RogerBW's Blog

Schwarzesmarken 21 January 2017

2016 alternate history mecha science fiction, adaptation of a manga spinoff of a visual novel, 12 episodes: AniDB. In 1983, the 666th Tactical Surface Fighter Squadron of the East German Army is the only force between the invading alien hordes and the rest of Germany.

"All we have left is endless despair, living through battle; In this crumbling world, all you can believe in is the pain in your heart" as one of the fan subtitlers translated the opening theme song. In the grim alternate history, there is only war. And cool mecha.

Actually it's not really much of an alternate history; it's more like names taken out of real history, with alien invasion as the explanation for anything that's different. There are hordes of aliens swarming out of the east, which you'd think would be a fairly obvious metaphor, but it turns out the Soviet Union is still there and indeed able to provide assistance to its friends within the DDR, even though the alien invasion started in China and has now spread to Germany.

As usual, only the mecha are really much use against the aliens, with armour and infantry forces very much secondary, and conventional aircraft nonexistent (there are aliens which shoot down aircraft, though these mecha can fly close to the ground). Some of them have model designations like "MiG-23", but this never really affects anything; it's just a name. However, while these pilots are the usual array of teenage girls in skin-tight body suits, they do suffer from combat fatigue and stress. Which puts them in a pretty lousy position when they realise that the Stasi, not content with being in control behind the scenes, is moving the pieces into position for an actual coup, and to hell with the bits of Germany that'll be taken by the aliens while they're doing it.

And that is why I watched it: a bunch of admittedly clich├ęd characters collide with hard political realities, and don't come off well. Fighting spirit doesn't help you much when the other guy has the guns.

The mecha fighting is over-busy and moves so quickly that backgrounds and even relative positions are largely irrelevant (though there are some good moments at ground level showing just how much damage is done to people's lives when mecha are fighting in a crowded city). The writers are clearly aiming to have the Worst Possible Thing happen to the characters, particularly the lone male pilot, and it's a little overdone at times, but overall it manages to hold together in a way that I didn't entirely expect.

Not great mecha action, but there's a surprisingly thoughtful undertone here.

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