“If a general cares for his men as he does infants, they will follow them through thick and thin. If he dearly loves his men as he does his own beloved sons, they will be willing to die with him in battle.” —Sun Tzu
Girls und Panzer Der Film‘s home release is set precisely a quarter-year from today, and in the interim, watching Girls und Panzer‘s original televised run in its entirety is not the worst conceivable idea: it’s been three years since then, and the anime had distinguished itself from earlier expectations following its conclusion. During a re-watch, I encountered the scene that constitutes my “magic moment”, loosely defined as an event or moment within a show that thoroughly convinces me that it is worth watching, beyond any doubt. In Girls und Panzer, this magic moment is when Miho notices that her teammates are losing their morale during a gruelling match against Pravda. She overcomes her embarrassment to perform the Anko dance, much to all observers’ surprise. Their team had been backed into a corner previously after charging forwards, and it is here that Anzu discloses that their school was under threat of closure. This news, coupled with an imminent loss and bitterly cold conditions, deprives Oorai’s team of their confidence. With everyone on the verge of giving up, Miho’s unorthodox approach to restore morale succeeds, and illustrates another aspect about her capacity as a leader. As she continues the dance, the other girls join her, and therein lies the magic moment. By showing the other girls joining in on the dance, this moment establishes that Miho’s successfully earned the trust of her teammates: everyone is ready to put their faith into Miho’s leadership and follow her direction.
- My magic moment can be captured in the space of five screenshots. Girls und Panzer had been a solid show up until this point, and with the stakes complete stacked against Ooarai, I wondered how they would extricate themselves out of this situation. One of the elements I’ve come to appreciate about Girls und Panzer (that most audiences miss or willfully ignore) is that the outcome for a storyline is formulaic, and instead, the main joy stems from watching how things get to a certain point.
- The expressions each of Saori, Yukari, Hana and Mako wear is mirrored in the lightning and weather conditions: far more than even the match against Black Forest, it is here where hope appears to have been lost for Ooarai. Nowhere else in Girls und Panzer is the environment conditions utilised as effectively to capture the characters’ own emotions. I remark that thus far, every other battle Ooarai has participated in has happened under sunny skies.
- Miho’s actions here are selfless: though she’s typically shy and easily embarrassed, she’s decided that her team’s morale and well-being outweigh her own dignity. In taking one for the team, the others understand how Miho sees everyone, and in a single moment, become ready to trust Miho’s decisions in saving Ooarai from closure. Earlier, empowered by their previous successes, the teams had unwisely rushed the superior Pravda armour against Miho’s recommendations and found themselves subjected to a fierce counterattack.
- If we are to get technical, this is the precise instance that I consider Girls und Panzer‘s magic moment: closer inspection of this image finds that everyone is dancing and singing with all their heart, and although it does sound crazy, Les Stroud mentions that being occupied during difficult times can be an effective countermeasure against succumbing to despair. Quite similarly, Sir Winston Churchill understood the dangers of a defeatist attitude and so, strove to set an example around which his countrymen could rally around. Drawing inspiration from Churchill and Les Stroud, Miho succeeds in doing just that.
- The dance comes to an end when a Pravda student comes to hear Miho’s decision. Armed with complete faith in Miho and new intelligence that Yukari and Erwin had gathered in conjunction with Mako and Midoriko, Ooarai mounts an incredible counteroffensive to defeat Pravda. In channeling a commander’s spirit, Miho demonstrates exemplary application of Sun Tzu’s belief that besides discipline and order, one’s subordinates must also be treated with civility and humanity. Because Miho has done so and has demonstrated she’s willing to make some concessions for them, the others quite willingly follow her into each match. So, even after numerous debates and discussions, there is no denying that Miho’s application of Sun Tzu’s principles allow her to adapt quickly to different situations and be highly successful at Panzerfahren even when lacking the equipment and numbers: with this in mind, Girls und Panzer der Film’s outcome likely will mirror this, as well.
There are, of course, different magic moments depending on perspective: some fans found the Maus’ appearance was one (for me, that was one of the most well-executed surprises of all time), and others found Miho’s kill-streak against St. Glorianna to be impressive, as well. On the whole, these magic moments underlie the reason why Girls und Panzer is so successful: solid execution in integrating world-building, characterisation and inclusion of mechanical elements meant the anime presented a familiar premise in a completely new light. At its core, Girls und Panzer is functionally similar to the Cinderella story oft depicted by sports films, during which a competitor is able to succeed to a much greater extent than was expected of them. It’s the classic underdog story; in a fairy-tale run, Miho Nishizumi leads Ooarai Girls’ Academy to victory at the National Panzerfahren tournament to save their school from certain doom. However, this seemingly-generic idea is executed remarkably well: there are thirty-one unique characters on Ooarai’s team alone, and while anime with a seemingly large number of characters, each are represented as multi-dimensional and organic. Particular attention was paid to the armour to ensure their performance is consistent with their real world equivalents. Taken together, Girls und Panzer combines each element to form a compelling narrative that is relatable and plausible, and for this reason, the anime is highly successful: Girls und Panzer Der Film is set to continue on with that legacy, and I imagine that the next three months will, far from being a long wait, pass by in a heartbeat. I’ve recounted what constitutes my magic moment in Girls und Panzer, and to mix things up a little, I now have an exercise for the reader: if you are a Girls und Panzer fan, what was your magic moment?