Posted on 1 April 2016 with categories: Anime Reviews, Schwarzesmarken

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.

Posted on 31 March 2016 with categories: Schwarzesmarken

So Schwarzesmarken ends and the cheesy speeches not withstanding it not a bad ending. The Stasi are dismantled, West and East Germany have joined forces and things are looking up. However it turned out we have some causalities. The first being that white haired girl pilot whose name I can never remember and Irisdina. Not much fanfare was give for miss white hair but Irisdina got the full works. She has the satisfaction of taking out Axemann and died overlooking the birth of a new Germany. All of which is touching…if it wasn’t undermined by how she died. I give credit to her for beating the hell out of Axemann while handcuffed but she truly was screwed over when her teammate arrived with a gun and threw it to her. Instead of that teammate you know…shooting Axemann herself. It’s really hard to feel for a death that could have so easily been prevented and no matter how I try to rationalize it I can’t see any reason why she would have thought throwing the gun was better than shooting it. You can’t say she wasn’t acostumed to firearms because firearms training is a requirement for pilots. Those previous seconds shouting and throwing could have so been used to save her life and I am pretty annoyed that girl doesent hold any guilt over this.

Beatrixs goal is revealed to be a desire for Germany to sacrifice all personal identity in order to become a well oiled machine for the sole purpose of destroying BETA. Thus saving the world at the cost of East Germany’s individuality. Meanwhile Katia puts forwards that East and West Germany should put aside their differences and fight BETA together and with both their powers combined they would truly prevail. Beatrix dismisses this as idealistic nonsense and here’s the thing. I agree. Katia’s plan is really not a solution but more of a optimistic approach. That said I don’t find Beatrixs plan much of a solution either. At most her plan would end up with the same result as Katia’s which is not winning the war but rather prolonging the impending defeat. Simply put, these two people have truly no idea just how doomed Humanity is. For you see the BETA have Humanity on its last legs at this time and they haven’t even brought out the big guns yet. It would take some massive world leaping timey wimey stuff to score what could be considered a victory against them. So when hearing all this talk about hope and such I can’t help but pity these fools. I read the visual novel, I know what you face and you don’t stand a hope in hell. So all that’s left is the final battle and I find my thoughts on this series to be mixed.

Posted on 22 March 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Schwarzesmarken

Everything looks to be gearing up for the finale but with the death of Lise goes a heavy amount of emotional commitment. I fear a key problem with this show has returned and that is that it’s difficult to get invested in the events on screen when we have no attachment to the characters. Lise is dead, Irisdina is captured and Katia has been relegated to an off screen position. That leaves us with Theodor and Gretel to carry the show. Neither of the two have been all that engaging though Gretel does have moments. Theodor has reached the end of his arc at this point; as other characters just have pointed out. What remains here is the endgame of defeating the Stasi and the question of just what they are going to do about the BETA horde at their doorstep. I am at least glad that Beatrix has taken up the lead role as main villain after discovering that her superior was a KGB operative who was planning to make east Germany a bulwark for Russia. I like that she didn’t make the stupid move of uncovering his motives without a backup plan. Guess Schmidt should have checked who his officers were getting orders from and he ends up with a bullet to the head from the officers he calls in to take down Beatrix. Now she’s in full command of the Stasi and that’s just the way I like it. Schmidt was never an interesting villain; he’s far too impersonal to the members of the Schwarzesmarken team. Beatrix makes for a much better threat coupled with the fact that she’s a great TSF poliet. We also get some insight into her motivations with her conversation with Irisdina. It’s looks like both Beatrix and Irisdina are trying to fulfil Irisdina’s brothers wishes in two different manners. Both seem to be trying to save Germany in their own way though Beatrix’s methods are more ruthless and unforgiving. It’s possible Beatrix might have been romantically involved with the brother as well which would explain the level of hate she has for Irisdina who had to kill her brother to save herself.

I really dislike the character who walks into Theodor mourning his sister and congratulates him on killing her. No matter how much of a horrible person someone is; you don’t walk into their funeral and congratulate their lover on becoming single. It’s just not something people do. I can’t say Theodor has been an interesting character as his arc has been one big sister complex. Now he’s that Mecha protagonist who’s really good at piloting and has a constant case of low self confidence. Meanwhile Gretel has been taken to the Stasi files Archive where Axemann reveals his agenda to come under Beatrix’s command and offers Gretel a chance to join the Stasi. However Axemann isn’t a pilot and didn’t take into account the communications transmitter Gretel has in her suit. The rebels rush in and Gretel gets shot and is now presumably dead; leaving the series in the hand of Theodor. This could have been a great scene had it not been for the fact that I truly don’t know Gretel well enough to emit an emotional response. I have more or less ground this point to dust but this really is the biggest problem with this show. The focus has been mainly on presenting the events of the story fast and foremost that no time has been spent on letting us get to know the characters. Which makes character moments within the story just feel empty. Lise worked because of the main stories big focus on her but when it comes to other characters it’s either out of nowhere or just not effective. One thing I haven’t commented on with this series is the music and it really is quite good. I felt it often gets overshadowed by the heavy amount of Mecha clashes and bullets but I like the German feel they went for. Mecha battles are quite excellent as well with some great CGI work. So all that’s left is the final battle and I find my thoughts on this series to be mixed. Though in all things considered this could have gone a lot worse.

Posted on 15 March 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Schwarzesmarken

The BETA are still coming and with the Stasi in full control we now have rebels working to overthrow the Stasi. All the while West Germany watches from the sidelines as it tries to figure out which side to support. To make up their mind they send Kirke to East Germany to survey the situation because of her relationship with the Schwarzesmarken team. You remember her? The girl who first treated the team with utter contempt but somehow off screen became BFFs with them? Another character who was negatively affected by the time constraints. Anyway I found the little bit of humor they threw in about her “Wiping her own ass”. Crude humor tends to work me sometimes. With her coming the rebels decide to use Theodors plan to make use of her as bait to lure the Stasi into an ambush. Which works like a charm thanks to the Stasi squadron commander being a complete imbecile. Lise tried to warn you guys but you brush her off with a “Your brother is with the rebels so your opinion is worthless” I suppose without Beatrix there to whip some sense into them and Lise is too preoccupied with her brother to give a damn what happens to the rest of her squad. I love the way she jumped out of the way of a bullet, letting it hit her comrade behind her, it shows that she truly has no love for her Stasi comrades. One particularly grisly detail about this battle is that the rebels didn’t evacuate the town before fighting in it. Which meant that quite a number of civilians got caught in the crossfire. That’s sort of a glazed over part of mecha anime though chances are a Gundam explored it. When you have giant robots fighting all about the place then collateral damage is a guarantee and while Kirke wasn’t in favor of it, at least the team saw it as necessary. After all they couldn’t orchestrate mass evacuation without alerting the Stasi of their ambush.

So Lise is dead. I don’t even need to know if Theodors gunshot hit her to confirm that. With the amount of shrapnel lodged in her body you can already tell that she was done for. This acts as a nice parallels to the start of the series, where Irisdina shot one of their comrades after she was horribly wounded in a BETA attack after sacrificing herself to save another. Even the delicious irony that Theodor originally hated Irisdina because she apparently shot and killed her brother. Yet here he is, putting a bullet in his sister. She had it coming and I am glad that Theodor actually had the guts to do it instead of a third party jumping in to save him the trouble. Lise was too far gone, too broken to salvage. All that was left was to give her the death sentence but at least she got it from her brother. I still state that Lise is far from forgivable in what she has done but it is disheartening to see her reach such a tragic end. Her will and love was beaten and defiled till it was twisted to help her best serve the Stasi. Even on her last words she was speaking of how stupid it was to oppose them, for she knew all too well what they are capable of. After all the torture; having her mind,body and soul twisted beyond repair to save the one person she cares about; her final reward is a bullet to the head. This may be the only character moment Schwarzesmarken got right though it did get a tad overly melodramatic. Still we know the history between the two, a complicated relationship of family and lovers, and it certainly must have been excruciating for Theodor to pull that trigger.The final shot was reminiscent of a certain scene from Madoka Magica and I liked how you had to really listen to hear the gunshot. With Lise out of the picture or heads turn to our new main threat, that being Beatrix and her werewolf battalion. We don’t have much left to the series so she won’t have much time to shine. Still I would like her to have a nice climactic fight with Irisdina at least, considering that they seem to have history.

Posted on 9 March 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Schwarzesmarken

For the past few episodes we were able to get past the lack of character development by focusing on the situation at hand. However with an episode like this which depends on emotional investment in the characters; Schwarzesmarken really shows this animes weaknesses. Lises situation is unfortunate though she still remains nonredeemable. Pham’s death didn’t invoke any emotion from me as her screen time in the anime has be rather limited. I guess they tried to make it more meaningful by having her comfort Theodor and Theodor admiring that he always thought of her as an older sister. But this scene felt contrived and forced due to the interaction between these two being absolutely minimal throughout the series. I would even bet this is the first time we seen them talking to each other alone. It’s clear that a lot of content is missing here and likely cut due to the anime’s time limitations. This is adapting seven volumes worth of light novels after all. In that line of thinking this may be best an anime seen after reading the visual novel or light novels; as then you would have the context needed to be affected by the struggles of these characters. If anything this show displays the importance of downtime in a story. You need to lay back; let your characters talk and interact. Allow the audience to know the person behind the giant Mecha. Then when the time comes to have them face challenges it won’t fall flat like this.

Axemann entering the fray again wasn’t exactly a surprise as he’s a bit too good of a villain to be killed off screen like that. His presence does present a dilemma in that to defeat the Stasi they are forced to work with Stasi. Especially someone like Axemann whom is hardly trustworthy. While allying with him it increases the chances of overthrowing the Stasi; it also presents the possibility of repeating history all over again.Axemann wants a seat of power in the new government and if they give him that well…it’s only a matter of time before he begins to take over again. Though I doubt he’s going to survive this series as he just has far too many enemies about. Even background characters are out for his blood.

So when a hefty amount of character interaction is chopped out this makes Pham’s sacrifice very unnecessary and illogical. What does she hold such faith in Lise and why is she going to such lengths to go outside with a rocket launcher and attempt to disable her TSF? It makes you question whether Pham was just an idiot seeing as she seemed to be banking on Lise not firing back at her after she hit her with a rocket launcher. Personally she might as well have just jumped into a TSF and used that to disable Lise. You could say she was too weak for that but she did just carry a rocket launcher through snow for a considerable distance. Pretty sure she could manage a TSF. Taking this into account I can only look at Pham’s sacrifice as pointless which lessens the tragedy of it. A tragedy I find much more compelling is that Lise’s current stance. This episode Lise revealed just to what lengths she went to in order to protect her brother. Sold out her friends, sold her body, killed dozens and even sacrificed her humanity by becoming Axemanns “pet”. She did the absolutely unthinkable and all for the day when she could be with Theodor again. And now she stands baring everything she is to him and he can’t possibly forgive what she’s become. Her efforts ultimately ensured that Theodor would never be with her and the sad fact is that she is far beyond redemption. The only thing Theodor can do for her now is put a bullet in her head which he sadly cannot bring himself to do. Considering just how broken Lise is; I think he’s going to really regret that. After all Lise has already shown the depths she will resort to if it means she can be with her dear “Onii-chan”

Posted on 1 March 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Schwarzesmarken

This week on Schwarzesmarken. The squad is captured, the bad guys have won, our main character is in a emo coma and the little sister character has gone full bitch. So in one fell swoop the Russian faction of the Stasi has wiped out the Berlin faction and taken over East Germany. I was previously under the impression that they planned to use the Schwarzesmarken team as hostages to stop the Berlin faction but it seems that their Russian friends have given them some brand new TSFs which were used to wipe out Axemann. Oh Axemann, you were so confident in this Coup d’etat that you didn’t know that all you were doing was rolling out the red carpet to welcome your enemies. With that the Stasi have practically won; they have the resources to resupply the front lines and control over the government. Other countries have no choice but to work with the Stasi in under to fight the BETA. And if the Stasi happens to enforce a full on totalitarian dictatorship in the process then who has the right to protest?

The real highlight of this episode is Lise; who has dropped the cutesy little sister act and revealed her true colours. Symbolised by the removal of her hair ribbons. Now she’s given the job of torturing her former comrades for information about Katia and damn if she isn’t reveling in it. She looked to show a small bit of reluctance when ordered but she certainly is smug in torturing them. It does look like her feelings for Theodor are real but I would guess that he is the only only she cares about. I peaked a little bit into her history and she’s certainly not had it easy. I won’t elaborate as it may be expanded on in future episodes and frankly I want to not look further into it as there is a chance of the Schwarzesmarken visual novels getting officially translated, as the Muv Luv kickstarter stated they were planning to translate a demo of it. (Just to note. Schwarzesmarken started as a series of seven light novels. AGE later made a visual novel covering up to the large scale attack with the Americans in the anime. Which is about up to volume 3. Another VN is coming out to cover the rest of the story) Regardless of what she went though however it doesn’t excuse her actions now. This change from little sister character to cold blooded betrayer has caused me to like Lise a whole lot more. I previously groaned at her very first appearance as she leapt as her brother with a “Onii-chan!” but she has undoubtedly improved the show as whole. I am hoping with her reveal and Axemann out of the way we can finally see Beatrix jump into the position of main villain and show us what she can do. Of course BETA are the main threat but I put them in the same place I would put the whitewalkers of Game of Thrones. That being a looming threat to raise the stakes but not the focus. Beatrix has been heavily underused for these past 8 episodes and I want her to prove her presence worthwhile in these last episodes.

The last part of the episode focused on Katia convincing the rebellion forces to use her status as the daughter of a hero to rally support to overthrow the Stasi. This finally snaps Theodor out of his emo coma and he remembers his promise from the very start of the series. I must ask Theodor, what were you thinking about while dazed out. It has always being a curiosity of mine as to what goes through a Mecha protagonists head when they crunch up in fetal position and their eyes go dead. Maybe they just think roundabout logic like Shinji Ikari or maybe they enter some dream world where they are a protagonist of a harem or something. (That statement may be dramatic irony considering the beginning of this franchise. Though the internet’s constant debate of what is and isn’t ironic has caused me to not even be sure what it means anymore.) To me this scene represents one of the biggest flaws with this franchise. I mean, I do love Muv Luv but it has its fair share of problems. This problem is; the heavily over dramatic speeches. There are plenty of moments in all the works of characters getting caught up in huge dramatic speeches that go on and on without taking the context of the scene into account. The pragmatic nature of the writing can get overbearing at times. Admittedly the Schwarzesmarken novels were written by Hiroki Uchida whereas the main series was written by Koki Yoshimune so it’s toned down a bit here or simply cut short to fit it in the anime. Still seeing Katia getting into a big speech that manages to stir Theodor out of his stupor was too cheesy for my liking. That said; it worked on the general so I guess we can move on to overthrowing the Stasi. Just how they can manage that will be something to see.

Posted on 23 February 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Schwarzesmarken

These latest episodes of Schwarzesmarken have started to show the shine I once saw in the MuvLuv Alternative visual novel. Characters remain underdeveloped but the show has benefited from having the characters defined by the situation and thus we can ignore that fact that they are very thin personality. The BETA battles are excellently animated too and really show off how much of a difference it makes between fighting laser class and heavy laser class. The Static sprites of the visual novel made it difficult to convey the level of threat each BETA strain posed. You were told of course, but when it came to combat all BETA were the same. Combat is fast and tense, I just wish I felt more for the characters to let it put me on the edge of my seat. Though Theodor just went up a notch in my book and for one simple reason. Dear readers I have seen so many anime that try to make you think the that the main character is about to get laid. So much so that I practically assume that no matter how good the situation looks, something will prevent it. So when I heard that Theodor genuinely slept with Lise I had to do a doubletake. I thought that maybe it wasn’t what it sounded like but they made it abundantly clear, Theodor had sex with her. Well Theodor you are now above over 95% of harem protagonists just by being able to do the deed. Even if you choose to do it with the worst person possible.

Well Lise is a Stasi spy, just as I figured. Her allegiance looks to be with the Russian faction of the Stasi and the move looks to have caught Theodor off guard. Theodor wasn’t a complete idiot and held on to the possibility of his sister being a spy and it seems he slept with her to keep her under his thumb. Logically speaking that’s a decent move as it does look like Lise truly loves Theodor but Theodor simply isn’t good at manipulation. He’s too oblivious to others feelings and far too straightforward to be able to effectively keep her under his control. One of the biggest issues are that it’s clear to anyone that he holds feelings for Irisdina and very nearly confessed to her at the end of the episode. I am guess this was the main motivation for Lises choice of hostage at the end of the episode. Theodor made it abundantly clear to Lise just how much Irisdina meant to him when she asked him to run away with her. Though thinking of that, she likely suggested this to prevent him from seeing her do the dirty work of killing his teammates. The second is that Theodor greatly underestimates his step-sister. Truly who knows what kind of dirty work Lise had to do while within the stasi. She is not the same little girl you knew back when you were kids.

Things are looking bleak, the BETA are performing Zerg rush tactics, the Stasi have instigated a Coup d’etat and now they have captured the Schwarzesmarken team. From my speculation I would say that the move to capture the team and the Coup d’etat are the two factions working separately. The Coup seems like Axemanns work and the capture of the team looks like Beatrix’s work. Based on this I would say the Russian faction is planning to use the team as bargaining chips to get the upper hand over the Berlin faction. I doubt the Stasi is unified in this Coup d’etat as while it has a high chance of success when in the middle of a BETA attack, once you have managed to overthrow command, then the Stasi will have to be the one to deal with the BETA attack. Considering they spent most of their time overthrowing isn’t of defending against the attack, it’s doubtful things would end well. As with many a war, it’s always the idiotic commander who happens to mess things up for everyone. There’s may be giant robots and Aliens about but in the end, war never changes.

Posted on 17 February 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Schwarzesmarken

In a pleasant turn of events, this was the best episode of Schwarzesmarken to date. We didn’t have much mecha action but instead we have a high focus on Schwarzesmarken’s strongest asset. Namely its setting and internal politics. (Strange as with a Gundam series I tend to hate those aspects) there were some nice bits of character development, though Gretel’s should have been established much earlier. We learn that the Stasi is not united and is instead undergoing a power struggle between two factions. One lead by Axmann who wishes to cut ties with all foreign nations for the Stasi to stand on it’s own and other lead by another man who has Beatrix under his thumb and wishes to strengthen ties with the soviet’s. With that the suicidal nature of the Stasi makes so much more sense. The Stasi isn’t just trying to take over the military but is also fighting for power within itself. Everyone is so concerned with solidifying their position that they don’t take into account the inevitable demise of the country by the hands of BETA. Much like any apocalypse story, the most dangerous thing on the planet are humans themselves. We have a number of players on the field, the two factions of the Stasi, the military and minor factions such as Theodors group and this new group. Even in modern times, the game of thrones continues on.

The second half of the episode focuses on a particular dilemma, whether Lise is a Stasi spy. For Theodor this is troublesome as he what’s to believe in his sister but as things go on she just gets more and more suspicious. So much so that the entire team is on hand to take her out by episodes end. Even Katia joining the witchhunt. Axmann stirred up the pot, likely because he thinks Lise is a spy for the Russian faction of Stasi and this isn’t helped but Lise’s suspicious actions. Her efforts to get the team to dismiss the thought of her being a spy and her efforts to try to get Katia and Theodor to admit to fighting the stasi only serve to damn her further. Her last action this episode seems to be a move of pure desperation as she tries to seduce Theodor. You could write this off as typical harem nonsense but I have never seen a harem girl make a move so daring.

So do I think Lise is a spy, that sweet innocent girl who only wants the best for her brother? Well…she’s a spy without doubt. How am I so certain of that? The most damning piece of evidence is her conversation with Katia. True her insinuations about having Theodor to herself if Irisdina was out of the picture is pretty telling when she’s the one making the move on him at episodes end. But that’s not what gave her away. For you see when Lise gave back Katia’s necklace she said “You should be careful carrying around a picture of you and a westerner” and here’s the thing. Katia burned the picture of her and her father in an earlier episode. This episode showed her replacing it in the necklace with a newspaper clipping of their victory at the BETA battle. So how did Lise know what picture was in the necklace before? This is a most interesting turn of events as Theodor must now come to terms with his sister being a spy as I highly doubt her seduction will work. But if Lise is found out I doubt the Stasi will let her live so Theodor, what will it be? Let your sister be sent to her death a second time or sell out your team to save her life? Now this Schwarzesmarken, is my kind of entertainment.

Posted on 11 February 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Schwarzesmarken

For something that definitely feels rushed, this was a pretty good episode for Schwarzesmarken. I really cannot emphasize enough at how much of a shame it is that this series looks to be cut down to fit into a single cour. If given a two cour run I think Schwarzesmarken could really shine but sadly unlike its predecessors it is saddled with one. But well at least we get to enjoy the setting and political status this world has to offer. We have a conflict as the West German pilots try to pick a fight with the East German pilots. I have never been to fond of these kinds of characters who seem to exist to provide conflict. Such as those thugs that are in every anime that go after any pretty girl in the street so our hero can jump in and look good. It seems like a complex issue, as east Germans hate west German because they feel they sold out and are taking it easy while they are holding of the BETA hordes. Whereas the West Germans dislike the East because of their dystopian society and previous failures in major operations. Basically they think that East Germany makes West Germany look bad but there are likely other factors. Luckily the fight is broken up by the west German commander, showing that not all west Germans are one dimensional stereotypes.

The battles between TSFs and BETA are still a excellent sight and I admit that I started to feel the exhilaration I once felt while reading the visual novels. Some moments if dodgy CGI but otherwise it’s quite excellent. We got some good exposition on just how America handles BETA which is interesting. The Americans like to play it safe and focus on long range bombardment as their TSFs are not suited to close range combat. Fun little fact from the VN, American TSFs are mainly designed with the focus of taking out other TSFs, not BETA. Which might give some light to where their priorities are. America got off rather light when it comes to the BETA war, mainly because when a BETA hive landed in Canada they decided to nuke Canada halfway to hell to ensure BETA didn’t reach America. But of course there inexperience with fighting BETA shows when their plan is destroyed once a horde of BETA show up outside of their defense line. Giving the 666 squad a perfect reason to jump in and save the day. Then everyone is almost killed by the reason which affects every war’s outcome, an idiotic commander. Looks like Gretal was under pressure to distinguish the squad in battle to give the Militia the upper hand over the Stasi. Really wish they established this beforehand instead of having Irisdina throw it out like an afterthought.

Now that Commander isn’t too keen on helping the Americans and is determined to let them die out of pure spite. So we have a short wait till Gretal comes around and tells him to go to hell. Again it feels like we missed a huge chuck of character development we were supposed to have at this point and the pacing makes the suicide mission seem not as difficult as they made it out to be. One thing I must applaud is how menacing they made the fort class BETA look. In the VN these guys were not all that treating but here they really are a dominating presence. So the day is saved and our heroes are free to go home and get screwed over by the Stasi, who look to be cooking up something nasty.

Posted on 3 February 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Schwarzesmarken

This episode starts with a groan as we meet a new member of the cast, that being Theodor’s sister who on first sight hugs with with the ever so traditional “Onii-chan!” The sister does bring some good developments to the table, namely the machination the Stasi has in store for her, but I really wish the didn’t resort to an old caricature. We even have some back story for Theodor which pretty much only confirms that yes, Lise is Theodor’s step sister and non blood related so she’s perfectly fine for being pushed into the boy’s harem. I understand that harems are essentially series tradition for Muv Luv (The first entry of the series was a pure by the numbers harem after all) but Schwarzesmarken at least has kept that particular element at bay and I would like it to stay that way. The last thing a do or die setting like this needs is harem hijinks. As far as Lise’s standing as a spy she certainly is suspicious. She clearly seems to be feigning amnesia over the period she spent with the Stasi and doesn’t seem too pleased with Therdors approval of Irisdina. Her reaction is a bit too serious to write off as simple jealousy. There’s also that rather delayed response from her when Katia was about to get ambushed by BETA. I am willing to bet that she was weighing her option of letting Katia die to BETA assault. Whatever the Stasi has planned it seems to be working as Therdor looks reluctant to entertain the possibility of Lise being a spy. He may say otherwise to Katia but that felt like he was just putting her at ease.

So with a new member added to the cast this looks like a good time for the team to have some R&R and use the new character to flesh out the other members of the squad. At least that would be the wise move but sadly the plot disagrees and sends them out to a major offense against the BETA. It really seems like there could be plenty of things to expand upon before jumping into a major plot arc. Such as Katia’s awkward position of no longer acting as a replacement for Theodors sister. A large amount of Theodors dedication to protecting Katia was due to her resemblance to his sister and now that his actual sister has shown up it puts Katia in a more perilous state as when push comes to shove he will save his sister before saving her. Plus the whole complicated feelings humbug with dear Therdor senpai not noticing her anymore. However that is written off quickly and now we are in a big offensive quite literally straight out of nowhere. A combined effort by the UN and countries of the world to prevent BETA from crossing too far west from Europe. Our big issue here is when Gretel starts giving out unreasonable orders due to a desire to distinguish the east German task force in order to win political favor. However no one seems to hold them in high regard as artillery is fired without regarding them being in the line of fire and at episode’s end it looks like even the west Germans despise them. A little hypocritical considering that east Germany is the one thing keeping the BETA at bay but with the Stasi and whatnot, they are hardly beyond reproach. All of this has the potential to be quite interesting but the fatal flaw remains. We the audience lack emotional attachment to the characters. Why is Gretal looking for political favor? Why is anyone here fighting at all? Why did Irisdina tell a racist joke before going into battle? And most importantly of all, why should we even care if these people live or die?

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silver
Mario, are you blogging 3-gatsu this season?
Kaiser-Eoghan
*poorly forcing
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Amagi: And that is one of the biggest advantages the show has for me, after being annoyed by so many shows ending up with tonal shifts and forcing cute designs into something more serious it is nice to see that girls last tour avoids that problem.
Amagi
My texts are always too long..
Amagi
It isn't enough to just say "look there is a dark subplot somewhere or a backdrop dystopia and we will get to it whenever it seems convenient". Last Tour is the opposite, it is moe, but the girls are part and product of the world they live in, + the cute and serious parts don't feel like two different series being glued together.
Amagi
Girl's Last Tour is the good type of moe show for me. There are many that have or pretend to have some serious undertone, be it some dystopian setting or politics or whatever. But the difference between the good and the bad shows is that the former are actually connected with their serious part in everything they think or do while the bad shows only use the other topic as cheap way to alure fans.
SuperMario
@Bokusen: I'm not sugarcoating it, but Houseki tends to be the title that split the audience. Give it a try at least. If you can tolerant the first three episodes, chances that you will enjoy the rest
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Travlos: Now if only someone will translate the side story manga aswell.
KTravlos
Happiness! New chapters of Gunka no Baltazar!
Bokusen
@SuperMario Thanks! I'll give Houseki no Kuni a try then. A lot of the series I thought would be good are disappointing me, so I might be following a low number of series this season & it'd be cool if Houseki turns out to be something I like enough to watch this season.^-^
SuperMario
@Kaiser: right. The sole reason I described it as "cinematic" was just to lure you into watching it, so mission accomplished! Mind you, Girls' Last Tour is still a moe show at heart (look at their round faces and those big eyes. They're killing me)
Kaiser-Eoghan
But in all seriousness, I had had it initially written off as a crap moe show.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Mario: You're ministry of anime propaganda tactics mentioning how cinematic it is got me to pick it up =P And you know how much of an aesthetics guy I am =P
SuperMario
I'm glad that many of you enjoying Girls' Last Tour. It's a nice little gem that I think works best when you going to it without any expectation
SuperMario
I swear this season has a lot of good anime to offer. I'm jaded
Amagi
I always considered backgrounds as pretty important. Most anime only use them as backdrops because they have to be there somehow and it's really a different thing than Girls' Last Journey for example. Also I will like everything that has exploration and world building.
Kaiser-Eoghan
And achieves taking the viewer into its world, thankfully without relying on tons of expositional dialogue.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Girls last tour, somewhat succeeds in pulling me in by using its landscape that dwarfs the characters, to create its atmosphere, I wouldn't call it all that unfunny either. Though premise could risk going stale.
AidanAK47
@Amagi, HA! Yeah I would like to believe but I am thinking that's not the case. Besides next season is looking pretty barren so far.
Amagi
Eden would be great. But speaking of it, a lot of good manga get adapted recently. Maybe they finally understood that generic isekai, harem and school stuff isn't as popular as they thought it would be.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Maybe one day I can hope for a Freesia or Eden Endless world adaptation.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Jesus christ....I never thought it would happen, Banana fish is being adapted, I didn't think they could adapt a shoujo like that in todays market.
KTravlos
I also watched Inuyashiki and Girl's Last Tour. Inuyashiki looks great. Man do I hate that young guy. Reading what he did and seeing it was a totally different experience. Cannot wait for the next episode.

Girls Last Tour is really something special. In a good way.
KTravlos
Altair's episode showed all the issues and all the good things of the show. The pace is too quick, and yet they managed to build Urado and its denizens up quick fast in it. But again, this is a show that needs the LGOH treatment.
Amagi
The manga also always uses "he/him" but I am not sure if the original had this too (like "kare" or similar words) since you can talk for a long time in Japanese without ever using pronouns.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Ah, yes I noticed Phos uses Boku in this episode which is the male way of saying I.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Mario: Man, Zvyagintsev really, really knows how to deliver truly emotional gut punching moments and endings that are like cutting at open wounds.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Mario: Houseki has fallen into place for me with those scenes with Dia and the snail thing and I've fully embraced the show, happy to see it just continue to do its thing.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Mario: While Marios are girls best friend DIAmonds ahhhhre for evvvvvvahhh *Shirley Basey voice*
Masky
*bride
Masky
I can say though that if people fear the "Bastard Boyfiend" angle, its not that really. Its more of really weird apprenticeship relationship. Ainsworth is inhuman character in many ways
Masky
Oh hey, Mahoutsukai no Yome is on covered list. Nice, it is weird manga to read through since I'm kind of creeped out by the bribe thing, but its barely mentioned at all.
Anonymous1497942
After finishing Made in Abyss it stuck out, some animation shortcuts in this week's Mahoutsukai. Holding on frames a bit too long, mainly having the music giving the emotion. To be fair, it was also a slow part in the manga.
Kaiser-Eoghan
If I recall correctly, the words "wandering Jew" were used at one point in the manga in relation to the villain.
Lenlo
Mahoutsukai was very pretty this week, but there were some troubling things popping up in there.
SuperMario
@Aidan: They are trying to bring Phos back from a snail. Man, Houseki sure is... quirky
AidanAK47
@Mario, I would take a guess and say they are fighting evil by moonlight.
SuperMario
Okay, heading to Houseki now... let's see our gems doing this week
SuperMario
@Bokusen: (not because I'm blogging it but) watch it. it's a polarized one but it at least offers something original. I still haven't watched the third one though.
Anonymous1497873
The new Mahoutsukai no Yome episode was so beautiful. TwT
Bokusen
BTW, is Houseki no Kuni worth watching? I was turned off by the animation, but I've read some good reviews on it.
Bokusen
Darn, last message didn't show up for me but now it does. Sorry about that.
Bokusen
Tanya the Evil and Uchouten Kazoku 2 were the gems this year for me so far, but Abyss was definitely the best thing I watched last season.
Bokusen
Tanya the Evil & Uchouten Kazoku 2 were the gems this year for me so far, though Abyss was definitely the best thing I watched last season.
Amagi
Doesn't mean that there weren't other good series but I distinguish between good and somethin special I will instantly remember even months or years later.
Amagi
How can you not like at least one of the current series, this season is pretty good. MiA was probably my only real great thing in the last season though.
AidanAK47
@Anon, Aren't you forgetting Acca, Rakugo, Little Witch Academia and Tanya the Evil?
Anonymous1497006
Made in Abyss seems like it's the only gem this year for me tbh
AidanAK47
Whoa, I never even knew we had a PM feature.
SuperMario
@Kaiser: I've received it. Thanks Kaiser. I've never noticed the PM feature either
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Mario: I sent you a private message.
SuperMario
oh boy. Just received Mind Game Bluray Region free today. I ordered/funded it through Kickstarter a year ago and eventually forgot about it. Was a nice surprise to see it in the mail today
silver
I enjoyed this week's Kino. Leave only footprints indeed.
Kaiser-Eoghan
On the other hand I noticed some slight censoring in juuni taisen episode 3 I think.
Kaiser-Eoghan
I was also surprised with the lack of censorship during Inuyashiki's second episode.
Kaiser-Eoghan
First episode of inuyashiki covered the whole of volume 1.
Kaiser-Eoghan
*but almost never
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Mario: In general, Death of Stalin is an amusing film throughout, but never laugh out loud hilarious, Simon Beale is hilarious in it as Beria.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Amagi: Gonzo did that mecha 7 samurai thing we must never speak of. However schmaltzly/sentimental Ikiru is, however it slumps slightly in the middle and final arc , it was still a genuinely moving film.
Kaiser-Eoghan
*than it is
Kaiser-Eoghan
To elaborate, I expected to dislike inuyashiki based on not enjoying Gantz, my reaction to the second episode was the same as Amagi's . The first episode was heavy handed a bit as Aidan mentioned, but its harder to watch that scene with the older guy get bullied/tormented that it is to watch highschool kids getting picked on by cliche anime thugs.
AidanAK47
Also why Hillary Clinton? I mean i know Trump is supposed to have a cameo in the manga but why her?
AidanAK47
@Vyse, Lets not jinx it. Plenty of series have shown great potential in their second episodes only to flop later. We can sing praises if it keeps this quality to the conclusion.
VyseLegendaire
Inuyashiki main villain should be Hillary Clinton
VyseLegendaire
Inuyashiki is suddenly like the best thing of the decade.
Amagi
I wish there were more old MC series out there. Liked that about Real Drive too. Maybe someone will have mercy and adapt Kurosawa one day. Not exactly old but at least a series about a guy with midlife crisis.
Amagi
I thought the happenings of the second Inuyashiki episode would have been too egdy but they actually gave the last few scenes a very good impact and the episode showed pretty well how sociopathes think (that whole gap between emotions for real people VS manga/fiction characters and events)
KTravlos
yup, I have no problem with Lenlo's review. Execution is what matters with me.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Lenlo: You managed to sell me on a show that I didn't think I'd have bothered with.
silver
You did fine. It's a risk associated with reading post-viewing episodic discussions. Pretty much everyone knows that if you don't want to be spoiled don't even get online.
Lenlo
I tried to leave explicit spoilers about what happened outside the (more...) tag, but its a risk of readin a review I suppose.
silver
Hah, sorry about spoiling it. That's the problem with major shocks like that; they're most effective if you're not expecting them. Still, the show has deft execution of its executions, and that makes the experience worse than I could imagine.
Lenlo
Well im glad it convinced you. Tried something different with writing this week
KTravlos
man I should not had read the review. Now I will go and watch Inuyashiki. I had missed it.
silver
@Lenlo: It caught me off guard, too. Definitely working to earn that 'psychological' genre tag.
Lenlo
Well... Inuyashiki surprised me today. It went far darker than I was expecting. Thanks Gants author
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Mario: Such an odd art style, have you ever seen these? These are the film covers the Polish get:
Kaiser-Eoghan
*that was the most interesting character
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Mario: Z's ending was very very well played and it was Jean Tringnents was interesting, largely for that he was a right winger working with the left wingers.
Kaiser-Eoghan
And of course the British version of house of cards.
Kaiser-Eoghan
I wonder if he's seen Yes Minister and The New Statesman, also political comedies and for those of us who lived in the 80s seeing Thatcherites getting slagged off was great.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Mario: I do think thick of it works better though as the humour serves a thirty minute episode more comfortably. Stalin's fairly short though so I don't think the joke will run out.
SuperMario
@Kaiser: the Death of stalin is the title I'm looking for as well. Will screen here in few weeks. I almost reccomend In the Loop and the Thick of It (haven't watched the latter though) for Travlos since they're a political satire, which I think he'll enjoy
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Amagi: Hope you already booked that heavens feel screening, cause its sold out.
Kaiser-Eoghan
I've heard that the anime's character development in Juuni taisen expands on the books, which only give them short lines for their backgrounds.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Ah, so perhaps in Juuni taisen they'll spin that so the Rat guy uses the ox guy to his advantage in some different way.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Mario: There is a special atmosphere watching anime on a big screen.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Mario: I might be seeing death of Stalin tomorrow or Saturday. The thick of it was hilarious and this has the same director as that.
SuperMario
Both Z and All the President's Men are coassic movie. Hold my attention from start to finish. Z, in particular, wowed me that I literally had my mouth wide open
SuperMario
Off tangent, watching Fireworks in the cinema the other day made me realize how I miss watching movies on the big screen. I might try to go to the cinema once a week again. Been missed out all the good movies lately.
SuperMario
In the Great Race story, Rat used a very underhanded tactic to win the race (it jumps into the Ox to pass the great river and then jump off to the finish line. This Rat guy's speciality is Killing All so there is a high chance that he survives till the end
SuperMario
@Kaiser: I have no doubt that we will have more amazing character arcs for Juuni Taisen.
Kaiser-Eoghan
But that could prove to be too predictable.
Kaiser-Eoghan
I wonder if the Rat guy is going to be the wild card in all this, after all in the old story, wasn't it the Rat who won that zodiac race thing?
Kaiser-Eoghan
Juuni Taisen is killing off its most interesting characters.... =< I wanted the bird girl to stay around a bit longer.
Kaiser-Eoghan
I'd love to see more Lem or Stugastky style/brand of scifi, I need to rewatch stalker again.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Amagi: Going back to the cyberpunk thing, I don't want just any ol' thing getting made, I want to see something scifi related thats ACTUALLY clever and has long and DIFFICULT dialogue .
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Travlos: While not a political series Chaos;head is a good example of being annoyed at the conspiracy thing, what drives me up the wall about that show and its sequel is how every every time I think about going back to it I realize that its only interesting on a surface level and is utter hokkum.
KTravlos
@Kaiser. Yup, perhaps because I work in political science, they tend to anger me. So I avoid them. Borgen is a good political series.

In general. It still startles how much of a better character anime Tsutomu was comapred to manga Tsutomu in Bridy the Mighty. But I forgive the manga as I get more Gomez!
AidanAK47
@Amagi/Kaiser, thought as much. Strike it off the list then. And God Tsubasa was a cluster fuck by the end.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Eh simul-dub of Juuni taisen is out, I might aswell keep up with that instead.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Y'know I had this weird relationship with dragonball in general. When I was younger I never actively seeked out the show, but on a rare occasion I would watch random episodes whenever I was channel hopping and nothing else was on.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Amagi: Clamp shared universe was a mistake.
Kaiser-Eoghan
I really really wish that that tone breaking style of comedy stops being a thing.
Kaiser-Eoghan
It doesn't happen often, but there ARE shows we all have that snap trigger us when they get mentioned.
Kaiser-Eoghan
I feel my disdain of re:zero is because I hate Akame ga kill and Higurashi so much and it prevents me because of bias from enjoying it.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Aidan: In addition to what i posted about Pandora, you will hate the comedy.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Mario: I will rewatch it, the first one is one of those things that improved on repeat viewings.
@Travlos: Conspiracy theories are one of those things I find myself taking interest in, then almost immediately consider immensely stupid and a waste of time.
Amagi
Aidan: If you didn't like the first parts of Pandora you won't like the rest either. Most people that loved it did this because of the characters and setting, the story isn't really getting better and I kinda disliked what they did near the end. It was overcomplicated and everyone had like three different personalities, plot twists and so on. Not nearly as bad as Tsubasa Chronicle though
AidanAK47
@Bokusenou, believe me when I say you are not few. There are plenty who Dislike Re:Zero. I can understand it and I sort of get where your coming from regarding the characters. (Though Saber sucks) There is just something about the series that I just adore.
KTravlos
@Kaiser. I have not watched most of them. But I have watched Z and All the President's Men. Both are great films. The issue with me is that while I like political thrillers I despite conspiracy theories. Far too many pol. thrillers dive into con.theory stuff. So I must be discriminating.
SuperMario
Okay, I'm off to watch Blade Runner 2049 now. Hopefully it can be as good as the original
Vonter
In contrast World's End Harem, surprisingly looks to be trying. It has one story trying to play straight, the scenario of being the last man in a world mainly habited by woman. And has had this framing of self worth, temptation and doubt I like. No work of art, but surprising for this type of manga.
Vonter
In regards to manga, I'll need to look for something good, being losing time with ecchi stuff. Which I can tell Okamoto should just make hentai, seeing as his latest work, doesn't even try to be anymore than pandering trash (at least older work, had a notion of a story).
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Travlos: Did all the presidents men and Parallax view by Pakula appeal to you?
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Travlos: Actually as your are a Greek....have you watched Z, missing, State of siege or the confession? None of them are actually in Greek but they were political thrillers directed by Costa Gravas.
Anonymous1490677
KT here: Well I am a sucker for political thrillers and "grand" politics, so the direction it took is quite fun for me. Even if it does indicate a Tomino ending.
Kaiser-Eoghan
For me Titan peaked at volume 8 and I never bothered continuing on much further.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Aidan: I remember a commenters on here a good while ago that mentioned the ending didn't satisfy or come together well and made the investment not worth it.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Aidan: Honestly it was only near the halfway point I vested any interest in pandora hearts, the first 4 volumes left me wondering if I'd drop it, then near the last few volumes I simply fell out of reading it.
Bokusenou
I feel like I'm one of the few people who don't understand why Re: Zero is so popular...the only characters I half liked were Puck & Crusch (the latter because she reminded me of Saber from the Fate series, minus the unnecessary perma-blush marks) My anime club screened the series and I really should have skipped those meetings...
Lenlo
Mmm Inuyashiki episode 2 tomorrow. Time to see where it goes
AidanAK47
@Anon, That reminds me. Anime limited better announce the date of the Re:Zero Blu-ray release at that panel of theirs at MCM London Comic Con. They are the only ones known to have licensed it and they have a partnership with Funimation. Even if we don't get a second season I have to get the first on Blu-ray.
Anonymous1490189
Emilia re:zero
AidanAK47
Finally Got that review up. Been sitting in my to do list for a while.
SuperMario
I remeber in Dragon ball, they state that Son Goku takes 6 years of training to become a Super Saiyan. His oldest son takes 3 years and then the youngest one... only takes 3 months of training with his mother. So yeah...
AidanAK47
While we are talking about manga, I was looking into getting some manga boxsets and I saw one for pandora hearts. However I started reading it and 15 chapters in I just can't get into it. I hear a lot of praise for it but is it really worth continuing?
AidanAK47
@Amagi, yep. Like Naruto with the nine tailed beasts and Sharingan. At first they were cool and then everyone and their mother had Sharingan or a tailed Beast.
Though If I had a problem with SNK its that I just find the thing to be poorly written overall. It has creative idea's, but the characters and dialogue is really weak in my eyes.
Amagi
You know that SuperSaiyan syndrome. At first it was special and mysterious, but once the second one gets to have the power they tend to pop up everywhere. Same with Claymore and basically almost every shounen ever.
Amagi
I overall like the SNK manga but I have to agree I really have a problem with this shounen trope of some speciality one character has that suddently turn out to be the speciality of many.
Lenlo
It turned from a horror/thriller to a sort of... shounen mystery thing for me. I wasnt a fan once EVERYONE became titans.
AidanAK47
@Lenlo, I dropped off at that point, picked it up again and read it up to date. Now I am falling out again. True be told I haven't really got into it since the beginning chapters and I am not a fan of the direction it took. If you don't like it now I say future chapters won't really change your mind.
Lenlo
Does Attack on Titan get better? I was reading it up until Season 2 came out and then just fell off the wagon.
KTravlos
oh what a cliffhanger in the Shingeki no Koyjin manga! I am happy where this is going!
Kaiser-Eoghan
I agree that the way the series addresses emotion has some interest to it.
Kaiser-Eoghan
The later chapters I read had some action in them.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Had a read of the children of the wales manga, I am glad to see a shoujo that isn't based on an otome or school life series , additionally I like it on an aesthetic level, I can see it going somewhere but the fast-forward pace makes it hakes it harder to connect with.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Amagi: Blame! was recently adapted and thats cyberpunk, even if it didn't follow the manga.
Amagi
@Kaiser: Agree. Cyber- and steampunk are two of the few settings I really dig. Especially because I think that there are a lot of potential plots and twists for cyberpunk/VR settings anime haven't used yet. AR is great too, the only series about that is Dennou Coil and it was made ~10 years ago. Maybe the SAO movie but it was just a movie.
Amagi
@Aidan: Same here lol. I remember the toilet thingy but not the woman's backstory. That being said, I enjoyed the series as whole, though some parts were too K-ONish for my taste.
Kaiser-Eoghan
The idea of would agorophobia maintain itself and they'd stay inside or would the fear of being raped/tortured/killed and bypass the agorophobia ?
Kaiser-Eoghan
Random tangent, but I would find it fascinating to see a hikkikomori subject to a home invasion.
Kaiser-Eoghan
Although honestly, I would prefer a cyberpunk wave of anime series to get popular again.
silver
I too am starting to really enjoy the 'adventure anime' genre. The medium of animation is uniquely suited to fantastical worldbuilding.
AidanAK47
@Mario, Was that the one where the girl is desperately trying not to piss herself? Also why can I remember that and not this blonde woman's backstory?
SuperMario
@Kaiser: yep, agreed. It's at its best when it can use the settings to flesh out the characters. The episode after that one, one the other hand, was Sora no woto's dullest episode - where the main girl spends the whole episode waiting for a freaking phone call.
Kaiser-Eoghan
@Mario: The Blonde woman's backstory in the middle of sora no oto, that was the best episode of it.
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