Anime Review: Schwarzesmarken (Winter 2016)
I know, it is not the best looking anime or the best written or with the best characterization but I enjoy it. The last four episodes I watch them in one day (and for me that's hard to happen).
So, what is anime about?
For what I've read this is a shared world with other anime / manga where an alien beings called BETA invaded earth. There is no need to read anything previsouly or afterwards because it is self-contained. As I said before I did not know it until the very end.
Btw, this universe is called Muv-Luv.
The setting is East Germany in 1983. The BETAS have been fighting from Asia to Europe and East Germany is the last step before arriving to the rest of West Europe (aka Free Countries). East Germany is a communist state (as in the real life it was) and there are some power struggle within the STASI (state police) (it existed btw, it was called in english Ministry for State Security or in germany Ministerium für Staatssicherheit).
So this tale focus on a squadron of Mechas called 666th TSF Squadron "Schwarzesmarken" (Black Marks) and we are introduced to several characters... We've got Theodor Eberbach he has a deep hatred for the stasi since they killed his parents and took away his sister.
You've got Irisdina Bernhard, the CO of the 666th. She is hero but most people distrust her because she sold her brother to the Stasi. You've got Gretel Jecklen a commissar attached to 666th and several other fights like Anett Hosenfield, Inghild Bronikowski, Sylwia Krzasińska, Walter Kruger (Irisdina officer), Pham Thi Lan and in the first episode they get one new recruit hailing from the West called Katia Waldheim.
After several episodes we met Lise Hohenstein the long lost adopted sister of Theodor.
|Sylvia, Lise, Anett, Irisdina, Theodor, Katia, Gretel, Pham and Walter|
There is a lot of fighting in the episodes but nothing that overshadows the anime. The story focus not with one character but several. First Theodor who must train Katia to 666th standards, then the appearence of Lise (his adopted sister) and to assert if she is to be trusted or if she works with the Stasi. Irisdina's story is more focus on her decisions as a leader and how to evade the Stasi but at the same time work with some people who wants to see the Stasi fell and the Two germany united. Katia is the third story because she is not only a refugee from the West but a daughter of a Hero Military General from East Germany who had thoughts of unified germany and she wants that.
So, what makes this anime good?
First of all, the theme. For a historian enthusiast this anime is a good exemple of a military state with a state police. There is a lot of backstage action with all political interests. There is room for some character building and tense situations. Btw, there is no nudity. Apart from some tight shirts from Irisdina or Sylwia the only scene that you can consider nudity is when Lise is nude and seduces Theodor. It is said afterwards that they had sex but nothing is seen on screen
Some spoilers ahead before my conclusion...
One of the aspects I enjoyed was the character grow of Theodor and his relation to Irisdina, Katia and Lise. He is tasked by Irisdina to find out if Lise is Stasi informant or not. Lise sleeps with him and he thinks she is not Stais but afterwards, when a coup of the Stasi is revealed, Lise betrays theodor and capture the entire squad. Afterwards he fights with her (with Mechas) and still he could not kill her. Pham Thi Lan says she still believe in Lise but Lise kill her and in the next encounter Theodor kills Lise.
End of Spoilers
So why did I enjoy it?
Because everything I've said before. It has action, history, characterization and I enjoy Irisdina and Theodor and most other characters. I like Lise because she was brainwashed by the Stasis. I like Beatrix Brehmer a childhood of Irisdina and now a Stasis leader. She later on becomes the facto-leader when she shots the current leader when she founds out that he is a Moscow KGB officer. She is not evil per se. Well, she is but she acknowledges that and have mix feelings. She thinks she is doing the right thing. On of the last episodes she says that she believes only a State Police of total control can stop the Stasi. Only when everybody works for the common good can East Germany stop the invasion of the BETA. This is a great question of political, social and personal interest.