The Infinite Zenith

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

The role of the frontal lobes on Miho’s decision-making capacity and qualifications as a commander in Girls und Panzer

“The human brain has a hundred billion neurons, each neuron connected to ten thousand other neurons. Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object in the known universe.” —Michio Kaku

The Girls und Panzer Movie approaches; even though there’s no solid release date yet, the recent release of a PV that depicts St. Glorianna engaged with Ooarai and what appears to be Chi ha-tan’s forces engaged in the exercises after the former wishes to participate in a drill using a much greater number of tanks. Anticipation for the movie is mounting, and for good reason: Girls und Panzer turned out to exceed all expectations and presented an excellent story to audiences about sportsmanship and teamwork. The series’ protagonist, Miho Nishizumi, is seen as a suitable hero, being competent, compassionate and humble. However, there have been ill-conceived beliefs that Miho is in fact a “frail emotional young girl”, motivated by over her actions during a Panzerfahren match that would cost Black Forest their title. During this match, Miho chose to save her teammates who had fallen into a river, in the process abandoning the flag-tank and allowing it to be shot down. Naturally, even after all the discussions, debates and investigations that had happened during and shortly after the season’s run, no one was able to reach a satisfactory conclusion. The issues were soon completely forgotten, leaving behind the myth that Miho is “frail” and “emotional” in some circles. This myth might have been allowed to endure, were it not for the Giant Walkthrough Brain. I was observing a rehearsal of the Giant Walkthrough Brain at the Banff Summer Arts Festival, and while the visualisation software was guiding viewers to the frontal lobe, Jay Ingram mentioned that the frontal lobes played a role in decision-making. I read this moment a thousand times in the script while fine-tuning the software’s timing for this section of the brain, but after hearing the entire presentation for the first time during rehearsal, I soon realised the brain holds the explanation to bust this myth for good. In this post, I will show that there is substantial evidence to illustrate that Miho is, in fact, a calm, collected hero and her decision during her ill-fated match, far from illustrating her deficiencies, further shows that Miho’s personality is one befitting of a commander, regardless of whether or not it was inappropriate in its context.

  • This post, my four hundred and sixtieth,  is written for Girls und Panzer fans to enjoy: I offer a unique spin on what was once a controversial topic, and with more than a year having elapsed since the flame wars over whether or not Miho’s decision was correct. Instead of arguing semantics here about how plausible it is to escape sinking armour or whether officials would have called the match, I chose to look at the situation from a biological perspective. This ultimately leads to one unusual analogue: assuming most of the discussions’ participants are adults with developed frontal lobes, their attempts to rationalise Miho’s decision is roughly equivalent to that of an exasperated parent wondering why their teenage offspring have such a propensity towards risk-taking.

As a quick bit of background, decision-making processes are carried out in the frontal lobe; this area of the brain assesses the future consequences of a given set of options and drives individuals to pick the optimal solution, while dissuading individuals from poor decisions (usually those with detrimental consequences for the future). Important as they are, the frontal lobes do not fully develop in humans until around the mid-twenties, accounting for why youth are more predisposed towards risk-taking [1]. This is particularly important: Miho’s decision during the now-infamous championship match can no longer be attributed solely as a product of rational thought, but rather, partly influenced by the complex chemistry within the immature frontal lobes. At the time, Miho was fourteen, so physiologically, her frontal lobes are not yet developed. Thus, Miho’s actions would then be driven by a combination of her innate personality (compassion towards her teammates) and an incomplete decision-making process, explaining why she chose to take the actions that she did. With this in mind, whether or not the downed tank was in any actual danger is no longer of any relevance: what matters is that Miho believed them to be in danger, and her subsequent actions have a physiological basis based on her belief, leading to what we ultimately see. Expecting anything more from a high school girl, especially with the frontal lobes’ incomplete development and the corresponding impact on decision-making, might prove to be unreasonable, and Miho might even be said to have acted as one might expect someone around her age to act.

  • There is a citation in this post, but that is because the information I required here necessitates a proper citation. I prefer the Vancouver style for its conciseness and used it wherever I could during my undergraduate courses. Now that I’m moving away from the health sciences, I will have to get used to the ACM and IEEE standards. Now, it is to my understanding, even with Miho’s frontal lobes being at the forefront of all discussion, readers will probably still be drawn to her other, well, features.

For the present, we will briefly set aside the matter of Miho’s frontal lobes. As with everyone else, they are constantly maturing and so, we can assume that Miho will be less prone to impulsive action as time wears on. Throughout Girls und Panzer, Miho is depicted as kind and caring, almost to a fault. In the series’ opening, she is willing to take up Panzerfahren against her will solely for her friends’ sake. In training, she offers her teammates advice and never demands the impossible of them, while in battle, she continuously reassures her teammates and does her best to help all of them out of tight spots. She treats all of her opponents with respect, befriending those she meets on the battlefield and forging long friendships. This temperament leads Miho to save her teammates; even if the decision was rash, she is compelled to act in this manner because to Miho, her teammates’ safety is worth sacrificing a victory for. This is an admirable branch of thinking, and although the moment is tarnished by immature frontal lobes, it illustrates that Miho’s priorities are in the right place. We recall Sun Tzu, who notes that a commander who cares for their subordinates and treats them accordingly will eventually find themselves commanding subordinates who are willing to follow them wherever they go. It becomes evident that Miho has the characteristics of a good commander; perhaps with more developed frontal lobes, Miho may have assessed the situation more carefully and have been able to pull off a victory, while reassuring the downed tank that they’re going to be fine, and make a more well-reasoned decision as to whether or not hopping into the river was in fact necessary.

  • Truth be told, the reason why discussions were going in circles were partially attributed to the lack of any concrete information from official Girls und Panzer sources. Another of the participants mentioned that this topic might’ve been lost to time, but I imagine that I’ve supplied enough content to persuade and support the notion that Miho’s actions, though inappropriate given the context, nonetheless underlie her capacity as a qualified commander.

Brain physiology is a complex subset of medicine, and although I am nowhere near qualified to delve into it with more a more rigorous approach, an abstraction already provides a succinct outside-the-box approach towards explaining Miho’s actions, without requiring a full understanding of what conditions can cause a Panzerfahren match to be suspended. I’ve tried to look at things from all possible perspectives, and while I find opposing viewpoints to offer well-argued positions (i.e. that Miho’s actions might not be necessary), using a rational, methodical  analysis, it’s clear that Miho is a suitable hero for Girls und Panzer. The facts and footage have been assessed with a critical eye: while Miho’s decision during the championship may not be appropriate, it also has a physiological basis, meaning that Miho did not act after a reasoned thought process. However, when taken in conjunction with her general demeanor and decisions throughout Girls und Panzer, it shows that Miho has a calm and kind heart, traits equally as vital as forward thinking and flexibility for a highly competent and capable commander. This evidence would suggest an appropriate and logical conclusion: the championship represents a one-off for Miho, serving to illustrate that even though impulsiveness may have far-reaching consequences, one can never be sure about the correctness of their decision until they resolve to make the most of things. Here, Miho succeeds in rediscovering her love for Panzerfahren, and with this in mind, we may finally speculate what awaits Miho in the Girls und Panzer Movie without being troubled by doubts surrounding how capable of a commander she is.

References

  1. Giedd JN, Blumenthal J, Jeffries NO, et al. Brain development during childhood and adolescence: a longitudinal MRI study. Nature Neurosci. 1999; 2 (10): 861–863.

6 responses to “The role of the frontal lobes on Miho’s decision-making capacity and qualifications as a commander in Girls und Panzer

  1. Wild Goose August 5, 2014 at 09:07

    We discussed this on Space Battles. The general position held by those who’d actually done this shit for real was that Miho made the right call – with the further caveat that if this was actual combat what she should have done was call in a rescue and or dispatch her other crews to do the rescuing, because as the commander she’d need to keep her head in the game and keep everyone alive when the enemy’s shooting at them.

    You can find the full discussion here.

    Like

    • infinitezenith August 5, 2014 at 09:22

      I am aligned with the side that says Miho was right, but if memory serves, there were those who adamantly rejected military protocol and even physics, against common sense. After having my memory jolted by a bit of physiology, I decided I could probably crush the other side completely by using a completely different perspective; this was physiology, and so, in this post, I argued that even if the rules of Panzerfahren say Miho was wrong, Miho cannot be seen as a poor commander because there are physiological factors at play.

      Truth be told, I’m tempted to send this to willx just to see what happens…

      Like

  2. vimitsu August 5, 2014 at 13:36

    Although I have not watched Girls und Panzer, I have a minuscule amount of neuroscience knowledge, which I hope will be of some use.

    The frontal lobes (or more accurately, prefrontal cortex [PFC], since the primary motor cortex and some other minor areas are located in the frontal lobes) are responsible for “executive functions”, which include planning, reasoning, and working memory. The PFC is further split (roughly) into the dorsal and ventral cortex; the former is linked closely with parts of the brain involved in attention, cognition, and action, while the latter is connected closely with parts involved with emotion. Thus the PFC makes decisions not just through cold logic, but also involves emotional information and “gut feelings”. From my understanding, the unfinished development of the frontal lobes in adolescents may be a result of deficiency in either the dorsal or ventral PFC, and an oversight could be towards either area of judgment (logical or emotional). In any case, any emotionally charged action will be considered and executed by the PFC/frontal lobes; if the decision is considered a mistake in retrospect, it will be due to the way the PFC weighs the logical evidence and emotions of the situation.

    That being said, I’m no neuroscience expert, and I have no knowledge of the decision in question.

    Like

    • infinitezenith August 5, 2014 at 13:57

      Imagine turning that into a song🙂

      For Girls und Panzer, one would imagine that brain physiology in a human anime character, set in a world that does not deviate from ours too greatly, would be similar (if not identical) to ours. If it was too different, then everything goes out the window, and I wouldn’t have written this.

      Like

  3. daikama August 15, 2014 at 20:30

    I’m a pretty big Girls und Panzer fan (see my blog title) and I found your post interesting to read. Still, I have to say I’m kind of surprised that it’s even necessary to go that length. It’s easy to imagine the verbal abuse Miho received from types like Erika after KMM lost the finals match. That can be tough enough for someone her age without adding whatever strife at home Miho suffered due to Shiho’s “winning is everything” attitude. So if the event in question left her “frail and emotional”, I don’t think that’s unreasonable. However, I find the assertion that Miho remains a “frail emotional young girl” by the end of the series implausible. It goes against one of the sub-plots in the story itself which is Miho overcoming said past troubling experience.

    Viewers can literally see Miho’s progression. In EP 06, Miho’s hand shakes from stress (ala Tom Hank’s character in Saving Private Ryan) during a moment of crisis. She gets through it via help from Saori, Hana, etc. In EP 08, Miho has yet to find her confidence as commander. She gets talked into abandoning her original plan due to Oarai’s enthusiasm and decides to go along with the team’s desire to be very aggressive against Pravda when they really cannot afford to do so given the hardware discrepancy. She is also unable to prevent most of Oarai’s teams from taking Pravda’s bait which leads them to falling into Katyusha’s trap.

    However, there is a watershed moment for Miho in EP 09. Under immense pressure after finding out the school will be closed if they don’t win the tournament (bad enough on it’s own, but Oarai is in a tough spot as well) and with most of Oarai starting to lose hope, Miho does not! She goes as far as to do the Ankou dance. That’s embarrassing enough on its own without being broadcast to the entire crowd via a giant screen. Yet Miho still does it in an attempt to “rally the troops”. I don’t see that as “emotional and frail”, but rather resolved – not giving up despite the odds heavily against you. You can see Miho’s confidence, both in herself and her team, when she states that Oarai will not “surrender” to Pravda. That same confidence and resolution are there for the finals match against a MUCH better “armed” KMM team. The hardware disparity for the finals match is ridiculous, both in numbers and quality – and that’s NOT including the freaking Maus. Yet Miho remains confident and collected despite the pressure of Oarai’s very existence depending upon her tactics. Again, I don’t see how that is “emotional and frail.” Lastly, in EP 11 Miho herself tells Yukari that she’s put the issue of last years finals behind her. So I honestly cannot understand how this “myth” is maintained by the end of the anime.

    Like

    • infinitezenith August 15, 2014 at 20:58

      There were some people out there who insisted that the Nishizumi Style was proper and appropriate, even after the anime had ended; they cling to this idea because they allegedly live by a similar doctrine in real life. I just decided to blow that myth to pieces from a different perspective, purely for amusement.

      Like

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