So, I felt like taking a small break from the TE interviews by translating something a little different. Here’s an online interview with the creators of Schwarzesmarken.
This interview was conducted with Hiroki Uchida (author), Akira Yamazaki (one of the writers for The Day After and TSFiA), and Hiki (the novels’ editor).
Minor spoilers for Schwarzesmarken, I guess. I don’t think they’re any big deal. This is supposed to be free publicity for the novels, after all.
- Let’s start with Uchida-san’s profile. I hear you would write historical fiction.
Uchida: In college, I would write military fanfiction as a hobby.
I don’t know if I should say this too loudly, but I would write somewhat oddball fanfiction like putting *eaf-san’s “T* Heart” characters in a warzone, and put that on the web.
At the time I had no intention of becoming a real author, but as I put out doujinshi, an editor acquaintance of mine asked me “Do you have anything you’d like to write?” I responded “I might like to write something like this”, and he said “Write up a proposal and bring it to me”, and that’s how it all started. When I brought them my proposal, thankfully it was accepted and became a novel.
- The editor must have really liked you.
Uchida: Yeah. I wrote over 20 historical fiction novels, mostly related to World War II.
- And then, how did you get into Schwarzesmarken?
Uchida: At the time, I knew someone in the Age staff, and that person told Yoshimune-san (Kouki Yoshimune, CEO of ACID, creator of Muv-Luv, Muv-Luv Alternative, and Total Eclipse) that he knew a guy who knew a lot about military history, like the Eastern Front of WWII, and gave him my name.
Then, when Enterbrain-san released Age-san’s “Muv-Luv Alternative Integral Works”, I wrote a short story about a mechanic for it, and that’s how I got started.
About a year after that, I brought them a proposal for a story about Germany in the Alternative world.
That proposal was set at a joint West Germany/East Germany pilot training academy, and they would get into a lot of youthful hijinks, and then the BETA would start the European invasion – it was a pretty light-hearted proposal.
But then, Yoshimune-san told me “Nah, this isn’t your kind of story. You like more gritty, bloody stories. You don’t have to lie to me.” (laughs)
And then it turned out that Yoshimune-san actually already had a story set in Germany bouncing around in his head. “You want to write this instead?” “Sure!” That’s about how things turned out (laughs).
- Tell us about your writing pace.
Uchida: I’ve already long since burned through all the chapters I had built up before the serialization started, so now I’m always fighting against the deadline!
This is the first time I’ve done a serialized story, and at first I couldn’t quite get into the rythm of it. That’s why, I’m very sorry, but I will be putting my historical novel series on hold for the time being.
For now, I’ll be focusing on my Muv-Luv related work – writing a chapter every month, as well as writing stories for mooks.
- Tell us what your goal is as an author.
Uchida: I’d be happy to see my work animated . . . also, for the time being my goal is to put food on the table as an author!
- Thank you. Now, let’s move on to the main subject. The original creator and the author are different, so how does that system work?
Yamazaki: As an employee of Ixtl, the company in charge of rights management, I’ll answer this question.
Schwarzesmarken is based on an original story outline from the original creator Kouki Yoshimune. Uchida-sensei, editor Hiki-san, and I, Yamazaki, in charge of the overall layout of the Muv-Luv series, all get together and decide on the finer details.
Uchida-san is generally the one who expands on the story, delves into the main characters’ feelings, and fleshes out the supporting roles, and then Yoshimune-san looks it over, and if he gives the OK then we go with it.
It’s a pretty complicated project, so if Uchida-san hadn’t volunteered, this title probably wouldn’t have seen the light of day (laughs).
Hiki: For the current serialization, Uchida-san plots out the entire chapter. Using that as a base, each month Uchida-san, Yamazaki-san, and I have a meeting to work out the details. Afterwards, Uchida-san writes the manuscript, and Yamazaki-san and I edit the final product.
- So, has the ending been decided since the very beginning?
Yamazaki: This story’s ending is pretty much decided. The worldview is connected to Muv-Luv Alternative, so we can’t tamper with it. So, unfortunately, East Germany will not be able to fight off the BETA. The endings to the main characters have basically been decided, but there’s some wiggle room for the sub-characters.
Uchida: It’s fun to flesh out the characters whose endpoints have already been decided.
After all, one of the fun parts of writing a historical story is to take what has been recorded in the timeline and say, “This is how that event unfolded.”
Yamazaki: Schwarzesmarken is set in 1980s Europe, but we have a project called Duty -Lost Arcadia- set in 2000s Europe. I think this is the fun of a shared world, that maybe a surprising character will turn up in a surprising scene in another title.
- What parts are a struggle?
It’s a serialized story, so establishing the flow of a story every month is hard. While finalizing each chapter every month, I also have to think about the structure of the story when it is compiled into a single novel. And strictly speaking, I also have to think about the structure of the entire story – that is what takes the most thought.
Also, I have to think about the using tactics and terrain against the BETA, and how to deploy the army, and keeping these things in mind while writing is not an easy task.
- What did you think when you saw the illustrations?
Uchida: When I heard that Carnelian-sensei would be handling the artwork, I thought, “This is gonna work.” (laughs)
Thank you so much for providing such beautiful illustrations every month! I’d like to take this time to express my gratitude to Carnelian-sensei!
I gave Carnelian-sensei the character settings and information, and when I first saw the character layouts she sent back, it took my breath away . . .
Yamazaki: After the author had been decided, Yoshimune-san thought that in contrast to the gritty Uchida-san, an illustrator with a gentle touch would be a good match. He wanted to find someone with a moe-style art who could draw military works.
However, when Yoshimune-san advertised on Twitter as part of the search for an artist, Carnelian-san volunteered almost as soon as he finished typing (laughs).
You may be aware of this, but the two of them used to work together in the past, so it seems the details were ironed out very smoothly.
- What scene are you fond of in the story?
Uchida: I like the ending to volume 3. Writing it was a lot of fun. It’s a scene where Theodor has managed to bring Irisdina and Katia’s ideals to life in some small way, so it felt like all his hard work since the first volume has paid off.
Basically, I like writing scenes that resemble the scenes in robot anime or action movies that I thought were cool, and I hope I managed to convey that atmosphere.
In all three volumes, there’s a scene at the end where Theodor matures a little, and I like all of them.
- Tell us how the title was decided.
Uchida: According to Yoshimune-san’s original proposal, they were the strongest TSF squadron, but also the most hated, so the name should be something like “Death Squadron”, something that sounds cool.
But “Death Squadron” didn’t have the right hook to it, so we all talked it over, and the title Triage was suggested.
Triage refers to classifying wounded allies on the battlfield, with a black tag signifying they cannot be saved and must be abandoned, and prioritizing those with a red tag. In order to save as many lives as possible, they must choose to abandon those who cannot be saved. Then, those who are abandoned would hate them and treat them as if they were Grim Reapers – that’s what it boiled down to.
Then, we thought about a black tag, black mark, black verdict. Black is Schwarzes, so Schwarzesmarken. We decided that a Russian officer was praising the success of East Germany’s 666th TSF Squadron, and gave them that nickname. And that’s how they got their slightly grammaticaly incorrect nickname – that’s the story we came up with when we decided on the name Schwarzesmarken.
And then there’s the emblem design. Yoshimune-san designed that emblem with the horned skull.
- Please tell us the appeal of the TSF Balalaika.
Uchida: It’s a 1st generation unit, but I like the balance between slender and massive.
I bought enough Revoltechs to make the entire squadron (laughs)!
Yamazaki: We had revealed the monochrome design a long time ago, but when we colored it and equipped it with supplemental armor, it looked completely different. It really felt like a main-character machine (laughs).
Hiki: The explosive reactive armor Schurzen was Yoshimune-san’s idea. The Type-92 supplemental armor used by the Gekishin and Shiranui has these hexagonal explosive reactive armor on it, and when the BETA come into contact with it, it can detonate.
The game doesn’t have a scene that uses this, but there’s an illustration of it in Integral Works.
Also, in addition to piercing the BETA, the pointed tip of the Schurzen can also dig trenches.
Yamazaki: When the game was under development, the explosive reactive armor was designed, but there wasn’t time to create the images of it, so they had to cut it from the game while weeping (laughs).
In the 80s where Schwarzesmarken is set, when compared to the 00s where Alternative is set, communication performance is not so good. The data link is still in the developmental stage, so under bad conditions the performance is limited, so some units are equipped with parts on the head to enhance communications. In Schwarzesmarken, this is Irisdina’s MiG-21PF.
- Do you need permission to create your own terminology?
Uchida: In general I tend not to use original words, but when necessary I’ll get permission first before deciding whether or not to use it.
I do like to use cool-sounding German words as a gadget. The German language really stimulates the “chuuni” mind (laughs).
- Is it hard for you to express your own style within the Muv-Luv world?
Uchida: No, not at all (laughs).
I get to put in all sorts of things I like, like how cruel the Stasi could be, so my tastes are very much reflected.
The truth is I really like board games, so to draw on that hobby, I include a lot of situation maps (laughs).
- You mean like the active defense?
Uchida: That’s a real-world tactic that I adapted for the Alternative world.
Hiki: The TSF is not a weapon that can do anything by itself. The performance of the 1st generation units is especially not that high, so coordination with other units like tanks and self-propelled artillery is important.
Building position and holding the line of defense is a major part of Schwarzemarken within the shared world of Alternative.
Yamazaki: For instance, tactics may be developed and used in this era, but they were relatively ineffective, so we don’t see them in the world of Alternative. Or, TSF performance has improved so those tactics are no longer used. These are things that we have discussed, and it conveys a proper sense of history.
Also, the fundamental BETA behaviors are not totally understood by humanity, so in this era, they thought of it like this, but later they learned they were wrong. Yoshimune-san asked Uchida-san to include that kind of setting for people to notice.
Also, they way the heroine keeps getting knocked around is a special feature. I didn’t think she was going to piss herself. That must be Uchida-san’s taste (laughs).
Uchida: No way (laughs). If you put a pure and innocent character like Katia in front of characters stained by war, of course she’s going to get it from them (laughs). And anyway, if you’re going to talk about people pissing themselves, Alternative had Marimo-chan . . . (laughs).
- Finally, tell us a little about the next volume.
Uchida: The highlight of volume 4 is Liz. Many new truths will come to light.
On top of that, a major BETA offensive begins . . . East Germany is on the brink! The Stasi makes its move! What will you do, Theodor!! . . . that kind of thing.
The thoughts and feelings of all the characters will collide at once, so please look forward to it!