“What do I know of man’s destiny? I could tell you more about radishes” –Samuel Beckett
Miho, Saori, Hana, Mako and Yukari head off to Ooarai’s Agriculture Department to deliver some documents for their representative, Jane, although they struggle to acclimatise to their horses, which were provided so they don’t have to walk. It turns out that the agriculture representative has missed a series of meetings, and as a result, is short a bunch of printouts. As Saori and the others travel further, the rice fields give way to the foothills. Here, they speak with a farmer who indicates that Jane’s in pursuit of a ruffian, and they press further into the desert. Although the task is lengthy, the girls soon encounter Jane in an old western town after hearing a gunshot. Their conversation is interrupted when Belle shows up, and after Belle fires a round that ruins the churros, Mako is angered. She confronts Belle directly, leading the others to come out and surround Belle. Belle in turn demands a one-on-one duel with Jane. Unfortunately for Belle, Jane’s the faster draw in the west, and she finds herself splattered with paint. Belle decides to make a break for it, but having learnt how to ride Choco properly, Saori captures her. As it turns out, Belle was wanted for the theft of daikon radishes. Belle takes Jane and the others back to a smokehouse, where she’s making iburigakko (smoked and pickled daikon); it turns out Belle had wanted to share some recipes with the school at large, but no one was willing to give her recipes a go. With the misunderstanding cleared, Jane agrees to help Belle secure daikon so she won’t have to resort to stealing them. Later that evening, Miho and Jane share a conversation: Jane’s interested in having some extra hands to help out, but Miho remarks that everyone’s got their own activities, and wonders if Jane would like to join Ooarai’s Panzerfahren team. The pair agree to go their separate ways, and Jane promises to support Miho’s Panzerfahren team before riding off into the sunrise. Tus ends Daikon War, the OVA accompanying Das Finale‘s third act that continues in Girls und Panzer‘s tradition of demonstrating how having the patience to talk things out is how conflicts can be resolved: once Jane understands what Belle’s intentions are, things quickly turn around, and Jane goes from hunting down Belle to helping her secure daikon for her recipes.
Besides being a heartwarming tale of how Girls und Panzer would see disagreements and misunderstandings sorted out, Daikon War also gives viewers a bit more insight into the School Ships within the Girls und Panzer universe. These vessels are gargantuan in scale: despite a length of seven-point-six kilometres and a minimum width of nine hundred meters, Ooarai’s Zuikaku is actually on the smaller end of things, and even larger school ships exist. The amount of deck space available allows entire towns and biomes to be hosted, and this in turn creates a limitless potential for adventure. Daikon War is one such example, showcasing a side of Ooarai’s school ship that we’d not seen before: it was fun to see how Ooarai’s Agriculture programme is large enough to encompass several different kinds of farming, and how students can also be involved in keeping the peace in larger areas of the ship. The Girls und Panzer universe is immensely intricate, and exploring things outside of Panzerfahren shows what other nuances exist in their world. However, Daikon War also creates a new challenge for Girls und Panzer. Zuikaku’s layout has been shown as being very consistent throughout Girls und Panzer; most of the deck is covered by the town, and the school is situated at midship. There’s a couple of forested hills on the ship’s starboard side, and at the bow, some fields can be seen. However, in Daikon War, Saori and the others ride through rocky, mountainous terrain reminiscent of the landscapes in Arizona. These areas aren’t visible from the top of the vessel, creating a minor bit of discrepancies in how the Zuikaku is laid out. This is one of the hazards about longer-running series: inconsistencies like these can result if older materials and newer requirements are not reconciled. In this case, the Zuikaku is not expressly shown as having desert areas, so one does wonder whether or not the school ship has undergone terraforming updates or similar. Of course, such details are probably only on the minds of fans like myself, who’ve been around the block for a while: Daikon War itself is a fun OVA that gives viewers a chance to see Miho, Saori, Hana, Mako and Yukari outside of Panzerfahren, hanging out with their classmates in a world that is quite similar to, but also quite unlike our own, and a few discrepancies hasn’t stopped me from being all smiles while watching this latest Girls und Panzer OVA.
Screenshots and Commentary
- The last time I went horseback riding was back during band camp when I was a middle school student, and while a walking horse was reasonably easy to ride, I had a bit more trouble when horses went into a trot. Experience horseback riders will have no trouble managing their horse even while it gallops, and here, Miho struggles to steer her horse. I found it interesting that Miho and the others remain in their school uniforms while riding: normally, long pants are preferred, and I imagine that riding a horse with bare thighs could become quite uncomfortable because it exposes one to various pinches, burns and scrapes.
- Daikon War’s first moments show the girls passing through farmland similar to that of Japan’s inaka, and the Das Finale‘s visual quality is stunning: it genuinely does feel like the satoyama out here. As Miho’s group passes through then region, satoyama gives way to fields similar to those of Southern Alberta, British Columbia’s lower mainland, or Montana, I find myself feeling that this spot reminds me a great deal of home: in the southern reaches of my province, the foothills near the Rockies are dotted with farms, and during summers, it is incredibly relaxing to drive down here.
- Amidst the ferocity of armoured warfare, there’s precious little time for characters to act as they normally would because they’re so focused on the task at hand. Conversely, moments like these allow viewers to see how Saori and the others are when they are outside of Panzerfahren. Saori ends up naming her horse Choco after its dark brown coat, speaking to her personality, although the horse doesn’t seem to take kindly to being named: it promptly bucks, causing Saori to fall off its back.
- Hana ends up explaining what the purpose of this excursion is: the agriculture representative, Jane, has been absent at several student council meetings, and since Hana is now the new president, it’s her responsibility to get the documents delivered. That Miho, Mako and Yukari follow along for the adventure shows how close the five have become during their time as Panzerfahren teammates.
- Being able to see parts of the Girls und Panzer world that would otherwise not be explored is one of the main reasons why Girls und Panzer OVAs are always fun to watch. Here, Hana speaks with a farm girl who helps to point them in the right direction: Ooarai’s school ship is home to around thirty thousand people, and seeing other people on board the school ship speaks volumes to why Miho’s efforts to win the Panzerfahren championship, and then a match against the University team, was so important. Had she failed, and Ooarai been closed, thirty thousand people would’ve had to have found new homes and schools.
- Stakes like these is probably why Der Film was able to threaten Ooarai with a second closure: the sheer size and scale of a school ship means that it takes a very large amount of resources to keep them running, and while Ooarai may not offer any one specialty as the other schools might, thirty thousand people call the ship home, and it is clear that those who live here love their home very much, which created the weight behind Der Film. This is something that wasn’t shown in Der Film, so it is understandable that not everyone will agree with this sentiment. In fact, back in the day, some folks at AnimeSuki had been left so disappointed by the film that they ended up ditching the franchise outright. Given that Das Finale has placed an emphasis on teamplay and strategy, and has hinted at Ooarai squaring off against St. Gloriana in the final match, I imagine that Das Finale is the continuation that these individuals would’ve been looking to watch.
- After encountering folks who are familiar with the area, Hana and the others travel deeper into the mountains. The verdant landscapes soon give way to arid desert, devoid of any vegetation. Throughout the day, Mako’s been becoming increasingly hungry, and a running joke here is that everyone the group runs into is enjoying food of some kind. Some individuals with Indigenous attire are chilling with popcorn, and a cowgirl is seen holding what appears to be a turkey leg. While Mako implies she’d very much like some, Saori presses the initiative, and the cowgirl soon points them to the last destination.
- Upon arriving in town, which possesses Pueblo architecture, Miho and the others meet Jane, a blond-haired sheriff with a similar aura about her as Saunders’ Kay. Hana explains why they’re here, but Jane counters that she hasn’t time for things yet, since she’s busy chasing down an outlaw. Admittedly, seeing Spaghetti Western-styled OVA in something like Girls und Panzer was completely unexpected, but it also speaks to how versatile the world is, in being able to accommodate so many kinds of stories without once making the stories feel like they’re out of place.
- Having grown up in what is considered to be Canada’s cowboy country, and living in a city with The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth means I’m no stranger to elements of the Old West: in both American and Canadian history, the west was long considered to be the Frontier, and both governments invested into expanding into this territory. In Canada, efforts to settle the prairies weren’t made until the 1840s, when Prime Minister John A. MacDonald pushed policy to encourage development of the west. With the Dominion Lands Act and founding of the RCMP, homesteaders moved into the prairies as farmers. Conversely, in the United States, settlers often conflicted with Indigenous peoples already living in the West, leading to violent clashes that saw most Indigenous people lose their land.
- These struggles are glorified in Old West films, and the term Spaghetti Western comes from the fact that some of the most successful films had Italian producers. Here, after Mako mentions that she’s quite famished, Jane passes her a churros. This Spanish dessert is also popular in Mexico, consisting of fried dough lightly dusted in cinnamon sugar. I had my first churros in Cancún during a conference, and I find them quite delicious. It was quite endearing to see Mako with a smile here, and Yukari’s smiles are similarly heartwarming.
- Jane and the others promptly come under gunfire from the outlaw that Jane had been chasing. When a stray round takes out Mako’s churros, Mako’s frustration brings her out into the open. She grabs Jane’s hat and confronts the outlaw, leading Miho and the others to back her up. The odds have suddenly turned against Belle, who’s cornered, and this gives Jane a chance to finish things off once and for all. During this engagement, Miho wonders if they’re using real guns: Jane and Belle are both using revolvers. I believe that Jane’s rocking a 1873 Single Action Army, but it’s a little hard to tell.
- The 1873 Single Action Army is one of the most iconic weapons of the Old West, prized for its stopping power and reliability. Such weapons might’ve been a little less suited for duelling, since the longer barrel would increase draw time. In a one-on-one, a shorter barrel or snub nose might be more appropriate; at shorter ranges, lower muzzle energy isn’t quite as important as stability and weight. Jane ends up accepting Belle’s challenge for a duel, and the square off at sundown while Miho and the others look on, with no small degree of apprehension.
- Before Belle can even react, Jane’s already drawn and pulls the trigger. Belle’s head disappears behind a cloud of red, but fortunately, this is just a paintball gun. This shouldn’t be too surprising: in Japan, firearms are tightly regulated. Shotguns and air rifles are legal to possess, so long as one consents to random police checks and an extensive screening process, while all other weapons are prohibited. Similarly, it is inappropriate for students to be carrying actual firearms, so paintball guns are more than suitable as a substitute. The end effect of the duel causes the tension to taper off, as comedy displaces the suspense: Belle is now covered in red paint.
- After Jane wins the duel, Belle decides to beat a hasty exit, but thanks to Saori ranking up her riding skill, she’s able to nab the escaping Belle. Belle is subsequently tied to a post, and the others learn of what’s happening here: it turns out that Belle had been stealing daikons from nearby farmers, so Jane was sent out to investigate and figure out what was going on. Miho and the others are surprised by this outcome; they’d been expecting something a little more dramatic.
- Daikon are a common food in Japanese cuisine; pickled daikon are used in a variety of dishes, but it can also be simmered in oden. In Chinese cuisine, daikon (known as 蘿蔔, jyutping lo4 baak6) are used to make turnip cake, a savoury and delicious dim sum made of shredded radish and flour, mixed with several ingredients like Chinese sausage, dried shrimp, Chinese sausage and shiitake, then served with soy sauce. Now that I think about it, turnip cakes feel like a Cantonese version of okonomiyaki.
- Back at her smokehouse, Belle offers Jane and the others iburigakko (いぶりがっこ), smoked and pickled daikon originating from the Akita prefecture. The process involves smoking freshly-picked daikon for a minimum of two days using wood sourced from oak or cherry, and then pickled in a low temperature rice bran for forty days, creating a dish with a very distinct flavour profile. Belle offers Jane and the others here a sample of what’s possible with iburigakko, and I note that daikon is actually one of the components of our family’s Cantonese-style hot pot (打邊爐, jyutping daa2 bin1 lou4): one of my family traditions is to have a 打邊爐 this time of year, when the weather is chilly, and the nights are long.
- Last evening, I sat down to a hot pot featuring lamb, beef, giant prawns, oyster, cuttlefish, four kinds of fish balls, lettuce and cabbage, as well as daikon two ways. Besides freshly-sliced daikon, I also added shredded daikon with a splash of lemon juice to my soy sauce dip, adding a kick to things. The thing I love most about these homestyle hot pots is that they’re cozy, and things were chased with the leftover champagne from our New Year’s Eve party. Here, Saori, Yukari, Miho, Mako and Hana try out some of Belle’s iburigakko creations, and immediately, they’re blown away by the rich flavour.
- Once Jane comes to understand Belle’s story, which is a bit of a pitiful one (other students at Ooarai refuse to give her daikon because they see no merit in iburigakko), she ended up resorting to theft to make some. If Miho and the others’ reaction were anything to go by, it appears that once others have had a chance to try iburigakko, they’ll be much more receptive towards things, too. I imagine that Belle’s interest in iburigakko is a personal one that she’s turned into a school project of sorts, as well. Without further exploration, this won’t be known to viewers, but the implications are that school activities on a school ship are very engaging and essential part of education; I’ve long found that hands-on education is the most effective, and have always performed best when given a little background before being set loose with a project or a chance to learn on my own.
- After things are resolved, Jane thanks Miho and her friends for stepping up to help, before the pair exchange the wish to join one another’s respective activities. I particularly liked this moment because it was a chance to see how Miho is outside of Panzerfahren: when she first met Hana and Saori, Miho had been quite shy and clumsy. The Miho we see today is more confident and spirited, and for me, this does help make the case that while Das Finale might be about Momo, there could yet be a chance for Miho to properly reconcile with Shiho. A more outgoing and assertive Miho would have an easier time with doing this. Daikon War ends with Jane riding off into the sunrise while a Western-style theme plays to close the episode out.
- The soundtrack to Das Finale‘s first half released back in May of 2021, and while it doesn’t have this ending song (which I imagine will make it over into the soundtrack for Das Finale‘s second half), it does have both versions of La Chanson de l’oignon, a vocal version sung by BC Freedom’s students, and an instrumental version. The soundtrack is fun, and it’s great to be able to listen to the new incidental music heard in Das Finale. With this, I imagine this is the last I’ll be writing about Girls und Panzer for a while: on the estimate there’s a 664 day-long gap between now and the next act, I’ll be stopping by next in 2023 to write about Das Finale‘s fourth chapter and its associated OVA. In the meantime, we’re now two days in 2022, and all of the anime that’ve caught my eye so far are airing on January 7, so it’s time for me to ease up with the blogging and take it easy until Slow Loop begins later this week.
The immense successes that Girls und Panzer enjoyed over the past decade stems from a combination of a strong thematic piece, lovable characters and meticulously-researched armoured warfare details. However, through its OVAs, Girls und Panzer also shows that the potential for telling stories outside of Panzerfahren is unbound. OVAs such as these are prima facie frivolous and don’t add anything substantial to the series’ main themes, but their value is found in being able to give characters a chance to bounce off one another outside of Panzerfahren matches. One aspect of Girls und Panzer I’ve always enjoyed ware the slice-of-life moments; in Das Finale‘s third act, seeing the characters engaged in their usual duties, as well as taking it easy in between preparations for upcoming matches, provides unparalleled insight into the characters themselves. These moments hint at how different characters approach Panzerfahren, and suggest that how individuals’ dispositions are outside of their duties can greatly impact their actions when the chips are down. Seeing Mika build a snowman before a match both shows that she’s one to let her mind rest before a challenge, as well as how she believes that great ideas can come from anywhere, whether or not one is actively preparing or taking a rest to regroup. Similarly, watching Miho and the others venture into the heart of Ooarai’s farmlands shows that they’re a friendly and open-minded bunch. Saori has a talent for picking things up, and the normally laid-back Mako becomes all business if anyone messes with her food. Miho is also shown as being less shy than she’d been at the series’ beginning; she’s now able to carry a conversation and even consider inviting people to try Panzerfahren out. Altogether, these short OVAs are valuable to viewers for providing insights into characters and the Girls und Panzer universe in ways that Das Finale‘s main acts do not. The fact that Das Finale‘s second and third acts include an OVA serves to enhance the experience for those who choose to watch the series at home: these bonuses add to things in a way that just watching something at the theatrical première cannot confer.