Luv those Muvs: Muv-Luv, 14 years later

Back in 2003 an anime aired named Kimi ga Nozomu Eien (The Eternity You Desire, Kiminozo). It was, fundamentally, a fairly standard romance show. The kind I wouldn’t give a second look these days. But back then I was young and inexperienced and didn’t realize the show would lead to me writing this post now, fourteen years later.

This is my path to Muv-Luv.

Spoilers for Kiminozo, minor spoilers for Muv-Luv Extra and Unlimited, vague spoilers for Alternative after the jump.

A bit of history for those not in the know. Kiminozo and Muv-Luv originated as Visual Novels by âge, and the first was adapted into an anime that aired in 2003. It starred a fairly standard boy by the name of Narumi Takayuki, and was about his relationships with two girls. Hayase Mitsuki and Suzumiya Haruka. It started in highschool and seemed to be following all the standard high school romantic dramedy staples, right up until Haruka got hot by a car at the end of episode 2 and went into a coma for three years.

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What followed was a roller coaster ride of emotional drama, drawing these three characters into a mutual downward spiral. Twitter didn’t exist at the time, but message boards certainly saw plenty of arguments, well-reasoned and otherwise about the show. Lines were drawn, friendships declared over, it seemed like everyone had an opinion and needed to share it. Of course, the show ended, and eventually most people moved on to whatever the new show of the moment was.

However for some, things didn’t end that cleanly. In 2003 it was much harder to learn about source material for anime, especially for anything that didn’t come from a manga. But there were a few people who had the inside track. Who could read Japanese themselves or had a friend, somewhere, who could. I had one of the friends. He’s a good friend I still talk to everyday, though we’ve never met in person. He told me about the Kiminozo game, about how wild some of the routes were. About the crazy green-haired nurse who gives Takayuki breast implants in her route. (for real!)

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But most importantly, he told me about Muv-Luv.

Released early in 2003, Muv-Luv was essentially a sequel to Kiminozo. Taking place at the same school in the same town, a year or so after Kiminozo’s story wraps up. Suzumiya Akane, the younger sister of Haruka, is a minor character and the main connection outside of the setting. Muv-Luv, by his telling, was more light-hearted than Kiminozo, focused mostly on comedy hijinks instead of drama. It starred Shirogane Takeru, a fairly ordinary high-school boy, and his relationships with his friends. Particularly his neighbor and childhood friend Kagami Sumika and the absurdly wealthy Mitsurugi Meiya who falls into his life abruptly one day.

Muv-Luv though had a secret. After you finished the game twice. Once on Sumika’s route and once on Meiya’s, an entirely new game opened. Unlike the base game, called Muv-Luv Extra, this new one was Muv-Luv Unlimited, and the description of it blew my mind. Shirogane Takeru goes to bed after the events of Extra and when he wakes up, he’s traveled to an entirely different world. A world that has spent the last 50 years fighting off extraterrestrial invaders known as BETA. Not only that, Takeru’s friends are in this world, but they don’t recognize him. And their school is now a training base for giant robots known as Tactical Surface Fighters.

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This blew my mind. The TSF designs were awesome, the idea of taking a romance VN and giving it the shocking twist of turning it into a fight against alien invaders, stuff I’d never even considered in my (at the time) two or so years of being into anime in a big way. Then he told me that the sequel was coming soon, where the real action would go down. Muv-Luv Alternative. And then the wait began.

A few years later he told me it had come out, and how divisive it had become. I learned about what is now known as “CHOMP”, along with quite a few other major spoilers. For a while I was really into this game I knew I would never play…but then it sort of faded away.

In 2011 the translation patches for all the games were out, but I’d fallen out of interest, and never quite got around to installing them. Then in 2012, Total Eclipse aired and…it wasn’t very good. I’d started to think that maybe the time for me to be into Muv-Luv had passed. I more or less pushed the franchise from my mind, when in 2015 the Kickstarter launched.

It was hard to believe that they were actually going to try to fund Muv-Luv on Kickstarter. It seemed ridiculous. But after some dithering, I chipped in for $300, my largest ever Kickstarter pledge. And then it blew past all its goals. Stunned, I settled in to wait, and wonder if I would ever actually get around to playing these games. Visual Novels being a genre I have a long history of starting and never finishing.

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In the summer of 2016, Muv-Luv Extra and Unlimited was released on Steam. Luckily for me, I have a lot of free time during summers, so I set about playing it. My tolerance for heterosexual romantic hijinks has diminished a lot since 2003, but I enjoyed it. Even the famed “Lacrosse Arc”. And 83 hours later I had (pretty much) cleared all of both games.

Then, finally, Alternative came out. It was an experience. I knew many of the broad strokes, but so many details were new to me. Even knowing who lived and who died didn’t make the actual events any less powerful.

Now its hard to believe I’ve actually read all of Muv-Luv, fourteen years after I first learned about it. Don’t know where I’ll go from here. I’m still not very enamored with the Muv-Luv spinoffs, particularly ones like Total Eclipse and Schwarzesmarken, but we have a few coming from the Kickstarter, so I’ll reevaluate when I have them available.

But until then, o7

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