If you would ask me what my favorite anime genre is, you might be surprised by the answer. Especially when you look through some of the posts that I have written in the past. Most of these dealt with horror shows, dramas, and of course science fiction. Surprisingly very few reviews were for Mecha shows. But yep, you guessed it that’s my numbero uno anime flavour. For those of you unfamiliar with the genre, Mecha anime also short for mechanised, usually has a heavy emphasis on robotic units or mechs. If done well, I can get chills running down my spine when I see one of those powerful and often very cool looking robots fire up and prepare for a battle. Now, if you want to really find out much more about Mecha anime I suggest you go and visit Scott’s blog, who is a real expert on the genre. He’s a very cool and friendly guy who has written quite a lot about this fantastic genre. Before I went on my involuntary hiatus, I was in the middle of watching a Mecha series myself, and now that I am back I was finally able to finish that one.
Actually I had to restart it, because I’m getting old and my memory is not what it used to be.
Schwarzes Marken is German for Black Mark, and also happens to be the title for this pretty unique anime. It takes place in 1983 in a divided Germany during the height of the Cold War. But unless I missed something back in those days I don’t think the military was in possession of gigantic robots piloted by humans. Nor were there any alien monsters involved either. Getting confused? Eh, I don’t blame you. Let me please enlighten you. Schwarzes Marken features an alternate history and one where mankind has encountered a horrible alien menace that has invaded the Earth. In East Germany the only thing that seems to give the public some hope, is the 666th TSF squadron, also known as Schwarzes Marken. Now TSF’s (or Tactical Surface Fighters) are gigantic robots piloted by humans, and the only things that stand a chance against the gruesome alien creatures. However the aliens aren’t the only things that cause trouble. East Germany is also plagued by the ruthless Stasi regime, that causes husband and wives, brothers and sisters and even parents and children to turn against each other. We follow the story of pilot Theodor Eberbach as he tries to survive amidst a country that is being torn apart by war, while at the same he also has his own personal problems to deal with.
I have to be honest that this anime was quite a surprise to me. I had previously watched a couple of episodes of Total Eclipse, an anime that is set in the same universe, and I couldn’t get into it. This one though feels totally different. I think one of the main causes for this is the setting. The divided Germany presented in this anime has a very chilling and foreboding atmosphere, in part caused by the paranoia created by the Stasi regime. No one seems to fully trust each other, and this tension is felt throughout the entire series. In fact the anime eventually becomes something totally different from what it starts out as. Where in the beginning the threat seems to come from the aliens, the real fight is the one to save East Germany from the rotten elements within. I found this a very refreshing and unique take on the genre, and as such this is not just another giant robots vs aliens show. Throughout the anime we meet a pretty big cast of characters, and the downside of that is usually not everyone featured gets enough screentime to really shine. While this is certainly true in part, it never became a real problem for me.
Theodor Eberbach, the man that we can certainly call the lead of this show, went through quite a lot of character development. Theodor was a war orphan who was once tortured by the Stasi while also having lost his adoptive parents and sister during an escape. Needless to say this doesn’t really make him a very happy camper, and when we first meet him, he is a pretty coldhearted individual. But when a West German female soldier called Katia joins the unit after having requested asylum, things begin to change for him. I really liked Theodor’s journey throughout the series, and there are definitely quite a number of very heartbreaking and difficult moments that he has to face. Squadron leader Irisdina Bernhard is one of the female heroines of the show. She has a dark past, and some of her colleagues at first don’t fully trust her, and think her to be a Stasi spy. Irisdina is one of those truly strong female leads that you can’t help fall in love with. Speaking of females, the cast certainly has quite a lot of them included, but is surprisingly light in fan service. Which is another pretty unique fact, especially seeing as Total Eclipse was almost the complete opposite.
But of course one of the reasons I wanted to watch this anime was because of it’s Mecha roots, and in that it certainly didn’t disappoint. Especially during the later episodes we get some totally kick ass fight sequences between different kinds of mechs. Most of the robots had very cool designs, and I was especially a fan of the dark blue Stasi TSF units of the Werewolf Battalion. The aliens however were pretty generic (and honestly quite odd looking). Then again there were a few exceptions, and never in any way did the sometimes weird designs detract from the viewing pleasure. Schwarzes Marken can certainly be classified as an action heavy show, but at the same time it also doesn’t lose track of it’s characters and story. While it certainly isn’t one of the best animes ever made, it’s still a show that’s worth checking out. Especially if you are a fan of dark, action oriented shows. With only 12 episodes you will be able to bingewatch this show in a day or two and I consider it time well spent. So, let’s talk! Have you seen Schwarzes Marken? If so, did you enjoy it? Let me know in the comments section! Thanks for reading, and see you at the next post!
I give Schwarzes Marken a 8 out of 10 score.