“If the tanks succeed, then victory follows.” —Heinz Guderian
It’s been a little more than a year since I’ve watched anything related to Girls und Panzer, and if memory serves, knowledge that the long awaited OVA about Ooarai’s match with Anzio has been with viewers since at least last September. Despite being nowhere near as long as the wait for the Gundam Unicorn finale, the wait for the Anzio OVA to air felt about as long. The OVA finally aired yesterday in Japanese theatres: clocking in at half an hour, it’s a fantastic journey that does something most anime neglect to do: exploring how an outcome was reached where they were previously omitted. Here, the OVA tells the story behind just how Ooarai defeated Anzio. In its original run, Girls und Panzer only depicts Anzio as having lost the match, with Anchovy climbing out of her tank and plopping down in exhaustion. However, there was a thrilling story behind how Ooarai reached this point; I myself boldly claimed that Anzio was wrecked in a one-sided battle, but this OVA has soundly shown that I was incorrect. To that, I can say that sometimes, it’s good to be wrong, and indeed, I’m hoping that viewers out there enjoyed it half as much as I did.
After Yukari successfully carries out her assignment and discovers Anzio High’s secret weapon, a Carro Amato P40, Ooarai begins devising strategems for overcoming them. Later, Miho pays a visit to Erwin and Caeser’s place; besides learning more about Anzio’s loadout, they also decide practise and make the most of their Sturmgeschütz III Ausf. F. On the day of the match, Anzio puts up a fierce battle, fielding the L3/33 tankette, the P40 and Semovente 75/18 self-propelled guns in their loadout. Initially distracted by decoys Anzio sets, Ooarai soon finds several of their tanks under fire: Duck team is engaged by the tankettes, and Hippo team is engaged by one of the Semoventes. Meanwhile, after a harrowing chase, Anglerfish team manages to score a direct hit against the flag tank, ending the battle. In the match’s aftermath, Ooarai attends a celebration Anzio hosts, and Anchovy resolves to fully support Miho and Ooarai in their final battle, but accidentally sleep through it.
The OVA takes after the same mood as Girls und Panzer‘s original run; having the perfect balance between exposition and combat sequences, the Anzio battle reminds viewers of everything that made Girls und Panzer so enjoyable. Over its thirty-minute run, preparations from both Anzio and Ooarai are shown. Opening with Anchovy giving a speech to her team, the episode soon shifts to Yukari’s path towards acquiring intel for their upcoming match. This time around, she blends right in with Anzio’s students and enjoys some of the sights and sounds on their vessel before attending an open presentation about the P40, without blowing her cover. Beyond this, the episode is structured quite rationally, showcasing planning and training session between Ooarai as they prepare for their upcoming match. The additional time in the OVA means that it is possible to illustrate these aspects, and adds the sense that Ooarai has put in a substantial amount of effort to earn their victories. When the match itself kicks off, Anzio displays excellent use of deception. According to source materials, Anzio is quite short of funds, forcing them to depend on superior strategy to challenge technically superior opponents. The fight itself is evenly matched and a thrill to watch (even if the emotional tenor isn’t as charged as it was against Black Forest): even though viewers know that Ooarai will stand triumphant, watching Anzio put up such an effort imparted a solid impression of the OVA. However, the single most rewarding aspect in the OVA is Anchovy’s personality. She is depicted as self-confident and hot-blooded, viewing battles as a duel between the two commanders in the manga, but the OVA shows that Anchovy also cares about her teammates and demonstrates exemplary sportsmanship, even throwing a party after the match is over. Girls und Panzer did a phenomenal job with its core message about the significance of sportsmanship and friendship over the single-minded pursuit of victory, and the OVA rises to the occasion magnificently.
Screenshots and Commentary
- This post contains thirty images (or, just to troll and elevate my visibility on search engines further, thirty “frame grabs”), as there is quite a bit to talk about in the OVA. Things start with Anchovy giving her teammates a rousing speech at the episode’s opening, motivating the girls with quotes and raising their spirits for their upcoming round against Ooarai. Besides quotes about diligence and grandeur, she also takes a leaf from Zapp Brannigan’s book and fires up the team by saying that Oorai told her that they look like dorks (or at least, something equivalent to). Anchovy is a charismatic commander and, compared to her manga self, is significantly friendlier in the OVA.
- Back at Ooarai, the girls wonder what Anzio’s secret weapon is. Thanks to Yukari, they’ll soon find the answer, and with it, more glimpses of what Anzio’s school ship looks like are presented. Throughout the OVA, there are several pieces of music that don’t appear to be a part of the original soundtrack. As with the music in the original series, they add substance to the show, and for Anzio, captures their school and leader’s spirits.
- Yukari holds up an SD card carrying the fruits of her efforts. Even though it’s only been a short period after her cover was blown at Saunders, Yukari manages to do a phenomenal job at recon. Earlier discussions were wondering how skillful Yukari would be in carrying out her mission: this OVA answers that questions and shows viewers that Yukari carried out her assignment without any trouble.
- Upon arriving at Anzio, Yukari notices the cheerful, carnival-style atmosphere and asks one of the students if there’s a festival of sorts going on. They reply that this is how the school is for most days of the year: hosting booths in the open allows their school’s various clubs to net more funding, which is lacking because their school is relatively poor.
- One of Anzio’s students makes an naporitan, a pasta dish made with with spaghetti, tomato sauce, onion, mushrooms, green peppers, meat and Tabasco sauce. It was created by Shigetada Irie, who named the dish after Naples, Italy. The Anzio variant costs 300 million Lira, which the vendor says is roughly 300 yen. Because the current exchange rate puts 300 yen as being equivalent to 4215.42 Italian Lira, I imagine that Anzio mirrors the inflation in Italy following the First World War.
- A Colosseum is seen in the background: this is where Anchovy reveals their secret weapon. Despite being mentioned as one of the central points during the previews, Yukari’s reconnaissance only occupies around five minutes of the OVA.
- Lacking information about the P-40, Miho turns to the history club to figure out the P-40’s specifications. While the documentation is in Italian, Caeser is able to read it and translate the vital statistics for Miho, revealing that she has a friend at Anzio. Out of sportsmanship, she notes that getting Yukari to perform recon was the most honest, honourable way to do things, rather than asking her friend for the intel.
- In order to simulate combat against a P-40, Ooarai prepares for BLUFOR/OPFOR (BLUe FORce, or friendly/OPposing FORce) exercises, with the Panzer IV standing in for the P-40. This is actually not a part of the original dialogue and was added in by those doing the translations: Anzu’s original dialogue is that they split up into a friendly and enemy team for practise. However, for explanation’s sake, in a BLUFOR/OPFOR exercise, blue represents friendly forces, and red/orange represent enemy forces in military exercises. Later on, Miho can be heard asking for a sit-rep (situation report), which was also a translator decision that, while technically correct, does not adequately capture Miho’s personality.
- Part of the exercises include helping Hippo team improve their accuracy at long range: Miho suggests making use of the StuG III as a vehicle for long range engagements (to the tune of 1500 meters), and that firing is best done after the vehicle has stabilised. To minimise counterattack, Miho notes that it’s best to move immediately after firing. These tricks are commonly used even in Battlefield 3, where I will stop briefly, use my zoom optics, disable an enemy vehicle, then immediately zoom out and keep moving to avoid being destroyed.
- Hana demonstrates some of her sharp shooting skills at this point, nailing a direct hit against the StuG III from 1500 meters. Despite being the most refined of the girls, Hana says that nailing small targets from a distance makes her feel good. Throughout most of the training exercise, Miho has her head out the hatch and seems unfazed by the fact that shells are flying this way and that. In real exercises, the sheer power of a 120 mm APFSDS round means that tank crews would remain inside the tank for safety’s sake, but Girls und Panzer seems to have slightly different physics than our world. As a fictional setting, that’s perfectly fine.
- After another fruitful practise, the Miho and the others choose to cook Italian food at Saori’s place. Once again, Yukari succumbs to the power of the onions, with Miho suggesting that onions be cut underwater.
- The girls’ efforts pay off, and they soon have a table loaded with delicious Italian cuisine. As I am wont to do, if there are fantastic shots of food, I will typically feature them, and then make a remark on how awesome said food is. Italian cuisine is incredibly varied and diverse, but is also renowned for its simplicity.
- While the girls sit down to dinner, I will consider some future posts. First up is a talk on the first episode to Glasslip, followed by posts for (in no particular order) my first impressions with Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the Tamayura: ~More Aggressive~ OVA and a talk on Deer Hunter 2014‘s latest regions (since they seem to be sought-after now). August will then see talks on the first few episodes of Aldnoah.Zero and Sword Art Online II, plus a special series of posts whose composition and structure will be announced at a later date.
- Fast forward to game day: Anchovy (Anzai Chiyomi) and Miho meet for the first time. Taking after Italian characteristics, Anchovy is joyful and self-confident. When not on the battlefield, she acts friendly and respectfully with the opponents. I am immensely grateful the anime decided to take this direction with her character, given that it helps emphasise the central theme in Girls und Panzer.
- Carpaccio is of Anzio’s vice-commanders. As the gunner-loader of a Semovente 75/18, she has a calm personality and has known Caesar since their childhood.
- With over a year between present day and the airing of the finale, one feels the rush as two teams prepare to do battle with one another. It’s quite rare for anime to return and show the story behind the outcome, although Girls und Panzer has proven itself to be an unconventional anime, placing a lot of attention into minor details without compromising the anime’s spirit of sportsmanship. Here, Anchovy sports a uniform with design elements from the Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale (Italian Fascist militia), styled after Benito Mussolini’s uniform, and the Arditi WWI corps.
- Because we’re doing a Girls und Panzer talk here, I will take a few moments to recall a certain Girls und Panzer fan who went so far as to claim that “[emotions] irritates [him] and [he doesn’t] like feeling any emotion of any kind” in his discussion. I disagree: emotions drive morality, and our sense of ethics helps guide our decisions together with rational thought. These sentiments are reflected throughout the entirety of Girls und Panzer, where Miho’s unique style allows her to stand triumphant on the battlefield and befriend everyone she encounters.
- After Ooarai figures out the truth behind the decoys, Anchovy’s plans begin scattering, and chaos soon reigns on the battlefield. Miho excels at driving chaos, turning her opponent’s disorganisation to her own advantage, and in fact, being able to take the unexpected in stride is what makes Miho such a capable strategist.
- Previous matches saw an admittedly underwhelming performance, but here, the StuG III finally begins pulling its weight in the match against Anzio. Contrary to Miho’s suggestion that they take a supportive role, Hippo team decides to engage one of the Semovente in a one-on-one tank duel.
- Thanks to practise, Caeser manages to reduce her reloading time, and in a tense battle, both the StuG III and Semovente are disabled. At present, my preferred loadout for tanks in Battlefield 3 is an autoloader, zoom optics and an LMG, allowing me to load quickly, hit targets from further away and stave off any infantry about to give me some C4-induced grief.
- While Carpaccio and Caesar are duelling, Anchovy squares off against Miho and the Turtle team: Ooarai boldly deploys the Panzer 38(t) as bait to draw out the P-40. To recall my existing loadout for my tanks in Battlefield 3, I signed back into BattleLog for the first time in a month (I’ve been having a blast in Deus Ex: Human Revolution and haven’t touched Battlefield 3 for a while). I should probably return to unlock some of the accessories for the L85A2 and G36C.
- Despite their weak armour and incapacity to cause critical damage, the tankettes are put to brilliant use: their light weight means that they tend to follow a shot’s momentum, which, while flipping a tank over, does not channel enough energy into the tank to disable it. In practise, Duck team and Rabbit team feel that the tankettes are invincible, returning to battle no matter how many times they are downed. Against a stronger school, I could see them as being useful distractions, but this would also demand the others pick up the slack and shoot down the enemy VIP quickly: because the rules only permit ten tanks per team at this stage, fielding tankettes means having less firepower on the field in general.
- After firing a shot that misses the Panzer IV, the P-40 sustains a direct hit and is taken out of the battle to end the match.
- While I have not uploaded any screenshots of Rabbit Team’s experiences with a range-finder here, I will note that it was definitely a nice touch in the OVA, where they learn about projectile motion and quickly learn to compensate for it, in the process, disabling one of the Semoventes in the process. Bullet drop is one of the most novel mechanics to deal with in Battlefield 3, adding realism and preventing snipers from just pointing and clicking (like in Call of Duty). Thus, every sniper kill from more than 100 meters feels rewarding.
- Once the battle is over, one cannot simply say that “Ooarai wiped floor with Anzio”: despite their weaker tanks, Anzio makes good use of theatricality and deception to hold off Ooarai, upholding Anchovy’s doctrine of wielding intellect over firepower.
- Anchovy and Miho shake hands following the match: thoroughly impressed with the latter’s approach to Panzerfahren, Anchovy wishes Ooarai the best for their upcoming battles. There are no tears, regret or mistrust, just sportsmanship and friendship.
- This image gives a sense of scale with respect to the party that Anzio throws following their match with Ooarai. Anchovy notes the speed and coordination that Anzio’s girls have when it comes to preparing parties and wishes they could channel more of that spirit to Panzerfahren, but also finds that these attributes is what makes them a team.
- Plenty of food and laughter is shared over the party’s progression. Carpaccio and Caesar share a few moments together, reflecting on the thrills they had during the match and resolving to face each other again in the future.
- Anchovy’s OVA incarnation is not one who defaults on her word: after the end credits roll, viewers get to see the Anzio girls decked out in gear bearing Ooarai’s insignia and, having arrived early, decide to party into the late hours of the night.
- However, exhaustion leads them to tire out and sleep through the matches entire progression. The time-lapse scenes brings to mind the moments when I saw the final two episodes for the first time back in March 2013, and even today, they’re just as entertaining to watch as it was when I first saw them. Unfortunately, Anchovy and Anzio largely miss this, to their disappointment, answering why they were absent at the finals. From a technical standpoint, Anzio’s major characters did not have voice actors when Girls und Panzer first aired, but popularity has allowed for that to be rectified, and the final scene shows Anzio as missing the final on a slip-up rather than the ill-will some forum discussions have suggested.
With the OVA now over, and the BD/DVD set for a release on July 25, the next big Girls und Panzer thing is easily the movie. It’s releasing later this year, which means that, barring the lucky individuals who will travel to Japan to see said movie, the movie should be available somewhere in 2015 (probably Spring). At present, some images have surfaced on the world wide web, depicting Miho participating in a joint military exercise with St. Gloriana and Chi-ha Tan. Information about the movie has been tight so far, but given what I’ve seen in Girls und Panzer, I know that, whatever awaits viewers, it will be quite worth their while.