Yukari’s not quitting the team to work at a Convenience Store, but she is a sneaky spy!
The (now) 74th National Sensha-do Tournament kicks off this week, and the Oarai girls are moving into the big leagues against the well-prepared Saunders team. A team with an American basis, they have all Sherman tanks of different specs, and have a large force of them, to boot. And even though you can only use 10 tanks in the first round of the tournament, that’s still twice as many as Oarai can field. How are they going to deal with this disadvantage, in addition to their relative inexperience?
Just like all except the first episode have been so far, we get the episode split into some story and character development for a portion, and tank action for another portion. I really like the way that the show is splitting the battles up across multiple episodes, and evening out the action through the series. It helps to keep everyone interested, because I know there are some people who don’t really get that interested in the girls’ non-tank activities, although I find them both funny and interesting. This time, we start off with the aftermath of the Tournament draw, with the Team Ankou girls enjoying dessert in a amusingly tank-themed restaurant – from the tank server call button to the cute tank-shaped cakes that are brought out on model military flatbed trucks. We also get a bit of a ominous introduction, as Miho’s older sister Maho and her assistant (whose name is probably Erika, based on the cast list) come by and chuck crappy attitudes and insults at Ankou and Oarai in general. One part of the exchange, Yukari actually stands up and defends Miho’s actions “in the last battle”, and this has to refer to the one that she apparently failed on (probably has to do with that sinking shot in the OP, and in her flashbacks earlier in the series). It turns out that Maho is on the Black Forest team, the almost prohibitive favorite for the title who, looking at the table from last episode, are also in the bottom half of the Championship bracket, setting them up for a likely fight against Oarai in the finals. It also sets up an interesting possibility for the series, in that we might see a fight that doesn’t include Oarai, since Black Forest will have to fight Saint Gloriana in the semis, if they both get there. And the show is still showing Darjeeling and Orange Pekoe as spectators (and they seem to be favoring Oarai) to the current match, so I’m guessing they’re not just bit players.
“Finally our daughter has friends who aren’t metal!”
For other character development, this time it’s Yukari who is in a bit of the spotlight. After Miho wishes she had more intel on the Saunders team composition, Yukari is missing from school, and the girls stumble upon a somewhat run-down barber shop that is run by Yukari’s parents, who are overjoyed when the girls introduce themselves as Yukari’s friends. Apparently, she’s never really had any friends, being more interested in tanks (although Saori opines that her unstylish hairstyle was more to blame). They invite them up to Yukari’s room, and while they’re waiting, she sneaks in the window in a convenience store clerk’s outfit, with video from her infiltration onto the Saunders ship and into their school to find out their strategy for the match. And even though she was exposed, she did get good info on their force composition, and gave their team leader a laugh when she was caught out and made a break for it.
What’s that thing in the bushes?
The battle takes up the last part of the show, and it seems that the Saunders tanks are a step ahead of the Oarai girls, a little bit *too* ahead, which leads Miho to figure out that their radio comms are being intercepted. Showing some more of her tactical acumen, she uses the radio comms to fake out some of the Saunders tanks while coordinating their own movements through cell phones to set up an ambush for the ambushers. The result is one tank down for Saunders, to the great surprise of everyone watching, including the Black Forest team. How will the rest of the battle play out?
One thing I’ve really enjoyed about the whole series so far is that they give a lot of information in small bits, not loading it down with large slabs of exposition or supporting. This makes it seem a lot more natural that it comes up in conversation, since it’s usually Miho or Yukari informing Saori or Hana of a particular rule or tactic or something. For instance, the information that they can only use 10 tanks, and that ammo is limited is discussed over cake, or Yukari’s stating that pre-match recon is allowed under tournament rules, or looking up in the rulebook whether intercepting comms is ok. But then it really seems like the show follows up with little details. Ammo is limited in the battle (although it’s not said whether it’s per team or per tank), and it seems like the Oarai girls take this to heart, as when they’re running through the woods to try to get away from the first ambush, the only firing they do is a couple of pot shots by the Rabbits to keep the pursuers on their toes. Everyone else holds their firing discipline, not wasting rounds. Even during their ambush, taking down the enemy tank, it’s not like it was in their last battle – lots of rounds fired wildly. This time, it’s one shot per gun from three tanks (the M3 having two guns), and 3 out of 4 hit the target (wonder whose miss that was?).
Extra practice to try to be as good as their commander.
They also managed to throw in a bit of a training montage, as well as showing that the rest of Ankou is putting in extra hours of practice so that they’re up to Miho’s level. The tanks are repainted to normal colors, with just cute cartoony animal logos that correspond to their call sign (although Momo doesn’t like being Turtle). And the training is definitely paying off. Even though the First Years are scared, their driver holds it together and gets them out of danger, and they follow Miho’s instructions well to get help. The others have picked it up as well, with the ambush of the Shermans pulled off from excellent defilade cover on the part of the StuG.
Shhhhhh! Don’t tell them where my potato chips are!
What is the big secret that the Seitokai is holding on to? We’ve gotten hints that they *can’t* lose the matches, because there would be dire consequences, but they haven’t actually let on what would happen. And if it was just Momo saying that, I’d chalk it up to her general overstatement, but Yuzuko also starts to say something and is shushed by Momo. As usual, Kaichou Anzu is quick to wave it off and move on to thinking up another punishment game for them if they lose. Hopefully, we won’t need to see this one.
The other bad this week is that we have to wait 2 weeks to find out how this match goes! Nooooooo! Next week’s episode is labeled “5.5” and I’m guessing it’s probably a recap / clip show. If it’s something new, I’ll blog it, but if it’s just a recap, I won’t be.
Maho’s got the glare down pat.
The Ugly seems to be some bad blood, or at least history, between Maho and Miho Nishizumi. It’s easy to tell that their personalities are radically different, as Miho is fairly bubbly and cheerful, and Maho is serious and stern. It’s easy to imagine that Miho’s desire to be more friendly and personable is seen as weakness in the Nishizumi family, and that it’s blamed for her past ‘failures’, although that seems to be a possible point of contention (see Yukari’s defense of Miho’s actions). I do begin to wonder what “Nishizumi-style” actually entails, however, because Miho seems to be far more creative in her battle tactics than everyone they’ve faced, and has really adapted to the realities of each battle in a way that keeps the enemy on their toes (enemies you’d presume would be familiar with Nishizumi Style). It’s hard to imagine Maho acting that way, as she seems much more of a ‘We have a plan, we stick to the plan, if we execute our plan, we will win, because it’s the plan’ type of person. Now, she could be an on-the-fly tactical genius as well, but that’s not the impression I’m getting. If these two do have to battle each other, it will be very interesting to see what comes out.