Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse – 12

Yui is saved when Yamamoto pins the tank Beta with the forklift, and she saves him by killing it. They get back to work, arguing over who should stay behind to detonate the prototype. After successfully exposing the cannon’s core modules, Yamamoto goes below and is ambushed by Beta. Yui can only put him out of his misery, and it isn’t long until she too is surrounded. Yuuya saves her at the last second, and pulls the shrapnel out of her arm while Stella covers them. The main force of the Beta are converging on the hangar.

There were times during this episode when we started to wonder whether really would be the end of Lt. Takamura Yui. After all, she’s dead-set on scuttling the cannon, bushido dictates she sacrifice herself to protect others, and we flashed back to when she was still a bright-eyed student in Kyoto. Also, she’s not the only main character. While killing her off would be piss us off to no end, it would no doubt be a bold, audacious move, no doubt providing fresh motivation for Yuuya. But the question we asked at the end of last week’s review is answered in the affirmative, and that works for us, too.

Unfortunately, Corporal Yamamoto – who had a target on his back the moment we first saw him – isn’t so lucky, though you could say he died with honor. Doing so didn’t require staying alive as the Beta eat him, which is why Yui’s mercy shot was fully justified. And while we still maintain they’re pretty stupid looking, they can also be downright frightening in such close quarters, dwarfing the tiny, delicate Yui. Yuuya’s peril-extending first-aid aside, Yui’s still not leaving until that cannon is destroyed. The cannon that, we reiterate, is the potential savior of mankind. Silly humans…

Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse – 11

The test flights are ordered to standby as command determines the next course of action. Ultimately, Lt. Sendak orders a total evacuation of the base and a retreat of all forces, with Zhar battalion covering them. This means abandoning all equipment, including the Japanese Type 99 Cannon. Realizing this was the Soviets’ plan all along, Dahl sents a coded message to the XFJ team. Vincent informs Takamura, who heads to the cannon after getting the slip from her escort team, but its self-destruct program has been sabotaged. She and a corporal who stayed behind prepare to blow it up manually. Vincent informs Yuuya that Yui is still at the base, with Beta hordes knocking on its door.

The political chess game continues, as the underground Beta offensive is merely an excuse to abandon the base so the Soviets can get their hands on the Type 99, or so it seems. The Beta are using the same tunnels they dug in an earlier offensive,  never filled in by the Soviets, so there’s no vibrations warning of their numbers. Suffice it to say, there are enough coming. Outside of the base and lucky enough to bump into Vincent, Takamura is able to get to the cannon. And so the weapon she slaved over – that could potentially save humanity – has to be blown up so it won’t fall into Soviet hands. Sounds like a raw deal to us, but never underestimate mankind’s capacity for, well, self-destruction.

What we don’t get is why Takamura and straggler Corporal Yamamoto are laboring to blow the cannon up…won’t the Beta do that for them? Considering what’s been going on globally – the Beta are invading human territories and holding them, destroying everyone and everything in sight. It seems unlikely the Soviets would be able to ensure the Type 99 isn’t damaged beyond recognition by the Beta before if they’re even able to clear them out. Still, better safe than sorry, and in Takamura’s own words, her people don’t always act on reason alone. This is a matter of pride: they know what the Soviets are up to and they won’t let them get away with it…even if it means Princess Yui risks having her body puréed by Beta. So…will Yuuya disobey orders and go save her?

Rating: 6

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse – 10

Bridges returns to congratulations from his friends and more scorn and mocking from Latrova’s men. He sits out the victory party, and begs Yui to let him go on a close-range melee sortie, she tells him she’ll do what she can. During his 36 hours of standby, Latrova approaches him, telling him to cut ties with those who “spoil him”. He participates in the mopping-up of the remnants of the Beta, but another, larger surprise force suddenly approaches the base – from underground.

The humans in this series are in a tough spot. They now possess a weapon that can quickly obliterate an entire charging army of Beta in one shot (Yuuya kills more than 3,000 of them). But there’s only one Type 99 rifle, and the Japanese don’t want to share the technology. Also, being a new and highly secrative piece of kit, it’s fussy; shutting down without warning and unable to be reactivated. Those who could fix it are in Japan, and aren’t coming. The Beta may be the humans’ ultimate undoing, but all their distrust of one another isn’t helping matters.

Yuuya shows more growth in this episode, letting all the sarcastic remarks slide, being respectful to Lt. Takamura, and even agreeing with her when she suggests he sit out a sortie. He’s caught the interest of Cmdr Latrova (much to her unit’s unease), who insists if he’s going to continue growing, he has to stop blaming others and hanging out with those who let him. Ironically, this commander of a group of grunts from conquered nations is Russian, the nationality they despise. We also learn she’s fighting for her kid, whom she had to give away, and for all the children of her country. With a surprise Beta attack on the base imminent, it will be all hands on deck – and Yuuya will likely get the close-range combat experience he’s itching for.

Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse – 09

Cmdr. Latrova briefs her Zhar Battalion and the three test flights, including Argos, that will participate in the operation against the Beta. She has a low opinion of Argos, and warns them to stay out of the way. Yuuya breaks up another scuffle between the Zhar pilots and Scarlet Twins, but Cryska doesn’t want his help. The day of the battle arrives, and there aren’t enough tanks to hold back the waves of Beta. Yuuya begs Latrova to withdraw her forces so he can get an open shot with the EM cannon. They eventually do, and he wipes out the entire Beta force with one shot. The mission successful, Takamura orders him back to base.

Finally, an actual battle! Though, because of Argos Flight’s position (in the back of the front line, not actually on it), Yuuya doesn’t quite experience the Eight Minutes of Death. He kinda just holds his position the whole time while everyone else supports him. This doesn’t ingratiate him with the Zhar Patch Kids, but then they’re just stupid punk kids. Unfortunately only one of them gets killed off. Frankly, we were hoping they’d get more comeuppance for ganging up on Inia a second time. Instead, Yuuya takes the high ground (literally and figuratively).

He beats the rotten odds set up by the Soviets, who seemed intent on not allowing the weapon test, even though that’s the whole reason Argos and Yuuya are there. Thanks to a moment of common sense by Latrova, he gets his chance, and the railgun makes quite the statement. Give every Eishi one of those cannons and adequate time to set it up (whic is a bit of an ordeal), and the Beta don’t stand a chance. Victorious, Takamura offers heartfelt thanks to Yuuya, and he thanks her in return. Not letting himself get provoked by kids; not sabotaging the mission by acting selfishly; being nice to Yui – who is this kid, and what have they done with the real Yuuya Bridges? :)

Rating: 6 (Good)

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse – 08

Argos Flight is sent to Kamchatka, Russia for TSF testing in a real battle environment. Yui and Yuuya’s truce continues, as Yui shows him the new experimental weapon he’ll be using. While looking for barracks, Yuuya comes across Cryska and Inia being ganged up on by young Far East eishis. Before they have to fight, their commanding officer shows up. In a later briefing, a massive coastal landing of Beta is announced, and Argos Flight will be paired with the elite Zhar Battalion, led by Cmdr. Fikatsia Latrova.

Finally the series stops messing around with beaches and swimsuits and puts everyone on the front line. Predictably, both Argos Flight and the Scarlet twins get no love from the locals, who resent their elite status, fancy toys, and how they’ve been back in safe Alaska while they’ve watched friends die. In this hostile, tense environment, Yui and Yuuya are civil, cordial, and even a little chummy in their interactions. Yuuya concedes that he’s still green when it comes to real anti-Beta combat, defers to Yui’s council, and promises not to underestimate the Beta, while coming back with his TSF – and body – in one piece.

There’s a new element of inter-ethnic tensions this week, as the cosmopolitan, entitled Russians Cryska and Inia are derided by soldiers at the base who are Kazakh or Georgian. They laugh at Cryska’s insistance they’re all “comrades”. Whether they were actually going to go through with stripping and gang-raping the twins(!), these grunts don’t give two shits about the “Motherland”, and answer to one person only: the mysterious “Thunder God” Commander Latrova, who is revered like a god, with special lighting for her arrival and everything. With Yui’s hard exterior softened considerably in recent episodes, Latrova looks to give her a run for her money in the badass department.

Rating: 6 (Good)

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse – 07

Cryska clarifies to Yui that she wants to know what it is about Yuuya that makes Inia so interested in him. Yui suggests she ask him herself, and while gathering firewood with him, she does. When Cryska faints again, Yuuya gets her to admit she has thalassophobia. Yui catches them embracing at gets upset, but before long their team members arrive at the island to rescue them. To take responsibility for the shipwreck, Yui is forced to wear a revealing bikini for all to see and photograph.

Sarcastic congratulations are in order for Muv-Luv, for taking the one dependably tough, no-nonsense, interesting character and turning her into a blushing mess of a tsundere. At various times she’s either lashing out to Yuuya and Cryska, and when they ask her to explain herself, she begins to, but gets frustrated and sulky. What’s more frustrating is that despite how blatantly tsundere-y Yui acts, Yuuya doesn’t pick up on it. He’s proven he can be a decent, chivalrous guy in a shipwreck, but when it comes to picking up obvious cues from the opposite sex, he’s apparently denser than a London Fog.

As if Yui’s dignity weren’t compromised enough, she’s ordered to entertain the soldiers at the base – most of them she outranks – by parading around in a skimpy bikini. Seriously…WTF? There’s a difference between raising morale and ogling/snapping pictures of your superiors – it’s neither appropriate nor realistic from a military perspective. We’d lighten up about it, but there’s a war on, and this was a two-part swimsuit episode in which almost nothing happened. Worse, there’s now a rumor afoot about Yui and Yuuya, which would be interesting if, ya know, anything actually happened. Alas.

Rating: 4 (Fair)

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse – 06

Argos Flight is on Guadalupe to perform joint environmental endurance tests with the Soviets. Tarisa and Inia instantly take a dislike to each other. On a day of dinghy racing, Yui’s partner Cryska collapses. Yuuya swims aboard to assess the information, and they row to an island as a large storm approaches. Yui sprains her ankle, so Yuuya carries Cryska then her to shelter. When he goes to check on the boat, Cryska asks Yui about him, and the boat is gone.

As soon as we heard “photo shoot for media materials to raise wartime morale”, we knew exactly what we were in for: a beach episode and transparent opportunity for the gals to show some skin. A side effect of such dawdling is that the urgency of the war – already lagging due to the lack of real combat the last few episodes – continues to erode. Once Yuuya was stranded on an island with two girls, the momentum of the  Beta War screeched to a halt. And while we had more than an inkling that beneath Yui and Yuuya’s tense professional friction they’re attracted to each other, we didn’t expect Yui to let her guard down so much this week.

Their stranding and her ankle sprain are obvious devices to get her in Yuuya’s arms, and on numerous occasions she’s blushing like a schoolgirl. At the same time, if you’re going to put them in this situation, at least go all the way and have them actually decisively act on their brimming feelings, which didn’t happen. It was nice to see a gentler side of Yui and Yuuya actually acting noble and not like a hotheaded ass, but while it’s nice to know there is more than ice water pumping through her veins, the impending love triangle with Cryska isn’t the most thrilling of prospects.

Rating: 5 (Average)

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse – 05

Yuuya begins training in his new Type 94 Shiranui Type 2, and is just as frustrated with it as we was with the Type 97. Lt. Takamura tells him ‘a man and horse must be one’, and Vincent reiterates that fighting the natural tendencies of the TSF won’t get him anywhere. After a belated welcoming party, Argos Flight goes on another training mission, which is interrupted by Takamura herself. She quickly takes out everyone and spars with Yuuya, who adjusts his piloting style and manages to knock her sword away. On her way back to HQ Yui encounters Inia, who greets her and then runs away.

The battle of wills between Yuuya and Yui continues next week, and was just on the verge of becoming stale when Yui decided to go out and teach Yuuya a firsthand lesson in how to handle one’s TSF. As Vincent astutely points out, they’re actually pretty alike; in that neither back down when they should, and neither are totally honest with themselves. Deep down they probably both see themselves in one another, which pisses them off even more. Yui may go on about how useless he is, but as her shower scene makes clear, she’s irked by his fast progress and potential for greatness.

This isn’t surprising, since Yui probably blames herself for not being able to save any of her friends years ago. Ever since then she’s built up a thicker and tougher armor around herself, but that trauma still festers. Still, her job is to polish the rough ore of Argos into a shimmering gem of BETA-killing, and so her surprise crashing of their training mission also made sense. Her goal was to either beat the hell out of him, or get him to trust his TSF enough to defend himself…and it worked. Now, if only we knew what the heck Inia is up to, and why she keeps showing up and calling people nice…

Rating: 6 (Good)

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse – 04

Lt. Takamura puts Yuuya in the Fubuki 97 TSF until the new Shiranui 94 is complete, and he has trouble controlling the Japanese design. Takamura tells him to curb his attitude, but in the subsequent joint BETA battle with the Soviets, he proves a liability, and has to be saved by his Argos teammates. Takamura tells him he lack talent, and he lets himself be led into a Top Secret Soviet base by Inia, one of the Scarlet twins, and is then arrested by Inia’s sister Cryska. Takamura pulls strings to get him released, but she warns him that this isn’t a game.

Yuuya’s American buddy Vincent suggests that if he wants to master a Japanese TSF, he has to know the Japanese mind that created it. The only problem is, as a second-gen Japanese-American, he was raised hating his Japanese side, and ostracized by his peers. Thus we have to backtrack a bit on him having a good life up to this point; the flashbacks were vivid proof his childhood was no picnic, while Takamura was from a proud and supportive family. But this still doesn’t excuse Yuuya for being the Genuine Class A Asshat that he is. Sure, his Argos Flight comrades are more forgiving with him, but we welcomed Takamura’s consistently scathing observations. She has a knack for rattling his cage, and he deserves everything she’s doling out.

Takamura isn’t in the habit of coddling her subordinates, dubbing Yuuya talentless and an embarrassmant to her race. To add injury to insult, Yuuya is almost tortured by Soviets for looking like a Japanese spy, but is bailed out at the last second by Takamura. And the jerk doesn’t even thank her. Sorry, but he doesn’t have the right to act this way. He’s one of the few people able to pilot TSFs, and he’s been chosen to be part of an outfit that looks to take the fight to the BETA. He needs to check his ego, attitude, and issues at the door before his idiocy gets people killed. Just so we’re clear: Takamura: still our fave; Yuuya: insufferable wretch in need of an attitude adjustment. Inia and Cryska: twincestuous Soviets??? O_o

Rating: 7 (Very Good)