[MAJOR ALTERNATIVE SPOILERS]
So how do I put this? The past two months have been crazy to me. The truth is, I am still completely overwhelmed by all sorts of feelings that emerged from completing Alternative.
By the time I made this post, I had already waited for three days to ease things up. However, that was of little use. I mean, this VN, this FUCKING VN, it felt 100x better compared to my first read.
There are just so many things I want to write about, but I have to stick to my original plan that is a full appreciation course for Mana.
A little warning though, this post is extremely long as it contains around 4500 words so beware.
That said, while my decision to re-visit the trilogy was out of my desire to see Mana again, it was unexpected that Meiya would become too powerful of a force to be neglected, no matter how hard I tried.
For the record, I'm not talking about having that kind of deep "affection" toward Meiya.
If anything, this Alternative re-visit pretty much solidifies Mana as my one true waifu, and I don't think I'll ever be able to develop that same kind of feeling to any other female character again.
However, what I feel toward Meiya is indescribable. I feel like she's trying so hard to pierce my heart that I can't just abandon her like that. She's too pure, too precious, and that's also why I CANNOT THINK OF HER THAT WAY, or rather, I feel obligated to respect and treasure her with my best capability.
So yeah, that's the reason for the procrastination of the final appreciation thread to Mana.
Anyhow, I've derailed too much from my original goal, so it's time to get back on track. My opinion on Mana hasn't changed much. She's still an amazing woman, but, even more so than ever now, as I've finished the trilogy for the 2nd time, Mana is no doubt the best "MOM" under the Heaven.
Her Extreme Resolve
Entering the first major arc of Alternative, Mana was no doubt one of the key players in this significant event.
I must say that I was fascinated by the performance of Mana despite her being a mere supporting character. That is not to say she, in any way, overshadowed Meiya and Yuuhi, who were the stars of this event in a theatrical sense.
On the contrary, Mana served as the pillar that supported the twin sister, giving them the necessary momentum to push their way and ideal to fruition.
But I digress, the resolve that Mana had displayed was nothing to be scoffed at:
- She manipulated Major Walken to buy time for the Shogun during the most critical experience of her life.
- She went to great length to convince the Major to follow the plans proposed by the twin sisters.
- Her limit was put to the test, physically, mentally, and even morally, in the encounter against captain Sagiri.
In all three incidents, Mana always had her life at stake as part of her subtle insubordination. Yet, even so, she did not falter one bit and stood firm with her position. I mean, it was such a fucked up situation that placed Mana in a very tough spot, for she had to balance many elements at the same time:
- Her duty as a TSF pilot, or the sword of humanity.
- Her duty as a Japanese soldier.
- Her duty as a Royal Guard, and in this particular case, is closely tied to the Shogun.
- Her duty as a guardian of Meiya.
Still, she had to make the hard call without much time to think, and without proper communication with the most important person in her life either, it just made me feel nothing but respect and sadness for her at the same time.
To add insult to injury, Mana had no other option but to dirty her hand in an attempt to subjugate the Coup in a manner that yielded the most benefit to all sides.
While this is also a throwback to my analysis of Mana in Extra/Unlimited, things got vastly escalated in Alternative to the point of being crueler than it sounds. For once, I can hardly picture the pain of striking down the man who shared 90% of her ideal.
On top of that, Captain Sagiri was also a fellow countryman, or comrade/colleague even given their relatively close positions to the Shogun.
The final nail in the coffin is that said person, although in a blind rage, was dead set on the idea that Mana had gone against her principle (being deceptive in the negotiation) and betrayed her nation by following the "bad guys".
The more I think about it, the more fucked up it became, but sadly there was no two way about it.
Regardless, I think the Coup was the most powerful act in MLA for the following reasons:
- It set up a lot of basis in this fucked up universe.
- Establishing characters' foundation.
- Gave them a lot of motivation to move on in later essential arcs.
IMO, Mana was the best support in this arc. From escorting, negotiating, and making the hard call, Mana successfully carried out her duties in the most flexible manner possible.
Heck, and have I mentioned a super awesome bonus being her sublime display of TSF skill (HYPE HYPE HYPE). I know that with full context, Major Walken, Captain Sagiri, and Mana are definitely on the same level.
But war is never fair, Mana just did her best to come out on top of that debacle, and it added up to her earlier hype as a Royal Guard whose primary job was to guard the Shogun and her relatives.
Additionally, not only was Mana instrumental in some decisive moments, but she also revealed a very different side of her that I had yet to see in other installments of the trilogy.
It is true that given her tough front as an elite soldier with a heavy responsibility of guarding important figures of Japan, she would be going full business and no-nonsense mode all of the time.
YET, at some point in the ride, there were inconsistencies in her character like how she just casually switched between soft and hard tones whenever it's related to Meiya.
Therefore, there is more to the relationship between Mana, Meiya, and Yuuhi, rather than just being master-servant.
It is just that the situation revolving around the Coup was so complicated that it required the 3 of them to act subtly, without any planning or direct contact beforehand.
That only goes to show how phenomenal this holy trinity is as they embody the image of women at war, putting the good of the many above their own and letting the action do the talking.
To sum up the first phase, Tsukuyomi Mana truly lived up to her reputation as a "guard" in many ways. She did not overstep her role when the main stars were shining while maintaining a calm head in almost every situation to keep things in order, and of course, not without "backing" up the star players when crisis arose. However, this is just a prelude to a tragic (maybe) tale to come later on.
Her Internal Conflict
As humanity finally went on the offensive after a long time having its back against the wall, Mana prepared herself for one of the most important wars in her life.
However, this is not the kind of preparation we usually get to see, such as training or tuning something to gain favor in a fight. In contrast, it is a special kind of act that can warm the heart of even the most cold-hearted person. Ok, maybe that was a bit exaggerated, but that is how I felt about her in this scene.
With her life being on the line again combined with a heavy responsibility of guarding another major figure in the IJF, one would think that Mana should be worrying about herself.
Nonetheless, she went out of her way, disregarding her pride and dignity to ask our protagonist for a seemingly selfish personal request. The thing is, this contradicts her decision to leave Meiya on a dangerous role back in the Coup.
So why was this even a thing?
Though her conversation with Takeru had already made this clear, in my opinion, the real picture here is a lot grimmer than it appears to be. Yep, Mana had been fighting a fair share of her inner-conflict almost as Takeru did in his previous PTSD arc.
Even though Meiya and Mana had long prepared themselves for the body-double procedure, deep inside, Mana, not as a guard, but as a mother figure to Meiya, could not bear the thought of sending her most precious thing to the "ocean" out of the blue like that.
She knew far better than anyone how cruel of a fate Meiya was going to take the moment she took on the mantle as the Shogun body double. Still, she had no other choice but to comply.
Her feeling had no place in this matter, which is why it all seemed too easy for her to have made such a hard call and a complete change of attitude toward Meiya from Takeru's perspective.
All said and done, this conversation before Sadogashima is no doubt one of Mana's most iconic moments in MLA. It was during this exact moment that she revealed her true self, and it was just full of warmth like her Extra counterpart.
For real, I was captivated by her voice during this scene as she melts my heart away with her deep concerns for Meiya. Were this to set in an ordinary world then, yeah, there's nothing special about it.
But knowing the full context of the story up to this point, plus the fucked up world of BETA-verse, this just paints the picture in a completely different light.
In any case, the point is, Mana had to decide between the two things that defined herself in this cruel world: her duty as a Royal Guard and her feeling for Meiya.
Ahhh, a classic standoff in many kinds of media. Generally speaking, I can agree that duty is generally of more importance.
However, in this scenario, and as one of the main themes of Muv-Luv, being alive is different from simple survival. Mana's act was nothing more than proof of her human part that lies beneath her strict front as a hard-assed soldier.
Yes, they are on the verge of extinction, but what use is clinging on staying alive if you have neither purpose nor a will of your own, following your survival instinct alone cannot be counted as such.
To me, this is the most beautiful theme in MLA, and I'm so glad that Meiya and Mana just seamlessly carried out their ideals to epitomize this excellence of a concept in a setting that cannot be more fitting.
Another welcomed change of Mana's character is her opening up to Takeru. I know it appears to be quite convenient, but for someone who's like a mother to Meiya, it makes perfect sense for her attitude to change based on how much he means to her.
No parent would want to see any suspicious individual getting near their children, but if things are made clear, then there's no reason to remain on high alert.
When Mana said that she wanted to trust Takeru, IDK, that felt very powerful as well, as it gave off the impression that Mana was fighting against her own bias and prejudice to take that "daring" step, which IMO is very commendable. Not to mention it separates her from being a generic kind of overprotective person (another reference to my Unlimited-Mana post).
Lastly, Mana's attitude toward the UN also turned to bright light as she displayed great trust in their capability. That is what makes Mana's character so awesome. While being occupied with all those burdens, she never forgot to look at the grand picture, thus maintaining the balance between her duties and personal goal.
You might be thinking that "great, why didn't she do the same in the Coup by following the US to heart instead of over-complicating everything then?". I think the answer is pretty clear in the conclusion of the Coup itself. That event had a much more complicated background than the big war they were about to go, so yeah, they're not alike at all.
Oh yes, as usual, somehow, Mana always got a bonus moment with her raw TSF fighting HYPE, even when under pressures of many things mentioned above, whew.
Just as I thought Mana no longer had a role to play (it had been a year, so my memories probably got a bit wonky lmao), she just gotta make one hell of a comeback right before and during one of the most important arcs of the story.
Anyway, what do you know, just another random convo at night time (wait, why does it always have to be at night), yet it didn't fail to capture Mana's emotional revelation, albeit a bit subtly.
To me, this is the peak of Mana's character development, the moment when she found the answer for her inner-conflict ever since the Coup D'etat.
Even though she insisted on putting on a rigid appearance like her usual self, her tone and slight hesitation pretty much gave away what her honest feeling was during that moment, and it was just WOW.
I was entirely speechless. It feels like a mother finally learned to let go of her daughter and let her decide the path of her own, WHICH IS JUST BEAUTIFUL AND POWERFUL AT THE SAME TIME.
What's surprising here is that this time she opened up herself even more to Takeru and proceed to have a casual conversation as if they were two old friends (in a sense, if we take Extra into account, then that's not too far fetched).
On top of that, I love the way she repeatedly found an opportunity to poke fun at Takeru's shortcoming but then instantly praised him, a classic hurt and heal tactic lmao.
But yeah, that's what makes the interaction between these two feel natural but not without explaining some plot point in the process.
If anything, Mana just got fleshed out a lot more with how she committed an out-of-character act like finding a loophole in the military regulations just because she felt like too, which is based AF.
In any case, that was merely the calm before the storm, for the hour was upon Yokohama base. As the battle raged on, Mana and her squad just casually hopped in and stole the Thunder from Isumi's Valkyries Storm Vanguard.
I know it was no surprise that, at this point, Mana had reached the peak of her skill, combined with the potentials of XM3 OS that boosted up her performance even further, yet this moment was still full of hype.
For one thing, if we look at a different angle here, humanity's future is at the mercy of the BETA, yet, Mana still had the luxury of thinking about taking glory on the battlefield as if it's a normal thing to do, which is pretty sick.
But seriously speaking, that was a great way to muster up the troopers' morale and keep their spirit high to fend off all sorts of despair.
Furthermore, Mana finally had a chance to stand on equal terms with Meiya, the one who was most precious to her.
Like omg, seeing Mana and Meiya having a spectacular back-to-back TSF dance was just fucking fire.
This right here is the Japanese spirit I've been waiting for, no need for wordy or sentimental bs, just pure, raw action, all coordinated flawlessly without any planning or communication beforehand.
That goes to show how deep the relationship between Meiya and Mana is. Even with all the obstacles in their life that prevented them from having good times together.
After all, just like in Extra, Mana was no doubt the one who tutored Meiya in her childhood days, the one who guided her to become a proper soldier (not a full-fledged one ofc, for that role belongs to Marimo) as well as a flawless alternative of the Shogun.
At this point, I could not help but feel proud and sad for them at the same time. GIMME BACK MY EXTRA-VERSE.
And that was not even the peak of Mana's performance in this battle, as she continued to carry out her duty as a sword of humanity. One of the first significant moves that she made was to instantly merge her unit with the Isumis's Valkyries, without a shred of hesitation.
For one thing, there's a stark divergence compared to what happened in the Coup:
- Mana was holding a lot of negative feelings toward the UN and the US.
- The Shogun's life was on the line at that time.
However, things have changed. Mana now fought while putting the greater good in high priority and was willing to disregard her pride as a Shogunate to achieve victory.
Next up is how ridiculously resilient she was. While almost everyone else in the team was taking severe damage, Mana instead casually jump onto the "heat" of the battle in hopes of stalling for the decisive moment.
Sure, the star of this battle was Takeru and Hayase since they had to handle the trickiest work. However, Mana didn't fall too short behind either, for she, yet again, played the role of the "pillar" just so the whole plan would work altogether. But what made Mana broken is that her TSF TOOK VERY LITTLE DAMAGE throughout the fight, as shown in the aftermath of the battle.
I mean, yeah, the Takemikazuchi has much better specs compared to the Shiranui. But unlike many others, Mana and her entourage had to take on a colossal horde of BETA.
Her circumstance was different from that of Takeru-Hayase, for the latter only needed to make a beeline to their designated target, thus minimizing the amount of BETA to kill. Mana, on the other hand, was in a position that forced her to face them all HEAD ON.
For the record, I'm not downplaying Takeru's and Hayase's feat by any means. Because this battle was of tremendous scale, many elements can decide the outcome, so you get the idea.
On top of that, even when the battle had long passed its conclusion, instead of taking a good rest, Mana proceeded to help out the base with whatever she could afford while staying humble despite her great deeds in the fight. Not like I'm complaining or anything.
But damn, did they have to put that much strain on my woman like this? I was dead worried that she might snap at some point but thank God that was not the case.
Her Reassurance And Pride
One trial after another, the BETA was restless with their momentum. Yet the same could be said for Mana, in many ways imaginable.
As her final moment in the journey drew near, instead of chasing into a suicide battle like many epic tales, Mana bid us readers farewell with a parting gift for the youngsters.
I guess I can't complain. Mana had been accompanying our heroes since the very early stage of the journey. Moreover, her influence on the plot had far surpassed what is usually accepted for a supporting character, IMO.
Therefore, it's fair that they let her step aside from the endgame to effectively set up the stage of a lifetime for the main characters. Awwww, and she still had the luxury of acting cool as well, dammit.
In all honesty, I would not have minded letting Mana join the final battle and give her life away to either save Meiya or die together with her, but that would have been cliché, I guess. Regardless, the plot dictated that it was a fight that must not involve anyone else but the main characters, so yeah, it was inevitable.
The selling point of this moment was undoubtedly the final direct conversation between Mana and Meiya. There was not even a need for this lengthy talk if one were to look at it as a whole picture, for things were made very clear that Mana had finally accepted the path of Meiya, and she was ready to support her with whatever she could afford.
However, this scene, this moment, was necessary to put a closure to their story. While I wholeheartedly agree with Takeru that THEY SHOULD AT LEAST HAVE ONE LAST CASUAL CONVERSATION, it was so painfully imperative that they remain true to their principle and duty.
It was so fucking awe-inspiring yet bitter at the same time that I could not help but cry inside for the unfortunate fate of this mother-daughter chemistry.
That said, on the bright side, Mana could finally find the resolve to move forward her future from thereon and thus be able to send Meiya off to war with pride and a smile on her face. YES, I KNOW THAT IS WHAT THEY WANT, but AAAAAAAAAAAA.
THE MANA ROUTE WE ALL NEED
Lastly, this might come up as a good meme material, but, IDK, when Yuuko said Mana and co could obtain the most propitious future like everyone in the Valkyries and even considered bringing them in, I was like WTF.
It was so hilarious and cockblocking at the same time that I truly wished it had not come up as a joke or so because that would make me salty AF to know Mana could potentially have a slot as a heroine of the story as well LMAO.
That said, at the very least, Yuuko finally came to acknowledge Mana, and that made me feel even more proud of her.
For a supporting character, she had caused quite a lot of plot intervention in the most flexible manner possible. That also goes to say how much potential she had if she were to be one of the heroines.
But what do you know, I guess there’s no use crying over spilled milk, as she is already superb as a supporting character.
Overall, Tsukuyomi Mana has gone through various character transformations throughout the story of Alternative:
- In the beginning, she exerts a mighty aura and gives off the impression of a disciplined and patriotic soldier.
- Additionally, she displays a harsh attitude against anything that counts as disrespecting her nation or loved one, Meiya.
- Shortly after, she carried out her duty without hesitation in the Coup in hopes of settling down the matter as efficiently as possible.
- In the process, there arose some inconsistencies with her nature, like how she casually "ditched" Meiya when carrying out that body-double plan.
- Later on, her genuine feeling and character were revealed, which heavily indicated that she'd been in pain and doubt of herself after all this time since the Coup, thus bringing forth the "human" side out of her stone-cold appearance.
- As the journey was approaching its finish line, Mana gradually gained the "answer" for her conflicts, accepted reality, and learned to let go.
- With her loved one set out for an impossible mission, she sent her off with pride instead of sorrow.
In conclusion, the life of Tsukuyomi Mana mostly revolves around Mitsurugi Meiya.
She spent a great deal of time teaching and guiding Meiya to her heart content, and I'm sure they had their fair share of comfy moments as well.
Unfortunately, as the time came for the Alternative IV program, Meiya set out to play her part without hesitation, much to Mana's discontent.
Yet, even so, they pressed on in life with their head held high, and such is a cruel fate of heroic figures in MLA.
What's truly admirable about Mana and Meiya is how both of them always try their best to set a line between their feeling and duty, though it only adds more tragedy to their story as a whole.
Regardless, that is what makes Mana an extraordinary mother figure to me. She has gone through so much to reach the acceptance stage, thus liberating herself from the overprotective nature she once had in the beginning.
For a "mother" or any parent out there, I think that is a very courageous step that not all can take.
Is this the feeling when parents see their child off to a battlefield?- From Tsukikage wa Yamiyo ni Arite
Whenever I look back at the journey that the characters in MLA have traversed, I could not help but think, why did Kouki gotta make them suffer this much.
And the suffering I'm talking about isn't merely physical but also mental. It doesn't matter whether they are heroes or supporting characters.
It doesn’t matter whether they died in a blaze of glory, or remained alive when everything was over.
It doesn't matter whether Kouki might have shown them to be satisfied or having accepted the outcome of their decisions.
I genuinely felt like deep inside, each of them was still imbued with indescribable pain, or at least, they didn't deserve any of that.
In any case, that wasn't a complaint. I understand that it was necessary to justify the build-up, setting, and the established concepts, but dammit.
Having come this far, I must say I'm absolutely all in for Mana now. She is just the ideal kind of woman in fiction that I've always been seeking out.
I mean, I was already a big fan of her when I first got into MLA last year, but this re-read amplifies my appreciation for her even more.
Regardless, Kouki once again put me in a rather difficult position to make the call. On the one hand, I wholeheartedly admire and respect the Mana in Alternative.
But on the other hand, who I genuinely want her to be is the Mana of Extra, for she deserves that world more than anything else, but holy feck, which one to choose now LOL.
But yeah, there's that, the Extra-verse was the cannon ending anyway, so I guess I can settle with that.
Wow, I can't believe I've written this much for Mana. It would not be a lie to say I have not gained anything from her during the journey.
When I said she was amazing, it was not just random praise out of a temporary emotional outburst. For a fictional character, I think it's not bad for her to have moved my life in a more positive direction.
First, I gave up the utter degenerate path of drowning myself in pointless hobbies. I would rather not dwell on this matter much, but I feel like I was disrespecting her by keeping those acts, so interpret them however you want.
Then she made me re-organize my daily schedule, just so I would have time to conduct some outdoor activity to improve my well-being and my mental state, I guess.
I mean, it sure feels weird that I'm obsessed with a fictional character this much, but the truth is that she has managed to knock me with a wake-up call and gave me the necessary push to move toward a different path in life, so I don't think it's an entirely bad thing at all.
Thank you, Mana, you're an amazing woman, a guardian angel, and a major badass as well. May you find your serenity in life. I wonder if I might be seeing you again in Muv-Luv: Intergate.
But until then, farewell, my beloved Elite Maid and Royal Guard.