Thursday, August 30, 2012

One story about Muv Luv Alternative (not spoiler-free area)

Note: This was written in 2012, and it contains some pretty raw, unfiltered reactions I had for MLA. If you want to read something more intelligent or cohesive on the subject, you may wish to check out some of my entries in 2015 on the matter of MuvLuv Kickstarter (Late July/Early August)

I'm not honestly sure what to say here, or where to start. Maybe I could say that while Extra was fairly good average and Unlimited was impressive, Alternative caused me to cry various times and left me with deep scars in my heart and a PTSD. Even now when I have finished it some weeks ago, I keep wondering: "How did a VN do this to me?"

Let's start from the beginning. The opening of Alternative made me freak out. It was not fun and games anymore. The shit was about to hit the fan, the things were about to get real. I got the faintest impression that this is what Katsu was talking about, and then the starting screen hit me. Mostly, the presence of Sumika. So she would be in this part of Muv Luv. And I just might find out the answers for all the questions I had in my head during Unlimited.

I almost started crying when the Alternative started. From shock? I don't know. I had told Katsu that I wanted to go back to Extra. But not like this, not now, not like.. not knowing anything. Fortunately things got fixed soon enough, and instead of going back to Extraverse, I was thrown back into the delightful nightmare world that is Alternative.

Alternative is basically a world that gives you a retry in Unlimited. A second chance to fix all those things you messed up in the first place. Takeru knows that something got really messed up the last time he was here, and doesn't question the fact that he's been travelling back in time. Instead, he sets his mind in saving the humanity this time. After all, second time is the charm, right? No wait... For him saving the world means making Alternative IV succeed so that Alternative V, destroying the earth, doesn't take off.

This is where the real struggle begins. Alternative basically tells you that whatever you did in Unlimited, you failed, pal. You were the hindrance. Okay, maybe you weren't holding everyone down from succeeding, but you certainly weren't any good for making anything better. You were just playing around, no matter how seriously you took it. Unlimited taught you the basics. Now it's time to become a real soldier.

Unlike in Unlimited, this time you're not the hindrance; you're the genius. You excel at everything (because you have done everything before) and, at first, you know things no-one else can predict (because you've seen it happen before). Since making Alternative IV succeed means making Yuuko succeed, she becomes the person you tell these events before they happen. (I love how gentle and kind Yuuko was in Extra, and I admire how steel-cold she is in Alternative. I don't like it, but I can't help admiring her for her strenght.)

What Takeru realizes is that if he wants anyone to listen to him, he needs status, and he strives to achieve this through his own victories, skills and intelligence. He manages to speed up things that happened before, and finally unlocks new events, meaning that he has indeed managed to achieve something that has taken them one step further from the last time.

These new events kick Takeru hard in the groin. Well, honestly, I think he was expecting that saving the world wouldn't be easy. But apparently he didn't think it would be this hard. He is made to question everything he believed in, his motives, his abilities, everything. Along with him, I pondered the same questions he did. What is it that I hold dear? What is it that I fight for? At this point, Alternative was deep and rough, but not outright cruel.

Sadly, war is outright cruel. I have some faint memories about playing in the middle of the night, Takeru and Marimo having a chat. Then something that the boards like to call "chomp" happened.

I remember faintly that I was staring at the picture. I couldn't click it so that it would go away. The alarm rang in my ears. The... noises. The chomping. I remember faintly screaming at Katsu how I hated him for making me read this, and what the fuck was he thinking. Or at least trying. It might as well have consisted of "no no no no no no no no oh god no no NO", which probably is a more realistic guess. I finally managed to click it. Once. It didn't make it any better.

I faintly remember not being able to close my eyes, because the picture wouldn't go away. I remember very clearly that I said this to Katsu:

"If I had not gone to the bathroom earlier, I would hate you forever now."

And, then about a hour later:

"I'm scared to go to the bathroom alone. But I really need to go."

(After a while of digging conversation files: )

Ah, I found my reaction.

.. g-got...
... I hate you.
I hate you ;__;
I just
no no no no no no no no no no no

Then, after a while...

"Managed to click it.
But... the face
... if I hadn't gone to the bathroom right before that, I would have hated you for the rest of my life.
PTSD, welcome to my life.
fuck it..."


I think that's about when I got a PTSD. I was reminded of it today when there was a rehearsal at the school I work at for the fire alarm. For some reason they had to make an announcement about that, and for some reason that announcement reminded me of all the announcements in Yokohama base. I couldn't properly calm down for about an hour after the announcements, and it didn't make it any worse that someone happened to have a ringtone that resembled the alarm from Muv Luv in the beginning. (Some song I guess.)

In Alternative, I related more and more to both Meiya and  Takeru. But the scene following the chomp (the one where Takeru almost commits unspeakable deeds) I could only understand Takeru, not relate to him. But I could understand Meiya, and relate to her. I would have done the same, if it could console the one I love, even if he did it out of anger. I would have done it. I would do it, any given day. Not that I take the matter lightly, though. But let us continue.

The chomp. Revisited.

"Sumika, why are you crying?`
What's wrong?
No no no no no no no no no no no
NO oh god the face again oh no no no
just stop it
oh god
just make it stop...
uuu.. uu.. uu..."

Having someone forget about you is painful. Being forgotten is worse than being dead, and I've had one too many close encounters with the matter just these past two weeks. I think it was somewhere between Sumika and the gym class and Yuuko's car and the reactor when I presented Katsu with my theory that the famed 00-Unit, the savior of the Other World, had something to do with Kagami Sumika. "Don't know what though, I'll just have to keep reading."

And then, yeah. I was introduced to the 00-Unit, and the Kagami Sumika of this world.

For maybe the first time properly during the whole game I could identify with Sumika. I've been where she was, catatonic, crying and non-responding. Screaming if someone hugged and held me, struggling and not really realizing things happening around me. Fortunately I had someone who was there for me, as patiently as Takeru was for Sumika. Not sure if I would be here writing if there hadn't been anyone.

Joining Valkyries was something that started my brain again. Not because of some old familiar faces (HUMVEE WAS NEEDLESSLY CRUEL) but more like because of their slogan. It currently features a picture serving as my desktop image, reminding me of the kind of attitude I'd like to have in my life. And, also, it made me realize the value of those one would call "comrades", and the value of respect.

Isumi reminds me a lot about my current person-in-charge of my workgroup. Strong and determined, and ready to give guidance to those she works with, those whose well-being she is in charge of. Isumi caused me to salute the screen vigorously.

After that, Sumika wanted to protect Takeru by doing all the wrong things, and then we finally find out what exactly happened to Sumika with BETAs.

"What the hell, Katsu. What the hell, for real."

He just said: "And now you understand why I wondered if it's a good idea to get you read this."

And then we got to the Original Hive.

It's not only one of the most cool things I've ever seen in a VN, it's also one of the most touching. All these guys (*girls) I was working and training with are now here, doing incredible things. I felt sad, and I felt proud. I loved all of them. At this point I had really learned to care even for the characters I felt a bit icky about; The determination in all of them that was shown in different ways. Chizuru, Ayamine, Tama, Mikoto. They would always be in my heart.

There is one more thing I need to mention about Meiya, and that's the Noble Confidant issue. It made me cringe, because at that moment I was living through Meiya, feeling her emotions, feeling her heart crack apart piece by piece. After that, each time she appeared on the screen, I felt a sting in my chest, and I was certain it had nothing to do with how Takeru felt.

Then, only a bit later, she sacrificed herself for the happiness of the one she loved.

I sincerely and honestly like Meiya. I relate to her, and I'd like to be more like her. If anything, I would like to be like her.

I think that the two last deaths of Infiltrating the Original Hive were the ones hurting readers most. Katsu said he was deeply affected by the last. I was deeply affected by the first, and the manner of how it happened. But it appeared to be the price of peace, and the price of Takeru's mental prowess, his ability of staining his own hands into the blood.

It is now revealed what exactly caused the reason Takeru randomly travelled back and forth in time and space, and since the cause has been removed, Takeru can go home. We can all return to the Extraverse.

Except can we? Are we really able to return to the joyous, innocent world of high school comedy after all this? I found myself being very sceptic about this. I wasn't nowhere near certain about myself being able to get over this, like... ever.

But it was not my fight anymore.

My part in it was over. And I would have to return to my own life, to the place where I did belong, and leave them to do whatever they had to do in order for them to save their own world. They would have to create their own future, without a bratty saviour from other time and space.

I guess I could say I handled Final Extra pretty well - at least until Kasumi walked in. At that moment I forgot about understanding Takeru and about relating to Meiya. I started to weep when Kasumi's eyes started to fill with tears, and when Kasumi started to cry, my weeping advanced until I was just howling my heart out. That was when the dam broke, and I just cried out everything. The chomp, the PTSD, everything that Sumika had to go through, Sumika's memories, Meiya being the Noble Confidant, the four comrades I was so proud of, Tsukuyomi, chomp revisited, Haruka, and having to shoot the gun to achieve my own bad ending. I cried for Kasumi's pain, her happiness, her relief of it being finally over. And I understood how Takeru must have felt when he escaped in the world of Extra, crying on Marimo's lap.

Yes, I was able to return to the Extraverse, but I wasn't able to forget. And I think that it's not the meaning that we would forget everything we went through in that story. I think that what happened to me was that my calm, daily life and it's mundane small problems were interrupted by something much bigger and far more intimidating, and I had to turn my mind into steel so that I could one day return to the mundane problems and joyous, comedial everyday life.

Because that's what peace is. Peace is the privilege to enjoy indifferently of the fact that you're alive. Peace is for preserving. Peace is something you should not take for granted, because one day it might be gone.

I plan on starting to re-read Extra on 21th of October. I plan on going back and reminding myself of all the things this story has taught me. Of friendship, of nobility, of loyalty, of pride, of happiness, of duty, of life. And, above all, of love. After all, the slogan of the game is: "Save in the name of true love."

I still don't know what I could say about Muv Luv. But I hope that it has taught me something about what true love is; and with that, I'd like to close this post with a quote I entered in this blog earlier, presented by a character I despised in the beginning and learned to love at the very end. When I started the VN's last year, I was feeling very conflicted about that particular quote - to the extent of actually making a blog post about it. But now, when I feel that I have learned more about the meaning of the slogan, I feel like I can say it aloud, and finally admit to myself that loving someone is not a one-person-sport; you need to give something to the other person, and subject yourself to the possibility of pain.

"A dilemma of yours is a dilemma of mine. I exist for your sake."

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