Let’s Talk Girls Und Panzer: Episode 2

Now let’s get into episode 2: “Getting in the Tank!”

Upon rewatching, I was reminded of just how much they managed to pack into this episode; it felt longer than 24 minutes, but in a good way. Once again, Girls Und Panzer demonstrates how to make good use of limited time.

This episode picks up right where episode 1 left off, with our girls in the tank garage, which only contains the one Panzer IV. Obvious problem is that, based on their numbers—and the fact that they are putting together a Senshadou team, they need five tanks in all. So, time to go tank hunting! And quickly, too, as the Student Council has already lined up an instructor to start training them in just 2 days. Of course, said Student Council has no idea where the tanks that they are sure are around might be—and offer no real help either.

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Is this a commentary on governments, or am I just reading that into this scene?

Saori puts it well, and lends strength to my satire theory, when she makes the obvious point that this isn’t quite what the promo video sold them. Well girls, that’s how authority often works, be it government, military, or student council! But don’t worry, the President promises, the coming instructor is good-looking. She promises. Saori is back on board, and excited. For now.

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Lesson not learned, Saori. Lesson not learned. At least not yet.

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So our main three, plus a certain floof lurking in the background, set out to search, starting in a parking lot—because tanks are vehicles, I guess. Surprise surprise, there’s no tank there. As they head to the woods—reminder that this is all on an aircraft carrier deck, by the way—Miho decides it’s past time to acknowledge their tagalong, and formally invites her to join them. I’m sure I’m going to end up saying this many times over the course of these posts, but I really like just how nice pretty much everyone is on this show. Especially in western stories set in high schools, you rarely have such a genuinely nice cast of characters. Even the girls who are one point or another are positioned as antagonists aren’t the stereotypical “bad” or “mean” girls. It’s so wholesome, and I love it.

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Enter Yukari Akiyama, possibly the most popular character on the show, based on what I’ve seen, waifu and/or spirit animal of many. And it’ll quickly become apparent why she has earned so much love. Introductions are made, and she’s very eager to help.

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We then cut over to the freshmen team, which has taken a very different approach to searching—they hit the library to try and research where they might find a tank. They aren’t finding much useful information yet, but it was a novel idea, which none of the other teams seem to have considered, and it’s an example of the show using little moments to give each team some time to shine, and give us some more insight into them. We’ve already got a large cast, after all, so you need to be efficient about it.

Back with Miho and friends, they do manage to find a tank, a German 38(t), thanks to Hana’s keen—some might say supernaturally strong—sense of smell. It’s in this scene where we also get the first hints—well, to be honest I’m not sure these are subtle enough to be mere hints—that Yukari is a huge tank nerd. One of the reasons for the character’s popularity. (There was also a funny moment earlier stemming from Saori mishearing Yukari’s “Panzer Vor,” German for “Tank, forward,” a phrase we will be hearing very often throughout the series. Yukari gets super excited, rattling off a ton of info about the tank they found—a bit much for some, though her knowledge is going to come in handy later on. Don’t apologize for your love of tanks!

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They inform the Student Council, which is helpfully sitting back at the garage doing nothing, then get a montage of the other teams each finding a tank. The volleyball club rappels down to a cave in a mountainside and finds a Type 89 (how it got into said cave remains a mystery, by the way. I saw a fan-made diagram showing how impossible it’d be for the tank to have fallen from the cliff to the cave, which only leaves the possibility of a massive catapult chucking it in there. How, why? We never learn, but that’s fine. Best explanation I can come up with is that when the school’s old team was disbanded, that tank’s crew went to drastic measures to ensure it wasn’t sold off or scrapped.)

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The history club team find a Stug III in a pond or lake, and the freshmen find a rabbit-infested M3 Lee in a shed or storage unit.

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So now we’ve got 5 tanks. 5 tanks in dire need to cleaning, repair, pretty much everything. It’s quickly decided that each team will take the tank they found, with the exception of Miho’s team, which gets the Panzer IV while the Student Council takes the 38(t). After each team gets a moment to react to their assigned vehicle, with some funny moments, it’s time to clean the things. And as mentioned above, there’s no shortage of work to be done.

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My former army base had a decommissioned Merkava I on it, as a monument, but you could go inside it, and so I can say firsthand that to clean a tank that’s been just sitting outside for years well enough that it could be made functional is not a simple task—and a very gross one. Especially on the inside. Fortunately, we never had to do that in real life, but just from going inside, I could sympathize with what the girls faced here.

So it’s time to clean the tanks, and the anime fortunately doesn’t feel the need to go full fanservice mode here—remember, in the show proper, the tanks are the real fanservice—so apart from poor Yuzu, the Student Council vice president, who’s tricked both into washing the tank in a bikini and into doing all the work herself, they’re just wearing gym clothes. After a quick tank-washing montage, the tough and dirty work is complete, and once the automotive club fixes the tanks up overnight, because they’re just that good—don’t worry, we’ll get to actually see them later on—Oarai will have 5 functioning tanks, in time for their instructor’s arrival. Miho still isn’t super enthused about getting in a tank again, but she’s committed, and not about to turn her back on her friends.

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By now it’s evening, and time for some group bonding. We also get one (actually several) of many instances of Saori pretending to know a ton about boys and/or having boyfriends, only to be savagely shot down by Hana. It’s hard to explain why these little moments are so funny if you haven’t watched the show, but they really are.

One the way home, the main group visits the Tank Shop, otherwise known as the Best Store Ever, which sells tons of tank-related stuff such as models, books, military uniforms, and apparently even tank parts. There’s also a tank battle arcade game, and of course a TV in the corner which is on the sports channel. Yukari gets to geek out some more, and the show takes the opportunity to sneak in some worldbuilding. First a bit about the safety in matches, though at least for now it’s pretty much handwaved away. Long story short, live round are used, but things are arranged to it’s safe for the operators (we later learn that the crew compartments are specially reinforced with some high-tech carbon coating that prevents them from getting penetrated, and it’s implied that the rounds themselves, while live, are of lesser power than they were in actual warfare. The show is well aware that its basic premise requires some suspension of disbelief, so it doesn’t spend too much time trying to explain or justify it. This is just how it is, and you have to accept it. And honestly, for the type of show this is, we don’t need more than we get. Anyone who couldn’t get past the premise wasn’t going to be convinced otherwise by any in-universe explanation anyway.

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More important, in my view, is something snuck in via said TV broadcast, where, of all people, Miho’s older sister, a well known and respected tank commander in the high school league is being interviewed. It clearly makes Miho uncomfortable, and again the show demonstrates that it knows when dialogue is not needed. A lesser show might’ve had an entire scene, here, of reactions and/or discussion of Miho’s sister, and why it made Miho uncomfortable. But it’s not time for that, and her friends are good enough friends to know not to try and press the issue, with Saori ending the uncomfortable moment by inviting everyone over to Miho’s room for dinner. She really is an underrated character, imo. In the real world, she’d probably have no trouble finding a boyfriend lol.

There isn’t a whole lot to say about this next scene, other than that it’s some wholesome bonding; we’ve met 4 of our 5 main characters now, so it’s worth the time spent showing them just hanging out together. Their group dynamic is very fun to watch, and you can see how much it means to Miho that she has a solid, fun group of friends. This is also just another really wholesome scene. Friendship FTW!

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Also Yukari carries a full soldier’s mess kit with her in her backpack everywhere. Respect.

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When the others all head home, you can see, with almost no dialogue once again, how much this means to Miho; she has a real spring in her step, and you can see her earlier nervousness and lack of confidence starting to recede.

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She’s running late the next morning, but it’s all meant to be, as it causes her to run into the 5th member of our main group (though we did see her briefly last episode): Mako Reizei, patron saint of people who hate mornings, who is stumbling, half-conscious, in the direction of the school. I’m not going to screencap all of her great lines here, but she’s got several. Miho being the good girl she is, helps walk Mako to the school, where one of the disciplinary committee members notes that this is the 245th! Day in a row she is late to school. Remember this for later.

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Fortunately, Miho isn’t too late for Senshadou, and all the girls are lined up, waiting for their instructor to arrive.

And it’s quite an entrance, indeed. A modern Japanese Type 10 tank drops out of a cargo plane (tanks can actually do this, though it’s not common these days, if done at all, and certainly not with anyone inside). The tank, on its landing platform, skids through the parking lot, and crashes right into the principal’s fancy car (a principal we never see, by the way), and to the amusement and/or discomfort of all, proceeds to then back over the car, utterly squashing it. Take that, authority!

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The instructor, Ami Chouno, then emerges from her tank, and Saori realizes she’s been had once again.

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She addresses the group, and immediately—and unintentionally—makes Miho uncomfortable when she recognizes here and starts talking about how awesome at Senshadou her family is. And just like the show itself, she wastes no time, immediately announcing that they are going to participate in a mock battle, now. Clearly a proponent of hands-on teaching, but it’s probably the best way to go about it, seeing as they have to get up to speed in a short period of time. (In actual militaries today that is definitely not how you’d start tank training.) There’s understandable nervousness all around, and worse, many of the girls don’t even know how to operate their tanks.

One of the freshmen tries to ask for advice online, and gets the typical responses one might expect from guys online. “Google it, noob,” “take off your clothes.” A+ internet accuracy.

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We get a couple quick shots of the other teams, learning why the volleyball club is here—they want to somehow use Senshadou success as a way to get their disbanded club reinstated—then we’re back to our main group, who are trying to determine who’ll do what in their tank. After Miho adamantly rejects the idea of being commander, they just decide by drawing straws, and we end up with Saori as commander, Hana as the driver, Yukari as the gunner, and Miho as the loader. All wrong, all wrong. But that’s where we’re at for now.

Saori doesn’t quite like being in the tank, but Yukari’s attitude as they’re about to get moving is pretty much how I imagine I’d react. Pure, adrenaline-filled excitement. “Panzerhigh.”

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Miho gives a quick basic instruction on how to drive the tank, and after accidentally going backwards and almost hitting a wall, they’re off. We don’t get a huge amount of internal tank shots where we get to see its operation, but when we do, there’s as much detail there as we get of the outsides. No corners being cut here; the creators really know their stuff.

As they get moving, so do the others, with varying degrees of success. The freshmen finally figure things out, while the volleyball team promptly crashed into a tree. In true jock fashion, their first proposed solution for getting out of their situation is willpower. They’re very enthusiastic and well meaning, at least.

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The Panzer IV also hits a tree branch, Saori realizing that it’s hard, over the noise of the tank, to give orders, so we learn about a technique that was actually used, at least at times, in older tanks, where the commander would kick the driver on the correct shoulder when they wanted to turn.

After the hijinks of getting moving and generally figuring out how to maneuver, though, all the tanks make it to their starting points. It’s going to be a free-for all match: Last tank standing wins. After a martial arts style bow, it begins. After maybe a few minutes of training, these teenage girls have been entrusted with firing live tank ammo at each other. Sounds like fun! Anzu, the Student Council president, probably echoes the thoughts of many when she calls it all a bit sketchy.

All their inexperience in on full display as Miho’s team decides to go after the Student Council first (why? Because Saori is still mad about getting lied to), while several of the others have already agreed to team up on Miho, as they realize she’s the only one with any experience, and obviously the biggest threat in the game.

A little detail worth noting, is that while Miho had refused the position of commander earlier, she is the one taking in their surroundings and situation, head out of her hatch. Just like anyone experienced with something, once you’re back in it the muscle memory takes over. Just like in the flash-forward from episode 1, she has her head out, cool even while under fire (don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe), and it’s thanks to that that she sees they’re about to run over Mako, who’s napping in the woods, as one does.

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And that’s where we wrap up this time, on a nice little cliffhanger!

 

Since I didn’t talk about it in last episode, I figure I should give my thoughts on the show’s opening theme, Dreamriser, and the end credits song, Enter, Enter Mission. When I first watched the show, I didn’t particularly care for them (didn’t like them or dislike them) they grew on me. They’re both very happy and upbeat, matching the show’s tone perfectly. In the opening, we get a nice selection of scenes, including shots of every main team, plus many characters we’ve yet to meet. At the end, we get a little chibi tank and crew chugging along as the credits roll and the song plays. It’s extremely cute, and we see a different tank & crew each time.

So that about does it for episode 2; as I said at the start, there’s a lot packed into this, as the show barrels toward what we’re primarily here for, the tank battles. Like with episode 1, I’ve seen some complain that it’s mostly just worldbuilding and exposition, but for me it did a fine job getting information, and character development (the show does in fact have just enough). Remember, you can do a lot in minimal time, if you’re clever about it, and know what your story needs. I hope I don’t get too repetitive in that regard, but it really bears repeating. I’m greatly enjoying this (both writing about the show and rewatching it again), and I hope you are too!

Be sure to join me next time, as we get closer to reaching the flash-forward where the show began!

 

If you enjoyed this and missed my post on episode 1, you can check it out here.

I also have awesome space opera books, and more, over on Amazon, and more recently I opened a Patreonand a Subscribestar, if you’d like to support my writing. Until next time!

Galaxy Ascendant series so far (through 5)

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