“Diversity really means becoming complete as human beings – all of us. We learn from each other. If you’re missing on that stage, we learn less. We all need to be on that stage.” –Juan Felipe Herrera
Thanks to her allies’ determination and actions, which allows for Ooarai to draw away all of Black Forest’s tanks, Miho is able to face down against her older sister, Maho, in a final, titanic confrontation at the end of Girls und Panzer‘s original run. Here, the stakes had been high: Miho had transferred to Ooarai from Black Forest for a fresh start, but when Miho was forcibly drafted back into Panzerfahren, she reluctantly agreed and ends up discovering a newfound joy in a sport that had previously been unpleasant to her. However, the fun is punctuated with the revelation that, if Ooarai cannot win the championship, their school is to be shut down. Miho’s eventual victory is the culmination of Ooarai’s efforts in supporting one another, and following the championship, Miho reconciles with her sister. Ooarai’s successes come from a multitude of factors, and while immensely satisfying from a storytelling perspective, the choice of people and tanks composing Ooarai’s team ultimately speaks volumes to the idea of functional diversity. In organisational theory, functional diversity refers to the variety of cognitive resources available to an organisation and suggests that a team composed of individuals with a wide range of skills and expertise is more likely to be successful. In recent years, diversity has become a major talking point, and there has been considerable interest in hiring to create a diverse workforce. However, the definition of diversity is never quite as clear as it should be, and among some circles, diversity is poorly regarded as a result of misunderstandings – the phrase “forced diversity” is representative of such misconceptions and is often thrown around in online discussions, referring to the supposed situation where representation is put first at the expense of everything else, resulting in inferior performance or function. In reality, diversity remains a positive, and Girls und Panzer provides a solid argument for what diversity looks like, as well as what’s possible when it is organically, and properly implemented with functionality in mind. In Girls und Panzer, diversity is most visible with Ooarai’s team composition and their choice of tanks, which, ironically, come from the fact that Ooarai was working with limited resources.
In particular, the tanks are the strongest show of functional diversity: because Ooarai is said to have sold all of their tanks, the school left behind derelict tanks of all sorts, from a Panzer IV and Type 38(t), to a Porsche Tiger. The tanks that Miho and her friends find fulfil different roles: the Panzer IV and M3 are medium tanks with good all-around performance, while light tanks like the Type 89 and 38(t) excel at recon and harassing foes. On the other hand, the StuG III is purely designed to destroy enemy tanks. Later, the Type 89, Porsche Tiger and Char B1 join their ranks, giving Miho more options. Because Ooarai’s lineup is made up of a range of tanks with different properties, strengths and intended roles, Miho is able to assign her tanks to carry out specific functions during a match. Light tanks head out to recon enemy positions and create distractions, while heavier tanks are used in an offensive role. Against opponents fielding one type of tank, Ooarai has the advantage even when at first glance, they appear to be completely outgunned and seemingly lack any means of dealing damage. This was most apparent during the final battle against Black Forest, which had brought their entire heavy arsenal to the party. German tanks are known for their firepower and armour, and in a straight fight, Ooarai stands no chance. However, having a diverse range of tanks means being able to pull off sneaky tricks. When confronted with a Panzer VIII Maus, Miho uses Hetzer as a makeshift ramp and at the same time, sets the Type 89 to block the Maus’ turret from rotating. This buys Miho enough time to hit a weak spot on the Maus, taking it out of the fight. Had Ooarai been composed of medium and heavy tanks exclusively, this act would not have been possible. Functional diversity is ultimately what allows Ooarai to frustrate their opponents: although a lot of people value representation, representation alone isn’t a determinant of success. If Ooarai had found only heavy tanks, albeit tanks from all countries, this might not be especially helpful, since at the end of the day, her lineup would be limited to slow-moving tactics. Instead, by having a range of tanks that can perform different functions, the synergy between each team’s experience with their hardware and Miho’s ability to think on her feet is what allows Ooarai to succeed. The same holds true in reality: a functionally diverse team, one made of members with different skills and backgrounds, will find that it is possible to consider a wider range of solutions and incorporate different approaches towards problem-solving, resulting in innovative and creative solutions. Functional diversity is a force-multiplier, as people of different backgrounds and possessing different skills can each offer something unique. This, in turn, allows a team to perform far beyond what is possible in the absence of functional diversity and respect for everyone’s inputs and contributions.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Although ten years may have passed, I still recall the airing of Girls und Panzer‘s last two episodes with vivid clarity. When the penultimate episode released, I’d been days away from finishing my thesis paper: Girls und Panzer had originally begun during September 2012, but production delays pushed the final two episodes back to March 2013. This was unprecedented, but given that the series had taken viewers by surprise with its unusual premise, excellent characters, attention to detail and rich world-building, viewers were prepared to wait.
- The wait proved to be worth it, since the final battle against Black Forest was of epic proportion and scale: the match against Pravda had foreshadowed how Miho could utilise her resources effectively even against heavier armour and stronger firepower to great effect, counting on the flag tank elimination rules to help them towards a swift and decisive victory. Because of Ooarai’s composition, they’d be at an increasing disadvantage the longer a match drew out, and to this end, Miho uses creative tactics to help her teammates along, such as using smoke and luring foes into close-quarters environments.
- In today’s battlefield, the constant arms race between defensive tools and countermeasures means that regardless of the tools available, there is no substitution for patience and skill. Against smoke, thermal imaging were devised, and to counteract thermal optics, defenders employ IR smoke, which can scramble even thermal optics and laser designators. Watching Ooarai employing creative methods of frustrating and luring their foes was always a part of Girls und Panzer‘s charm. Here against the likes of Black Forest, whose reputation supposedly precedes them, Ooarai finds a team that is fearsome, but still human.
- This was something that a lot of contemporary reviewers missed: because Girls und Panzer‘s themes had dealt with sportsmanship and friendship rather than heroics and courage, it followed that the opponents seen at the national competition, however skilled or formidable they appear, are just people at the end of the day. In composition, Girls und Panzer is a sports anime and not a war film, so the more serious approaches some took towards this series was unwarranted. On my end, I’ve written about this ad nauseum: while such a conclusion should be quite evident, it is quite surprising that a handful of people insist on taking Girls und Panzer seriously.
- Previously, I’ve written about Girls und Panzer‘s final episode on three separate occasions. In 2013, I had impressions of the last two episodes as standalone posts (one for the eleventh and twelfth episodes). Prior to Das Finale‘s second act releasing on BD, I revisited the series again and touched on its core themes. Finally, a year ago, for the Jon Spencer Reviews’ #AniTwitWatches, I re-watched Girls und Panzer with parts of the community and wrote a series of posts to present counterarguments against some of the lingering misunderstandings surrounding the series. When the finale arrived, I focused on how Ooarai’s triumph over Black Forest was necessary to Girls und Panzer‘s themes, since some individuals insisted that this was unrealistic as an outcome.
- To my great surprise, the folks who did participate in that particular #AniTwitWatches event universally agreed with my conclusions on all counts. In particular, Miho’s decision to save her teammate prior to the series’ start, and Ooarai’s success as being well-deserved were not found as being up for debate; Girls und Panzer‘s execution had been appropriate, and the outcomes were logical. The conclusion I reached after that exercise, then, was that there hadn’t been any major subjective leaps in my own interpretation of the series.
- One of the big pluses about Girls und Panzer is that there’s so much happening that, every time I return to revisit the series, there’s always something new to talk about, and in doing so, this allows me to use screenshots that I did not otherwise feature in my previous posts. Except in very rare circumstances, I aim to make sure that no two frames are reused in different posts to keep everything fresh, so this latest Girls und Panzer revisit allowed me to showcase moments I’ve previously not written about, such as the commander of one of Black Forest’s Jagdpanther Sd.Kfz. 173s flailing her arms in frustration after Anzu blows her tracks off, rendering them immobilised.
- The Student Council had received heavy flak during Girls und Panzer‘s earliest episodes for having coerced Miho back into Panzerfahren under the threat of suspension, but once the truth got out, they do apologise to her, worrying that if Miho had been given this burden off the bat, the pressure may have gotten to her. In retrospect, the Student Council’s actions were the result of desperate times, and although perhaps underhanded, they are also justified given the circumstances. By the championship match, the Student Council gain access to a Hetzer and use it to great effect: with Anzu as the gunner, Ooarai is able to use their mini-tank destroyer to frustrate enemies in creative ways.
- For this discussion, I’ve chosen to focus on the concept of functional diversity as it applied to Girls und Panzer. Even thought it’s been a decade since Girls und Panzer concluded, I am surprised that there are no discussions out there on this topic, and I’ve long felt that Ooarai’s lineup is one of the best arguments in favour of diversity, made in a time prior to concepts like inclusion and representation being frontline news. While these principles are being promoted in the present, I’ve long felt that although the verbiage companies use to support diversity and inclusion is promising, there is actually no clear definition of what diversity entails in the context of their statements.
- To put things in perspective, I come from a health sciences background and have studied ecology, as well. There, diversity refers to the variety of species within a given ecosystem that 1) fulfil specific niches and 2) occupy similar niches. By these metrics, an ecosystem is diverse if there are enough species for the different niches to work such that if the environment changes in a way to adversely impact a subset of these species, the ecosystem can still be sustained. In ecology, diversity is good because it both ensures all niches are filled, and that there is redundancy so if a group of species can no longer fulfil their roles, others can provide a similar function to ensure the ecosystem remains in good health (if enough species are eliminated, an ecosystem will suffer and ultimately, collapse).
- Having a clear definition is important to any discussion, and applying this principle to social sciences finds that the same thing holds true. In my case, I define functional diversity as referring to what skills, knowledge and competencies people bring to the table. Then, any organisation or group that is inclusive is one that embraces utilising all of the human capital available to achieve a certain outcome without being hung up on the origins of a particular solution, and simultaneously, regarding all members of a team with respect. I’ll go on a brief tangent here and remark that, after Rabbit team’s tank stalls in the river, and Miho decides to help them in a moment that is, in Hana’s words, “Miho-like”, Yukari breaks out her Em 1m R36 rangefinder to keep an eye on Black Forest’s tanks and their distance.
- If we use tanks as an analogy for people, then Ooarai’s advantage was that they have a varied arsenal, composed of light, medium and heavy tanks, as well as tank destroyers. Each tank type fulfils a different role, and in this area, Ooarai is said to have functional diversity because their lineup is varied and flexible enough to carry out reconnaissance, engage foes at range and when needed, stand their ground. Functional diversity is essential to Ooarai’s success, but further adding to things is the fact that Ooarai’s tanks have different origins. The Panzer IV, Porsche Tiger, StuG III hail from Germany, while the M3 Lee is American. The Type 89B and Type 3 Chi-Nu are from Japan, the Char B1 is French, and the 38 (t) is Czechoslovakian in origin.
- Different nations built their tanks differently, which leads to minor variations in handling and performance. This is where representation comes in. A team could be composed of functionally diverse elements, but if everyone still has the same background, solutions will likely be quite similar. Small variations in each tank’s design alter their roles slightly: the Japanese tanks, for instance, were originally designed for anti-infantry combat. Both the Type 89 and Type 3 are designated as medium tanks, but the lighter Type 89 gives it more mobility, whereas the Type 3 and its 75mm cannon gave it more firepower.
- In this way, it should be apparent that success results from both functional diversity, and representation. A team whose members have different skills, and whose backgrounds can inspire different problem-solving solutions, is one that is successful. Learning to make full use of every individual’s experience and input is the best means of realising this potential, and in this way, Girls und Panzer demonstrates this vividly. Beyond the tanks themselves, Ooarai’s team is also shown as a varied bunch, each with unique skills and reasons for being in Panzerfahren. Besides helping to humanise everyone and giving viewers incentive to root for Ooarai, giving each team a distinct background and identity also reinforces the idea that good ideas can come from anywhere.
- This aspect of Girls und Panzer is especially important because in today’s society, people place an uncommon amount of stock on who’s giving a message. When prejudice and bias kicks in, people will dismiss otherwise excellent ideas even when it is irrational to do so. In the workplace, this will ultimately be harmful, preventing things from getting done. Conversely, if one is open to ideas regardless of their origin (and giving credit where it is due to encourage people to step up and speak up), things will move along much more quickly. This is seen in Girls und Panzer, where Miho is open to accepting ideas from any of her teammates.
- In this way, the Maus is eventually taken down, and when the first years suggest a diversion, Miho immediately accepts their decision. Here, it is worth noting that had Miho chosen to leave the first years and their M3 behind, they would’ve been taken out of the fight. Instead, by saving them, the first years would come to play a much bigger role in the battle, helping to draw a Jagdtiger and several of Black Forest’s other tanks off Miho’s tail. Although Ooarai’s win came down to the technical skill on Miho and her crew’s part (Miho’s directions, Saori’s communications, Mako’s skillful driving, Yukari’s quick loading and Hana’s sharpshooting all contribute), actions from the others facilitated this outcome.
- The Maus had proven to be quite the surprise, but it was even more impressive to watch Ooarai work together to take it down using unorthodox techniques – after its introduction towards the end of the penultimate episode, my jaw dropped, and I had found myself wondering how Ooarai would respond. The week-long wait would’ve been excruciating, but at this point in March, I’d been up to my eyeballs with my undergraduate thesis paper. The deadline had been just days before the finale was set to air, and I remember the evening I submitted the paper very well. I’d edited and revised said paper to the point where I’d practically memorised it, and after an agonising few moments, I decided to submit it.
- With that done, I took the weekend to begin my thesis presentation, and in this way, the time passed by swiftly. I ended up watching the finale after my Monday lectures ended, and for my part, I am glad to have been a university student; being in class all day meant I was insulated from the spoilers that had begun circulating online after the finale’s airing. Here, Noriko and Akebi retort to the Maus’ commander’s comments about the Type 89 being a light tank. I’ve long wanted to use this screenshot in a discussion for the longest time, but never got around to doing so until now.
- Because I had no spoilers coming in, Girls und Panzer‘s finale became a superb experience, rivetting from start to finish. It took me a few days to settle my thoughts out and write out a post; in those days, I didn’t really use this blog for more than short thoughts. A post of that length is commonplace now, but it took me a bit of time to get things written because at the time, I was also attending the remaining classes of my term and polishing off the remaining assignments. In the end, I published my post, and although the post is a little rough by today’s standards, looking back, it did capture how I felt about the finale.
- After Girls und Panzer ended, a vast majority of viewers were left with an overwhelmingly positive impression of a series that had been surprises at every turn. When Girls und Panzer was first announced, community interest in it was quite low, and most viewers had expected to drop it within the space of a few episodes, as they anticipated nothing more than a crude fanservice story with a superficial message and budget execution. I myself had looked to watch the series because the English-language premise had been vague, and I wondered if girls in tanks would be conducive to moments where viewers would get a good look at Miho’s pantsu and figure, similarly to how Strike Witches portrayed its Witches.
- The gap between expectations and results translated to very strong sales, and since then, Girls und Panzer became a bit of a cultural phenomenon. In previous years, I’ve written about how Girls und Panzer‘s success results from the fact that it took an outlandish concept, ensured that attention was paid to detail and created a compelling (if familiar) story; when taken together, the sum of Girls und Panzer‘s elements gave it wide appeal. Military otaku loved the fact that tanks were faithfully portrayed, and since their real-world performance was factored into how they’d handle, one could on speculate how Ooarai might be able to take on numerically and technologically superior foes.
- Similarly, folks familiar with sports anime would’ve found Miho and Ooarai’s Cinderella story gripping: seeing the large cast of characters and their unique points gave more reason to root for this motley and plucky group of Panzerfahren practitioners. Viewers could also be drawn into world-building aspects, since Girls und Panzer took the time to showcase the world beyond Panzerfahren. Because of its success, Girls und Panzer remained strong after its conclusion, and since then, a film, sequel series and tie-in projects like games and manga have joined the franchise.
- While Girls und Panzer has definitely deserved recognition, the biggest and longest-standing gripe I have with the series is the decision to format the sequel as a series of films. Defenders of this approach argue that every instalment of Das Finale so far has been exceptionally well-animated. Moreover, the tank battles of Das Finale are superior to anything seen in the original series. However, the time-scale that the instalments of Das Finale are being released borders on unreasonable. While one understands the staff’s commitment to quality, the gap between theatrical premières and the home release for Das Finale is outrageous.
- Das Finale had opened with a three month wait: the first act began screening in December 2017, and the home release came three months later. For the second act, a June 2019 screening was followed by the home release in February 2020, an eight month wait. Part three was released in March 2021, and the home released followed nine months later. The fourth act to Das Finale was announced to release “somewhere in 2023”, but at present, there’s no concrete date. At earliest, viewers can expect Das Finale‘s part four to come out this December at the earliest, although 2024 is more likely. If we had assumed a maximum of 21 months between two acts, then part four should have released back in December last year, but this didn’t happen.
- While it was possible that the global health crisis pushed the gap between theatrical premières and screenings from three months to nine months, with things slowly returning to their pre-pandemic states, one can only hope that publishers will reduce the gap back down from nine months; at the current rate of progression, it’ll likely be 2026 before Das Finale concludes. When I had finished Girls und Panzer ten years earlier, things had wrapped up on a solid note (only one element was not covered), and even though I had hoped viewers would get a continuation, the story had concluded in a manner such that no sequel was technically needed.
- The one-on-one between Miho and Maho was ultimately a show of growth on Miho’s end: boxed in, Miho and her friends have no choice but to square off against Maho head-on. By leaving Black Forest, Miho had been running away from her issue, so having her confront Maho in an environment where the only way out was winning or losing was to give viewers a chance to appreciate the fact that after her experiences, Miho is no longer one to run away from her problems. This is why when Miho and her crew land a winning shot against Maho’s Tiger I, Maho accepts her defeat graciously: she’s happy that Miho’s found her own way.
- Had Girls und Panzer taken a twenty-four, or even sixteen, episode approach, there would’ve been more time to flesh things out. In the absence of more episodes in its original run, ACTAS was able to produce several OVAs. Although some of them are purely intended for fun, some OVAs extend the world-building further and explain the school ships, while others show how Miho managed to determine the location of Pravda’s tanks. The OVAs add a great deal to Girls und Panzer and should be counted as essential parts of the experience. Following Girls und Panzer‘s finale a decade earlier, I found myself continuing to derive enjoyment in this series through the OVAs, and a year later, the missing Anzio battle was presented to viewers in full.
- Once Girls und Panzer ended back in 2013, I was free to focus all of my waking time towards the single most important exam I would partake in since the MCAT. Without the distraction of Girls und Panzer, I put in my fullest efforts towards preparing for the undergraduate thesis defense, which had been modelled after a graduate defense in structure but scaled back in duration. My semester was winding down at this point, and with all assignments and projects in my other course finished, this gave me all the time I needed to properly prepare. How this presentation turned out will be left as an exercise for the near future, but it should be no surprise that I did well enough to pass the exam and earn my honours degree.
- It is doubtful that Girls und Panzer would have negatively impacted my studies had it been delayed further, but ultimately, I am glad that it concluded when it did: the ending gave me a bit of inspiration to do my best. The series retains all of its charm and quality in the present day, and here at the ten year mark, I remark that my enjoyment of the series has only deepened with the passage of time. The accruement of an additional bit of life experience has led me to see details in Girls und Panzer I previously missed, leading to a richer experience. With this bit of reminiscence in the books, we’re entering the final days of March. Viewers will have to bear with me as I reminisce a bit more about my honours thesis: this project was an integral milestone for me, shaping the path I would take, so I do wish to properly acknowledge what came out of my undergraduate program. Beyond this, I’ve got two more posts lined up for this month: Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s finale released today, coinciding with Girls und Panzer‘s finale a decade earlier, and I’ll be writing about this on short order. In addition, I’ve also been following Mō Ippon! and found myself sufficiently impressed that there is merit in sharing what I made of things.
Girls und Panzer was ahead of its time in illustrating the worth of functional diversity in a team environment, and in conjunction with a meaningful story, relatable, well-written characters, exceptional world-building and uncommon attention to detail, the series proved to be the single biggest surprise of its time. The series is a veritable masterpiece, telling a compelling tale that appealed to a wide range of viewers, and when it concluded a decade earlier, left viewers with a conclusive feeling of satisfaction and closure. Almost every detail had been addressed, and Ooarai’s victory would ensure Miho would be able to continue living out her days in happiness, knowing her school and time with her friends was secure. However, by Der Film, it became apparent that Girls und Panzer had left one critical element deliberately unresolved. Throughout Girls und Panzer, themes regarding the importance of family periodically appear. Yukari and her parents get along very well; the latter are very supportive of their daughter despite her eccentricities. Mako’s only family is her grandmother, and while her grandmother can come across as abrasive, she ultimately wants what’s best for Mako, who is well aware of this and loves her grandmother very much. Hana’s mother had initially disowned Hana for joining Panzerfahren, feeling it an insult that Hana would shun flower arrangement, but Hana stuck her course and vowed to one day reconcile with her mother. After seeing how Panzerfahren improved Hana’s flower arrangement, her mother becomes proud of her daughter. Saori’s family is never shown on screen, but she is implied to get along well with her parents. This leaves Miho, who’s on very rocky terms with her mother, Shiho, and even though Shiho applauds Miho’s success genuinely at the end of Girls und Panzer, Miho is still too intimidated to have a proper conversation with her mother. If Girls und Panzer had wanted to resolve this, a thirteenth episode would have sufficed. Such an episode would have Miho return home and speak with her mother in open terms, before returning to join her friends and classmates for a victory banquet. In the absence of such an outcome, and Der Film‘s portrayal of the remaining distance, Miho’s reconciliation with Shiho becomes a final metric for the former’s growth. This element allows Girls und Panzer to continue, but the gaps between Das Finale‘s releases and the potential of this remaining unaddressed is to Girls und Panzer‘s detriment. Looking back, I would have preferred that Girls und Panzer wrap this up, either in the series proper or in Der Film, as this would have allowed future continuations explore new directions without leaving old stories open. If Miho and Shiho could reconcile, future iterations of Girls und Panzer would be free to portray different schools, or different timelines (e.g. Shiho’s own rise as a Panzerfahren practitioner). For the present, viewers are therefore left wondering if Das Finale will wrap things up for Miho: while excellent tank battles are a given, it would be nice to bring Miho’s storyline to a proper close and begin showing off a universe that has nearly limitless potential. With this being said, one would hope that the timelines are significantly more reasonable: when Girls und Panzer‘s finale released, I was an undergraduate health sciences student who had submitted their thesis paper and was on the eve of graduation. A decade later, I’ve earned a graduate degree in computer science, accrued seven years of industry experience and became a homeowner. Although it’s been reassuring to have Girls und Panzer continue to accompany me throughout life (Das Finale is still going), it would be nice for Miho’s story to conclude decisively – it would not speak positively to ACTAS’ ability to deliver if I finish paying off my mortgage before Das Finale finishes!