The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Girls und Panzer

You may have heard of kung fu, but the girls at Oarai High School practice gun-fu – really, really BIG 75mm gun-fu, in fact. It’s called Sensha-do, and it’s the martial art of operating armored tanks! They take it seriously too, and since winning the national Sensha-do championship is such a huge deal at Oarai, they sometimes go to extreme ends in order to get the best students from Panzer class to sign up. Which is how Miho Nishizumi, who HATES operating tanks, gets drafted to join doomsday-driven driver Mako, even-triggered gunner Hana, highly receptive radio operator Saori and combustible tank-fangirl and loader Yukari as the incomparable Anko Team. They may not be on the half-track to fame and fortune, and maybe a few of them would rather shop for tank tops than become tops in tanks, but once their focus is locked and loaded, they’re absolutely driven.

Miho Nishizumi begins academic life at Ooarai Girls’ High School and makes friends with two of her classmates, Saori Takebe and Hana Isuzu. Soon afterwards, Miho is approached by the Student Council about participating in the school’s newly-resurrected elective of Sensha-dō, the art of operating tanks. Distraught, Miho tells Saori and Hana that she has traumatic memories of doing Sensha-dō, and that she only enrolled at Ooarai because she heard that the school did not have a Sensha-dō course. After seeing a promotional presentation of Sensha-dō, both Saori and Hana express interest in taking it up and try to convince Miho to join them. Miho, however, cannot bring herself to participate, so Saori and Hana decide to forego Sensha-dō themselves in favor of Miho’s chosen elective. The Student Council, however, objects to Miho’s choice and threatens to expel her from school despite Saori’s and Hana’s spirited defense of their friend’s decision. Realizing how much her friends are doing for her, Miho gives in and decides to take up Sensha-dō alongside them.

  • I am not much of an armour enthusiast  instead, my interest lies in naval and aerial warfare. As such, I know very little about the tanks that are used in the anime, but fortunately, Girls und Panzer goes out of its way to familiarise viewers with the tanks. In the opening scenes, the protagonists are operating a KwK 37 L/24 equipped Pz.Kpfw. IV Ausf. D. Amongst others, viewers also see a M3 Lee, the student council’s 38(t) B/C, the extremely Japanified StuG III F, and the Type 89 I-Go. 

  • Left to right, Hana Isuzu and Saori Takebe. The former is stoic and cultured, coming from a family of florists, while the latter is cheerful and friendly all-around.

  • Miho Nishizumi is depicted as a clumsy but capable girl. Viewers find themselves immediately familiar with her dispositions, which have been more or less common to a great many female protagonists of late in anime.

  • I’ve heard some draw comparisons between Girls und Panzer and Saki; the latter is an anime about Majong, a game I know next to nothing about. I know next to nothing about the anime, other than the fact that it’s four years old.

  • Yuzuko Koyama, Anzu Kadotani and Momo Kawashima are members of their school’s student council They drive the plot in motion when they announce that their academy is bringing back tank warfare as a school activity, bringing back Miho’s past memories of tank operation. This element will probably be explored as a plot-driving element.

  • Much like how Ra’s Al Ghul notes that criminals aren’t typically complicated, anime is not complicated. Some viewers thought that the propaganda video was a social commentary of some sort: there is nothing to suggest that the anime is in any way criticising or satirising present-day Japanese society. The video itself was reasonably amusing, suggesting that grace comes from boldness, but again, has very little to do with modern Japanese society (or any other society, for that matter).

  • As is typical with most shows, the first episode is about exposition and setting up the character’s personalities. Hana and Saori are immediately established as friends for Miho, defending the latter’s decision to turn away from tank warfare. Seeing her friends’ persistence convinces Miho to take up tank warfare for her friends’ sake.

  • I’m not about to name everyone here: this is the entirety of the first tank crew that will be seen in later episodes. Among the team include a four-person volleyball team, a large group of first-year crews and the historical-study crew consisting of the Roman-obsessed Caesar, the German Eagle bearing Erwin, Saemonza, and the bespectacled Oryou. I have trouble remembering the names of those in my faculty, and I’m not about to try and remember everyone, but I do raise my glass to the fact that we have such a diverse and varied group of tank operators.

  • Tank warfare and high school girls are a new combination that holds high potential to be interesting, although I myself am looking most forward to the deployment patterns that the crews will use: in most games, weak enemy AI gives players an immense advantage in armour engagements (like being able to snipe enemy tanks in Halo without them noticing because you’re outside the range of their response radius).

  • That aircraft carrier must be the size of the UNSC Infinity if it can house a city and terrain on it, leading me to wonder what kind of world Girls und Panzer is set in. In the future, this image will appear on Google Images whenever one does a search for size of UNSC Infinity or similar. They’ll be led here, which is unsportsmanlike of me. In the future, I’ll create a post that’s at least a little relevant to Halo 4 to rectify that.

Girls und Panzer is prima facie another Strike Witches clone, set in a world where there are tanks instead of Striker units. However, even from the first episode alone, we immediately know that there’s going to be a story of some sort with less emphasis on the fanservice and more on the elements that make military hardware enthusists glow with happiness. One episode in, the end-game destination is not immediately clear, but what is clear is that Miho is going to experience tanks for the first time proper since her childhood. With a massive cast of characters, this series looks interesting; I step to the party a bit late, having been preoccupied with other things, but from the word I’m hearing, Girls und Panzer is probably the more unique anime of the Fall 2012 season. Whereas people were quick to dismiss Girls und Panzer as a fanservice or moé anime, watching the first (and subsequent) episodes quickly dispels that, as the series goes to great detail to ensure that the story flows well, while simultaneously integrating technical information about all the tanks.

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