The Muv-Luv series of visual novels have been around since 2003 and have a fairly massive following. In fact, the sequel to the first Muv-Luv (consisting of Muv-Luv Extra and Muv-Luv Unlimited), called Muv-Luv Alternative, received an interesting anime adaptation, called Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse. Now, I was first introduced to Muv-Luv via the Total Eclipse anime, and I loved it; while many anime aficionados may scoff at Total Eclipse, I found it to be quite interesting, compelling, engaging, and just genuinely great.
When I heard that the Kickstarter for the VN adaptation was successfully funded, well I kind of went bonkers. This is the original release of the original source material (which, admittedly, was an adult visual novel as it consists of adult content) adapted and brought to the West with the option to "play" the VN with either English text or the original Japanese text (all voices are Japanese. Note though, that this is just the first two arcs, as the current Steam release is Muv-Luv Extra (the first part) and Muv-Luv Unlimited. The third arc, Muv-Luv Alternative will be released in a few months time (they are saying Winter). Regardless, what we have is a roller-coaster ride of goodness, with a tale that starts as a tongue-in-cheek romantic comedy and will ultimately climax into an action-packed thriller. Your emotions are about to go on a very wild ride. Prepare yourself.
Muv-Luv Extra starts you off as average teenage boy Shirogane Takeru, living life as any typical high school senior would be; awkward (and completely oblivious) with the ladies, big into video games, and a care-free attitude. Right off the bat you are introduced to his childhood friend and neighbor, Kagime Sumika and to be a bit frank ... she rubs ones nerves wrong real quick. Her bubbliness and airheaded-ness is just, ew. I tend to find the characters that are more quiet and reserved to be easier to latch onto and form bonds with, but man ... she just gets on my nerves. Perhaps it is the weirdly abusive relationship that she and Takeru have, I am not sure, but the combination being whiny and bubbly at the same time just gets to me.
After the first hour or so of backstory and random flashbacks, the third character comes into play and that is Mitsurugi Meiya, a wealthy girl that just shows up in Takeru's bed on morning and this is where the "comedy" aspect really starts to kick off in Muv-Luv. While the Muv-Luv universe is one of the most critically acclaimed visual novel franchises out there, Muv-Luv Extra is the roughest of the bunch. It is fairly linear and essentially a harem-centric rom-com; most of the comedy comes from genre cliches (childhood friend vying for romantic attention, new cool-headed threat of a woman, tripping, falling, grabbing, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera) and some of it can actually be funny, if you are into that sort of thing. Overall it is a nice and comfortable entry into a relatively adult visual novel full of pretty anime girls.
In a fantastic change of pace, the second arc, Muv-Luv Unlimited, is where things start to really take a turn away from the atypical rom-com (though rom-com is still a central theme to some of the relationships). Waking up shortly after the events at the end of Extra, Takeru finds the world to be essentially a post-apocalyptic wreck with devastation everywhere. Thinking it is a dream, he has to deal with the fact that well, he is essentially in a parallel world where humanity has been at war with aliens since the 1960's. After developing relationships with the various players in Extra, it is actually quite neat to go back and relearn who they are and how they fit into this new, utterly devastated worlds. It was actually eye-opening, given the fact that I had a number of basic preconceptions (like my thoughts on Sumika) that were utterly and effectively destroyed by Unlimited. It is not often that a game, story, or experience can alter your perceptions a third of the way through. Unlimited achieves this and it takes a moment to set in.
Though visual novels are still gaining popularity in the West, some, like Muv-Luv make breaking into the genre both comical and at times, tragically relatable. With Extra and Unlimited, the first two arcs in the series, you will experience laughs, likely a few embarrassing moments, some anger, and likely a whole bunch of giddy confusion (in the best of ways). Watch as a relatively faceless, flat, and generic male protagonist matures through the awkward stages of learning how to effectively communicate with the opposite sex (not-so-spoilery hint, he doesn't) and grows into someone that you eventually begin to care about and at times, sympathize with. Muv-Luv Extra and Unlimited are phenomenal gateways into the virtual novel world, and should be enjoyed by all, especially because Muv-Luv Alternative is coming in the near future and it looks to be a promising climax to a phenomenally built story.
Article by Robert