[For something more detailed and yet introductory, check out this post by r042]
Given that, I intend to “play” the Visual Novels, starting from the first one. But given how slow I am to progress in these things, this show will probably be finished before I get any useful context. So I’ll really go in cold, and I did with this first episode.
It sure left me cold! But see, I have this theory that I’m almost certain is not an original thought in the least: people are both exacting and nitpicky and at the same time very forgiving when dealing with iterations of products within their fandom. Conversely they can be very discerning when dealing with shows with a non-limiting appeal (does not easily fall into strict categories and/or fandoms), and ultimately can be quite dismissive of works that easily fall into categories that are not within their fandoms.
Using myself as an example:
I am very exacting and nitpicky about Gundam shows (very close to my core fandom), at the same time very forgiving of ‘70s and ‘80s robot shows (very close to my core fandom); and a complete apologist for everything Macross (my core fandom). I can be quite discerning when it comes to appreciation of animated films, by such filmmakers as Kon Satoshi, Oshii Mamoru, Miyazaki Hayao, and the like (I don’t consider myself among their fans, but I have distinct appreciation for some of their works). I’m not a “natural” fan of moe, even if I no longer dismiss it. I can only really get into some of the very acclaimed or popular works (Suzumiya Haruhi, Lucky Star, K-On!!) and am still quite dismissive of many examples. Lastly I remain quite dismissive of echii titles as well as cry-porn shows (Maeda Jun adaptations) and am very disinterested in appreciating them the way I appreciate other works.
Since Muv Love Alternative Total Eclipse has enough material for me to take it in as a mecha show, I can be very forgiving of elements I’d dismiss if it didn’t have giant robots fighting. This is the context by which I jump cold into this franchise.
What I can take in from the first episode is that there is an alien invasion, which began from Mars. I can dig this. After all I did enjoy both the novel and the crazy film adaptation of Starship Troopers; I also enjoyed the Aim for the Top! franchise from Gainax as well. However, I prefer a robot vs. robot kind of conflict as opposed to weird alien creature vs. robot kind of combat. Macross Frontier made its aliens biological mecha giant insects to keep the combat robot-based. Eureka SeveN spent most of its time having LFOs fighting each other. Muv Luv ATE has weird monochrome goopy humanoids(?) (Goop Class?) that either massacre the Tactical Surface Fighters (TSFs, the robots) in close range; or snipe them with lasers (Laser Class).
The only interesting combat I saw was when the rival characters (I think) squared off during training using sword-like CQB weapons. Their live exercise using firearms was a low-budget affair animation-wise. Scene of TSFs shooting will be immediately followed by an equally close up view of TSFs getting hit. Mobile Suit Gundam AGE has very crude looking animation most of the time, but I appreciate how they try to make the scene dynamic: either the POV is always moving, and/or the mobile suits are always moving (or both). I always held the human form to be the most aesthetically pleasing to see in motion, which is why humanoid vs. humanoid mecha combat is what I value the most in anime.
But, the TSFs themselves aren’t bad-looking. I like their relative chunkyness which is out of fashion for most of Mobile Suit Gundam AGE (00, SEED), Guilty Crown, Eureka SeveN Astral Ocean, Rinne no Lagrange, Aquarion EVOL, Macross Frontier, Code Geass etc. I want to see more of them in action, which is why I’m going to keep watching this show.
That, and maybe the massive carnage. I read that when the BETA “Beings of the Extra Terrestrial origin which is the Adversary of the human race” first arrived in Japan in 1998, 36 million people were killed within a week. The notion that these deaths weren’t due to WMD is a thrilling thing to imagine (my guilty pleasure) as an element of a robot anime.
Oh, and having enjoyed shows like Hanasaku Iroha prepared me for the teenage girl fanservicey drama that will probably have equal to greater billing with/than the robot battles in this show.
[P.S. Happy Independence Day to WRL’s readers from the United States. The ID4 film is one example of an alien invasion story I did not enjoy. I thought it was shit.]