Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse – 02

Takamura Yui’s trainee unit is sent out to face the BETA, but they find themselves quickly overrun and without sufficient ammo. As her allies fall all around her, all Yui can do is fall back. She, Izumo and Yamashiro are given cover by their instructor, but are still intercepted by BETA. Izumo and Yamashiro are eaten before Yui’s eyes, and she’s saved at the last moment by an elite mecha. She wakes up in a medical camp; Kyoto has fallen. She witnesses a birth, breaks down, and vows to reject extintion for the rest of her days, something she still lives by three years later.

Last week we heard a whole lot about the BETA invading, but didn’t actually see a whole lot of focused combat, or the ensuing invasions. The tension built up was all about impending doom. Well, the doom comes this week, and in spades. The BETA are every bit the implacable, merciless foe we labeled them last week and then some. They not only destroy humans and their civilization, but they eat humans too, in a disturbing, visceral spectacle of gore. While mostly obscured by darkness, still evoked strong feelings of dread and disgust and a sinking feeling in our stomach. On a larger scale, the images of the Japanese Navy bombarding its own capital – destorying 1200 years of history and sending national morale into the toilet – are no easier to watch.

Now we know why the characters were so bland last week: because they never made it past this week. The sole survivor of the last two episodes is Takamura Yui. This is bold and gutsy. How many recent series have killed so many people in its first two episodes? This opening one-two punch thus serves as an elaborate and vivid backstory for Yui, showing us exactly all she’s endured to become the person we’ll see in the following episodes. The emotional investment Total Eclipse earned from us was held and intensified. Having gone through hell and back with Yui, we find ourselves hating the BETA as much as she does, and can’t wait to see how she’ll start fighting back. We’ll need a ray of hope soon…we can only wallow in hell so long.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

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Another – 12 (Fin)

More students die trying to flee the burning hotel. Mr. Tatsuji returns to help get Teshigawara, Mochizuki, and others to safety. Kazami tries to kill Sakikabara, but he in turn is killed by Izumi, who wants both Sakikibara and Misaki dead. When lightning strikes a hotel window, the glass shards rain upon Izumi. As she dies she tells Sakakibara they had met a year and a half ago.

Misaki sneaks off, but when he finds her, she’s about to kill the extra one, who is Ms. Mikami, AKA Aunt Reiko. She died a year and a half ago, but Sakakibara’s memories were lost until now. He kills her himself, and the calamity ends. Life returns to normal for Sakakibara and Misaki, and the rest of the surviving class 3 records a clearer message about how to stop the calamity.

We commend this series for building up a huge amount of atmosphere and dread (in a tidy twelve episodes) until it literally explodes in the finale, finally revealing the truth. For the record, we were still (semi-intentionally) in the dark until Misaki told Sakakibara not to go to the backyard.

The twist is that titular “Another” or extra student wasn’t a student at all; at least, not a current member of Class 3, but a former student, and the “assistant homeroom teacher” no other class in the school had. The roughed-up desk was Misaki’s, so there was no extra desk – except in the faculty lounge. Izumi remembers Sakakibara from before – because he came to town before for Reiko’s funeral. Sakakibara says “Goodbye, mother” before killing her, suggesting perhaps she wasn’t merely his aunt.

So, like many other Class 3s before, plenty of damage was done before the calamity ended. There are various reasons things went so wrong – the tape was released to the class too recklessly, causing a frenzy of suspicion and needless killing. That was proceeded by the misconception Misaki Mei was the Another and was ostracized by the class to protect themselves, when in reality ignoring her had absolutely no effect. Believing it would, however, would also lead the class to believe the calamity was started when Sakakibara arrived and started talking to Mei.

In short, all the evidence about Reiko was obscued from plain view by all the other theories students past and present had formed (including the dead Misaki story). Will future Class 3s learn anything from this last one? We’re not so sure. Whatever tape they record insisting a future class avoid regrets by staying calm and clear-headed, the fact is they won’t have a Misaki Mei in their class – a girl with the eye that can see the Another. Her smirk before the credits roll in response to Sakakibara’s asking if it’s over is a perfect ending: it’s only really over for them.


Rating: 4

 Car Cameo: Featured prominently in the last two episodes is Mr. Tatsuji’s awesomely boxy, teal-blue Volvo 240 Wagon, the quintessential librarian’s car.

Another – 11

A panicking Teshigawara tells Sakaki and Misaki that he may have accidentally killed class rep Kazami, who he believed might have been the dead one. While going to check on the body, Sakaki notices the dining hall is aflame, and the manager within dead. Kazami is gone. Takako plays the tape on the PA and tells the class Misaki is the dead person and must be killed. As Teshi and Mochi are cornered by the maid, Sakaki and Misaki run for their lives from students trying to kill her. Ms. Mikami, Ogura and Takako are killed in the process, and Izumi thinks Misaki killed Takako. The dining hall explodes, killing another student.

Without a doubt, having the whole class go on a manor retreat was a big, big mistake. Whether it’s pure fear of dying or some kind of supernatural power fueling them, students go crazy left and right this week, rearin’ to kill who they think is the dead person. Panic and desperation lead to insanity, in the case of Takako and Ogura, who both die particularly freakish and gruesome deaths (hanging and falling don’t begin to decribe them). All because no one knows Misaki Mei has a twin.

With all the death and carnage going on, you’d think one of the victims would actually be the dead person, but it seems they escaped harm this week, saving their fate, and that of Sakaki and Misaki, for the final episode next week. This episode outdid all previous episodes in sheer manic horror, gore, and bone-snapping. Compared to the calm early episodes, it’s as if the class has completely exploded on itself (like the dining hall), and they’re well on their way to tearing themselves apart, like so many class 3s before.


Rating: 4

Another – 08

Sakakibara, Izumi, and a group of classmates go on a trip to Teshi, a seaside village where Matsunaga lives. Reiko drives them. They hope to get some info about how he prevented the calamity 15 years ago. He’s unavailable when they arrive, so they have fun on the beach while they wait. Sakakibara finds Misaki playing by herself on the same beach. Matsunaga arrives, and he starts to remember something about what he used being at the school, but a stiff gust sends their beach ball into the sea. Nakao swims out to get it, and is killed by the propeller of a passing boat.

Oho, Another…you’re good. Very good. 9/10ths of the episode was inconsequential car ride and beach fun. Everyone assumes because they’re not in Yomiyama, the curse has no power and they’ll all be safe. Well, they aren’t. There’s an initial and obvious moment dread – a passing tanker truck on the road, but that threat passes and we let our guard down. Coast clear. Could this be another bloodless episode? No. One of the lesser-known students, Nakao, gets killed after something convinced him it was a good idea to swim out to where there are boats. Heck, we even thought someone might taste that poisonous pufferfish.

The car ride was a nice way for Sakakibara to learn more about Akazawa, while his scenes with Misaki on the beach are also fun bonding experiences. All of this also served to lull us into a false sense that this would just be yet another beach episode; something that arrests the momentum of the horror. But the horror came, and better late than never. And it almost happened in slow motion, with everyone watching – almost knowing what was coming – but helpless to prevent it. Theory about being safe outside Yomiyama? Disproved. The importance of Matsunaga remembering more about the past? Crucial.


Rating: 4

Car Cameos: Aunt Reiko drives a Toyota Starlet 5-door (with plenty of road rage). Akazawa’s dad drives a Toyota Crown. One of the several cars Reiko passes is a Suzuki Wagon R+.

Un-Go – 10

A hearing is held, run by Diet Member Kuramitsu, to investigate the studio bombing. Rinroku and Rie attend via sattelite, and Shinjurou is among those questioning him. He harbors a consistent suspicion that he’s hiding something, and that he’s using Bettenou to bend reality. Bettenou is at work, but her loyalties are ambiguous. She does have contact with Inga, who has grown distant from Shinjurou and extracts vital state secrets from Izumi. Upon being discharged from hospital, Rinroku’s van explodes with him and his bodyguard Mizuno inside, but Shinjurou is convinced he faked his death. The truth continues to elude him.

This was a tough episode to follow, but by gum were we entertained. It frankly blew our minds with possibilities. As Rinroku says, there are as many truths as there are people. Indeed, every day, every moment we cultivate our own truths, which may change from one moment to the next. Those like Shinjurou live to find the truth, something infinitely elusive, and even though they may even know what he seeks is an impossibility, he still tries. No matter how much he uncovers, there’s always more. No single human lifetime is long enough; the search for truth is eternal.

Is truth an enemy? A foe to be defeated? Why is it he knows Bettenou is at work in the proceedings that surround him, but no one else does, save Rinroku? Throughout this episode, we were fed a lot of information, but like the Defeated Detective, we feel like we haven’t crafted a satisfactory explanation for wtf is going on. Things are getting very weird; abstract; conceptual. The episode where the author trapped Shinjurou in a fantasy world was only the warm-up; the real mind gymnastics begin here- and next week, end. This is one 11-episode series we wish wasn’t ending.


Rating: 4

Ao no Exorcist 7

Exorcist gets right back on point with a episode containing a good mix of instruction, character progression, peril, and action. Shiemi wants to make friends, and chooses the most unpleasant of classmates in Izumo. She’s descended from a shrine maiden and can summon demon foxes without batting an eyelid, but she’s kind of a bitch too, who looks down on everyone and turns Shiemi into her servant under the false pretense of friendship. Having “never had” a friend before, Shiemi doesn’t think anything of this treatment, but it angers Rin and Izumo’s longtime friend Pazu.

It’s worth mentioning that while Shiemi hadn’t formed any significant bonds up until this week, if, like her, you don’t count Rin and Yukio, Rin meanwhile has pretty much been accepted by Bon and his mates, despite Bon’s external reluctance. Also, Bon’s group all want to be Arias, and they’ll need a knight; enter Rin. When a demon invades the girl’s bath, the previously calm, confident Izumo is an emotional wreck after Pazu admonishes her for the way she’s treated Shiemi.

Thus, her summoned foxes turn on her and the demon wounds Pazu. This scene wisely eschews overt fanservice; on the contrary, the fact only Izumo managed to get undressed before the peril actually underscores her vulnerability. In reality, she’s just like Shiemi: she believes there are few who’d find her worth the trouble, so she depends on Pazu’s presence. If eyebrows would only lower the bitch-armor, Izumo might realize that Shiemi and Rin can be worthwhile, powerful friends. They certainly made a good team here.

Both Shiemi’s tamer/doctor skills and Rin’s diversionary tactics save Izumo and Pazu, while Yukio chases the demon off with his gun. The demon, it would seem, was sent by the demon-summoning teacher to attack Rin, which begs a couple questions: one, why was it in the girl’s bathroom, and two, wouldn’t the teacher have known such a relatively weak demon would have been easily dispatched, as it was? Whatever the case, as the core of “Exwires” gels, people are still gunning for Rin’s head. Rating: 3.5