These two episodes cover the events of the third novel, introducing Lise into the squadron and then sending them to participate in Operation Neptune, a massive international battle. As I mentioned before, Lise has been heavily present in the anime so far (not to mention in the opening and ending sequences), so her joining the Schwarzesmarken squadron is no surprise to anime viewers. It was played like a much bigger event in the novels.
The events of Operation Neptune suffer a bit from having to rush through the entire story in only 12 episodes. If this show had gotten 24 episodes, this storyline would essentially have become the finale to the first cour, a massive operation that dwarfs everything up to this point. But because we enter into it starting with episode 4, we don’t really get that sense of raising the stakes. The actual events of this story arc are presented fairly faithfully, without many changes. It’s the intended scale of the operation that gets a little lost in the show’s frenetic pacing.
This is the story arc in Scharzesmarken that comes closest to exploring the international relations that I loved in Muv-Luv and Total Eclipse. The West German characters add an interesting dynamic to the series, somewhat similar to Leon and Sharon’s introduction in Total Eclipse, and while they come back later, it’s a shame that we don’t get to see even more of them. I would have also liked to have gotten to know the American characters better. But ultimately, Schwarzesmarken is more concerned with the domestic situation in East Germany, so this is really the only story arc where it makes time for its international cast. Couple that with the fact that this is the beginning of Gretel’s transformation into one of the show’s most compelling characters, and it should be clear why I have a lot of love for this section of the story.