Hello everyone! Ben here with my Transformation Sequence hat on! A couple of times a week, I hope to hit you all up with some first impressions of different shows that we might not have time to cover on the podcast. My measurement for a ‘first impression’ of a show means at least the first three episodes are watched, since that is the average amount of time needed to introduce the main characters, the world, and the driving conflict in a story. This also means some slight spoilers for the beginning of shows, but I will try to keep them to a minimum. Today, I want to let you all know about Schwarzesmarken.
This is a mech show set in an alternate history setting while Germany was still split into East and West. We follow the top mech unit, the 666th TSF squadron ‘Black Marks,’ as they fight off the aliens as well as endure some political backstabbing. We follow Theodor Eberbach, our sullen anime boy mech pilot, as he is ordered by their tough-as-nails commander, Irisdina Bernhard, to protect fellow pilot and recent defector from the other side of the Berlin Wall, Katia Waldheim.
This all sounds pretty neat, right? Alternate history stories always intrigue me. It’s taking a familiar setting where you don’t have to world build as hard, but you can get as crazy with it as you want. The crazy they go with is big robots that pretty people pilot, with a layer of political intrigue? This all sounds too good to be true, and to a certain extent it is. Schwarzesmarken sadly falls prey to some less than desirable anime tropes early on that definitely gave me some pause as to whether or not I would continue watching it. Sadly, it’s not just narrative tropes but character design ones as well.
First, lets talk about the good stuff because there is plenty to like. They don’t pull punches on the violence and gore. When these aliens get their hands on a person, it is game over in a nasty way. It’s reminiscent of Attack on Titan in that sense, but instead of swords, our heroes have Armored Core looking mechs. The actual plot is passable and the performances are fine. It’s nothing special, but it’s serviceable enough to the action. The thing that struck me the most about this show is the decision to lean heavy into CG animation for the mechs and aliens. After having seen so many other shows have terrible CG work in them, this was a pleasant surprise because it doesn’t look like total trash! The alien’s designs are already creepy enough as it is, but with CG they stand out more as the horrors that they are. The mechs even look fine, though there is something about the way they turn that doesn’t look good to me.
Now, on to the bad: this show is just dripping with fan service. If you aren’t familiar with that term, it just means that the girls are over proportioned and often scantily dressed. Apparently, if aliens came from the moon to kill us all, only women with a bust size that not even a German military uniform can contain are our only hope. Which is another thing that just twists the knife that this show has stuck in me. I love how they have women at the heads of these military organizations! Sadly, they are either half naked, or wearing skin tight body suits, so they might as well be naked. Every opportunity this show gets to focus on cleavage, it does. A little fan service here and there doesn’t bother me, as I can usually ignore it, but it is put front and center in this show.
This show had a lot of promise on paper for me. Mech anime with female leads, nasty aliens, and gore ridden violence are the ingredients to my powerpuff self. Sadly, the blatant fan service that is not only over used, but practically relied on for the audiences continued watching experience, puts a sour taste in my mouth. I would have to say give this show a pass.