Review of the Month; Schwarzesmarken TV

To preface this review, I do have a bias for Schwarzesmarken as a fan of Muv-Luv overall. However, because of this bias I’ve decided to approach this series from the point of view that it is a singular entity without any ties to pre-existing franchises. This decision also stems from the fact Schwarzesmarken was marketed with that title alone without any naming connections to Muv-Luv. Within the fiction there is no pretence about the connection, and one can only guess why this decision was ultimately applied. Whatever the case may be, the show still needs to stand on its own and deliver a solid show for a positive review.

To expand upon the series needing to stand on its own, this review could compare Schwarzesmarken to the Light Novels and the Visual Novel, and to Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse. This wouldn’t allow the work to present itself as it is. A comparison between different versions of Schwarzesmarken is worthy of its own post altogether.

A television series is a different beast to literal works. Total Eclipse is a lot of people’s first experience with the franchise and Schwarzesmarken served the same role to some extent. Because of this, in this review, I won’t hold against the staff for the changes that were made during the adaptation. Whatever is on the screen and how it is conveyed to the viewer are the only things that matters, supplemental and source materials be damned.

This’ll  be more or less in-line with the Kimi ga Nozomu Eien and Muv-Luv posts I’ve done. Expect a general outline of the whole series with commentary running along with it. Not the best way to make a review, but never thought I’d go over this episode-by-episode basis. Expect loads of terrible jokes to boot. If you want a short tl;dr version, you can slip straight to the end paragraphs.

Now that you know where this review will have its base stance on regarding the series, let’s start with the show.

Continue reading “Review of the Month; Schwarzesmarken TV”


Black marks the adaptation

Schwarzesmarken has been and will be compared to Total Eclipse no matter what. The two currently represents the only animated pieces that Muv-Luv currently has, and both are based a light novel source to an extent. The major difference the two have when it comes to the animation staff is that Total Eclipse was reported to have a team consisting of newcomers, mostly. Schwarzesmarken on the other hand seemed to have a team that already had a working history, and the director had his hands in Kimi ga Nozomu Eien adaptation, a thing that shows through if you know where to look from.

Type-94 wrote a worthy post on Schwarzesmarken, and I don’t personally feel a need to repeat too much what he said. You should read his piece as well, if you haven’t by this point.

The largest difference between Muv-Luv Alternative Total Eclipse is that it was a character piece, but the way it portrayed its characters and how directly it adapted scenes that made sense in text form just looked awful on television, and largely were not fun to watch. To some this was an element that could be overlooked as the characters provided the main interest point, and Total Eclipse has a fanbase of its own. Certain sections felt too rushed compared to the rest of the series, and similar thing has been echoed with Schwarzesmarken.

The TSFs 3D models will always look a bit weird on telly, mostly because there are subtle changes here and there that 2D illustrations don't convey
The TSFs 3D models will always look a bit weird on telly, mostly because there are subtle changes here and there that 2D illustrations don’t convey

With Schwarzesmarken there’s not much you can do. You have twelve episodes to go through seven books of story and then some. Tetsuya Watanabe, the director, already had experience in adapting Kimi ga Nozomu Eien’s story into tighter package and it shows. Whereas KGNE played out the strengths of the characters better than Total Eclipse, Schwarzesmarken is aired between the first and second visual novels. A reasoning has been made that this has allowed Watanabe to portray the events in a documentary-like fashion, where the events are more worth than the characters. They play out beat by beat, leaving less time for the characters to grow out. After all, Schwarzesmarken’s strengths are laid in the events and in its politics. Not to downplay the characters, but the whole setting Schwarzesmarken trumps over the characters in interest.

The 3D in Schwarzesmarken is better than in TE, and the BETA are portrayed better in the series than in the VN. In the VN they look like paperdolls
The 3D in Schwarzesmarken is better than in TE, and the BETA are portrayed better in the series than in the VN. In the VN they look like paper dolls

Total Eclipse’s first two episodes should’ve been a standalone television movie. It’s an excellent action piece with honest moments that resonate with the viewer. It not only explained the world, but also the themes and atmosphere the series would have, perhaps even franchise wide. Schwarzesmarken’s intro to the world is short and to the point; these events happened, this is the situation. It doesn’t waste in showcasing too much how people live or why things are like they are, the exact opposite Total Eclipse did. Granted, Muv-Luv has become far more mainstream, and Alternative’s setting has become somewhat known when it comes to niche franchise, and thus Schwarzesmarken didn’t need to have any sort of expanded introduction.

Total Eclipse eased watchers into the show, and then kicked in with whatever it had. Schwarzesmarken on the other hand just kicked in.

Schwarzesmarken being a sort of documentary piece that rolls onwards, it keeps things tight and fast. Some may call it rushed, but that is giving it too little credit. Yes, it is fast paced and each episode seems to be packed to the brim to give as much important events to the viewer in the allotted time as possible. I feel that this is not a show to marathon, as its pace is tiring to some extent, and the constant advanced beat of the show may just irritate in one go. One the other hand, Total Eclipse has ruts that look like nothing’s happening because they’re not shown, tiring the watcher with Yuuya’s near constant catchphrase.

Visually speaking, Schwarzesmarken looks pretty for a budget show. It clearly has a higher budget and the designs are pretty, ranging from almost classical Muv-Luv hair to very down to earth look. I have to especially mention the eyes, as they have slightly too thick look in the series compared to the illustrations, but they give each character a lot of personality and soul, something that’s lacking in many other modern shows. I may be a nostalgia goggles wearing 80’s-loving guy, but I do admit that current Japanese animation looks superbly beautiful, even at its lowest point. That’s the CG magic working for you.

Generally speaking, thus far during these six episodes Schwarzesmarken has looked better than Total Eclipse in general, but we’re still halfway through. A review on the series at this point would be largely meaningless, unless it was done episode-by-episode basis.

Still, some scenes look jarring when detailed TSFs act next to less detailed objects
Still, some scenes look jarring when detailed TSFs act next to less detailed objects

Discussion whether or not Schwarzesmarken is a good adaptation will come up like with it did with Total Eclipse. However, I do feel that Total Eclipse was the bad end of the stick on the long run, and it should be allowed to stand on its own legs more. Because of how Total Eclipse was received, I made a conscious decision not to read on Schwarzesmarken to the same extent. I was intending to read the first visual novel with the series, but that idea got scrapped a bit too fast due to issues. I’m still intending to stream it one of these days. I do believe each product should be taken as their own piece, be it book, movie or a television adaptation. Comparing each of them between each other and how they handle their characters can’t be directly compared without some allowances, and it’s not uncommon to prefer the first version you go through. Each version most likely changes things around, and under Watanabe’s direction Schwarzesmarken has combined some events into a smaller package, forgoing some events altogether and giving emphasize to others. To some changes like this is irksome, they expect a direct adaptation without any changes. Others expect adaptations to change to fit whatever medium they and allotted time they are given, and yours truly expects this approach.

Schwarzesmarken is all about the setting and the events, much like how Gundam W is more about the music and political struggle rather than about the Gundam pilots. Whether or its somewhat unconventional approach will be good enough to carry the series to good ratings is an open question at this point. Of course, the home release and merchandise sales will ultimately tell whether or not the show was successful. Generally, the current reception has been generally good.

I’ve enjoyed Schwarzesmarken thus far, but for different reasons than with Total Eclipse. Total Eclipse was more or less a show that had possibly good character moments and there a lot of those, but they’re mucked down. The writing is not the best, and it’s chock full of anime references that most people are not aware of, ranging from Gundam 0083 Stardust Memory to Ranma ½, from Saint Seiya to Macross. In that sense, it’s more traditional Muv-Luv than Schwarzesmarken, which has less otaku filling references and more about the history, which to some gives it more legitimacy as a standalone series.

Schwarzesmarken has discussion scenes like TE…
…combined with scenes of the hangars, though with more dynamic camera movements. However…
...on the field discussion are more often showcased during the action with this sort of cut-ins that Gundam used a lot at some point
…on the field discussion are more often showcased during the action with this sort of cut-ins that Gundam used a lot at some point

I had a bias for Total Eclipse when it aired, but for some reason I’m lacking one for Schwarzesmarken. Buying the TE Blu-Ray’s Japanese release was a political decision on my part at the time, but with current atmosphere I may not need to do that. I think I’ve been rambling a bit too much without anything solid to say, outside It’s an adaptation, don’t expect it to play the same instruments as the original piece. This doesn’t even apply to Muv-Luv, as the light novels served more a basis or as a first draft for the final product that are the visual novels. The animations more or less work as a driving force to get people into the series and spread awareness of the franchise until… well, that’s for another time. Total Eclipse’s animation had a bullshit ending, I think we all can agree on that, but as long as Schwarzesmarken keeps itself tight as it has, it will have a proper ending that will close the series with a satisfying result. Of course, the second visual novel will have an extended ending.

I’ll be putting a similar sort-of review for Schwarzesmarken when the series is over in similar fashion what I did with Total Eclipse. In the meanwhile, I need to pick up some TSF for as comparison sometime soon.

Plane elements in Tactical Surface Fighters; MiG-27 Alligator

Let’s point out that the English name of this TSF can be disputed. In Japanese, the name is アリゲートル, Arigeetoru. The little Russian I know, it should be written as Аллигаторы, or Alligatory. Seeing how no other TSF name is plural, I’m going to use my own head here and assume my ass out that its name was supposed to be Alligator, Аллигатор. It’s not uncommon to see âge misspelling names, like Schwarzesmarken or Valkylies.

The MiG-27 inherited the same basic airframe the MiG-23 had, but got a revised nose. It was first introduced to the service as MiG-23B as the ground attack variant of MiG-23, and after initial runs it saw some additional changes. Flogger-D, as NATO designated it, serves as battlefield  attacker and thus these changes accommodated its role. Both sides of the cockpit are protected from small arms fire and frontal view was increased. New terrain-avoidance radar and nav/attack systems were installed to give the pilot the edge they’d need.

MiG-23 and MiG-27 were one of the first swing-wing fighters with three sweep settings; 16-degrees for take-off, 45-degrees for cruising and 72-degrees for high performance flight. Sukhoi would continue using swing-wing in its fighters down the line. Sadly, it would seem this variable geometry configuration is more or less obsolete nowadays now that relaxed stability flight controls systems have negated most of the disadvantages the fixed platform fighter had. That, and it takes much fewer resources to designs and maintain solid fighters with no variable control surfaces.

The Tumanksy R-29B-300 turbojet engine the MiG-29 uses gives it a respectable thrust of 11 500kg. The fighters’ empty weight is 11 300kg with a maximum take-off weight at 20 300kg. The armaments are respectable, having one 30mm cannon in the belly pod with seven pylons for missiles and rockets up to 4000kg, including nuclear carry capability. Nevertheless, MiG-27 was in production almost three decades until 1997 with  around 4000 units build. It is a potent fighter with ceiling of 14 008m, range of 1080km and climb rate of 12 007m per minute, the MiG-27 can be still found serving different airforces around the world due to Soviets and Russians importing it to countries like Cuba, Iraq, Afghanistan and India.

Overall, a classic fighter, but I’m still partial for MiG-21.

Original here

I’m always surprised how tightly knit MiG variants are, but ultimately that showcases how it’s not feasible to have a fighter that would excel in all roles. As such, I’ve noticed how TSFs are either shooty or knify, but the ones trying to do both don’t really stand out at all. TSAs on the other hand stand apart from their TSF brethren just fine.

While the MiG-27 is variant of MiG-23, it’s TSF version is more or less an upgraded standalone version, and its performance and changes made to the frame were supposedly significant enough to give it a separate designation. The two look pretty much the same, having only one or two actually important changes, like on the arms and in certain details here and there, like on the knees and on the holes of the shoulder armours neat the head.

WhY mY ShOuLdErS hUrT?
An argument for all TSFs looking the same, unless you recognize how the real fighters look almost the same as well

The Alligator uses nicely surfaces and elements from the MiG-27 fighter. It’s more inspired than some other TSFs and has instantly recognizable, boxy look to it. The groin guard is a relatively unique in that it encompasses more elements than just the fighter’s nose. The head isn’t anything special, but I would argue the shapes on top of the head are inspired by the point where the variable wings are attached to the fuselage. The shoulders and arms should’ve been just a tad slimmer to follow the surprising thin nature of MiG-27, but overall there’s a healthy amount of plane elements in there, especially in the line language, mixed with TSF original materials, notably in the legs.

It would appear that close-combat focused TSFs function as equivalents for ground attack fighters. As such, the Alligator has a larger Soviet Army Combat Knife for better BETA cutting power. I’m not sure how this translates as better close combat capabilities, as the Alligator doesn’t have any more sharp points on its armour than its predecessor, Cheburashka. It’s got the WS-16 Assault Cannon and the same DS-3 MPSA shield MiG-21’s use. I guess it’s just quicker and more nimble than its predecessor, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into better performance at close range. That translates into better performance overall.

Much like the real life MiG-27, the Alligator is supposedly still in action during the events of Alternative, making  about 40% of Soviet Surface Fighter forces. It’s a competent, basic TSF that doesn’t do anything too fancy, but has the basics down just fine for a Second Generation TSF. It’s direct descendant MiG-29 Ласточка/Lastochka/Swallow and MiG-29OVT Fulcrum do everything the Alligator did and then some more while still staying in the range if Second Generation TSFs.

Of course, Su-37 and Su-47 would totally eclipse the MiG-27 in their time in terms of performance, close combat capabilities and fire power.

I just wanted to throw this in here
I just wanted to throw this in here

Remember to check the Tactical Surface Fighter tag I have for all the previous posts with TSF/plane comparisons.

What does Muv-Luv mean?

Mabu-dachi (マブダチ) in older Japanese slang that stands for good friends, best friends or real friends. Mabu (マブ) is a peculiar way of saying true or real, dachi coming from tomodachi (友達, ともだち or トモダチ.) Thus it’s easy to take that and give it a slight change into Mabu-Love, which would then stand true love. Corrupting terms, words or even sentences is nothing new to Japanese, or other languages in general, to make new terms or giving them usages. Seeing how staff at âge are bunch of fanboys from the days mabu-dachi saw most popular use, from the 80’s and 90’s respectively, it’s easy to see this then popular slang being used. Mabu-dachi is used in various other products as well, like a 2001 movie using it as its title.

The title is reflected in the catchphrase Save in the name of true love, which can be seen in the franchise’s official logo to this day.

I’m sure I can find an asset from the VNs that has only that relevant bit
That's better
That’s more like it.

The final nail in this question, for those who are still not convinced, comes from Kimi ga Nozomu Muv-Luv.

The True Love you Desired
The True Love you Desire

The furigana for 真愛 is Muv-Luv, and these two stand for True and Love respectively. There’s no doubt about the meaning of Muv-Luv any further.

What does True Love in regards of Muv-Luv stands for? There are as many different arguments as there are people reading the visual novels, and so I can’t really say anything for sure, but I’ll list a few of them.

Perhaps most divisive argument that the title refers to Sumika. She is arguably Takeru’s true love. We can also argue that because mabu-dachi is slang for true friends, we can see connection between their friendship and their romantic love. Alternative is also all about finding that one thing that can break the loop and send Takeru home. We know that is his true love that can do that, but she needs to be saved, in a sense.

Argument can be made for Meiya as well, as she is one of the two characters whose route needs to be completed in order to unlock Unlimited. Her childhood promise with Takeru can also be seen as a pact made in true love. Such love would survive through times in romantic sense, after all.

The rest of the girls, whether or not they fit the bill is an open question, one which can be turned a bit around.  What if the one true love here is Takeru? It could be seen so that as long as Sumika is present, Takeru is locked with her by his own volition and feelings towards her. With all the alternative worlds’ Takerus being one being in BETAverse, all the options are more or less Unlimited. Of course Extra has routes for all the female characters, but even then this take would hold water as we can assume each route representing one parallel world with different outcomes for whatever reason. Nevertheless, it would seem that Takeru is destined to end up with Sumika, but it’s always nice to see âge leaving such things absolutely and completely open for debate, which fans have made into certain level of warfare.

Me, using images from previous posts?
Me, using images from previous posts?

Nevertheless, Takeru being the true love would stand in Alternative too. While I’ve seen the subtitle standing for the alternative route the story takes to prevent The Day After events, which does, it can be said that it refers to the girls taking action in order to save Takeru. He being their true love, he is the one who needs to be saved at the very end. Even if it costs their lives.


[8.1.2016 addition]

I was supposed to modify this post earlier, but you know my memory. Yoshimune Koki has confirmed the meaning of the title few times around, but perhaps most recent was during Kickstarter, when he mentioned that Muv-Luv stands for true love. In addition, in one of the Kouhou no Houkou, or Roar of Publicity he mentioned that Sumika is indeed the titular true love.


I’m not interested in discussing who is the best girl or anything like that. That’s completely up one’s own opinion. What the visual novels say is another thing altogether, and how we interpret them is a whole ‘nother can of worms. Still, I can imagine we all can make our own mind to what the title refers to.

One thing I’d still want to put into the spotlight; how does the title hold up with the later instalments of the franchise?

This style seemed to be somewhat popular for a short period of time
This style seemed to be somewhat popular for a short period of time. It’s kinda rare to see a product family sharing two so distinct logos

In reality, Muv-Luv after the original visual novels is just the name of the franchise. While both of the two more important spin-offs of the original stories, Total Eclipse and the upcoming Schwarzesmarken, have romance as one of their major themes, it’s more about carrying the theme of Muv-Luv in general than being about one true love. Then again, in Total Eclipse we do see Yuuya ending up with Cryska, and it’s mutual by all means.  The animation doesn’t go that far, so in that we see Yuuya wanting to bone Shiranui Second Phase 2.

I should remember to use my own library for materials rather than spend thirty minutes trying to find a decent sized Schwarzesmarken logo

The most interesting thing with this is that Schwarzesmarken has no Muv-Luv in it. It’s just Schwarzesmarken. It’s almost like they want to make a clear distinction with it, which isn’t all too uncommon, but always a bit surprising. I know from second hand information what Schwarzesmarken is all about, but seeing how I haven’t read the actual thing myself, I’m leaving this bit open until the visual novel is released sometime in the near future. Knowing âge, it’ll be pushed back at least two times and sees the daylight sometime in 2016 rather than this year. Nevertheless, I’m sure I’m going to have some fun discussing it with a friend who is pretty well versed with events and stuff that went on between the split Germans.

As a side note, Schwarzesmarken is Engrish. It should be something like Die Schwarz Marks, The Black Marks. Essentially, âge fucked this one up, like Valkylies, but this time gave it an in-universe explanation later on; it was a Russian who gave them the name, screwing it up. Eh, it works.

I wanted to make some kind of jokes about True Love and Muv-Luv, but there’s very little one can make jokes out of. Perhaps the one thing the two have in common is that outside the whole romance thing is that we don’t have one true love, unless we so choose and decide to grasp it. In love stories this is different. My own take is that Mabu-Love is, at its core, a story about love and loss between Takeru and Sumika. That’s just me, and whatever you hold true is just as valid, unless somebody at âge decides to make definitive statements about things.