Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse – 01

Mankind makes first contact with a hostile extra-terrestrial race classified as “BETA” in 1967. Thirty years later, Earth has been invaded, and Japan is one of the last countries not directly under siege. Still, the enemy is coming, and shogun vasssal Takamura Yui and her classmates are being quickly trained for battle. One year later, in 1998, the capital Kyoto is under siege, and Yui’s trainee squad is one of the last lines of defense.

Aliens invade Earth and girls in skintight bodysuits have to fight them! Sound familiar? Well, with Total Eclipse, it’s all in the execution, and despite some flaws (more on them later), it does a very effective job selling the very real peril Yui, her comrades, and all humanity faces. This is a seemingly hopeless fight, and all the humans can seem to do is fall back and die before the implacable, merciless BETA. This encroaching darkness builds slowly as the episode progreses, culminating in Yui & Co. charging into their first battle. Once engaged with the BETA, the average soldier lasts eight minutes. Harsh stuff indeed – and not the environment you’d want high school girls in.

While this first episode successfully drew out the right emotions, it did stumble on a couple of technical points. The production values are uneven, and the CGI is not very well integrated with the conventional animation. Some vehicles – like the Mecha – are detailed CG models, but ordinary cars and trucks are hand-drawn and choppy. The character designs are somewhat plain and uninspired, and the mecha themselves, more often than not, just look like huge lumbering targets that can barely get out of their own way. After the eye candy smorgasbord that was Aquarion Evol, this is definitely a step down in quality, but as long as we’re emotionally invested – and we are so far – we can see ourselves getting used to it.

Rating: 7 (Very Good)