Muv-Luv is back and this time we’re rolling the clock back to 1983. Set a mere 10 years after the arrival of the BETA, Schwarzesmarken gives us a glimpse of humanity’s early fight against the BETA, and it wastes no time in thrusting us directly to the front-lines. What we’re treated to is a dark and bloody intro highlighted by the arrival of the franchise’s infamous Laser-Class, and the quick demise of Inghild ends up one of many casualties in an episode filled with BETA corpses. Amid it all, the politics are in full play with the separation of Germany into the West and East, and it’s a great demonstration of how in the Muv-Luv universe, the BETA are far from the only threat.
As it turns out, the most sinister of enemies could very well be the humans you’re fighting along side with, and the first episode goes the extra mile by framing Irisdina Bernhard as someone who’s far more than just the ruthless commander of the 666th Squadron. The notion of PTSD and the enlistment of young children into the military gives viewers further insight into the state of things in Schwarzesmarken, and this is a start that leaves you with much to digest before its all said and done.
One could argue ultimately that it’s a little too much, and this is one of those cases where it’s important to note that while one can watch the series without prior experience with any of the franchise’s iterations, it’s certainly better to have at least some knowledge in order to really grasp everything we’re getting here. The introduction we get regarding the BETA is short and concise to the point where you’ll essentially be watching and trying to accept how things are as you go, and the fact that there are brief terminology references (“heavy metal cloud”) with no elaboration cuts out some of the impact of what the 666th Squadron’s mission is, the importance of their task, the threat that the Laser-Class pose, and some of the many tactics used to combat the BETA.
A lot of the complexities that made the franchise great are covered behind things such as that, and one would hope that at least a little bit of elaboration goes into this in the future, unless it turns out that it’s not meant to be for new viewers in the first place. Either way, I’ve put a generally spoiler free explanation of what the “heavy metal cloud” entails and the reasons for their usage in the spoiler below:
All-in-all, your enjoyment of the series will vary depending on your prior experience with the franchise. The impact of this will likely lessen as time goes on as the series’ own story develops, but for the first episode at least, it could make the difference between you thinking it’s either a average Sci-Fi series with mecha/action elements or an enjoyable series that does a decent job capturing some of the things you loved about Muv-Luv franchise. This is certainly one of those cases where the wait-and-see approach comes in handy if you fit in the former category, while those in the latter likely already know if they’re in it for the long haul. That said, I’m interested in seeing what you thought of the first episode if you fit in the former category, so feel free to share your impressions below. As for coverage, there is nothing confirmed Schwarzesmarken at this time, though depending on time constraints, the next episode or two may receive a post.
ED: 「哀しみが時代を駆ける」 (Kanashimi ga Jidai o Kakeru) by Zähre