And finally we’re back with the thrilling conclusion to the Sanders vs Oarai First Round Match! After a week in which a recap episode was shown due to “production difficulties” (which seem to have been due to some shenanigans on the part of the animation staff, perhaps defying director Mizushima Tsutomu’s vow to not have pantsu shots in the anime), the battle picks up exactly where it left off.
Stumbling upon the enemy
Arisa is still intercepting the Oarai radio transmissions, but Miho is onto that, and is intentionally misdirecting them while Oarai searches for the Sanders flag tank (the one Arisa is commanding). But I was incorrect in that I thought it likely that Kay knew that Arisa was eavesdropping, and was just using the ‘woman’s intuition’ bit as cover in case they were being eavesdropped on themselves. It turns out that Kay had no idea about the radio intercept balloon (why do you need a balloon anyway, tho?) and when she finds out about it, she’s pretty ticked off. And how does she find out about it? Well, because while Sanders entire force is wandering around where they’ve been told to go trying to find a non-existent enemy, Miho and the others have been looking for the Sanders flag tank. Of course, it’s found by the Volleyball girls in Ahiru (duck) tank, who shares a look with Arisa before bugging out and reporting their location to the rest (and of course it’s Ahiru in their Type 89, the only one of the searching Oarai tanks that couldn’t realistically take out the Sherman). While Arisa tries to take out Ahiru, Noriko (former captain of the Volleyball team) uses smoke grenades to obscure their sight with volleyball-style spikes, a clever play on their Volleyball prowess.
Missed it by *that* much
Eventually, the tables turn, as the rest of the Oarai tanks join up in an ambush, but miss Arisa’s tank, and then the battle turns into a running battle, with very little accuracy, as these generation tanks just don’t have much in the way of gun stabilization. Eventually the rest of the Sanders force arrives, self-handicapped by Kay down to 4 pursuing tanks to match the Oarai numbers (since she felt that the radio tapping was out of bounds), and now the Oarai tanks are caught in the middle, trying to take out Arisa’s flag tank before the Turtle team is taken out by the chasing tanks. The quiet tactical knowledge of the show shines through here, as first we get a rolling box formation to protect the Turtles, and we even see the Hippo team in the StuG give up any hope of firing on the fleeing Sanders tank to get in position behind Oarai’s flag tank to protect it later. And they need the protection, because now that big gun of the Sanders’ Firefly, with their sharpshooter Naomi at the sights, is picking off the other Oarai tanks, first Ahiru in the Type 89 and then Usagi in the M3. Realizing it’s now or never, Miho lets Hana call for Mako to drive the PzIV up a hill to get a closer shot on the Sanders Flag, but exposing themselves to enemy fire. And Hana pulls off a perfect shot, hitting the Sanders Flag just as Naomi takes Ankou out, and winning the match for Oarai!
The end of the match (also note the great attention to detail on the impact of the Oarai tank, tracks slack and road wheels off as the tank takes the impact).
A big theme this episode, like it has been consistently throughout the show, is the support of friends. This time,after Miho fights off her worrying (with maybe a hint of PTSD with that shaking hand?) enough to encourage the Oarai girls to not give up, the support is given back to Miho from Hana, Yukari, and Saori. The friendship theme even extends to their nominal ‘enemies’, as Kay comes over and gives Miho a big hug (and eliciting some jealousy from Yukari?) and congratulations and thanks for such an exciting match. Kay also apologizes for the radio shenanigans and explains that she only brought 4 tanks to pursue because she wanted to even the match back up, and explains that it’s Sensha-do, not war. Of course, then she goes to promise an earful of chewing out to Arisa for not playing fair.
I wanted to also point out a couple great instances of camerawork throughout this battle. Girls und Panzer overall has been tremendous with its use of innovative camera shots, direction of battle sequences, and visual style. Some of the things that stood out to me this episode were:
- Uses of the cover of smoke from a shot to transition to a different camera point, first used to switch from Arisa’s Sherman to Ahiru escaping, then later used at the climax to switch from Hana’s shot to Naomi’s shot.
- The shock wave distortion around the gun blasts and traveling shots.
- The camera point fixed to a location about 2 meters off the end of the Firefly’s gun as it swings around and elevates to get a shot.
- Focus shift from the end of the Firefly barrel to the tank in a short depth of field, announcing the arrival of the Sanders reinforcements.
- The short depth of field shot of the Sanders tanks cresting the hill, with the middle tank in focus and the leading and trailing tanks out of focus.
- The continued pan shot with the fast travel between the three groups of tanks, showing Arisa running from the Oarai tanks with the Sanders tanks pursuing.
- And the overhead view as Ankou and the Firefly went up the hill, while the rest of the tanks in the battle went around the hill, getting all 8 tanks in the battle in one shot. These last two sequences did a great job at keeping the audience informed of the relative positions of the tanks.
Mako can’t wait, so she’s gonna swim for it.
There’s a bad pattern evolving in this show, tho. After each battle, there’s been bad news. From the fight against Saint Gloriana, Hana ended up disowned by her mother for setting aside flower arrangement for Sensha-do (although Hana seems to be blooming in her role as gunner for the PzIV and rock-steady support for Team Ankou). And after this victory, the bad news comes to Mako, as she gets a phone call telling her that her beloved grandmother has collapsed and is in the hospital. As Mako is held back from unthinkingly trying to swim to Oarai, more support and friendship comes from an unlikely source – the seemingly cold Maho Nishizumi, who offers the use of their helicopter to transport Mako.
The other bad news to come out of this episode? What’s on the line for Oarai. Arisa, as she’s being chased, almost totally breaks down, cursing the Oarai tanks, her luck, even the guy she likes for not noticing her. But one of the things she mentions is that Oarai shouldn’t even be in the competition, and that their school is going to be disbanded anyway! Does everyone know except the girls of Oarai?
Ugly this week is the beatdowns that Bonple High School and Chi-Ha-Tan Academy teams take at the hands of Pravda and Black Forest in the first round. Everyone expected to win in the first round does, although we don’t see who wins the (not very) highly anticipated match between Yogurt Academy and Waffle Academy (I think they needed to fill in some teams…). The second round matchups are coming up next, with Oarai facing the Italian squad of Anzio, but past that, how can Miho hope to face up to the strength of Pravda and Black Forest?