Type: TV (26 episodes)
Muv Luv: Total Eclipse
Also known as: Total Eclipse
Humanity has fought for decades against the aliens known as Beta. Parts of the world are under their control, with many millions killed or displaced. Humanity continues to lose ground, and the situation increasingly desperate. At Yukon base, a development collaboration between nations who have lost their nations is taking place.
Yuya Bridges is an Japanese-American who's never dealt well with his Japanese heritage, now assigned to a group developing mecha to combat the Beta. Yui fought countless battles in Japan, but is now assigned to this project and immediately she and Bridges are at odds. Even with aliens threatening the existence of humanity, the bigger threats for individuals tend to be in emotions and politics.
Muv Luv is a very popular visual novel franchise in Japan. You don't need to know anything about it, but keep the basis of this anime in mind. Total Eclipse is a completely separate story taking place in the same universe. Many hate on this show, and I'm sure most would say I shouldn't rate it as high as I do. It goes into harem territory with a random bouts of stupidity, and (kind of) fumbles the end. Even so, I think it does well overall, and I even enjoyed some of the more sloppy parts.
All I knew about Total Eclipse was that it involved girls in skin tight suites for piloting giant robots (at least it has that much going for it right?). Space bugs try to destroy humanity, humans develop giant mecha to fight them; nothing out of place. Then the attack on Japan arrives and whoah. Brutal fighting, carnage everywhere, and Yui watching her teammates graphically eaten alive by aliens. Episodes 3 takes place years later, with Yui being quite the bitch. But knowing what happened to her you understand this is a woman who witnessed hardcore shit going down and what made her that way. THIS is how you do character development!
A common misconception is the focus on battling aliens. Total Eclipse is more about developing the weapons to fight them, then actually fighting them; like Top Gun. If expecting wall to wall alien battles, this won't live up to what you want. What Total Eclipse delivers instead is a very human story about the struggle to survive in the face of advisaries and from humans themselves. But first girls in swimsuits.
Just a few episodes in there is a beach episode and I thought this one had randomly gone to hell for no discernible reason. In fact this episode has key developments, and isn't utterly brain-dead. Plus, Russian girls in swimsuits. Mind you, I don't consider harem weirdness automatically stupid or a detractor. Total Eclipse doesn't have that kind of problem. In fact on a lore and technical level and it's very good. But then there are these weird detours into harem anime territory which make it confusing.
Total Eclipse moves into new sections of development, and each brings forth a compelling story about the politics and competition between nations, where the peons on the front line struggle to even stay alive. Total Eclipse does a great job showing how the elite shuffle people around as pawns. The alternate world is very well thought out, making the scenarios fairly plausable.
Things are great until episode 20 or so, then it gets shaky. A Chinese girl is introduced, declaring she'll marry Yuya after he defeated her in a duel (face-palm). By this point Yui is had been on a steady decline from her previous awesomeness and demoted to stock tsundere. Then testing is put on hold for an international competition for nations to field their Mechs against each other (ala fighting tournament). Things take a turn for the better towards the end, but man what a pile of stupid all at once. I should also point out that it's not exactly conclusive as in "the end" in bold text. It's a little open ended but I forgive Total Eclipse becuase... Russian girls in swimsuits. No wait, I mean because it packed a lot of content into 24 episodes and accomplished a lot.
A few other points. I liked how robots are referenced by aircraft names. Like the F-14 Tomcat is an American carrier based mech and so forth. Visually its nice all around. If you're a fan of mecha anime, you'll be very satisfied with some great giant robot combat.
Many don't like this anime, but for different reasons. Some don't like the harem stuff, while others just want endless bug battles, which it doesn't do much of. I was disappointed with Yui's downfall into a tired trope because she started as such an awesome character, and the ending could have been more conclusive (another season possible?). Oh yeah, the characters. You know, I liked everyone in this anime far more than I expected. Based on my personal preference I'd recommend it, but I'd warrant caution if anything I said gives you doubts. Yes it's often dumb, but the show overall is well thought out. If only the dub had Russian accents.
Fikatsia: When you blame something outside yourself for your failure to act, the only thing you can convince is your own heart.
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