Welcome to the Final Episode and Series Review of Girls und Panzer! As usual, I’ll be talking about the finale first, then get to the overall review. If you want to skip directly to that, gohere.
I don’t know if “Good” will cut it for Girls und Panzer. The finale was amazing. It truly was everything we’ve come to expect from the show, even if we wonder if it can keep it up. And in that specific dimension, it delivered once again, outdoing even the expectations raised high by a 3 month layoff.
At the end of the 11th episode, Miho and Oarai were facing a huge problem, known as the Maus (the largest tank ever built). Now down to just 5 tanks, and missing one of their biggest hitters in the StuG, they have to figure out how to defeat it, because Miho’s strategy depends on urban warfare, and having that thing ready to pop out and blast someone just isn’t going to work. But she takes inspiration, as usual, from her team, as Saori says “It’s big enough to ride on!”
I thought it was absolutely hilarious that Miho actually said “You will think this is a bit ludicrous, but stick with me.” The whole show has been wonderfully ludicrous. And her plan to take out the Maus just raises that to another level. Using the combined efforts of all the tanks – not to shoot it, but to strand it with the turret rotated – Hana is able to shoot the weak engine venting on the back deck from above, knocking the Maus out of the battle. Truly an inspired plan that left me breathless.
The remainder of the battle is a setup for the final confrontation, because Black Forest Peak still has 15 tanks, and after their effort to strand the Maus takes its toll on the Kame team’s Hetzer, Oarai is down to just four. But Miho realizes that it only takes one tank to take out the flag, so they set up a one-on-one battle, the one that the whole show has worked for, between the Nishizumi sisters. The Oarai Team manages to pull off the rest of the tanks, with the Leopon team blocking the way, setting up this duel, and boy does it deliver.
Recalling the fast-paced urban action of the first fight against St. Gloriana, the fight is an exciting array of camera work, fast passes, brilliant driving and strategic punching and counter-punching. But in the end it winds up, again like St. Gloriana, in a standoff, with a final attack imminent. Trying the same maneuver they failed with that time, Mako slides the Ankou tank around the Tiger with such force that it knocks the treads off, but leaves them in perfect position to fire at the rear of the Tiger, just as the Tiger fires back. And this time, the slight head inclination from Maho tells the story: Kuromorimine is defeated, and Oarai are the champions.
The entire episode really was edge-of-your-seat excitement. Even writing about it afterwards gives me goose bumps! The battle was everything you expected, and even though you knew that Oarai had to win, they *didn’t* have to win. There was doubt, and there was uncertainty, and that made the whole thing that much more exciting and satisfying. And in the end, Maho acknowledges her defeat to Miho’s style of Sensha-do. Even Shiho, their mother, smiles and applauds for Miho (albeit when noone’s around), acknowledging the ability and accomplishments of her younger daughter. Finally, in a good move, the battle ended with enough time for some after-battle happenings, including heartfelt thanks from Anzu and Momo to Miho, congratulations from all of Miho’s previous opponents, and even a parade through the streets of Oarai that gives us a chance to see all the girls of Oarai’s Sensha-do team.
Momo’s tears of joh and Anzu’s genuine hug and smile
Special mention goes to the most touching after-battle part, in my opinion. The Student Council, who has been trying so hard to keep the school open, and was knocked out of the battle before the end, meets Miho and team after they return. Momo, who realizes that they have done what they set out to do, what they needed to do, completely breaks down in tears, a huge difference from her usual severe demeanor. And Anzu, ever blithe and glib, gives Miho the most sincere “arigatou” and a huge hug.
As usual, the production team shines. As with episode 11, the time for preparation showed in the quality of the battle, with fluid CG, well directed action, more excellent camera work, and exciting pacing. The overhead views of the final battle evoked the old Atari pack-in game Combat, with just one tank on one side, and one tank on the other. And the creativity in the final battle was unmatched, with blocks, moves and counter-moves, and finally flawless execution.
A fitting finale for a fabulous show.
Title: Girls und Panzer
TV Series; 12 Episodes
Genre: High School, Battle
The story centers around Miho Nishizumi as she tries to forget her past failures in Sensha-do in her new school. The writing is good, not great, but it works so well for this show, because it’s not really about the story. It’s about the setup, and about the execution. When you break the story down to component parts, you really are left with an impression that the anime can’t be that good. But it is, and even a story about saving the school, and winning the national tournament works, because it’s put into such a framework that it just makes it all so good.
The setup is just ludicrous, and was from the very beginning. If you try to watch this show seriously, and point out plot holes, and analyze things from our framework, it doesn’t work at all. The best thing you can do with the show is “Just go with it.” And when you let them tell you the story, and let them draw you into the world, everything falls into place. The settings, the sport, the sheer audacity of it all is stupendous, and makes this mash up of genres that you’ve seen before fresh and exciting.
The opponents in the show deserve a mention as well. Since the show is based on using WWII era tanks, most of the teams in the show have an affiliation with one country or another: American, Russian, English, Italian, German. Only the protagonist team has a mixture of tanks from different countries.
The characters are a polarizing point in the show. While some people felt they were bland, boring, and unimportant, I thought that the show did a very good job with the characterization, especially considering that there are two kinds of characters: The individual girls driving the tanks, and the tank teams themselves. With 28 girls on the Oarai team, they can’t spend that much time on each girl, so what happens is that each tank gets a personality, and the girls fit within that personality. The History girls, the Volleyball team, the First Years, the Auto Club, the Discipline Committee, the Tank Otakus, and the Student Council all have individual personalities that fit within their team.
We do get more in depth with the main team of the show, learning about the family situation for the different girls of the Ankou team, from Miho’s and Hana’s break from their family traditions to Yukari’s lonely life filled with passion for tanks, to Mako’s loving but cross grandmother who’s raised her since a accident took her parents. I enjoyed the development of these characters, and the way it fit into the show. As Hana says, “There are some flowers that can only bloom at Oarai”, and we see the blooming of these girls, all somewhat outcasts, through their efforts at driving tanks.
This anime really has set the standard, in my eyes, for incorporation of CG into drawn anime, especially in a battle setting. Even though the first sequence of the anime was pretty rough, everything after that has been stellar. The direction of the show is excellent, and the varied camera techniques and consistent exciting battle sequences keep you enthralled throughout. And the show mixes the exciting tank battles in with the slice of life and training stuff very well, with almost every episode having *some* battle action.
Audio work was also great, with a catchy OP that played in every episode. interestingly, after the first episode where there was no OP, Girls und Panzer never used a cold open, always starting with the DreamRiser OP sung by Chouchou. The ED, Enter Enter Mission sung by Team Ankou, was a favorite of mine, not only because it’s a fun song, but because the ED sequence featured a bouncy chibi version of the tanks and crews in the series that always brought a smile. The soundtrack through the show was excellent, using mostly public domain martial music, selected based on the different team’s national tendency. Of special note, because of both its excellence and its situation, was the Russian team’s singing of Katyusha in the middle of battle. This is also infamous, because of the decision by the American licensor to cut the song out due to uncertainty about the copyright status of the song. Given the state of laws in the US, the decision is perfectly justifiable, but it points out how stupid the situation of copyright law in the US is.
The only thing you can knock the production of the show on is the delays that cropped up throughout. The show had not one, but two emergency filler clip episodes as the production team fell behind, eventually leading to the three month delay that had the final two episodes airing after the Winter season. While it was ultimately the right decision, it was definitely shaming for the director and the staff, and the effect on the show is up for debate. While having the shows done perfectly is a good result, you wonder how much audience was lost because of the delay.
Girls und Panzer is a show that is far more than the sum of its parts. Describing it to people just leaves them thinking “How can that be interesting?” But it is, and how. It was, in my estimation, the best show of 2012, although because of the production delays, most anime fan sites didn’t include it in their year end wraps and polls. Does this make it a show for 2013? Or will this sparkling gem of a show get lost in the shuffle, never getting the ‘best’ recognition it richly deserves. I certainly hope that doesn’t happen, and would encourage everyone to watch it, because you’ll find something that you love in it.
Screenshots of the finale (and there’s a lot)