“By going to a preview, a director becomes insidiously infected by the process, so by the end of it, you’re thinking, ‘It may be a bit too long.'” —Ridley Scott
Through a bit of sorcery, I’ve had the opportunity to check out the first nine-and-a-half minutes to Girls und Panzer Der Film‘s first battle, which depicts a joint exercise with Chi Ha-tan and Ooarai on one force, and St. Glorianna and Pravda on the other. Miho’s group has cornered four of St. Glorianna’s tanks in a sandtrap at Ooarai Golf Course, but rash decisions from Chi Ha-tan’s commander to rush the St. Glorianna armour leads to a fair number of their forces becoming immobolised. Up on the hill, Ooarai’s remaining forces are serving to hold off the numerically superior Pravda forces, but are forced to retreat. Miho organises a regrouping of her remaining forces and sends them into the city, where Miho organises the remaining armour into positions for bombarding the enemy force, dispatching several tanks in the process. However, despite being slowed down by the Public Morals Committee’s antics, St. Glorianna’s remaining fast armour soon arrives. The preview ends here, and all of the screenshots I subsequently have resemble the screenshots from my Battlefield: Hardline and Star Wars: Battlefront posts, with a logo indicating a beta of sorts. This short preview is from the complete movie, rather than a work-in-progress, and so, though I might be tempted to call this preview a beta, the definition simply won’t fit. Right out of the gates, the preview for Girls und Panzer Der Film drops viewers straight into the heat of things in a OPFOR-BLUFOR exercise between different schools; the movie does not open in this manner, and this preview is intended to represent the first eight minutes of the first battle within the film. This first battle immediately evokes memories of the sort of things that made the TV series memorable, with the different characters interacting with one another amidst the chaos of a match, tank fire and camera angles illustrating the various aspects in detail. So, the main question that remains to be answered is: does the preview excite audiences about the remaining 110-or-so minutes of the movie?
The answer is a resounding “yes”; despite some rather vocal complaints about how the first battle’s “a very weak lead-in to the story” on the basis that “specific teams [are shafted]…[causing] resentment”. Having seen the preview for myself now, I can say that no such thing occurs: the different teams participating are behaving as one might reasonably expect high school students to behave. While their decisions and performance might come across as a bit underwhelming considering they’ve had a bit of time to practise (or maybe even acquire new equipment and armour), ultimately, the technical aspects in Girls und Panzer simply aren’t as relevant as the character interactions and the message said interactions aims to convey. So, while the first battle isn’t a powerhouse performance that some might expect, I find that it adequately sets the table for the remainder of Girls und Panzer Der Film. It was quite pleasant to see old and new characters alike engage in Panzerfahren; though the setting might be different, the emotional tenour and excitement of a Panzerfahren match seen in Girls und Panzer Der Film has not diminished since the TV series finished airing during 2013. Granted, this first battle did not elevate my heart rate anywhere to the same extent as the final battle between Black Forest and Ooarai, but it does set the table for what one can expect later in the movie, and consequently, I find that, while this preview is most certainly not a representation of the movie as a whole, it does build anticipation for the movie, once it does come out.
Screenshots and Commentary
- I’ll kick this post off with a screenshot of Kinuyo Nishi of the Chi Ha-tan Academy, who’s voiced by Asami Seto (Tari Tari‘s Konatsu Miyamoto). This is old news for anyone who’s been following news of the movie, and the earliest trailer’s depiction of this battle led to speculation that the movie would be a protracted training exercise for an international competition.
- Admittedly, the logo up in the upper right hand corner reminds me of the beta images from my brief forays with the Battlefield: Hardline and Star Wars:Battlefront betas. I was able to acquire forty screenshots and trimmed that down to a much more manageable twenty for this post.
- Chi ha-tan fields a variety of Japanese tanks; the Type 97 Chi ha-tan and Type 95 Ha-Go were both intended to be anti-infantry weapons, providing a platform with which to smash through softer targets and consequently, lacked the characteristics for anti-armour combat: their guns were inadequate for punching through other armour, and their armour could not withstand hits from other tank guns.
- One of the main challenges that Girls und Panzer Der Film had to answer was figuring out how to introduce an opponent more intimidating and capable than even Black Forest: the early trailers betrayed absolutely nothing about the nature of such an opponent and in fact, stuck with only illustrating a few moments from the joint exercise the girls are seen doing in this preview.
- Fukuda is another new character; a student at Chi Ha-tan, she operates the Ha-go and is voiced by Naomi Ōzora. Chi Ha-tan is a school that fosters maternal instincts amongst its students, and besides having a long history with equestrian activities, they’re said to have one of the best libraries of all of the school ships: students are encouraged to publish their own books.
- Katyusha makes a return as part of the OPFOR team, being paired with St. Glorianna in this joint exercise. There have been hopes that the movie would see theatrical release outside of Japan, but these hopes are dashed by the difficulties pertaining to the song Katyusha; the song is copyrighted under Russian Law ever since the Uruguay Rounds Agreement Act in 1990 restored its copyright.
- As such, while the song can be used freely in Japan, it’s under copyright in North America, as well, meaning that North American theatres would need to screen a modified version of the film. There’s also been fans who’ve wondered whether or not the film will be screened in Southeast Asia countries, but given that Girls und Panzer itself has not even been played locally yet, chances are slim to none.
- Here, Sadoko bumps Fukuda’s tanks in the hopes of moving it along, while the Leopon team’s Porsche Tiger brings up the rear. Chi Ha-tan’s tactics in this battle seem unwise: although their spirits are in the right place, their armour does not permit for a full-frontal assault. Instead, their best bet would have been to continue shelling St. Glorianna until Ooarai’s heavier guns were in position to open fire.
- Mika (voiced by Mamiko Noto, of CLANNAD‘s Kotomi Ichinose and Hanasaku Iroha‘s Tomoe Wajima) and Aki (voiced by Shino Shimoji) are from the Continuation Academy, whose school ship was sourced from a massive icebreaker intended to carve a direct path from Finland to Japan for trade. After the school was established, they acquired a diverse array of tanks and heavily modified them, in time becoming well-known for their pinpoint precision (a callback to Simo Häyhä); they dominate in cold conditions but fare poorly under warm weather. Continuation Academy’s students are known for their determination, enjoyment of solitude and have very strong friendships with one another.
- After their initial plans fail, Miho pulls everyone out and organises them for urban warfare. Miho excels at adapting to different situations and usually resorts to frustrating her opponents in urban warfare whenever momentum shifts away from her team by making use of tight spaces to make it more difficult for gunners to gain a clear shot at the opposing tanks, all the while utilising her own knowledge of the area to either set up an ambush or flank her enemies.
- Besides a Finnish team, there’s also a Romanian and even Canadian team, to name a few. The official documentation paints them as diverse teams with unique strong points and backgrounds. The Canadian school, Maple Academy, makes use of a variety of fast tanks and light tanks. As a reminder of the True North’s vast wilderness, Maple Academy’s school ship has a large forest on its deck: I wonder if they have other Canadian-related club activities, such as maple syrup production and ice hockey.
- Besides their usual complement of tanks, St. Glorianna also deploys a group of Crusader tanks. These cruiser tanks (essentially fast tanks) were manufactured in great numbers and made substantial contributions to the African campaigns. Early versions of the tank were reliable, though lacking in firepower and armour, but later iterations were armed with a QF 6-pounder main gun, allowing it to take on the Panzer IV. The Public Morals Committee use their armour to cause a pileup, buying Miho enough time to move forwards.
- I’ve heard that shortly after the movie premièred in Japan, some inordinately zealous fans infiltrated the Ooarai Golf Course (in Ooarai’s northeastern region) for location hunting photographs, and apparently caused enough of a distraction to the patrons such that the authorities were asked to remove them. The folks at Girls und Panzer subsequently released a statement saying that they did not endorse such actions, asking fans to visit the course as patrons.
- The folks at the golf course have decided to meet these fans half-way, organising tours of the golf course. It’s a clever compromise, allowing fans to visit their favourite locations in the movie without trespassing or interrupting any golf games in progress.
- Whereas any trained tank crew would be mad focussed and therefore not concern themselves with butterflies, Saki’s lapse of concentration seals the Rabbit team’s fate: they’re blown away by the IS-2 that’s chasing them down. The presence of a butterfly might be a very subtle allusion to the fact that ChouCho is performing Girls und Panzer Der Film‘s main theme, a song that I found to share similarities with the music of Strike Witches.
- In the preview’s last few minutes, Miho finally manages to organise her forces for an ambush. Again acting as bait, she lures the OPFOR tanks towards their fortified position, and with most of the OPFOR tanks clustered into one place, the BLUFOR forces begin pummeling Pravda’s forces. Watching through this scene, there are at least four confirmed kills before St. Glorianna’s forces finally arrive.
- Their combined efforts knock out at least four of Pravda’s tanks, although St. Glorianna’s armour soon joins the fray, with their Crusaders approaching from one end, and their heavier tanks from the other, The Churchill St. Glorianna fields is one of the heaviest Allied tanks used during WWII, and later versions had a maximum frontal armour thickness of 152 mm. The biggest guns in Miho’s arsenal include the Porchse Tiger’s KwK 36 (132 mm of penetration at 100 m), the 7.5 cm Pak 39 (110 mm of penetration at 100 m) and the Sturmgeschütz III’s 7.5 cm KwK 40 L/48 (143 mm of penetration at 100 m). Miho’s Panzer IV is also equipped with the KwK 40 L/48.
- Consequently, while they might’ve lacked the appropriate weapons during their first match, with larger weapons of their own this time, Miho should be able to concentrate fire on the Churchill to disable it even as it arrives, provided that they are targeting the tracks, and side armour even if their main guns are unable to punch through the Churchill’s frontal armour. Things aren’t so straight forwards, though, as the Crusaders also begin arriving to make their presence felt. The preview ends here, and it’s not too difficult to surmise what the outcome of this battle will be: I predict that Miho will lose, but by a small margin.
- As we near the end of this post, I remark that it’s still too early to formulate any opinions on the movie as a whole. Although there are numerous social media posts on Girls und Panzer Der Film‘s outcome and corresponding reactions, I consider these sources to be unreliable because they’re too brief to be meaningful, consisting of reactions rather than reason. As such, individuals who’ve been attempting to analyse and review the movie on this information alone are unable to gain a sufficiently complete picture of the movie to properly carry out discussion.
- Once the home release is out, there will be a solid foundation from which discussions can be conducted. Being able to see how different events flow and transition will allow viewers to make a more well-informed assessment as to whether or not the movie fulfils expectations. With this in mind, I’m going to wrap this post up: I’ll definitely come back to do a full post on Girls und Panzer Der Film of the same breadth and depth as I did for Gundam Unicorn‘s finale once the film’s home release is out.
Consequently, this lead to the question of what I will be looking for in Girls und Panzer Der Film. I alluded to this briefly earlier — the movie’s theme is the single most substantial component when considering whether or not the movie meets expectations, and for me, whether or not the movie will be worth the wait will ultimately be dictated by how well the movie can convey its theme about friendship and kindness being central to raising one’s morale during difficult situations. In turn, this will depend on how Miho and the others respond to any adversity that is thrown in their direction. I have a rough idea of how the final battle in the movie turns out through deduction using the soundtrack’s track names, but I remark that knowing the outcome is ultimately irrelevant: it’s more about which decisions Miho and her friends make (in other words, how the battle gets to its conclusion) that impact Girls und Panzer Der Film‘s main thematic element. In light of this, the technical details are merely a bonus rather than an essential. We recall that Girls und Panzer Der Film is no Tom Clancy novel; it is unreasonable to demand that degree of realism from an anime about a group of high school girls participating in what is essentially a team sport and learning about the associated lessons of being in a team. Quite truthfully, I have no clue as to when Girls und Panzer Der Film‘s home release is, and if what I’m reading is correct, there remains another month before the movie stops screening in Japan, which means that, applying the usual estimations, the home release is projected for release in anywhere from March to July 2016. It’s quite a ways off, but through the preview, it’s quite plain that at the minimum, the audio-visual aspects for Girls und Panzer Der Film will be quite high, and so, all that’s left now is to busy myself with a host of things whilst waiting for the film.