Maho says “You’d better be watching Girls und Panzer!”
Everything! So now here are the screenshots!
The Seitokai getting the bad news about Oarai’s impending closure.
Ok, I can’t just say that, but really, this episode was, like pretty much every one before it, tremendously good from top to bottom. Starting from the the perfect descriptor of a title – “It’s absolute death!” (my translation of “Zettai Zetsumei Desu!”) – Oarai is facing not only a strong enemy on the field that’s made them hole up in a building but also a more metaphorical death with their school’s future on the line due to cutbacks in funding. After finding out the terrible truth last episode, spirits are low as everyone is thinking about their own futures at a school that’s closing. But perhaps noone has found as much at Oarai as Miho, who’s actually seen the other side, and run from it, and found a place where she has made friends both close and numerous and has found her fighting spirit for Sensha-do. To steal Hana’s line, Miho is a flower that could only have bloomed at Oarai, and she really has bloomed spectacularly. So the possible closure of Oarai is something she doesn’t want to see happen, and she resolves to go down fighting to the last.
Unhappiness to Inspiration
I thought the way the spirits of the Oarai girls waxed and waned was very realistic and well done. After Miho’s first speech, everyone gets a burst of energyand spirit to get them going – fixing the StuG’s track, getting the PzIV’s turret moving (without power, tho), but unfortunately having to write off the M3’s 70mm gun, sending out scouting parties to get the enemy tank positions and types, and even serving soup. But after that initial burst, their energy flags, sucked out by the cold, the lack of enough food and blankets to keep them warm, the increasing snowstorm, and time to contemplate the fate of their team and their school. Seeing the energy go away, Momo wonders aloud if it’s even worth trying if morale is this bad, and Miho tries again to rally the troops with an imploring speech, only to get a blah response. I felt this was a very realistic way to handle it, and captured both the way it would happen for tank troops and for high school girls. And then the show gained a level of awesome and, as it so often does, moved into the just ludicrous enough to be surprising and great. Miho breaks into the Ankou Dance, imploring everyone to sing along because she’s gonna do the dance. And from a trickle to a flood, the rest of the Oarai girls join in, spirits rising again into the sky. Shared embarrassment can be uplifting, and choosing to do it of your own volition can be freeing. Interrupted by the Pravda representative announcing their decision time is up, they’re flying high just as the battle will recommence, and vow to fight to the finish.
Anzu goes off to wreck some Pravda tanks.
And what a fight it becomes. After playing into Pravda’s hands completely last episode, Miho has Oarai take the battle on its own terms this time. And it’s truly a team effort this time, unlike the other battles where Ankou were the undisputed heroes. Anzu finally steps up into a battle role, replacing Momo at the turret of the Kame (turtle) team’s 38(t), and leading them on a one tank rampage through the final echelon of the Pravda team while Yuzuko drives like a madwoman. Acting like a well-practiced team with Momo loading and Anzu firing to the best effectiveness at drive wheels and tracks, they take out two tanks and temporarily disable the IS-2 before being eliminated by Nonna. This is what everyone’s been hoping the Turtle team would do (although it would be nice to see Momo get a little redemption for her horrible accuracy earlier in the series) and it doesn’t disappoint. Meanwhile, Ankou and Kaba (Hippo) hide and let the Pravda chasers pass them and head back to try to get the Pravda flag, leaving Kamo and Usagi to protect Ahiru in their flight. Getting back to town, they start chasing the Pravda flag around the town, but can’t get a shot to take them out, even with Yukari spotting from a tower. Meanwhile Nonna has switched to the IS-2, the most deadly gun Pravda has chasing, and proceeds to whittle down the remaining Oarai tanks, first Usagi, then Kamo. Finally, Miho has the Kaba team’s StuG stop and wait in ambush while they drive the Pravda flag to them, and Nonna takes the final shot on Ahiru just as Kaba blows away the Pravda tank. How will it be decided!?!?
Some more great camera shots
There was some more of Girls und Panzer‘s unusual camera angles and exciting battle imagery this time. Because this was more of a team effort, the camera moved from mostly following Ankou to splitting time with the other tanks. Anzu’s rampage starts with a full 8 seconds of viewing through the 38(t)’s gunsight as Yuzuko drives them around and through the enemy tanks. The sequence also included closeup shots of the effects of Anzu’s shots, with road wheels and tracks blowing off the target tanks. Kamo team’s relative inexperience was used to show the effort of Gomoyo to keep up with the other tanks jinking and maneuvering in formation, as the fixed view from atop their turret shows the well-kept formation of the other four teams with the less precise formation sliding of the B1. And the firepower of the IS-2 is alluded to with the loooong sliding shot of their gun moving through the screen and then a fish-eye distortion from in front of the muzzle. And they worked in overhead shots of the battle at the Pravda flag by having Yukari scout from up in a tower. Finally, the mad dash of the Ahiru team to stay alive while Ankou and Kaba try to win the match, with moving cameras following along with their jumps and other crazy movements as they are blasted left and right by near misses, and finished up with the turret turning to the camera on the side as if to say “sheesh, really?”.
Enjoying their break
On the music front, in addition to the reprise of the Ankou Dance, they fit in more great music this episode. Katyusha moves to background music, but this episode features Nonna singing a Russian lullaby to Katyusha and as the Russian spirits are rising (while the Oarai energy falls) they have a camp of girls having a cossack dance (another thing that is gender flipped in GuP‘s world) to what sounds like Russian folk music. And the Oarai team gets in on it as Yukari and Erwin are scouting as a pair, singing Yuki no Singun (“Snowy March”) as they walk through the snow. I also want to point out something that might get overlooked, but I think is important to the flow of the show: the little surrender flags that pop out of the tanks when they are knocked out of the battle. They have been a perfect little device throughout Girls und Panzer, using something so universally recognized as an indicator of unilaterally ceasing battle and doing it in a way that’s humorous and even exciting. When we see that little flag hatch pop open and the spring loaded flag pops up and deploys, it’s either a thrill of victory, or stab of defeat. And they manage to make such an ominous symbol be humorous, even having one pop out of the *bottom* of the 38(t) after the Seitokai tank gets blown on its top. And that perfect little sound that goes with them has grown to be as much of a signal as the flag to the viewers, allowing it to be used by itself and still recognized. Because of that, they don’t have to wait for the smoke to clear to show the flag, just play the sound and keep the battle moving. To me, that’s great design, to have something that becomes completely synonymous with a concept.
So who won?!?!?!
The cliffhanger! Aaaagh! How can you do that to me? Both tanks take shots and then the credits roll. Such a delicious agony, but waiting until next week to see how it ends up will be difficult. You know that there’s plot armor for Oarai, there’s 3 more episodes, and they’ve gotta fight Black Forest Peak somehow, but how do they get there? It’s pretty astounding to me that they managed to make the show have that much tension and that much anticipation when you know deep inside what the result is going to be. Great job!
And now for real, here are the rest of the screenshots: