Schwarzesmarken – 02

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Shortly after her first training sortie with the Black Marks, which goes quite well, and being introduced to the kindly, beautiful Lt. Pham, Katia quickly meets the darker side of her new country, the Stasi, who arrive in force to take her into custody for questioning.

Bernhard resists the handover of a soldier under her command, even a brand new one, and challenges both Lt. Col. Axmann and her academy rival Major Brehme to produce a reason for the arrest, and is actually backed up by her unit’s political commisar, Gretel Jeckeln.

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The Stasi leave empty-handed without a fight, but they promise they’ll be back when, not if, they get something on Katia. And between her big mouth (talking about things like wishing for both Germanys working together to fight the BETA) and asking Theodor to look through documents on a certain general who is actually her father, they might not have to wait long to have an excuse.

Theodor, who clicks his tongue enough to make a drinking game, certainly doesn’t like being in another situation where the Stasi spotlight is on him and his loyalties are questioned. There are no second chances, so feeling particularly selfish about his well-being, he considers doing…something on the battlefield to solve his “Katia Problem.”

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But he doesn’t. Instead, when she’s about to be pounced on by a BETA, he actually saves her. Perhaps, in the heat of battle, Theodor is compelled to do the right thing, not what’s best for his own skin. Their operation is crippled when the Stasi, who promised to send reinforcements, instead simply sit at HQ sipping tea, leaving the 666th out to dry.

They lose their CO, and both Katia and Pham are somewhat inexplicably called upon personally to help defend Fort Neuenhagen, where their TSFs are damaged and where they wake up, not knowing if they’re prisoners or not at a place whose soldiers call “Hell on Earth.”

“Fine” is the best way to describe this episode. It wasn’t bad, but nothing really stood out. Theodor remains a bland, tongue-clicking boob, Katia strikes me as way too idealistic for her own good, the visuals are nothing special.

As Oigakkosan mentioned last week, the show is also juggling too many premises. It seems far more interested in the shades-of-gray political conflict than the war with the BETA, who are, like the enemy in Kantai Collection, are just pure, bland, malice…but also extraneous. This show is eliciting too much meh in me to continue.

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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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Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse – 25 (Fin)

When Major Christopher activates his TSF’s onboard thingamajig, the Scarlet Twins go berserk, killing him, ripping Lt. Sendak’s TSF’s arms off, and tearing Chobi’s TSF to pieces. Yuuya bails out Yui by facing off against them, trying to talk them down. He eventually drops his weapon and lets them spear his TSF. They come out of their hypnosis. The American Air Force mops up the Beta, ending the crisis. In the aftermath, the XFJ Project is in doubt, and Yui Takamura is recalled to Japan for debriefing and inquiries. She promises to return. She and Yuuya say farewell without words, and Cryska tells Yui that she also loves Yuuya, making them rivals in love.

Well, you’ll have to forgive us for getting the final episode count wrong again. Episode 20 was just a recap, making this the 24th “real” episode, despite being numbered 25. So this is the final episode. And while the end of the world was averted (for now), a lot is left on the table. Who Yuuya picks to be his mate is not resolved. Admittedly, that’s not the biggest deal in the world, as even his most tender moments with Yui never exactly set the world on fire (that’s for the Beta to do.)

We were glad Major Christopher got a quick exit stage right, but his mysterious “Master” is never identified, nor is his specific plan for the world, a map of which is hung in his swanky office upside-down, suggesting he intends to turn the world on its end, though that’s just a guess, and like we said, who the heck knows? Sendak is apparently a bad guy too, with plans for the Scarlet Twins that they probably aren’t privy to. All these hanging threads leave open the possibility for a sequel one day. Would we watch that sequel? Our answer is a firm “maybe.”


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse – 23

With RLF-controlled TSFs on the way with guided rounds, Yui takes Sendak’s advice to split their forces, leaving Yuuya behind alone to cover their retreat. Yuuya is surrounded, but bailed out by Inia in the Terminator. Yui, Cryska and the others return to Yuuya and Inia, and all the enemy TSFs are taken out. The last one, piloted by Mariem’s sister Gisele, self-destructs when Cui reaches for her weapon, but Cui ejects in time to survive. Meanwhile, after failing to sway Dogulu, Mariem broadcasts the RLF’s demands and actions taken, including releasing Laser-class Beta from the research lab to take out American bombers. She also publicly reveals the secret “Red Shift” plan, which would destroy the heart of Alaska to create a new defense line, abandoning the USSR and Eurasia.

This week Yui, Yuuya, and the test pilots prove they’re no slouches in real-deal combat, taking out all 24 TSFs the terrorists deployed. The group also proves that even when the head of an operation is cut off (the UN leadership, HQ, and even Lt. Dogulu are out of action this week), they can still cast aside their individual cultural or national prejudices to work as a cohesive combat team. The only problem is, the RLF are no longer the only threat on the field. They’ve released Beta, and if those Beta reach a certain line, a line of hydrogen bombs will nuke the shit out of Alaska, killing the entire cast of this series! But wait, there’s more! As Mariem Zarner states her intentions and demands to the world, the Major is commandeering a TSF with some modifications made to it.

This will probably ensure this major’s a wild card in the impending finale. It would seem his desire to rule over “supermen” (is he talking about Cryska and Inia?) trumps whatever humanitarian goals the RLF claims to have. And Dogulu said it best: being a trod-upon refugee who’s had a tough life still doesn’t give you the right to kill people. Mariem isn’t hearing it, and when she learns her sister was KIA, she decides to make revenge her leading motivator. Will Cui ever get that date with Yuuya, or will they be annihilated in a massive nuclear fireball? We doubt the ending will be that nihilistic. We wouldn’t even be surprised if next week isn’t actually the end of this story.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse – 03

Ensign Yuuya Bridges transfers from Nevada to Yukon Base in Alaska, joining a international group of elite TSF pilots called Argos Flight: Stella Bremer from Sweden, Valerio Giacosa from Italy; Tarisa Manandal from Nepal; and lieutenants Takamura Yui from Japan and Ibraham Doglu from Turkey. Bridges and Stella team up against Tarisa and VG in a mock battle. Bridges is able to use himself as a decoy in order to get the cocky Tarisa in the right position for Stella to snipe her. Though he won the battle, Takamura isn’t impressed.

With Takamura the only survivor in last week’s dark bloodbath, the series serves up a fresh cast; the one we’ll probably be following the rest of the series. We like how casually the group comes together; no barrage of dozens of characters. The episode doesn’t try to do too much, after all, we’re still a little disoriented after the events of the first two episodes, which covered years; this week only covers days. But those first episodes painted a vivid picture of the trials Takamura Yui went through to get to where she is now: a lieutenant in an elite UN corps that may be humanity’s last best hope of survival. It also explains why she doesn’t like Bridges.

Of the members of Argos, only Bridges and his pal Vincent are from the US, a country not under Beta occupation. It’s apparent his life’s been a lot easier than Yui’s, nor he hasn’t seen any of the horrors she’s lived through (i.e., he hasn’t seen any friends get EATEN). The way he wins the battle – letting the enemy get right on top of him and relying on Stella to bail him out – probably wouldn’t work in a real batle against the Beta. At this point, we still like Yui the best, followed Stella (nicknamed “Venus”) and Valerio (“Macaroni”), where were inoffensive enough. But “Top Gun” Bridges seems like kind of a dick, while Tarisa (“Chobi”) is a shrill, irritating, arrogant little brat. Here’s hoping they mellow out a little.


Rating: 6 (Good)