Honestly, I don’t think there is anything I can say that hasn’t already been said at this point about Muv-Luv. But I will try and do my best anyway because I enjoyed Muv-Luv and was able to have time to reread it.
I think it’s best to give a little background, Muv Luv is a trilogy of games released by âge, the first (Extra) and second (Unlimited) were jointly released in 2003. Unlimited is unlocked after you get the endings of the two main heroines (Sumika and Meiya) in Extra. From Visual Novel Database it reads…
“Shirogane Takeru is a typical high school student with a lazy attitude and a love for the virtual reality mecha battle game Valgern-on. Even though he didn’t really wanted it, he is popular in school mainly due to his daily fights with his osananajimi (Sumika) attracting too much attention. His life takes an unexpected turn when he finds a girl (Meiya) he doesn’t remember ever meeting in his bed one morning. Whom later revealed to be the heiress of one of the biggest zaibatsu. She immediately moves to his house and starts changing his life for the good with her one-track-mind and unlimited resources…”
Once I started to read the visual novel myself, the gist of it consists of a love triangle between Takeru, his childhood friend (and neighbor) and the heiress to one of Japan’s most successful and influential families. In other words, there’s a girl who he spent his whole life with and a girl who would and could buy him the whole world so she could spend the rest of it together. Denser than metal, Takeru is completely ignorant to how they feel about him and simply continues to live his life like he has before.
One good thing about Muv-Luv is that it isn’t hard to find group photos of the cast. The main attraction would be the main heroines, Sumika and Meiya, but there are 3 other females you could romance if you want to. Allow me to introduce you to the characters starting from bottom center, right to left:
Chizuru Sakaki is the class representative of Takeru’s class and classic tsundere who tries her best to maintain order in the class but is usually fighting a lost battle given who her classmates are. She tends to take herself and everything she does seriously so she’s also quick to anger. She’s a friend and rival of Suzumiya Akane, a main character from some of âge’s other works. Probably the least popular character, but after completing her route I gained new respect for her and understood why she can be defensive and refuses accepting help from others.
Sumika Kagami is the goofy childhood best friend of Takeru who is too kind for even the anime world (if you read Alternative you know why I’m saying this). That is, unless of course she’s knocking Takeru’s lights out. Like Iroha from Oregairu, she exemplifies what 萌え/moe is to me. Meaning, I feel like I’m going to get a cavity whenever she’s onscreen. Her biggest characterization is her desire to be with Takeru and for him to not see her as a childhood friend, but as a woman.
Meiya Mitsurugi the mutlibillionaire heiress who is anything but normal. Due to her sheltered upbringing, Meiya initially is a bit naive about the world, and solves most problems with money, but she’s way nicer than Seto Kaiba. A firm believer in the Bushido code of honor, she is highly righteous and noble. She has a personal maid named Mana Tsukuyomi who is also not normal. Actually, everyone in the Mitsurugi household are a bunch of oddballs.
Ayamine Kei is basically what I would be if I was reincarnated into a Japanese high school girl. Anyway, she’s someone who doesn’t attend class often and would rather spend her time in school chilling on the roof. She seems to find a way to the cafeteria on days when yakisoba bread, her all-time favorite food, is being sold. She likes to mess with people and usually gets into verbal fights with Chizuru. Her route sees Takeru accidentally stumble across aspects of her past that show why she has a disregard for authority figures (like Chizuru) and why she maintains such distance between herself and others.
Tamase Miki a.k.a. Tama is the tiny class mascot who possesses a cheerful, energetic attitude toward life (yay!) and dislikes serious conflict and tries to be the peacekeeper between her classmates, especially between Kei and Chizuru (with Kei actually listening to her). Tama is a member of the archery club and very talented with a bow and arrow. She is actually the successor to a renowned archery dojo, but despite her skills, Tama gets nervous when somebody, especially someone she knows, is watching her shoot, causing her to freak out and often completely miss her shot.
While there are five romanceable heroines in Extra, Meiya and Sumika are like I said, obviously the main ones and act as the foundation for the plot. Their routes are mostly the same except for the last few scenes, whereas the three other heroines each have their own separate endings that are mostly unrelated. And if you’re wondering why I didn’t introduce Haruko Kashiwagi, it’s because she doesn’t have her own route. She’s one of the coolest characters âge ever made though, take my word for it.
Once Sumika and Meiya’s respective routes are finished Unlimited is unlocked.
If you thought Muv-Luv was composed entirely of romance and comedy, you would be dead wrong. In this second installment Takeru wakes up one morning in a world almost completely different from his own. The whole city he lives in is in ruins and there’s a destroyed mech next to his house. Takeru being Takeru, comes to the conclusion that he must be in a dream, resolving to go and enjoy it for however long it lasts. Upon reaching his school, he finds it is now a military facility and his meeting with the entrance guards does not go so well. As fate has it, Takeru is placed in a training squad along with this world’s versions of his classmates. The Tactical Surface Fighters (basically mechas), that have been developed to fight Earth’s extraterrestrial enemies resemble the video game robots of his home world, but Takeru’s video game skills aren’t going to be enough if he wants to have any chance of surviving the BETA, the biggest threat to humanity’s survival.
Talk about heavy, especially since in this world only 1 billion humans are still around in 2001. An unimaginable reality has been common knowledge for generations. A sudden change in tone and setting was very much a surprise to me since I was expecting more dating sim shenanigans. While everyone in the squad has their route too, Unlimited is more linear with an overarching story and no fundamental differences in the routes.
Oh, one last thing I’d like to mention regarding Unlimited is the fortified suits the girls wear. They happen to feature partially transparent material for some reason, leading to something of an almost nude-like appearance. I’m not sure if the outfits have any justification really, because Takeru’s suit isn’t like theirs at all.
Why I like this visual novel
Two words, one character: Ayamine Kei. She isn’t the only reason, of course, but she’s a big one. It’s funny the two fictional characters I relate to the most are a female Japanese high school student and a two-tailed fox. Ayamine might seem like an Ayanami Rei expy, but don’t let her similar name fool you. I have a lot in common with Kei. She initially comes off as a stoic, taciturn, weird and quiet character who keeps to herself most of the time and does whatever she wants. She likes to troll/mess with people for her own amusement and has a strong penchant for yakisoba bread. My yakisoba bread would definitely be eggnog, get me eggnog if you’ve ever done something wrong and I’ll instantly forgive you. Despite being a little selfish and usually keeping others at an arm’s length, she does have a heart of gold for the people she cares about. There’s a reason she comports herself the way she does, and you find out in her route (which I would argue is the one with the most depth). I loved Ayamine Kei so much there was a time people thought she was my waifu.
I know people kvetch a lot about the slice-of-life romantic comedy of Extra, but I actually enjoyed it. Yes, I know it’s cliché since the story follows the common trope of the protagonist who has potential to be greater than he is, but lacks motivation to apply himself. He seems to be happy with how things are, never putting much thought into anything else except a robot battle simulation game (and I can’t emphasize that enough. This fella has a firm grip on the idiot ball and wants to do a 93 yard touchdown run with it). You also meet the main cast who are the embodiment of tropes themselves. I can’t imagine anyone saying Extra is groundbreaking ’cause it’s not. The character designs are certainly memorable though.
The eroge content, well, it’s… there. I don’t read these things for the sex scenes because of how brainless they are. Kei’s scenes were the most tolerable (Yuuko’s was alright too, but that’s ’cause she’s hot) and I’m not just saying this because she’s my favorite character. The less talk going on in H-scenes the better. Also, once hers (the one in Extra) was over she continued to troll and even called Takeru a ケダモノ (lit. beast) which made me laugh.
Unlimited was the superior of the two and amalgamates anime, sci-fi, aliens and technology which are all things I like. I guess even people at the staff thought Unlimited was a better story since it had its own animated opening as opposed to the OP of Extra which uses game CG scenes. This part of the visual novel manages to present characters you have already gotten to know in an entirely new way, with their personalities being a mixture of what you have already gotten to know and how a difference being involved in growing up facing extinction makes.
This scene cranked the waterworks, okay?
Despite being over a decade old now, Muv-Luv’s art has actually aged quite well. The character sprites and poses have personality to them and the backgrounds aren’t bad either. Characters will move around the screen, becoming smaller when they are farther away and vice-versa, the camera will always show where Takeru is looking at. These features are used to greater effect in Unlimited, but they’re still good in Extra.
So these are the first two installments of what is a trilogy. Individually, each is entertaining, though nothing special. Extra is a dating sim school romance, Unlimited is a sci-fi mecha romance. Taken together, they become something a little more, transferring the characters you’ve come to know and love from one into the other is an interesting twist, and one which would lead me to recommend Muv-Luv to anyone who is a fan of visual novels. This isn’t the end of the story. Deserving and requiring its own post, Alternative elevates this franchise from just “good” to epic.