Schwarzesmarken is a strange title in that it has a setting with fantastic potential yet the story is dampened by a rushed pacing and Missing characterisation. Despite this there are signs of a greater story under the hood and at times that story can shine despite haphazard adaption. The Stasi make for a great villain in how they impose a level of Orwellian control over East Germany which makes characters hold suspicions about another being a Stasi spy. All the while an Alien threat pushes East Germany into a corner as it deals with enemies both inside and outside. On top of the divided west Germany standing on the sidelines to see who schemes his way to leadership. All the while other countries dip their fingers in attempts to use Germany for its own ends. It’s all a tangled web of power struggles for a country facing total destruction which makes for some great situations which this show can become most engaging.
The strongest element of this show is its setting which is surprisingly authentic to real Germany of that time. A good amount of research went into various elements of this show. From the type of cars used to trains and even stories read to children. The internal politics of the situation are engaging and it does have a strong set of episodes around its middle regarding a character called Lise. Watching the power struggle between the governing parties helps remedy the insufficient level of character development present in the series. Characters can have drastic changes and it often feels as though a chunk of their character arc had been tossed aside to fit a one cour series. Characters who barely shared two sentences can switch from indifferent to each other to being close trusting allies. Frankly it’s jarring and makes you feel as though you accidentally missed an episode. The thing that makes this disappointing is that it’s not as if the characters are boring, if anything they do seem quite interesting. But no time is devoted to letting the viewer get to know them. So when a character dies or faces tribulations you just feel indifferent to their plight because you don’t know enough about them to truly care. The art of the show is fairly basic but the Mecha battles are fairly impressive feats of CGI animation. Music is also good but lost in the level of noise in the Mecha battles.
There is currently a demo for the visual novel of this story on Steam Greenlight. If it is well received there’s a chance of the Schwarzesmarken visual novels being brought over to the west. If that happens in the future I would recommend those Visual Novels over this anime in a heartbeat. It is pretty much guaranteed that the story is done better in the VN than in this anime and I find myself disappointed that I experience this story in its current form. For Muv Luv fans this anime should be good fanservice and it does act as a cliff notes for those not interested in the visual novel alternative. Otherwise I wouldn’t recommend this as while it does have potential, its hampered by a need to rush its way through its story in order to cover its entirely. Which has resulted in an anime which feels detached and lacking.