Barreling toward the end of the season, but we’ve still got a few episodes left, starting with this one: Up Against Pravda!
We pick up aboard a ship we’ve not seen before, sailing somewhere cold enough that there’s tons of ice in the ocean around it.
This is the Pravda schoolship, as you might’ve guessed by the school logo that looks suspiciously like that of the Soviet Union.
Is that Churchill having a meeting with Stalin? No, it just seems that our old friend Darjeeling has come all the way out here to talk with Pravda’s commander, Katyusha, and its vice commander, Nonna. They’re both great, as you might expect. Both their personalities are apparent immediately. Katyusha (who is, in fact, the same age as Darjeeling) is a personification of the Napoleon Complex, and has a bit of an attitude. Nonna, by contrast, is always cool, calm, and collected.
Their relationship is actually pretty funny, with Nonna almost acting like a mother to the less well-mannered Katyusha at times—though she’s as loyal as any good commie is to Dear Leader. (Though again, it should be noted, that like with the other schools, they’re all Japanese girls cosplaying (in this case the USSR) really hard.
We learn here that St. Gloriana in fact lost their semifinals match to Kuromorimine (who Pravda beat the previous year), and that Katyusha isn’t taking her own semifinals match too seriously, on account of it being a no-name school (Oarai.) She’s then informed (perhaps not for the first time, though she only now pays attention) that said school is captained by a Nishizumi. Though she relaxes again learning that it’s only Miho. However, we can see that word of Miho’s–and Oarai’s–exploits is getting around.
Next, we cut back to our main girls, who are overseeing some maintenance and upgrades. The Panzer IV has been outfitted with that longer, more powerful cannon they found last time, and it’s been given some more armor too. Also, one of the new tanks they found (the B1 Bis) is now ready for action. The motor club are the unsung heroes of the team, truly.
Of course, we now need a crew for this new tank. In comes Sodoko and her two clones, who are on the disciplinary committee. Their team is named Mallard, and Mako is assigned to help teach them about driving, much to Sodoko’s horror. After so long lording over the chronically late and absent Mako, she’s now in a position where she’ll be learning from her. Their interactions are always really funny, and the show never misses an opportunity to show character in these apparently innocuous interactions.
With the whole team here now, they’re informed that they’ll be facing Pravda, and the Student Council makes it clear that they MUST win. They insist on it, even though, to be completely honest, a brand new team like them getting to the semi-finals is already really impressive. But they insist. They have to win, no matter what. It’s clear that there’s something more going on, and that becomes more apparent when Anzu invites Miho to come on by the Student Council room later.
When she arrives, though, they never do seem to get to what they wanted to tell her, talking about the food Anzu made, then about all their great experiences during their time at Oarai. They actually get really, really sentimental about it (even the normally stern Momo), and poor Miho is confused as to the point of all this. As she leaves later, she’s still wondering what they’d wanted to tell her.
We then get a cut back to the Student Council trio, who note that they failed to tell her the truth, but Anzu decides that it was for the best, that they didn’t want to burden Miho with more stress from their own worries. Things have come a long way from that first episode where these three were portrayed almost as antagonists when they forced Miho into Senshadou. These girls are on a mission, one that really matters to them, but they truly to like and respect Miho, so they chose to allow her to just focus on the match as any other match. The show has plenty of true, meaningful character development like this, but it’s usually done in a subtle way so that you can almost forgive some viewers for missing it.
Miho’s success is making waves elsewhere, too, as we see even her mom is now aware of it, and displeased. She is talking with Maho about Miho’s heresy, as it were, and announces that she’s going to watch the semifinals, and tell Miho that she’s been officially disowned. It’s also clear, though, that despite her harsh exterior Maho is a bit torn between loyalty to the family way, and her love for her little sister.
Meanwhile, the Oarai team is preparing for the match, specifically preparing warm weather stuff (though most of them still just end up wearing their short skirts during the match lol), and getting their creative ideas shot down by Sodoko, chief of the fun police.
It’s a very upbeat environment, as everyone is really hyped up and excited following their most recent win against Anzio (which we didn’t see, but will eventually). Also, as another little note regarding the family conflicts in the show, Hana’s mom is finally going to come watch a match. It’s a well set-up parallel with Miho. They’ve both become estranged from their mothers due to their Senshadou activities, and this will be the first time each mother watches one of these matches. Though, of course, their plots are in different places; Hana’s mom is starting on the path to accepting her daughter’s choice of activity, while Miho’s is more disgusted with her “heresy” than ever.
Miho, later, is concerned. The Pravda tank lineup is far superior, and they have a full complement of 15 (the maximum allowed for this round), while Oarai has a mere 6. she knows that one option might be to try a quick rush for the enemy flagtank, but she also knows Pravda’s preferred tactics (false retreats, double envelopments, as seen in the real life WW2), and so they’d only have one shot at a quick victory if they tried for that. High risk, high reward.
The next scene takes us to the battlefield, after a quick shot of the much larger Pravda ship next to Oarai’s. (It is a neat, subtle way of symbolizing Oarai’s underdog status once again.) The team is still fairly relaxed as the take care of their final cold weather preparations. (They’re wearing gloves, but still with the short skirts despite the cold. Anime, I guess.)
However, things get more serious as Katyusha and Nonna arrive for a pre-match meet-up, of course in a Katyusha rocket launcher truck. (Whoever decided to use the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy music as Katyusha struts over to them deserves a raise, by the way.)
Katyusha immediately starts trash talking, and also, as Anzu (short herself) comes to greet her, gets into her most well known position, sitting on Nonna’s shoulders so as to make up for her own short stature. Mini-Stalin is not to be trifled with!
She gets in a bit more trash-talk to Miho, who was the primary cause of Pravda’s easy win in last year’s finals, then heads off. Despite her attitude, she’s a good girl at heart–though it might take some time to see that.
Time for the match to begin! Despite the cold, there are a decent number of spectators, including Darjeeling and Orange Pekoe of St. Gloriana–in their usual setup of course. Pekoe is already so obviously on Team Oarai, but tries not to be so open about it.
Now we’ve got a final team briefing, and it seems Miho decided on a less aggressive plan, to let Pravda make the first move. However, the fired-up team is all in favor of a fast attack, and Miho is kind of browbeaten into going along with it despite her reservations—though she does rationalize that it could make sense to try that when Yukari & Hana voice concern over changing the plan last minute. This sort of thing happens, of course, but no commander ever likes it.
The match gets underway, and we cut over to Katyusha and her team, where she’s leveling min-Stalin level threats at her crews should they mess up. She wants to completely crush Oarai by taking out all of their tanks, even though they only need to eliminate the flagtank (which in this match is Duck Team’s Type 89.)
They’re pretty fired up too, and then we get to the scene that first convinced me to check out the show. As their tanks advance through the snow, Katyusha and Nonna lead the team in singing the Soviet-era Russian folk song, Katyusha. It’s a really beautiful scene, and (while their pronunciation is a bit off at times) it’s a great rendition of a wonderful song—the music is perhaps the best cover of Katyusha that exists. They only sing part of the song in the episode, but the full version is in the soundtrack (and it may be due to the fact that Nonna’s voice actress is a weeb equivalent for Russia, so speaks Russian), and there was an edit made. As I mentioned above, I first discovered the series when someone shared that video on Twitter, and it was good. He then told me I should check the show out, and the rest is history. It’s a rabbit hole I may never get out of, but I’m happy here. (Also, top points to the people who did the subtitles for including both a transliteration of the Russian lyrics & the English translations.)
It’s also why you must watch the subtitled version, and not the localized version on Netflix. For some reason, there was a right issue with some music, and so in the dub Katyusha is replaced by Korebrinki, aka the Tetris music. It’s nice music, but pales in compression, and doesn’t fit the show. Also the girls don’t sing, so they just sit there, static, as it plays. It’s infinitely worse. The subtitled version on Netflix added the song back in, but it’s still just the girls sitting static, not singing, so it’s still inferior.
Tldr, watch the subbed version, damn it!
Meanwhile, Team Oarai is keeping their spirits up despite the cold as they advance, but Pravda scouts are watching, and report to Katyusha, who is eating (as she so often is seen doing) as she waits for the report. They’re quite prepared to counter a quick push by Oarai, and they go to set their plan in motion.
Oarai is having a bit of trouble with the terrain, particularly the new Mallard Team, to the point where Mako takes over for their driver to get them past a snowbank.
Anglerfish team blows through a snowbank as they advance, and Hana’s mom is still uncomfortable with the idea of her daughter firing a tank cannon.
The freshmen in Rabbit Team are excited to see cute squirrels as they advance, but the History Club is more wary, fighting a Russian themed school, in winter. The dreaded Stalingrad is of course mentioned. Keep that in mind going forward.
There’s no more time to contemplate though, as they find Pravda’s outer perimeter of just three tanks, which they engage, taking out two.
The team’s confidence now shoots through the roof, with only Miho still worried. Things are going too well.
However, they’re committed now, and they press the attack, chasing the surviving enemy tank.
All too soon, they find a line of enemy tanks, which includes the flagtank. They charge ahead, taking out another tank as the rest of the Pravda forces retreats. The seasoned spectators, including Maho and her mom and Darjeeling, see what the excited and inexperienced Oarai crews do not.
Miho is kind of losing control of the team as they advance, seeing victory so close at hand, and they chase Pravda toward a small abandoned town. Miho is still a bit unsure of herself, and not assertive enough as a leader, which is what led to her losing control of her team like this. She’s come a long way, but she hasn’t reach the peak of her potential yet.
If they can just hit the flag tank…
Then the trap is sprung, as Pravda tanks surround the Oarai team completely. And they’re taking heavy fire.
As some of their tanks take damage, Miho does the only thing she can, and orders them all to seek shelter in a large church. They’re completely cornered, but safe for now (I imagine there are rules against collapsing the building on top of them.) Worse, one of the M3’s guns is destroyed, the Stug III has thrown a track, and the Panzer IV’s turret isn’t moving right.
However, they’re not dead, not yet, thanks to Katyusha’s Napoleon complex. She gives them an offer: Take three hours to consider surrender. A humiliating surrender, of course.
We get a nice historical reference here too, as Momo replies “Nuts!” It’s a reference to an American general in WW2, who sent that reply to the Germans who had his unit surrounded. He won the battle in the end, as it happens.
Also, it’s kind of hilarious that the Senshadou rules allow for this. Just imagine watching this match, especially live, in the cold, and then hearing that once side has called a 3 hour cease-fire. Not exactly the best TV lol (from an in-universe perspective), but it is what it is.
Some of the Oarai girls want to fight to the end, but Miho is worried that fighting from this position might lead to injuries. And besides, they already did really well, getting this far on their first try.
But Momo won’t hear it. They have to win, no matter what.
This troubles Miho, of course, as it reminds her of her mother’s philosophy. She actually quotes Kay here, mentioning that Senshadou isn’t war, that winning isn’t everything. This is what allowed her to enjoy the sport again, after all. She’s made new friends, had fun, and they did well. She’s fallen in love with the school too, and wants to hold onto this positive feeling. Sports usually are supposed to be just a fun thing that you don’t take too seriously, after all.
Then, Momo finally reveals the truth. If they lose, there will be no more school!
Anzu confirms this a moment later. If Oarai doesn’t win the tournament, their school will be closed down.
And that’s where the episode ends, on a nice juicy cliffhanger as we finally learn what the plot is—and realize that we didn’t really need one until now to enjoy the show. It’s a classic sports movie plot, after all. Win the big game to save the school. Nothing new, but the execution is just so damn good.
That’s all for now; I hope to get the next installment of this series out soon–I don’t want to leave you all with this cliffhanger! Until then, you can check out my books on Amazon–the seventh and final book in the Galaxy Ascendant series will be coming to Kickstarter soon, G-d willing.
Also, especially for my more anime-inclined readers, yesterday I announced a new series: Light Unto Another World. It’s an isekai light novel series like you’ve never seen–but which also preserves the pure fun that the genre is capable of. G-d willing, this will really get moving in the mid-to-late summer. Watch this space for more updates, and you can check out my post from yesterday to learn more about it. For now, you can check out the awesome cover art for Volume 1 of the series!