Muv-Luv Alternative
Episode 8

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 8 of
Muv-Luv Alternative ?
Community score: 3.6

Like we always say in these situations: Well, that escalated quickly. No sooner had the specter of disparate agendas and discord within the flight's ranks been raised, then the crew finds themselves in the middle of dealing with an actual military coup, and we in the audience have even more catching up to do than we already thought we did. It's a sad truth I think a lot of us have cottoned to these past few years, that even the most seemingly-unilateral of globally-threatening disasters isn't enough to unite humanity, and so even with an alien invasion raging outside, the leadership of Japan clashes with internal elements of its own military over the proper protocol of service to and for civilians.

That's just the broad strokes of the conflict that breaks out this week. In the context of the anime itself, it might have been enough to have as background noise to station Takeru and the rest of the flight against their fellow countrymen to ruminate on the sympathies and moralities they found themselves pulled towards as a result. Spaced out properly enough, it could have even been a decent chance at providing some definition for some of the supposed 'main' characters who still haven't had a chance to stand out yet. And to be sure, an attempt is made at such a play in a couple places. However, Muv-Luv Alternative simply can't keep from overextending itself in all the ground it wants to cover. I was mildly amused early on when it became clear that Takeru was having as much trouble following the complex web of political machinations being explained as I was, but then the anime undermined that by just going on trying to explain them anyway. Hope you're ready to take notes.

A lot of new names and terminology get thrown out here, doing way too much to try to build off of the references to the forcible eviction of residents by the army we heard last week. That comes through as a core motivation for the military uprising, but then the storytelling also brings Mikoto's dad Chief Yoroi back from his portents a couple of weeks ago to pile on additional important names we're seemingly supposed to know. The pros and cons of letting the Americans intervene are also weighed, with allusions to some of their past war offenses in this timeline, and it's even made clear that there are other factions running their own side-agendas against these choices, like Tsukuyomi and the IJF popping in again with their protests against said Americans. This at least manages to communicate the chaos of splintered infighting that must come with such a situation, but it's at the cost of more coherent characteristic connections which I hoped we'd get more focus on.

A key example of this is Ayamine. Last episode left us to wonder how much of a connection she had to the incipient coup attempt, with this week attempting to provide some, but not all, of the clarification. Instead of her heart-to-heart with Takeru focusing on her feelings on the matter or simply explaining her personal position in what's going on, the discussion devolves into circular detailing of the complexities of the coup leader's identity and seeming relationship with Ayamine's father. What's being said there is simply far too much to communicate effectively and dramatically at this stage, with the presentation seeming to prioritize for the drama, meaning we reach an emotional crescendo for Ayamine working to come to terms with her apparent role (via inaction) in this situation, when we haven't even been fully clarified on what she did or didn't do. At the absolute least she could have made reference to her personal feelings on her father's ideals, or Naoya, the man she apparently knew somewhat who sought her out regarding his agenda. But then those are also the sorts of character elements we should have been privy to several weeks ago if they wanted this to land.

The other character-affecting efforts are more clearly-present, but simply pressed for time. Sakaki's father, the Prime Minister, ends up assassinated, prompting natural concern for her from Takeru. It ends up pretty much the same story as the other girls so far: This could be a major turning point, a key moment for her character, only we still have basically no idea who she is. Her self-flagellation at persevering through the tragedy is the most profound lens we've gotten to look at Sakaki through so far, and it amounts to maybe a minute of dialogue that simply serves to clarify that she's sadder now than she was before. Was she sad before? What was her attitude up to this point? You know I have no idea.

If the plot-elaboration and character explorations are a bust, you'd at least think this dense, profound visual-novel adaptation could throw in some interesting ideas to explore while it's baffling us. And to its credit, it is close. The interrogations Takeru navigates with the flight team members attempt to intersect with the idea of 'Patriotism', and where people's loyalties lie in a bifurcated state. If you believe in the ideals, if not necessarily the methods of one group, who do you stand with? As Takeru remarks a few times, it's an even more manifold conundrum when mankind as a whole's survival against Actual Aliens hangs in the balance in the background of these ultimately petty political power plays. And I was intrigued by the side the writing seems to come down on as well, that 'Patriotic' people in a country should have some expectation that said country will protect and provide for them in a time of crisis. That rings rather interestingly to someone like me, who comes from a country where the people most likely to describe themselves as 'Patriots' have a decidedly different view of the communal obligations and assistance level expected from a government.

But all the good conceptual intentions and efforts to cram a bit of every kind of story content into this one can't uplift this episode of Muv-Luv. It's down to the now-familiar but still-unavoidable pacing problems of the format; All this might have worked fine in time-slot-free in-game text boxes, but trying to race through it in a conventionally-structured twenty-two minutes is a losing proposition. I wanted to give Muv-Luv the benefit of the doubt, and I thought it might be tightly communicated and interestingly demonstrated, like the first season of Gundam 00. But instead it ends up convoluted and questionably prioritized, like the second season of Gundam 00.


Muv-Luv Alternative is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.

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