History buffs (Cold War in particular) are spoiled for choice with two films releasing simultaneously in early 2016: Deutschland 83 and Schwarzesmarken . Both are set in a divided Germany, both set in 1983, both in the Stasi background, and both have the main character trapped in an ideological conflict. From here, the story splits.
Germany is still in the Cold War and the Berlin Wall still stands between two ideologically divided countries. In the middle, there is Theodor Eberbach (voiced by Kenichi Suzumura) who joins the squadron number 666 (also called Schwarzesmarken). This squad, which is commanded by Irisdina Bernhard (Nozomi Yamamoto) is the cornerstone of eradicating BETA, a foreign entity that is immune to conventional weapons and can only be fought by the TSF ( Tactical Surface Fighter , a special mecha used against BETA) that they use.
Theodor didn’t like Irisdina and didn’t like working in the military either; he had bad experiences with the military holding his family hostage and with Irisdina who he considered a Stasi dog (East German intelligence agency). Then one day, he saves Katia Waldheim (Minami Tanaka), a West German soldier who later defected to East Germany on an important mission. Once suspected by Gretel Jeckeln (Kiyono Yasuno), Katia managed to join Schwarzesmarken. Later, Lise Hohenstein (Yoshino Nanjou) arrives, who turns out to be Theodor’s long separated sister.
Viewers who are not familiar with the world of Muv-Luv will find it easy to follow this world with a very concise 30 second introduction at the beginning (just as the BBC compresses the introduction to War and Peace in its first 10 seconds) and if you have previously watched Total Eclipse , instead of being greeted by F-22 and Shiranui, this time the audience was greeted by MiG-21 and F-5. The cold and gloomy conditions of the battlefield are shown here and there throughout the series: barely a day can be seen where both military barracks and battlefields are visible under the bright and scorching sun.
As if frozen in a time capsule, the animation of this series (which this time was produced by Liden Films instead of Satelight) immediately feels familiar to Total Eclipse viewers , but will feel intimidating for viewers who are used to Aldnoah Zero’s animation . Even the animation Macross Frontier (which premiered in 2008) is more enjoyable to watch than Total Eclipse and Schwarzesmarken . However, thanks to the original character designs that were already good from the start, this series can still be enjoyed and the “old school” feeling that feels is not a big annoyance in this series. The other side also needs to be praised in the execution of the music: both the opening song by fripSide (which is very powerful), the ending song with tantalizing animation, as well as the background song in this series can be said to be fitting to fill this series and strengthen the overall spectacle.
In the nuances of East Germany in all its glory, what can actually be very disturbing (for history buffs , Ostalgie fans , or Cold War fans in general) is the sense of Japanese that is felt in this series. Ordinary viewers may ignore this, but the appearance of the ojigi (Japanese bowing) that occurs in the first episode between Katia and Theodor is disturbing. Likewise, Banzai’s screams were heard in episode 8 of this anime when welcoming the CC PSJ (Central Committee of the German Socialist Party) trial. Although linguistically it can be understood the use of the term Banzai, however this term is very Japanese and it is necessary to find other words that can replace this term. At least, they did not forget to display the Trabant car (episode 12) although whether the East German leader at that time actually rode the Trabant, could be a separate debate.
The development of the story in this series can be briefly described as a past drama wrapped in political spices and battles against aliens. When in Total Eclipse the struggle against BETAbecomes the main topic and the center of gravity of all the premises in the series (Yui Takamura and BETA’s past is fully narrated in the first three episodes), then in this series the role of BETA is reduced to its place as the main enemy together, as a legitimacy tool used by Irisdina, Katia (later Ursula), and Beatrix to justify their respective maneuvers. BETA which is actually the main enemy of their existence in this series is seen as a daily job while preparing a coup. The tension in this series is ironically more pronounced when Beatrix shoots Theodor at the end of the story, more than the battle against BETA that almost took their lives.
Death in this series is also an important aspect. Many characters die so realistically because of the situation and conditions that the sense of loss that is felt feels like a normal and natural thing. Like it or not, more important and significant characters die in this series but because the death is not as dramatic as Charlotte and Mami’s “hap” in Madoka Magica and because it has nothing to do with the deconstruction of mahou shoujo , of course there is no fuss about it on the internet .
This realistic side is the biggest problem in this series: in order for a truly realistic death to resonate with the audience, it needs good character development at the beginning. These good premises become unimpressive because of the accelerated character development and lack of depth. Although in general the audience could understand logically why Theodor was so reluctant to part with Lise, the audience was never shown why Lise was so important to Theodor other than because they were separated when they were about to flee to West Germany. Likewise, Irisdina’s past, which is described as having penetrated her subconscious mind and shaped her personality: the audience could not resonate with Irisdina’s kebatinan atmosphere. However, Beatrix Brehmer (Yukari Tamura) is the most interesting character in this series.House of Cards known for his ability to twist facts and manipulate those around him.
In the end, Schwarzesmarken ended with the fall of East Germany and the Berlin Wall, in contrast to Moritz Stamm who only “successfully” thwarted the Soviet thermonuclear war. Unfortunately, the similarities between Deutschland 83 and Schwarzesmarken actually happen again at an unexpected point: is it really that simple in the end?