Type: TV (13 episodes)
Muv Luv Schwarzesmarken
By the 1980s, mankind spent decades fighting against invading aliens. East Germany now stands in a precarious position as a lone communist country standing between the alien death machine and the rest of Europe. Lagging in technology and, low on resources the 666th TSF squadron are revered as heroes unmatched in skill. In the end however they are just soldiers, and despite the future outlook of their nation looking grim, political intrigue from the Stasi state police are increasingly seizing power.
Irisdena Bernard commands the 666th, and her career is a testament to her loyalty to the state. But her cold personality is hard to read, and she keeps her true intent is a closely guarded secret. A girl from the West is adopted into the 666th, and she may be the key to initiating the change needed. Without assistance from the west, Germany will not last. However the Stasi do not tolerate traitors, no matter how dire the situation and if Irisdena is one of them, its only a matter of time until they're turned in.
I became a big fan of Muv Luv: Total Eclipse, so more Muv Luv was an easy choice. Better still, Schwarzesmarken is like Muv Luv: Bad Ass Edition™ I'll be hard on this show. Disclaimer: I'm tempted to rate it much higher for personal reasons. I'm not sure what my ideal anime would be, but the stars aligned with Schwarzesmarken to get pretty close (in theory). The style, the environment, character designs by Carnelian, the music - this anime has everything I want, thus is a product improved version of Total Eclipse in those aspects. It's just missing a critical component: a well told story.
Communist East Germany is a fantastic backdrop. Although the country lags in technology, the guts and determination of the 666th makes up for their shortcomings. The anime does a great job showing the increasingly desperate situation as the country continues to deteriorate. Despite the aliens being the greatest threat to mankind, more dangerous to the 666th are the Stasi who watch their every move.
While the story is well paced and solid in concept, there are flaws binding the plot and it isn't woven together well. To me it seems like there simply aren't enough episodes, and fleshing things out with another 3-4 would have helped. On top of this are great characters. Theo is the male lead and focal point and a bit of an ass, but has a solid personality. His relationships with various girls wasn't clear until the end (of the relationship). Katia is the linchpin for the "plot", but I wasn't convinced. A westerner arbitrarily joining the East German elite squadron? I can't picture it. Also I got fairly lost by how she was supposed to inspire the revolution. While not directly related, the anime actually skips over a very deep and turbulent relationship between Irisdena and her Statsi rival - who have a long history surrounding her brother. Skipping this leaves a more focused story, but man that would have been a cool side story.
What did I think of Schwarzesmarken? I loved it. Despite all its faults with the story, the other aspects are right up my alley. I doubt others will automatically be as enthralled with it as me, so most people will probably find it "just okay". Worth giving an episode or two a try.