Visual Novel Adaptation by Flagship Line, Graphinica, Yumeta Company
Streaming on Crunchyroll
Aliens known as BETA have invaded Earth and slowly spread across the planet, destroying all life in their path. Humans have developed mecha called Tactical Surface Fighters (TSF) to combat the threat, but this has only slowed their advance. As the alien wave moves into northern Japan, TSF pilot Sayoko Komaki witnesses the horror of the BETA first hand, powerless to stop them.
Jel’s verdict: Too Little, Too Late
An anime adaptation of Muv-Luv Alternative feels fifteen years too late. Back in the mid-2000’s, visual novel adaptations were all the rage. Muv-Luv Alternative was one of the highest regarded VNs of that time, perhaps most notably going on to inspire the mega successful Attack on Titan. Seems like this should have happened back then. Even ten years ago would have made more sense, when they instead chose to adapt the spinoff novel, Total Eclipse. I actually watched that sexist, racist train wreck back in the early days of The GLORIO Blog and it did not give me a good first impression of the franchise. I will admit, I was already on the defensive coming into this new series and expecting the worst.
So with that baggage out of the way, does Muv-Luv Alternative hold up in 2021? It’s hard to say based solely on this first episode. What we got is a flashback prologue to the main story. It delivers the exact kind of grimdark and violent hopelessness I expected, in a competently executed way. Aliens showed up, a lot people got murdered, humanity gets pushed to the brink. I felt neither excited or disappointed when it ended, knowing that there was still more story setup to be done next week. I did not feel like we’ve seen what the series is really about yet.
With no other context, that might seem OK. A dark, heavy mecha series starring a woman on a quest for vengeance might sound good to a lot of people, including myself. But that’s when I have to bring my baggage back in. Mild spoiler (it’s basically in the trailer): Sayoko is not the main character and is going to get sidelined when they introduce the boring male protagonist. I know they did this exact setup with Total Eclipse, and that fell apart into a poorly written harem anime that was trying to convince you it was a serious military series. I know Muv-Luv Alternative was created in an era when the sexism, racism, and nationalism I experienced in Total Eclipse was more common and even expected in these types of stories. And honestly, an endorsement from Attack on Titan creator Hajime Isayama is not a positive for me either. It’s impossible for me to not be thinking about all this while watching.
Maybe I will be proven wrong and this adaptation will file off some of those rough edges. As an example, I was surprised there was no locker room scene with the girls squeezing into their skin tight plugsuits, or any creepy camera angles accentuating said suits. Maybe that’s progress? Dialed down visual fan service alone would not be enough to win me over though, and until proven otherwise I feel comfortable assuming the worst. Check back with me after three episodes when the series has revealed its full hand.