All for One and One for All
How did the match end? Rejoining the end of the semi-final match, after both the Oarai Type 89 and the T-34 76 of Pravda were hit by enemy shots nearly simultaneously, everyone wates with bated breath to find out who won. And the match is decided when the Type 89, sans the right track, limps over the hill, still mobile, still in the fight! The T-34, having taken a shot to the underside from the StuG, doesn’t fare as well, and the surrender flag pops up, signalling the Oarai victory! It was a decisive way to show the victory, even if maybe a little farfetched that the Type 89 could limp around (probably it being snow helped, rather than if they had been fighting on turf or woods) without a track. But it meant they didn’t have to go into timing, or tie-breakers, or anything that could bog the show down. And that sets up the National Final between Black Forest Peak and Oarai, and the head to head meeting of the two Nishizumi sisters.
The new tanks and upgrades for Oarai
From the decider of the semi-final, the show took a turn back to the happenings at school. Faced with their greatest force asymmetry yet, as the finals allow 20 tanks per team, Oarai needs to see what they can do to make their fighting force more formidable. The Tiger found in the bowels of the ship finally makes its appearance, as the Motor Club has restored it, and given that it’s a “Porsche Tiger”, a tank for Germany that ultimately wasn’t produced in numbers because of its finicky nature, it’s probably for the best that the Motor Club agrees to operate it in the battle. Yukari’s fangirling about it, which devolved into a description of its reputation for ailments – heavy so it gets stuck a lot, overheats, and catches fire – which happen as if on cue, was amusing. And in a nod to a lot of the fandom of the show, the last group from the OP shows up, starting with Nekota, the long-haired blond girl who turns out to be a tank otaku who drives tanks in an online game. She recruits her friends from the game, and they help find the Type 3 that’s hiding in plain sight. The other efforts have been put into upgrading the tanks that Oarai had before. The 38(t) is transformed into a Hetzer Tank Destroyer much like the StuG III, and the Panzer IV is given another upgrade to a Mark IV, although the wisdom of this has been questioned as it adds anti-high explosive armor skirts, but it’s unlikely that they’ll be facing any high explosive weapons (usually infantry carried). Mainly it gets an increase in weight for little benefit.
As it has been throughout the series, the theme again is support and friendship. And we see the bonds of friendship that all the tank teams have made with each other as every tank team eats together the night before the finals, all of them choosing meals of tonkatsu (pork cutlet), which is a bit of a Japanese pun, as katsu also means ‘to win’. Over dinner, Saori announces to Team Ankou that she’s gotten her 2nd-class radio operator’s license, while Team Usagi watches WWII films together, Team Ahiru practices volleyball, and the other teams just spend the time together. They’ve all pulled together, still keeping their other interests, but also sharing a new interest in Sensha-do.
Hana’s powerful arrangement
The show also dealt some with the personal problems that Hana and Miho had with their families. At the close of the Pravda match, Shiho tries to write off Oarai’s win as luck, and Maho finally finds the ability to respond to her mother regarding Miho, stating that Miho won by skill, and she has excellent lateral thinking and strategy that reacts to changing situations. Shiho, who only cares about the Nishizumi School of Sensha-do, won’t accept this as a viable fighting method, and demands that Maho crush Oarai in the finals.
Hana and her mother reconcile
But things go better for Hana, who is participating in a flower arrangement exhibit. As the rest of Team Ankou look for her entry, they see a tank-shaped vase with a great representation of an explosion out of it. They complement Hana on her arrangement, and as Hana tells them that they all inspired her, Hana’s mother appears as well, stating that her arrangement is bold and powerful, but is no longer Izusu-style. Instead, her mother complements her for breaking new ground and making her own style, apparently accepting Hana’s mixing of flower arranging and Sensha-do.
I, like a lot of people, was surprised they decided to start the battle for the finals in this episode. Maybe that was due in part to The Bad below, or maybe it was planned all along. But we see the teams preparing for battle near Mount Fuji, and we get visits to Miho by the former opponents we’ve seen: Darjeeling and Orange, Kay with Naomi and Arisa, and even Katyusha and Nonna, as they all drop by to wish Miho luck in their own ways. This was even the second visit that Miho had gotten from Katyusha in this episode, as after the semi-final match she had come to congratulate them on the victory, even having Nonna set her down to be ‘below’ Miho. Miho’s explanation for why her former enemies are so friendly to her? “Because they’re all wonderful people.” But all those same people have been beaten by Maho as well (well, except maybe for Katyusha), and none of them share the same affection for Maho that they do for Miho. At best, they admire her ability at Sensha-do, but one doubts they’re going out of their way to wish Maho luck. It all leads back to the fertile soil for growth that the unique flower that is Miho found at Oarai (I really love that metaphor of Hana’s from last episode). Finding the ability to be friends, and to experience the strong foundation of happiness that comes from having friends has really transformed Miho.
Under fire already
For the battle, Maho is going to try to get it over with quickly, using the overwhelming strength of her 20-tank team, nearly every one of which is more capable than any of Oarai’s tanks. So they make a fast rush through the woods to ambush the Oarai tanks as they’re headed to their first muster point. Under heavy fire, all the Oarai girls can do is try to run away, and the inexperience of the new girls in the Type 3 shows as they put it in reverse mistakenly. But in a highly serendipitous action, this carries them behind the Flag-bearing Team Ankou tank, just as Erika’s gunner fires on them, trying to get the match over immediately. This is probably the best use this crew would have had this match anyway, given their inexperience and trouble with driving. But Oarai’s already down another tank!
As most of the fans of the show are aware now, the schedule for Girls und Panzer has been pretty borked up. This was the last episode of original content that we’re going to see until spring, when episodes 11 and 12 will be shown to finish up the series. Next week, when they were planning on showing episode 11, they’ll instead show another intro / recap show numbered 10.5. Production delays have hit the show hard, and on his own blog, director Mizushima Tsutomu has posted an apology not just for this delay, but also for some of the quality problems in episode 10 (there are a few moments that the art really isn’t up to snuff, and objects are in other objects). A translation of his message can be read here, and even though I’m (and I’m sure lots of people are) disappointed, I thought it was an excellent apology, addressing the issues, taking responsibility, and promising what everyone wants: high quality, well-done shows for the last two episodes. He also promises that the quality issues in this episode will be cleaned up before publication of the disc versions, and also hints that there might be more in the works, which sounds like an OVA. I think most people would prefer a whole ‘nother season, because this show has truly been excellent, but I’ll take what I can get.
Ominous or cute?
Another thing that might have been bad this week is how many death flags they appeared to set. In any other show, all this talk about how great we all are as friends, how much Miho loves the others (especially when showing all these bears in bandages), a flower arrangement that looks like nothing more than it does a tank blowing up, and even a reunion with the person Miho saved last year would be incontrovertible proof that someone, likely Miho, is gonna die in this coming battle. But then again, the show’s done this before, talking about everyone staying safe in battles, and nobody’s been injured yet (Aya’s glasses got broken, tho). Are we going to finally see someone get seriously hurt? I hope not, but it’s hard to argue with all the signs.
This will be the last weekly update until the final two episodes are shown. I’m hoping to have a special post related to Girls und Panzer, if I can get the time to do it, but don’t hold your breath!