Even though my compatriot Shinmaru has already covered it, I feel that I have plenty more to say regarding the first episode of Muv-Luv Total Eclipse. The fact that it’s the only opening episode that I’ve watched sober thus far this season has absolutely nothing to do with it.
My experiences with Muv-Luv over the past month or so haven’t been exactly positive. Playing through Extra, in all its lack of glory, was so mind-numbingly boring that I felt the compulsion to constantly do things that weren’t so dull, like plan a budget for the upcoming semester or learn particle physics. Anything that didn’t involve clicking through drudgery was a vast improvement over what Extra had to offer. I know that many people are going to tell me to play through Unlimited and Alternative before denouncing the whole thing, but anything that opens up with shit isn’t exactly aiming to be liked. I was hoping that Total Eclipse would avoid the banality that made the first half of the first visual novel such a chore to slog through, and while my hopes weren’t exactly spat on with spite, they weren’t treated with grace either.
Right off the bat, the closest comparisons that come to mind are Saikano and Starship Troopers, which Total Eclipse apparently saw fit to emulate in all the worst respects. What made these two notable is that the attempts at putting the protagonists’ lives in danger were effective primarily because of surprise and effective foreshadowing without making things blatant. Saikano in particular, while not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, made the main character being caught in the carpet bombing in the first episode a complete shock. While Total Eclipse sets up the inevitability of tragedy looming over the horizon, it also sees fit to say right away that the characters are pretty much going to die, ruining any modicum of suspense.
There’s potential subtext regarding why the mech pilots had to be teenage girls, hinted at by them being taught in a mostly empty classroom, but none of it’s built on in any meaningful way; instead of meaningful development, we get halfhearted slice of life and obtuse exposition, all glossed over wonky time skips and brazen nationalism. There’s a feeling that some meaningful allegory is being set up, but its insightful voice is drowned out by teenage girls being insufferably moe in the face of death, banality that I’m sure is intended but doesn’t have quite the intended effect. I imagine what Total Eclipse is going for by showing the girls’ idyllic life is poignancy, but it doesn’t succeed at making me care what happens to them. And even if most of this is explained in other media, the anime isn’t doing a great job at setting the mood.
On the whole, Total Eclipse’s beginning feels simplistic and ham-handed, failing at setting up the foundation for the narrative. I’ve heard that the second episode kills off quite a few characters, which I’m perfectly fine with and even endorse, but I think this episode’s overall lack of finesse will bite it in the ass and dampen any further sense of impact. But whatever, at least there are tits bouncing around in skin-tight suits, so I’m sure at least somebody will find something to like here.