Girls und Panzer Second Round Reflection
January 17, 2013
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How can you move faster than possible, fight longer than possible without the most powerful impulse of the spirit: the fear of death.
I’m finally caught up with Girls und Panzer: with a carefully implemented plot progression and wonderfully well-choreographed combat sequences integrated in with a surprisingly well-written and detailed plot. Last time, the show cut off as Ooarai discovered Saunders Academy’s wiretapping act. The viewers are thus treated to Kay (their commander) and her sense of sportsmanship. With an equal handicap and Miho’s gamble on a sniper shot, Ooarai is able to triumph. Miho earns Kay’s respect, and Ooarai advances in the tournament to face Anzio, an Italy-themed institution. The girls subsequently go hunting for more armour and, despite not being able to field them, defeat Anzio to face Pravda, a Russian institution, in the semi-finals. Their early victories are quickly shut down by the Russian offensive, but after executing a bold assault as a distraction, Miho manages to triumph over the Pravda team. Episode ten, the cutoff point, ends with the Ooarai team coming under heavy fire from the Black Forest team, who boast numerical and mechanical advantages.
- Kay’s mannerisms are, as I’ve mentioned earlier, consistent with the American attitude, being both laid back when relaxing and deadly serious in competition. She is not tolerant of underhanded methods, and is quick to offer to even out their numbers in the name of fairness, as well as reprimanding her subordinate for such tactics.
- The long-range shot Hana takes results in BOOM HEADSHOT for the Ooarai girls. The first year team is the most diverse, featuring some six members, and the volleyball team can be seen here too, as they cheer on Miho and company.
- Miho’s mother, Shiho Nishizumi, is considering disowning her for not adhering to the same approach that she and her older sister, Maho, hold towards the Nishizumi technique. We will see Hana reconcile with her mother later on, reflecting on how mutual understanding is something that lies at the core of a family.
- In between competitions, episodes are devoted to showcasing training and preparations, as well as more subtle aspects. Mako’s grandmother falls ill after Ooarai’s victory over Saunders, but makes a speedy recovery.
- Pravda (Правда) is Russian for “truth”. Katyusha is the leader of the Pravda company; despite her diminutive size and arrogance, she is also a capable strategist and charismatic leader, as well as demonstrating good sportsmanship. Nonna is Pravda’s second-in-command and has a calm demeanor who shares a motherly relationship with Katyusha.
- No, I’m not naming all the characters. That comes later. I particularly found the presentation of the girls’ efforts to upgrade their tanks and expand their ranks impressive.
- This scene is probably the first thing that comes to mind now whenever anyone mentions Girls und Panzer. Morale refers to the fighting spirit a military unit may have. This concept was explored in Sun Tzu’s Art of War, and plays a significant role in not only combat, but athletics, as well. In the Second World War and the Korean War, General Douglas MacArthur was able to make substantial progress owing to the courage he inspired in those under him. Miho displays similar skill, being able to motivate her unit in an unconventional manner by performing the angler-fish dance.
- After sending Yukari, Erwin, Mako, and Midoriko out on recon, Miho is able to approximate the formation of the Pravda tanks. Organising a brilliant frontal assault, Yukari is asked to perform once last recon mission and locate the Pravda flag tank. A careful bit of coordination later, their efforts pay off, and victory follows for Ooarai once more.
- Miho’s friendly, warm nature stands in stark contrast to Maho’s cold and precise mannerisms, earning her the respect of all those she engages in battle. Truth be told, viewers will be rooting for Ooarai because this is the classic underdog story, reminiscent of the Calgary Flames’ Stanley cup run back in 2004. Despite being ranked eighth in the conference, the Flames managed to defeat the Vancouver Canucks (a division leader) and the Detroit Red Wings (conference leader) in harrowing games; they made it past the semi-finals against the San Jose Sharks and ultimately faced off against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Flames would lose, with a critical goal in game six being discounted, costing them the game and forcing the game seven that would allow Tampa Bay to win the Stanley Cup.
- Why did I share that anecdote about the Calgary Flames? It bears remarkable similarity to the Ooarai story, as well as illustrating how some victories can indeed result from strokes of blind luck (such as Martin Gelina’s overtime goals), and that random events may undermine a seasons’ worth of effort. The Calgary Flames’ 2003-2004 Stanley Cup run is a reminder that the Ooarai girls may lose in their final competition, and that should this possibility be realised, the series would be worthwhile nonetheless.
- We are treated to a somewhat melancholic montage of all the girls sharing meals together; some view this as foreshadowing for a defeat of some sort, given that this can be interpreted as a ‘last supper’ of sorts.
- I wonder if Char Aznable’s paradigms will hold here and allow Miho to triumph over Maho, who is said to be even more capable as a tactician relative to Miho. The notion of an older sibling being more competent than a younger sibling has been around since antiquity, although I prefer to see it as ‘different strengths in different fields’, even if personal experience seems to favour the traditional viewpoint.
The revelation in episode nine, that Ooarai has been fighting with essentially spare parts after their school’s tank martial arts program was decommissioned, proved to be the most pivotal moment in the series, trumping all of the other elements presented, illustrating how Miho’s experience with strategy, coupled with her team’s overwhelming enthusiasm, have proven to be a remarkably strong factor in helping their team reach the finals. Char Aznable was noted for claiming that superior hardware has its limitations against a superior pilot. This has certainly held true: whereas the other academies were dependent on superior firepower and numbers to win, Ooarai fields a raggedy-ass tank unit, having sold off most of their tanks in previous years, and as such, must approach combat in a more creative fashion. Paired with the fact that their school is shutting down owing to expenses, the gravity of the situation suddenly increases by an order of magnitude. This marks the difference between fighting for honour, and fighting for, metaphorically, life, as their school is to be closed if they should fall short of winning the championship. That quote I placed at the beginning is from The Dark Knight Rises; a blind prisoner is speaking to Bruce about how the latter’s supposed lack of fear of death is precluding his escape. When Bruce makes the climb without a safety rope, as he realises what he stands to lose by failing, fear propels him forward, allowing him to escape. Insofar, the Ooarai team has only been aware of their school’s closure halfway through their battle with Pravda: whether or not fear will find the Ooarai girls as they face off against the Black Forest Academy will be left the results of the final episodes.