Total Eclipse

In an alternate reality Earth in which the Tokugawa Shogunate survives into the 20th century and Russia/USSR retains control over half of Alaska, space technology advances to the stage where humans are actively exploring the Moon by the late 1960s. However, they encounter a predatory alien species known as the BETA who, after a vicious war, drive the humans from their lunar colonies. In 1973, the BETA invade earth; and, by the late 1990s, they have overrun most of Eurasia. Despite the fact that humans develop combat mecha called Terrestrial Surface Fighters (TSFs) to combat the BETA, the aliens continue their remorseless advance. Yui Takamura is the daughter of a famous Japanese general, and in 1998 is a student at the Imperial Royal Guard Academy, training to be a TSF pilot. When the BETA invade Japan, Yui’s unit is placed in reserve to guard a supply base; but when the BETA break through the Imperial Army’s lines and capture the base, they slaughter Yui’s comrades; she only escapes through the self-sacrificing actions of the Academy commander. Three years later, she is a Lieutenant in the Imperial Guard, assigned to a UN base in the Yukon where advance TSF models are being tested. She commands an elite squad of test pilots: Tarisa Manandal from Nepal; Valerio Giacosa from Italy; and Stella Bremer from Sweden. But it is ace US pilot Yuuya Bridges, a Japanese-American with a troubled past, with whom Yui has the most trouble. Yuuya is undoubtedly skilled; but he is also temperamental and outspoken. As the team struggle to bring their test models online, tensions emerge: not just between Yui and Yuuya, but between the UN and the USSR, whose pilots have born the brunt of the fighting; and also with the US, whose advanced tech and secret plans to defend the North American continent threaten to topple the balance of global power. That’s when a hidden threat emerges, one that could alter the entire course of the war against the BETA…

Based on a series of illustrated novels published by Shueisha, which were themselves a spin-off from an original computer games franchise created by games developer Ăge, “Total Eclipse” was produced by anime studios Ixtl and Statelight, and aired on Japanese television between July and December 2012.  In many respects a standard mecha-action series in the tradition of “Mobile Suit Gundam” and “Darling In The Franxx”, “Total Eclipse” is nonetheless a detailed narrative adventure supported by compelling visuals, an intricate storyline, and an engaging conceptual framework. Especially interesting are the notions of a modern Tokugawa Shogunate, a Soviet Union that still controls the old empire of Tsarist Russia, and a UN that is considerably more effective than its real-world counterpart. It is therefore disappointing that the lead female characters are (mostly) visualised as absurdly large-breasted warrior woman stereotypes; disappointing because the individual characterisations, both male and female, are three dimensional and convincing, dealing with a whole host of issues such as memory, trauma, loss, the clash of cultures and the confusion of personal, political, and professional agendas. The storylines are resolved in conventional but narratively satisfying ways, possessing just enough frisson to leave the viewer with tantalising “what if” questions.  Entertaining, violent, and possessing sufficient narrative tension to engage audience interest, “Total Eclipse” is intellectually undemanding viewing for those times when a popcorn show and an adventurous romp are the perfect means to help you pass the time.  

Text ©Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2021. All rights reserved.