Schwarzesmarken – 01 (First Impressions)

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A recent deciphering of ancient papyrus fragments indicates the number of the beast is 616 rather than 666, but never mind; 666 is still a pretty apropriate number for the East German “Black Marks” TSF squadron that stars in the new Muv-Luv Alternative spin-off, Schwarzmarken.

They go into the thickest BETA shit and kill everything they see, prioritizing that over answering distress calls. In fact, all of East German society seems to have a fundamental trust deficiency; never a good problem to have in a military unit utilizing cutting-edge mecha and fighting a merciless alien foe.

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In such a tenuous situation, something’s going to give now and again, and it ain’t gonna be the BETA. Rather, the nerve of a PTSD-suffering comrade complicates the operation. Another pilot has to stay behind and calm her, and then ends up getting thrashed.

Her commanding officer, Irisdina Bernhard, has to finish what the BETA started. But she might not have had to if only Theodor Eberbach had done something other than suck his teeth and complain about having to deal with an “insane” pilot.

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In an op in which only Theodor and Irisdina sortie, they recover an injured but alive pilot who bears an uncanny resemblance to Theodor’s little sister Lise, from whom he got separated from during an apparent Stasi purge in which their parents were gunned down as they ran for their lives. As far as Theodor knows, he’s all that’s left of his family, and this kid pilot he’s found is a visceral reminder of how helpless he was.

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Rather than allow that feeling of helplessness consume him, Theodor clearly built a wall around himself, only looking out for number one from now on, and always feeling put out and annoyed if he has to deal with anyone. Regardless, or even on a lark, Irisdina assigns him to train the recovered West German pilot, Katia Waldheim, after she requests asylum and to join the 666th.

Katia has a big mouth, as befits someone from a freer country than the GDR, which is apparently fully stocked with people who’d stab you in the back as soon as look at you. Theodor almost calls out Irisdina as a Stasi informant, which isn’t to say she isn’t.

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He warns Katia to watch her back, because no one else will, including him…but I wonder about that. If anyone can thaw his frozen-solid heart, it’s the upbeat and optimistic Katia, who again, reminds him so much of the sister he couldn’t protect. Or perhaps he’ll have a freezing effect on her heart, to go along with the freezing temperatures. We’ll have to see.

After the credits, we look in on an even more unpleasant Stasi unit led by a somewhat sadistic male-female pair rounding up suspected Western collaborators and shooting them. Among the soldiers standing fast in the shadows is one whose silhouette indicates she’s Theodor’s sister Lise.

This show may look like it was made ten years ago, but its bleak scenario in which the BETA aren’t the only enemy—and may not even be most immediately worst one—is a darkly enticing one. The question is, when will the dreaded hot spring episode rear its head?

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Author: braverade

Hannah Brave is a staff writer for RABUJOI.

5 thoughts on “Schwarzesmarken – 01 (First Impressions)”

  1. Unnecessarily complex back story to justify what is really just mechs vs aliens? check.
    Large, archetypical cast of mech pilots? check.
    Juxtaposition of gore and goofy alien design? check

    At 5 minutes we get the kill crazy emotionally wounded character and I still don’t even know the squads names. The exposition heavy slog and grind of the combat (which a pilot even refers to as ‘tanks’) gives nothing weight. So very dull.

    7 for production and safe ‘been there who cares that’ value. 6 for Oji adjusted score.

    1. While I agree with the score, I think the main problem was that the episode writer was thinking way too much about the veteran fans of the Visual Novels and those that watched Total Eclipse, rather than thinking about newcomers. A really bad mistake IMHO.

      Personally, I preferred the first episode of Total Eclipse than this one, but TE was infamous for using half of the serie´s budget in the first two episodes.

      1. So shows (and games) that double stack their settings like this never hit me positively. If it’s cold war era vs Aliens, why toss in Mecha? If it’s Mecha vs Aliens, why toss in the cold war? By its very nature, double layer settings require too much explanation that draws away from the actual show.

        Way back at the beginning of the PS3 era, this annoyed the hell out of me in Resistance. If it’s semi-alt WW2 vs aliens… why the hell is all the tech psudo contemperary? bah :-)

  2. I find it fascinating that the number they decided to choose was 616.

    I wonder if this was a subtle attempt at poking fun at Marvel’s multiverse, where the primary reality is [i]Earth-616[/i].

    1. The number of the squadron is 666, not 616. 666 is the classically-understood number of the beast; 616 is the upstart new number from a papyrus old enough to make researchers wonder if it should have been 616 all along. If Schwarzemarken had chosen 616 instead of 666, I would have been truly impressed, because it would mean they also listened to that Radiolab.

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