Being influenced is unavoidable. Ripping content is not. Let’s use MLA Total Eclipse as an example

Why is that we allow Hollywood, and technically any entertainment industry, to get scot free from recycling same ideas to the point of plagiarism? While we all can agree that everything has been invented is true to an extent, why do we do not condemn blatant recycling of ideas? James Cameron’s Avatar has been blamed to rip off Pocahontas and Dances with Wolves among other sources, and I agree. The film has no original content from script up. Angry Birds is a complete and utter ripoff of Crush the Castle, which was a ripoff of some other game with the same content. This isn’t acceptable, and yet it happens. Even the creators say that it’s OK to copy ideas and elements. You know what? It’s not. It’s completely unacceptable for product like Avatar and Angry Birds to exist without any penalties. I will not for any reason spent one cent in either product or their franchise family, nor anything similar because of their attitude and disrespect towards the audience or to business honesty. As long as they keep producing this sort of crap, they can only blame themselves for people wanting to pirate their stuff. Then again, perhaps the best thing would be to ignore them completley, as even pirating some of this stuff is giving them too much credit.

But Aalt, you’re a Muv-Luv fan and that’s schlockfull of ripped off material. Now I see somebody has mixed blatant stealing to using archetypes and elements that are not really unique to one or five things. Muv-Luv, unlike what people seem to think, has original content. âge’s employees are well known for their well-versed history and in-depth information on various animated series, movies, games and literature that they constantly lampoon, reference and nudge at. Never are these the focus or the main content, unlike with some other products out there. Certainly there are numerous things that we can call âge out on taking certain things from existing products. For example, Tekkuman is not a homage or a reference, it’s a blatant ripoff. Yet something like that is never the main focus, just another addition on limited releases aimed for the fans themselves. It’s still really forgivable, but it’s not really the content that majority of the audience will experience.

That’s what I really want to discuss in this post by using Total Eclipse and âge; how authors dance between the line of taking blatant elements from somewhere else, and using something that already exists in the culture at large either regionally or globally. There’s so much stuff in Total Eclipse alone that really isn’t ripped or blatantly stolen but rather adapted and made into âge’s own content. Not really the best way to make new content (which usually leads into products like Avatar) but these are not always just that. Most of the time they’re an unconscious influence, that come out as something original, but still contain the origin in some form. Both Avatar and Angry Birds are examples of blatant plagiarism rather than being influenced. But let’s get this show rollin’.

Let’s start talking about the overall stuff that affects Muv-Luv visually; the Fortified Suits.

Left is set of Satoshi Urushihara's three armour clad ladies, and right is Tsukuyomi from Muv-Luv Alternative
Left is set of Satoshi Urushihara’s three armour clad ladies, and right is Tsukuyomi from Muv-Luv Alternative

Skin tight pilot suits or uniforms are nothing new when it comes to Japanese animation and comics. From Mazinger Z on the pilots have had these pilot suits that hug the body from crevice to crevice. Go Nagai is well known for his eye to draw suits that seem to follow every line of the body, and this carries in pretty much every giant robot work he has worked on. Even Gundam franchise has these kind of suits, and Evangelion is only one of the long continued tradition of pilots wearing practically nothing. Overall, skin tight suits make the pilot practically naked when we regard the lines of the body. Satoshi Urushihara’s work above illustrates his take on the subject; don’t play with it, show it. Urushihara overall has a style that shows a lot of bare skin, especially from the chest area. In similar way âge’s fortified suits follow similar philosophy; the trainee suits are transparent, and it’s not until later on the pilots get a coloured membrane. The similarity above is uncanny, and while I can’t accurately say the release year of Urushihara’s artwork, I’m throwing a somewhat educated guess that it came first. If you compare the two suits, you can see numerous similarities with each other outside colour. The overall composition, whether intentional or not, follows the same idea of hugging the body and giving the shoulders extra mass. Legs have long unified line that ismainly broken from knee downwards. These are mostly for practical reasons and appear pretty much everywhere, but that we all have unconscious design choices which we are unable to control, to an extent, which we are unable to control to an extent. However, even if the suits looks similar, the function and intricate details are completely different; the only carrying theme in the end is the nakedness. Actually, if you’d colour one of the exposed areas from the left side ladies, you’d end up with somewhat similar look to the Fortified Suit. Actually, Urushihara has a similar near-transparent suits in his gallery, but I have no picture at hand to illustrate it further. Total Eclipse makes this into a fanservice elements early on, but also shows the original content at the same time, how the suits are put on. It’s original content with an influence, but the verdict on this is very grey zone. Skin tight suits are nothing new, and outside Urushihara’s works we haven’t seen anything that’s even remotely as similar. Evangelion’s plugsuits don’t count if you’re thinking of using that argument. In function the plugsuits are not even similar, and outside skin tightness they’re completely different.

There’s a fine line between a homage and a ripoff, we all know this. Total Eclipse overall is a homage to Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory in many ways, as well as taking some cues from Top Gun and shares similarities with any other test pilot centric story. For example, Stardust Memory, Macross PLUS and Total Eclipse all share mock battle elements that most likely were planned and created separately, but because they adhere to same ideas of giant robot sci-fi, these elements are rather close to each other. For example, paint bullets are a frequently seen trope in mecha mock battles next to simulated bullets (that Muv-Luv also uses.) Ruined cities and large open fields are other places we naturally see, and usually these mock battles end in the newly introduced pilot somehow managing to get overhand over his older peers. Total Eclipse even has this certain trope where the machine does fast acceleration in form of a jump or sudden transformation to kick up a notch and to show he means business. These are even more so elements that just are shared; they’re not ripped off or plagiarised as they follow the same mindset and cues in the genre. Of course, in Muv-Luv you need to mind your boosted jumping a bit more than in Gundam or Macross due to the Laser-Class. Some things might seem similar, but a mock battle that takes place early in Total Eclipse (in episode 3 or 4, I forgot) is completely original content despite it being the same thing as in Stardust Memory and Macross PLUS. Might as well throw a mock battle from Full Metal Panic! to the mix while we’re at it.

While we’re talking about Stardust Memories, Yuuya, the main character of Total Eclipse, likes carrots. This is a nudge to the fans about Stardust Memories, where the main character Kou Uraki hates carrots with a fiery passion. This kind of thing is neat, as it adds intertextuality in Total Eclipse, thou there’s quite a lot of that. It’s sort of âge’s trademark to an extent.

There’s another nudge in the first episode of Total Eclipse, where we see a bunch of Gekishin units practicing their sword swing while the current main cast is running laps in full gear. To a casual viewer this is cute and might actually draw a smile; what reason there would be to have a robot to swing their swords? This is pretty neat scene for two reasons; long-time mecha fans recognize this scene as a homage to Top wo Nerae! Gunbuster where a similar scene takes place.


However, this scene also solidifies the information given in the Muv-Luv Visual Novels, where it is stated that the pilots need to accumulate motion data for their Tactical Surface Fighter, (TSF) the machines of the series. As they accumulate motion data, the easier controlling a TSF becomes as it sort of learns the habits of the pilot.

Before we go any deeper into Total Eclipse, it should be rather clear that this series follows certain genre tropes closely, almost to the book. For newcomer only larger derivations from the generic mecha action will put out while people who are into this stuff should notice far more different details. Bug War isn’t that common trope in mecha genre, and BETA are arather unintelligent fighting force compared to pretty much any other series out there. The TSFs are weak in direct comparison to other giant robots, but then again the whole world is different from most other settings. Being faithful to the genre’s tropes is something that can’t be avoided. âge has managed to avoid a bullet from making a derivative body of work, and have managed to create something that can stand on its own.  However, forty years of mecha animation and even longer time of science fiction tend to go over every possible nook and cranny the genre can give out without going completely balls and not just stepping outside the box, but outside the planet.  Loss of loved superior officer.  Fighting against unbeatable enemy and when everything’s looking good, your squadmate gets hit. Broken down unit, that gets rebuilt into something better, sometimes also known as the Mid-season upgrade. A rash test pilot who breaks stuff (Kyousuke Nanbu, anyone?) The list is numerous, but somehow Total Eclipse seems to be one of the few stories that are just a small part of the whole story, and yet manage to affect much larger scale. By this I mean that the events of TE themselves have an effect that is built on, unlike with the 80’s Gundam OVAs that have no real reason to exist outside after thought reason. This is actually a really good point of Muv-Luv as a franchise as of now; we have a frame to work with, we know a lot of events and situations, but these events have not yet been expanded on. At one point we knew that the Shiranui would yield the Shiranui Second at some point, and Total Eclipse is basically the story of how that unit became to be. The series, and the franchise, has set points without content. If âge manages their brand well, these should be filled as the time goes by with quality content between decent time intervals and refrain from doing contradictory stories and events.

At this point I wish to open a dialogue with my readers, with both people who know much of the mecha genre and to those who have read this out of interest; What sort of repeating motifs, scenery and stereotypes you expect in a series that has giant robots? I wish to open this dialogue, because a similar question can be applied to all genres across the board; we expect certain things from the service providers, and if we do not get them we usually get ticked off. Clichés and stereotypes exist for a reason, but they’re used is far more important than just putting them in.

With this, let’s turn our discussion into more in-depth for a moment here and let’s focus on four characters that reflect influenced/ripped-off matter at hand.

Cryska Barchenowa on the left, her surrogate little sister Inia Sestina on the right
Cryska Barchenowa on the left, her surrogate little sister Inia Sestina on the right

Inia and Cryska are pair of Russian psychics. In âge BETA-verse the Soviets have engineered technology on how to make test tube babies that have acertain level of psychic powers. Cryska’s powers are somewhat open and never clearly said. Most likely she’s one of the earlier batch and has a very limited capability to use any of her talents, unlike Inia who is younger and can read people’s emotions and thoughts as colours. This is interesting to note, as Muv-Luv Alternative’s Yashiro Kasumi is also a Sestina, but has far more potent ability than Inia. Anyway, the two are basically clones made for warfare against the BETA, and are in a significant role to a certain Soviet experiment that actually is going on all the way from the third episode well to the revelation on the latter side of the series, where it turns out that there is a sort of control unit that can cause the two to move into sort of a berserk state. We see this state here and there, and this is also the reason the two are known as The Scarlet Twins.

Inia and Cryska are but their outside appearance sort of Rei (from Evangelion) clones; very light hair, cold attitude to other people (especially with Cryska’s case) and of course, the test tube element, although here it’s more like a bronze vat of sorts. The comparison is not completely off, as Rei follows a certain trope that basically states that all artificial people need to grow emotions over time. Inia’s a sort of good exception where she is good with people, but tends to confuse and scare them. That, and Cryska’s an overzealous guardian. The two are actually a good contrast to each other, as Inia follows the Ple rule of cloned kids; be a kid without a worry. Ple clones were basically mass produced psychic pilots in Mobile Suit ZZ Gundam, which either had strict army life as it was the only one they ever knew, even inside the tanks they grew in. This is why the Rei comparison falls flat, as Cryska’s not an emotionless doll. To be completely accurate, both Inia and Cryska start from the same starting line as their predecessors, but veer off from either of these courses. They do resemble Ple clones more thou, just not in appearance.

While the need of soldier clones (to fight the enemy) is similar, even there is an inherent difference. One of the Alternative plans was to get a person with psychic abilities to get in contact with the BETA to open a dialogue, and thus they are not inherently made to wage war. Inia is one of the Sestina series, who were bred for this purpose. This is different from Ple, who were made to be soldiers and nothing more, and from Rei who was just so Gendo could have some fun. While the influence is there, the starting point and the build-up is radically different and the content is nothing less of original. Even Cryska’s reason to get to know Yuuya better stems from Inia’s interest in him, and as she learn more and more about Yuuya and spends time with him, Cryska begins to grow feelings towards him. Naturally, being a person grown in a barrel she doesn’t truly realize what these feelings are until the very end of the series, which is also in the âge’s YouTube: 10th Anniversary PV.

Directly to contrast the well handled Russian psychics we have the 1st Lieutenant of the Bao-Feng Test Flight, Cui Yifei, also known as the Chinese Miku.  You may also know her as another Chinese character from an older show, where her name was Shampoo.

Guess which one is Shampoo and which one is Cui Yifei
Guess which one is Shampoo and which one is Cui Yifei

As a character both of the above share far too many things to be a coincidence, starting from the Chinese citizen aspect. Both are made to be somewhat obnoxious within the series, really pushy, naming themselves as the bride and wife of the lead character of their respective series and seem to be pretty damn good fighters, thou both of them ultimately fail as well. Hell, even their hairstyles have a passing resemblance of womanly awesome hair bangs and those Chinese hair bums that even Chun-Li kind of has. Cui is pretty clearly a homage character to the extent that I’m calling her a ripoff.  There’s even a fight in Total Eclipse between the Cui and Yuuya in similar fashion to Ranma and Shampoo, even leading to almost exact same conclusion of forced marriage by snoo snoo. On top of that, both Cui and Shampoo try to kiss their main man after the fight, difference being that Shampoo manages to do so. I do understand that it’s âge’s thing to do characters and references like this, but this is just too much. It could’ve been interextuality if Cui’s character had been more akin to something else. But no, change Cui’s and Shampoo’s place and nothing would change outside Total Eclipse having more Chinese flavoured Japanese. It’s a shame really, as I do like Cui as a character and as an element in Total Eclipse. She is the best maru after all. The staff just never did anything with her.

I really wish we’d see less of this, far less. This isn’t influence any more, this is lifting a character from somewhere else, and because Cui continues to be one of the main supporting characters until she gets beaten by a terrorist in a TSF fight, her presence can’t be ignored either.

Actually, let’s stop here for a moment and throw out a  different take on Cui. Let me give a small run on how she acts within the adaptation.

First of all, Cui is a bold, somewhat overpowering and really generic happy-go-lucky type of girl character. The largest difference (and pretty much the only one) Cui has with Shampoo is that she loves to talk a lot more and in perfect Japanese/English/whatever language they are really talking. Nevertheless, when she arrives at Yukon base, Cui takes steps to confront Yuuya about their upcoming mock battle to intimidate him and to get in his face. She willingly seeks him out. During the battle she’s enjoying herself and due to her overconfidence she ends up losing the battle, but falls for Yuuya. After the mock battle she goes all out on Yuuya and tells him that it’s A-OK to fall into her. From now on she’s calling Yuuya her Husband.

You are cordially invited to fuWHOOPS wrong show
You are cordially invited to fuWHOOPS wrong show!

Cui’s a Chinese soldier, so I assume that she’s been waging war on the Eurasian mainland against the BETA rather than near coast regions where the support from marine forces are a constant.  To further use this as her background story, Cui has seen many of her comrades die because of these horrendously difficult regions. Japan has it easy; the nation is surrounded by water, so it’s not really hard to get artillery support from  wanted angle, unlike in inland China. All men she has fought with have died, and the only men who are still alive are the higher ranking officers who constantly screw her over. For Cui, men are weak. She can only trust those who maintain her TSF and her comrades in arms, who are all women. She’s grown hard, somewhat bitter and cold. Gender has no meaning for her. Because of an incident on some mission , say , a large amount of her squadron was annihilited in an important battle, the remains of her squadron is moved elsewhere or the Bao-Feng Test Flight. Some people know she’s a good pilot, and rather than just feeding her to BETA somebody managed to get her into this position. She dislikes this. Her family and friends have all died and now her chance of revenge has been taken away from her just to ensure she keeps living. Somebody must pay alongside the weak men in government who do nothing but watch all the good soldiers die. But Cui’s a soldier too and a damn good one. She abides her time and recognizes that her skills can be used to bring forth a new generation TSF that will help the future generations to fight BETA with more vigor. Perhaps that can be her revenge.

When Bao-Feng Test Flight enters the competition held in Yukon base, she’s doing good. Her name has reached Yui. Understandably, Yui would be a bit uneasy to let someone like Yuuya against a battlefield veteran. In this fight we’d see a slim change in Cui’s attitude; outside the TSF she seems a bit distant to anyone else except her own men, but in the cockpit she becomes a beast yearning for revenge. The Fortified Suit automatically makes her blood boil and she goes all out, calling Yuuya to attack, just like in the show but with a bit more derange in the mix. And the unthinkable happens; she’s starting to enjoy the battle. She’s fighting against someone who’s at the same level as with her. This would actually further show how good pilot Yuuya is, and he has managed to adapt to work with the Shiranui Second. The battle would still go the same, showcasing the slight difference in tactics and in PB Blades. And Cui would lose. Forthe first time in her life, she loses in strenght against a man. In the cockpit we would see the same scene as in the series, but it would contrast so much against her usual appearance. After this, she’d walk up to Yuuya and do make a similar confession, just slightly more reserved but just as overpowering. Bit by bit, Cui would open up to Yuuya and show her more feminine side to him and he would fill her thoughts. This would also be a valid reason why Bao-Feng Test Flight would lose against the Infinities so easily (outside the fact that the F-22A Raptor has stealth) as she is having harder and harder time to concentrate on the driving force she had before. The things she believed, men being weak and her only trusting those close to her, have been proven wrong and without thinking she has pushed herself into Yuuya’s life in a way she never really imagined before. It’s all messed up, and she needs to figure it out before she can return on getting her revenge on the BETA.

There are a lot of parallels with Yui there. However, Cui still being energetic and overpowering would still be part of character, but she’d need to work with it a bit more. This would’ve asked for few more episodes to flesh her character out more, episodes which they didn’t have. Well, they could’ve used the hot springs episode for that rather than for fanservice. However, as she is now, she’s nothing but a Shampoo copy, and not a very good on at that.

Speaking of Yui, let’s talk about her character.

Yui’s character can be described as a Japanese wife for better or worse. She’s the only constant Japanese in Total Eclipse we see constantly (Yuuya’s half Japanese/American so he doesn’t count) and she’s the person the audience is intended to identify with. Sadly, a lot more people identidy with Yuuya or some other, as we’re not all Japanese. Yui as a character has been born and raised in an Imperial Japan where certain things have not changed. Her character contrasts real world Japan in a way, where certain old values are nearly lost whereas they’re clearly embodied in Yui. She’s reserved, sticks to the ranks, has that high Japanese pride and is proud of many things. Yui’s flavour is strong and she comes out as rather antagonistic from the third episode onwards until the end of the island arc, where she mellows a little bit and learns the world outside her. After all, Yui’s experience about the world are is rather limited. She has fought fought against the BETA, lost a lot friends and yet she’s been going up the ladders in order to ensure that she doesn’t see any of her loved ones die any more. The Shiranui Second is her labour of love in many ways. You can see that Yui is not really a character that’s taken from anywhere like in Cui’s case; she’s more like an archetype that’s been thrown into a situation and then allowed to grow from there. It’s similar to James Bond, who at his core is a womanizing secret agent. We’ve had few of this kind of character, like Tom Cruise’s character in Mission Impossible movies. The TV-series was better but anyways. There are a lot of things that wouldn’t get a modern Japanese women to blush like a burning rose petal, like getting on first name basis with a close friend. Yui’s attitude towards Yuuya stems from here, as she’s trying to become more like a woman of the world and break the barriers she has, but ends up being a bit stupid at times and not really allowing herself to show any proper emotions outside blushing here and there. In Yui’s mind, it’s the man’s part to start something romantic, but seeing there’s not only Cryska close to Yuuya but Cui as well, Yui’s running out of time and possibilities. I’m completely sure she could pull some string to get Yuuya to continue working on the next generations Japanese TSFs because of his experience with both American and Japanese TSFs, but before that she might get shot in the head. Yui’s character is influenced by the environment she’s been deviced in. You can’t really steal something that is a certain changing constant in your culture, in this case âge’s culture. And really, Yui would make almost a perfect traditional Japanese wife for Yuuya, if he wasn’t humping the Shiranui Second or Berkut. The man got his interests in somewhere else. Nevertheless, Yui’s character gets the most growth across the whole show, and the first two episodes just give a really good background for her. Yui’s development is directly proportional to the size of her frontal assets as the show goes towards the end.

Overall, Yui goes through rather large change in character in the series, which is also applies to her frontal assets
Classy picture here right there. C’mon, bring in the pain

The reason why I asked you to think about things you expect from different series was to give you some food for thought. The modern Japanese animation had this weird obsession of having two certain kinds of episodes no matter what; a beach episode and a hot springs episode. These are expected from the local audience for some reason even if they don’t add anything to the series themselves. This can’t be called being ripped off or being influenced, it’s something you’re expected to do and because of that you just need to do it. While the hot springs episode was completely original for the series, and a rather disappointing episode in general which didn’t add to the series’ content at all, the island episodes were rather important in order to draw closer the three main characters and further elaborate their relationship with each other. There Yuuya had to face both Cryska and Yui, and Cryska came forth with her intentions of getting to know Yuuya because of Inia while Yui opened herself a bit more as she learned of Yuuya’s childhood.

The real life reason why the island arc in the series exists is because the writing staff noticed that Total Eclipse was becoming relatively popular with the fans. Originally Total Eclipse was made to advertise the TSF toys from various makers, such Kaiyodo’s Revoltechs and the A3 toyline from Volks. The writers threw the characters to the island arc for few months, away from all the tension while they planned the rest of the story. They had no real plans how to continue the story, and with this they bought enough time to actually build a proper middle and ending for the beginning. It was a somewhat clever way to both give out some fanservice to the audience, and actually further the characters while tackling the problems they had built for themselves.

Another overly Japanese element in Total Eclipse, that’s kind of overplayed at times, is the idea of man and horse as one. Jinba ittai it’s called. Those who drive a car know the idea; know the machine, work with the car rather than going against it and feel it as a part of you. Total Eclipse uses way overblown Japanese example of this, but then again it’s a cultural thing. I can’t talk about all cultures out there, but this kind of idea of becoming one with the thing you’re driving isn’t uncommon at all. This actually shows some of âge’s writers’ inability to recognize to foreign characters and cultures to an extent, but we need to make a note that these guys manage to do it much better than most Japanese writers. Hell, most of the time all foreigners are either bad stereotypes or a generic white guy named Jack Bauer. It’s completely understandable why Yui would use the Japanese approach to the concept, but it’s completely stupid to assume that Yuuya, or any other of the TSF pilots for the matter, wouldn’t have a clue about what it is. This is an example of the worse kind of influence, where the influence has overpowered the writer to the point where it keeps from doing any further research or blinds the author of facts around him. Being properly influenced asks you to do a lot of research, but this sort of influence is what half-assed people use. Well, the main audience is the Japanese fans, but that really doesn’t allow this sort of idiocy.

You can ask this German guy about being one with his machine while riding a horse who is ridden by his best friend
You can ask this German guy about being one with his machine while riding a horse who is ridden by his best friend

Total Eclipse most likely has the most international cast in some time when it comes to these Japanese cartoons. Most, if not all, characters are influenced by some stereo- and archetypes. Tarisa’s the short and passionate, Macaroni’s the ladies men who always gets shunned by the ladies, Stella’s rather nonchalant outside her work, but always does her best and never leaves you in a pinch and Yuuya’s the hothead who needs to face his own limits before getting better and better. It’s really hard to escape these sort of influences, and recognizing that they’re influences, working with them and adapting them to build your own content is extremely important. Otherwise you’re going to end with same level of crap as the previous example. Research is the key in success in any field, and reseach takes time. With proper research and good amount of influence, while still avoiding ripping off characters and content, you can end up with good products, like Kimagure Orange Road, Starship Troopers, Mega Man 2, Castlevania III and Kimi ga Nozomu Eien to name few from the similar fields.

Overall, Total Eclipse is a product that isn’t afraid of what it is. It shows love to the preceding series. Many of the people who were familiar with the genre recognized these references and we had our laughs. For newcomers the show might’ve been a bit too cryptic, but nevertheless a marginally enjoyable experience. The show is really bogged down the bad adaptation from text format, but the overall product is original enough to say that it can be judged on its own. Total Eclipse isn’t perhaps the best example of what Muv-Luv can offer, bit but it’s a good glimpse. It has a fair share of new content and does its own thing. Total Eclipse is not Avatar that takes existing materials and puts it into new clothes and calls it an original product. For better or worse, TE is as good example of a product that isn’t afraid of reference and lampoon the genre, but doesn’t stick to the influence too much outside few hickups where it turns into a simple copy/paste function, most notable point being Cui Yifei.

While we can certainly say that whatever we do is influenced by everything around us, that’s just basic psychology, we can recognize when we’re going overboard with the influence and choose to go against it. Way too often we allow rip-offs to be called something that just influenced the product. Even I have said that product X has been inspired by product Z, when in all reality I’ve basically made a carbon copy of the product Z. It’s my own Cui Yifei.

Happy New Year

It’s a new year and I guess this is a good place to make a blog-related update.

First of all, I need to thank my readers. Lately I’ve seen a spike on how many views this blog gets (mostly because of RoboCop and Muv-Luv) so I intend to keep things how they are. I discussed this matter with myself for some time, and the apparent growth in readership won’t change how this blog is ran. We’ve see so many shows and writers going downwards as they’ve changed how they work with their product. I’ll keep the same pace and subjects I’ve been going over, thou most likely I will expand the field when needed.

Second, Muv-Luv. It’s really a good question if Ineed to make a separate blog for all this Muv-Luv stuff, but then overall I realized that at the moment âge is basically the anti-CAPCOM; they’re catering their current customers well and they’ve been steadily broadening their scope. As a Visual Novel company it’s more than a bit hard for them to grasp new audience; the Total Eclipse animation has served its purpose to promote the upcoming Visual Novel, and it seems that the overall reception has been rather positive. Well, I said rather positive when it could’ve been so much worse. I didn’t have much hopes for the series, and to be honest, having very little faith in the series made be positively surprised. I’ll be talking about Total Eclipse later on, but not in the spirit you’d think. There’s also the fact that there’s very little writing on the series on English Internet, so me tapping that Blue Ocean area really follows my own points.

Third, all the stuff that has been put on hold for reasons unmentioned. I did promise that LaserDisc player review, and it’s on the works, but at the time of this writing I have no clue to how to work with it. Yes, I need to provide pictures of the machine and the video quality, but seeing that I would actually need to put more thought into the review itself is rather… Well, I need to make it from the POV of a person who doesn’t know jack shit about LaserDiscs, so it’ll be a very down to earth review. I’ll still be talking about Disney buying out Star Wars, but there’s two things hampering the progress with the matter; first is that a lot of the matters have been already said, and the second is that Disney hasn’t really made any other statements outside that they’re making new movies. We’re getting back to it as soon as there’s something that I can say things on, I really hate touting my horn when I have no idea what the hell I’m talking about.

Now, because it IS New Year’s day, I got my Editor go through This is a very small, very large, very precious story about love and courage, because y’know, it was ridden with typos and horrible grammar. Now there’s less of that, and I even managed to notice some errors my Editor didn’t [I thought I might have missed some. Quite frankly, there WAS a lot of them.Edit.]. It’s a bit over a year since I wrote that post, which I really regard as the kickstart point of this blog, and I barely recognize the kid who wrote it. I do recognize the experiences and emotions put into the text, but somehow I feel embarrassed by that text. Would it be too selfish to say that I’ve grown a little since then, both as a person and as a blogger?

So, how well is the blog doing again? Well, on the 13th of December the view count doubled for some reason from the usual, and now the view counter keeps hitting around 200 per day. There’s exactly one place I personally have posted link to this blog and its on my ‘tube account. Most common Google searches are related to RoboCop, Muv-Luv and CACPOM killing Mega Man. Most views are from major English-speaking countries and Finland, and it seems that posts of rather more rare matters get the most hits. I really don’t know how rare a Double Dragon NEON post is, but people just end up in there when they’re looking for porn. That reminds me; why the hell are you people Googling for Kagami Sumika rape porn? That’s just nasty.

It looks like I still have lots of things to do next year if I’m intending to start doing monthly specials. That’s a big if at this point. On the meantime I’ll continue writing these objectively opinionated posts as we go by.

This counts as monthly music as well. Why this song? It’s an allusion that my blog is my stage

Happy Year 2013. Let’s make it a good one.

Introducing viewers into an Alternative world, Part 2

There’s somewhat odd rule in mecha anime which dictates that humanity should have high level of tech and the invaders are either high level in tech as well, or that they can circumvent said tech levels. Muv-Luv basically throws a bare bone at this rule, as both humanity and BETA are are rather low in tech when compared to other bodies involving giant robots. The second episode to Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse was designed to show this at full force. When compared to the first episode’s rather upbeat feeling, the second episode is just depressing desperate. Let’s begin from the start.

Our episode begins with commands given to our main heroines, and after landing they’re visibly shaken, stressed and strained. This is their first live battle after all, and BETA are not the easiest of enemies. Fear isn’t what they feel, not yet.

And then we’re cut to inappropriate Koda Kumi song with footage from the previous episode. This is an interesting way to remind the viewers what happened previously, thou opinions are divided whether this was a good thing or not.

And they come. The Destroyer-Class is leveling Kyoto as they ram buildings, roads and trees simply by ramming into them. Seeing a live BETA for the first time all of our heroines are distressed. With permission to fire at will one of them begins to empty her clip. As Destroyers-class’ shield is Mohs 15, bullet are little effect.

Fighting a Destroyer-class has never been easy; it demands the surface pilot to either circle or jump behind the enemy and shoot its back. However, the speed of Destroyer-class makes this hard, and jumping over them is near impossible if Laser-Class is present.

Losing a valued and dear friend simply because she boosted over 100m hits all of them hard and it’s more than visible. Hiding behind the other BETA is best way to avoid Laser-Class, but what then if the other Class happens to be Destroyer?

While the team is concentrating on eliminating the Laser-Class, few Grappler weeds out the weak.

This scene is the second time we see why BETA are such a huge threat; they just keep coming and there’s very little one can do to stop them from advancing other than killing them. But where you will run out of bullets at some point, the BETA will just keep coming wave after wave after wave after wave, never faltering in their desire to take you down. You can always fight with your Type-74 PB Blade, a nice and handy way to dispose of BETA, but you’ll have to get up and close. That’s not a good idea if you’re not good at it, or if there are classes that WILL take you down at zero distance.

Like Destroyer-Class.

You shouldn’t avert your eyes when a Ruitare is ramming at you

And the BETA just keep on coming. They’ve taken the command post down and it’s being overrun by the Grappler-Class. The now veteran surface pilots are being attack not only by both Grapplers and Destroyers, but also by the Tank-Class. We like to call them as the Red Little Fuckers because they’re like fire ants; they’re everywhere, there’s no end to them, they hurt you and they never let go.

The further we go into the episode the more we see our forces thinning. Our heroines have to retreat, but one of the surviving members has hit levels of trauma and is consumed by revenge. As the group is retreating, they’re hit by the Laser-Class, and the Squadron Leader is shot down. Now the trainees are on their own, but the Laser-Class still picks them down like ripe apples fall from trees. They evade, throw out smoke grenades and fly at the most plausible altitude, but the Laser-Class still keeps shooting them, and they’re about to get hit until the navy takes matters at their own hand.

Please stop thinking here for a moment; the admiral has chosen to bear the responsibility and is filling Kyoto with fire and death. This choice might have had saved numerous surface pilots and TSFs, but it also means that a high ranking official has chosen to bombard his own capital. This is heavy and punishable deed that should get the admiral into court martial, but I think the Grand Shogun saw his intentions; the Capital can always arise from the ashes.

In this moment of silence the team begins to discuss how BETA consume people, and one of them is visibly distressed about this fact. This moment doesn’t take long when a Destroyer-Class runs through a building, hitting Yui down in her yellow TSF, only to be saved by their once-instructor, now their Captain. The Captain is in a spiffy Type 94-1C Shiranui Type-1C. It’s pretty beaten up, but the Captain seems to be full spirit and is commanding them to retreat to the rally point while he covers their backs.

“I want to see true surface pilots in front of me the next time we meet…” Notice how the back pylons can swing forth for additional firepower

As the team is fleeing the see a bright explosion from the road they just were, and the gunfire stops. They try to contact the post, but a Fort-Class steps into their boost path and they all fall down. Yui’s Zuikaku is damaged and she has to get out and fast. Sitting in your immobile TSF is not a good thing. She starts to walk away with his handgun out, and tries to contact her other team mates. She sees a trail of blood from one of the Zuikakus and follows it, and what she finds kicks in my PTSD.

The one with drive for revenge is being eaten by three Soldier-Class BETA, ripping her guts out and consuming every bit of her being. Yui makes a cleaver move and retreats, but gets a signal from other of her team mates. Her TSF is being overrun by the Tank-Class, and is ripped apart one by one. Her cockpit is slowly ripped open, and her face is filled with fear and desperation. She begs Yui to shoot her before she has to face the tank class; her legs are broken as is her other hand.

And she shoots.

And she misses.

You can hear her spine snapping as the Tank-Class continues their devouring

After this Yui aims at her own head, not realizing that she has emptied her clip completely. You hear the bone snapping, the meat being ripped off her bones and consumed. Her head falls into Yui’s legs. After that, the Tank-Class turn their attention to Yui.

She is saved by a gunshot that pierces the Tank-Class, and throws her to a wall away from the BETA. We then witness a prototype Takemikazuchi landing down midst the BETA and releasing a fury that only Enma of the Underworld could forgive, but barely.

And who could be piloting this Takemikazuchi you might ask. It is none other than Kobuin Yuuhi herself; the one who shall become the Grand Shogun. As we hear her rage slashing and ripping through the air, Yui falls into unconscious state.

We find Yui at a field hospital, alive. She gets up and walks in the wrecked capital. She sees roads and building destroyed, dead Fort carcass watching over the city and uncountable body bags. She recalls her thoughts before they took off; When was it? When did we stop trying to count our dead? She walks near the destroyed Shiranui, and returns tot he hospital premise just as baby has been born. She sees that even if the world seems to come to and end, that thousands upon millions have died and will still die, this world is not yet in ruins. There is always hope, a bitter hope, and for children like this baby she has fought, and number of surface pilots will be lost in the war so that children like this baby would see a world that is not ruined or destroyer by this war, but able to live in peace and rebuild what has been lost. In desperate times like this, a newborn baby is a ray of light.

Even if this baby will grow to step into a TSF and fight against the BETA.

Cue for three years time skip.

Here we see Yui going towards Alaska, where the events of Total Eclipse will begin proper. Here is where this side story truly begins.

And then we have a beautiful ending song by Minami Kuriyabashi, a beautiful but melancholic song of hope.

This second episode, as said, is full of desperation, but it also gives a large glimpse of hope. It thought that it was just a fifteen minute episode when it ended; it felt that fast. The pace is completely different from the first episode and for a good reason. Whereas the first episode showcased your normal life, this episode hits in your face what the world is against at; an extraterrestrial race that will not stop until they’re completely annihilated, destroyed and wiped out from existence. It’s either them, or us.

This two parter doesn’t set up the story as such as it sets up the world. From now on we will follow a group of test pilots and the presence of BETA is not as direct. However, with these two episodes the BETA will be gnawing in the viewers’ back, and thus the knowledge of the situation will not make it any easier.

What the series will be like from now on will be an open question. I went over with these two episodes because I felt a need for it, and as such I will not cover the whole series. Someone else will be doing somewhere else. What I can say is that the tone of the series will shift and we’ll get our main character proper next time, which might throw some people off. However, I hope those who will follow the series onwards will enjoy it as much as they can and give the visual novels a go.

Let’s end this post with more upbeat feeling rather, shall we? Next time, let’s talk about customers again.

Better late than never; 7/7 Happy Birthday Kagami Sumika

I’ve been a bit busy, and I was intending to make up a bigger post to go with this, but due to unseen matters I forgot this altogether. I’ll make that post later this week as well as few other loose things that I’ve been meaning to dig into.

But meanwhile let’s just eat this piece of cake.

Do watch this to the very end

Introducing viewers into an Alternative world, Part 1

Spoilers ensued.

Muv-Luv Alternative Total Eclipse aired yesterday. Koda Kumi’s song is awful. Now that we got that away, let’s discuss the episode proper (but short.)


We begin the series with nice introduction to the BETA and the alternate history the BETA-verse has. The newcoming viewers are able to see the first fight that humanity waged against the BETA, and lost; the First Lunar War. We who come from the main trilogy and the light novels already know all this, but like the newcomers this is the first time we see the Lunar War. It’s quick and rather painless, but for a moment you can see that the humanity has nothing against the BETA.

After “taking” over the Moon, the BETA land to Kashgar, and the viewers are given a chart of rapid BETA expansion, as well as the coda what the story is.

Fast forward to 1997, Kyoto.

This is a nice way to convey hints towards the genre shift Muv-Luv has. Soon after this scene we are met few Type-82 Zuikakus flying and landing, telling the viewer that yes; this is the world where hope burns with a dim light.

The school scenes are well thought out; we get nice exposition on surface pilots and the war against BETA in general while we get to know the current main characters. The daily bickering, playing and all is there, and we have very little hints towards what’s going on. The following scene starts with some mechanics working on Zuikaku’s head, but we pan out for some more character interaction. The news in the background give background exposition of the current world situation. There are things that are not right, the newcomer thinks. We Chickens know better, and as we wait for upcoming desperation we can enjoy the relatively happy life Yui is having.

Yui’s meeting with her uncle, and the pictures in the wall all give further hints that this is Imperial Japan, but the evidence is not yet concrete.

She is unnamed, and never called as such, but then we meet certain someone who shall become the Grand Shogun.

In war, let your objective be victory, not lengthy campaigns

Then we change for some fanservice.

While this scene is fanservice, it also provides somewhat important information how a fortified suit is put on. This is something that has not been shown before. Next minutes are spent on your normal TSF training, where we see that controlling a TSF isn’t the easiest, and the pilots are under constant stress while piloting.


These training sequences are not only service for the fans and newcomers, but also provide information how the visual information works with TSFs. The swords have the covering, but the pilots do not see them. We can deduce that the visuals given are most likely boosted to certain extent to give proper feedback to the pilot.

Cue for some more slice of life.

It’s a grim slice of life.

Fast forward 1998, when the BETA reach Japan’s shores at Kyushu. We see ships, tanks and artillery shooting towards the BETA with no effect, and the scene where the Destroyer Class charges forwards makes newcomers see the futility, and reminds the chickens of what the BETA are. The news in the following scene give a bit more exposition, and we are shown people fleeing from their homes due to government issued command. It’s a glimpse of their life, a glimpse that makes me gnaw my teeth.

Hear the earth thumping and the screech which cuts the air

It’s a defence battle. The BETA have advanced near Kyoto, and it’s our main heroines’ job as surface pilots to fight the BETA.

A glimpse but that’s enough for PTSD to kick in, and give the newcomers an uneasy feeling. Then we see two TSFs shot down by the Laser Class. Then it hits our heroine; the brutality of the war they have been born into.

I wonder when did we stop trying to count our dead? When indeed. This is the moment where Yui is face to face with the war, perhaps the first time in her life. She has seen two surface pilots shot down just like that. She knows that the fight she will most likely be her last.

And then the BETA arrive.

And Yui has becomes stern. She is filled with fighting spirit. For her country, for her friends, for those she loves. And so they go, the pilots of tomorrow to fight the battle of today.

The first episode lays a solid base for the second episode’s fight. The slice of life may be something that a hardcore mecha fan doesn’t want to see, but appreciating these scenes is important to fully enjoy what is to come. We are given a look at the normal day of a higher class citizen, and a glimpse to a commoner’s. It’s not a pretty sight after you’ve absorbed it all, as the newcomers might remember that most of Eurasia has been lost, and now Kyoto’s under attack. We’ve seen what the BETA do and how easily, be without anything special but their teeth but also what the Laser Class does. The training we’ve seen has been against another TSF, so one might wonder how is this training going to help with aliens from another world?

The newcomers might find the world a bit confusing, but the world is laid bare before them. The staff have worked within the limits they have and came out rather well. Perhaps a two episode premier would’ve been better, but at the moment it’s difficult to say. We’ll see in about a week what kind desperation await.

Minus 7 days till Total Ecplise

There’s a trouble brewing in my head. I love Muv-Luv because of what the trilogy is, and even if I love giant robots fighting against alien invaders, the world where the BETA reside and eradicate where they wander has become far too personal to enjoy it. Every death seems like I’m losing a dear friend and every victory feels like a personal achievement.

Total Eclipse is a side story, and is more prone to certain fan service than rest of the series. Schwarzesmarken is perhaps the hardest to get in as it goes into deep relations in the Middle-Europe and the situation there with the likes of Stasi, while Total Eclipse is almost the opposite with similar premise to Macross Plus. It even has a beach episode! Total Eclipse is also the easiest to get animated, lacking the most of ideologies, political waltzing and basis that the original trilogy used to well to create the world.

In a way, I’m afraid whether or not I can enjoy the series, as the light novels, and the first part in visual novel form didn’t really convince me. Perhaps it’s just that I don’t wish to explore the world where BETA exist any deeper. It’s a cruel world. I can read and explore worlds of many other works of fiction, but none of them have become personal to me.

We’ll see next week.

Walk away, so you can lift your arms another day

Orbital Divers who have survived until their third re-entry are called Chickens. These are the soldiers who have been dropped unto a Hive and have survived that, and turned their backs in the moment of despair only to live another day. They are survivors, and they carry the unfulfilled duties their past comrades.

The survival rate of Orbital Divers is 20%.

Orbital Diver’s mission is to land from orbit on top of BETA Hive, infiltrate it and take command of it or destroy the Reactor inside.

Needless to say, Orbital Divers’ biggest threat at first is the Heavy Laser Class. During the drop there’s very little room to maneuver when you’re dropping at supersonic speeds towards the Earth. Only the heavy metal cloud will be their protection… and even that may fail. Then there’s reaching the Hive, and the BETA themselves.

The average survival time of TSF pilots is eight minutes. Orbital Divers has even less, as even before entering the atmosphere the Heavy Laser Class BETA will aim at you from the surface and shoot.

To put it simply; Orbital Divers are soldiers sent on suicide missions, and they accept them without a word. Their roles in combat are without a doubt are one of the most important.

Muv-Luv Alternative; Chicken Divers is a short visual novel regarding one group of Orbital Divers who all have survived their first two drops. The story is narrated by Aquila 1, leader of the group, who reminisces over his two first missions, and people who he has lost during those missions. We see him trembling as he waits for the word for mission start. We see him smiling when the mission is starting. We see him becoming ever more determined as he enters the warzone with wingmen.
The Chicken Divers enter Sadogashima, where the 6th Orbital Dive Corp was completely annihilated. Due to the deployment of a G-Bomb, the was nothing to rescue. The casualties was 100%, worst rate on any dive operation.

Nothing was left of Sadogashima, or so was thought…

Even if operation on Sadogashima was a failure, and the events that it lead into took many lives and annihilated the Okinawa base almost completely, because of soldiers like Aquila 1 the world could soon see a ray of hope, a glimpse of brighter future where man could finally take a stance and fight back the BETA.

You can watch Chicken Divers from Youtube or if you prefer you can also download it in two parts with the subtitles. It’s a thirty minute story, and I’d recommend watching it if you’re interested.

Muv-Luv Alternative Total Eclipse will start airing 1st of July. I’ve been holding back my urge to to write about Muv-Luv for some time now, but as Total Eclipse begins you can expect a bit more frequent posts about both the series and Muv-Luv in general. I still have much to say about it, and few of them will shred me to pieces.

Creating an expansive franchise

I don’t know what drugs âge’s staff was in when they thought up Muv.Luv’s premise, but I want some. A normal guy getting transferred to an alternate world where he must grow through endless trials until he comes to a point where he must take matters at his own hands. The setting allows them to expand the story as much as they please in principle. The first part, Muv-Luv EXTRA, is its own entity and needs no further story. However, the general world of Unlimited and Alternative is a treasure trove.

In Unlimited the reader does not really see much of the world where BETA roam. We see the main character Shirogane Takeru’s survival as a soldier in another world and that’s basically that. We never see the enemy, we only hear about them. We never see the world surrounding the military base, we just hear about it. In Alternative we see much more of the world, the politics that are going on and the players on the world’s theatre. It’s a masterfully plaid out and presented, and the build of the world is cohesive and expanding. However, in Alternative itself the world is but a stage and the story follows where Takeru goes. It’s his and Sumika’s story, nothing more, nothing less.

Her story is something that… well, I’ll let it be for now

âge has opted to doing numerous side stories for Muv-Luv’s BETA-verse, so to speak. Muv-Luv Alternative Chronicles are a set of discs that contain stories that are about the world and it’s history Takeru lives in, and ultimately gives his most in. Takeru is the end of the current stories told; Muv-Luv Unlimited the Day After, Muv-Luv Alternative Total Eclipse, The Faraway Dawn, Euro Front, Schwarzesmarken and so on. All of these stories take place before the main series, before Takeru’s story, except The Day After, but we’ll come to that. Schwarzesmarken for example takes place far before Takeru enters this world, and expands the backgrounds on the Tactical Surface Fighters (TSF) and the how the political situations have been building up. Faraway Dawn takes a closer look at your normal run-of-the-mill Surface Pilot’s desperate fight against the BETA. This is actually a turned-based tactics game, which allows a bit more immersion and insight how difficult the fight against the BETA really is. Total Eclipse, which is getting an animation series released this summer, follows bunch of test pilots that develops the next generation of TSFs, and the characters give more insight to certain factions in the world at large.

The Day After is part of Takeru’s story, but in another way. It’s part that we never see during the main series, but what we will feel through his introspection. The Day After takes place after Unlimited’s endings, where the world is in brink of collapse. The BETA are everywhere, the world’s oceans has crashed elsewhere in Europe, flooding it. Humanity fights more among themselves than against the BETA, and people are abusing each other as well as manipulating to their own ends. Takeru lives through these events more than once. These events are the ones that finally make him to man up, and push him towards his own selected destiny.

âge most likely had thought this over as they developed the story and the world back in the early 2000’s after releasing Kimi ga Nozomu Eien. They had a franchise at their hands, but no real direction where to go with it, or no knowledge what the general audience would think of it. Well, seeing Muv-Luv’s one of the most revered visual novel series to date tells something. The BETA-verse in Unlimited and Alternative has literally a world filled with untapped potential. âge can tell stories before the BETA, the stories during the first contact with the BETA, and everything that came after. Everything that happens during before Takeru’s story will tell a story of brave men and women fighting a losing fight, where there is no real way to win, not until a light of hope is glistening in the horizon. If âge ever decides to tell stories after Takeru’s efforts, the tone will be much different; there will be hope and newly found strength that wasn’t there before.

This is how a potentially killer app franchise can be made through one compelling story.

Giving the audience something they can relate to at first, and then taking them along the ride, introducing them to something else and completely open allows them to ask What is there? When the audience begs this question to be answered, the storyteller may sit down and tell what there is to tell.

Expansive is the keyword, but it can’t be a world that lacks content. In Muv-Luv’s case you have a world’s full of content already there, never seen. There’s a huge sourcebook, Muv-Luv Alternative Integral Works, that basically tells the ´current´ state of the world and a little bit more. There’s nothing keeping âge from telling stories outside the main series, as they matter just as much. Takeru’s story is intertwined with the BETA-verse’s own history, but can be told as a separate entity.

What certain franchises lack is the content of the world. For example, while the Alien comics and books have expanded the Alien universe, they’re just expansion of the world, they’re not organically part of it, similarly to Star Wars’ prequel films are like different tree of the world rather than part of the supporting body. Predators actually has potential to have organic growth, if the Predators’ hunting society was more elaborated on. Predators actually managed to expand the world a bit more, but for some reason the film wasn’t really well received.

You can’t add stories to a franchise and be done with it. It isn’t really enough just to do an additional story in the spirit of the original work, thou it helps a lot. The original story itself has to have content that’s not used as background information or the like. Star Wars IV did this well by just telling a bit about the Clone Wars, but the Clone Wars that we got wasn’t in spirit of the original work.

A game sequels on the other hand have something different to work on. They have to have more content, but they should always stay true to the original content. It has to be organic growth, like Super Mario Bros. to Super Mario Bros. 3. You see more of the Mushroom Kingdom, you get more usable items, you get the map screen etc.

In Muv-Luv’s case, all the side stories are tied to the main series in the main series’ content. The stories, and the tactical games, all are part of the world. They’re not hanging threads here and there with only few connections, but something that the audience asked for.

And for now, something completely different