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Katia, Theodor and Irisdina

"We believed in no God, and had no one else to believe in. Our only choices were to die on the battlefield, to die in the purges, or to live like machines."

"Even so... even so, all I could think of was that I wanted to protect you."
Theodor Eberbach
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In 1973, at the height of the Cold War, hordes of aliens from deep space called BETA landed on Earth after slaughtering the human colonists on the Moon in a brutal, one-sided conflict. Facing an enormous, unstoppable horde of enemy forces with weapons making aircraft almost useless, mankind developed large humanoid fighting machines called Tactical Surface Fighters and deployed them to defensive lines throughout the world. However, all these efforts could do was stall the BETA temporarily, and Operation Palaiologos, a desperate, joint NATO-Warsaw Pact attempt in 1978 to seize a developing BETA hive in Minsk, Byelorussian SSR, ended in disastrous failure.

Five years later, in 1983, the BETA are on a rampage in Europe. With the Warsaw Pact moribund, and cut off from USSR support, the East German defense line at the former Polish border, the Oder-Neisse Line, is barely holding back the alien tide, and there the Nationale Volksarmee's 666th Tactical Surface Fighter Squadron "Schwarzesmarken" is tasked to stop the BETA, especially the larger Laser and Heavy-Laser class BETA as these provide heavy fire support for the other invaders. The 666th execute their mission without deviation; they are to disregard allied distress calls. They bring no succor to an army in dire straits, and thus are branded Reapers, Butchers, Death-speakers. In the meantime the Stasi, the feared Secret Police, ensures that the 666th, the premier NVA unit, is politically reliable to the government, not least by using its 101st TSF Battalion "Werwolf" under the infamous Major Beatrix Brehme to keep watch upon the squadron.

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Unterleutnant Theodor Eberbach of the 666th, orphaned from childhood and put up for adoption, had lost everything— home, adopted family, and especially his adopted sister Lise in a Stasi purge. Unexpectedly released, he had nothing but the NVA to turn to, and enlists for pilot training. Tortured, broken, paranoid, he harbors hatred towards the Stasi and his commanding officer, Hauptmann Irisdina Bernhard, notorious for selling out her own brother to the secret police. But on the Oder-Neisse line and far behind— in Cottbus, in Berlin and beyond, past and present are seldom as they seem. Entangled in a web of lies and truth, of past and present, of persons and unpersons, Theodor is confronted with unavoidable choices— choices which may spell salvation or damnation for the frontline, East Germany, and Europe itself.

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Written by Hiroki Uchida and with character designs provided by CARNELIAN (one of the founding members of âge), Schwarzesmarken is a light novel of the Muv-Luv franchise, and is a prequel to both Muv-Luv Alternative and Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse, the latter of which was replaced by Schwarzesmarken in serialization within Tech Gian. The light novel was followed in serialization by two side stories: Schwarzesmarken: Requiem, which focuses on the backstories of several side characters, and Bernhard im Schatten (Bernhard in the Shadow), telling of the siblings Jürgen and Irisdina Bernhard together with a young Beatrix Brehme.

The story was adapted into a two-part Visual Novel. The first VN, Schwarzesmarken: Crimson Blood Emblem (シュヴァルツェスマーケン 紅血の紋章), was released on the 27th of November, 2015, with the second VN, Schwarzesmarken: Martyrs, released on the 28th of October, 2016.

An animated adaptation started airing in January 2016 as part of the Winter 2016 block.

Bring down upon the enemy's heads these Black Tropes:

  • Ace Custom: Averted; all mechs in the story are mass-production machines. Irisdina's MiG-21PF, besides hosting extra sensor equipment for needed command and control capabilities, has similar performance to the MiG-21s the rest of the 666th have. Even the MiG-23 Theodor uses by the end of the story is simply his sister Lise's Stasi-issued machine, with its destroyed head replaced by that of his old MiG-21.
    • Jürgen Bernhard flies a red custom MiG-21P in the prequel. It's not noticeably better then a regular MiG however in performance other then communication and fine tuning for Jürgen's piloting style.
  • All for Nothing: Given works set later in the timeline, it seems that regardless of the ending in the Anime, LN, or multiple routes of the VN, the reunification of west and east Germany is botched and that the infighting in the DDR broke the Volksarmee's stalemate with the BETA in Europe. Although Europe itself is overrun, the governments in exile of west and east Germany remain seperate entities.
  • All There in the Manual: Due to Schwarzesmarken adopting an Unreliable Narrator approach (see trope entry below), reading the sidestories Requiem and Bernhard im Schatten, as well as the Schwarzesmarken installments of TSFIA, becomes absolutely necessary for a full picture.
  • Alternate History: The story is that the BETA arrived in Eastern Europe in the late 1970s and East Germany is besieged by them.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: Used by the Stasi several times throughout the show. Interestingly, in episode nine, Heinz offers to help Theodor and the others to rescue their friends after the Moscow faction of the Stasi takes over East Germany. Theodor then throws his own counteroffer, telling Heinz to risk himself personally, or else he wouldn't help. Since Heinz, who belonged to the Berlin faction of the Stasi, was a highly sought after target, this helps make the rescue plan easier, since Lise personally goes outside the base to arrest him after he's "caught".
  • Armor-Piercing Slap: Anett receives one in episode nine after doing a What the Hell, Hero? rant against Lise.
  • Badass Army: The East German forces are doing a decent job holding the BETA from advancing in Europe at the start of the story.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted.
    • Katia in particular receives a pretty brutal beatdown by Sylvia after getting tired of her spouting off idealistic scenarios where East and West Germany work together to defeat the BETA.
    • Inghilde is disemboweled and her limbs broken by BETA.
    • Later when several of the 666th squadron members get arrested and interrogated by the Stasi, they are subjected to Cold-Blooded Torture. When they're rescued later, they have visible bruises on their bodies and faces. Anett seems to have just barely lucked out, as Theodor and the others assault the base just before she was going to be subjected to some Cold-Blooded Torture as well. She gets away with just an Armor-Piercing Slap.
    • Lise's TSF is hit so hard in episode ten that shards of metal impale into her.
    • Beatrix is cut nearly in half. Slightly averted as they censure her injuries in the anime, focusing mostly on her unmarred face.
  • Betrayal by Inaction: In episode 2, during a joint NVA/Stasi strategy session, the NVA commander says they'll be unable to hold the line due to only being at about forty percent strength with no reinforcements arriving in time to help out. Heinz Axmann, one of the Stasi representatives, says he'll provide the necessary backup in order to prevent the BETA from overrunning the defenses. Unfortunately for the NVA, he then just sits around not doing anything, with a quick scene showing Beatrix simply waiting around in a room while the Werewolves' machines are just parked in their hangar.
    • Note that in the visual and light novels, Beatrix does show up with The Cavalry and bail out everyone, although Irisdina accuses her of purposely waiting until the NVA unit is in dire straits.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • Subverted in episode 2. The 666th squadron arrives to help out the NVA unit as best as they can. Unfortunately their commander, Major Hannibal, is killed by a fortress BETA just moments after they arrive.
    • Played straight in episode 3, when Theodor and Anett do this for Katia and Thi-rang, arriving just in time before the two girls are eaten by the BETA.
    • Played straight again in episode five, when the 666th Squadron manages to defeat a Fortress BETA and wipe out enough laser BETA that their allies are able to launch a barrage to halt the BETA advance.
    • Katia and Theodor are rescued from Stasi pursuit by anti-government fighters in episode eight after they barely escape when the 666th squadron hangar is attacked and several of their members are arrested.
  • Black and Gray Morality: On one hand you have the Stasi, which in contrast with real life (where they have a reputation for subtlety) is more of a Gestapo / NKVD hybrid here. On the other, the rebels, to whom Irisdina, Theodor and the 666th belong, are not above using the same tactics on enemy prisoners. Irisdina herself may have done some shady things in the past.
    • Even within the Stasi and rebellion, there are different factions with varying levels of morality to one another.
    • The conflict between Irisdina and Beatrix is more of a case of Grey and Gray Morality in the visual novel, especially in routes outside of Katia's.
  • Story Branching: Martyrs has branching story paths, with one of them even leading to Theodor becoming Beatrix's Dragon in the stasi.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Lise coughs up some blood in episode ten, after Theodor's trap and subsequent attack impales her with a lot of metal shards. She coughs it up while talking to him one last time.
    • Beatrix in episode 12.
  • Break the Cutie: Many of the women in the show are subjected to this, such as Irisdina killing her own brother to save her own skin, and Katia seeing what BETA do to people up close and personal in episode 3.
  • Broken Bird: Every single female in the cast. Special mention goes to Beatrix, Sylwia, and Lise though.
  • Cassandra Truth: In episode ten, the rearguard Stasi units attack Berlin when they hear that the leader of the rebellion is going to meet with a West German liaison. Lise suggests that this sounds like a trap. But she's overruled, with her commander stating that since her brother Theodor is helping the rebellion, they can't trust anything she says. Lise later turns out to be right when all of their units are ambushed and slaughtered to the last unit. Including Lise, who is killed by Theodor since she refused to come back from the Stasi.
  • Chummy Commies and Dirty Commies: Averted. Since the Cold War ended due to the Bug War in this timeline, almost no one mentions anything about the conflict between capitalism and socialism despite the setting being in East Germany. Gretel mentions liking the idea of socialism in one episode, but never see any implications of the ideology in play. Even The Stasi who commit a coup to control the East German government are motivated by delusions of power and control than by hardliner Communist ideology.
  • Compressed Adaptation: Bound to happen when you try to adapt a seven volume light novel or two visual novels into a one cour anime. In comparison, Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse had two cours and only managed to adapt half of its story.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Several of the 666th squadron members who were captured during the Stasi coup d'etat in episode eight are subjected to this in order to find out what they know about the anti-government resistance and their role in it, if any. Additionally, this is done to them to break their collective will, so as to not be able to provide a Hope Spot for anyone trying to stand up to the Stasi.
  • Crapsack World: Even more so than previous Muv-Luv series. The squadron is literally fighting for their lives in Eastern Europe while having to tread carefully regarding political matters under constant observation (of both The Political Officer and the Secret Police variety), and the trailer shows a ruined Berlin, something not too dissimilar to what happened in World War II.
  • Darkest Hour: Episode eight, when several of the 666th squadron members are captured, including Irisdina. Theodor suffers a massive Heroic BSoD shortly after escaping from the base and learning that Lise is a Stasi spy, and the remaining East German officers decline to help Gretel rescue her captured squadmates, fearing that they don't have enough support, particularly with Irisdina having been arrested. However, Katia then reveals that all hope may not be lost when she reveals herself to be the daughter of a famous East German general, who also happened to be friends with the current general they were talking to.
  • Decapitated Army: The light novel notes that Beatrix was the "spiritual pillar" that held up the loyalist forces. Though their morale had taken a beating, so long as Beatrix was alive, they'd follow her to hell. When news of her death at the hands of Theodor reached them, the loyalist will to fight completely crumbled, leading to a mass surrender/rout.
  • Defiant to the End: Kurt does this at the end of episode 3, after being mortally wounded due to a BETA landing on top of him. He lights one final cigarette, then dies from his injuries. However, his lighter manages to hit some oil, which causes a chain reaction and blows up the fort.
    • Note that in the light novel and visual novel, Kurt manages to survive and it's left ambiguous whether he and his regiment survived the fortress going up in a fireball later on.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: In both the VN and the anime adaptation, Yoshino Nanjo (Lise) performs the opening theme as the vocalist of fripSide while the ending theme is performed by Nozomi Yamamoto (Irisdina) and Minami Tanaka (Katia)
  • Elite Army: The 666th TSF Squadron is this in spades. They usually attack only Laser and Heavy Laser class BETA and with good reason: these types of BETA usually serve as an anti-aircraft and anti-TSF role. Beatrix's Stasi TSF Guard battalion, the Werewolves, are also this. They only recruit the most loyal and talented NVA pilots and are prioritized for receiving the latest and best equipment. When not chasing down deserters or gunning down dissenters, they act as a reserve and rescue force for NVA units trapped by the BETA.
  • Elite Mook: The Heavy Laser BETA, which have a much more powerful laser attack than the regular ones. Additionally, it's much tougher, and can close its eye to protect against attack.
  • Enemy Mine: Heinz ends up helping the rebellion in their attempt to rescue Irisdina and the others captured by the Stasi. Gretel isn't too fond of it, but Theodor agrees to it, on the condition that Heinz puts his life on the line as well. This works out beautifully, as Heinz was part of the Berlin faction of the Stasi, while the Moscow faction was the one that did the coup d'etat and took over. Therefore he would be a high value target if captured.
    • Irisdina and Beatrix ally against the BETA in one of the routes in Martyrs.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: In episode eight, some Stasi soldiers are told by Lise to torture Pham so much that she'll wish to have never been born. Though they ultimately follow through, both men are visibly shocked at what they were ordered to do.
  • Fallen Hero: Beatrix, one of the major antagonists of Schwarzesmarken, is the main heroine of the prequel sidestory Bernhard im Schatten. And if several audio-visual cues across the franchise are not red herrings, Theodor may be one, too.
    • One of Martyrs' routes has Theo joining the Werewolves with Lise and serving Beatrix.
  • Fog of War: The heavy metal clouds vital to dissipating Laser-class fire also attenuate any other form of electromagnetic radiation, making communications between TSF squadron members nigh-impossible without more powerful equipment (such as those on Irisdina's machine), and communications with field HQ impossible until the clouds dissipate.
  • Foregone Conclusion: As a Muv-Luv Alternative prequel, Schwarzesmarken unavoidably ends with the collapse of the Oder-Neisse defense line and Europe eventually getting overrun by the BETA— and the protagonists' actions unwittingly end up hurrying it along. The prequel Bernhard im Schatten is also this: Irisdina will turn her own brother Jürgen in to the Stasi, marking the start of the blood feud between her and Beatrix, who had been Jürgen's girlfriend.
  • Go Out W Ith A Smile: Pham does this, right before being killed by Lise.
    • Inghilde, Lise, Irisdina, Walter, Sylwia, and Beatrix too. Really, it's rarer that a character won't be smiling when they go out.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Katia is splattered with blood after a BETA kills their escort who was attempting to get them out of Fort Neuenhagen. Unfortunately Vivi is chomped in half, and Katia sees Vivi's top half flying towards her from the attack.
    • Averted in the visual novel, where you get to see exactly what happens.
  • Gratuitous German: It starts already with the title. Since the word Marken is plural the correct German spelling would be Schwarze Marken. Word of God says that in-universe the name was given by a Soviet officer, and the name stuck.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: Irisdina vs Beatrix as portrayed by the visual novel.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: Vivi suffers this after a BETA ambushes her while she was escorting Katia and Thi-rang.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Katia doesn't take it well when she sees people dying up close to the BETA in Fort Neuenhagen, and barely functions even as the remaining soldiers attempt to protect them.
    • Theodor falls into a severe depression in episode eight, after the Stasi arrests several of the 666th Squadron members. What caused this state of shock is that his sister really was The Mole for the Stasi, and held a gun to Irisdina's head, while ordering him to get out of his TSF and surrender.
  • Idiot Ball: The majority of the cast gets hit hard by the idiot ball in episode 12.
  • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him: After the mechanics manage to overpower and tie up the Stasi guards, the head mechanic tells his men to just leave them tied up there. When they protest and say they want to kill those guys, he overrules them, stating that if they do that, they'll be no better than the Stasi.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Theodor is a big fan of inflicting this on others.
    • He does this in episode ten, on Lise, impaling her with a shield while she was temporarily blinded after a power transmission tower trap falls on her.
    • Theodor does this a couple more times to various Werewolves.
    • He finishes off Beatrix in this manner, sending his knife through her cockpit block and into her.
  • Interservice Rivalry: The East German Army sees the Stasi as always behind their backs, the Stasi sees their army counterparts as potentially disloyal. Additionally, the East and West German military see each other this way initially, until the 666th saves their butt during a BETA attack.
  • Last Stand: The soldiers in Fort Neuenhagen attempt this after a massive BETA attack hits, and no reinforcements arrive to help them. Unfortunately they don't last very long as footsoldiers don't stand much of a chance against the BETA.
  • Let No Crisis Go to Waste: After Theodor and the others successfully rescue several of their captured members in episode nine, the Stasi leader goes on television to announce that rebels attacked a forward base supporting the front lines. He then says that Irisdina was killed by a stray bullet. Gretel tells them not to believe him, telling her comrades that by simply announcing this on television, it shows that the Stasi are desperate and panicking at the rebellion.
  • Loophole Abuse: In episode 3, Irisdina asks Gretel to reaffirm what happens when a unit loses contact with HQ. Gretel responds that they are allowed to complete the mission by any means necessary. She then immediately realizes that Irisdina was intending to rescue Katia and Thi-rang from Fort Neuenhagen. However, Irisdina states that she's going to attack the laser BETA as ordered. Theodor and Anett then volunteer to go rescue the others while the rest of the squad goes out to fulfill their mission.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Used in a few battles against the BETA, usually after the 666th squadron wipes out the laser BETA first so said missiles don't get swatted down right away.
  • Meaningful Name: Black Marks, the name of the squadron in German, are the triage color tags used by combat medics to identify the severity of the injuries a patient have. Black means that the wound is fatal and the patient is beyond salvation.
  • Mercy Kill:
    • Irisdina does this to one of her squadmates after she suffers a mortal wound and won't make it in time to be treated for her injuries.
    • Theodor does this in episode ten to Lise, after she's mortally wounded.
  • Naïve Everygirl: Katia seems a bit too optimistic about East and West Germany working together to defeat the BETA. She is then subjected to Reality Ensues when she finds out that the Stasi are not very nice people, and even her comrades would readily turn her in or at least beat her up for trying to do anything other than shutting up whenever the Stasi are around.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: The rebellion supported by Irisdina and the 666th end up stripping the Oder-Neisse line of desperately-needed personnel and equipment, as well as stretching thin, and later wiping out the Werewolves (who had been taxed keeping the BETA in check before the rebellion's outbreak). All this hastens the collapse of the DDR's defenses; unwittingly, Theodor has chosen the damnation of the Oder-Neisse line, East Germany, and eventually Europe itself.
  • Number of the Beast: The 666th.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Gretel ties her hair into a ponytail and takes off her glasses in an attempt to disguise herself from Stasi officials after the Stasi starts their coup d'etat in Berlin. However, the first group of people she runs into isn't fooled at all by it, and they call her out by name. Luckily for her, they're part of The Resistance, and were informed about her due to Irisdina.
  • Slashed Throat: How Axmann goes out in the visual novel, complete with High-Pressure Blood.
  • State Sec: Not only the Stasi are prominent in the novels, but they also have their own Tactical Surface Fighters to prevent East German Army TSFs from defecting or retreating from combat.
  • So Last Season: By the end of the story, only Theodor in the 666th has managed to get his hands on a better-performing, second-generation machine (Lise's MiG-23)... only for the story to reveal that Beatrix has been issued a MiG-27 in the meantime.
  • Taking You with Me: Kurt does this right before dying after Fort Neuenhagen is overrun by the BETA. His lighter ends up hitting some oil, which then starts burning, and causes a chain reaction when said fire causes the ammunition being stored there to explode.
  • The Coup: Some in the East German army are planning a coup against the Stasi-controlled East German government. And that includes Irisdina Bernhard.
  • The Stinger: In the anime, each episode shows some more events that occur after the ending credits roll.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Axmann and Beatrix in the anime. When one is on screen, the other is guaranteed to not be far away.
    • Averted in the light novels where they actively avoid one another. Beatrix is disgusted by Axmann and despises him almost as much as she despises Irisdina.
  • Un-person: Katia's father is subjected to this by the Stasi for his suspicions regarding their secretive organization. Consequently, almost every book or news article that mentions him is blacked out so as to erase his existence.
  • Unreliable Narrator: The Light Novel (and following that, the Visual Novel adaptation) mostly limits itself to Theodor's perspective, hence his personality, biases and paranoia coloring the narrative, and making things like Sylwia and Walther hooking up come out of left field for him. This is somewhat remedied by Requiem, which fleshes out some characters (Sylwia, Gretel, Anett, Inghild, Lise and Kirke) beyond how Theodor see them, and Bernhard im Schatten, which does the same for Irisdina and Beatrix.
  • Uriah Gambit: A variation of this is done when Axmann, a Stasi commander promises to send reinforcements to help supplement the NVA. He then doesn't send them out, and the NVA commander is killed before the 666th squadron makes it to try and help them. Irisdina later speculates to Theodor that Axmann didn't do anything because he's trying to weaken the NVA forces so that the Stasi could maintain control.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: The main conflict in the series. The East German army wants to work with their West German counterparts to better organize and fight the BETA better. However, the East German government and the Stasi sees this as treason and anyone having that thought is considered a traitor as they would rather fight the BETA alone rather than seek help from the West. Hence the planned coup by the East German army to overthrow the communist government and reunite the two Germanies. However, it is also revealed later that elements within the Stasi (e.g. Beatrix) are also in communication with the West, and at the same time elements within the rebellion (e.g Irisdina) are not above attempting to cut deals with some Stasi members (e.g. Axmann). In the light and visual novels, the Stasi itself has factions, or "sects", with one advocating continued close cooperation with the USSR and another pushing for closer cooperation with the BRD and the West. There, Axmann and Beatrix ostensibly belong to the Berlin and Moscow Sects respectively, but have their own separate agendas.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Irisdina and Beatrix were best friends growing up. And Irisdina's handing over of her own brother to the Stasi, and killing him (seemingly in cold blood) is what broke their friendship, as Beatrix had been in love with him for years.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Episode 3 has a few, such as Theodor finding out more about Irisdina's Dark and Troubled Past, and a new member joins the 666th squadron at the end. Said newbie turns out to be Theodor's sister, Lise.
    • In episode six, several Theodor's squadmates are suspicious of Lise, who is asking some very specific questions about what he's talking about with Irisdina. They accuse her of being a spy, and also point out that it's highly unusual for siblings to be assigned to the same unit. At the end of the episode, after he steps into her room, she strips naked and says she'll do anything for her brother, whom she's in love with. Dialogue in episode seven hints that he ended up sleeping with her.
    • At the end of episode seven, after a successful mission destroying several Heavy Laser BETA, the Stasi attack the 666th's main hangar, continuing the coup d'etat they started earlier in the episode. Lise then orders Theodor out of his TSF, while holding a gun to a wounded Irisdina's head.
  • Wild Weasel: The 666th's primary mission is Laserjagd ("Laser Hunt"), which is bypassing (read:running the gauntlet through) attacking BETA formations to strike at the anti-air Laser and Heavy Laser Class BETA at the back, to permit air support to move in. It was Irisdina's brother, Jürgen, who developed and pioneered Laserjagd tactics, which were subsequently adopted by other in-universe militaries, down to the name.
  • World of Action Girls: Due to the nature of the show, all of the main heroines, and some of the villainesses, have developed combat skills needed to fight back against the BETA, who don't discriminate on who they eat.

Alternative Title(s): Schwarzesmarken Requiem, Bernhard Im Schatten

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