“It is easy to love your friend, but sometimes the hardest lesson to learn is to love your enemy.” –Sun Tzu
Despite Anteater team’s early exit, they wish Miho the best of luck: Miho directs the remaining Ooarai forces to a hill and they prepare to dig in, using smoke to cover their advance. Maho orders her tanks to hold their fire, and by the time the smoke clears, Ooarai have set up. Having allowed Turtle team and their Hetzer to linger behind, Miho exchanges fire with Black Forest. Although they are outgunned, Turtle team appears and creates enough chaos for Miho to head back down the hill. Miho decides to push fight things out in an urban region, but along the way, Rabbit team’s tank stalls while crossing a river. With Black Forest’s tanks approaching from the rear, Miho makes the call to rescue Rabbit team – she hops over to their M3 with a cable and hitches it to the remaining tanks, who are able to pull Rabbit team out of the water. Their engine restarts to general relief, and Ooarai arrives at the urban centre. Here, they find themselves face-to-face with the Panzer VIII Maus, which quickly disables Mallard team and Hippo team. Feeling that the Maus will continue to be a problem if not dealt with, Miho asks Turtle team to ram the Maus with their Hetzer, while Duck team blocks its turret from rotating. With a carefully placed shot from Hana to the Maus’ engine block, Ooarai takes it out of the game. The Hetzer malfunctions, having taken a beating in the process, and the Student Council pray for Miho’s success. Miho manages to lure the remaining Black Forest tanks into the city streets. Rabbit team and Duck team disperse to draw Black Forest’s tanks off them, successfully disabling several of their tank destroyers, while Miho herself prepares to head off into the high school for a one-on-one with Maho. In a tense showdown, Miho decides to chance everything on the move that had failed against Darjeeling. This time, with everything on the line, Anko team lands a hit squarely to the engine block of Maho’s Tiger I, bringing the finals to an end. After addressing Ooarai and thanking them, Miho heads off to meet Maho, who congratulates Miho on her victory. Erika promises that they’ll meet in Panzerfahren again. Maho is pleased that Miho’s found her way, and in the stands, Shiho gently applauds Miho. The victorious Panzerfahren team later ride through Ooarai in a parade, and the girls promise to unwind in the onsen before riding out on their tanks again. This brings Girls und Panzer‘s TV series to its satisfying conclusion, demonstrating how through unparalleled camaraderie and acceptance from her classmates, Miho’s come to find her own Way of the Tank and proving, beyond any reasonable doubt, that there is room for compassion and empathy in Panzerfahren and reality.
Ooarai’s victory over Black Forest is an integral part of Girls und Panzer; it is a show of how far Miho has come since she made the decision to pick the sport up again, how under her command, Ooarai galvinised itself into fighting for both their futures together and for a commander who plainly shows that she cares about everyone around her. From a narrative standpoint, Ooarai has done everything correctly, and Girls und Panzer had laid down all of the groundwork needed to create a satisfying victory. The sum of Miho’s learnings through her time with the accepting and open-mindedness among her new teammates gives her the courage to lead everyone into battle, and at the same time, treating teammates and opponents alike with compassion is why Ooarai wins every match it has participated in vis-à-vis making friends of opponents. This is a team that deserves its victory because it champions sportsmanship, respectfulness and humility, and together with the fact that everyone is now fighting not for the sake of victory, but for the chance to forge a future together with one another, their spirit is indefatigable. Even a Maus is not enough to shake them from this; once the shock of its appearance wears off, Miho manages to regroup her team and spur them on with a bold plan of taking it out using the hardware they have available to them. Spotting the ingenuity that Miho brings with her into each battle, each of Ooarai’s groups eventually develop a style of their own, too. The Student Council enjoy sneaking up on foes and surprising them at close quarters, while the Volleyball Club use their speed to lure opponents out. The history buffs capitalise on their StuG III’s low profile to snipe foes without being seen, and the first years begin to mind their surroundings and use this to their advantage. As the girls participate in Panzerfahren, they develop a very strong understanding of their preferred styles, as well as a profound connection with their tank’s strengths and weaknesses. Because Ooarai’s entire loadout consists of different tanks, this allows them to fight in highly flexible and creative ways. Adaptiveness is what gives Ooarai such an advantage over their opponents, and with each group having found their own Way of the Tank, in conjunction with the shared goal of saving their school, Ooarai is placed in a position where their victory is deserved: being pushed into a corner prompts everyone to fight harder for one another’s sake, and in this moment, Ooarai wanted to win more badly than Black Forest did as a consequence of their circumstance, which brought out the best in every team. While Ooarai’s win might prima facie appear to be clichéd, a tale of the underdog prevailing in the face of overwhelmingly unfavourable odds, the reality is that this is a team that has sweated, cried and bled for their victory, by placing their faith in, and doing what they can for one another.
The fact that Ooarai advanced through the entirety of the national tournament undefeated does raise an interesting question: what would it take to best Miho and her scrappy teammates in a Panzerfahren battle? With their motley collection of tanks, and a style that is as fluid as water itself, Ooarai fights in a way to maximise chaos, utilising the environment to their advantage and creating scenarios where they can employ divide-and-conquer tactics, breaking up enemy formations and defeating tanks individually. This typically entails drawing foes into close-quarters environments and then allowing tanks to engage foes independently using the methods best suited for the tank and its operators, or otherwise using their own flag tank as bait and setting up scenarios that allow them to finish things off in a decisive, unexpected stroke. Ooarai’s style is succinctly described as a lack of style, and for foes accustomed to entire schools employing a single set of tactics, Ooarai becomes incredibly frustrating to beat – tank crews are trained to act in a coordinated and disciplined manner on the assumption that enemies fight a particular way, so when faced with Ooarai, which frequently uses unorthodox tactics to deceive their foes, it becomes very difficult to overcome a team that is creatively adapting to whatever scenarios one has planned for. However, there is a way to defeat Ooarai nonetheless: because Miho and her teammates are now accustomed to drawing foes in and separating them, understanding that Miho prefers close quarters means not taking their bait. A team could use lighter tanks to employ hit-and-fade tactics from seemingly random directions to confuse Ooarai, and then slowly push them into a kill zone where tanks with longer-range weapons can be utilised. Similarly, knowing Ooarai’s preference for divide-and-conquer means keeping one’s tanks together in small groups to defend against rushes from Ooarai. A combination of light tanks and medium tanks, coupled with one or two heavy tanks, and a small number of tank destroyers would therefore be the best setup against Ooarai. Because Ooarai’s setup is weaker at long-range combat, defeating them would entail thinning out some of their numbers at the very beginning, before Miho can organise a divide-and-conquer strategy, and then as the match does push into close quarters, keeping tanks together in groups of three while at the same time, maintaining mobility and repositioning to constantly ensure Ooarai’s tanks do not box one in to a trap. Miho is definitely not unbeatable by any stretch, although schools would need to be willing to use tricks of their own to gain the upper hand over Ooarai, and this is a direction that Girls und Panzer has indeed taken, through both Der Film and Das Finale, to ensure that battles remain engaging. When opponents also employ deception and mix things up, as Miho is wont to doing, matches become more thrilling to watch because even though the outcome is preordained, it forces Ooarai to really work for their wins, creating situations that are even more compelling and engaging.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Unlike the viewers of 2012, #AniTwitWatches is fortunate in that we’ve got all of the episodes available to us right out of the gates. Girls und Panzer‘s final two episodes aired three months after the tenth episode, and it was here that the series really kicked things up a notch. The general consensus amongst contemporary viewers, and unanimously amongst the folks I spoke with, that Ooarai had done everything conceivable as to deserve their win against a team whose reputation is fearsome, and whose equipment seems overwhelmingly powerful. As such, when I approached the final two episodes, my expectations were that Ooarai would win, but the battle for it would be unlike any other that Miho and her teammates had previously faced. This approach is typical to Girls und Panzer, and the nearest equivalent I can think of is Ip Man (as well as its sequels): the titular Ip Man (Donnie Yen) is never shown as losing, and at worst, only will draw with opponents.
- An unbeatable protagonist works in fiction when the story deals with another facet to their character that sees advancement. For Ip Man, Ip Man is shown as navigating challenges surrounding family and community life as his circumstances change. Similarly, Girls und Panzer‘s focus is on Miho rediscovering herself. Her skill in Panzerfahren is never a concern because it was never the core of the series, and consequently, Ooarai winning would represent more than a mere Cinderella Story: it is a tangible, definitive show of how Miho’s embraced her own style enough to lead an entire team to the top. to see Ooarai take the championship was centred around the fact that Miho had not done enough to earn her victory. However, what counts as “enough” is a subjective measure, and in the context of Girls und Panzer, I counter-argue that Miho has contributed greatly to Ooarai’s Panzerfahren. She is selfless and hard-working, doing everything she can to ensure everyone’s success. She takes responsibility for her actions and looks after those around her.
- After Miho organises her forces on the hill and sends Black Forest into disarray, some folks began to feel that the school as a whole was overrated, a paper tiger. However, I would counter-argue that Black Forest’s performance against Ooarai is a show of when their strategy can be made to fail. Rather than supposing that Black Forest is deficient, Kay puts it best: Black Forest folds when things begin going in a way they’ve never trained for. At the start of this match, initiative rests purely with Black Forest, but after Turtle team use their Hetzer to create a distraction, Black Forests’ crews become so surprised at the fact that no one’s ever driven a smaller tank besides theirs to stay out of fire, that they lose composure and begin to panic. This allows Miho’s team to escape: while it does make Black Forest look incompetent, the fact is that previously, other schools simply attempted to match forces with Black Forest, and since Black Forest has tougher tanks, they simply came out on top.
- Ooarai’s unorthodox tactics creates frustration, and this is ultimately why Black Forest is thrown into disarray. Miho’s intention here isn’t to fight them, since in open fields, Black Forests’ tanks still have the advantage. Instead, with the distraction the Student Council have created, Miho leads all of her tanks back down towards a town, making use of confusion and smoke to mask their escape. Whereas other schools seem reluctant to use smoke, Ooarai utilises it liberally to their advantage: this trait is decidedly ninja-like, and as Christopher Nolan’s Ra’s al Ghul remarks, theatricality and deception are powerful agents, making a single individual feel like ten, and making ten feel like a hundred. Now that I think about it, Ooarai’s tactics resembles those of ninjutsu, counting on a combination of patience and agility to overcome opponents. To the uninitiated, Ooarai is a frustrating opponent to fight because they never go in for a head-on confrontation, which is where schools with superior equipment would fare better in.
- Similarly, because Ooarai runs a motley collection of tanks, each with different properties, other schools cannot simply adopt a generalised set of tactics. For instance, Saunders fielded M4 Shermans exclusively, which means that knowing their armour properties, and their own tanks’ capabilities, would allow another school to devise an optimal style of engaging them. Ooarai’s light tanks can be taken out of the fight in a single shot, but they are highly mobile, and while one is focused on fighting something like the Type 89 or Char B1 Bis, one leaves themselves vulnerable to an ambush from the Panzer IV, StuG III or Porsche Tiger. Here, one of the mechanical club’s members fix the fickle engine on the Porsche Tiger, which begins smoking mid-combat.
- Having largely sat the flame wars at AnimeSuki during the day, by the time Girls und Panzer‘s final two episodes aired, I was largely finished my thesis project and had been quite ready to defend. This project had been a multi-scale model of the renal system, and I was aiming to show how using a common environment would allow for system state to be stored while transitioning between different granularities. While the idea of a singleton is counted as an anti-pattern in software engineering, it is useful to create a single environment when it comes to multi-scale spaces, and with my project, I demonstrated that some patterns in software engineering may not always be practical in every circumstance: using a singleton to store state values allowed my model to compute system-wide values, and then these values would influence how my agent-based model behaved at lower levels. Transitioning between the levels was seamless, because the values were being computed in a shared environment, and in the end, this project formed the basis for my graduate thesis: using similar principles, I built a much more sophisticated model of a cell, even simulating tubule assembly and disassembly in response to environmental factors.
- Watching Girls und Panzer helped me to unwind after days spent writing my paper and keeping up with my other courses (databases, statistics and software engineering), and the series gave me much to smile about. Here, Erika throws a tantrum after her frustrations reach a boiling point when the tracks to her Tiger II become dislodged. The me of nine years earlier enjoyed a cruel laugh at Erika’s expense, but the me of the present understands that Erika had an abrasive personality, because her loneliness led her to constantly want to prove herself to Maho and earn Maho’s praise. The nine year gap between my initial experience and the present has meant that I’ve become a little more understanding of why stories unfold the way that they do, and it is for this reason that I hold the belief that it is unnecessary, and inappropriate, to become impatient with fictional characters.
- The idea that fictional high school students need to be held to the same standard as adults, trained professionals or experts in their field, is absolutely ludicrous: we don’t expect high school students in reality to produce the same level of work or possess the same level of understanding as someone who’s been in a discipline for years, or even decades. During the science fair I adjudicated earlier this month, the instructions had plainly been to offer constructive feedback and appreciate that these are high school students with a keen interest in a topic. As such, while some projects had clear design flaws or a misunderstanding of limitations, my job wasn’t to pick this apart, but rather, to point it out and make helpful suggestions. If a student acknowledges this, then they’ve demonstrated satisfactory understanding of their experiments and its outcomes. This science fair was for one of the city’s most prestigious private academies, and while there will be another city-wide science fair later this month, I’ll have to sit this out on account of my moving.
- Applying the same logic to Girls und Panzer makes things all the more enjoyable: we are dealing with students who are aged anywhere from 14 to 18 – while bright and capable, they’re not anywhere nearly as experienced as an expert or professional, so one has to allow for the fact that sometimes, mistakes will occur. With this being said, high school students are also capable of innovation, considering resourceful and creative manners to problems that professionals might dismiss. Thus, when they get things right, high school students can impress, as well: here in Girls und Panzer, Miho decisively shows that she’s committed to her approach towards Panzerfahren, and when Rabbit team’s M3 stalls, her decision is to rescue them, no questions asked. She asks her teammates to provide covering fire so the rescue doesn’t jeopardise things, and banks on the fact that saving the M3 gives everyone the best chance they have of winning.
- One thing I did notice during the original run was how an anonymous 2chan user claimed that Miho’s jump to reach Mallard Team’s Char B1 Bis from her Panzer IV required a horizontal distance of 5.17 metres. However, this individual’s methodology was completely off the mark, since they measured Miho’s height and horizontal distance based on frames. Inspection of an earlier frame finds that the Panzer IV is parked about 1.8 metres from the Char B1 Bis. My conclusion here is simple: 2chan’s users made a faulty observation, worked with a false assumption, employed inconsistent methodologies and therefore got an invalid conclusion. This is typical of message boards, and the reality of the moment was that ACTAS chose to show the sort of person Miho was through a bit of visual exaggeration. Even if Miho had jumped 5.17 metres, Galina Chistyakova holds the world record of 7.52 metres. Missteps (and the insistence that these aren’t missteps) like these are precisely the reason why, to this day, I do not count message boards like 2chan as having anything approaching credible information.
- After Rabbit team nears the riverbanks, their engine comes back to life. Saori is overjoyed, and this moment, while considerably less perilous than Miho’s rescue of the stricken Panzer III, reiterates to viewers that Miho will continue being herself. In fact, choosing not to rescue Rabbit team would contradict what Miho had stood for: she wants to pursue Panzerfahren in her own way, and sacrificing a team to save the school, while seemingly the “right” thing to do, actually may have unforeseen consequences. Ooarai’s limited tank count means that every working tank is valuable, and needlessly throwing tanks away could very well come back to cost Ooarai later.
- While Maho’s accustomed to Miho’s antics and orders her tanks forward, Erika impatiently expresses a want to crush Ooarai underfoot. Maho rocks the Tiger I, the quintessential German heavy tank of World War Two, while Erika’s team operates the Tiger II, which fits a sloped turret on the Tiger chassis and equips the KwK 43, which could defeat up to 304 mm of RHAe at ranges of 100 metres or less. Despite their firepower, the combination of comparatively inaccurate gunners and the fact that Ooarai’s tanks are comparatively small means that the 88 mm shells Black Forests lobs are ineffectual: beyond Anteater team, Ooarai still has seven of their eight tanks available to them.
- Upon reaching a narrow stone bridge, Ooarai crosses it to reach the urban area: Miho’s feeling that it’s easier if they settle things in a CQC environment, and to buy themselves more time, the mechanical club manages to do a “wheelie” with their Porsche Tiger, destroying the bridge and forcing Black Forest to take the long way around. This stunt reminded me of a scene in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, where Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin manage to board the Bucklebury Ferry to cross the Brandywine river ahead of the Black Riders, in turn forcing the Nazgûl to cross at Brandywine Bridge some twenty miles (32 kilometres) to the north. With a total distance of 40 miles to cover, and with the average horse capable of sustaining a speed of around 30 miles per hour, taking the ferry gives Frodo and company a one hour and twenty minute head start over their pursuers.
- No such metrics are presented in Girls und Panzer, but with Black Forest’s main force now behind them, Miho focuses on organising her tanks urban warfare using the time available to her. However, in the narrow streets lined with Khrushchyovka-like apartments, Ooarai suddenly spots a lone Panzer III and orders her tanks after it, hoping to neutralise it before it can radio back to Maho’s main forces and give away their position. Here, viewers and Ooarai alike are dealt their biggest surprise in the whole of Girls und Panzer: the Panzer VIII Maus, which was the largest heavy tank ever built. With a maximum armour thickness of 220 mm in the front, and a minimum of 150 mm of armour in the back, the Maus could withstand everything Ooarai had to throw at it: even the Porsch Tiger’s KwK 36 could only penetrate 219 mm of armour at under 100 metres, and this was assuming it was using PzGr. 40 rounds.
- Armed with a 128 mm KwK 44, the Maus could trivially deal with any Allied tank: its 28.3 kilogram armour-piercing shells could punch through 312 mm of armour at ranges of up to half a kilometre. When faced with a Maus, Ooarai stands no chance in a head-on confrontation, and swiftly lose two tanks (the Char B1 Bis and StuG III) here. Attempts to take the Maus on fails: nothing in Ooarai’s arsenal would have been able to even scratch it from the front. Had the Maus been deployed on the battlefield, it is likely that Allied forces would’ve withdrawn their forces from the area and called in an airstrike to deal with these behemoths, which were designed as breakthrough tanks. However, despite their immense armour and firepower, the Maus has several key weaknesses. Its heavy armour rendered it extremely heavy (188 tonnes), and this left it incredibly slow; the Maus could only reach a maximum speed of 20 km/h.
- Because of the Maus’ low mobility, one can readily surmise that Maho had foreseen that Miho would try to draw combat into the close quarters of an urban area, and therefore, placed the Maus here so that Ooarai’s tanks could be eliminated. In this fight, Maho’s advantage is not only in numbers; she knows how Miho will likely respond to things and plan accordingly. Thus, when the match begins, Miho is only aware of the fact that Black Forest is fielding Tiger Is, Tiger IIs, Jagdpanthers and other, better known Wehrmacht tanks. The Maus comes as a surprise even to her, and I imagine this tank had been a recent acquisition. While Black Forest gives the impression of depending on overwhelming firepower to win the day, I will note that Maho is able to set up situations so that these slower tanks do not become a liability, and moreover, the fact is that Black Forest does have several Panzer IIIs in their inventory, which means, at least in theory, Black Forest is able to counter Ooarai where speed and mobility are concerned.
- Wild Goose suggested to the AnimeSuki community, in jest, that it would take an M1A2 Abrams to defeat a Maus, but this would, strictly speaking, be overkill: the Abrams’ greatest advantage over the Maus is its mobility, and spotting this, Miho decides that they must take out the Maus here and now, otherwise, they’ll be put at a disadvantage. The Panzer III accompanying the Maus is swiftly destroyed, and when Saori comments on the Maus’ extreme dimensions as resembling a tank stacked on another tank, Miho gains a stroke of inspiration. She asks Turtle team and Duck team to assist in a bold tactic: Turtle team and their Hetzer will act as a makeshift ramp to jam the Maus in place, while Duck team drives onto the Maus and prevents its turret from rotating.
- In previous Girls und Panzer discussions, I’ve never really featured the volleyball club too much, and while their Type 89’s primary armament was intended for anti-infantry combat rather than anti-tank combat, this team nonetheless remains plucky, utilising their Type 89’s mobility to Ooarai’s advantage. Of the volleyball club’s members, I’m the most fond of Taeko Kondō (front right), who has a friendly personality and acts as Duck team’s radio operator. She’s not quite as hot-blooded as commander Noriko Isobe or gunner Akebi Sasaki, who try to push against their Type 89’s walls while Anko team makes a single, well-placed shot to the Maus’ engine block.
- This takes the Maus out of the game, impressing the spectators and prompting Darjeeling to remark that this is something that St. Gloriana may find merit in trying, too. For schools like Pravda, however, this is quite unnecessary: Katyusha has access to the KV-2 and its M1938 (M-10) 152 mm howitzer, whose 40 kilogram armour-piercing projectiles could punch through 800 mm of concrete. Even a modern tank would likely be mission-killed by a direct hit, and definitely rattled by such an impact, but on the flip-side, the KV-2’s armour was relatively thin (a maximum of 110 mm): although quite protected against early German tanks, the Pak 40 would easily get through it. Contemporary tanks could simply out-manoeuvre it and count on modern shells to one-shot a KV-2. Since Ooarai lacked any direct means against the Maus, Miho resorts to indirect means of taking it out.
- Ooarai’s success comes at a cost: the Hetzer’s on-board computer determines that having a Maus and Type 89 sitting on top of it would be detrimental, and the Student Council’s tank bites the dust moments after they make to rejoin Miho. They’ve done well to make it this far; the Hetzer upgrade has really allowed Anzu to play to her strengths – throughout Girls und Panzer, Momo continued to miss shots, even at ranges close enough for contact shots, and against stationary targets. As Turtle team continued to train, Anzu would swap places with Momo. This was highly effective against Pravda, where Anzu had used the 38(t)’s 37 mm gun to blow tracks off heavier enemy tanks and score mobility kills, buying Miho time to set things up. With the Student Council out of play, Ooarai is down to their last four tanks.
- Amidst the narrow, winding city streets, Rabbit team shows extraordinary ingenuity in their duel against Black Forest’s tank destroyers: in saving the first years, Miho allows them to really find their own way and draw fire away from her flag tank. Inspired by the film Kelly’s Heroes, the first years use the environment to their advantage and, while the Elefant cannot easily turn here, manage to flank it. Although its armour is too thick for conventional assault, Saki suggests hitting the hatch the Elefant uses to discard spent shell casings, taking the Elefant out of the fight. Later, Rabbit team even defeats the Jagdtiger, the heaviest tank the Germans had mass produced. Essentially a smaller Maus, the Jagdtiger also carried the KwK 44: rather than directly trading blows with it, the first years count on the fact the Jagdtiger crew is fixated on defeating them and fails to mind their surroundings. While the Jagdtiger does get a finishing shot off, it tumbles into a dry canal and snaps its barrel off in the process.
- In a final act of defiance, Leopon team parks their Porsche Tiger in front of the school gates, preventing Erika and the other Black Forest tanks from backing up Maho. In a titanic one-on-one duel, Miho and Maho find themselves evenly matched against one another, unable to decisively deal the other a killing blow. While Miho and Maho fight it out, Duck team had been drawing the remainder of Black Forest’s tanks away from Miho to give her a chance to win, but they are destroyed by the pursuing forces. Despite Ooarai’s resilience, a prolonged battle would turn against Miho very quickly, hence her decision to attempt a mano-a-mano battle. Some argued that Miho’s strategy was “ruthless”, entailing sacrificing her entire team for a one-on-one, but this was more of a decision made on the basis that Ooarai never had the resources to go toe-to-toe against Black Forest in a direct confrontation: the whole point had always been about what Miho’s teammates were willing to do for her, after everything she’d put down on the line for them.
- Whether or not Maho’s teammates care about their school, or Maho herself, is ultimately irrelevant to the discussion because this is a story about Ooarai, not Black Forest – from Ooarai’s perspective, and therefore, the perspective ACTAS wanted viewers to focus on, what matters is that Miho has done a satisfactory job of rallying her teammates to the task at hand, against an intimidating foe. Assumptions about Black Forest don’t hold any significance because their role is simply to serve as a powerful opponent standing between Ooarai and their goal of saving their school. The story has no need to establish them further than this: it is therefore counterproductive to consider whether or not they were competent or lived up to their reputation. As it was, Girls und Panzer had done a fantastic job of guiding viewers through what its aims were – when an anime makes its themes as plain as day, the goal in the end is ultimately entertainment, and in this capacity, Girls und Panzer indubitably succeeds.
- In the weeks after Girls und Panzer ended, some spent a nontrivial amount of time attempting to defend claims that Miho had not earned her victory because Black Forest appeared as though they were forcibly nerfed. My final remarks on this are simple: this is plainly not the case, since Black Forest still had the advantage of numbers by the time Miho and Maho were duelling, with all of Ooarai’s other tanks immobilised. The chaos Ooarai had wrought ultimately succeeded in buying them time to set up a one-on-one battle, which Miho had bet everything on. Similarly, Maho’s duel with Miho reveals that both sisters are competent commanders: Maho is a shade more skilful overall, while Miho’s crew is a shade more devoted. Black Forest was not rendered incompetent for the sake of the story as was claimed, and the final outcome is ultimately plausible: Panzerfahren matches are very fluid, and while schools may have their styles, matches always descend into chaos in close quarters, which is why flag tank matches are counted as being the most exciting to watch in-universe.
- When it became clear that Ooarai losing would’ve contradicted Girls und Panzer‘s themes, these individuals contended that the most “realistic” ending given Black Forest’s advantage should have been to have them lose, but for the board of directors at MEXT to recognise Ooarai as having potential and allowing them to remain open anyways. Such an ending actually fails to convey the themes that Girls und Panzer were going for: I’d previously defined “victory” as achieving one’s aims. Miho had stated herself that their goal was to take Ooarai all the way to the championship title, and anything less would show that Miho had failed to fulfil her word to her fellow teammates. On this token, allowing Ooarai to remain open despite their losing would satisfy another theme (i.e. “things work out in unexpected ways in life, but as long as one works hard, things may favour them in the long run”), but this was not Girls und Panzer‘s initial objective, which was to show how people can find their own way and achieve excellence in the company of accepting, open-minded people. By this point in time, I’ve said everything I’ve felt to be relevant regarding the old arguments accompanying Girls und Panzer‘s original run.
- While it is immature of me to be concerned with anime opinions dating back nine years, I’ve long wished to express these thoughts – back then, I deemed it imprudent to waste time on arguing with shallow, stubborn individuals, and for my patience, I did very well in the things that mattered (I made the Dean’s List that year and was offered an NSERC USRA, for instance). A part of me had always wanted to speak up, but I never had the chance: by the time I was done with my undergraduate project, the community had moved on to fighting over other anime, and my thoughts were completely ignored. I’ve never had the opportunity for feedback until this #AniTwitWatches changed that, which finally allowed me a chance to learn more about some of Girls und Panzer‘s most controversial topics. Besides learning more about what others think of said moments, this revisit allowed me to formulate more articulate arguments to counter some of what I thought to be the most gratuitous claims against Girls und Panzer – in many ways, one can consider these revisit posts to be posts I’ve been drafting in my mind for the past nine years, only becoming reality in the present day.
- At the end of the day, Black Forest gracefully accepts their defeat at Ooarai’s hands; Maho and Miho reconcile as fellow commanders, and this moment had left me impressed. It is clear that Black Forest was never meant to be a heartless, ruthless school focused on the single-minded pursuit of victory. Positivity is a major part of Girls und Panzer, and through this #AniTwitWatches with the community, it becomes clear that humility and compassion are plainly to be celebrated. My own enjoyment of the series and its finale was very positive – after the series concluded, I submitted my written thesis and steeled myself for the oral defence. Because this was so long ago, I only remember that during that oral exam, I remained in control the entire time, presenting my work, answering questions, acknowledging improvements and showcasing the implications of this project, without any trouble.
- The outcome of Ooarai’s victory is complete in the sense that Maho and even Erika don’t feel particularly bothered by what happened: Maho’s proud that Miho’s found her own way, and I would imagine that Erika’s happy to have fought a Miho fighting her hardest. We recall that Maho had embraced the Nishizumi Style and its path so Miho could pursue her own future, while Erika’s hatred of Miho stems from a past match against her where Miho had held back to let Erika win. Knowing this history helps to account for why Maho and Erika were the final opponents for Miho; while not antagonistic in and of themselves, they do represent the part of Miho’s past that she’d been seeking to run away from. In standing her ground in battle against Maho and Erika, Miho proves to both that she’s matured, able to take responsibility and do what is expected of her, which makes Maho proud, and shows Erika that Miho respects her as an opponent and as a person.
- Questions of what exactly the Nishizumi Style is have lingered since Girls und Panzer ended, and I imagine that it was originally left as an exercise to the viewers, similarly to how some things in Rick and Morty are left unexplained (such as the precise problem with the Cob World: Rick’s reaction itself is the joke). If, and when I am asked about the Nishizumi Style, it is the practise of being organised and always advancing in a measured, disciplined fashion. During the match against Ooarai, Maho’s tanks never once retreat or fall back. However, while Shiho may not find Miho a successor to the family traditions, she accepts that her daughter is impressive in her own right, as well. The show of Shiho applauding Miho’s victory was meant to indicate that, had Miho sought out her mother in conversation here, she might’ve gotten something meaningful out of things. Leaving this unattended left the one small hole in an otherwise masterpiece-level experience.
- With Miho victorious, and Ooarai’s future secure for the present, Girls und Panzer draws to a close. The me of nine years earlier did not know that we would be receiving a continuation in the form of Der Film and Das Finale, along with three more OVAs on top of the six that were bundled with the original series. I do feel that Girls und Panzer could have ended here; save for Miho having a proper heart-to-heart talk with Shiho, every other detail in the series had been attended to in a decisive, satisfactory manner. When Girls und Panzer ended, I wrapped up my undergraduate thesis defense and entered my summer. Despite having been offered an NSERC USRA and gearing up to build a peer-to-peer module for simulating multiple concurrent processes, I was also treading into uncertain grounds, at the crossroads between medical school and graduate school. The summer would also see to the largest flood to afflict my area in over a century, and said flood brought with it a melancholy I’d never experienced before. However, this is going to be a story for another time: this year marks the ten year anniversary to Girls und Panzer‘s release, and I’ve got one more idea of a post to celebrate this milestone.
With my fourth rewatch of Girls und Panzer now concluded, I would like to first thank the #AniTwitWatches community again for both voting for this series, as well as accompanying both myself and one another through this journey. The inevitable question of what lay ahead for Girls und Panzer would have doubtlessly been on the minds of everyone who’d just finished the series. Girls und Panzer had concluded in a decisive, definitive and satisfying manner; Ooarai had been saved and Miho had found her own Way of the Tank, which paved the way for a future where Miho could continue to train alongside her friends at a school she’s come to hold very dear. Had Girls und Panzer ended here, the story would’ve closed off in a good place, leaving the viewers’ imagination and creativity to fill in any gaps, with the question of whether or not Miho could reconcile with Shiho being one of the larger questions Girls und Panzer had left unanswered. However, viewers were almost immediately assured that ACTAS would be producing new Girls und Panzer content after the series ended: the match against Anzio had been regarded as a hole in the series, and with some viewers jumping to the conclusion that Anchovy was unsportsmanlike, an OVA was needed to indicate this wasn’t true to any capacity. The Anzio OVA thus brought additional depth to Girls und Panzer. Six more OVAs were also released along with the series, giving the characters some downtime, showing a few behind-the-scenes moments and giving viewers a modicum of insight into the world that is Girls und Panzer. It was therefore to general surprise that a movie would be made: Girls und Panzer Der Film would essentially take the events of Girls und Panzer and scale it up for the silver screen. While perhaps not adding anything novel to the themes and messages of Girls und Panzer, Der Film represents what was possible in Panzerfahren matches and was well-received. However, things didn’t stop here: ACTAS announced that another series, Das Finale, would be set after Der Film. Das Finale remains true to the approach that had been so successful for Girls und Panzer: it is written around the premise of securing another championship title so Momo can gain admittance to a post-secondary of her choice. Despite its unconventional release schedule, Das Finale represents a chance for Girls und Panzer to wrap up Miho’s story, as well – besides passing on the torch to the other students so Ooarai can continue to be successful, Miho still has yet to properly have a face-to-face conversation with Shiho. The hope is that Das Finale, per its name, concludes Miho’s story: I am of the mind that doing this would be the surest sign that Miho has overcome her old fears and now sports the confidence to move onwards. In the meantime, it is with some surprise I note that it has now been nine years since I watched Girls und Panzer. In that time, I’ve since earned graduate degree in computer science and have the minimal amount of both professional and life experience to conclude that Girls und Panzer‘s themes of sportsmanship, teamwork, compassion and empathy do indeed hold relevance in the real world, whereas dispassionate, cold and ruthless mindsets only result in isolation, disappointment and failure.
“…Erika had an abrasive personality, because her loneliness led her to constantly want to prove herself to Maho and earn Maho’s praise.”
A 4koma in Motto Rabu Rabu Sakusen Desu! portrayed a supposed first meeting of Erika with Maho and Miho several years earlier, although the present-day Nishizumi girls don’t seem to realize that was Erika back then. She didn’t, at the time, appear to approve of tankery … or perhaps she was just being a tsundere.
For the benefit of those who, like me, never picked up reading kanji, a translation on a different site (which isn’t SFW) gives Maho’s words in the last panel as, “Now that I think back on it, she probably just wanted to be friends with us.” and then, “I’m certain of it.”
A bit of amusement on a tangent: A space-battle series of novels titled The Lost Fleet includes shout-outs to a variety of sources, some of them including anime. A commercial ship that appears briefly in one of the books is the Oarai Miho; another such vessel is the Harcourt F. Modder. (Fans of Star Trek: The Original Series may recall an unscrupulous fellow’s wife screeching, “Harcourt Fenton Mudd, what have you been up to?!”) Alas, not only the Modder but the Miho were crewed by the bad guys in this case.
I remember that moment well! Motto Rabu Rabu Sakusen Desu! for me deals with the odds and ends that Girls und Panzer never had the chance to cover, and this is one of the reasons why I’m so fond of it: aside from all of the tanks, and school ships, there’s a vivid set of characters in Girls und Panzer that definitely merits exploration.
Your mention of The Lost Fleet brings to mind a remark you shared some time ago, regarding my remarks about intimidating-sounding names. However, I would probably contend that a freighter of that name would probably not be too awe-inspiring, unless said freighter was involved in something similar to the Maersk Alabama hijacking in 2009!
No, the Oarai Miho didn’t do anything awe-inspiring. What two of the good guys did to escape before the freighter’s crew could hand them over to supposed pirates (who were actually supporting an interplanetary invasion) … now that was awesome. And involved some improvisation and “crazy enough to work” worthy of Miho Nishizumi.
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This sounds like a series up my alley, then! Now, if only I had the time to curl up with a good book and some cocoa…
You’d need plenty of time: The Lost Fleet and its sequels and prequel (the Oarai Miho is in the prequel trilogy, an unspecified number of centuries before the main series’ action) total eighteen books.
The back-cover blurb on the first book, The Lost Fleet: Dauntless (one of the most accurate and truthful blurbs I’ve ever seen), read:
The Alliance has been fighting the Syndics for a century–and losing badly. Now its fleet is crippled and stranded in enemy territory. Their only hope is a man who’s emerged from a century-long hibernation to find he has been heroically idealized beyond belief…
Captain John “Black Jack” Geary’s legendary exploits are known to every schoolchild. Revered for his heroic “last stand” in the early days of the war, he was presumed dead. But a century later, Geary miraculously returns from survival hibernation and reluctantly takes command of the Alliance fleet as it faces annihilation by the Syndics.
Appalled by the hero-worship around him, Geary is nevertheless a man who will do his duty. And he knows that bringing the stolen Syndic hypernet key safely home is the Alliance’s one chance to win the war. But to do that, Geary will have to live up to the impossibly heroic “Black Jack” legend…
A running joke is the low quality of food supplies aboard warships. The worst-tasting rations are known and dreaded as “Danaka Yoruk” bars. Going into one battle, Captain Geary complains, “If I have to face death today, why does my possibly last meal have to be a Danaka Yoruk bar?” Then he tries to eat it without actually tasting it.
The time commitment may make it tricky, then: I have just enough time these days to maintain my existing schedule! Still, it’s good to know that The Lost Fleet is as detailed as it is 🙂 Your comment about the food supplies leads me to wonder about where the concept of futuristic poor-tasting food comes from. If a given food item is largely carbohydrates with some lipids and protein, it would probably be flour or starch based with additives, which means tasting like hardtack. The only explanation is that in a science fiction setting, with other species besides humans, rations might be genericised so that it has nutritional value for multiple species, leading to a taste that few find attractive.
I think “the concept of futuristic poor-tasting food comes from” present-day military rations. MREs were nicknamed “Meals Rejected by Everyone,” after all. At the time the Danaka Yoruk bars were supposedly devised, there was no contact with any nonhuman species.
Back shortly before World War II, the U.S. Army developed a requirement for a chocolate bar, “high in food energy value,” designated the D ration. Wikipedia notes that “When provided as an emergency field ration, military chocolate was very different from normal bars. Since its intended use was as an emergency food source, it was formulated so that it would not be a tempting treat that troops might consume before they needed it.” One of the specifications was that it should taste “a little better than a boiled potato.”
“The D ration was almost universally detested for its bitter taste by U.S. troops, and was often discarded instead of consumed when issued. Troops called the D ration ‘Hitler’s Secret Weapon’ for its effect on soldiers’ intestinal tracts.” In The Lost Fleet, similar remarks are made about the Danaka Yoruk, one soldier saying its name was engraved on her guts.
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That makes sense: thank you for the thorough explanation! With this in mind, it makes sense that they’d be emergency food supplies in reality, whereas in the future, I imagine this aspect is probably inherited to show a more gritty world where “gourmet” is not high on anyone’s list of priorities. Having said this, astronaut food appears to have been better received (it is, after all, intended for frequent consumption), so we know that in reality, we do have the means of making palatable (and even appealing) meals that can be consumed in space. Food is an integral part of morale (Les Stroud remarks that in a survival situation, having boiled water and cooked food can do much to lift one’s spirits), so one can imagine how in a setting where the food is grim, good food would correspondingly be a big deal 🙂