And we’re back! Apologies for it being later than planned; I again underestimated how much extra time taking all the necessary screenshots would require lol. Episode 3 is another busy one, our final episode of setup before we start getting what everyone wants: One tank battle after another.
Episode 3 “Fighting A Match!” picks up right where episode 2 left off, in the middle of the free-for-all training match.
Thanks to Miho looking out of the tank, they’re able to slow enough for Mako—who’d been skipping class—to avoid getting run over and get on board. We also learn that Mako and Saori are old friends (we actually get a lot of great moments with the two of them this episode.)
They’re all safe in the tank now, but there’s still the problem of winning a “free-for-all” where several of the teams have agreed to gang up on them. They reach a bridge, and Miho, completely unworried about being outside the tank, exits to try and help Hana navigate the tank across it. It’s slow going, due to inexperience, and then a shot from the History Club’s Stug III hits very close (or perhaps grazes the Panzer IV). While it helps right the tank, which had been tilting dangerously close to falling off the bridge, either the shockwave from the impact or sheer shock causes Hana to pass out. Actually, I think this scene here is the only time we see someone hurt (indirectly) due to tank fire in the entire show, and this is where our main characters were arguably in the most danger. Let’s look more closely. Miho is completely out of the tank, while Hana, Saori, and Yukari all had their heads poking out as the History Club took their shot. Additionally, the tank had been perilously close to falling off the bridge and into a river. Thankfully, it’s all fine, but still, it does make you question the safety of the sport a bit. (Not sure if there are in-universe rules about not firing while people are out of the tank, but there should be.)
It is impressive, though, that the girls remain as calm as they do.
Anyway, with Hana passed out, they need a driver. Fortunately, Mako steps up, having figured out how to drive the tank by reading the manual for about thirty seconds. (As we quickly learn, Mako is a top student, but her chronic lateness and absences (due to her hypoglycemia that leaves her very tired often) are threatening to force her to repeat the year.
Back to the match, though, it’s time to fight back, and time for it to become clear to all of them that Miho is gifted. With Saori, currently the official tank commander, at a loss, Miho takes charge as they start to return fire.
There’s a great moment when they first fire, and we get to see their reaction to it. To put it simply, they really like the feeling, and I would imagine that’s a common reaction to being in a tank as it fires for the first time. (Also cannons firing wakes Hana up, and we get a rare moment of her looking flustered.) Yukari’s first shot takes out the Stug III. Then they do the same to the Type 89, and then the 38(t)—after we see Momo Kawashima, the student Council’s PR manager miss a shot for the first, but definitely not the last time. The final opposing tank standing, the freshmen team’s M3 Lee, gets stuck in mud when they try to flee, losing a track and overheating its engine. So Miho and friends have won their first battle! All according to plan for the Student Council.
Later, following some congratulations from their instructor (who really didn’t do much instructing, lets be honest—and this is the last we see of her in this capacity, by the way), our main team goes for a bath. After recounting their exciting day, they reassign roles. Miho is convinced to accept the commander’s position, as is only appropriate, Saori is assigned the role of radio operator—after which we get another great moment of Hana being an absolute savage toward her friend. Hana, still on a high from feeling the gun fire, asks to be their gunner, and Yukari takes on the role of loader. Now all they need is a driver, but while Mako already proved to be a natural, she doesn’t want to do Senshadou.
Luckily, Saori saves the day by browbeating Mako into joining them, by reminding her that she really needs the credits. Though Mako insists it’s only to repay Miho for her help earlier that day. Tank crew of the decade, assembled!
The next thing the team does is go shopping. Unfortunately for Yukari, it’s not to the tank shop this time, but just a normal store. Why? To buy cushions and other luxuries for the tank, of course! Miho and Yukari aren’t too sure about the idea, but they are won over—though Yukari draws the line at painting the tank. You don’t mess with that. Or at least, you shouldn’t.
This isn’t the only scene that does this, but this is as good a time as any to touch on this topic. That being, despite the fact that these girls are strong, smart characters who operate tanks, they never stop being, well, girls. They never fall into the ‘strong female character” trap that so many female characters fall into in western entertainment these days. As competent as they become in tank combat, they still remain normal high school girls in how they act, what they enjoy, and how they face challenges. While it wouldn’t surprise me if real life (male) tank crews also personalize the interior of their vehicles to some extent, I highly doubt it’d look like this tank does once they’re done. These characters are well written as people, without trying to make them act like something they’re not.
Back to the story itself, however, the next morning we return to the tanks, and see that the other teams also customized their tanks. And they went further. Too far. As you can see in the screenshot below, they got… creative with their paint jobs. I apologize for the assault on your eyes. Yukari is properly triggered by this, but to her surprise, Miho find it funny. You see, for her, before this, tanks were just something she did, and there was no joy in it. So, the silliness is a good thing in her book. It’s nice to see her gradually overcoming her tank-related PTSD.
Now, the show proper begins, as we cut to an entirely new location, where we see a few new characters: Assam, Orange Pekoe, and Darjeeling (we’ll get to know them more later on, and yes, they’re all named after teas, and no, those aren’t their actual names.) Darjeeling is talking to Anzu on the phone, and they are arranging an exhibition match between their school (St. Gloriana Girls’ Academy) and Oarai, for training purposes.
This is where the fun begins.
With a match on the way, our team continues training in such things as driving in formation and target practice, and it’s made quite clear that they still have quite a bit to learn. At the end of this, the full team is informed of the upcoming match, and both Yukari & Miho know that St. Gloriana has a very strong team, so they’re starting off with a major challenge.
There’s a wrinkle, though. For this match, they’ll have to get up early in the morning. Like, before 6am early. Which means Mako is out, as she simply doesn’t do morning. Fortunately, we have Saori, who once again browbeats/borderline blackmails Mako into reluctantly staying with the team. I can’t do the whole interaction justice here; it’s really funny, so you should go watch it yourself if you haven’t done so already.
Next up is a strategy meeting, and this scene is another step toward Miho assuming her proper position as not just a tank commander, but the team leader. Beyond her Senshadou experience, she also knows more about the team they’ll be facing. She knows that the plan proposed by Momo won’t fool their opponents, though it takes some effort to speak up. Also, this is a good example of Anzu, the Student Council president, stealing pretty much every scene she’s in. in addition to being the one to prompt (push) Miho into taking command, she makes a bet. If they win, Miho wins a prize (3 days of dried sweet potatoes—something really only Anzu cares about), but if she loses, she’ll have to do the dreaded Ankou (Anglerfish) Dance. (Also of note in this planning scene, the creators use it to show us the commanders of each tank: Azusa, commander of the freshmen team, Noriko, head of the Volleyball Club team, and Caesar of the History Club team (that’s not her real name of course—the History club are basically permanently cosplaying, and go by the names of their chosen historical figures.) Yet again, Girls Und Panzer manages to get some information across in a natural way, eschewing too much exposition.
But back to more important things, such as the Anglerfish Dance. Miho, being new to Oarai, doesn’t know anything about it, but it’s apparently so bad and embarrassing that if you do it, you’ll never live it down. Despite this, Miho’s friends promise to do the dance with her if they lose. They really are good girls. They’re more determined now to win, but whether they stand or fall, they’ll do it together.
Their first challenge the next morning, though, is getting Mako out of bed. After several comedic, failed attempts, the firing of a (blank) tank shell—in a residential area at something like 5:30am does the trick, and Mako get ready in the tank as they drive along the poor street to the part of the carrier from where they’ll disembark to have the match on land.
As they wait with several cars to disembark, the St. Gloriana school carrier—a much, much bigger one arrives. As befitting the British Empire. Although, it should be noted here (and I’ve seen many people get this wrong in reviews) that the St. Gloriana girls are not actually British. They’re Japanese just like Miho and friends, but they are essentially cosplaying as the British, stereotypes and all. No, they aren’t the only example of this in the show, and it’s something else I really love about it.
Speaking of awesome things, now seems like a good time to touch on the music of Girls Und Panzer. The show has an excellent original score, but at least during the first season, what stands out the most are the real world military marches inserted where appropriate. Here we get the first of them: As St. Gloriana arrives, a lovely rendition of The British Grenadiers plays (all the songs covers were recorded for the show, and as many of them are among the best—if not the best—covers of them you’ll find anywhere, completely serious. Each of these country-specific marches becomes the motif of the associated school, while Oarai gets their own original march—which, I’ve heard, has been unofficially adopted by the real life Oarai. My Girls Und Panzer playlist is over 3 and a half hours long, and I couldn’t tell you how many hours of this show’s music I’ve listened to.
To wrap up the episode though, they go on land to the actual Oarai town, part of which is cordoned off and I presume evacuated for the match—I wonder who came up with that idea? There’s a brief pre-match meeting between the commanders (St. Gloriana has one of the best combat uniforms of the show, by the way), and it’s quite cordial. Then the match begins! Next time, we’ll catch up to and pass the flash-forward from episode 1.
As I said up above, this is our final “setup” episode. We’ve got our main group, our greater team, and they’re finally getting to proper tank battles. This is the point where even those who felt the first few episodes were a little slow will agree things really start to pick up… in an explosive manner! How will our girls do? Is there going to be an actual overarching plot apart from “let’s do well in this sport”? You’ll find out those answers, and much more, by sticking around! Look for episode 4 later this week.
If you’re new to this series (both my analyses and the show itself), you can jump back to part 1 here.
I also have awesome space opera books, and more, over on Amazon, and more recently I opened a Patreon and a Subscribestar (I just shared the newly finished cover art for Galaxy Ascendant 6 over there), if you’d like to support my writing. Until next time!