“I don’t mind hidden depths, but I insist that there be a surface.” –James Nicoll
Miho Nishizumi is a a new transfer to Ooarai Girls’ Academy, and looks forward to her high school life here. Although she’s shy and a little clumsy, she quickly befriends the outgoing and cheerful Saori Takebe, and the elegant, refined Hana Isuzu. While Miho had been hoping to take up flower arrangement as her club activity, the Student Council demands that Miho join the school’s newly-resurrected Panzerfahren (sensha-do, literally “way of the tank”, “Tankwando” or “Tankery” depending on the translation) programme, even going as far as threatening Miho with expulsion. Upon seeing the lengths to which her new friends will go for her, Miho reluctantly decides to join the Panzerfahren team, and despite her aversion to the sport, finds herself immediately at home among the tanks. Moreover, after a presentation from the student council, a few students take an interest in the sport as well, including Yukari Akiyama, who’d been in love with tanks since childhood. After locating tanks scattered around Ooarai’s school ship, the student council bring on Ami Chōno, a JSDF captain and tank commander who’d trained under Miho’s mother, to help bring the students up to speed. She sets Ooarai’s Panzerfahren team on a training match, allowing everyone to get a feel for the sport. During the exercise, Hana gets knocked out, but fortunately, Saori sports another one of her friends, Mako Reizei, sleeping in the field. Saori convinces Mako to become their driver, and Miho’s team edges out a win over the inexperienced teams. In the aftermath, Ooarai continues to train. Miho is made the team commander, and the teams are laid down. To prepare them for matches between schools, the student council organises a practise round with St. Gloriana, another school with a Panzerfahren programme. The first three episodes of Girls und Panzer had eased viewers into the series, opening with an introduction to the sport of Panzerfahren and establishing Miho’s return to a sport where she plainly had prior experience, including something that has dissuaded her from continuing.
After the earliest episodes aired, viewers almost immediately set about vilifying Anzu, Yuzu and Momo – their approach in convincing Miho to return to Panzerfahren was decidedly a hostile one, and threatening Miho with expulsion out of the gates created a highly negative first impression amongst viewers of 2012 (AnimeSuki’s “willx” refused to accept the series’ themes even after it had ended and branded them as “arrogant but completely ineffectual”. People like willx were mistaken in their beliefs: despite Anzu’s brazen threats coming across as harsh, once Miho accepts participation in Panzerfahren (however reluctantly), the student council acts in a way that indicates that there is a hint of desperation in their actions. This occurs after the newly-minted Panzerfahren team goes on a hunt around Ooarai’s school ship for tanks: after a hard day’s search, Ooarai adds the M3 Lee, Panzer 38(t), StuG III and Type 89B to their inventory, along with the Panzer IV that had been found inside the warehouses. The student council end up picking the 38(t), a light tank of Czechoslovakian design. With a maximum armour thickness of 30 mm and the 37 mm KwK 38(t) L/47.8 as its primary armament, the 38(t) was adopted by the Wehrmacht after it was determined that it outperformed their own Panzer I and IIs in combat. Despite having high mobility and reliability, it is clear that the 38(t) was no match for medium tanks of the day, and even anti-tank rifles could get through its thin armour if fired at the right spots. Of the tanks available to Ooarai, the 38(t) would easily be destroyed by heavier tanks. In spite of this, the student council chooses this tank, allowing the other students to have access to tanks with better arms and armour. A selfish student council, motivated by self-interest or their own ego, would take the best tank available to maximise their survival and performance in a Panzerfahren match, and yet, they willingly adopt the 38(t) as their tank. This action shows that, contrary to their initial attitude towards Miho, they have high hopes for her and are ready to place their faith in her ability, but saw no other way in persuading Miho to resume Panzerfahren. There’s something bigger in play, although at this point in time, Girls und Panzer betrays nothing about what leads the student council to this level of desperation. Consequently, those who were quick to vilify the student council were jumping to conclusions, plainly mistaken in their thinking. Even this early on, Girls und Panzer shows how understanding the tanks contributes to understanding the characters further. This aspect is what makes Girls und Panzer so enjoyable: there are subtle details that can offer hitherto unparalleled insight into what’s happening, but at the same time, even in the absence of knowledge regarding World War Two era armour, there remains much to enjoy in this show.
Screenshots and Commentary
- I’ve not done an #AniTwitWatches for a good half-year now: since Astra Lost in Space back during the summer, I became a little too busy to participate, but this latest iteration was a win-win: all of the choices would’ve been enjoyable, and I was lucky in that my nomination for Girls und Panzer won the vote. As such, I now have a ready-made excuse to revisit Girls und Panzer and some of the topics that I’d like to cover, where I previously did not have the time or motivation to do so. Girls und Panzer is a masterpiece of a series for me because it was able to cater to viewers of all backgrounds.
- From humble beginnings, Girls und Panzer captivated viewers with its likeable characters, fantastic world-building, a suspenseful story and incredible attention paid to details. There is something for everyone in this series, and while the premise of armoured warfare as a martial art prima facie appears ludicrous, that everything gets put together so well speaks to how creativity can create truly unique experiences. When I first heard of Girls und Panzer, I’d just finished squaring off against the MCAT, and I actually did have plans to watch and write about the series with some frequency: the premise had resulted in a cool reception amongst viewers, and I imagined that I’d have the series to myself.
- The reality ended up being anything but, and to my chagrin, the community’s worst showed up to the party almost immediately, picking apart every pixel of the series and criticising the characters before Girls und Panzer even had a chance to establish itself; the student council’s actions created controversy in the community from day one, and the flood of conversation surrounding the series lead me to put off watching the series until after I learnt that production had hit a hiatus. Joining this round of #AniTwitWatches, I am looking forwards to hearing thoughts from a community that is rather more civilised than those of say, AnimeSuki’s.
- While I’ve had my share of disagreements with the #AniTwitWatches previously (e.g. with Kanon), what separates our conversations from those of AnimeSuki’s is that we actually enjoy hearing divergent thoughts and walking one another through how we end up reaching our conclusions. On the other hand, AnimeSuki treats attacking a position held by a well-regarded poster as equivalent to attacking said person, and this allowed discussions on Girls und Panzer to get particularly troublesome. As such, I have no qualms admitting that I am curious to see how #AniTwitWatches will handle scenes from Girls und Panzer that have previously started flame wars: while we might not agree on everything, all the time, the #AniTwitWatches community has proven to be more than capable of holding civilised and reasoned discourse on topics of all sorts.
- The topic of the student council would form the first of many controversies in Girls und Panzer at AnimeSuki: Miho had transferred to Ooarai because she wanted to get away from Panzerfahren, and upon meeting Saori and Hana, had looked forwards to picking up a new activity. However, Anzu ends up strong-arming Miho into doing Panzerfahren against her will, even going as far as threatening her with expulsion. This immediately rubbed viewers the wrong way, and at AnimeSuki, the student council immediately became branded as bureaucratic villains more interested in their own image than the well-being of their fellow students: while it is true that Anzu and Momo come on very strongly, Girls und Panzer‘s central themes are built entirely around understanding, compassion and sportsmanship.
- Throughout Girls und Panzer, the anime has strived to convey that people are more than their appearances suggest, and that while first impressions might be important, having the patience and willingness to empathise with others is considerably more meaningful. Reading between the lines, that Anzu is willing to use expulsion as a threat means two things: first, they’re in a bit of a bind and have no choice but to be forceful, and second, they’re willing to gamble everything on Miho’s joining Ooarai’s Panzerfahren team. This is a bit of foreshadowing on the series’ part, although even after once things became clarified, people stubbornly continued to hold the student council in poor regard.
- Hana and Saori both demonstrate that beyond their cheerful demeanours, they have wills of iron and are willing to go to any lengths for their friends: they are ready to risk expulsion just to keep Miho from being pressured into doing something against her will. These traits are, coincidentally, the sort of thing that makes for a good tanker in the Girls und Panzer universe. Seeing what Saori and Hana are prepared to sacrifice for the sake of someone they’d just met leads Miho to understand that she’s found true friends in them: were it not for the student council’s high pressure tactics, Miho, Hana and Saori may have ended up backing down. I’ve noted previously that characters act in a way to drive the story, and while Girls und Panzer was still very much finding its footing, the student council’s portrayal here is not something I found to degrade or diminish my opinion of the characters.
- Hana and Saori end up taking Miho to their favourite ice cream joint on Ooarai, which specialises in making sweet potato ice cream. Sweet potatoes are an Ooarai speciality, where they are known as Beniazuma, and Anzu is always seen with a package of hoshi imo (dried sweet potatoes) in her hands. Girls und Panzer might be an anime about armoured warfare made martial art, but also succeeds in selling their home, Ooarai’s, specialities, to viewers. Despite being counted as one of the dullest places in Japan, Ooarai became a popular destination for Girls und Panzer fans after its airing precisely because the anime was able to sell the area to viewers.
- After Miho consents to join Ooarai’s Panzerfahren team, the series begins to finally kick off in earnest, and here, other Panzerfahren hopefuls show up to see what the sport is about. Here, the History Buffs and the first years are visible along with Hana and Saori; Girls und Panzer has a large number of characters, but every team has unique identifying characteristics that make them easy to tell apart. Even now, nearly a decade after Girls und Panzer finished airing, I haven’t memorised everyone’s names, but I do recall all of the teams on Ooarai by sight and traits without any difficulty because that’s how well they were written.
- Miho gazes upon the old Panzer IV sitting in the warehouse and finds that it’s still in operational condition. The first episode then cuts out to a scene that shocked all viewers: it turns out that the town is actually set on the deck of a super-massive carrier known as a school ship. Ooarai’s carrier is 7.6 kilometres long, and nine years earlier, I’d done a full breakdown estimating the sizes of the ships seen in Girls und Panzer. This is the blog post that put me on the map, and even now, people continue to refer to my post as the de facto source surrounding the sizes of the ships in Girls und Panzer. The very fact that Ooarai Girls’ Academy is situated on the deck of a ship surpassing even the UNSC Infinity in size was meant to achieve one important thing: establish that Girls und Panzer was set in a world that’s similar to our own, but where there are enough technological differences to accommodate the sport of Panzerfahren without it becoming dependent on viewers suspending their disbelief.
- J.R.R. Tolkien actually had put it best – a good author never needs their viewers to suspend any disbelief because their work will always be internally consistent. Girls und Panzer is fanciful, but remains internally consistent throughout its entire run, so this was never a problem. Here, Miho, Hana and Saori receive an introduction from Yukari Akiyama, an adorable tank otaku whose knowledge of armour and armoured warfare doctrine is unparalleled. Although she tends to get over-excited when tanks are mentioned, her knowledge means that she has the potential to be a major asset for Ooarai’s fledgling Panzerfahren team.
- The fact that Ooarai has tanks scattered around the school ship indicates that they once had a Panzerfahren programme, but for reasons outside the anime’s scope, the programme ended up losing funding, leading tanks to be sold to other schools. The remaining tanks were abandoned around the school, and the Panzerfahren team’s first activity is to hunt them down. Hana’s acute sense of smell allows her to pick out a 38(t): earlier, Hana had remarked on how she’d yearned to do something other than flower arrangement, drawing parallels with Miho’s own initial aversion to Panzerfahren.
- In the end, four more tanks are located: Ooarai now has a total of five tanks including the Panzer IV. None of these are particularly fearsome tanks: World War Two’s most iconic tanks include the American M4 Sherman, the Soviet T-34 and the German Tiger I. However, giving Ooarai iconic weapons would undermine the school’s journey as the underdog, and Girls und Panzer is all about humble beginnings. After the tanks are found, the students set about cleaning them up before handing them over to the mechanics club for repairs.
- Yuzu’s bikini is about the only bit of fanservice there is in the whole of Girls und Panzer proper (outside of the OVAs); the near absence of conventional fanservice in Girls und Panzer completely shocked viewers, who’d been expecting the series to be the next Strike Witches: the first few episodes of the series betrayed almost nothing about where the series would go, presenting Panzerfahren as a school elective no different than astronomy, light music or fishing. Indeed, these first few episodes have a slice-of-life feel to them for the most part, although on subsequent watch-throughs, subtle details are already present. Miho’s fear of Panzerfahren involves an accident and a tank falling into water of some sort, Hana’s family situation parallels Miho’s, and Miho herself is an excellent judge of character, quickly able to spot Saori and Hana’s best traits within a few moments of meeting them.
- Similarly, from Miho’s conversations about her sister and mother, as well as her reaction to seeing a televised media interview with her sister, it is clear that there definitely is a family issue going on. For the time being, Girls und Panzer sets these aspects aside to ensure that all of the central players are introduced first, and this includes giving Yukari a bit more shine time. Yukari’s an interesting character, being presented as incredibly knowledgeable about tanks and further to this, greatly respects Miho to the point of appending a –dono as her honorific (殿との is akin to addressing someone as “master” or “my lord”). Despite her obsession with tanks, Yukari is kind, respectful and resourceful, doing her best no matter what.
- With respect to how “seriously” I took Girls und Panzer when I first watched it, as well as what my expectations for the series were during its initial run, I approached it similarly to how I did for Strike Witches, a series which had a moderately focused story balanced out with slice-of-life aspects and world-building. The series began airing in October 2012, and during this time, I actually had sat the season out because I was enrolled in my capstone course, Honours Thesis and Research Communication. Having come out of the summer with a 35T on my MCAT (518 in today’s terms), I also managed to get a paper published over the course of the summer.
- While my term had been reasonably straightforward, this thesis project was a massive undertaking. I had fun working on the project every step of the way, and in October, I’d already had a clear idea of what I wished to do. Besides this project course, I was also enrolled in English, Genomics and a special topics course on iOS development. While having three courses meant I had the lightest semester I’d ever had in my undergraduate programme, most of my time was filled up with work on my thesis project. Since I didn’t keep time sheets back then, and I no longer have access to the SVN repository at the lab, I can no longer recall what I did on a day-to-day basis, but I do remember that the fall term had been too busy for me to actively watch anime.
- As such, I did not begin Girls und Panzer until the winter term had begun. This was actually to my advantage, since it allowed me to sit out the über-serious AnimeSuki discussions and enjoy the anime at my own pace: even in these earlier episodes, people were already complaining about how it is unrealistic to expect high school students to operate tanks without training, that it was unsafe to be outside of a tank while the main cannon was fired, how the student council was evading karma by getting away with strong-arming Miho into joining, et cetera. Nonstop criticisms day in and day out would grow tiring, and even now, I fail to understand why military-moé series like Girls und Panzer are scrutinised the most harshly.
- I have speculated that the reason why military-moé series is placed under the microscope is because the combination of cute girls and serious hardware seems to bring out a phenomenon reminiscent of what occurs when people make fools of themselves attempting to impress their crush. However, since we are dealing with the realm of fictional characters, this manifests as people trying to show off how much they know (and correspondingly, how much they care about the characters). However, without any confirmation that this hypothesis is true or false, it’s tough to understand why people go to such lengths to challenge every bit of realism in a show like Girls und Panzer. Back in Girls und Panzer itself, Saori is completely salty that their instructor, Ami, is a woman (failing to recall that in this universe, men don’t operate tanks at all).
- The initial roles are assigned by lot: Saori becomes the commander, while Yukari takes on the runner’s role, Hana drives, and Miho acts as the loader. As Yukari, Saori and Hana’s first time operating a tank, Miho offers suggestions on what to do, guiding her friends to become familiar with the Panzer IV. The other teams include the student council (38(t)), some first years (M3 Lee), the volleyball club (Type 89B) and the history buffs (StuG III): it’s their first time driving these armoured machines, as well, and because Miho has a reputation behind her, the other teams decide to gang up on Miho for kicks.
- Because Miho is still new to guiding her friends out, they initially make some rookie mistakes. This is, however, the whole point of training, and when the Panzer IV comes under fire, Hana is knocked unconscious from a glancing impact. However, Saori spots Mako sleeping in a field, and manages to convince her to act as the driver for the time being. Despite her lethargic and sleepy nature, Mako is a quick study, and in no time at all, is able to drive the Panzer IV like a champion. Even with Mako’s skill, the other tanks close in on her, forcing Miho to suggest that they navigate a rickety suspension bridge to escape their pursuers.
- In the end, thanks to inexperience, the other teams fail to capitalise on the fact that Miho’s team has positioned themselves poorly: shots fired miss them, and this allows Miho to return fire, leaving them victorious in this training exercise. Despite everyone still being novices, this first drill gives viewers a chance to see what Panzerfahren is like – even though this is a low-stakes exercise, it becomes clear that there is a joy to Panzerfahren. With Ami satisfied that the students can at least get the tanks to go where they wish, the remainder is up to Miho and her teammates.
- From here on out, I will refer to the teams by their interests during Panzerfahren matches for brevity’s sake; although Girls und Panzer has a large number of characters, grouping everyone by team becomes much easier – everyone’s identifying characteristics are such that every member of a team has something in common with one another. For Miho’s team, a conversation in the baths lead to everyone’s role assignment – Saori is very outgoing and enjoys speaking with others, so she chooses the radio operator’s role. Hana fell in love with the Panzer IV’s 75 mm KwK 37 L/24 and becomes the gunner, while Mako’s skill operating the tank leads her to become the driver.
- Yukari, on the other hand, does whatever she can to assist Miho; being the loader allows her to provide Miho with advice and suggestions during combat. Finally, thanks to her prior experience, Miho takes on the commander’s role again: she’d chosen to be a loader earlier because she’d felt unworthy to fill this duty, but the truth is that her prior experience makes her suited to be the commander. It takes a bit of strong-arming to get Mako to participate, but with Miho’s crew set, the next step is practise and preparing their armour. Here, I will note that with everyone in their element, Ooarai’s tanks are one step closer to being ready for a live match: people who are performing roles they’re less effective or interested in results in inefficiency.
- Initially, Ooarai’s tankers all decide to customise their tanks. Saori suggests adding cushions and other effects to make their tank’s interiors more comfortable, while the other teams take customisations to the next level. In particular, the first years give their M3 Lee a pink finish, while the history buffs colour their tank red and add nobori flags. The end result is that the tanks all feel like something straight out of a video game. When I first watched Girls und Panzer, Battlefield 3 was the biggest game around, and in those days, tanks did not have cosmetic options available to them.
- By Battlefield 1, tanks were permitted customisations, and had a variety of skins to choose from. Owing to the way I played, I ended up picking up a handful of high-end skins for my favourite tanks, including an all-gold finish for the Mark V similar to the colour that the Student Council ends up going for. Tanks are given drab colours for a reason, however, and bright colours would make the tanks stand out on the battlefield, turning them into easy targets. Yukari is horrified that the tanks are being treated this way, standing in contrast with Saori, who becomes pouty that Anko Team did not consider giving their tank a custom finish.
- Having now become familiar with their tanks and trained extensively to grow acclimatised to how to manoeuvre, gauge distance using the hash marks on the gun sights and position their tanks to minimise the profile for enemy attack, Ooarai prepares for its first match with another school. The student council have arranged for St. Gloriana, a British-themed school, to participate in a friendly match with them. Although nothing is at stake, determined to push Miho to her best, the student council set the terms of the match: should Ooarai lose, Miho will be forced to perform the infamous Anglerfish Dance.
- While Mako is tempted by the offer to expunge her attendance records through participation in Panzerfahren, her desire for sleep wins out initially, and she declines to join after learning that practise sessions will begin at 6 AM – in a famous declaration that I recall vividly to this day, Mako declares that it’s impossible to wake up at six in the morning. In my time as a university student, I joked to my friends that 6 AM starts were common for me. I used to get up at six so I could go lift weights before my day started. For the past two years, this habit has gone on hold, although post-move, I am looking to get weight lifting back into my routine.
- I am admittedly very excited about where things are headed: once I move, on days where I work from home, I’ll be able to wake up at six, go hit the weights at seven in the building over, and have enough time left over to take a shower before I start work at a quarter past eight. Alternatively, I can now hit the gym after hours, as well, if I don’t wish to wake up at the crack of dawn. While I will probably work out of the office on a few days of the week, I also have the flexibility to switch freely between working in office and working from home; once I settle in, I imagine that Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I’ll go into the office, and then the remainder of the week, I’ll work from home.
- On the day of the practise match with St. Gloriana, the tank commanders for each unit bow to one another and bid one another a fair match before starting. Because Girls und Panzer is one of those series with such a broad spectrum of topics, for this #AniTwitWatches session, I will be writing about a special topic for each week of the group watch, and once the community begins to offer their feedback and impressions, I am looking forwards to seeing what similarities and differences there are between our discussions, and those that took place nearly a decade earlier.
Even nearly a decade 2012’s Girls und Panzer finished airing, this is a series that continues to generate discussions amidst the anime community owing to the sheer depth the series confers. Prior to its airing, the only thing that was known about Girls und Panzer was a sub-par blurb from Sentai Filmworks, which characterised the students as “a few of them would rather shop for tank tops than become tops in tanks, but once their focus is locked and loaded, they’re absolutely driven”. Beyond this, expectations were low, and among the community, people indeed wondered if Girls und Panzer would become the next Strike Witches, better taking the name Girls und Pantsu by focusing on the girls’ pantsu while they were operating the tanks. The Sentai Filmworks description ended up failing utterly to describe Girls und Panzer‘s stakes, and speaking to the series’ incredible writing, the only bit of fanservice that does show up is when the well-endowed Yuzu dons a white bikini to help wash out the dirtied tanks. In fact, the director has commented on how pantsu would most definitely not be a part of this series. Girls und Panzer would go in a completely different direction, one that would captivate viewers: even the doubters would become fans by the time the series ended. Three episodes in, the series did a fantastic job of introducing both Ooarai’s Panzerfahren team to their tools, as well as viewers to this unique world. However, at the same time, Girls und Panzer also uses a striking bit of imagery to remind viewers not to take this series too seriously: as the first episode draws to a close, it is shown that Ooarai is actually situation on the deck of a massive aircraft carrier. I had previously found documentation to show that this carrier was some 7.6 kilometres in length, and since no means exists for constructing such vessels in reality, the use of school ships is a decisive and visceral show that the physics and rules of Girls und Panzer are not entirely equivalent to our own. Consequently, it is an exercise in futility to focus too much on minutiae in this series. I had mentioned that while a prior knowledge of tanks and World War Two armoured warfare doctrine might be helpful, it is not a prerequisite for enjoying this series, whose strengths lie not with the technical detail, but for its masterful combination of a touching story with suspense, thrills and likeable characters.
Your very first screencap here tells us something about Miho’s home life: looking dismal, she started to get out of her pajamas, and abruptly perked up with that joyful expression as she recalled, “I’m not at home anymore!”
I raised on one forum the possibility that the tank battles were all fought by virtual reality. That would explain, I argued:
“This is why no one gets broken bones or worse when their tanks are flipped upside down and set on fire. The girls Miho rescued from drowning in her character-defining moment were in no real danger at all. This makes her mother — and Erika — not quite as dickish as they’d seemed.
“On the other hand, the simulation is so good that people, especially young people, often lose track of the fact that this isn’t the real world. That’s why Team Rabbit panicked during their first battle, why Mako thought she had to swim to get to her ailing grandmother rather than simply logging out of the VR and catching a taxi, and why Miho cares so deeply about protecting her team members. Even if they won’t actually die, the sensation of drowning or exploding may be just as traumatic as the real thing (we see that Miho has recurring nightmares about that mission). Shiho might dismiss this as being too touchy-feely (perhaps the simulations in her day were of lesser quality, making it easier to stay detached), but as Maho pointed out, Miho’s determination not to yield her subordinates even to simulated death breeds an esprit de corps and devotion to their leader that helps a pack of newbies defeat veteran players and overwhelming odds … so this hypothesis does NOT mean Miho’s the idiot Shiho and Erika call her. Rather, she’s deliberately playing at a higher level of difficulty than they are. And beating the odds anyway.
“Virtual reality also mitigates the apparent wastefulness of the whole program. That shopkeeper wasn’t talking about remodeling with insurance money after his shop was wrecked, but remodeling with profits from people visiting the shop because it featured so prominently in the broadcast. Free advertising, yay! And those impossibly large ships? Hey, the computer simulates those, too. Everything’s really all taking place on land at Oarai.”
Someone else pointed out logical and logistical implausibilities in the VR notion, though, and I accepted their reasoning (evidently with more grace than the denizens of AnimeSuki).
The description of Yukari I added to a “tropes” site called her “Crazy Prepared: With Hammerspace! Where’d that thermos full of hot cocoa come from? And the folding spade? The lantern? How did she anticipate one of her comrades would need an insulating wrap for inside her boots? Her pockets are flat and she has no backpack, but out come the handwarmer, scissors, sewing kit, bandages, batarang… OK, no batarang… so far.”
At the minimum, you provided sufficient evidence to indicate there is a possibility of Girls und Panzer happening in virtual reality, and the technology certainly exists, I would tend to think that from a narrative and themes standpoint, things might be diminished if things were VR. As it stands, Girls und Panzer does a satisfactory job of maintaining internal consistency despite its somewhat outlandish setup, allowing us viewers to enjoy what unfolds on screen without worrying about realism (like adherence to Newtonian mechanics).
Yukari’s gear seems to be generic survival gear akin to what Les Stroud recommends carrying, so it is not inconceivable that she’s always mindful of what environment she’s entering and preparing accordingly. This particular aspect is something I greatly like about Yukari, and despite her being embarrassed whenever nerding out, her contributions to Ooarai’s Panzerfahren team has been nontrivial! Finally, regarding Miho, that was a particularly great bit of foreshadowing, too: even something as subtle as how she reacts shows her home life was very rigid and regimented.
By the way, you mentioned people at AnimeSuki complaining about the “unrealism” of GuP with quibbles such as “…it was unsafe to be outside of a tank while the main cannon was fired…”. Contradicting this, some of the top U.S. tank officers in real-world history rode into battle standing in the open hatch. Colonel (later General) Creighton Abrams, the man the Abrams tank is named for, “the world’s champion” tank commander according to General Patton, was well known for this: “In all these fights Abe was in his tank turret exposed from the waist up conducting the battle.” And Abrams made sure all of his subordinate tank commanders did the same, even threatening to have one tank’s hatch welded in the open position if he ever again saw it closed in battle.
I’ve done a bit of reading around, and it turns out that for modern tanks, when the main cannon is fired, the overpressure region can be approximated as running from the muzzle down the length of the barrel. So, soldiers are suggested to stay at least behind the smoke grenade launchers on a tank. The commander’s copula is behind this area, so they’re generally fine. With this being said, anyone standing beside the barrel while the main gun fires will suffer serious injury. As for the risk of being hit by a main shell, a commander is a very small target compared to the rest of the tank, and both in real life and Panzerfahren, enemy combatants will be aiming for the tank itself. Again, if things do connect, the commander would probably be vapourised (per Fury), but probabilities are low enough so that the extra visibility is worth it.
As it stands, the folks at AnimeSuki or other avenues that saw fit to point out the so-called gaffes clearly haven’t done enough reading. It’s one thing to make assumptions based on one’s own knowledge, but quite another to take the time and do a bit of digging around before seeing if one’s thoughts need adjustment. AnimeSuki’s userbase is particularly bad about this, so I hope readers will forgive me if I periodically take a few jabs at some of their practises.
Garupan is one of my #1 anime of all times, for all the reasons you mention. I also liked the way they snuck in historical references and hat-tips without making a big deal of it. So, we have the fact that the headmasters car is a Ferrari F40 (worth about a million dollars today), and that in Rommel’s invasion of France, the advance was held up when a PzIV got stuck on a bridge. Then there’s Momo’s reply of “Nuts” to the other team’s demand they surrender, and the Kuromorimine unexpected attack through the Ardennes..er… forest. Subtle references, with no ‘see what I did’ fanfare — these things just happen and the scene moves on.
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These small details are absolutely one of the things that make Girls und Panzer so enjoyable; this series has a bit of something for everyone, and during this #AniTwitWatches, we’ve got everyone, from first-timers to re-watchers. That our first-timer is finding the series unexpectedly fun speaks to how the anime can hold a viewer’s interest through the characters and story direction. Those of us re-watching are keeping an eye for small bits of detail that foreshadow future events, and folks who know their military history will find nifty references to history, and the tanks themselves are also valuable in providing hints at what’s happening 🙂 However, someone without knowledge of this stuff can still have a blast!
I gave a copy of the Garupan DVD to a friend of mine — retired accountant, not particularly into anime — and he emailed me back “Why am I enjoying this so much?”
This series is doubtlessly full of surprises: I have a few friends in engineering who aren’t into anime, and they similarly got on fine with Girls und Panzer, too!
As always, great article! You really encompassed what I thought and felt when I did my post-DF3 rewatch last year and articulated it better than I ever could!
To add to what I tweeted with you and Jon on this round of #anitwitwatches, my first impression towards future-Turtle Team when I first watched this show back then was a necessary evil. While I did recognize that the reluctant hero needed to be brought back to her calling somehow, and in hindsight the end does justify the means (we’re talking tens of thousands of people and their livelihoods at stake), I did felt that their method of bringing that about in the story painted themselves in a more negative light. I didn’t have a strong enough of an opinion about it personally, but that sort of impression was made to many od the average 2ch and niconico user, hence why Anzu’s early nickname was “Evil Yoshika” when the show was arliring, at least prior to her becoming more fleshed out as a character.
Honestly though, as far as this part of the story goes, I don’t think there’s much point in dwelling on the specific issue…. Not when the characters involved more or less moved on from that specific issue. In fact if I remember correctly Miho specifically said she didn’t have any hang-ups about it in a compilation movie where the Anglerfish Team gave running commentaries.
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If I’m not mistaken, this is my fifth rewatch of Girls und Panzer (counting this current one for #AniTwitWatches), and my primary goals in revisiting old arguments is to see how the #AniTwitWatches participants takes to things that were considered a ‘big deal’ back when Girls und Panzer was first airing. My other aim with these posts are to see if there are any details in Girls und Panzer that might have been employed as foreshadowing and impact future events: revisiting a series means being attuned for things like symbols and gestures that hint at future events, and I always find discussions like these fun. The Student Council’s decision to take the 38(t) is one such example: in the moment, I wouldn’t have noticed, but looking back, it says something about their own personalities and goals 🙂
For me, many of these topics were actually of a minute significance compared to the larger story at hand, and I don’t see things like the Student Council’s actions as being a game-breaker, especially because in a given work of fiction, characters tend to become easier to sympathise with and understand once we know more. Jumping to conclusions and marking the Student Council as “irredeemable” diminishes one’s enjoyment of things: when Anzu first threatened Miho with expulsion, I took things in stride because, had Miho been allowed to pursue another activity, we’d take the Panzer from Girls und Panzer outright. That this is openly clarified for us in a recap emphasises that it’s not a sticking point as some make it out to be.
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