Let’s Talk Girls Und Panzer: Episode 5

After a bit of a delay, it’s time to get back to my look at Girls Und Panzer! Just a quick note, I do definitely plan on having other stuff here too. Got another couple posts lined up hopefully for this week.

As fun as this series continues to be, I’m not going to turn this site into Girls Und Panzer fanpage lol. Or am I? 😉

But enough of that; this week we really get into the meat of the series.

Now, let’s get into Episode 5: “Up Against the Strong Sherman Troopers!”

We pick up more or less where we left off, shortly after the big assembly where the matchups for round one of the tournament were decided, and we pick up with our main group at the best café ever created: the tank café. Everything is tank themed, from the décor (which includes tons of little Easter eggs for people more knowledgeable in the area of WW2 era war machines than I am), and even the cakes are tank shaped! Seriously, why does this not exist in real life?

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The girls have a similar assessment of the themed café, and we get another reminder that the rush of cannons firing has truly gotten to them.

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Miho is still a little down, feeling like it’s her fault they ended up paired with a tough opponent for the first round. Worse, the tank limit per team for the first round (10) means that Oarai will be outnumbered two to one, against a team that also has better overall tanks, and much more experience. Par for the course for a sports underdog story, which is what Girls Und Panzer is, at heart.

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Yes, Mako, take out your anger at the possibility of not getting those precious attendance credits on the tank cake. For her part, Saori wants to get to the finals, which are nationally broadcast, as that might get her fans, and a boyfriend. This little fun scene in the tank café isn’t frivolous; we’ve already gotten some important character stuff reiterated, and there’s more to come.

As they eat, who happens to pass by but Miho’s older sister Maho, and her second in command, Erika. The tension is immediate, and Erika in particular starts trash talking, at least until Mako gets in a really good one, shutting her up. If there wasn’t enough incentive to win before, now they really want it just to stick it to the elitists. Of course, their school, Kuromorimine (which translates to Black Forest, another historical reference) is arguably the best Senshadou school in the country.

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And just like that, we have our primary antagonists. Yes, I use the term antagonist instead of villain deliberately, but not saying anything more for now.

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We pick up on the transport home, with Miho and Yukari having a nice moment talking about, well, a very sportsmanlike approach to the tournament, only to be interrupted by the Student Council, who insist that they must win, no matter what. It’s clear they’re hiding something, but we don’t know what yet (though I’m sure you can start to speculate.)

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This immediately puts much more pressure on Miho, who mentions that if only she knew the enemy tank lineup, she could better prepare.

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Cue a lightbulb moment for Yukari. (And have I mentioned yet that this show is really good at conveying things via character facial expressions alone?)

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After a quick shot of one of the school fleet supply ships (of the Sunkus chain store mentioned by Miho back in episode one), we’re back at the school, where we see our main group—minus the suspiciously missing Yukari–is heading home from school.

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Having also been unable to reach her by phone, the girls swing by Yukari’s family home (and barber shop), and talk to her parents, who were under the impression she’d gone to school (Miho and friends wisely don’t mention that she in fact was not there that day.) It’s also immediately clear that friends of Yukari coming to visit is something unheard of. We’re about to get some Yukari backstory, and it’s going to tie directly into the show’s themes of friendship & tanks.

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The girls are invited in, and sit down to wait in her room (her room is basically what you’d expect from someone completely obsessed with tanks) as we get some more background from Yukari’s mom. Yukari’s tank obsession apparently led to her having a very hard time making any friends, so they’re extremely happy that Senshadou has enabled her to finally make some friends.

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Right after her mom leaves the room, Yukari herself arrives. Through the window. Wearing a Sunkus uniform. After a moment of confusion, she reveals that she has something for them to see.

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We’re then treated to what initially looks like an informational video about Saunders Academy, but it’s really a video Yukari took when she infiltrated the school. Ever-resourceful, she managed to stow away aboard a supply ship going there, and then infiltrated the school and a meeting of the Senshadou team.

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She also edited the video a bit on the way home. It went quite well, and she makes the obvious observation that students are quite into the whole American cosplay thing, until she asked too many questions at the meeting.

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When challenged to identify herself, she identified herself as Sergeant Oddball (a war movie reference). Both Saunders sub commanders get angry at the infiltration, but it’s worth noting that the school’s commander, Kay (more on her later) finds it hilarious, probably because she got the reference. Yukari escaped, of course.

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This is all legal within the Senshadou rules, of course (Yukari would be the one to know), and now, with this intelligence, Miho can come up with a workable plan.

Things then get into the feels territory a bit, as Yukari is touched that they were worried about her, and says that it’s the first time she’s had friends come to her room.

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It’s all very wholesome. At least until Mako is reminded that morning practices start the next day.

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The next scene is at the end of the day’s practice. However, the rest of her team says they have some things to take care of, so Miho heads home alone. On the way, though, she remembers she forgot her tactics notebook back in school, and heads back for it, noticing that her friends’ bags are still in their classroom. She finds them out practicing more with their tank. They’re extra determined to get better, to show Maho that Oarai’s team is not an embarrassment. There really is a lot of wholesome this episode.

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Next we get a montage of preparing for the match. This includes training, repainting the tanks to look normal, though they add team logos (all cute animals) to the sides of the tanks. Miho’s team is the Anglerfish, history club is the Hippo, the freshmen are the Rabbit, the volleyball club is the Duck, and the Student Council is the Turtle. They’re also all fitted for proper Senshadou “battle” uniforms, and they come out pretty slick.

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Then, it’s day of the match, and the Oarai team is finishing their final preparations. It’s also worth noting, here, that there is attention to detail put into even the shots of small crowds of extras. They don’t take the shortcuts some shows do; you don’t see obvious copy-pasted models, or awkward cgi.

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They’re then approached by the two Saunders sub-commanders, but they aren’t there to yell at Yukari: They’re there to invite the Oarai team to eat and socialize at the Saunders camp. Another nice moment of sportsmanship, and, as we soon see, this school is rich, with pretty much every relevant amenity present at their main campsite.

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They’re immediately greeted by the Saunders team leadership, especially Kay. You’re going to love her too. The best way to describe her is aggressively friendly and informal, in a positive sense. I’m going to provide more screenshots than necessary, because it’s great.

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Her great attitude is more apparent when, instead of displaying any irritation with Yukari for her infiltration of her school, Kay asks if she got home alright, and then let’s her know she’s welcome back at any time. Just as a reminder, their teams are about to face off in the first round of the high school championship tournament. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, and will mention yet again later, the series’ theme of sportsmanship is presented without any cynicism, or irony. With the exception of Maho and Erika, everyone we’ve met so far has been friendly, with a positive (if at times competitive) attitude. I honestly wish there were more of this in sports shows & movies.

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The next scene takes us to the start of the match, and soon the first proper match of the show begins!

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Unlike their previous match, this one is a flagtank match, which just means that each team has a “flag” tank, which the enemy needs to take out to win. So, it gives undermanned teams more of a fighting chance.

So, the match begins, and as both teams advance, Saunders takes an aggressive approach while Miho begins to put her carefully crafted plan into action.

The Rabbit Team in their M3 Lee head off to scout (and by the way, girls, you don’t get to complain about it being hot in the tank when you’re only in there for maybe an hour or so for the match. Tankers in wartime had it much worse. However, they immediately encounter not 3 (as they’d expected) but 6 Saunders tanks, closing in on their position almost immediately. The only option is to run for it and hope reinforcements can arrive to help in time.

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As this takes place, we cut away to Darjeeling and orange Pekoe, who will be providing occasional commentary for us during the tournament. More important, however, is as Darjeeling recounts a probably made-up story, we see a suspicious white object floating in the sky.

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Yes. The American cosplay team is essentially wiretapping their opponents. Stereotypes exist for a reason.

A quick cut soon confirms that Alisa, one of the Saunders sub commanders (in their flag tank) is in fact listening in on radio transmissions. So, when Anglerfish and Duck Teams arrived to help Rabbit, they find themselves under attack by 9 of the ten Saunders tanks… almost like they were anticipating their moves.

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Some quick, desperate maneuvers (and the fact that the forest hampered Saunders’ ability to make the best use of their superior numbers and firepower) allow the three Oarai tanks to escape, and Miho then realizes what’s been going on.

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Now it’s really on.

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She updates her team, and they take a moment to confer, speaking outside the tank, noting that while it’s a dirty trick, it’s technically legal. There’s a quick discussion on what they should do, and Miho being Miho, she adapts quickly, and comes up with the perfect counter.

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We don’t get the details just yet, but, as we next hear her broadcasting orders over the radio, Alisa listening in, I think you can get an idea of the ploy.

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They’re giving false orders over the radio to fool the eavesdroppers, while using their cellphones to actually communicate a plan to lure the enemy into a trap. To better sell the ruse, the Duck Team’s tank tows some logs to create a larger dust cloud to fake more tanks being there, to draw most of the attention as two Saunders tanks, mistakenly believing they’re near the Oarai flag tank, are lured into a trap.

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I’ll never stop finding the scene where a Saunders crew member is scanning the area, and spots the concealed Stug III, gun pointing right at them, and, in exquisite American-style fashion (and with wonderful, wonderful Engrish that has really graced us this episodes), simply exclaims “Jesus!” as her tank is hit and taken out, its partner only just escaping.

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Everyone is shocked by this, from Maho, Erika, Darjeeling and Pekoe, watching the match, to Alisa and Kay (who gives us another hilarious reaction moment.) But as has been established about her character, Kay isn’t angry, rather excited at the idea of an interesting match.

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Remember, even with this win, Oarai is still badly outmatched by every metric, on paper at least. With a shot of a very Commander Miho moment, the episode ends, and we’ll need to wait till episode 6 for the conclusion to this match. Our girls have been thrown into their first real match, one they cannot lose, and thus far, they’ve stepped up.

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Before we wrap up, I want to also note that the battles are done in a manner that maintains the realism of the tanks and tank warfare (apart from the increased speed). Anime is often associated with going over the top, and pushing the boundaries of realism so far that they might not exist, but that’s not what’s done here. The tanks function like tanks should, and the tactics employed are plausible and clever. Also, unlike so many battle scenes in fiction, there aren’t a million things flying around constantly, which really give almost every shot real weight. It’s just something so different, and that makes it extra fun. There’s just so much care put into every aspect of this show, and that’s part of what makes rewatching it again and again still eminently enjoyable.

The action is not here for the sake of action, despite the tank battles being a centerpiece of the show. The tension is maintained throughout, and both humor and character moments are sprinkled in. As I’ve said many times already, I never get tired of this.

Be sure to tune in next time, as we cover episode 6, and finish off this battle.

 

In addition to gushing about how much I love this show, I also write awesome books! Galaxy Ascendant 6 is coming out very soon, and the first 5 are already available on Amazon! Also, I have a Patreonand a Subscribestar, were, for only a couple dollars a month at the lowest tiers, you’ll be able to get first access to updates, new art (and G-d willing there’ll be some awesome stuff to share there in the not too distant future). Come join the fun!

Galaxy Ascendant series so far (through 5)

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