Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever get to see a show that cuts through the mess and gives me the pure mecha action I want. Then I come across a new show, and think that I’ve gotten what I wanted. Then the show starts having beach episodes and making love geometry and I realize that I can’t escape. I can’t escape an anime being an anime. Generally, it’s appeal will always be broad, and very Japanese. And I realize that I can’t have that show that is just 90% serious action and suspense, and 10% bull to alleviate all that tension and stress. Often enough it’s a 50-50 affair, and for Muv-Luv that seems to be the case. But I am wondering if that 50% is spectacular enough to make me live with the other half that I’m not fond of.
I’m not going to wax romantically about this show, because it’s only seven weeks old. I’ll just say that I had a hell of a lot of fun with the atmosphere, pacing, and general ruthlessness of the show during the first two episodes. I was fond of the next three because of the whole intensely competitive test pilot atmosphere, though I was a bit weary of the trend I was seeing in regards to the show getting more silly and …I guess you would call it sexist. Then again, the females in this show have been sexual objections from the beginning. And the xenophobia and racism is pretty rampant in this show, but I take that all in stride as part of the overall plan for the show. My main gripe has been with the last two episodes, which worked out as half swimsuit contest, and half convenient excuse to get the three most conflicted characters in the show to get together and hash out their issues. It all seems to be getting farther and farther away from what I most enjoyed about the show. And there was a lot, which shows you how much of a problem I’m having at the moment.
I’ve always been a “film noire” type of anime fan. I like my anime dark, somewhat realistic (for anime anyway), and I’ve always been apprehensive about moral dilemmas or plot points being cleanly resolved without collateral damage or sacrifice. If the bad guy gets way, then it’s fine if it works for the story. If innocent people and/or main characters die, then so be it. Not everyone is, nor should be blessed to have plot armor or the luck of a lottery winner. It’s just extra special for me if it comes with some good mecha combat. And I feel that a show’s production team and writing staff look more impressive for being able to carry a show without some of its linchpins. So seeing the first two episodes of this series was a treat for me. I got some interesting mecha action, with good production values (the computer graphics in this show are passable), and a very dark plot. And unstoppable alien force forcefully and methodically invading Earth. Murdering and devouring anything in its wake. There’s even the added bonus of tactics being needed for the different alien monsters. And to top it all off, there’s (mostly) ruthless indiscriminate death among the human casualties. How then-cadet Yui Takamura survived is blind, dumb luck. Everything else was wiped away. Sure some viewed it as a cheap Gai-Rei Zero style of early storytelling to get the audience more involved, but I think it set an important tone for how the series would eventually play out in the future. The message was that characters you get to know and maybe care about in the future will die horrible deaths. And I believed it to be good world building as well. It ended up being all one big extended flashback, but it was entertaining and did it’s job of helping us understand the world.
After that, the series starts to center around a half Japanese American test pilot named Yuuya Bridges (a dead ringer for Kira Yamato). It quickly lets the viewer know that the world may have a united enemy, but it is not united against it. While the xenophobia is pretty strong, and the racism is pretty childish, it’s nice to know that for the most part the pilots become friends and do more than tolerate each other. The exceptions being Yui, Yuuya and one half of the Scarlet Twins from the Soviet Union, Cryska. Sure the female midgets Tarisa and Inia don’t get along, but I blame that on Tarisa being intensely annoying on her own. Those annoyances were tolerated though, because I enjoyed the human versus human mock combat, and the intense training and test exercises the team performed regularly. As long as there was good mecha action peppered about, I was all right. And then we get to these last two beach episodes.
When we get to these beach episodes, there’s this joint event going on to help mend the tensions between the Russians and the rest of the test teams. It’s mostly a failure both of the Soviet pilots seem to be terrified of water. And just ends up as mostly a swimsuit exhibition for the female cast. The only things resembling plot movement were the conversations that Yui, Yuuya and Cryska had when they got separated from the rest of the group and stranded on a deserted island. For me, this silliness could have been compressed into one episode. And to make matters worse, they topped it off with a swimsuit exhibition, a literal one for Yui, Cryska and Inia. I just don’t get that. I really don’t. I’m not asking for it, but Yuuya got lost as well and he didn’t have to strut around half naked while anyone took pics. He didn’t get punished or embarrassed at all. And why is everyone excited about one piece Japanese-style school swimsuits, and most of them probably aren’t even Japanese? Sheesh. This show has fallen hard. My lingering hope is that now that the show has had its fun, we can start focusing on why they’re doing this massive joint project and on the aliens that are still currently ravaging the world. I don’t know if it’s more appropriate to tell this series to take its head out of the sand, or out of its ass?