Spirits are high among the Oarai Sensha-do team. Pleased with their progression from nowhere to a semifinalist in the National Championship, they end up taking a rather aloof attitude towards their semi-final match against Pravda. Nobody expects them to win, and they’ve done great to get to this point. So it’s understandable that they don’t really treat the match with total seriousness. They don’t exactly slack off, but “disciplined” and “attentive” aren’t exactly the watch words for this match. But they do have a new tank, to be crewed by the Disciplinary Committee headed by “Sodoko”, Mako’s favorite target of derision.
Can’t bring themselves to tell Miho
Of course, the big bad news that the Student Council has been dreading getting out, but the audience already knew, is still hanging over the school. The school is going to be disbanded, and the only hope is that they win the National Tournament. To be honest, I’m not sure they are even certain that that would save the school, because it seems like a not quite complete plan. But it’s the best plan they have. But even though Anzu, Momo, and Yuzuko try to tell Miho about it over dinner before the match, they can’t bring themselves to do it, preferring to reminisce about their fun times at Oarai. And in the end, Miho is left wondering what they wanted to tell her, while Anzu justifies it by saying that it’s better that she doesn’t know, because it would put a lot of pressure on her.
Pravda’s trap is sprung
Miho’s familiar with Pravda, having faced them in the finals last year (as vice-commander under her sister). And she knows the Russian squad’s tendencies, like a false retreat leading to entrapment. And in planning, she rejects the quick strike for this very reason, even though Oarai can’t win a battle of attrition, outnumbered 15 to 6 (the limit has gone up for the semi-finals). But when they get to the match, the high spirits of the other girls convince her to change her strategy to go with the quick strike that the rest of the tank crews want. Some people are thinking this is a huge mistake that Miho makes, and she does get shouted down. But she was obviously already considering that it was a plausible strategy, she just thought it inferior to her other strategy. There’s definitely something to be said with going along with what those on your team want to do, even if you think something else is better. It was pretty obvious that she was unlikely to convince them otherwise, and trying to do so would have probably meant that they go into battle with a team that’s not invested in the strategy, and not working together. But ultimately, the strategy backfires, as they do get themselves pulled into a trap (from the red mist descending over their eyes after a small amount of success). And suddenly they’re surrounded by 12 tanks. Forced to hole up in a building, the Pravda commander sends the offer that if they will surrender and bow down to her, she’ll accept their resignation.
Katyusha can’t stand to be looked down on.
And that Pravda commander is really a piece of work. Katyusha, a short (she looks up to Anzu… until she makes Nonna piggy back her up higher than everyone), brash, even boorish girl with a superiority complex, is great fun. Easily offended by the merest imagined slight, she’s clearly compensating for something. But all her scenes are great, from meeting with Darjeeling for tea to meeting the Oarai team and sticking the knife in Miho by thanking her for the win last year, to the great scene of the Pravda tanks rolling out to the strains of the Soviet soldier-inspiring song Katyusha (and if you watched the Crunchyroll stream, go see it, since it was cut out of the stream due to copyright issues. Not that the holder wouldn’t let them use it, but that they likely didn’t know if anyone did hold the copyright).
Making the decision
So when the Oarai girls are faced with the ultimatum, they declare they are not too prideful to bow down to Katyusha, and are pleased with the progress they’ve made in just a year, and there’s always next year. And that’s when Momo finally has to drop the bomb: If they don’t win, there won’t be a next year, because the school will be closed. And the earlier scenes of the student council reminiscing about the school, really add to the emotional impact here, as Momo, who is usually hot tempered and angry, has a different feel to her, one of desperation in trying to save something that she clearly loves, even if she’s not the type of person to openly express that kind of emotion. But what are they going to do? How can they fight back when the M3’s 70mm gun is destroyed, the StuG is missing a track, the PzIV (even with its new gun) is damaged with a non-functioning turret, and they’re trapped inside a building and encircled?
The damaged StuG is saved by Ankou
And finally, despite the early reports of the shuttering of the entire anime industry thanks to the greatness of this episode, I’m pretty sure there will be more Girls und Panzer next week. We have to see what Miho can come up with!
Maho and Shiho both serious
(although I got a laugh out of Shiho’s jodhpurs)
There are now (or at least soon will be) two Team Ankou girls disowned from their families, as Shiho Nishizumi (Miho and Maho’s mother, head of the Prime family of the Nishizumi clan) finally learns of Miho’s exploits with the Oarai girls school Sensha-do team. Bad enough that Miho had bailed on Black Forest Peak after contributing to the loss in the finals, transferring to a no-name school to apparently avoid repercussions from the battle, but now instead of just running away from Sensha-do, she’s taken up with another school! As Shiho says, Miho has abandoned her obligations as a Nishizumi, and is just doing as she pleases. The qualities of “iron discipline and a heart of steel” are lost on her, and Shiho cannot allow her to disgrace the Nishizumi name anymore. Maho is quick to defend herself (against no argument) that she upholds these qualities, but seems to want to say something about Miho, yet is cut off by her mother. Could Maho be thinking of defending Miho? Perhaps Maho sees the changes that being in a different program have wrought on Miho, and can realize that the doctrine of Nishizumi style just does not suit Miho, or that Miho is not disgracing the name. Yet she is unable to stand up to her mother at this time, and instead is going to attend the match with her, so that Shiho can tell Miho in person that she is now disowned.
And touching back to the other girl in the Ankou tank that is on the outs with her mother, Hana’s family is also attending the match, as Shinzaborou has brought Isuzu-san to the match to try to show her Hana’s success, even pointing out that Hana fired a particular shot, only to hear in retort “Yes, with the same hands that she uses to arrange flowers”. We are thus reassured that the main conflict for Hana’s mother is the tanks themselves, and how they are dirtying the hands that touch such beauty. Yet Hana still uses flowers to brighten the environment around her – Miho’s room at dinner, Mako’s grandmother’s hospital room, the Student Council office. Hana hasn’t turned her back on flowers at all, but is she making progress in adding the strength and power to her arrangements that she wanted to?
Will they accept the terms for their surrender?
This is definitely the ugliest predicament that Oarai has found themselves in thus far. Their three most powerful guns, the only ones with really a chance at taking down the Pravda tanks, are either out or crippled. The remaining tanks don’t have the firepower or the armor to go toe-to-toe with the Russian tanks, and they’re in a terrible spot both tactically and in mindset, since they’re now aware of the terrible fate that will befall their school should they (as they look certain to do) lose. Can Miho earn a reputation as a tactical genius? That’s what it’ll take for them to win this match.