Schwarzes Marken
Episode 3

by Theron Martin,

How would you rate episode 3 of
Schwarzes Marken ?

In series like this one the story elements are most typically subsumed in importance by mecha action, blood and gore, and/or fan service in some order. That's why it is refreshing to see an episode like this one early, which shows that the series might actually care about its story after all.

To be sure, there is some mecha action, although it is actually a very limited component this time around; the 666 Squadron is shown on a sortie out for another laserjagd, but the only actual combat action is a brief scene where two of the mecha arrive at the beleaguered fort to rescue Katia and the injured pilot. And there is most definitely a heaping serving of blood and gore when the BETA storm the fortress, some of which even makes it through the censoring. (Based on what was shown, my guess is that the uncensored version is going to be quite gruesome.) Another pretty woman – the blonde featured in the closer who had yet to show up – also arrives as a new reinforcement to up the potential harem quotient, though beyond that the episode is virtually devoid of fan service unless you have a thing for terrified girls whose faces are dripping with blood. (That being said, this scene has happened twice now in three episodes, which is starting to make me wonder if some kind of weird fetish isn't being serviced here.)

No, the meat of this episode is the story, and at least one half of it shines. That is the part where Theodor tries to claim that he isn't troubled by Katia being in dire straits, though clearly it bothers him more than he wants to admit; he sees too much of his own sister in her. Irisdina recognizes this and confronts him about it, where Theodor reveals that he is wary of doing anything that might call attention to himself because he is so desperately afraid of the Stasi – totally understandable, given that they did torture him into confessing against his family, and he clearly feels guilty about that, too. The political officer revealing to him the truth about Irisdina's situation (she got the reputation she did for turning in her brother probably because her brother arranged for it to look that way to save her) allows the two of them to make a connection, as shown in the screen shot. That allows Irisdina to draw him into her plan: she, too, actually sees uniting with the West as the only sensible course of action, and believes that their only hope of resisting the BETA involves getting rid of the Stasi. Hence she is willing to twist the rules quite a bit to recover Katia, whom she sees as a potential bridge to the West. The truth about her father also comes out: he was part of a failed coup attempt five years earlier which sought to overthrow the ruling party. What's curious about all of this is that the political officer, who should ostensibly be the most party-loyal person on the base, also seems to be at least complicit in Irisdina's scheming if not outright part of it; at the very least she definitely does not seem to be on Stasi's side. All of this part is remarkably well-executed, which gives hope that this series might actually amount to something in a dramatic sense.

What transpires at the fort is more stereotypical fare. It leans too heavily on tired “you're important and we're not, so you have to survive” tropes, but even beyond that the execution just isn't as sharp, either on the writing or on the visuals. Doesn't help that Vivian (the girl at the fort) could practically have been wearing a name tag that said Dead Girl Walking, either. The heavily dramatic music does try to hype up the drama, and the swarming BETA are still a palpable menace, so those scenes are not a total loss, but their weaker effectiveness do drag down the rating of what was a very good episode otherwise.

Rating: B+

Schwarzes Marken is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.


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