Monday, August 13, 2012
[Anime Survivor 2] 8th Place: Total Eclipse (a.k.a. What Hath Shirow Wrought?)
One of the first titles that rooted me in anime and manga (and eventually reviewing) was Masamune Shirow's Appleseed for two very different reasons.
When I bought the compiled manga volumes from Dark Horse Comics, I wasn't exactly sure what kind of manga I liked. I was partial to Rumiko Takahashi's works, but mecha hadn't thrilled me that much. Voltron had caught me as a kid, but I never got into Macross and Gundam (as much of a sin that might be to some). Bubblegum Crisis didn't catch me right away, as it was still an expensive get. When I opened the pages to Appleseed, I finally got the picture. Machinery was cool, especially if there was an underlying point to all of this technology. The translation was complex, and the conversation was foreign enough for me to get lost in the electric traffic jam that Olympus brought with it.
Of course, then I saw the digital wreckage that the OAV series spawned. Limp animation was coupled with ham actors, and all of the philosophy and mechanical jargon were stripped to leave the beat-up heart of a jalopy. It was then that I discovered the power of a good mecha show—a good distribution of detailed technology, deep thoughts, and even a svelte body sliding into the mechanical shell was what made a good mecha show to me.
Well, it looks like we found a show that left just that last part. 8th Place goes to Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse.
All Systems Go!: Okay, let's ignore the fact that Muv-Luv is actually composed of two entities initially packaged into one adult game, Muv-Luv Unlimited and Muv-Luv Alternative. In fact, the anime figures it would just be best to ignore Unlimited, the game's syrupy harem half, and go straight to Alternative. We've yet to see exactly if the former makes an appearance, but knowing what we've seen so far in the latter, my guess is it's likely to rear its head.
To summarize things in a very crude nutshell, Earth's population has been riddled with holes in an alternate timeline by armored aliens known as "BETA", leaving almost all of Asia and Europe devoured, an empty rind of themselves. This leaves humanity struggling to survive, but not without its own hope in the form of giant robots piloted by an international squad of heroes...two squads, in fact, as Soviet Russia is developing their own squadron in Alaska.
In all honestly, this is actually a decent set-up for a thriller, and most of it can be attributed to the first two episodes. Yes, we get a team of pretty-faced female soldiers sprightly maneuvering to take on the army of intergalactic demons, only to unexpectedly get absolutely obliterated. We're talking two-second reversals from victory to the gates of Hell, as what were once beacons of moe heraldry turn into dinner for these teeth-gnashing predators.
You know, if this series decided to go with that premise for all 26 episodes, then we'd have a winner! Yes, it's a cruel tragedy to see humanity cut short in such a slaughter, but it was such a bizarre direction that I hadn't been prepared for the chaos. For that brief shiny moment, this was a great story, especially if this meant that we'd be getting a bloodier version of Sakura Wars. Satelight (Bodacious Space Pirates, Aquarion Evol) might be on one hell of a roll!
And then the breasts came.
Warning! Enemies Approaching!: As quickly as we're blindsided by the bloodshed in the first two episodes, we're given a total change of pace. It turns out that such an advanced offensive juggernaut like the BETA can't figure out how to cross a 90-mile stretch of the Bering Strait, so everyone has retreated to North America. Considering how the aliens haven't figured out how to swim, it really has me wondering how they could easily cross the Sea of Japan.
Whatever. I mean, if you looked at what's gone on since Episode 2, you'd probably be wondering if any BETA exist at all.
See, that syrup that was painted on the walls of Unlimited manages to ooze its way into Alternative, making the resulting blob more Gundress than Appleseed. We could have had a terrific show, but instead we're presented with chrome-plated six-pack abs, female soldiers in bikinis playing volleyball (a BEACH episode, folks!), and dressing room chit-chat while we get shots of various stages of undress.
I'd go into detail about the characters themselves, but why should I? If you manage to get by the T&A, their personalities are wet cardboard. The only person with any sort of spunk to them is the alcoholic Nepalese tomboy Tarisa, but her angry voice ends the honeymoon completely quickly.
Mayday, Mayday!: Getting back to the Appleseed comparison, I know that a lot of Masamune Shirow's artwork evolved (devolved?) into shiny-skinned models trying to operate tinier mecha, but at least he had the knowledge to get a conversation together between the characters that showed signs that the characters had learned something from their society. Perhaps Total Eclipse hasn't enough cohesive utopia to hold a decent chat, but I was expecting more than a cat-eared maid costume (which does show in Episode 5, sadly).
With all the slow wordless drama infused with mindless discussion, we do lose that underlying angle of latent racism between characters, but I'd say you have to dig deeper. After all, Europe and Asia have been devoured, leaving the semi-pristine Americas to enjoy beaches and steakhouses. Considering the token Japanese, Russian, and Nepalese girls all show distrust towards the Americans, what do you think they're trying to say in this anime?
Wait. Morals? What am I saying? This show is an animated Hooters restaurant. In fact, I'm pushing Total Eclipse down to 9th Place. At least Nobuna Oda is doing war right.