Series Recommendation: Schwarzesmarken

A country of betrayal where parents report on their children,
where children report on their parents,
and loved ones sacrifice each other…is not a Germany we want!
Even in the face of extinction, humanity is still turning each other, creating a tragedy on the national, societal and personal level. That is the world of Muv-Luv BETAverse, leaving a Black Marks across humanity’s history. Schwarzesmarken – while the series name doesn’t include it – is a spin-off set in the Muv-Luv BETAverse and take place in 1983. It adapted the visual novel of the same name (which also originally was an adaptation of another light novel).

Schwarzesmarken take place in 1983 – effectively making it the earliest Muv-Luv story chronologically. The series focus on events transpired in East Germany, where the effect of the Cold War and the BETA invasion has given rise to the Ministry of State Security (Stasi) and their tyrannical rule. The main protagonist – Theodore Eberbach – is a TSF pilot of the 666th TSF Squadron – Schwarzesmarken. He had no love for his country, nor his countrymen, but a fated meeting with a young girl changed his life forever. Now he must fight for his friends, his family, his country and humanity – and correct the false ways of the Stasi.

+ Plot: Schwarzesmarken anime version is quite different from the other 2 media, however, it’s still self-contained enough as a standalone story. It would definitely help if you have some knowledge of the light novel or visual novel and Muv-Luv in general, but it’s not a must – since the story and characters are quite different. Schwarzesmarken doesn’t hesitate to put human’s brutality on full display even while they face an external threat. There are so much bleak, dark and wrong things in the story, many tragic and disastrous events. In-between those are small glimmers of hope and the struggle of the characters in the story, trying to bring about a brighter future for all mankind. If you want to see “how bad it can get” then Schwarzesmarken will show you fully.

In terms of character, Schwarzesmarken revolves mostly around soldiers – pilots that fight on the frontline. Even so, there are a lot of political involvement in the story that give many characters a non-militaristic side, which is a nice counterweight to balance themselves from their battlefield selves. And of course, being a Muv-Luv series, the male-to-female ratio is severely skewed. Theodore at the start of the story is an empty man – and throughout the story, he was, in a way, nurtured and fulfilled by other members in the 666th Squadron (which are mostly females). He went through some heavy and radical changes by the end of the story. His “deuteragonist” – Katia Waldheim – is a good “ultra optimistic” character to balance out Theo’s “extremely pessimistic” views – though both went through experiences that completely changed their perspectives. The only thing that’s too “different” in the story might be the human villain, which might shock you if you know the original ver.

+ Animation: Schwarzesmarken animation is really solid. From the 2D to the 3D, the animation studios did a really good job. For 2D, the characters are consistent and all move natural. The artstyle is quite different from Carnelian’s in the Visual Novel, but it still looks fine. The 3D by Sanzigen isn’t the high-speed super fluid like Orange’s but this series take place where TSF are still in their 1st-generation – which means they are very bulky and sluggish. The way they move are totally appropriate with their characteristics. The BETA model are also well done (even though there’s not a lot of them).

+ Mecha Design: The prominent TSF featured in the series are the Mig-21 Balalaika and Mig-23 Cheburashka, which are inspired by the PowerDoll mechs and the irl fighter jet of the same name. The iconic TSF aesthetic with the back weapon storage as well as the 2 side Jet-thrusters are still there, mixed with the early chonky design of “early generation”-style. You can call it Front Mission Wanzer with a lot more curves.

+ Music: One of Even Call’s magnum opus. The OST for the anime is pretty spectacular, from the OP, ED to the BGM as well. We know fripSide through their iconic Railgun but their opening “White forces” for Schwarzesmarken is pretty top-tier. The song name is also a contrast to the anime’s (which is meant to say Black Marks in German). The lyrics is quite the opposite from its more heroic and cheerful tone if you look it up. It’s quite…Muv-Luv so to speak. There are both quiet and sombre tracks and also action-packed ones for many of the series’ rush to bloodshed.

+ Conclusion: Just like other Muv-Luv instalments (visual novel or light novel or anime), Schwarzesmarken also portrayed the absolutely screwed-up state of humanity, and that conflicts between us will never cease no matter what kind of existential threat we face. The BETA in many series are just the neverending and everlooming enemy that wasn’t faced properly due to all the internal struggles we have. Schwarzesmarken painted a Germany divided and the fight of the “heroes” that sought to unite the nation. Full of nefarious schemes, swirling tornadoes of emotion and finally, a light at the end of the tunnel, Schwarzesmarken will introduced you to the brutality of the BETAverse.