Muv-Luv Alternative the Animation Season 2: What we can expect and what we actually want

The very big, yet very small fairytale continues…

Exactly 15 years after the original visual novel was released, the anime adaptation of Muv-Luv Alternative (MLA) aired in 2021. Now, exactly one year later, the 2nd season are almost upon us in October 2022. Season 1 was a rather…controversial experience to say the least, for both new and old fans alike. So, what can we expect from season 2 from the trailer they’ve shown us, and what we actually want from this extremely crucial and difficult to adapt arc.

Let’s take a look at some criticism of season 1. Firstly, the design choice and animation quality. Graphinica nailed it in the TSF department, no two ways about it. The mecha action is definitely one of the best that we’ve seen in recent years. However, the same cannot be said for the character department. Both the drastic choice and the subpar 2D animation hurt the series a lot. From faulty frames to really awkward animation (that wasn’t even fixed in the Blu-Ray), there are a lot to be desired in season 2. However, from the short PV we’ve got, it seems the quality will most likely be the same as season 1: gorgeous mechs but subpar characters.

We have zero doubt in Graphinica in terms of 3DCG since they are doing a stellar job at it. And they are very seasoned veterans when it comes to animating giant robots – going from the less-than-average SRW OG Divine Wars to the beautifully done SSSS.Gridman, the MLA anime is well-covered where the original Visual Novel couldn’t deliver: great TSF animation throughout. While the original novel featured a few Sakuga sequences animated by the legendary Yoshinari brothers, it was well-known that budget and time issue has limited the TSF action in the VN. And the anime is literally their answer for that missed opportunity almost – by focusing their effort on the giant Tactical Fighters.

However, the same amount of dedication couldn’t be replicated for Yumeta Company – who was in charged of the 2D animation. Now, it should be clarified that Yumeta is a subsidiary of Graphinica, so it’s understandable that they were chosen for the anime. And their skills actually weren’t terrible if we take a look at their other works aside from MLA, at least not to this degree. However, the issues might have to do with budget as well as the scheduling challenge that every studio must face while making an anime. While we do not know the specifics, it’s clear that MLA didn’t get the full potential it deserved. Many frames were well done, but even more weren’t. The lack of details, coupled with awkward human movements really brought down the immersive experience as well as emotional effect of a given scene.

Story-wise, the first season of the anime has confirmed that they are actually adapting the manga version of the Alternative – which in turn was a retrospective adaptation of the original novel. The manga added in many behind-the-scenes that weren’t available to readers in the novel as the novel were following Takeru – the protagonist – perspective. The manga isn’t fixed on any character’s POV, so many expansions were added to help novel readers understand more plot points that weren’t apparent during the VN. This helped to reduce plot holes and added more action sequences to the quite “uneventful” part of the story.

But this also comes with its own setback. Adapting the manga means rushing the storyline as the manga also cut off many things – assuming the readers have already gone through the novel. Adding more background plot means cutting out characterization, and the victim of that are none other than the main girls. Even Meiya – the poster girl of Muv-Luv – received very rigid characterization with no nuance to her character in Unlimited (which the anime completely glossed over). The silver-lining in these is that Tamase got her own “sequence”, and the coup arc is very focused on Ayamine and Chizuru, so they at least got something for themselves. The worst sufferer is Mikoto – which was practically invisible for the whole series. She left zero impressions on viewers and the fact that she got subpoenaed by the MP at the end due to her father’s work is just out of left field and really hard to understand if the viewer isn’t well-verse in the story already.

You can say that the story of the anime is a mismatch of substance and intent. It was stated that they wanted to make a newbie-friendly series – even go so far as making an original first episode to explain the world setting as well as Japan’s situation. Meanwhile the actual plot skipped over many important characterization and take the VN knowledge for granted. Even going so far as revealing the Valkyries early but only presenting them as an elite combat force and nothing more. With such an expansive cast, it’s clear that 12 episodes is nowhere near enough to reach the point they did in the story. And of course, there are even more crucial plot event in the next part – which we are heavily praying to be done “appropriately”.

Let’s move on to what we “want” to happen in season 2. Obviously, the continuation of the good aspect and improvement of the weaknesses. The mecha animation still look amazing in the PV, so let’s leave Graphinica to doing what they do best, and focus on the shortcomings of season 1: the character animation. The character design choice – while controversial – wasn’t terrible. The design is by no means ugly, but animating them in shabby fashion really hurt the characters. Facial expression, body anatomy and basic behaviours all need some fine-tuning. We all remember Meiya’s weird sobbing/seizuring scene at the end of ep 12, or Chizuru’s reused pained expression for the 10th time in the coup arc. There are many examples that can be improved.

Furthermore, the start of season 2 will be the most character-focused arc of the entire series, with very limited TSF action and focused solely on Takeru’s development as a person. We all wish for some “polish” on that front, at least until the end of epiosde-7 equivalent of the visual novel. With this, the animation team do need a very substantial workforce and scheduling. At this time, they might have already started on it or even finished the early versions. Nevertheless, we remain hopeful…but cautious.

In terms of story, we can expect realistically that they will keep following the manga, which means some removal and addition are in place. Although some of the addition will feel quite…unnecessary as they are backstory of the Valkyries – who will most likely not receive any meat of the story. What we are most concerned about is none other than Marimo Jinguuji-sensei along with Sumika Kagami. They are no doubt the lynchpin of this season and yet, they are very underwhelming in season 1. A great deal of attention will be required towards those two characters in order to make or break this season. So little time, so many things to cover.

There are ways to salvage the underdevelopment of these characters. However, without the context of Extra and Unlimited, Alternative can only do so much with its characters. Flashbacks are expected to be used heavily, and backstory sequences are also options on the table. Even so, these aren’t sure-fire ways to accomplish what we need. For veteran fans, we seek a good adaptation, for new fans, they seek a cohesive story without drag. Fulfilling both needs seems contradictory and impossible to accomplish. It is certainly not a stretch to regard this effort as passionate but “a fool’s errand”. However, things aren’t set in stone just yet and we will desperately welcome any surprise: one of them is at least a Jam Project or Minami Kuribayashi theme song. Now that’d get everyone going!

In conclusion, there are good things and bad things to say about Muv-Luv Alternative the Animation season 1, with the bad seemingly outnumber the good. Henceforth, the staff and studio are under huge pressure for season 2, mending what went wrong and keep up what went right. We remain cautiously hopeful for the arrival of season 2. However, they have confirmed that “Something very cool will happen to satisfy the old fans”, so we’re holding an optimistic outlook on the subject.

Check out more recommendations: