So, let’s talk about a little anime series that’s occupied a good deal of my attention for the last two months or so—and if you follow me on twitter, you’d likely have seen any one of a number of my posts about it: Girls Und Panzer.
The latest entry in my anime renaissance, I came upon this show in a very different way than the other three I’ve watched since last fall (two, Goblin Slayer and Rising of the Shield Hero, I checked out because they triggered SJWs and because I like fantasy, and Kaguya-Sama, Love is War, I watched after seeing several hilarious clips from it.)
This show, already a couple years old (though still slowly releasing some new content in the form of 6 hour-long finale films), was first brought to my attention when a twitter friend posted this video, in which a bunch of the girls in tanks are singing the famous Russian song Katyusha as they ride through the snow, presumably (to one who knew nothing of the show at that point) into battle. It was a legitimately good clip, and he then said that I should check it out, and would probably enjoy it. (And it’s criminal that this scene was removed from the localized versions & dubs.)
Considering there were tanks involved, and the fact that I’ve both always thought tanks were cool & I served for nearly 2 years in the Israel Defense Force’s 7th Armored Brigade—thought sadly not in a tank (at the time of finding out about this, I was still there), I decided why not?
Then I binged the entire first season in about 2-3 days. Then watched the follow-up film, Girls Und Panzer Der Filmand all of the OVAs released for the show, along with part 1 of Das Finale (the only part currently available with English subtitles.) I’ve also done with a complete rewatch as I await part 2 of the finale.
So I suppose now that I’ve talked about how I found the show, and how much I’ve enjoyed it, that I should tell you what exactly it is, in brief. See, I was originally planning to just do one (possibly lengthy) post talking about this show, but it was just getting so long, with so much worth saying, that I decided to change things up a bit. Instead, I’m going to do a full recap/review of the series, one episode at a time (I’ll figure out how to approach the longer installments once I get to them.) As you might’ve guessed from the title of this post, today will be covering episode 1. This whole review thing is a bit new to me, so I may experiment a bit with the format. For now, I’ll be recapping each episode, and interspersing my thoughts/commentary on it as I go; then I’ll sum up a bit at the end.
As the name might imply, the show is very simply about anime high school girls who ride around in tanks and fight each other with them. This isn’t a war anime though, it’s a sports anime. Yes, you read that right. In this anime world, apparently, fighting with (largely WW2 era, with some immediate postwar) tanks is a sport played exclusively by girls, starting as young as high schoolers. This sport involves actual live ammo as well, though there are safety measures in place (some sort of advanced protective substance apparently protects the crew compartment—this is just something you have to accept, and no one gets hurt in the show).
On its surface, it’s a silly concept, but they somehow make it work, and I mean they really make it work. To get precisely into the why and how, let’s just into the first episode: “Tankery, Here It Comes!”
So we start off the first episode with a flash-forward, in which we see the beginnings on a tank battle—completely with hilariously colored tanks. This was a very good decision by the creators, as apart from this, we don’t really get much tank action in the first couple episodes as things are set up. This is vital as it gives you a taste of what the focus of the show is, to ensure you stick around. The first episodes weren’t too slow for me, but I’ve seen some reviews that say setup took a bit too long for them, and I’m sure that it’s true for many viewers, which underscores the importance of these first couple minutes. We also get a great turret POV shot here, the first of many creative “camera movements” in the show. I’ve seen some say the CG tanks in these earlier episodes isn’t that great, but it seems fine to me, though I can agree that things look even better as we get further along. As many have pointed out, the tanks are the primary mode of fanservice in this show, so it was important to get the tanks right–and from a detail perspective, they are spot on with their real-life counterparts.
Then we flash back to the true beginning, leaving said flash-forward battle on a cliffhanger, to Miho Nishizumi, our main character getting up for school. As I said above, I’m going to do my best not to spoil things for future episodes, in case you’re new to the show and watching along with these posts, but knowing what is to come, I was very impressed at how much the writers, animators get across to us in this short scene. We get the first appearance of the Boko bears, plus subtle hints both at the nature of Miho’s life prior to arriving at Oarai, and the fact that she is happy to have moved away from home. This is done with almost no dialogue, and as we’ll see throughout the series, this show knows when it’s time for dialogue or when they can get things across to the audience without it. It’s something much of visual media, anime and otherwise, should do more often, imo. As we’ll see later on, this show doesn’t waste a single scene, and that all begins here.
As a minor sidenote, I can totally related to double checking that my apartment door is locked after I leave lol.
This trend of showing, rather than telling, continues as we follow Miho to school, and get to see more of Oarai (which is actually directly inspired by the real Oarai, Japan. Here’s a link (which may include minor spoilers) that shows some of the real locations translated into the anime. Among these little worldbuilding details are the Sunkus chain of stores, and the anglerfish, which is something both the real & fiction Oarai are known for. And of course we get more confirmation that Miho is new to this school and knows nobody.
The next cut is in the school, where we, again, get some more dialogue-free information about Miho. Her attempt to be extremely orderly when leaving her things on her desk again speaks to her past life, and we also start seeing that she can be a bit scatterbrained and has confidence issues.
It’s a full 6 minutes in until more main characters are properly introduced: Hana and Saori (though both were briefly seen in the flash-forward). I’d note that they’re both great, but if I did that for every deserving character I’d sound like a broken record. Plenty of Best Girl ™ candidates to be found.
So Hana Isuzu and Saori Takebe adopt Miho as their friend, and they hit it off very well, and her first day at a new school is now going very well.
Which means it’s time for thing to go wrong. At least from one perspective.
Next shot is of our current antagonists, three girls shadowed in an ominously lit room, being a bit cryptic. The Student Council. But we know who their interest is in. As Miho and her new friends bond some more, and things keep going well, we see those ominous girls approaching, and, sure enough, they quickly single Miho out (another sidenote, the pan down to Anzu, the very short student council president, is a great comedic moment in an otherwise non-comedic scene.) The student council then tell Miho that Senshadou (translated in English subs/dubs as Tankery, Tankwondo, or Panzerfahren—the first of which is the “official” translation, but I’m going to just call is senshadou in these posts, as I like the sound of it better) is coming back to their school, and that she should sign up for it at her elective. *Not a request.*
We then get some more visual comedy as Miho basically becomes a human representation of a blue screen of death. She’s basically shut down from PTSD here, but the way it just cuts from her blue screened in the hallway to the exact same position/expression in class is hilarious. She’s sent to the nurse by the teacher (who we never see, I should add–I don’t think we ever properly see school staff), and her new friends immediately back her up by feigning maladies to go join her, see what’s up. In case it wasn’t already obvious, friendship is a big theme of this show.
So they talk a bit, and we are slowly given some more info on why Miho bluescreened, though it’s still kept vague, and Hana and Saori promise to support whatever she decides.
Then it’s time for a school propagan—I mean orientation assembly for the student council to promote the Senshadou elective. What follows is basically a trailer for the show, talking less about the sport itself and more why girls should partake (in this world tank fighting is exclusively a girl thing, as opposed to ours where it has historically been, and should remain, imo, a guy thing.) During the presentation, “learning Senshadou will give an edge to your femininity!” “if you learn Senshadou, you’ll undoubtedly become a great wife, mother, and career woman!” we get glimpses of much of our supporting cast (once again, the episode makes excellent use of every scene to get information to the viewer), and many of the reaction shots are placed at parts of the presentation video, and the following list by the student council of the frankly, insane perks students will get for joining. (A hundred food vouchers, TWO HUNDRED likenesses excused, and triple credits.) Honestly, it’s a bit surprising that more students don’t sign up just based on those benefits.
Hana and Saori are fully taken in, for their own reasons. Hana wants to do something more active than her family profession (florists), and Saori wants to attract the attention of guys–it’s something very relateable as well, as people can have any number of reasons to want to participate in a sport). Already having an idea that Miho has experience with this, they forget that she wanted to avoid it, and in their excitement, ask her to be their mentor.
But she can’t do it, and chooses something else (while we as the audience get to see a brief flash of the traumatic moment that led to her running away from the sport.
The next day, her friends gain more points toward Friends of the Year awards when they, in solidarity with Miho, decide to do the same elective as her despite their excitement about Senshadou. It gets extra wholesome when they ignore her objections by saying that they wouldn’t want to do the sport and inadvertently make her suffer through unpleasant memories. Later at lunch, you can see they both start talking to drown out girls at a nearby table talking about the sport.
But then the student council strike again, calling Miho to their office, where they essentially threaten her with expulsion if she doesn’t do as they want (student councils in this world can do that, I guess.) While her friends fight on her behalf, however, Miho makes a decision. She’ll do it.
Student Council is pleased (and relieved, as we earlier got a hint at their motives), and then we get a touching scene with our three main girls (for now) at an ice cream place, where Miho explains that she changed her mind because she was touched by how they stood up for her—something else she’d lacked in her previous life. Even her family, apparently, didn’t provide that for her (more on them later). Her friends again snap her out of a melancholic moment–these little moments serve to add a lot in a short time, giving us a clear sense of who these girls are, and then we cut to the next day, where we finally see Oarai’s Senshadou squad, for now, already divided into their teams. We’ve got the Volleyball Club, the History Club, the freshmen, Miho & crew (and a certain someone lingering in the background), plus the Student Council. They then open up a garage to reveal… a pretty decrepit Panzer IV. Most of the group is disappointed, but Miho, with her experience, is magnetically drawn to the tank, which will end up being hers, and declares it salvageable, to everyone’s delight. It’s a very nice moment, the start of Miho healing her relationship with tanks. With that, we’re off!
Oh and then we get a long panning shot, zooming out from the garage, giving us a view of the school, the town, and… yes, your eyes did not deceive you, we are on a freaking aircraft carrier! Why? Because we can. Thinking about it now, it’s actually a pretty clever reveal here to hook you, and ensure you return for episode 2, which we will, next time!
So that’s Girls Und Panzer episode 1. As you can see, there really was a lot packed into this episode. This is my third or fourth time watching it, and each time I enjoy it more, in part because I noticed more little details, hints at things to come, and as I hinted at above, it really builds up a lot for later on. I also enjoy wholesome anime, and this first episode sets that tone perfectly. I was smiling pretty much the whole way through, and now my biggest challenge will be holding off on watching the next episode until I have time to do a writeup. This is also my first time doing a recap/review/analysis thing like this, so hopefully I’ll get better at it as I go along. I hope I provided more than just a recap.
Oh yeah, as if it needs to be said, the episode gets a 10/10. Like the show as whole, it accomplishes precisely what it sets out to do. And in my opinion, that is really the best way to measure the quality of a show. Nothing appeals to everyone, of course, and it’s silly to try and compare Girls Und Panzer to, say, something like Vinland Saga or Berserk.
Also, I did post some brief general thoughts up above, but I’ll save my more detailed thoughts on the various aspects of the show for a wrap-up post once I catch up to where it is now (so either with Das Finale Part 1 or Part 2, depending on when exactly that becomes available to watch).
My own books are very different from Girls Und Panzer, but they also hold positive messages, with great characters who are (overall) good people too. You can check them out on Amazon. Later this year, I’ll have, G-d willing, a much more anime-inspired series to properly announce, but that’s for another time. 😉