Muv-Luv Alternative: the hardest Anime Adaptation

Save in the name of True Love!

If you are a Visual Novel fan or Mecha fan, you might have heard of Muv-Luv. The franchise started with the main trilogy: Muv-Luv Extra, Unlimited and Alternative. Ever since then, Muv-Luv has expanded beyond just Visual Novels with animes, games and mangas to become an interconnected multimedia franchise. And after 15 years, we finally get an adaptation of the main trilogy, however, to everyone’s surprise, the Novel chosen to be adapted is the third entry: Alternative. This decision to adapt the 3rd part of a trilogy is both an unexpected but also logical move and along with it, many pros and cons as well.
1. What is the purpose of the adaptation?

Of course, the first thing when doing any adaptation of an existing media is the intended audience. Will this adaptation for veterans who have thoroughly enjoyed the trilogy? or will this be aimed at newcomers who are interested in the franchise but haven’t experienced the original VNs and want to grasp a feel of the series? Catering to just one side is immensely difficult and flat-out impossible. For old fans, the expectation will be through the roof as they will expect the anime to include original designs, original voices as well as all of the impactful moments of their favorite characters. Muv-Luv started out as a dating-sim for both Extra and Unlimited, and therefore people have already have a bias on which character is their favorite. And frankly, adapting even the most important moments for each character will definitely push the episode count way over what the studio could afford.

If they make an anime a totally freshman-friendly series, then the choice is already non-optimal. Adapting the third part means the first and second part have to be skipped or reduced significantly, and frankly, it is also impossible with the length of Extra and Unlimited. So, all in all, the anime adaptation will have to be a combination of both. There will be aspects that only make sense to VN-readers and there will be stuff left out to make space for plot-critical narratives in order to transmit the “essence” of the series to newcomers. It is a compromise that most adaptations have to make, and Muv-Luv certainly got hit hard due to its immense length. Other Visual Novels such as Demonbane and Robotics; Notes also suffer from said setback, but it is just how it is.

The production committee behind the anime have stated that they want to bring in new people to the franchise, as part of their initiative to bring Muv-Luv to a larger international audience. The anime – much like Total Eclipse and Schwarzesmarken – is an incentive to intrigue new people into the franchise, as well as giving the old fans some fan-service with character’s animation and TSF fight scenes. Seeing the once static character sprites move on screen will be a fresh experience for people who have followed Muv-Luv for years. And of course, we can’t forget the business side of things. The anime is a way to raise more funds for future Muv-Luv project. Profit is something that will always be on the table, no matter how passionate the staff is about the anime, the decision lies with the executives, and they have to prioritize the business’ profit, given that making an anime is not a cheap venture.

2. What will be included from the original VN?

Now that is certainly the trickiest question that the staff, especially the scriptwriter and episode director, have to ponder. With the massive amount of content for a wide range of characters portrayed in the original novels, including all of them or even half of them isn’t possible (unless you have unlimited money). They have to focus on the most important of characters, namely Takeru and the two main heroines. It is understandable that everyone want to see their favorite girl shine on-screen, but accommodating them all is nigh improbable. What they can do is cut out the parts that require extensive understanding of Extra and Unlimited, and focus on the parts that are unique to Alternative in terms of character narratives.

Of course, one cannot adapt Muv-Luv without including the visual eye-candies: the TSF. From the promo material, we can be pretty sure what sort of TSF action will be included. Both TSF vs TSF and TSF vs BETA should be included. Many are concerned that having a BETA battle will rush the story, but it is the meat of the action in Muv-Luv. So it’s really is a dilemma on how to include enough action while making sure the story isn’t a jumbled mess story-wise.

3. What will be changed/added? 

So far, with 4 episodes out and a lot of information regarding voice actors, we can sorta grasp the direction the anime is heading towards. The anime is skipping A LOT. Character interactions aside from those involving Meiya, Yuuko and Takeru were dropped in favor of plot advancement. However, they have added many new things, including an all-original episode 1 to act as an introductory episode for new people (like completely new, since Total Eclipse and Schwarzesmarken kinda did the same), as well as various manga elements that people who read it can appreciate. 

The manga element addition is very nice. It is definitely intended for old fans who have experienced the VNs, since they get to see some interesting tidbits that were added to the manga. A strong point of Muv-Luv is that it is very lore-focused and the small details are all covered seamlessly. Getting additional “behind the scenes” event is also a way to do fan-service.

Regarding the content that was axed, if we look at it from a trilogy perspective, then what they cut out is quite important to the overall character development for Takeru as well. However, under the lens of an anime-only, those awkward character bonds will be an incentive for them to check out the source material if they like them. For example, if a person like Ayamine’s appearance or her mannerism in the anime but felt that it’s not quite enough, they will be interested in checking out the VN since there will be much more development there. This is not always true, of course, but it is the intended effect. 

4. The Pros & Cons of the adaptation
As mentioned, the anime adaptation of Alternative cannot be strictly for one type of audience, as it needs to balance out between VN readers, people who have seen SW and TE with a solid understanding of the Betaverse, and people who literally know nothing about the series. So the pros & cons in their views are also different. 

a. The VN readers:
– Pros: Of course, one of the most important aspects is to see the characters, the TSF, as well as the BETA “moving” on-screen instead of just sprite animation like in the VN. Seeing the once-static characters and mechas moving fluidly on-screen is pretty cool. Studio Graphinica is known for their good mecha CGI after all. And also, the fact that Evan Call is doing the music is another huge plus (since his work in Schwarzesmarken was amazing). 

– Cons: Now this hits hard. There are quite a lot to talk about in this one. Firstly, the character designs have already split the
fandom. Some are fine with it, while some are more than devastated to see a “modern” take of the characters looking vastly different from the VN designs. Furthermore, Alternative is, in a way, a weird “starting point” for an anime adaptation since it essentially skips through the first 2 parts which are regarded as vital setups for the endgame. Thirdly, the length of the anime is a major concern. There is little to zero chance we’re getting a faithful adaptation anyway, but the fans all hope it wasn’t rushed too much. From what we’ve seen, the anime is certainly not taking its foot off the accelerator. It has raised many concerns that there is too much compression and the characters received little to no development at all, except a bit for Meiya. Rushing is expected but they didn’t expect this fast of a rush. Another point is the recast of 99% of the character, however, after 4 episodes, this worry have been largely dispelled – as the new cast sound extremely good and close to their VN counterpart.

b. The people who have watched SW and TE:
Pros: Well, since they have already seen those animes, they would be quite familiar with the world settings of the Betaverse, therefore “integrating” this anime wouldn’t be that hard. To them, this is probably just another mechs vs aliens series with “tragedy splattered all over it, with updated mecha animation and more characters to invest in.

Cons: As mentioned, they haven’t read the novels, so any nuances of character relationship and the smaller details will definitely escape their notice. Furthermore, the introduction of a “time loop” protagonist and all that might confuse them even more since the atmosphere of Alternative is quite different compared to TE and SW.

c. The people who didn’t know about Muv-Luv until this anime:
Pros: For starters, lack of expectation and a curious mind I guess. They went in blind expecting a good ol’ giant robots vs aliens like macross frontier, majestic prince, etc… Although the passing comments about Muv-Luv might give them the impression of Fafner instead. The anime will leave a lot of interesting “hints” for newcomer to follow and explore more about the franchise.

Cons: Basically the same as the people who have only watched SW and TE, but much worse. They might require multiple viewings to grasp what the actual heck is going on and what’s happening with Takeru and the world. Episode 1 is an excellent intro to the settings of things but it does eat up parts of the main storyline so the plot will be even more rushed at the expense of storytelling and characterization. The anime might be a do-or-die to get more people into the original Visual Novels. So far, many new fans have been wildly confused with the breakneck speed that the anime has been going, as many plot points are either glossed over or just delivered at face-value and the series asked them to accept them as is and move on with the story. And, of course, it is very hard for them to connect with any characters aside from Meiya and Takeru, with the former much less than the latter.

5. How should we “enjoy” the anime?

As mentioned, the adaptation is far from perfect, no matter what. No matter what type of fans you fall into (new or veteran), there will be pros and cons for all. And that is just unavoidable things that no-one can do anything about. The studios don’t have unlimited fund and episode to create a perfect adaptation to meet everyone’s expectations. And so, we do think that it’s best to focus on the positives and forgive the shortcomings of the adaptation. If we’re lucky, then the BD sales and merch sales will help us get another season or another series’ adaptation (preferably Extra this time). 

And for people who are “dissatisfied” with the anime. It’s understandable that you’re upset that the quality isn’t up to par. But the anime project is a passion project from the staff and probably after many years of convincing the higher-ups, they finally got greenlit. It is obvious they do not have the highest budget or the most lax schedule to work on it. Instead of actively trying to turn people away from it, you can simply walk away if it’s unwatchable for you. Many new people might find the anime and by extension the franchise interesting, therefore bringing more people and creating incentives for more Muv-Luv stuff. Of course, this doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t actively improve the quality, but as Kouki has said, this matter should be brought to Avex’s attention by emailing them since they have a public email address. 

6. Conclusion:

The Muv-Luv Alternative anime adaptation is a complex piece of media that is trying to juggle between a dozen priorities, trying to balance them all. The result is that not all of them are up to par, particular in the characterization and human model animation. However, there are points that the anime excels at such as 3D animation and the smaller details that can be appreciated by many fans. I do hope that the adaptation will be successful in its main objective: getting new people interested in the franchise and create a better and wider community for Muv-Luv. If the veteran fans are more understanding and willing to put up some guidepost for the newbies, the anime might be a good entry point that will increase Muv-Luv’s influence. And who wouldn’t want new and educated fans into their fandom? The anime might not be perfect and leave a lot to be desired, but it shouldn’t act as a deterrence between the actual greatness of Muv-Luv and the people outside of it. Above all else, you can feel the passion and pressure that the staff has while working on this project, and that is always worth encouraging.

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