“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” –Charles Darwin
Ooarai pursues Chi-Ha Tan’s forces through the dense jungle, but poor visibility and Chi-Ha Tan’s unexpected plays complicate the engagement. In spite of the challenges posed, Momo promises to do her best so she can attend university with Anzu and Yuzu. During the chaos of battle, Ooarai manages to disable several of Chi-Ha Tan’s tanks, including the elusive Ka-Mi amphibious tanks, but in turn, loses several tanks of their own. With their numbers whittling down, Kinuyo orders her tanks to pursue Miho, reasoning that Miho’s ability to rally Ooarai means if she goes down, her teammates should fall apart. After reaching a rocky section of the river, Anko Team is surrounded and taken out of the fight. Surprised that their strategy succeeded in eliminating one of the toughest tanks around, Kinuyo and her teammates erupt into cheers. However, they’d completely forgotten about Ooarai’s flag tank, and as Chi-Ha Tan celebrates this milestone, Ooarai’s Hetzner arrives on scene, with Chi-Ha Tan’s flag tank dead in Anzu’s sights. She pulls the trigger and knocks Chi-Ha Tan’s flag tank out, giving Ooarai the win. In the aftermath, Haru Fukuda reflects on the match and her promise to play volleyball with Duck Team during spring break. Upon returning to Ooarai, Momo, Mako and Midoriko visit Bar Donzoko, while Saori and Hana assist Anzu and Yuzu with their student council duties. Miho and a handful of the teams have gone out to watch other matches in the Winter Tournament: Black Forest defeats Pravda when Erika decides to utilise a hitherto unexpected technique, while Anzio falls to St. Gloriana when Anchovy falls into Darjeeling’s trap. Meanwhile, Mika and Continuation Academy beat Saunders thanks to their sharpshooter, giving them a spot in a match against Ooarai. Mika and her teammates return to their school ship to celebrate Christmas before their next match is set to take place. During their match, Ooarai pursues several of Continuation’s lighter tanks into a village, where they are ambushed by tanks hidden in the snowmen dotting the village. Quick thinking allows Ooarai to extricate themselves, but Mako spots glint from a distant tank, and moments later, Anko is taken out by Continuation’s sharpshooter, leaving Duck Team on their own. So ends Girls und Panzer Das Finale‘s third act, which comes almost twenty-two full months after we left off with Miho pursuing Kinuyo’s forces into a dark forest. As its preceding two acts have done, Das Finale‘s third act sees the conclusion of one match, gives the characters a bit of breathing room and then creates anticipation for the next round. While Das Finale may have appeared to have entered routine in its execution, the unpredictability inherent in every match, coupled with the insight that interludes offer into the teams’ day-to-day lives provide, means that despite the lengthy gaps between instalments, Das Finale nonetheless continues to hold the viewer’s engagement: Girls und Panzer still has what it takes to create an enjoyable, compelling experience.
Having seen the various teams in their preferred roles throughout much of Girls und Panzer, Das Finale‘s began to mix things up with character combinations and strategies, with the end result being that that in matches, opponents are left astounded and surprised by what’s unfolding – previously, teams had trained with the expectation that their foes would conduct Panzerfahren a certain way, and as such, strategies could be devised to handle things accordingly. Chi-Ha Tan, for instance, was renowned for their tendency to charge head-first into an engagement without any concern for the consequences, and so, they could be goaded into an ambush. However, on suggestion from the Volleyball Club, Haru decides to try a new strategy during their engagement with Ooarai, with the end result being that Ooarai is initially caught off guard by Chi-Ha Tan’s solid use of hit-and-fade tactics under the cover of night. Ooarai’s forces have not previously fought in such a claustrophobic environment with low lighting (against Pravda, the open fields meant it was easier to determine where the enemy tanks were and plan with this in mind), and so, Chi-Ha Tan is able to surprise Miho with a strategy that is unlike anything they’d previously used, much as how BC Freedom deceived Yukari into thinking they were still a divided school. However, what makes Miho and Ooarai so potent is that, while they might be caught off guard by a school utilising unusual strategies, they are always able to adjust and adapt. In this case, Miho ends up deciding to have everyone on Anko Team switch positions in order to capitalise on the fact that Mako’s night vision is more acute, and then have her direct the tank. Further to this, Miho is a team player, willing to lay down on the wire and and give her tank up if it means protecting a teammate. This level of concern for those around her is Miho’s greatest asset, and when combined with her ability to lead, plus the fact that Ooarai’s tankers have resolved to give it their best, means that in the end, they stand triumphant over Chi-Ha Tan, who nonetheless put up an impressive showing. The idea of switching things up applies throughout this third act to remind viewers that Das Finale is going to continue doing its utmost to differentiate itself from its predecessors. During one match between Pravda and Black Forest, Katyusha orders her forces to dig in and hammer the advancing Black Forest force, counting on their position and use of the KV-2 to wear down them down. This is not without basis: Black Forest has historically valued advancing at a methodical pace under all circumstances. However, when commander Erika recalls Maho’s advice to her, to be herself, she does something completely unexpected – Erika exits her Tiger II and commandeers a lighter tank, using its mobility to get the edge over the dug-in Pravda forces and in the end, secures the win by utilising a method that is contrary to the Nishizumi Style. Girls und Panzer has sold creativity and adaptability as a part of its central themes in its original run, but it is only here in Das Finale where things are really emphasised. This is to Das Finale‘s advantage, keeping viewers on the edge of their seat; as the third act draws to a close, Miho and Anko Team are knocked out of the fight in moments against Continuation Academy. Without Miho coordinating their movements, Ooarai must now draw on their own experiences and expertise in order to find victory in a scenario quite unlike anything they’d previously dealt with.
Screenshots and Commentary
- This talk on Girls und Panzer: Das Finale‘s third act is my 1400th post, and at the time of writing, I believe this is the internet’s first and only full-sized discussion, complete with screenshots. When I wrote about Das Finale last, it was March 2020, and I still remember the evening I started my post: it had been a particularly cold night, and the local media was discussing the possibility of a lockdown and supply shortage as the global health crisis reached North America. Nearly twenty-two months later, I count myself incredibly fortunate to be here, a consequence of the support I’ve received both through readers like yourself, and people I know in person. Before I delve into this post, I would like to thank all readers, whether you be a long-time veteran or a newcomer, for accompanying my journey through things like Girls und Panzer.
- Because such a large amount of time has passed since Das Finale‘s second act, I ended up going back to re-watch both the first and second acts so I could get a better sense of things. Last we left off with Das Finale, Ooarai had managed to put Chi-Ha Tan on the backfoot, and had pursued them deeper into the jungle with guns ablaze, but since Chi-Ha Tan had switched out their usual tactic of charging at an opponent, they’ve become much trickier to fight, since Miho had been planning for a team who favoured bum-rushes over hit-and-fade tactics.
- I will stop briefly here to note that the gaps between the individual acts to Das Finale are something I’m completely cool with: these longer production timeframes means ACTAS is able to write out scenarios they are satisfied with and create stories that captivate viewers, while at the same time, being able to properly research all of the armour, equipment and tactics used to create an authentic, immersive experience for viewers. Finally, additional time means being able to really polish the animation; this shows in Das Finale, whose visuals surpass even those of Der Film. There is justification in spacing out the releases, since the quality is reflected in the end product. Conversely, I disagree most strongly with the fact that there is a considerable delay between the theatrical première and home release. While some defend the practise, there is little to suggest that an extensive delay between the theatrical premières and home release is meaningful.
- Granted, films are expensive projects that must recoup production costs through box office sales, and even in Japan, anime movies have a niche audience, which leads to the approach of playing to the fans’ devotion to the series and encouraging them to watch a film more than once in the theatre would be the most suitable way of driving up ticket sales. However, this approach is antiquated and quite frankly, limiting – the average film makes around eighty percent of its box office sales within six weeks of release, and keeping a film in theatres for longer will not generate any meaningful return. By putting their film on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and other equivalents, or simply make the BD releases come earlier, studios can at least still make some revenue on films by reaching a much wider audience, well beyond the dedicated fans who have home field advantage.
- If memory serves, Battlefield V was still going strong when Das Finale‘s second instalment had become available. At the time, the Pacific Theatre had fully released, and I was having a blast with all of the new weapons and vehicles. For gameplay reasons, the Type 97 Chi-Ha tank is balanced to go toe-to-toe with the M4 Sherman, whereas in reality, the M4’s AP rounds would fly right through a Type 97 without dealing much damage, prompting tankers to use HE rounds instead. Conversely, Battlefield V is set up such that a properly geared Type 97 could still be lethal against an M4. Besides the M4 and Type 97, Battlefield V also gave players the Type 2 Ka-Mi and an Allied equivalent, the LVT. These amphibious tanks were incredibly fun to play as, and like Kinuyo’s teammates find, their utility is being able to move about in water to launch surprise attacks.
- The main disadvantage about the Ka-Mi is that they have comparatively less armour than a Type 97, and an in Battlefield V, I primarily used them as an anti-infantry platform. However, with the right upgrades, I do remember that they could also be used to make short work of LVTs and “encourage” M4 drivers to back up: one of the specialisations that the Ka-Mi could equip in Battlefield V was a 75 mm cannon, making it a match for the M4s. Girls und Panzer‘s Ka-Mis are limited to their real-world counterparts’ armaments – as far as I can tell, no Ka-Mi has ever been equipped with a 75 mm cannon (or a 120 mm howitzer as Battlefield V permits), but in functionality, they are more flexible: besides frustrating Ooarai’s tankers, they can also be utilised as makeshift bridges. Miho spots this and uses a Ka-Mi to quickly cross the river, taking off the Ka-Mi’s turrets in the process.
- When several of Chi-Ha Tan’s Type 95s attempt to use the Ka-Mi tanks as a bridge to continue the pursuit, chaos causes them to fall into the river. Even this isn’t enough to knock them out of the fight; the Ka-Mi amphibious tanks prove troublesome for Ooarai in that they’re small enough to hang out in the water, below most of their tanks’ maximum angle of depression, and despite being pushed around, they prove surprisingly resilient. In reality, the Ka-Mi came into service much too late to have been used in their intended role, but their relatively thin armour (6-12 mm) means that, at least in theory, any sort of attack would knock one out if one were to land a good hit on them.
- Conversely, the Ka-Mi’s 37 mm cannon had a maximum armour penetration of 25 mm at a range of up to one kilometre. While incapable of scratching medium tanks like the Panzer IV at range, in CQC, the damage these tanks can deal is non-negligible. These elements come together to make the Ka-Mi worthy foes for Ooarai, even more so than the Maus and Karl-Gerät – earlier installations of Girls und Panzer traded strategy for raw firepower to intimidate viewers, but for me, I’ll take clever use of hardware over brute strength any day of week. Here, after Chi-Ha regroups, the Ka-Mi operators hop onto land and pick up their turrets before manually replacing them. I’ve not read anything to see if this was indeed possible in reality, but if so, it would imply the armour on a Ka-Mi would be quite thin.
- In the end, a clever bit of driving from Rabbit Team allows Ooarai to take out both Ka-Mis, although Rabbit Team trades with the remaining Ka-Mi ends up being dispatched. This moment does seem to suggest that amongst Ooarai, the first years have become quite proficient with strategy, and should Miho ever become taken out, Ooarai might yet have a fighting chance, with Rabbit team taking up the role of calling creative strategies. One of my readers had hoped that Haru’s team would square off against Duck Team during a discussion for Das Finale‘s second half: this wish is fulfilled in the chaos of jungle warfare, where, after Duck team receives permission from Miho to do so, they break off to engage Chi-Ha Tan’s forces. Haru and Duck team briefly face off against one another, and while duck team makes use of the infamous duck coverings seen in Der Film as attempt to deceive the Chi-Ha Tan forces, this attempt fails. Duck team are taken out shortly after, allowing Chi-Ha Tan to focus fire on Anko Team.
- Upon realising their Panzer IV is headed straight for the river where the bridge had been taken out, Miho immediately orders Mako to stop the tank. Mako’s been nothing but on fire during this match: even more so than their match against Pravda, Mako is fully awake and is able to do her best. With her speedy reflexes, Mako is able to prevent the Panzer IV from taking a swim and prematurely exiting the match, but there’s no time to be relieved, since Kinuyo’s tanks are waiting for them on the riverbanks. Miho subsequently switches roles and sets Mako to be the commander, counting on her unmatched night vision to even out the odds.
- Speaking to Miho’s ability to adapt and overcome, even more so than her opponents, Miho has Yukari take on the role of driver, and she substitutes in for Yukari as the loader. Saori remains on the radio, and Hana continues operating the guns. This is a bit of a callback to the original TV series, where Miho had been a loader, while Saori commanded, Hana drove, and Yukari operated the guns. While Anko team has come quite a ways since picking up Mako, this moment suggests that off-screen, tankers also train in other roles so they can keep essential functions running even in the case of an emergency. Here, Miho squints in an effort to spot nearby foes: Das Finale has Miho with a greater range of facial expressions than were seen during the TV series, further bringing her character to life.
- Even though this method helps Anko to stay alive, Chi-Ha Tan’s spirits remain high, and they continue to press the initiative. Miho ends up being pushed to a rocky segment of the river, and here, Chi-Ha Tan surrounds Miho’s Panzer IV. One of the Type 97s takes Miho out of the fight with a shot so close, it’s almost a contact shot (pressing the muzzle against a target, which mainstream media refers to as a “point blank shot”). Fans of Girls und Panzer have long decried the series for making Miho invincible to all but St. Gloriana, so having Chi-Ha achieve what was thought to be impossible is meant to show that in Panzerfahren, anything goes: it is possible to take Miho out if one has the advantage of numbers or the element of surprise.
- The reason why Girls und Panzer engagements happen at point-blank range (the distance one can reliably hit a target without needing to compensate for projectile drop is the correct definition) is because in such close quarters, guns have a higher probability of inflicting a mission kill on another tank. This is why Panzerfahren matches always ends up going to close quarters: if tanks in Girls und Panzer were to follow contemporary armoured warfare doctrine, battles would consist of the team with better tank guns and better gunners destroying a foe at range with no opportunity for retaliation. Such an approach is appropriate for keeping one’s tanks from being damaged or destroyed, but at the same time, it would also make for boring matches for viewers.
- Here, Kinuyo joins her teammates in cheering on their triumph over Miho’s Panzer IV. However, Haru has yet to join the fight and she notices that Ooarai’s Hetzner is still up: the Hetzner’s been noticably absent from the proceedings. She attempts to convey this to Kinuyo, but the comms are alit with Chi-Ha Tan’s tank crews celebrating what was thought to be an unachievable feat. As far as details go, at such short ranges, the 57 mm gun’s performance is sufficient to get through the Panzer IV’s rear armour. At longer ranges, the 57 mm gun Type 97s equipped were woefully inadequate against period armour because it had been designed for infantry support rather than anti-armour roles: the Soviet BT tanks could shrug off rounds from the 57 mm, and later Type 97s were equipped with the Type 1 47 mm gun, which, despite having a smaller caliber, also possessed a higher muzzle velocity.
- However, joy turns to abject terror when Kinuyo spots the Hetzner approaching her from the flanks. The Cantonese have a saying for the trap that Kinuyo has fallen into, 高興太早 (jyutping gou1 hing1 taai3 zou2, literally “happy too early”); save Haru and her crew, it seems the whole of Chi-Ha Tan have fallen into a trap over their accomplishment and have forgotten they’re still in the middle of a match. While this lapse in judgement will cost them the match, I’m still rather fond of Kinuyo; she’s boisterous and polite, as well as a stickler for formalities. However, despite being well-liked and competitive, Kinuyo is also honourable and open-minded: she allows for Haru to suggest new tactics beyond their usual propensity of charging head-first into a foe. However, in this moment, her confidence gets the better of her, yielding a fantastic funny-face moment.
- I recall a quote from The Matrix: Reloaded, when the Oracle’s guardian, Seraph, fights Neo: he notes that one only gets to know the other when they fight, and while this can be interpreted in a metaphoric sense, it does hold true in that one gains a true measure of another individual or team when able to see how they react to adversity and challenge. Chi-Ha Tan has risen magnificently to the challenge here in Das Finale‘s third act, and while they do end up losing, Kinuyo’s willingness to try out Haru’s plans means that the team put up a superb showing. This could’ve been anyone’s match, and under different circumstances, Chi-Han Tan might’ve come out on top.
- In the end, Ooarai squeaks by with another win, and the moment the day’s first bit of sunlight hits her skin, Mako reverts to her usual lethargic self. While Yukari, Saori and Hana are thrilled with the victory, Miho’s the first to notice. This subtle detail speaks volumes to Miho’s character; it might feel great to advance, but Miho’s concern is for the well-being of those around her, first and foremost. It’s small elements like these that made Girls und Panzer particularly standout, and even now, a full nine years after Girls und Panzer began airing, I’m hard-pressed to find another military-moé series with a similar level of characterisation.
- Despite having taken a loss as a result of their overconfidence, Kinuyo remains in fine spirits, and here, they finalise their letter of thanks to Ooarai: sportsmanship has always been a major part of Girls und Panzer, and this idea carries forward into Das Finale. This is why I place such an emphasis on assuming good faith regarding the characters and their decisions: while it is the case that individuals or teams can make poor decisions or waltz into a fight with a cocky attitude, such actions are never done with malice. This held true with Marie of BC Freedom, it was similarly the case with Pravda, and even the seemingly aloof and haughty Black Forest demonstrate humility and sportsmanship as the other teams do.
- After finishing her letter, Haru reflects on her own conversation with the Volleyball Club post-match and smiles, happy to have made new friends through Panzerfahren. These sorts of things are what make Girls und Panzer worth watching, and looking back, all of the heated discussions surrounding this series was completely unwarranted. In fact, I would argue that compared to messages of sportsmanship, cooperation and adapting to circumstance, the technical details in Girls und Panzer are actually secondary to things: their presence simply serves to greatly augment the experience, but even if the details were dialed back, strong themes in the series means Girls und Panzer would’ve still been quite successful.
- In between battles, Das Finale gives characters a chance to unwind and take things easy. These have always been one of my favourite aspects of Girls und Panzer, showing how the characters are outside of combat. At this point in time, Mako and Midoriko are able to enter the Bar Donzoko without any trouble, and Mako’s become a regular: having spent time with the Panzerfahren team, Shark Team no longer seem quite so delinquent, and Momo ends up getting punk’d with a super-spicy rum. Ogin promptly apologises to Momo for having been knocked out of the fight so early and promises that they’ll be better prepared for the upcoming match.
- While Momo is hanging out with the Bar Donzoko regulars, Saori, Hana, Yuzu and Anzu tend to student council duties. Saori and Hana were originally planning on joining different activities, but as they are advancing into their third year, they take the reigns from Anzu, Momo and Yuzu, speaking to their growth over time; although Saori and Hana had viewed the Student Council as overbearing when they’d first met, once Miho took up Panzerfahren, they’d gotten along without any problems. Initial impressions can be deceiving, which is why I tend to reserve judgement on characters until there’s been a chance to properly give them development. This certainly applies in Girls und Panzer, where every character winds up being cordial and respectable. This extends even to Shiho and Black Forest: with Maho graduated, Erika now leads their Panzerfahren team.
- Das Finale‘s third act gives viewers a chance to see matches between other schools in more detail: Girls und Panzer had originally only shown the outcomes of these matches owing to a need to focus on Ooarai, but with Ooarai’s characters now firmly established, there is space to look at the other schools, too. Erika and Black Forest’s match against Pravda is shown: having long spent their time preparing against an equivalent foe, Katyusha anticipated their approach and had countered accordingly by digging in and hammering their foe, even taking out Black Forest’s Maus in the process using their KV-2. However, Erika recalls Maho’s suggestion to her, and switches over to a lighter Panzer III, directing it to close the distance and smash Pravda’s flag tank to earn them a win while the heavier tanks stay behind to cover. This sort of behaviour exemplifies how even the seemingly rigid Black Forest can adopt flexible tactics. Although short, this moment shows how has matured and become a Erika can be forward thinker, capable of adapting to a situation: after Maho had graduated, it would appear that Black Forest’s tactics can vary.
- Maho had practised Panzerfahren according to the Nishizumi Style, but Erika doubtlessly would’ve formed her own approaches after seeing what worked, and what failed, wtih the Nishizumi Style. The results speak for themselves, and I was certainly glad to see this change, since it shows that adapting and changing is the only feasible means of moving forwards. Portraying even Black Forest as changing would probably ruffle a few feathers today: a handful of purists had insisted that the Nishizumi Style was infallible and that any interpretation contrary to theirs was to be “soft”. That Das Finale decisively demonstrates this train of thinking is false by showing how the Nishizumi Style was never meant to be the “correct” way of doing things; it is the case that in Girls und Panzer, messages of creativity and adapting to adversity is promoted.
- Anzio is thrashed by St. Gloriana: while putting up a good showing, Duce walks right into a trap and is soundly defeated. Meanwhile, Continuation Academy and Saunders slugs it out on what appears to be a derelict airbase. While Continuation Academy’s armour is an amalgamation of Soviet medium tanks and the BT series of light tanks, they have a reputation for being tricky to beat owing to their emphasis on sharp-shooting. Saunders finds this out the hard way – despite gaining the upper hand after destroying the remainder of Continuation’s armour and cornering Mika’s flag tank, they is ultimately defeated when their flag tank is sniped from a distance. Flag tank matches are a matter of strategy, since they are not dependent on completely mission-killing every tank a foe has. Ooarai had capitalised on this to win their earlier matches against numerically superior foes.
- Poor sportsmanship in Girls und Panzer is primarily employed for comedy, and here, Alisa devolves into a rant about a failed kokuhaku after being sniped, resulting in their loss to Continuation. To this day, I find it hilarious that Alisa is voiced by Aya Hirano, whom people know best as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s Haruhi Suzumiya. In Das Finale, Alisa’s still easily flustered by enemy fire, and although she might be a vice-commander, were I in Kay’s position, I would sub her out as the Flag Tank, since Alisa tends to collapse totally when under pressure. One must feel bad for Alisa’s crewmate, whose expression suggests that she’s completely used to these outbursts.
- With the matches’ outcomes now clear, Ooarai is set to fight Continuation in their next round. A quick glance at things shows that in Das Finale, we’ve seen two familiar schools returning from Der Film: both Chi-Ha Tan and Continuation answered the call to help save Ooarai during the movie, and since they were fighting alongside Miho and the others, one only got a limited glimpse of how they operated. Conversely, in a more conventional setting, having the schools fight Ooarai means being able to see first-hand how everyone rolled when in their element, and it becomes clear that for schools running tanks with lighter armour and weaker guns, they’re not at a disadvantage for this, provided they utilise their tanks creatively. However, because of how things are likely to roll, St. Gloriana will likely beat Black Forest, leaving them to fight Ooarai in the final: the choice to take Saunders out was done so viewers can see Ooarai take on different schools, so it follows that Ooarai won’t fight Black Forest again.
- Das Finale‘s third act shows a glimpse of Continuation’s school ship, which is based off the USS Federal (ID-3657), a freighter that served the United States during World War One, was sold to the United Kingdom in 1937 and then subsequently captured by the Japanese in 1941. If the assumptions I made nine years earlier about the school ships’ dimensions hold true, I imagine that Continuation’s school ship would be around 3.7 kilometres in length, which is on the small side (Ooarai’s school ship is around 7.6 kilometres long, but the larger school ships, like St. Gloriana and Pravda, have lengths of up to 13 kilometres). Despite its smaller size, the Continuation school ship has one distinct feature: a massive tree fashioned from the central mast.
- On board Continuation’s school ship, Christmas festivities are in full swing, with vendors selling everything from apple cider to Advent Calendars. I’ve long wished to visit a Christmas Market, and while there are local markets that aim to reproduce the atmosphere, there’s nothing quite like checking out the real deal: high on my list of places to travel to will be Germany or Austria during the winter season so that I can take things in. However, this isn’t to say that Christmas festivities back home aren’t enjoyable: for me, Christmases are a time of rest and relaxation, of sleeping in and enjoying great food.
- Das Finale‘s Yuletide atmosphere is perfectly timed with the fact that it’s Christmas Day today, and this year’s Christmas is a quieter one. I spent the daylight hours reading through Treasures of China and recalling fond memories of browsing through that book, as well as playing Agent Under Fire‘s multiplayer mode. After lunch (leftover chicken pizza), I spent a fair portion of the afternoon helping with preparations for Christmas Dinner. This year, we have a full turkey and ham dinner with fully-loaded smashed potatoes topped with cheddar, bacon and sour cream, plus Parmesan-roasted cauliflower, broccoli and baby carrots. Dinner concluded with a Vanilla Crème Brûlée. The forecast today called for overcast skies, but to my pleasant surprise, we had sunny breaks, filling the day with a warm light, as well.
- Yesterday’s weather was similarly surprising: the skies completely cleared out by noon, allowing me to go for a pleasant, if frigid walk, over to the hills nearby under -20ºC conditions. In previous years, Christmas Eves were a half-day for me, and I would go to work in the mornings before returning home to unwind. This year, since I’ve got vacation time, I ended up taking the last two weeks of the year off. I was contemplating building the MG Kyrios this week, but I had a gut feeling that with all of the furniture deliveries, I might not have had time to do the build, so I ended up finishing the Kyrios two weeks earlier. I’m glad to have made this decision: it left me a lot less busy this Christmas Eve, and I was able to spend the day enjoying the unexpectedly clear skies, before helping out with preparing and enjoying Christmas Eve dinner (roast lamb on the bone with sautéed onion, garlic and carrots, potato dollars, pan-seared asparagus and prawns with a white sauce yi mien). Back in Das Finale, Aki wonders if now is the time to take it easy by building a snowman, and Mika replies that these moments let people find their own truths. Although seemingly deep and mysterious, all Mika is saying is that relaxing is key to regrouping and being their best.
- For this match against Continuation, Miho’s decided to keep Momo on as the commander, in keeping with the idea that having Momo lead Ooarai on will give her the credits she will need to get accepted into her post-secondary of choice. We recall that this is what motivates Ooarai to participate in the winter tournament, an approach that was definitely more plausible than Der Film‘s attempt to close Ooarai a second time. I find that Der Film could have still had Ooarai square off against the university team as an exercise to secure bursaries or similar, and the story still would have progressed as it did. Das Finale irons out these holes and gives viewers a more satisfying reason for Panzerfahren.
- When the camera pulls out to reveal the extent of the cold, wintery landscape, it’s reminiscent of the weather we’re in the middle of here on the prairies: thanks to a Siberian air mass hanging out over the country, today’s high is projected to be -27ºC, and with wind-chill, this equates to a bone-chilling -35ºC. Winter weather in the prairies is an iconic part of life here, and authors write fondly of how the frigid, endless grey skies are as integral to prairie life as fields of wheat and canola under blue skies. Girls und Panzer excels in its landscapes, which have a personality of their own.
- As with BC Freedom and Chi-Ha Tan in earlier instalments of Das Finale, the terrain matches Continuation Academy’s traits. The French had their bocage, the Japanese are at home in the jungles, and the Finns are associated snowy, mountainous terrain. This leads me to wonder how the locations are picked in Girls und Panzer: the TV series had largely been set in generic locations, save the fight against Pravda, which was set in an area reminiscent of the Volga basin. Conversely, Das Finale seems to have picked locations that seem to mirror the style and aesthetic consistent with Ooarai’s opponent’s home environment, and this does seem to favour Continuation, who are most comfortable with snowy terrain.
- Until Das Finale, we’d only ever seen Mika’s BT-42 in combat, so the match between Continuation and Ooarai (as well as Continuation’s match against Saunders earlier) represents a fine chance to get a good look at the tanks they field. Here, a pair of T-26s exchange fire with Ooarai’s forces from a distance in a bid to lure them in. These tanks were originally of Soviet design and equipped a six-pounder; the T-26 was quite effective during the 1930s, but advances in anti-tank weaponry reduced their survivability. Continuation Academy has a track record of stealing armour from other schools under pretense of borrowing them, a parallel to Finland’s use of captured armour during the Second World War.
- On paper, Ooarai’s forces should be evenly matched with Continuation’s – the latter’s arsenal consists primarily of faster tanks and the venerable T-34, so with tanks of this style, I imagine that Continuation’s preference is to utilise the lighter units to close the gap and sow confusion, allowing for their medium tanks to hang back and pick off high value targets while their foes engage the light tanks amidst the chaos. Mika had been seen doing this during the match against Saunders, during which she discards her BT-42’s tracks and distracts Saunders’ main force, allowing their sniper to pick off Saunders’ flag tank. Miho attempts to probe Continuation by entering a small village nearby to gauge their reaction, but immediately come under fire: Mika had foreshadowed use of snowmen as a part of their strategy, and while this method would fail today thanks to things like FLIR optics, the lack of such gear in WWII-era tanks makes this a particularly clever approach.
- In reality, the Finns were better known for their infantry’s anti-tank tactics: against the technically and numerically superior Soviet forces, Finnish fighters became famous for adopting the use of the Molotov Cocktail to defeat Soviet tanks. Unlike the crude kerosene bombs favoured by rioters, Finnish Molotov Cocktails utilise a combination of alcohol, kerosene, tar, and potassium chlorate, which would stick to a surface more readily, and rather than a simple rag, utilised a storm match (a special kind of match that can maintain a flame even when wet or when windy). Using these Molotov Cocktails, Finnish soldiers would allow Soviet tanks to close the distance, and then swarm them once they got close.
- Anteater Team is made the flag tank this match, in keeping with Das Finale‘s third act’s portrayal of mixing things up. Anteater team has come quite a long ways from their first match: I still vividly recall when they were knocked out by a round meant for Miho during the round against Black Forest, but here, they’ve evidently improved as tankers, enough to make a meaningful contribution to Ooarai. While Anteater Team brings to the table strategies and methods they derived from playing an in-universe version of World of Tanks, they’re now best known for lifting weights and being the strongest members on Ooarai’s Panzerfahren team.
- This change is, in retrospect, a fantastic choice: World of Tanks is nowhere nearly as popular as it was eight years ago, during Girls und Panzer‘s heyday. I myself never got into World of Tanks because the mechanics were far different than what I had patience for, and today, the major Girls und Panzer clans for World of Tanks have largely disbanded. This isn’t going to stop me from using Battlefield Portal‘s match creators to create a convincing simulation of what would happen if I were to square off against AnimeSuki’s Mädchen und Panzer, a haughty bunch that actively practised the Nishizumi Style in their gameplay. Back in Das Finale, the decision to have Anteater Team be the flag tank ends up being a wise one: while Miho is able to organise a tactical retreat and exit the closed-in village, a round suddenly slams into the side of her Panzer IV.
- This round comes from none other than Jouko, a gunner whose accuracy has earned her the name of “The White Witch”. The moment I heard this, I immediately thought of Simo Häyhä, a Finnish sniper whose remarkable kill count came from his unerring skill with the Finnish-made M/28-30 and a preference for iron sights so scope glint wouldn’t give him away. Häyhä estimated that he’d made around 500 kills in his career, and he became a source of terror for Soviet soldiers, who named him “The White Death”. This reference swiftly establishes that Jouko is Continuation’s sniper, and as such, an instrumental part of their strategy. While sources indicate that Jouko operates a tank of unknown type, I imagine that given Continuation’s lineup, it’s a either the T34/85 with the DT-5 85mm gun, or a Sturmi, the Finnish StuG III Ausf.G, which sports a 7.5 cm KwK 40. While incapable of trading blows with a Tiger or Panther, the T34/85 tanks were more than capable of knocking out Panzer IVs, and the StuG III is a purpose-built tank destroyer, so both would be suitable as candidates for Jouko’s choice of armour.
- Against a team known for highly-accurate distance shooting, there are several approaches that can be utilised. Smoke would be the best bet, obfuscating the sharpshooters view, and since World War Two-era tanks lack any sort of thermal optics, use of smoke in conjunction with methods to close the distance and engage, or else create enough of a distraction to prevent the sniper from landing hits before closing the distance and handling them. Without Miho and Anko in play, the remainder of Ooarai must now find another way of keeping Anteater alive while dealing with their flag tank; perhaps Rabbit team and their tendency to use inspiration from old war films will step up to the plate. This is something that we viewers will likely have to wait a ways to see, but for the time being, I’m glad that Das Finale‘s third act is out in the open: it’s the perfect Christmas gift, a fantastic way to spend the day, and on this note, I’d like to wish all readers a Merry Christmas! I’ll be returning in the New Year to write about the accompanying OVA, Daikon War, and in the meantime, a few more posts will round out this year.
The potential for variety in Girls und Panzer is staggering, and while the entire series’ outcome is preordained, how a conclusion is reached remains the most thrilling aspect of Das Finale – there is not doubt that Ooarai will prevail over Continuation Academy, but this is secondary to how the outcome is attained. This aspect is what creates excitement in Girls und Panzer, compelling viewers to retain their anticipation for upcoming instalments. However, while the armoured warfare piece of Girls und Panzer is doubtlessly why the series has seen such success (technical excellence and unparalleled choreography makes every second gripping), Girls und Panzer‘s charm comes from being able to weave gripping combat sequences with meaningful life lessons. Throughout the whole of Girls und Panzer, messages of patience, open-mindedness, creativity and humility dominate the series. As characters board their tanks and engage one another, they learn more about things like teamwork, collaboration and sportsmanship. Through Panzerfahren, characters discover more about themselves, as well. Hana becomes more confident, and this shows in her flower arrangements, in turn leading her mother to respect her decision to take up Panzerfahren. Yukari is overjoyed to have new friends to share her passion with, putting her parents at ease that now, she’s no longer alone. Mako takes solace in the fact that her grandmother is now rooting for her success. Similarly, through Miho’s uncanny ability to pull victories off where it should have been impossible, she’s managed to regain her mother’s respect, as well. However, until now, Miho remains a little too apprehensive to have an open discussion with her mother, and similarly, while Shiho seems to want nothing more than to reconcile with Miho and acknowledge her skill, the opportunity never seems to present itself, either. Because Girls und Panzer had previously shown how confidence helps characters to face down some of the challenges they internally face, it is logical for Das Finale to carry this message forward and have Shiho and Miho reconcile in full: Panzerfahren has, after all, been shown to bring people together and even bring out the best in individuals. Such an outcome would consolidate the fact that series like Girls und Panzer can retain the slice-of-life aesthetic while employing creative activities for characters to conduct, although for the time being, whether or not my hopes will be realised is something that viewers will need an abundance of patience for. Das Finale‘s first chapter became available to the world in mid-March of 2018, and the second chapter followed suit in late February of 2020. Das Finale‘s arrival in late December 2021 means that on average, the wait from one episode to the next is twenty-two-and-a-half months. On these estimates, the BD for the fourth chapter to Das Finale will release in mid-October of 2024. There is little doubt that Das Finale‘s strengths means that the next instalments are worth waiting for, and I’m rather excited to see how the battle against Continuation Academy will unfold, especially now that Miho’s been taken out of the fight. As such, even if we suppose that the fourth installment of Das Finale reaches me in 2024, I will be more than happy to write about it for readers.