Girls und Panzer
In an attempt to get away from Tankery, a popular pastime among regional schools, Miho Nishizumi attends Orai Girl's High School. Unfortunately for her, the student council are about to reintroduce this club activity to the school, and they are not planning on letting Miho's tankery experience go to waste.
In the race of putting anime high school girls into activities you'd normally wouldn't associate with either girls or teenagers before the market saturates, we've seen some interesting choices over the last couple of years.
And, as the "they had me at..." expression goes, tanks was one of those moments where I had to be there.
In a sense, Girls und Panzer is a lot like most other shows starring high school girls -- most of them fit neatly into the various arcetypes people like to see; the bubbly one, the graceful one, the somewhat antisocial loner, the nerdy one (glasses optional) and the most popular choice for the lead; the go-getter with a poor self-image. (Usually over something that happened in their past.)
Which is where we learn the first problem with Girls und Panzer; too many damn characters. At best, unless you have a Rainman-level memory for keeping track of things, like names, you'll barely remember a tenth of the characters in this show. (For me, who's kind of terrible about remembering names, it's even more futile.) The show does solve this by basically grouping them together in each tank, which at least partially solves the problem. But in the end, that also means that more than three-fourths of the cast are relatively unimportant characters. It's actually the tanks that count.
Fortunately, it's there that Girls und Panzer finds its strength, both in the comedy and in the action. Research has obviously been done both in design and historical lessons about each of the tanks the Orai find, repair and put to work in their club, not to mention the ones they go up against once the tournament start. You could jokingly state that the tanks themselves have more personality than most of the cast. Maybe it's even true.
The show is almost worth watching for the Tankery club promotional performance alone. The club president gathers everyone in the main hall and runs this hilarious promotional video about how Tankery will make you popular with the boys, as well as turn you into a lady of elegance and fine standing. The big irony is that one of the characters in this show is a huge tank nerd, which might very well turn some of the viewers into tank nerds as well (though possibly not for the right reasons.) And.... is Yukari playing not really Battle Zone there? Well played, Girls und Panzer. Well played indeed.
Even now it's kind of hard to tell whether I like the show for the odd combination of tanks and girls or just the tanks themselves. Much like with a show I've recently watched; Encouragement of Climb, the framework of which the show is set is very much in danger of stealing the attention away from things you can feature in a Megami Magazine poster.
It also helps that the visuals are actually pretty damn good, at least insofar as the tanks go. OK, they're a bit flat-shaded during the action sequences, but throughout the show, the tanks drive around in a curiously realistic manner. Background designs tend to vary some; going from fairly realistic (in a videogame kind of a way) to oddly flat-shaded. Brace yourself for the camera pan at the end of the first episode. It might make some jaws drop. It's also curiously nice about the small details; the way the tanks leave tracks, and how various types of surface or damage influence the caterpillar tracks of the tanks themselves. Despite its partial simplicity, Girls und Panzer actually has some impressive CG work to its name, which is a surprising rarity in anime.
Another thing you need to know going into the show is that it makes no damn sense. I get the appeal behind the whole "underdog competition" thing, but the way the competition is set up -- they seemingly fire with live rounds, which just sounds like all kinds of irresponsible, especially since the girls are often seen sticking their heads and upper bodies out through the hatches on the tanks themselves, even when being shot at. (It's briefly commented at in one of the episodes, but never really brought up again.) It might be that they use some kind of special simulation rounds, but they never really explain that to any extent either, and something is definitely being fired, seeing as the tanks take actual damage to their plating. It's the sort of thing that would never be accepted in any kind of real-life situation.
The show also made the unfortunate choice of playing up the underdog angle a bit too hard. Once the tournament starts, our team of heroes' main problem seems to be that they don't really have a lot of tanks, and usually go up against opponents with not only more modern equipment, but also superior numbers. It's a bit offset by Miho actually putting strategy and tactics to good use, but they're still going up against people who have done this longer than them. There's also a scene somewhere in the middle where they should by right have lost, but didn't. I guess it's OK to rely on Lady Luck from time to time, huh?
With the light tank nerdery and the lively, go-getter atmosphere, it's hard to dislike this show. It strikes that great balance of nerdery and fun. The characters tend to fall on the weaker side here, though, and on a more personal note, I also didn't appreciate the casual way the show relied on blackmail to get its characters into the "right" spots. That said, I appreciated Miho's problem, once it gets to the surface and how it's used later on as a point of strength, albeit disadvantageously so. Basically, it's flawed, but too much fun to look down on.
Also, I want to play Return Fire now for some reason.
Barely four, but "three" and "fun" doesn't share the same first letter, and that's just inappropriate. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: There is some light fanservice in this show -- the girls are occasionally seen bathing or in swimsuits -- but nothing particularly heavy.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream from Crunchyroll.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Girls und Panzer © 2012 Actas, Lantis.
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