a whole now rather than just his own goals. There are a few episodes worth of this and other tensions, but I was quite glad when the real trick of the storyline comes into play for the final four or so episodes. Seeded into it a bit earlier, we discover that the Refugee Liberation Front has managed to insert itself into the supply chain here that’s overdrawn by the various nations participating, and it allowed them to essentially stage a coup in a barrier land where they’re attempting to capture the base, show the world what the nations are truly doing in keeping down so many people and establish a new front to bring up those that are oppressed.

It’s all good ideas, but the execution and doing it alongside one of the most active fronts that will lead to a cataclysm should it be overrun doesn’t show a lot of forward thinking. In particular, there’s no truly compelling front man to it that would make for good PR as instead we see that this group are all being manipulated by some higher power with its own agenda. What it does provide for is a truly engaging experience as we see how this sudden grab for power throws off so many, causes so many more to be killed and adds some great chaos to events as secrets are close to being exposed and that means radical solutions to ensure that they don’t. Suffice to say, America does not come across well here, but based on what we know of so many countries and how they’re operating in this war, nobody is coming across well since it’s all so nationally focused rather than being used as a rally point to work together for a common cause.

There are some good twists that come from this with reveals of various RLF members appearing from unexpected quarters, and we get a few deaths along the way and some solid character background material revealed. It also provides for some good rallying points for Argos team and what they’re facing, but also time for Yuuya to step up and take what he’s learned from so many others and apply it to the fight here, especially as Cryska and Inia get “unlocked” along the way and are close to setting off events that will be catastrophic here. It’s all built towards a good level here and it capitalizes on it well with a lot of action that’s well choreographed and a excellent sense of scale for the events, but it also balances it with the character side well. And not just for our core cast, but for some of the supporting characters and the RLF side as well. That, built on top of everything else that we had over the course of it, provides the right emotional hooks to take us through to the end – and leaves me wanting more to see what else will happen in this world.

In Summary:
When I first went into this series, I had little idea what to expect, especially with a goofy name like “Muv Luv.” The first half laid down a lot of foundations with the cast and the world that took time to build and connected well for me, especially since it played to various levels of patriotism and nationalism for a lot of the characters. With the second half, it builds on top of that well and moves events forward, though still leaving the overall world to be dealt with in the background. There’s an intriguing world that’s put together here that can be invested in with a lot of stories across the board and this one definitely hit a lot of sweet spots for me throughout. While I’m usually fine once a series is done and don’t mind if there isn’t more, this one left me wanting to see another couple of seasons to go through more of the overall premise that’s in play here. Very good stuff, well animated and designed, and brought out in a largely solid package.

Features:
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: May 12th, 2015
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
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.

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