Yes, you can be a hero!
Even if you asked me to, I couldn’t exactly articulate what I was expecting going into the first episode of Girls und Panzer, because it seemed like something that was just so out there that it defied expectation. Ok, High School Girls and Tanks. But this isn’t Sora no Woto redux, because there’s no hint of any apocalypse or world collapse. And it’s not like Infinite Stratos, where for whatever reason boys couldn’t even operate an IS (except for that dope Ichika). Maybe I thought the closest thing to it would be Upotte! from this past spring, which was a cute enough series with guns who were girls.
The tanks in question.
But instead, it’s just a world where, for whatever reason, crewing a tank is seen as something girls do. We hear from the main character that her mom did it, and her older sister did it. And the idea of boys driving tanks? Well, apparently that’s just silly. And although it’s been on the wane recently, well, Japan is holding the world championships for Sensha-do (the name for the ‘martial art’ of tank operation) in a couple years, and wants to have some good representatives. So what we’re left with is schools resurrecting their Sensha-do programs to prepare, including the school that our main protagonist, Miho Nishizumi had specifically selected because it *didn’t* offer a Sensha-do class. But given her family history, Miho comes under pressure to join up. Will she give in?
You’d better sign up!
Well, yeah, of course she will, because that’s what the show is about. But not after some very effective propaganda that seemingly gets everyone super stoked up:
This is tradition, this is culture, studied by girls from around the world to hone their character. They also study this martial art to hone their polite grace and their dignified femininity. Studying Sensha-do means studying what it means to be a woman. Hot and hard like steel. Lovable like the clatter of iron tracks. And of absolutely deadly passion like the main cannon. If you learn Sensha-do, you will be a good wife, a good mother, and successful in business. When your body and spirit are sound and indomitable, the goodwill of countless men is sure to be yours. Come now, let us all study Sensha-do and grow into beautiful, healthy women! “(Sensha-do introduction film, translation from Commie)
Well, who’s not going to sign up after that?!?! I found this hilarious. It’s just so openly ludicrous, over the top, and silly, I couldn’t help but enjoy it. I’ve decided that my attitude for this show is “Just go with it…” Whatever they come up with, just go with it, and it seems like it’ll be pretty darn amusing.
The characters themselves aren’t bad, but so far there’s no real standout. Miho is a typical scaredy-girl, who is amazed to make friends, and her new friends are the typical bubbly girl Saori and typical composed girl Hana. Getting close fast, they both decide to support Miho against the twin-tail-loli-tastic Student Council President and her aides, including a girl with one side of a pair of glasses, who are pressuring her to take up Sensha-do (and even though Saori and Hana have been completely persuaded by the introduction film). In the end, Miho decides to join in, and we’re off on our wacky adventures!
Yeah, she’s not going to do i… whaaaa????
And as they assemble for the first class, we’re treated to quite the rogue’s gallery of prospective classmates, including what looks like the volleyball team, a group of normal girls, the shy girl who hangs out 10 meters behind everyone else (who you know is going to join Miho, Saori, and Hana), and the weirdo group whose weird getups include a military jacket and dress uniform hat, a headband and archery chest protector, a shoulder wrap, and a samurai robe.
I’m afraid that the bad will be that there isn’t too much to this show. Like Upotte! which had a weird premise and did ok with it, but ultimately was a bit dull, I worry that they’ll just trade on “Hey, girls in tanks!” too much. But like I said, the motto for this show is “Just go with it.” So plot holes, silliness, loose ends, hey, it’s all good. I’m just gonna watch and hopefully laugh, and there were plenty of laughs in the first episode, mostly at how over the top it all was.
The ugliest thing in the premier episode was right off the bat. There’s an extended CG sequence showing some tank driving in foreshadowing of the rest of the show. And the graphical quality left a lot to be desired. The tank turns and the picture’s framerate just doesn’t work. I saw two different releases of this show, and both had the same look (I’m going to see if a third has the same) so I think it’s in the original video. Panning too fast over a background that’s too detailed, just left it feeling jarring and uncomfortable, almost nauseating (this happens to me with new video game engines as well). Hopefully we don’t get any repeats of that, but we’ll see.