Muv-Luv Alternative Episode 3, “Something to Protect,” is a fast-paced episode that skips over some opportunities for character development while also dropping in some intriguing mysteries that will keep many viewers hooked for future episodes. After Episode 2 provided much of the background information that anime-only viewers had missed, Episode 3 jumped right into the main storyline and wasted no time moving forward. This is a truly enjoyable anime for those who love post-apocalyptic stories, which is why it’ll be getting a big focus here on Post Apocalyptic Media.
Friendly reminder: I’m an anime-only viewer, so I’m sharing these reviews from the perspective of someone who hasn’t read the visual novels (but has done a little background research.)
This is a Muv-Luv Alternative Episode 3 review. It will have spoilers for the episode, but since it’s anime-focused only, it contains no visual novel spoilers.
The Introduction Dropped a Crazy Discovery Right In Front of Me & Then Moved On
The introduction was quite the rollercoaster, to put it mildly. I actually had to go back and rewatch it because I was only half paying attention at first. I kept getting distracted wondering if I was watching the right show, since everyone was talking in English! But then I tuned back in just in time for a crazy 🤯 moment and I was left with more than a little confused. In fact, there are several moments in this episode when crazy information is just dropped unexpectedly in my lap, and then the show runs away as if that information were normal, leaving me to sift through the moment all alone.
For other people, this might be unsettling. But I just finished binging Evangelion last month. 👊😤 Yes, my husband and I watched Neon Genesis followed by all four movies. I’ve become a bit of an expert in watching anime drop crazy plot twists right in front of me and then move on without explaining it to me at all. It felt like I was back home, to be honest. 😁
So that’s the state of mind I was in as I was watching the introduction. My anime suddenly had an English dub (what?) and the characters were in mechs walking through a deep cavern. (Major Evangelion vibes here.) The show explains that this is Operation Lucifer, which has just infiltrated and captured the Yokohama BETA hive. I got a little confused at this point and had to go back and look at the beginning of the scene. Turns out this scene is from August 1999 and present-day in the series is 2001. So the base used to be controlled by BETA before it was reclaimed and became what we know now.
In the opening, the mech force we’re following travel 4,000 feet below ground level, believing that the G-Bombs destroyed all BETA in the region. They found a narrow column stretching from floor to ceiling with a transparent column in the middle. As they zoom the camera in for a better look, they learn that hanging from the column are HUMAN BRAINS.
The show never goes back to this scene or explains more about it, so I’m left to wonder. Since I just finished watching Evangelion and am also currently watching 86 (two unrelated anime series), I have quite a few theories. But could any of them be right?
The Rest of the Episode Speeds Through Training & Squadron Bonding
The squadron bombing and training scenes were on hyper speed in this episode. This week reminds us that Shirogane Takeru can still remember his training from the previous universe and use it now. So he’s able to beat Ayamine’s record and assemble a gun super fast. He tries to motivate his team, but just like last week, he says something pretty mundane that — for some reason — is taken as being profound. 🤷♀️ This time he asks if everyone has something they’re trying to protect. He explains that he’s recently become willing to put his own life at risk if it means protecting something else.
“I think to beat the BETA, you need a bunch of strong-willed people, and they all need to work together. You were the ones who taught me that. I guess I’m saying, let’s do our best.”
Everyone smiles and looks at him like it’s something super deep. Which I’m guessing is his super power. Mind control or something. (I’m only half-joking here.)
Then he gives everyone nicknames, which are based on the names he used in the previous universe, and they’re all OK with that. I kind of feel like the show is shoehorning in closeness among the squadron members without truly building up to it, simply because they have a limited number of episodes to tell the story. So I’m not feeling the group’s closeness like I did on Attack on Titan.
But in a way, this is reflective of Shirogane’s state of mind. He’s trying to rush through all the steps himself in an attempt to get ahead of where he was in the previous timeline. So it’s kind of like we’re seeing the squadron from his point of view, with him artificially re-creating a camaraderie to try to achieve his goal of making Alternative IV actually succeed.
Later in the episode he meets Yoroi Mikoto for the first time and his squadron is finally complete.
Seriously, What is the Deal with Brains in Jars?
So, getting back to brains in jars and stuff… The scenes with Sensei Kouzuki and Yashiro Kasumi are the most compelling to me in this episode.
Shirogane’s relationship with Kasumi is a bit confusing. He remembers her from his previous life except a few small details are different, like noticing how tiny her hands are. When he first finds her, she’s staring at a brain in a jar that’s attached to a bunch of tubes and EVERYONE ACTS LIKE THIS IS NORMAL. Kasumi’s wearing an Alternative IV emblem, so she’s obviously important to the mission or a key part of it.
But then Shirogane tells Kouzuki about Kagami Sumika, who existed in his world but no longer exists in this new one. He says that Kasumi reminds him of Kagami in some ways, including a nickname for him that she uses, which only Kagami used before. (Apparently we’ve skipped over some scenes that happened in this world between Shirogane and Kasumi.) Kouzuki won’t reveal much, only to say that Kagami is a major player in Alternative IV.
“Does that go for that brain in the cylinder too?” he asks. (FINALLY.)
“Yes. It and Yashiro are two parts of a set,” Kouzuki explains. “…(Alternative IV) is a plan that involves a single child bringing a new hope to all of mankind.” (Sooo helpful.) But then she refuses to confirm that the child bringing all that hope is Kasumi, even though she basically did just confirm that. 🤷♀️
By the way, I’m getting MAJOR Evangelion vibes just screaming at me at this point in the episode. How will I be able to develop any theories without just making them Evangelion theories? (Which are hard enough because I only understood about 30% of what happened in that anime.)
My guess is that the plan with the brain and Kasumi is somehow mimicking the brain setup that the BETA once used when they controlled this base. I’m going to guess that they’re trying to use some kind of alien tech to defeat the aliens, and Kasumi is playing a key role in that. Maybe the missing Kagami is the brain in the cylinder and she’s not really missing. That would be dark, but this is a dark anime.
Kouzuki then suggests that maybe Shirogane can’t change anything in this world at all, no matter how hard he tries. Which is thoroughly depressing. But we later learn that’s not true when they successfully thwart a BETA invasion that he knew would happen.
Kasumi later becomes very attached to Shirogane and even starts waking him up every morning. Perhaps she can access other world memories too and that’s why she feels so connected to him? Maybe Alternative IV involves moving EVERYONE to another universe without BETA?
The End Is Quiet, Like Last Week
This series has a habit of ending episodes on a quiet note. This time, they sped through the CCSE test (which was fine by me.) But because they also sped through some character development with the team, I didn’t feel a lot of emotion when one of the squadron members cried after they passed the test.
The episode ends with Shirogane saying, “I know we’ll be able to change this world.”
It’s a statement in defiance of Kouzuki’s doubt that they would be able to, and a statement of his neverending hope that there’s a reason behind his being sent to this world. It’s not super profound, but at least it’s hopeful in the midst of everything they’re facing.
All in all, I enjoyed this episode. While I wouldn’t rank it among my top favorite anime (a distinct that sits solely with Attack on Titan), I still find this enjoyable, even as an anime-only viewer. I’ll definitely keep watching.