Plane elements in Tactical Surface Fighters; MiG-29OVT Fulcrum

While we’re probably going to discuss the base MiG-29 Lastochka one of these days, the main reason we’re going to have MiG-29OVT variation on the table today is because it had a significant antagonist role in Total Eclipse, and that I had the pictures readily available and didn’t want to do Active Eagle.

To save most of real world MiG-29’s history for Lastochka, I’ll shorten it here and see what we have on the OVT model. Which isn’t much, but we’ll get to that later. One of the major differences between the real fighter and the TSF is that all MiG-29 variants are known as Fulcrum in the NATO designation. The Soviets and Russian pilots adopted this name later on. NATO just adds a letter and a number after the designation to denote which variant we’re talking about.

The Fulcrum has a long history behind it. The fighter was developed in early 1970’s as a hi-performance, hi-manoeuvre light-weight fighter to tackle whatever the West was cooking against the Soviet nations. Indeed, it’s not rare to see enthusiasts to decree the Fulcrum to be an equal to Western fighters, especially due to it incorporating numerous technological advantages not in its Western contemporaries, the F-16 Fighting Falcon for example. The base model, Fulcrum-A, became operational in the mid-80’s and had a very high manoeuvrability. It could track ten targets at the same time with its cohere pulse Doppler radar at a range of 69km. Combined with a laser range finder and infra-red search and track, which all where linked to Helmet Mount Sight, made the base Fulcrum a very dangerous enemy in a close-in fight. It should also be noted that the Fulcrum has LERXs, or leading-edge extensions on its mid-mount swept wings. These small extensions improve and control airflow at high angles of attack.

The 29M and OVT are both Second Generation fighters and have enhancements everywhere, including evolution to the overall airframe in order to increase its thrust-to-weight ratio. As OVT is essentially just Fulcrum-M with thrust vectoring RD-133 engines, it shares all the same advanced avionics its brother does. To go slightly into the history of the Fulcrum-M, it’s development began in the mid-80’s with a new need for a frontline fighter that would be able to carry out multi-role missions. Due to shift in Soviet military strategy, the Fulcrum-M design saw constant updates and variants before it eventually split into MiG-29M and M2, denoting whether or not its a two-seater. It should be noted that the MiG-29M, despite sharing its name with its original variant, is completely redesigned version. External differences may be sparse, pretty much everything else was improved beyond the Fulcrum-A.

MiG-29OVT is more or less an acrobatic performer that mainly showcases the modern MiG-29’s capabilities rather than being a frontline fighter.

Remember to click for a larger version

In Muv-Luv Alternative‘s BETAverse, the Fulcrum is a given name to the advanced MiG-29. Based on MiG-29 Lastochka and shared technology gained via Project Prominence, the MiG-29OVT is an advanced variant that is supposedly able to go toe-to-toe with the American F-15 ACT Active Eagle. Changes from the earlier MiG-29 variants include upgraded avionics, improved Jump Units, Light by Light and redesigned shoulder blade vanes.

To reflect the thrust-vectoring capabilities of the real world OVT, the TSF OVT now has added thrusters in the shoulders and hips. This supposedly gives it 3rd Generation level manoeuvrability. It carries Blade Motors from earlier MiG-29 variants in its arms and legs, as well as the A-97 Assault Gun. Being on the side of close-combat, Fulcrum pilots tend to favour brutish tactics and acute-angle attacks on the enemy. One might even assume that the Fulcrum showcases the changes in Soviet’s doctrine against BETA and human targets.

In terms of design, the MiG-29OVT shares more with its in-universe brethren than with the real fighter. It’s chunkier than blockier to keep in-tone with the rest of the MiG-29 series. Similarly, while the MiG-29 has rounded and smooth corners to it, the TSF design has opted to angularise itself in many cases, like with adding more corners to the wings and fins. There are surprising amount of included elements from the fighter in the TSF, albeit the TSF elements govern the overall look of the unit.

There would have been few points that the MiG-29 could have stood out overall. The fighters are unique in that their intakes and nozzles, indeed almost the whole department, resides under the fuselage. The pilot also sits very high in the cockpit. Neither these aspects carried into the MiG-29 line. However, perhaps the TSF elements again override the fighter design points in this case.

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Plane elements in Tactical Surface Fighters; MiG-27 Alligator

Let’s point out that the English name of this TSF can be disputed. In Japanese, the name is アリゲートル, Arigeetoru. The little Russian I know, it should be written as Аллигаторы, or Alligatory. Seeing how no other TSF name is plural, I’m going to use my own head here and assume my ass out that its name was supposed to be Alligator, Аллигатор. It’s not uncommon to see âge misspelling names, like Schwarzesmarken or Valkylies.

The MiG-27 inherited the same basic airframe the MiG-23 had, but got a revised nose. It was first introduced to the service as MiG-23B as the ground attack variant of MiG-23, and after initial runs it saw some additional changes. Flogger-D, as NATO designated it, serves as battlefield  attacker and thus these changes accommodated its role. Both sides of the cockpit are protected from small arms fire and frontal view was increased. New terrain-avoidance radar and nav/attack systems were installed to give the pilot the edge they’d need.

MiG-23 and MiG-27 were one of the first swing-wing fighters with three sweep settings; 16-degrees for take-off, 45-degrees for cruising and 72-degrees for high performance flight. Sukhoi would continue using swing-wing in its fighters down the line. Sadly, it would seem this variable geometry configuration is more or less obsolete nowadays now that relaxed stability flight controls systems have negated most of the disadvantages the fixed platform fighter had. That, and it takes much fewer resources to designs and maintain solid fighters with no variable control surfaces.

The Tumanksy R-29B-300 turbojet engine the MiG-29 uses gives it a respectable thrust of 11 500kg. The fighters’ empty weight is 11 300kg with a maximum take-off weight at 20 300kg. The armaments are respectable, having one 30mm cannon in the belly pod with seven pylons for missiles and rockets up to 4000kg, including nuclear carry capability. Nevertheless, MiG-27 was in production almost three decades until 1997 with  around 4000 units build. It is a potent fighter with ceiling of 14 008m, range of 1080km and climb rate of 12 007m per minute, the MiG-27 can be still found serving different airforces around the world due to Soviets and Russians importing it to countries like Cuba, Iraq, Afghanistan and India.

Overall, a classic fighter, but I’m still partial for MiG-21.

Aligatori_2
Original here

I’m always surprised how tightly knit MiG variants are, but ultimately that showcases how it’s not feasible to have a fighter that would excel in all roles. As such, I’ve noticed how TSFs are either shooty or knify, but the ones trying to do both don’t really stand out at all. TSAs on the other hand stand apart from their TSF brethren just fine.

While the MiG-27 is variant of MiG-23, it’s TSF version is more or less an upgraded standalone version, and its performance and changes made to the frame were supposedly significant enough to give it a separate designation. The two look pretty much the same, having only one or two actually important changes, like on the arms and in certain details here and there, like on the knees and on the holes of the shoulder armours neat the head.

WhY mY ShOuLdErS hUrT?
An argument for all TSFs looking the same, unless you recognize how the real fighters look almost the same as well

The Alligator uses nicely surfaces and elements from the MiG-27 fighter. It’s more inspired than some other TSFs and has instantly recognizable, boxy look to it. The groin guard is a relatively unique in that it encompasses more elements than just the fighter’s nose. The head isn’t anything special, but I would argue the shapes on top of the head are inspired by the point where the variable wings are attached to the fuselage. The shoulders and arms should’ve been just a tad slimmer to follow the surprising thin nature of MiG-27, but overall there’s a healthy amount of plane elements in there, especially in the line language, mixed with TSF original materials, notably in the legs.

It would appear that close-combat focused TSFs function as equivalents for ground attack fighters. As such, the Alligator has a larger Soviet Army Combat Knife for better BETA cutting power. I’m not sure how this translates as better close combat capabilities, as the Alligator doesn’t have any more sharp points on its armour than its predecessor, Cheburashka. It’s got the WS-16 Assault Cannon and the same DS-3 MPSA shield MiG-21’s use. I guess it’s just quicker and more nimble than its predecessor, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into better performance at close range. That translates into better performance overall.

Much like the real life MiG-27, the Alligator is supposedly still in action during the events of Alternative, making  about 40% of Soviet Surface Fighter forces. It’s a competent, basic TSF that doesn’t do anything too fancy, but has the basics down just fine for a Second Generation TSF. It’s direct descendant MiG-29 Ласточка/Lastochka/Swallow and MiG-29OVT Fulcrum do everything the Alligator did and then some more while still staying in the range if Second Generation TSFs.

Of course, Su-37 and Su-47 would totally eclipse the MiG-27 in their time in terms of performance, close combat capabilities and fire power.

I just wanted to throw this in here
I just wanted to throw this in here

Remember to check the Tactical Surface Fighter tag I have for all the previous posts with TSF/plane comparisons.

Plane elements in Tactical Surface Fighters; Su-37 Terminator

The Flanker series of Sukhoi fighters have always been competent fighters. In Muv-Luv Alternative’s BETAverse, the base Su-37 most likely exists somewhere, but is never seen anywhere, not even on the TSF tech trees. As such, this comparison will be a bit weird in that I am using a base version of Su-37 to Su-37m2. This is the single seat variant that Fikatsia “Mama Bear” Latrova and 221 Batal’on Zhar used in Total Eclipse. The TSF Su-37’s don’t have outside differences par painting scheme, so either could’ve been used. If this bothers you, too bad.

A modified version of Su-27 with canards first flew in 1985 and was the prototype from which the Su-35 would be based on. The first true Su-35, called Su-27M at the time, flew in June 1988. It was a single seat fighter with moving canards, improved engines, digital fly-by-wire system that had quadruple redundancy to prevent mishaps. The prototype was made to be an aggressive fighter with great control. Because of the redundancy systems, Su-37M could fight and take hits without losing control. Probably. The Su-35 was a beast on paper, but Su-37 would improve the fighter further.

Su-37  was an experimental fighter with many names. NATO calls it Flanker-F, Sukhoi themselves calls it the Terminator. A loved child has many names. For a multi-role fighter first flown in 1996, the Su-37 was super maneuverable and able to utilise two dimensional thrust vectoring with its moving nozzles. All things considered, it had  great weight-to-thrust ratio with its Lyulka AL-37FU engines providing 12 500kg thrust to a fighter weighting 17 000kg empty. 2500km/h is nothing to scoff at either, especially for its time. With fly-by-wire, the Su-37 could do very impressive vertical acrobatics that impressed attendants at airshows in 1996 and 1997.

For its armaments, the Su-37 had one 30mm cannon and 14 hardpoints to carry a range of missiles and bombs up to 6000kg. The maximum take-off weight for the fighter was 34 000kg. Later Lyulka-Saturn developed AL-31Fp thrust control engines that were able to move in both horizontally and vertically. Some Su-37 were installed with these for tests and were named Super Flankers, but the engine is more associated with Su-30 Multi-Role Flanker. In December 2002, a Su-37 crashed during a ferry flight, ending the program. The plane series never entered production, and it seems Russian air forces are emphasizing Sukhoi PAK FA as a sort of response to US’ F-22A and F-35 Lighting II.

In Muv-Luv Alternative Su-37 saw larger production and was one of the main stepping stone towards Soviet Union’s 3rd Generation TSFs, namely the Su-47 Berkut.

F-14 Tomcat
Had to use these models, never found a good coloured back image

The Terminator, as its known here, is a single-seat front line TSF. It has a brother version in Su-37UB, which was used by the Scarlet Twins Inia Sestina and Cryska Barchenowa. Anyway, the Terminator was a 2.5th generation TSF with an emphasize on Close-Combat. Sure, it carrier the usual A-97 Assault Gun, but much like its little brother, the Terminator carries Arm Blade Motors ie. Chainsaws in its arms and basically has enough Spike and Blade Vanes to give a modeller bleeding hands. It lacks proper knives to do the Knife Dance, sadly.

One thing that needs to be separately mentioned is that both Su-37 and Su-47 are very similar to each other. There are clear differences for sure, but designers at âge clearly intend to reflect the fact that Su-47 used the same tandem-tripple layout with canards and tailplanes that Su-37 would use. This leads to other interesting things like the Jump Units having two tailpods instead of one found on the real plane. Furthermore, the torsos between the two are extremely similar if not identical, which harkens back to the fact that Su-47 was originally knows as Su-37. Russians have a tendency to re-use definitions with their fighters, which honestly has caused me more than a little headache when it comes to writing this entry. While Su-47 came first in the real world, it’s very clear that Su-37 came first in BETAverse. The Terminator also is a bit poor example of fighter elements in TSFs.

One interesting thing with the Terminator is that its skirt armour has forwards pointing thrusters, which most likely adds to its maneuverability. While the Terminator was not all that impressive in Total Eclipse VN or the television series, it’s safe to say that for its time it reflects the real world counterpart in how agile beast it is. The differences between 3rd and 2.5th generation TSFs is not all that big, so it would be safe to say that the Terminator could give early 3rd gen TSFs run for their money. That is, if the US surface pilots aren’t dicks and stay in stealth mode, shooting from miles away.

I also need to revise these charts at one point from ground up.

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse sort-of-review

As a fan, Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse offers a rare glimpse to see the Alternativerse animated. That alone is candy for me. However, as a fan I also need to admit the faults of the product. Not doing that would be a stupid thing to do. Because of these, I can’t admit myself this to be a complete review.

While planning this review, I set myself a limitation that this body of work would be looked at as a standalone piece. There are the Light Novels, on which the animation is adapted from, but they’re their own piece. Then you have the Visual Novel, which is basically the definitive version of the story both in content and quality. Comparing the animation to either of these would be useless on some levels, but mostly because I haven’t paid any attention on the LN’s (you can check differences between the two in Type.94’s blog linked on the right) and I’m still clinging to the small non-existing hope that Total Eclipse will see a PC release. I admit that this is a pipe dream down the drain, as âge and ixtl seem to be concentrating on console releases most. Well, it’s not like I can’t get my hands on the PS3 release, but I would like to enjoy stories like it on my laptop next year…

While the show is mostly in 2D animation, all the major TSFs are in 3D
While the show is mostly in 2D animation, all the major TSFs are in 3D

Well, let’s start with the review proper.

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse is a story about about a project to make a new generation Tactical Surface Fighter (ie. giant robot) and the test pilots and personnel surrounding said project in a world where these machines are used to battle alien invaders.

Cast from left to right;
Cast from left to right; Inia, Cryska, Leon, Yui, Yuuya, Stella, Macaroni and Tarisa

The first two episodes are there to ease the viewer into the world and how it functions as well as into the background of one of our main heroines. After that we begin the story proper with the introduction of Yuuya Bridges, the main character of the story.

I won’t go into the details of the story too much, as a general overlook should suffice as to give you some idea on whether you want to watch the series or not.

The story isn’t a grand one, and realizing this makes the show look better. Total Eclipse is a side story through and through and you can feel it in pretty much every nook and cranny of it. While the beginning feels big and promises big things to come, it’s just there to showcase how screwed this world is and because the staff clearly had a hard task with those two first episodes, they came out as the best episodes the series has. It’s not that the plot overall is bad, just the opposite. It’s how the story is executed and presented where Total Eclipse fails the most.

After the two initial episodes, the six episodes or so are mainly character and further world introduction with heavy emphasize on the show’s main point that these characters are test pilots, thus we get to see them doing their test pilot stuff. That includes the obligatory beach episodes. While these do not hold too much actually advancing plot, all the characters and the surroundings get to shine. We get to know all of them pretty well and part of their background. Well, not all of them. Because of PLOT! we don’t get to know the Soviet Russian pilots Cryska Barchenowa and Inia Sestina and their commanding officer Sandek all that well, just some hints what they are like and some basic character introduction. Too bad really, because most of the middle arc of the series these two Russian main characters, Cryska and Inia, basically disappear and have little to no relevancy on the events and Yuuya’s story outside certain key scenes where they’re mostly treated as plot devices to further plans of their commanding officer.

That’s problematic, because the middle of the series is just filled with hot air and honestly, it’s a jarring thing to watch. The Kamchatka arc begins in episode 8 and end in episode 14, and they feel twice as long. They could have cut a lot of hot air out, or fill them with actual content rather than talking heads. Well, Japanese have made a new sort of craft out of no-animation scenes, where people just slide across the screen and the only animated part is their mouths.

Well, the whole Kamchatka arc would have been interesting, as it is about Yui and her railgun.

he wants to see my railgun

Basically, the railgun is big-ass gun that eats through BETA like red-hot rod through butter, which Yui was mostly developing and it’s one of the secrets of Japanese government. Basically, the Russians wanted it to be tested on their soil, so they could have the BETA overrun the base where the cast is residing and take the railgun to themselves. Why? Because people are dicks and Muv-Luv, Alternative especially, has never been too protective about our dickish nature. Well, things never go as planned and the BETA overrun everything a bit too much, the railgun gets busted and people barely survive. Soviets also sacrifice their men to rally up morale of their own troops, in which we see a loss of one of the fan-favourite characters. That’s the gist of it, and they could have done it all in four or five episodes and lose nothing too important.

There’s also a sad change in Yui’s character during the Kamchatka arc, where she turns from strict, no-nonsense hardass into wobbly jelly with marginal character traits from before. She gets better at the end, but how her character here is handled is really awkward and feels off.

The last nine episodes fare no better really, as we return to the test piloting in marginal amounts and see more build for Cryska’s character, which barely goes anywhere. This is also the start of Blue Flag contest, where different squads from across the world come to the base to mettle with each other. This is to test their machines, naturally. Of course, we get introduced to a new set of characters, which get more or less only a sliver of character development. Part of them are tied to Yuuya’s past, whereas Chinese Miku is just a Shampoo pastiche from Ranma ½. Nothing wrong in that really, but her presence really doesn’t contribute to anything but additional fanservice and slight new breeze to still air of the series.

Aaaanyway, while we see more TSF-on-TSF action and think that the show is picking up pace because of this, but no. Now a terrorist arc begins, which interrupts the whole Blue Flag contest. Oh yeah, Cryska has a whole episode dedicated to her and her character building, which would have been welcome earlier on rather than be tacked on. If they had given every character a whole episode, or crammed two into one, then this kind of thing would have been alright. Actually, that’s what they could have done, but I guess all characters outside Yuuya, Cryska, Yui and Inia do not matter all that much.

China doesn't care about Blue Flag, they just sent Cui there to blow off some steam
China doesn’t care about Blue Flag contest, they just sent Cui there to blow off some steam

Well, the end plot goes so that the terrorist take control of the base with the help of some other Soviets in order to release BETA that are kept for studies underneath the base. This is on order to have Laser-Class outside and prevent the bombers to level the base. Turns out the Americans were a bunch of dicks too and have set nuclear weapons under Alaska’s border, which automatically detonate if any BETA step on is region. This would basically kill all the Soviets residing in Alaskan soil (the US has “rented” the area for them) and render worldwide tensions even tighter. Of course, there terrorists were there to drive the refugees matter, while their helpers were some religious zealots and worked with Soviets, who betrayed all of them and it turned out everybody were fooled by some red headed nazi. Perhaps. The plot’s all over the place at the end really, but when you watch it and take your time to process the information, it all makes sense and has a meaning. Explaining it here like this most likely has caused me to type something unintentionally wrong, or I was not able to explain what the shit was going on.

And top of all that, Sandek allows Cryska and Inia open their Newtype psychic powers without constraints, and we have another Ruskie doing his own thing and using a capsulated psychic girl to affect them. It’s not explained at all, but we know that these Psychic children are grown artificially, and we see one of them inside a capsule the other Ruskie uses to mess with Cryska and Inia. Be it brainwash or something else, Cryska’s and Inia’s wish to protect a world goes all haywire as they go berserk and kill everything and everybody in their way. Cue for fight between them, Yui and Yuuya. Of course, we can’t kill any of the major cast members, so things are wrapped somewhat loosely together after that.

Because every mecha series needs its own power aura effect
Because every mecha series needs its own power aura effect

Ending of Total Eclipse is a direct reflection to on how small scale event Total Eclipse is in the larger picture. For what we know about the series and what the ending tells us is as follows; the XFJ Project was successful and Japan is gonna get their new machine at some time later. Yui has managed to fulfil her character growth from a bitch to a helpless love stricken goofball to a person who has made peace with herself. Cryska goes from unfeeling almost-Rei clone to be an actual person who has wishes and needs, and now has actual drives for herself. Overall, it sums up the show pretty well and showing that the characters have changed as has the status quo. Every episode advance the show and no episode returns to the previous status quo. Even when it looks like things are back to normal, there are changes that are seen. In this sense Total Eclipse is much better show than Star Trek: Voyager or Enterprise, but that’s not all that much. What has taken place had its effects, and they’re there to stay. Whatever happens afterwards Alternative, Total Eclipse’s events did have an effect on that too. After all, XJF project was about the new frontline unit for Japanese.

Of course, what really happens is seen in the Visual Novel where Yui gets shot  and survives, finds out that Yuuya is her brother, and Cryska wins in the love triangle but dies. However none of this has nothing to do with the animation so we’ll disregard every piece of it.

OOPS SPOILERS
OOPS SPOILERS

Now, Total Eclipse uses 2D and 3D animation. We all agree that TE doesn’t have the best animation and there are whole episodes that are out of model. I tend to be a person who doesn’t take notice of such things too much and I see no reason to dismiss off-model animation as long its fluid, and TE looks good when it’s in motion… outside few running scenes with Yui but they clearly spent their budget on more important scenes.

...like Yui running in her Fortified Suit
…like Yui running in her Fortified Suit

It’s a mixed bag and Total Eclipse does deserve it’s share of negative comments on the animation quality. However, the 3D models are great and have their weight with them. It’s clear that TSF’s movements and overall animation got decent amount of attention and it shows. The detailing for the TSFs is pretty good overall and the models do represent their respective machines as well as they should. After all, they are now the official models for the TSFs to be used in future VNs, I imagine. However, I see no proper excuse why every BETA shares the same model with their relative species, and it would have been better if they had made three or four variations of the models and spread them around. The sizes of the BETA were also in some contradiction with what we had seen in the Visual Novels, but that has nothing to do with the show itself so dismiss that.

One thing that Total Eclipse did well was the music and overall sound department. Background music didn’t really get into the action’s way, and often the vocal songs just heightened the scenes. When there wasn’t really anything happening, the music sounded nice. There are few bland songs here and there, but they all just work. Outside the first Opening song by Koda Kumi, which is one of the most ill fitting opening songs I’ve heard in a long damn time [And not just ill-fitting, the song is rather awful through and through, and an ear worm too], the music varies from meh to pretty damn decent. Well, opinions are opinions and yours may differ.

Is Total Eclipse good? is the question you might be asking now. The short answer for this would Yes, it is good. It’s not great, it’s not bad, it’s pretty decent and nowhere being abysmal. It just kinda is good, because calling it any other would make it sounds something more special that what it is. Describing anything with just Good is an offence, but seeing how Total Eclipse in the end was, it doesn’t any more colourful description outside that.

As a whole it lacks its own identity cohesive identity, but where the arcs are a bit too clearly defined. You could actually jump into the story almost at any of the arc’s beginning and you wouldn’t lose much, as a lot of resolutions and changes in the series and characters is repeated multiple times over, like Yuuya’s growth from a racist bastard into a person who admits his roots.

However, the elements that are made well in Total Eclipse do stand out, and while the last arc is a bit all over the place, it keeps its grip on the viewer just fine. It’s one of the better paced arcs too next to the first two episodes. The middle arc in Kamchatka suffers from most of the really awful pacing is the most jarring part of the whole series, with a lot of nothing happening between long periods of time. To contrast these are the tight action scenes, but it’s a bit too apparent that the staff has been rather new to the industry, as the action scenes may have some of the TSF units doing high speed manuvers, then only a second later be completely still while another one lands to next to it. These cut the flow of the scene a bit too much, to a halt actually.

It’s sad to say that Total Eclipse is for the fans. They get the most out of it, whereas the normal viewer with no previous experience with the franchise will be lost, sometimes at keypoints. While the BETA are an unknown threat, they are fleshed out a little bit more as the show goes on, but why are we hearing these things in the 14th + episode and not during the lesson we had in the first episode? Why are we flashing back to the lesson episode later on? Next to the BETA, the big question that is never answered or pointed out is why this world is using giant robots to battle this alien threat? While they can be waved away by saying that It’s just a robot anime, that excuse isn’t good at all.

Not see n DVD or BD
Not seen on DVD or BD

To meta-review a little bit, it’s well known that Total Eclipse had a small budget and an inexperienced staff. This is seen from beginning to end, and it didn’t help that the director was changed before Kamchatka arc began. While these might affect somebody’s opinions of the series, it shouldn’t; only the end-product matters. As an adaptation Total Eclipse fails at basic television rule of Show, don’t tell and that’s mainly because adapting a literary work to big or small screen isn’t all that easy. Type-94 has more on the differences between the Light Novels and the series, as well as other information that I see no reason to repeat. You can find his link on the link section on the right.

In the end, there’s two possible reactions to the series depending who is watching it. The first reaction is a small fascination, where the viewer might start looking for further information and end up reading the VNs, and possibly purchase some merchandise. However, the genre shift from Muv-Luv Extra to Unlimited can be a bit troublesome, if this person is not liking the high-school romance comedy.

The second reaction is dismissing it, and most likely dropping the series and wanting to continue no further.

Total Eclipse didn’t really manage to grasp any audience outside the fans, and while it did have an extensive marketing campaign for such a small budgeted product, it failed to strike through. However, during this past year and then some, I have seen numerous people getting interested in Muv-Luv as a franchise through Total Eclipse, and Total Eclipse can work as a nice appetiser before spending those tens of hours with the Visual Novels.

Opinions are like assholes

The thing with voicing a sort-of opinion on things you like is a challenge for me. On another hand, I don’t want to look anyone down and voice my sincere opinion for the other party to wager. On another hand, I have a tendency to aim for an objective point of view. These things tend to mix with each other and often I have found myself mixing the two to an unhealthy degree. That’s somewhat dishonest thing to do for the person requesting for a genuine opinion.

Whether or not Muv-Luv Alternative Total Eclipse is a bad or good show is thus relatively relative. Just to base on opinion, it’s a good series that suffers from various issues. The question is then, for me at least as the one voicing it, is how trustworthy is this opinion? Clearly I am a big fan, the biggest one you can locally and probably in this nation which is either a really sad thing or really awesome. Because I am a fan of the franchise, it kind of colours everything I voice on the franchise, the good and the bad. While I am one of those heretical guys who say that Muv-Luv Unlimited The Day After is less than unnecessary piece, I can value the expansion of the franchise with new content. Yet, when a side-story like Total Eclipse gets animated and practically is the one thing the common people will recognize. It’s not uncommon at all to see the title written as Muv-Luv Total Eclipse without the Alternative notion because people just don’t know the meaning of that Alternative. Even people who should be well informed about the animation scene seem to shorten the title.

That’s to be expected thou. Muv-Luv isn’t Gundam or Macross, or even any of the modern mecha franchises in its exposure. It didn’t help that Total Eclipse didn’t really grab the viewers with great plot, awesome animation or high production values.

Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative are products that are somewhat… a challenge to convert into an animated form, to put it slightly. The problem lies not just with the genre shift, but the elements what Muv-Luv and ML Alternative are as a whole. Adapting a Visual Novel into animation form is just as challenging as any written material and thus one needs to be very careful how things are written and how these things would appear on screen. It’s easy to directly adapt bunch of lines directly from the Visual Novels and have the characters tell about it just like that. We all know that this doesn’t work for television, as it’s pretty damn boring just to watch people give out exposition and explain what has happened or what is happening. For a television audience, showcasing these events is a must. Then again, Japanese animation has made sliding pictures and talking heads into a form of craftsmanship.

When Total Eclipse aired a little over a year ago, I wrote whether or not it introduced the world of Muv-Luv to the new audience successfully, which in hindsight was written far too early. Through the year one of the most common criticisms I’ve seen has been that the BETA wasn’t explained in enough detail. The worst response one could give to this is Read the Visual Novels, as it showcases one of the biggest weaknesses the Total Eclipse TV-series had; the goddamn narrative is either all over the place or is lacking. For a person who knows the world setting and have read the Visual Novels, the first two episodes were nothing but fanservice atop fanservice. For a newcomer the two first episodes were really imperative in initial world building, and I have to say that in hindsight they failed to some extent. The series needed to be more on the showing and introducing things early on.

Anyway, this isn’t about Total Eclipse as such, but I wanted to create basis on what grounds the upcoming  sort-of review on the series will stand on. The intention is to watch the series in one go again this Saturday with my editor, or at least bulk of it, and have another head to discuss with.  As such, you’ll most likely see this and one other shorter post this week, as I assume the writing will splash unto next week. And it’s Christmas week, nobody’s reading what lonely shit I’m writing here, right?

Furthermore, because of my issues with hardware and shit, the Kimi ga Nozomu Eien post is spilling to the very early 2014, and if you have something you’d like to see touched upon, go write it into the comments section.

Music of the Month; Deep Space


Sorry if you expected something from Star Trek

As previously, these posts have been reserved for monthly meta to fulfill related and unrelated dumps on multiple issues. There be three things that we’ll most likely see this month.

First thing first, I’ll strive for that two posts in a week again. This is not due to any increase in news and happenings, but to get to the same level of output I’ve been using for the last two years or so. However, my life has become a bit too busy for my own comfort, so don’t rule out to have weeks where there’s just one post. I’m having few other big things coming up, and I’ve been drafted into few other projects as well. On other hand it’s good that I’m getting my hands full of things to do, but the readers of this site might notice how it hurts the blog.

Secondly, I’m determined to make a post about Muv-Luv this month, but the subject is unknown as of now. Total Eclipse ‘retrospect’ is reserved for the next month, so this time you’ll most likely get something about the main trilogy/duology. Don’t expect discussion about the mechs thou. I know that the Chronicles  04 is out and it’s the hottest shit in the fandom at the moment, but at this time I can’t do any sort of comprehensive writing on The Day After mostly because TDA has not peaked my interest.

The franchise is an interesting point actually, as it has somewhat stagnated while still being in strong motion. On one hand the series is expanding, but people who got into the bandwagon with Total Eclipse most likely won’t find much interest what Chronicles 04 had to offer due to âge basically giving too many side stories attention. By that I mean that while the original story is finished, it is by no means natural to suggest that fans of Total Eclipse will have any interest to know what happens in The Day After or Schwarzesmarken. While they’re pretty interesting stories and all that, they have little to no relevance to Total Eclipse. Except the Master may be or may not be a character from Schwarzesmarken, but even then it’s good question if these people have any interest to see the story he comes from, especially if it doesn’t carry any themes or characters of Total Eclipse. Often it’s a good idea to keep the fans tightly next to you and serve them what they would like to have to a certain extent, so we can always ask if âge has certain necessity to continue with the Total Eclipse storyline. Personally I would say that joining both Alternative’s and Total Eclipse’s sequels into the possible Alternative 2 would be a decent idea.

It seems that âge is coming out with a full fledged TDA release in the near future, and I hope they’ll decide to add all the previous stories to the release as a separate disc. If the episodes we’ve gotten thus far have been essential, then this prelude needs to be included. In limited market such as this it would be stupid to assume that all the newcomers are able get their hands on Chronicles 1-3, and then we have the question if âge even wants to promote those due to the pornographic content they have as they’ve been pretty clear in their actions to clean all explicit sexual content from their products. It’s my personal taste that sex within a story doesn’t make it any worse, no matter how explicit it is as long as it’s relevant and well written, but it’s true that the larger audience out there won’t agree with me.

Third thing we’ll possibly see this month is a short post about Dragon’s Crown in comparison to Gauntlet and few beat-em-ups. That, or we’ll check what kind of first episode Gaist Crusher had. I’m sure CAPCOM’s hitting themselves when they are looking at the amount of money Mighty No.9 has managed to amass from Kickstarter, but it would be more accurate to assume that CAPCOM’s not giving much attention to it outside the possible copyright issues, as the game is rather shameless copy of Mega Man. Either those two, or I’ll finally push the Laserdisc player review out. That’s almost a year late. It’s my issue with the tech and has nothing to do with anything else except few larger issues which I can’t wrap my head around or I can’t find confirmations to few issues I’m having.

If you see any ads or commercials within this blog, do keep in mind that I don’t advertise. WordPress has chosen my blog to be part of some sort of program where certain blogs see ads from various companies. I don’t gain anything from it, so if you see one, block it. I’m sure by recommending to do that I’m breaking some rules an regulations but I don’t give a damn. The only ad like feed I’m running is the Play-Asia newscast. That exists mainly to give out a completely another kind of perspective what’s going on a very skin deep level.

Actually, there’s one thing that we definitively have to discuss about; the Megavolutions in Pokémon XY.

Observable rules in TSF design

Now that we’ve established that I suck at writing jokes, or that I shouldn’t write inside jokes, let’s move a bit more on the mecha design thing we have going on. Oh and /ic/, the anon who linked this post in your thread didn’t write any of this. You should call him out on his bullshit.

The distinction between Super Robot and Real Robots is wonky to say the least. There are mechas that are more or less clear examples of both, like Mazinger Z being a Super Robot just as the show’s opening lyrics say, and then we have Votoms that is pretty damn realistic in portraying Scopedogs on their given role and environment. The further we go in time after the 60’s, we see more and more shows that break this kind of distinction. For example, I can’t categorise Balatack into either category as its showcases both sides of the argument. That’s why some people use the Hybrid nomenclature to describe mechas that are waver between the two. Full Metal Panic is a generic and good example of this.

From design point of view these don’t really fit. The thing you’re designing is automatically something fantastic, something over there with its form and function, that it doesn’t really matter whether or not its Super or Real. What matters is how the mecha is designed in the description before its put into shape. That’s where designers start thinking how to adapt the description properly; how to approach the mecha.

Super and Real are more a product of how the mecha is seen rather than designed. The mental image of something Super most likely brings out very fantastic, very over-the-top robots that pose, have fist fights with flying punches  and other more or less unconventional weapons. Real follows more or less what a real world soldier would do in a battle situation, but with added support from the fact that it’s a damn  mechanised battle unit. Then again, many shows break these limits, so perhaps careful use of these terms is in place. However, whether or not the mecha is Super or not depends a lot on the setting its in. GaoGaiGar in this sense could be regarded as sort of realistic because of alien technology involved, but then again its a giant robot with a lion head on its chest and uses a giant toy hammer powered by black holes to turn weekly bad guys into light. I’m sure at some point technology manages to produce something that turns matter into a stream of light due to impact, but at the moment that’s a bit overdoing it. Its not what you’d call realistic. [Editor;Maybe someone was having a wet daydream.]

âge has approached the Tactical Surface Fighters in their franchise from the Utilitarian point of view. To boot Kouki & co. decided to take the existing planes and turn then into robots. There are some observable general rules in designing a TSF that I’m going to go over now, but first let’s discuss why they’re all so similar looking.

It would be too bad if somebody would chomp on these...
It would be too bad if somebody would chomp on these…
Nothing new on the western front
Nothing new on the western front

As you can see, a vast majority of these share more or less the exact same body type. The proportions and measures are shared across the board, and some units visibly share same design elements. Those who aren’t really into Muv-Luv will most likely think these are due to laziness and lack of interest to develop larger variety of units. From the design point of view, which has split opinions, is that all TSFs descent from the F-4 Phantom in the upper left corner. F-5 Freedom Fighter was developed in conjunction with F-4, so we see their elements often repeated and further developed in later models, much in real life planes they’re based on. Actually, here’s the tech tree for all TSFs I scanned a while back.

This chart is sort of outdated by now, but its still valid
This chart is sort of outdated by now, but its still valid

The advantage, and the problem, in designing a new TSF is that you have something tangible to base your design on, but on the other hand you’re tied down on using existing TSF template and basically add the plane’s elements in there so that it gives the desired design. This is perhaps one of the best way to design a TSF anyway, because it will keep the core idea intact and still allows the designer to give his own twist in there if necessary. Then again, you have units like Takemikazuchi that  are not based on any real plane, but are more a reference to pre-existing franchises.

Because of the rules and approach in TSF design we can observe some rules that the designers have followed. This does not appear in all TSFs, so we can say that different designers take more liberties than others. While these bits repeat in the designs, they are just observations.

Nose cone; TSFs often have the nose cone in the skirt armour of the plane they’re based on. The early units do not seem to have this element, thou from MiG-23 onward these groin noses are notable in amount.

Cockpit; Some of the TSFs exhibit general design lines of the planes’ cockpits in their head designs. For example, TF-14 Tomcat’s head has lines taken from the cockpit and adapted into the head. F-15 follows the idea. Even F-5 has certain sharpness similar to the real life F-5.

Intakes; Intakes in general in TSFs’ torso are more or less directly taken from the planes. That smile on F-16’s torso is unmistakeable. You can also spot intakes on atop the legs of the TSFs, and these intakes also follow the already laid out general line language.

Shoulders; The shoulders of the TSFs in general follow either the back or the overall fusalage of the plane, with addition of wings (SU-47) or the engine nozzles (F-14EX). As such, the shoulder often are portrayed in a manner that compensates the selected element, making them either rather bulky or somewhat sleek.

Jump Units; the Jump Units on the TSFs are most often just the real life plane condensed and remodelled. It’s a further nod to the real life plane, to the extent that Berkut’s Jump Unit has those forward swept wings and tailbooms of uneven length.

The rest of the TSF in general follows the policy laid out by the plane and the overall visage of the line its put in. Arms and legs usually seem to be designed to compensate the rest of the units, whereas the torso mainly takes the basic shape of the place and then does its own thing. Russian TSFs are very clear on this, as the torso is designed to convey their fast & fury nature, finally realized in the Su-47 Berkut and its knife dance.

The overall evolution of the Tactical Surface Fighters in this way mirrors the real life planes, where we go from flying steel coffins into sleeker and more dynamic looking units. Now, all of these are apparent observations, and for further study we need the TSF and the plane it’s based on side by side. That way we can see what lines from the plane have been put into use for the TSF.

One problem with TSFs is that they’re really multipurpose machines outside few exceptions, namely A-10 Thunderbolt II and A-6 Intruder. They can be outfitted various weapon settings according to their role, but the overall role of the TSF in-universe is BETA clean-up. Generally speaking, the artillery first bombards the battlefield with their cannons and covers it with a heavy metal cloud. Then, the TSFs set in with guns blazing, swords drawn in order to slay all the Laser- and Heavy-Laser class BETA. Then the airforce flies in and bombs the ever[-]living shit out of them. That is unless BETA have managed a way to combine Fort-Class with an upgraded Laser-Class…

I need more whiskey
I need more whiskey

On another hand, I don’t know how many of the planes used in TSFs are multirole. That’s something I need to read and make some research on. Nevertheless, it’s debatable if the role of the TSFs reflects or equals the role of the fighter planes. I’m not sure it’s underhanded from me if I say that the comparison can’t be made directly because of the difference in paradigm TSFs and planes work under. TSFs main role is to fight BETA, but it’s recognized that F-22A is more suited on TSF vs TSF dogfighting, which just tells that even in Alt-verse, humans are dicks.

One distinction needs to be made; Hive infiltration. This is perhaps the main role TSFs will play in-universe, and it’s a damn big role.

I admit again that because of my lack of knowledge on real life fighters, the discussion on TSFs and their inherent roles in-universe is lacking. I have an intention to read on a selection of fighters, which would be used in future posts where I would compare and contrast the design elements of real life fighters and their TSF counterparts. This discussion would still be more adhered to the the looks, the outward design, of the TSFs than on anything else, but the research would me to further understand why such certain decisions in the design has been made. For example, the uneven tailbooms on the Berkut’s Jump Units. There’s a lot of little details like this that might have a rational reasoning behind them.

Now if you have a favourite TSF you’d like to see discussed, do drop a comment.

I understand why some claim that all TSFs look the same, because that’s kind of the point of them. Then again, the same goes for the planes. Not all people know fighter jets inside out either, and those fighters tend to look the same unless they have a lot of gap in the technology. It’s up to everybody’s opinion whether or not they like the philosophy behind the TSFs. I admit that I didn’t really give a damn about TSFs themselves, but after seeing them in action and further learning on their intricacies and details made me appreciate them. Hell, the first time I saw Takemikazuchi in the VN during Unlimited I got a bit giddy. Before you see one in action, you see how some of the less advanced units work and perform. Then, you see F-22A Raptor and Type-00R Takemikazuchi in action and things just get awesome.

Nevertheless, overall the core idea of TSF design has managed to produce some more or less unique designs. Whatever the opinion you may have on them, it can be disputed that the designers have managed design the mechas as intended. I’m sure that all the upcoming TSFs will adhere to the same rules as their predecessors, unless âge decides to revamp the core model TSF for some reason.