Lunchtime fun on the Panzer IV
Girls und Panzer this week takes the time to set us up for the rest of the series by taking a break from the great tank action, and giving us some, in my opinion, great character time. Leading right from the crisis at the end of the last episode, first we see Hana, Miho, and Yukari at the hospital to visit Mako and her grandmother. It’s the next day, so Saori and Mako are still there in their school uniforms. And Mako’s grandmother is quite the firebrand, not interested in convalescence or being sick or anything. Mako tries to get her to calm down, but she’s more devoted to straightening Mako up. And while she’s critical of everything Mako does, it doesn’t seem overly cruel or misplaced, just trying to get Mako to be more of a good person. And on the way out, grandma even quietly asks Miho to take care of Mako. It’s obvious that Mako loves her grandmother, and that grandma loves Mako, but wants to improve her as best as she can. On the trip back to school, Saori explains that the main reason Mako wants to graduate is to be more supportive of her grandmother. Her parents had been killed in an accident, and to make it worse, the last interaction Mako had with her mother was an argument, so there’s residual guilt and regret.
Miho faces her mother and Maho
And that theme of residual guilt leads us to the next part of the character backgrounds, as we get to see Miho’s mother in a flashback for the first time (Mako apparently had been worried that Miho had also argued with her mother, and left on bad terms). Miho thinks about her mother’s explanation of Nishizumi Style, which is “Always Moving Forward, Never Backward”, and focused on “strength and conquest”. And this might be interpreted as “win at all costs” but I think it’s more face value than that. From what Maho said in the interview, and what her mother says, it’s “Never give up and never stop trying”. And that may have been Miho’s biggest mistake following last year’s finals, where she apparently abandoned her tank to save her teammates whose tank had slid down a bank into a river and sunk. While she was out of the flag tank, Pravda shot it and won the match.
Faced with the disgrace of being the blame for Black Forest’s first loss in 10 years, she decided to quit Sensha-do and move to a different school. I think that was the actual disgrace and tarnishing of the Nishizumi name, not the loss. Thinking back on it, Miho remembers that Sensha-do had been all about winning, and now she hadn’t won. But it’s understandable that she might think that. Here she is in a program that has had such success for far longer than she, or even her older sister, had been around, and programs like that can really become all about the winning. But is that really the lesson that her mother and Maho were trying to make her learn? It doesn’t seem so. If the show had wanted to, it could have easily shown Miho getting berated for losing the match by her mother. But that hasn’t been shown. Instead, she talks about making progress and not giving up. And maybe that’s the strength and conquest that she means most of all. After all this explanation, I could still be wrong, but so far it’s been vague enough, and the overall message of the show being about friendship and support, that to turn Maho and her mother into people advocating the exact opposite from the message of the show seems like it would completely undercut it. Plus, we saw the actions of Maho upon seeing the crisis that befell Mako, offering the Black Forest helicopter to transport her as quickly as possible to Oarai to be by her side. Maho explained that it was for Sensha-do, but it’s likely that Maho makes no difference between Sensha-do and Nishizumi Style, and that’s the support and moving forward.
All together, literally supporting Mako
And now, in the Oarai girls, Miho has found her real source of strength: the support of friends that she’s never had before. I’ve thought since episode three that the overarching message of Girls und Panzer is one of Friendship and Support. And as Miho once again turns melancholy thinking about her past and “winning is the only thing that matters”, Yukari relates the story about last year’s finals, and her support for Miho’s decision, that saving people was more important than winning. And the rest of Team Ankou concurs, relating how much fun they’re having because they’re with each other, providing that support and friendship. Of course they’re talking about this while having lunch on the PzIV, in the tank barn. So dedicated!
Help us, Nishizumi-senpai!
The last bit of support we see overtly is when Miho, who has become the unchallenged Oarai team leader, starts to get inundated with questions, problems, and requests, the rest of Team Ankou chimes in to take some of the load off her shoulders, and probably even to do a better job, because while Saori might not be as much of an expert on boyfriends as she wants to be, she’s gotta be better on the subject than Miho. So Hana helps with paperwork, Saori helps the first-years with their relationship issues, Yukari helps with tank tech questions, and Mako ‘helps’ with driving demonstrations. Who knows if Mako will learn that not everyone is as good as she is at driving, but that does help explain what I noticed especially in the first battle against Saint Gloriana, as the Type 89 ran with the PzIV and the StuG into Oarai, they were all over the road.
On the search for new tanks
Meanwhile, Miho works on the strategy for the upcoming match, but she’s concerned that their firepower isn’t up to snuff. That’s when they realize that there were more tanks in the history of the program (a point foreshadowed by the number characters on the tanks when they found them). There are supposedly 3 more tanks, based on the known numbers up to 8. This starts the search again, and they turn up a French B1 bis in a puddle (seriously, they couldn’t find a tank in the bog before?) and a new gun for the PzIV! Finally! And at the end of the episode, as they search inside the ship for the lost Rabbit team and Saori, they find them literally under the barrel of a Tiger. So two new tanks, and a better gun for Ankou, and even though they can’t use them for the next match, it lifts their spirits enough that they crush Anzio to make it to the semi-finals of the tournament against Pravda.
This episode might have been laid back, but it was still a lot of fun.
The only thing you could call even the least bit bad this week is that we really didn’t get to see much action, as they just showed a decimated Anzio team at the end of the episode. But that just saves more time for the battles against Pravda and ultimately Black Forest. Given the schedule so far of spanning the battles across two episodes, we’ll likely see the Semifinal for the next two episodes, and then the final for the last two episodes. And my guess is that the one remaining episode, 10, will be another one with more exposition, potentially the wrapup of Miho’s personal crisis heading into the final against her sister, and maybe we’ll even get to see some of the fight between Saint Gloriana and Black Forest. We haven’t seen the Oarai girls spectate at all, and that might be a fun one. The other option is that they’ll spend all of next week finding the two other teams for the new tanks, but I think they’ve gotta get started on the battle by the end of the next episode.
Ugly? Heck no! These are such cute sailor uniforms!
There’s no ugly here. The show’s still brilliant, and I think this character-based episode probably did a lot to win over a lot of the fans of the action who hadn’t really invested in the characters. They gave a lot of background, but did it in the same way they have done it all series: tossing out quick lines to explain things. Like the Rabbit team actually asks why they are on a ship, and Saori gives a long, obviously stock, answer about ‘cultivating the next generation of leaders, and promoting self-reliance’, and then blows it all out of the water with “or it could just be politics gone wrong.” So really the answer is “because we’re on a ship, that’s why we’re on a ship.” Plus, who didn’t just gape in surprise in Episode 1 when they pulled away at the end to show that huge carrier?
Come back next week for more! And now, some screenshots: