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Category Archives: Girls und Panzer

Revisiting the Nishizumi Style to Understand Shiho and Kuromorimine in Girls und Panzer Through Martial Arts: An Exercise in Sportsmanship and Good Faith

知彼知己,百戰不殆;不知彼而知己,一勝一負;不知彼,不知己,每戰必敗。

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle”. Sun Tzu’s most famous remarks about warfare hold true in virtually every field, from team sports to business. However, like most treatises, applicability is also situational, and despite my deep respect for Sun Tzu, I also accept that it might not always be a catch-all in every situation. While reading through my blog during the Victoria Day long weekend, I came upon an older post I wrote some years earlier. According to this post, I was having insomnia that summer night, and my mind turned to the question of how the Nishizumi Style could be bested by practitioners of Sun Tzu’s Art of War: earlier that year, a massive flame war on AnimeSuki resulted when one Akeiko “Daigensui” Sumeragi had held the position that Shiho Nishizumi and the Nishizumi Style had been the proper way of practising martial arts. Arguing that Miho’s approach had been the “‘gentle’ version of sports [that ignored] the martial of martial arts”, Sumeragi supposed that the true meaning of martial arts entails the expectation of “injuries and possible deaths to happen, as with any activity”, which are the “essence of traditional martial arts”. As a result of these claims, AnimeSuki descended into chaos as individuals argued against Sumeragi’s misguided interpretation of martial arts, and inevitably, it became difficult to separate Sumeragi from the Nishizumi Style and its practitioners. Indeed, when I wrote my own post about how the Nishizumi Style was limited by its inflexibility, I had intended my post to demonstrate that Sumeragi’s interpretation was flawed. However, the resulting conclusions I drew would also prove unfair to Shiho and Maho Nishizum: Girls und Panzer is, after all, an anime about sportsmanship. In the aftermath of Girls und Panzer, viewers would indulge in schadenfreude upon watching Ooarai defeat Black Forest to win the championship. Their loss was well-deserved on the virtue that Shiho, Maho and Erika had been unfriendly towards Miho, and consequently, got what was coming to them. This mindset is inconsistent with the messages Girls und Panzer had sought to convey: time and time again, Miho befriends those she meets in Panzerfahren, reminding her teammates and opponents alike that friendship counts more than pure victory. While the lingering negative perception of Black Forest has lingered over the years, the themes in Girls und Panzer make it clear that extending Shiho, Maho and Erika this courtesy is also a necessary exercise. Consequently, In this post, I will explore the core tenants of the Nishizumi Style, where real-world martial arts fits in with the style and how Shiho, Maho and Erika ultimately remain worthy of the viewer’s respect despite their initial appearances.

Because the Nishizumi Style underlies this discussion, it is appropriate to begin with understanding what the style itself entails. Unfortunately, Girls und Panzer only offers glimpses into the style: other schools and their students mention that it emphasis is on firepower and precision, of rigid discipline, of setting up a formation to create an impenetrable wall and luring opponents into range for a single, devastating strike that simultaneously saps them of their materiel and morale. Overwhelming weaker schools and obliterating them outright, the Nishizumi Style is derived off the Panzerkeil tactic, where formations are lead by the heavily armoured Tiger Is, followed by the more mobile Panthers and with the lighter Panzer IV and IIIs at the edges. This variant of the armoured spearhead provides advantages in allowing practitioners to absorb damage out front, and the number of tanks in the column meant opposing forces would need to re-range their guns constantly. At the same time, this formation concentrates firepower to a very precise point. The Nishizumi Style similarly places an emphasis on having heavy armour to shrug off damage long enough for highly accurate gunners to concentrate their fire on an enemy and devastate them in a short period of time, all the while acting in perfect unison. Skill and communication come together to form a foe that appears indefatigable. Weaker enemies collapse in terror, and more skillful foes must move with caution. In practise, the Nishizumi Style is dependent on setting up and maintaining this cohesion, as well as counting on the psychological intimidation from tanks that can apparently shrug off everything one throws at it. At the same time, practitioners of the Nishizumi Style do not always give the same level of attention to training for situations where they cannot get set up or are disrupted mid-formation. Having established how the Nishizumi Style operates, it is unsurprising that Sun Tzu’s methods, of constantly watching an enemy and striking weak spots would be sufficient for one to overcome the style. The key here is patience and mobility: the armoured spearhead is weakest at its corners, and striking here creates enough confusion to break up the formation. With the right caution and positioning, any team that survives the Nishizumi Style’s initial onslaught could subsequently break them apart, sow confusion and begin capitalising on the Tiger I and II’s inferior mobility to whittle down their forces in the long game. This is, of course, contingent on teams possessing the will to survive: Sun Tzu stated that an enemy that is strong everywhere will also be weak everywhere. Conversely, when an opponent has not understood the Nishizumi Style, it can seem overwhelming to fight a foe that steadily advances without taking damage from one’s own efforts. This is where the Nishizumi Style’s fearsome reputation comes from, and for the better part of a decade, had served Black Forest very well, at least until Miho’s fateful decision to save her teammate from a tank that’d fallen into the river.

  • For this discussion, I’ve chosen to draw a great deal of material from the supplementary materials in addition to what was seen in-show: I’ve previously indicated that Girls und Panzer is a masterpiece, a perfect score for its execution and themes. The only strike I have at all about this series is common to all series that I enjoyed; there aren’t enough episodes, and this series would’ve deserved a pure slice-of-life spinoff. While no such animated adaptation of such exists, there is a manga titled Girls und Panzer: Motto Rabu Rabu Sakusen desu! (Girls und Panzer: It’s the More Love Love Operation!) which deals with life at Ooarai outside of Panzerfahren.

With the Nishizumi Style now defined, the next question becomes whether or not its tenants are inconsistent with Girls und Panzer‘s themes, and the essence of martial arts itself. Shiho, after all, has stated numerous times that the Nishizumi Style is about attaining the ultimate victory, and of never backing down. This emphasis on pursuit of victory is seemingly single-minded, and contrary to martial arts itself. However, this particular aspect of the Nishizumi Style comes from limited dialogue in Girls und Panzer: Shiho’s lecture to Miho, and later, Maho’s promise to decimate Miho, provides an incomplete picture of the Nishizumi Style as being brutal, ruthless and even bloodthirsty. This paints a false picture of the Nishizumi Style and of Black Forest: it is often forgotten that Girls und Panzer also suggests, through Darjeeling and Katyusha, that Black Forest is “boring” to fight. A foe that is boring would imply a style that is predictable, and moreover, boring does not correlate with terrifying. A foe willing to absolutely crush an enemy would be terrifying. Boring, on the other hand, suggests a by-the-book, disciplined and rigid set of patterns. The discipline in Black Forest and their interpretation of the Nishizumi Style, is better described as a martial art more than as a team sport: discipline lies at the heart of all martial arts, and practitioners train themselves pursue excellence through practising a set of techniques endlessly. The founder of Gōjū-ryū, Chōjun Miyagi, taught his practitioners that karate was a state of mind, that strength was found through intellect, and that the ultimate goal of any martial art is to build character and conquer adversity. Through not strength of force, but strength of the mind, one finds freedom. Strength is always open to interpretation, but as a martial art, the Nishizumi Style would similarly have a focus on mental development in addition to physical development. The ultimate goal of practising any martial art, whether it be Panzerfahren or Karatedo, is to cultivate resilience, confidence and self-control: the true martial artist knows when to hold a punch or kick back, never allowing their emotions to get the better of them.

  • While technically a spin-off, Girls und Panzer: Motto Rabu Rabu Sakusen desu! simply exaggerates traits among the characters, the same way World Witches: Take Off! and Azur Lane: Slow Ahead! exaggerates personalities for the sake of humour. Consequently, I hold the manga as having enough validity to indicate how the characters would act in more light-hearted, humourous circumstances. This is taken in conjunction with the fact that Girls und Panzer‘s themes are about companionship, discovery, growth and sportsmanship: to suppose that the Nishizumi Style and Shiho opposes this would be to contradict what the series had aimed to show: that through friendship, one finds their way, and through finding their way, people simultaneously learn to respect tradition and innovate.

The Nishizumi Style is counted as tedious by other schools, and to an external observer, their emphasis on precision, structure and order can feel difficult to understand. As a martial art, however, the Nishizumi Style is consistent with the precepts and principles in things like Gōjū-ryū karate. Nowhere is this more apparent than kata (literally “form”), which can speak volumes to what a given school believes in. Gōjū-ryū (hard-soft) karate emphasises a combination of hard, linear motions and graceful circular motions. Saifa (tear and destroy) consists entirely of harsh strikes, while Seiunchin (control and pull) focuses on circular grabs and sweeps. At first glance, Gōjū-ryū appears be a rigid style: there are conventions that practitioners follow (for instance, we only chamber our inactive hand under the armpit, and all of our kicks have the same starting position to maximise surprise). However, Miyagi believed that Gōjū-ryū was a state of mind. Much as how one fluidly switches between hard and soft even in the same kata, one should always be ready to adapt. Gōjū-ryū seeks to subdue and create openings, to be rigid when required, and to be graceful where appropriate. Having trained in this hybrid style for over twenty years, I convey to students that Gōjū-ryū focuses on adaptability, using an opponents force against them and keeping distance. In a real-world scenario, the objective isn’t to put one’s opponent in the hospital, but rather, to create an opening and de-escalate a situation as swiftly as possible. With this being said, those who assert that to take martial arts seriously is to bludgeon an opponent to death demonstrate themselves unfit for the practise. Supposing that the Nishizumi Style was written to be a more traditional interpretation of martial arts, I imagine that Shiho would espouse similar virtues as a part of the Nishizumi Style, expecting her students to similarly fight with integrity, restraint and order in matches to uphold the school’s honour. It should become clear that the Nishizumi Style is most certainly not ruthless or bloodthirsty, although Shiho is stymied by her comparatively poor communication skills, which has in part contributed to a misunderstanding of her character, as well as the Nishizumi Style as a whole.

  • While this post has me admitting that my assumptions about the Nishizumi Style eight years earlier were not entirely correct, and that a cursory glance shows I am thinking along the same lines as Sumeragi, I will state that I’ll agree with Sumeragi the day Hel freezes over. Sumeragi became aggrieved during discussions and eventually resorted to ad hominem attacks, claiming himself an expert in martial arts and dismissing others because he’d been supposedly being in an occupation which “merges ruthlessness with situation awareness”. I usually see self-aggrandisation as a sure sign of someone who’s clearly lost the argument, and looking back, I would hold that had Sumeragi not succumbed to emotion and the desire to be right over being civil, a much more interesting and reasoned discussion could have been held. This is unlikely, however, since Sumeragi has since been banned from virtually every online community of note (most recently, from Sufficient Velocity).

Going purely from Girls und Panzer‘s animated incarnations alone, Shiho is a cold and rigid woman with a stated belief in victory rooted in skill, and that strength matters. Her words are terse, and she appears to have a distant relationship with both her daughters, focusing on her pursuit of martial arts over family. This is a misconception that results from Girls und Panzer‘s short runtime, and supplementary materials indicate that Shiho is simply the sort of individual who takes everything she does seriously, following a rigid pattern of logic and procedure to get things done. This is most evident in her parenting of Miho and Maho: she went to great lengths to look after the two, even bathing both until they were thirteen, and it turns out that, because she spends so little time with both on account of her being wrapped up in work, has little understanding of what Miho and Maho are like outside of Panzerfahren. To counteract this, Shiho resorts to books to help her out, and in a hilarious series of misunderstandings, Shiho tries to bond with Maho by cuddling with her and giving her a credit card, which confuses Maho totally. Later, when Miho returns home to speak with Shiho about the tournament, Shiho decides to throw a full-scale party complete with fireworks, frightening Miho enough to cancel her visit outright. The TV series doesn’t portray these events, but there are hints that despite her harsh words, Shiho does care for Miho; she smiles at Miho’s victory, evidently pleased that her youngest daughter has found her own way while at once, respecting family traditions and making something of herself on her own skill, and in the movie, angrily reprimands the MEXT official when he makes an offhand remark about Ooarai’s victory being luck. It is clear that in spite of outward appearances, Shiho cares very deeply for Miho and Maho. Given what viewers see in Girls und Panzer, then, it is clear that Shiho’s dislike of emotion simply comes from not fully understanding it fully; she sees it as something that acts as an impediment to her goals, and indeed, I see hints of myself in Shiho.

Unlike Shiho, however, I count myself a more effective communicator: her beliefs in strength and victory on their own might sound cold and impersonal, but with a wider perspective, it turns out that they are not problematic in any way. Strength extends to mental resilience, having the toughness to endure adversity and persist towards a solution. Victory is the act of completing one’s goal. It is not about rendering an opponent incapable of fighting, destroying their hope or crushing their spirit, it is simply achieving what one intended to do. The summation of strength and victory can therefore be taken to mean “having the discipline and resolve to accomplish one’s aspirations”. Because Shiho accepts Miho’s victory as well-earned, genuine, it stands to reason that since Miho found her own resilience (strength) to bring her friends to win and save their school (victory), Miho still achieves what the core of Shiho expected her daughter to. While she might not use the same tactics on the battlefield (precision and always moving forward), Miho nonetheless remains faithful to what her mother had taught her, and in this moment, Shiho is proud to have Miho as her daughter. This interpretation of Shiho’s credos, and the Nishizumi Style, paints Shiho and her expectations in a positive light, consistent with what themes Girls und Panzer strove to leave with viewers. It also leaves me wishing that there was a bit more to Girls und Panzer; the series has been about positivity in self-discovery, and given that all of Miho’s opponents come out of a match respecting her, it is not particularly surprising that the seemingly-cold and unfeeling Nishizumi-style is actually an honourable martial art. Further to this, Shiho herself isn’t a bad parent by any stretch, being a decent person who simply struggles to convey how she feels. While the TV series hasn’t shown this more clearly, this is where Girls und Panzer: Das Finale could step up to the plate. We are satisfied that Shiho still loves Miho, but Miho still remains apprehensive about talking to her mother. Consequently, one brilliant way to wrap up Das Finale, and unequivocally show that Miho has grown, would be to have her summon up the courage to speak with Shiho face-to-face, to put things out in the open and face one’s challenges rather than shy away from them. To have Das Finale accomplish this would be a massive triumph for the series from a thematic perspective. Through this post, I’ve reached the conclusion that the me of eight years earlier had been mistaken in my earlier thoughts on the Nishizumi Style. I’ve stated this on numerous occasions, but I don’t mind being proven wrong, especially where it leads to interesting conversation: I’m sure the me of eight years earlier would have appreciated such a discussion – one that is rooted in rationality, logic and evidence.

Girls und Panzer Das Finale Act Two OVA: Taiyaki War!

“All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.” –Sun Tzu

Tensions at BC Freedom Academy between the Examination Class and the Escalator Class reach an all-time high after they learn they’re set to take on Ooarai; when students from the Escalator Class appear and threaten to shut down their food stalls, this prompts the Examination students to protest the Escalators’ decision to foist upon them costlier, fancier meals over simpler fare like taiyaki and yakisoba. The Escalators respond with a line of students equipped in riot gear and baguettes. Just when it appears that their mutual hatred will boil over, Marie appears and presents a unique taiyaki with a chocolate filling. Both Rena and Ruka are moved when they try this new taiyaki, realising that their foods can be fused together and still retain their original traits while being delicious and novel. Marie has effectively resolved the long-standing conflict between the two factions, but when Yukari arrives at BC Freedom Academy to recon out Ooarai’s opponent, Marie decides to put on a bit of a show. She arranges for the old conflict to be staged amongst the students around the school, and then prepares a scripted fight between Rena’s Examination classmates and Ruka’s Escalator classmates over who should act as the flag tank. Yukari sneaks closer to the fighting and captures it on tape; she eventually gets caught in the melee and comes away looking distinctly woebegone, but is immensely satisfied with her work. Meanwhile, Marie, Rena and Ruka bring their staged fights to an end, thanking everyone for their efforts and look forwards to squaring off against Ooarai in combat, having successfully given the impression that they are as disorganised and ill-prepared as they had been previously.

This special episode, released with Das Finale‘s second act, is meant to help viewers to appreciate the sort of teamwork that BC Freedom exhibited during their match with Ooarai: the entire team’s lack of cooperation had been a cleverly-manufactured ruse intended to throw off even Miho, and indeed, during Das Finale‘s first act, BC Freedom is shown to be keeping up this façade even entering the match, with Ruka and Rena sparring one another en route to the match’s venue. Thus, when BC Freedom suddenly began displaying a hitherto unexpected and impressive level of coordination amongst their tanks, Miho is in fact thrown off and drawn into a trap. It’s a very convincing bit of deception and is a reminder that reconnaissance can work both ways: because Marie had been aware of Yukari’s antics, they exercise exemplary countermeasures and all the while, never give the impression that Yukari’s been compromised. This may impact Ooarai’s willingness to fully count on Yukari’s excursions in the future. Besides showing the behind-the-scenes, the OVA also presents a simple truth: that in spite of their differences, people have more in common than they are willing to admit, and it sometimes takes finding common ground on something simple, like a confection, to help people realise this. Once BC Freedom’s students understand that the Escalators and Examination factions aren’t really so different as people despite their social status and preferences for things in life, they begin to appreciate aspects from the others’ lifestyle, coming in time to accept one another more than they had previously.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While I may not have the internet’s first Das Finale Part Two talk, I have utmost confidence that this is the only talk that exists on the whole of the internet that deals with the accompanying OVA. Taiyaki War is set prior to the events of Das Finale; shortly after the merger of BC and Freedom, Rena and Ruka immediately take a vehement and vociferous disliking to one another. This divide endures: during the ceremony to draw lots on who to fight, they’re immediately at one another’s throats when they learn they’re against Ooarai, to the horror of their classmates. The rift is bad enough so that even Marie remarks that the fighting is ruining her cake.

  • Representing the common folk, the Examination students are portrayed as being ordinary in manner and possessing a love for unsophisticated, basic things. Their side of the school ship is more run down, but the students don’t seem to be in a terrible state of being: food stalls line the dirt paths on the Examination side of things, and Examination students here enjoy taiyaki, a Japanese confectionary (kanji 鯛焼き, literally “baked sea bream”) consisting of pancake batter cooked into a fish-shaped cake with a red bean paste filling. It has its origins in the Meiji Restoration and is a popular snack today, being a favourite of Kanon‘s Ayu.

  • Rena is an accomplished taiyaki baker, and her fellow classmates greatly enjoy this simple, yet delicious item. The closest equivalent to taiyaki, that I’ve tried, is a red-bean panwich: this is a homemade creation where a generous helping of red beans are spread between two mini-pancakes: I’ve never actually had taiyaki before, and had long to tried a Calgary Stampede midway fare equivalent (which had a sausage and fries filling) a few years ago, only to learn that their taiyaki mold was not operational.

  • On first glance, I personally find the Examination students more relatable: the Escalator students, being of a higher social status (and representing the French Monarchy prior to the French Revolution in the 18th century) have a much haughtier manner and routinely look down on the Examination students’ ways. I’ve not studied the French Revolution since my penultimate year of secondary school, but what I do remember is that following a series of wars that left the French monarchy in debt, they implemented a taxation scheme that placed excessive pressure on the common people, whose resentment of the nobility and Church eventually led them to violently resist.

  • While King Louis XVI was disposed of, France become plunged into extremism after Maximilien Robespierre and the Jacobins created a dictatorship. Robespierre was eventually executed after his methods proved too radical in what is known as the Thermidorian Reaction, and a council known as the Directory was established. However, their corruption resulted in Napoleon Bonaparte rising to power in a coup d’état that plunged France into war with its neighbours, fuelling French nationalism and making Napoleon a hero until his defeat at the hands of the British. The British would then instal the Bourbon dynasty as France’s leaders, bringing about a period of peace.

  • In Girls und Panzer, a scaled-down form of the French Revolution can be seen with Rena leading the Examination students in a rally against the Escalators’ highly privileged lifestyles: their opposition to escargot is a parody of the stereotype that the French are fond of this dish, which involves removing the snails from their shells and then cooking them in garlic butter or red wine, then replacing the snails back into their shells. While a decidedly French dish, snails are also present in German and British cuisine, to a lesser extent.

  • The Escalators’ response is to send a team of students equipped in riot control gear and baguettes in place of batons, with the visual humour prodding fun at the misconception that French bread is notoriously tough. The baguette‘s toughness comes from its crust, and this has been parodied before in other series like Futurama, where an irate Bender is enraged at seeing his date with Flexo, causing him to attempt bending week-old French bread. While Bender is designed to be capable of bending steel girders without any problem, his arms fall off before the bread yields.

  • It suddenly strikes me that, in the absence of their blue blazer, BC Freedom’s uniforms somewhat resemble the uniforms seen in School Days, although closer inspection will find differences. Tensions reach boiling point, and the Escalator and Examination factions are ready to get physical. That both parties are willing to resort to violence indicates just deep the rift is, and in this way, the OVA explains why the school’s cooperation during their match against Ooarai was legitimate, as well as how the friendly fire incident remains plausible: while they’ve reconciled by the events of Das Finale, betrayal during a Panzerfahren match is sufficient to bring back the old grudges.

  • Marie’s timely arrival is enough to stop things temporarily, and she presents a novel solution: she’s got a new kind of taiyaki that combines the commoner’s taiyaki with the aristocratic chocolate, resulting in a new taiyaki that is quite delicious. This taiyaki shows that both the fancy and simple can co-exist, and not only that, demonstrate a synergy. The same synergy can be extended to the Examination and Escalator students; both have their strong points that make them stronger when united.

  • While chocolate-filled taiyaki is nothing new, Marie uses it to demonstrate how different things can coexist with one another: Marie is a leader of sorts at BC Freedom who commands respect from members of both factions, and so, when she praises the taste of the new taiyaki, both Rena and Ruka also try them out. It turns out Marie’s brought enough for everyone, and this singular act sets in motion the events that prompt the Examination and Escalation students to begin cooperating.

  • Marie’s solution is ultimately what creates the reconciliation in Girls und Panzer, and it is a satisfying approach that involves no force whatsoever: watching Rena and Ruka shake hands in a genuine show of understanding and goodwill was very welcoming to watch. Whereas real-world politics are nowhere nearly as easy to resolve, the underlying principles still hold true. Disagreeing parties often still share a common interest (e.g. government accountability, accessible services, fair treatment, care and concern for well-being of the environment), and aside from aligning in the means needed to get somewhere, have the same desire for a given outcome. This is why bipartisanship exists, and while many will find me naïve for thinking so, I continue to hold that cooperation and trust count for more than taking sides, moral signalling and being “right”.

  • The second half of Das Finale‘s OVA is where the real fanservice kicks in: Yukari’s secured a BC Freedom uniform and begins to do some recon. However, having anticipated this, Marie instructs the students to put on an elaborate ruse: whereas the Escalator and Examination students have largely resolved their differences by this point in time, this reconciliation appears to have gone unnoticed by the outside world, and when Yukari arrives, she finds the entire school conveniently amidst what appears to be a full-blown civil war.

  • Yukari’s reconnaissance excursions shows that she’s no John Clark or Adam Yao level operator: she’s had varying levels of successes. On her first excursion to Saunders Academy, she was burned after her alias failed to pass, and she was forced to beat a hasty exit. With Anzio, Yukari is able to act convincingly as an ordinary student and blends into the school’s street market, where she masquerades as an Anzio student more convincingly by capitalising on the festive environment to stay under cover.

  • While Yukari openly films the apparent chaos at BC Freedom, she’s unaware that her assignment was compromised from the moment she set foot on their school ship: this particular excursion probably will show Miho that reconnaissance does have its limitations, and is a fine example of Sun Tzu’s remarks on deception. While Miho exemplifies the use of Sun Tzu’s tactics, any school with a commander who is familiar with the same tenants will have some means to counter Miho; BC Freedom gains the upper hand over Ooarai precisely because they effectively used counterintelligence to deceive Miho.

  • Yukari’s methods are so brazen that I was surprised that she didn’t flinch at the fact that no one at BC Freedom seems to have any problems with someone crawling around the place with a video recorder. Such OPSEC would make Tom Clancy’s John Clark’s flinch in horror – the key to being a good operator is to act like you belong: people who act with conviction, who look like they belong, draw the least amount of attention, and crawling around on the ground with a camera is probably as far away from discreet as one could get.

  • For the present, Yukari is completely hoodwinked by the ruse and is so excited that she doesn’t mind being at the receiving end of a physical beating – the chaos at BC Freedom suggests to her that the in-fighting is so bad, there Ooarai should have no trouble beating BC Freedom. When Yukari returns to Ooarai, she relays this to Miho, who enters the match under the impression that Momo should have a bit of breathing room against an opponent who might be too busy fighting amongst themselves to fight, which explains their surprise at the match’s beginning.

  • Yukari is endearing, and I greatly enjoy watching her warm, authentic interactions throughout the series. Yukari is voiced by Ikumi Nakagami, who has roles as BanG Dream!‘s Maya Yamato and even as Rena Akinokawa from RDG: Red Data Girl. As Yukari, Nakagami presents an excitable and energetic girl who loves tanks. Save for letting Miho down, very little gets Yukari down: as the loader, she’s able to share her thoughts with Miho during combat and support her with her unparalleled knowledge.

  • Once Yukari leaves, Rena and Ruka thank one another: the girls at BC Freedom look forwards to their match with Ooarai now, and will later stage a fight en route to the match to keep the ruse up. The dynamic between the Escalator and Examination factions in Das Finale are presented as being much more reasonable than they were in Ribbon Warrior, a manga spin-off of Girls und Panzer that ended up being counted as non-canon and therefore, is not counted as providing an accurate representation of how the characters are. Overall, I’ve found that the series itself presents characters as being much friendlier and more amicable than in the manga, and so, are a much better representation of who everyone is as a whole.

  • Taiyaki War thus ends up as being another fine example of how OVAs can be used to greatly enhance series: Girls und Panzer‘s OVAs genuinely stand out for helping expand the universe further, and while one could still get a solid enjoyment of the series without watching the OVAs, being able to experience the OVAs adds a considerable amount of depth to the series. With Taiyaki War now in the books, I imagine that this will be the last I write about Girls und Panzer until Das Finale‘s third act comes out. The timing of this is excellent: Halo: CE has just released for The Master Chief collection, which means I’ll be able to now go through Halo: CE‘s campaign in full.

  • I’ve heard that the original remaster’s ability to freely switch between the updated and classic graphics was retained, so I’m especially excited to play the game again with classic visuals, which is how I best remember playing the game on PC during my time as a secondary student. At this point in time, I’ve also reached World Tier Five in The Division 2, having just cleared the Tidal Basin mission solo. As such, besides Halo: CE, I’ll also be looking to write about that experience alongside Koisuru Asteroid after the three-quarters mark this month. We’re also very nearly at the end of the winter season, so I’ll be swinging by to write about Koisuru Asteroid and Magia Record once their finales have aired at the month’s end.

One of Girls und Panzer‘s greatest strengths outside of the already masterfully-presented main series lies within their OVAs. OVAs are traditionally used as a means of fanservice, whether it be to highlight fan-favourite moments and make callbacks to earlier parts of the series, or else give the characters a chance to relax at the beach, pool or onsen in downtime away from their typical activities. Girls und Panzer utilised its OVAs to accomplish both: the first two OVAs were a thinly-veiled excuse to show the cast in swimsuits, but subsequent OVAs helped with world-building, expanding on minor plot points to show how certain outcomes were reached, and otherwise simply give characters a chance to interact with one another in moments not essential to their matches. The latter approach ultimately creates characters that have greater depth than possible through just the series itself. Whether it was Yukari and Erwin conducting recon together, or Miho doing her best to sell Alice the idea that Ooarai is a great high school to attend, OVAs in Girls und Panzer have always added something new and enjoyable to the experience: this latest OVA from Das Finale is no exception, giving viewers insight into how BC Freedom ended their open internal strife (it’s largely successful, although vestiges of old grudges still remain at times) and how Marie’s solution ends up being turned into a countermeasure against Yukari’s recon operation, leading to the events seen in the first act. Such OVAs are most welcome, and also have one exciting implication: the incredibly vast and interesting world of Girls und Panzer is so richly-built and detailed, that any number of spin-offs could be written long after Das Finale concludes, meaning that should Ooarai ever square off against Maple High School at any point in the animated format, you can bet that I will be around to write about how well that school captures the Canada Strong ™ spirit.

Girls und Panzer Das Finale Part Two: Review and Reflection

“It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.” –Douglas MacArthur

Ooarai manages to break free of BC Freedom’s assault – the latter’s coordination leaves Yukari and the others shocked. However, because their team was so hastily assembled, it stood to reason that BC Freedom’s two different groups may still be prone to in-fighting, having only put on a ruse for this battle. When Saori notices that Mallard Team’s B1 Bis’ turret outwardly resembles the Souma S35’s turret, they devise a plan to set off in-fighting. While BC Freedom’s commanders initially do not take the bait, thing devolve rapidly: BC Freedom’s Soumas and ARL-44 fire upon one another, whittling their numbers down. Marie intervenes to stop the fighting, and BC Freedom’s remaining forces engage Ooarai, until a play by Ooarai’s Mark IV blocks off Marie’s FT-17, leaving Miho and Leopon team to mop things up. In the match’s aftermath, Ruka Oshida and Rena Andō speak with Azumi, their senior, while Miho and Marie share confectioneries together. After returning to Ooarai, Miho visits the Boco Theme Park with Alice, while the others prepare for the upcoming match. Fukuda from Chi-ha Tan Academy visits the Volleyball Club, who inspire her to be more fluid in her strategies. Saori visits Momo’s family while helping out in her duties as a member of the student council, and later, Ooarai learn that they are to face off against Chi-Ha Tan in their second match, which is set in the jungles. On the day of the match, Miho and Kinuyo wish one another the best. Chi-Ha Tan’s fit-and-fade strategies perplex Ooarai, and Shark team is eliminated when they attempt to counterattack during an ambush. The battle presses into the night, and Miho attempts to create a diversion by rallying around a lake. When Chi-Ha Tan’s Type 2 Ka-Mi amphibious tank appear in the lake, Kinuyo presses the advantage to strike, disabling Leopon’s Porsche Tiger. Miho pushes their forces into the jungle and forces them into a ravine. Uncharacteristically, Kinuyo orders a retreat to fight another day, before Miho can encircle them.

A full two years after Das Finale‘s first part released, the second instalment finally arrives, carrying on in the intensity and emotional tenour of the first. The large gaps between the first and second part does not speak well to the release patterns: assuming an average of two years between BD releases, and four parts remaining, it will take eight more years for parts three through six to get a home release, and viewers will see part six in 2028, a mere two years from yet another new decade. This release pattern is untenable on paper, and exceeds the time between the present and when Girls und Panzer first aired. However, this is the worst-case, and if fortunes hold, the remaining instalments will be released more closely together. Even assuming the worst case, if the second act of Das Finale is anything to go by, the quality of Das Finale will be incredible, commanding excitement and immersion throughout the entire course of its run. Between the thrilling conclusion of the fight between Ooarai and the spell-binding duel between a school who’s learned a few things from their time with Ooarai, there is no shortage of excitement in Das Finale‘s second act. Aside from the combat sequences, everyday moments, such as Miho sharing an evening with Alice at the Boco amusement park, Fukuda’s dinner with the volleyball club, or Saori visiting Momo’s family for the first time, Das Finale continues in the tradition of its predecessors, striking a fine balance between Panzerfahren and the idea that its participants are ordinary (albeit interesting) people. Girls und Panzer traditionally excels in this area, and Das Finale is no exception. Besides offering this masterful presentation, Das Finale also has a clever call-back to the original TV series: when Shark Team get annihilated from having a flag and decide to not carry one in the future, the Hippo team recall back when they’d decked out their StuG III and the associated consequences of making themselves too conspicuous. All of this together with visuals rivaling Studio Ghibli and Makoto Shinkai’s works and sound engineering that stands out creates a film whose quality is such that it (almost) justifies the unreal wait time between instalments.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While I won’t be able to lay claim to having the first discussion of Das Finale‘s second part on the internet at this stage (I believe fellow blogger and Girls und Panzer fan, Jusuchin, holds that coveted spot), I can still bring to the table a unique and hopefully, interesting set of thoughts on things. This post, like my previous talk on Das Finale‘s first act, will feature forty screenshots that I hope will adequately cover the events within this long-awaited second instalment.

  • Last we left off, Ooarai and BC Freedom found themselves regrouping after the latter attempted an ambush at the bridge. Miho manages to extricate all of her forces without sustaining any casualties, and decides to resort to another play to take on BC Freedom, whose arsenal is impressive and whose level of cooperation was unexpected. While her other forces keep watch at the bocage (a woodland and pasture mixture characteristic of parts of Europe like France, England and Ireland), Marie herself stops to enjoy more sweets in a manner reminiscent of Snoopy from the Charlie Brown episode, “You’re a Great Sport, Charlie Brown”.

  • While initially dismissing the friendly fire as being nothing more than being a bit of friendly jousting, Marie soon realises that Ruka and Rena are duking it out for real. In the melee, BC Freedom loses a substantial number of their forces to friendly fire. Mallard Team is expressly forbidden from dealing any damage in their ruse, but initially creates enough chaos for BC Freedom to begin engaging one another: the Soumas have superior manoeuvrability and can close the gap quickly to disable the ARL-44s, while the ARL-44 and their 90 mm SA mle. 1945 make short work of any Souma.

  • Rena and Ruka quickly realise they’ve been had when they spot Mallard Team’s Char B1 Bis taking pot shots at them. They promptly and profusely apologise to one another and, under Marie’s command, begin engaging Ooarai’s forces anew with their remaining tanks. While the blue-on-blue has not decimated all of BC Freedom’s armour, it puts the initiative back in Ooarai’s camp: Miho’s forces give chase while BC Freedom move to protect Marie’s FT-17.

  • In Battlefield 1, the FT-17 was ridiculously overpowered during the open beta, where I got a 21-streak with the close support variant, and then it was subsequently toned down, with a coaxial machine gun replacing the canister shells, and the self-repair was reduced in efficacy. Overall, I did not prefer using the close support package for most situations – the Howitzer variant, on the other hand, was much more entertaining to run: the 75 mm cannon made it lethal against other tanks and took skill to use, while the HMG made it capable of engaging infantry at all ranges. The Howitzer was only limited by its limited turret rotation, which meant one needed to be mindful of players trying to attack from behind.

  • In the ensuing tank battle, both Ooarai and BC Freedom lose several of their units as they push through the bocage. Admittled, the terrain of the area favours BC Freedom and is the sort of landscape that is featured in Battlefield V‘s Arras, one of the original maps that came with the game’s launch. Arras is a fun map for armoured combat, and features vivid fields of yellow flowers, although in its current state, Battlefield V does not have any French armour: a share more than a year after its launch, Battlefield V only has the German, British, American and Japanese factions.

  • In the end, Shark Team’s Mark IV cuts off Marie’s FT-17, who is in hot pursuit of Turtle Team’s Hetzer. With its 37 mm main gun, the FT-17 would not have had any chance to deal any damage to the Hetzer save for exceptional circumstances. Surrounded, Marie resigns herself to defeat and takes a tender bite of cake before Anko and Leopon team fire on her to bring the match to a close.

  • It turns out that Azumi had been an alumni of BC Freedom, and both Rena and Ruka admired her. Azumi assures them that training together will help them improve further and put on a more impressive showing in future years; the match against Ooarai shows that Rena and Ruka, representing the Examination and Escalator factions of their school, could set aside their differences and cooperate, so it would not be inconceivable that seeing their Panzerfahren team work together would slowly cause the rivalries at BC Freedom to lessen over time.

  • Post-game, Marie treats Ooarai to French-style pâtisserie: while the girls might be tankers on the battlefield, off the battlefield, everyone has their own unique points, interests and eccentricities. Marie, being an embodiment of France’s Marie Antoinette, loves cakes and is rarely seen without one in hand. Despite her mannerisms, Marie is just as good of a sport as Darjeeling, Kay, Katyusha and Maho: sportsmanship is a major part of Girls und Panzer, and for me, irrespective of how heated matches can get, everyone understands the importance of winning and losing gracefully, taking a loss as a lesson on what to improve on next time.

  • In Das Finale, Ooarai is presented with a noticeably greater level of detail than in earlier instalments: the visual quality of Das Finale surpasses even that of Der Film, which is itself superior to the original series from an art and animation standpoint. Every aspect of Das Finale‘s visual component is impressive, and this is why I’ve opted to expend a screenshot to illustrate this: by comparison, Girls und Panzer‘s first season looks a little flat and drab by comparison, but this isn’t saying a whole lot, since the original TV series has aged gracefully and still looks solid.

  • When Girls und Panzer first began aired, I was never too big on Momo’s character simply because besides being the strict, no-nonsense member of the student council, and her penchant to miss shots even from extreme close ranges, she did not have a more human side to her. Her tough exterior, however, was shown to be hiding a very sensitive and caring personality: Momo is very prone to tears, very worried about those around her. This is why she had become so fixated on winning in the original series, and a glimpse of her true character was seen in Girls und Panzer‘s finale, before being brought out to bear during Der Film.

  • Miho is noticeably absent from the proceedings after returning to Ooarai: Saori, Hana, Yukari and Mako enjoy crepes in the brisk air, and Mako is visibly freezing, stating that she’d stuck around only to enjoy the ocean breeze. When Yukari suggests enjoying some red bean soup, Mako jumps at the opportunity. In Japan, お汁粉 (Hepburn oshiruko) is typically served with mochi, and its Cantonese variant 紅豆沙 (jyutping hung4 dau2 saa1, “red bean soup”), has the red beans mixed with tapioca, coconut milk, and purple rice. For me, this is the true form of red bean soup: it is a wonderful desert, and I typically see it as the conclusion to a Cantonese dinners.

  • Miho and Alice have gone on ahead to the Boco Amusement Park, which has been restored to its former glory. After watching a 4D-max movie told from Boco’s perspective, where Boco almost wins a fight from luck but loses to his last opponent, Alice and Miho take a ride on a roller-coaster of sorts. During their ride, Boco is fried by a stray bolt of lightning (likely a part of the ride), surprising both Miho and Alice. Miho’s expression here is a mixture of pity and shock: it’s not everyday viewers get to see Miho with a wider range of facial expressions, and it looks like when she’s relaxed, Miho is a bit more expressive.

  • Towards the end of their day, Miho and Alice share Boco-themed burgers. Alice is searching for a new school to attend, and intends to face Miho again in Panzerfahren one day. It suddenly strikes me that the last time I wrote about Das Finale, there had been a 10-minute preview, and during that weekend, I made a homemade double grass-fed beef patty burger with cheddar cheese, bacon, sautéed onions and mushrooms, topped with a fried egg. This was probably the most delicious thing I’ve made, and it tasted like heaven on earth. The receipe sautéed onions and mushrooms I used ended up being a good standby for the later burgers I would make. That week, I had a rare bit of time off and so, I took the time to walk the Big Hill Springs Provincial Park: it was a relaxing walk on account of the fact that it was a Thursday afternoon, and I practically had the entire trail to myself, from the hillside overlooking the area, to the waterfall part-way up the trail.

  • Fukuda of Chi-Ha Tan is a character who’s grown on me: this shy and reserved first year student who gradually develops more confidence as she spends time with Ooarai. While anxious to prove herself on the battlefield, Fukuda is also weary of her classmates’ love for 突撃 (Hepburn totsugeki, literally “charging attack”). This strategy has previously caused Chi-Ha Tan no small amount of trouble, since their loadout, consisting of Japanese tanks, are ill-suited for frontal assaults on schools with more heavily armed and armoured tanks.

  • Of everyone on Ooarai’s team, Fukuda is the most fond of the volleyball team: they share たらし焼き (Hepburn tarashi-yaki), a kind of grilled dough that is enjoyed as a snack for farmers, as Fukuda asks Duck Team for advice in their upcoming battles. The volleyball club comments on the tarashi-yaki and note that there’s no one way of eating it: Fukuda realises that this flexible, adaptive way of thinking could also apply to Panzerfahren, and inspired from this visit, Fukuda leaves with an idea of what new strategies she’d like Chi-Ha Tan to employ.

  • As Saori transitions into more duties as a member of the student council, she begins running more errands with Momo, who explains that the student council’s diligence is what keeps Ooarai functional as a school. Saori has more novel, contemporary ideas about how the student council can send communiqués out, but Momo rejects these suggestions. When they arrive at the printers’, it turns out that this is also Momo’s home, and that her parents run a printing shop.

  • Momo has at five younger siblings, and does her best to look after them, even though she states it’s difficult to focus on her studies with how rowdy things can get. Shortly after the movie released last June, Momo’s siblings were the only point of discussion at an anime forum I read. With the second part out, I imagine that discussions will be a ways more exciting than the size of Momo’s family very soon. Momo’s lack of admission offers to a post-secondary is what prompted Miho to make her commander for Das Finale: the stakes are lower, but this works to Das Finale‘s advantage in that without artificially inflating Ooarai’s urgency to win, it gives everyone a chance to fight for reasons beyond saving their school.

  • I’ve elected not to show the montage of St. Glorianna, Saunders, Pravda and Black Forest mopping floor with their opponents: with the matches in full swing, it turns out that Ooarai is set to face Chi-Ha Tan in the next match, and while the girls are initially excited because their opponent is known for charging into situations without much thought, Miho cautions everyone to be mindful: overconfidence had led them into a trap against BC Freedom, and Miho believes that it is possible that Chi-Ha Tan has something else up their sleeves.

  • Traditionally, I’ve never really featured any screenshots of the spectators watching the matches, but I’ve opted to make an exception this time around just to illustrate how much attention is paid to even scenes like this. Among those visible in the crowd, besides Ooarai, BC Freedom and Chi-Ha Tan’s students, are Hana’s mother and Shinzaburo, plus Yukari’s parents. No two faces are alike, and it’s impressive to see this level of detail in scenes that don’t linger for more than a few seconds.

  • Ooarai and Chi-Ha Tan marks the first time in Girls und Panzer where Miho squares off against an opponent who’s fought alongside her as an ally and is aware of her style. Their pre-match is marked by some of the most selfless and honourable displays of sportsmanship: both Miho and Kinuyo wish one another the best and promise to fight for their victories honourably. It was very encouraging to see this conversation, and immediately, it would be clear that a thrilling, captivating match would await viewers. The promise Miho and Kinuyo make prior to the match is what motivates the page quote: both Ooarai and Chi-Ha Tan have their own reasons for winning.

  • Chi-Ha Tan fields the Type 95 Ha-Go Light Tank and Type 97 Chi-Ha: the Type 95 is equivalent to the M3 Stuart in role, being intended as an anti-infantry tank, while the Type 97 was also built for infantry support. The Type 95 had a maximum speed of 45 km/h, and was an excellent tank at the time of its initial production in 1935, while the Type 97 became the most widely-produced Japanese medium tank of World War II. Neither tank could quite perform against their counterparts in the American Army, lacking the armour and firepower to be effective, but in the jungles of Southeast Asia, they proved effective, surprising the British forces, who were not expecting tanks.

  • What I colloquially call “funny faces” make an appearance in Das Finale‘s second act: besides Ruka’s expression after Marie chastises her, Ogin’s expression of shock is hilarious to behold. This stems from the desecration of her pirate flag from tracer rounds the Chi-Ha Tan tanks fire to mark Ooarai’s position. In anger, Ogin orders her crew to retaliate, but the Mark IV proves inadequate and is disabled. The History buffs recall a similar incident during their first match against St. Glorianna, and Ogin decides in the future, they’ll have to carry their flags within their hearts into battle.

  • In the match’s opening moments, Chi-Ha Tan hits Ooarai with a form of combat the school had previously not utilised: rather than blindly charging into their enemies, Chi-Ha Tan, on Fukuda’s suggestion, uses hit-and-fade tactics, turning their guns on Ooarai’s armour to get their attention, but then disappearing back into the thick of the jungle before Ooarai can return fire, resulting in a much more dynamic match. That Kinuyo has accepted Fukuda’s suggestions indicates that Kinuyo is open-minded, and early in the match, uses the new strategy to great effect.

  • Besides having lost the first tank of the match, the unique combination of Chi-Ha Tan’s hit-and-fade tactics, coupled with the heat and humidity of the jungle begins getting to Ooarai’s tankers, who grow frustrated with their inability to mount an effective counteroffensive. Miho manages to reign back in her tanks, who were on the verge of launching a blind rush in an attempt to find their opponent: without a plan, charging into the jungle would be an unwise decision, and actions taken in anger usually do not end well.

  • The unexpected behaviour from Chi-Ha Tan surprises Ooarai, and Miho realises that their original plans are unlikely to be viable now. She decides to take the fight to a nearby lake instead by luring Chi-Ha Tan there, rather than attempting to take an elevated position and snipe Chi-Ha Tan as they employed their charging tactics as intended. The weather has shifted, and par the course for a jungle map, rain begins falling. While moving to their next position, Mallard team becomes stuck in the mud, and it speaks to Miho’s growth that she delegates the task of rescue to Leopon Team without leaving the Panzer IV herself. However, the mud proves too much even for the Motor Club’s modified Porsche Tiger, and ultimately, Mako uses the Panzer IV to push Mallard Team out of the mud.

  • The Chi-Ha Tan tanks feel right at home in the depths of the jungle, which bears a striking resemblance in terms of atmospherics to Battlefield V‘s Solomon Islands map. At this point in Battlefield V, the Pacific Content has single-handedly brought the game to a new level of enjoyment, and it was immensely fun to be able to roll with Chi-Ha Tan’s Type 97 tanks. In its base form, the configuration that Kinuyo runs with, the Type 97 is faster but less effective in combat compared to the M4 Sherman, but with the right upgrades, the Type 97 can be reconfigured into the Type 3 Chi-Nu, which features the Type 3 75 mm gun. With this, the Type 97 can go toe-to-toe with the M4s.

  • As evening sets in, Ooarai’s forces prepare to have dinner. The battle has, so far, fallen into one of attrition, and so, Ooarai decides to take it easy for the time being. During times of difficulty, having a good meal to look forwards to can be a massive morale booster, and this is one of my preferred ways of getting through trying times. This past little while’s been tough, and so, a Saturday evening dinner of Caesar salad, fried chicken and fries, washed down with soda, proved to be most relaxing: a snowfall is now making its way through the area, and it’s nice to have a little bit of downtime.

  • Hana dozing off and then swiftly reawakening proved to be one of the more endearing moments of Das Finale‘s second act; despite being the most refined of Anko Team’s members, Hana is occasionally prone to moments that remind viewers she’s an ordinary girl, just like everyone else. Originally, Hana was Anko’s driver, but she was turned on after feeling the Kwk 40’s powerful report, and switched over to being Anko’s gunner after taking an immediate liking to the sense of force associated with being the gunner. She proves to be a skillful gunner, nailing shots with unerring accuracy when the moment calls for it.

  • While Hana had drifted off, Mako finds herself wide awake and fully alert during the night, claiming the night to be like an old friend. Miho and the others originally found Mako sleeping in a field while they’d had their first-ever practise, and Saori had known Mako since childhood. To keep her safe during the exercise, they brought her on board, and when Hana was knocked out, Mako took over as driver and proved to be proficient. Altogether, Anko team has the highest survival rate out of anyone at Ooarai: their capabilities as a team are immediately apparent, unlike Battlefield, where one person controls all aspects of a tank, it takes a minimum of four people to properly run the Panzer IV.

  • An unusual object appears in the lake, and this turns out to be the Type 2 Ka-Mi, an amphibious tank that Chi-Ha Tan had as their “surprise”. Based off the Type 95, the Ka-Mi was designed for beach landings and possessed one Type 1 37 mm main cannon, as well as a Type 97 coaxial machine gun. The Ka-Mi gives Ooarai no shortage of headaches, being able to traverse waters and stay out of range of Ooarai’s guns, while simultaneously providing enough of a distraction for Chi-Ha Tan’s main force to get into place.

  • It is no surprise that this is exactly what I use the Ka-Mi for in Battlefield V: being able to traverse open water means being able to get a good flank on the enemy. Against infantry, the Ka-Mi is immensely effective, to the point where I’ve gone on a 34-streak with it, and even if the Ka-Mi is vulnerable to medium tanks and anti-tank weaponry, being able to flank effectively and draw the other team’s attention means being able to buy my own team some space while defending an objective. Battlefield V‘s American counterpart to the Ka-Mi is the LVT, which is equally effective in its function.

  • While Kinuyo has the support of her other Type 97s and 95s, individually, the base Type 97 is quite weak in Battlefield V, and it is very clear that attempting a totsugeki on enemies with it is to waste a tank needlessly. However, when used correctly, even the base Type 97 can be effective: early on in the Pacific Chapter, when I started out with the entry-level Type 97, I enjoyed successes with it by sticking to an anti-infantry and anti-transport role. Once upgraded, however, it became much easier to square off against the M4 Shermans.

  • During this segment of the match, Chi-Ha Tan has consistently held the initiative, engaging Ooarai at their convenience and disappearing as needed to conserve on their numbers. This tactic allows them to wear down Ooarai, and following the distraction the Ka-Mi have created, Kinuyo continues to push the initiative and attack. In the ensuing exchange, Ooarai loses a handful of their tanks: Mallard team and Leopon team are disabled following sustained fire while attempting to keep Duck Team’s Hetzer safe from enemy fire.

  • Chi-Ha Tan’s plan is bold, but in the crossfire, one of their tanks is also disabled. One aspect that I’ve noticed in Das Finale is the sound engineering, which creates a different experience than did the sound from the original Girls und Panzer. Because of the acoustics, it feels as though a shell was passing in front of one’s faces, voices sound as though come from a distinct direction, and distant sounds are muffled. All of this comes together to create a much richer, multi-dimensional sound that adds to Das Finale‘s immersion.

  • All told, watching Ooarai exchange with Chi-Ha Tan in the jungles was practically experiencing Battlefield V‘s Pacific Theatre in Girls und Panzer, especially the Solomon Islands map, which came out around a month ago. I very much enjoyed the experience on Solomon Islands, and in general, aside from the 5.2 patch that saw TTK be detrimentally modified, the Pacific Theatre update for Battlefield V proved to be a much-needed addition to the game. The 6.2 update is supposed to bring the game back to a near-5.0 state while at once ensuring that weapons have a specific role (but ensuring that skilled players can use their weapons more effectively outside of their optimal range).

  • While it looks like Ooarai is pursuing Chi-Ha Tan into the jungle, it turns out Miho’s deliberately pushing them towards a narrow ditch, and the entirety of Chi-Ha Tan’s forces wind up in here. Despite having what appears to be the perfect opportunity to finish things here and now, Ooarai’s accuracy in close quarters is not so hot, and they miss most of their shots. Realising that they’re fish in a barrel, Kinuyo does the unexpected, and for the first time, orders a tactical retreat before Ooarai can prepare a powerful strike.

  • While her teammates are initially shocked at the order, Kinuyo reasons that it’s better to live to fight another day than lose needlessly in a poor position. Fukuda is impressed that Kinuyo is adapting, and Chi-Ha Tan’s tankers quickly rally, preparing for a retreat. Up until now, they’ve been using various forms of charges (really just named in curious ways) to motivate everyone, but this marks the first time they’ve used a retreat.

  • I’m very nearly done with this post, and the one thing I’ve not mentioned yet is the number of appropriate songs each school sings during their battles or as a part of their theme. On top of everything else that Girls und Panzer does well, the inclusion of well-known songs transforms the show into a minor musical of sorts, giving the series further depth. With Chi-Ha Tan in full retreat, Miho seizes initiative and orders her tanks to give pursuit, even in the knowledge that Chi-Ha Tan has faster armour.

  • Kinuyo heads into the moonlight as the second part draws to a close, and with this, my own reflections of Das Finale‘s second act comes to a close, as well. Knowing that the third act could potentially be a 2022 release is infuriating, but this is the reality of things: overseas folks like myself will simply have to wait before the outcome of the match between Ooarai and Chi-Ha Tan is decided, although like every fight involving Donnie Yen’s Ip Man, I imagine that Ooarai will come out of this match victorious, otherwise, Das Finale might as well draw to a close. As such, it is evident that Miho will win, but the thrill will be in watching how Ooarai manages to earn their victory. I am, in short, greatly anticipating the third act, although it should be clear that I have no intention of burning money to fly to Japan for the sole purpose of seeing it ahead of everyone else: half the fun in Girls und Panzer is being able to talk about it with others, after all.

The outcome between BC Freedom and Ooarai had been preordained – the series would’ve ended here and now had Marie won, and it was only a question of who would score the winning kill. Contrary to my initial prediction that Momo would get the kill, Shark team proves instrumental in this victory, preventing Marie’s FT-17 from escaping and allowing Ooarai’s Panzer IV and Porsche Tiger to end the match. As expected of Girls und Panzer, the post-match is a show of sportsmanship and friendship, which was quite touching: while Marie might be a bit haughty and not one to stand on ceremony, she never displays open contempt for her opponent and is a graceful loser, promising Miho a thrilling rematch someday. The biggest surprise in the second act, however, is the opening phase of the match against Chi-Ha Tan. Encouraged by the Volleyball Club, Fukuda brings back to Kinuyo a host of new strategies for their match against Ooarai. They successfully capitalise on their Type 97s and 95s high mobility to frustrate Ooarai, employing hit-and-fade to create a constant sense of unease for Ooarai’s tankers. While their tanks may not be the most powerful, clever use of their armour’s strengths, and the terrain, allow Fukuda to contribute towards keeping most of their tanks active when traditionally, charging blindly at their enemy has cost them. Das Finale continues to find ways of making each Panzerfahren match exciting, and two acts in, it is apparent that strategy has returned to the series’ forefront over the pure spectacle of the film, bringing the series back in line with its origins. It speaks to Das Finale‘s strengths that even after a two-year gap between the home release, the series has lost none of its momentum, and with the second act in the books, I don’t doubt that the third act will continue to impress. The only question remains – will viewers be subjected to another two year wait for the next part, and if so, will long wait times dampen the momentum and excitement that Das Finale has cultivated insofar?

Masterpiece Anime Showcase: Girls und Panzer, Understanding Success On the Intersection Between Friendship, Sportsmanship, Self-Discovery and Technical Excellence

“Cheer up, and let’s do this. We’ve all decided we were going to do this together, that we were going to fight until the end, and never surrender.” –Miho Nishizumi

After a disastrous outcome at the previous year’s Panzerfahren tournament, Miho Nishizumi transfers to Ooarai Girls’ Academy, where she hopes for a fresh start. She befriends Saori Takebe and Hana Isuzu, but inevitably finds herself being recruited to the newly-restarted Panzerfahren team. While Miho is initially hesitant, her previous experience and innate qualities as a leader inspires her fellow team-mates. Saori later manages to convince Mako Reizei to join, as well. After a mock battle with St. Glorianna’s Academy, their leader, Darjeeling, wishes Miho the best, and Ooarai’s Panzerfahren team begin their journey in the current Panzerfahren tournament. They topple Saunders University in the first round and become friends with Kay, Saunder’s commander. Between training and securing new parts for their tanks, Miho also comes to know her classmates better, seeing each of their interests and unique traits. She reveals to her friends that she’d quit Panzerfahren because of her failure to secure a victory the previous year, as a result of her decision to leave her tank and rescue a classmate, whose tank had fallen into a river during the final match. This led to a rift between Miho and her mother, Shiho, who felt Miho had not lived up to the family name. Ooarai later defeats Anzio in battle and faces off against Pravda. While the cold conditions initially work against Ooarai, and Pravda surrounds them, Miho accepts a temporary ceasefire so she can send Erwin and Yukari out for recon. They come back with a report on Pravda’s positions and exploit this to earn a victory, along with Katyusha’s respect. Here, Momo and Anzu reveal that there was a reason for Ooarai’s participation in Panzerfahren: from a lack of funds, their school was to be shut down, and they needed a game-changer to convince the school board to let their school remain open. Thus, victory became all-important, and going into the final round, Miho is fighting not just for herself or her friends, but the fate of the school she’s come to call home. It is a difficult battle: against her old school, Black Forest, Miho finds that her tanks are outmatched by Black Forest’s sheer power, but with a few novel approaches, Ooarai begins levelling things out, leaving Miho and her older sister, Maho, to duel it out. Miho comes out victorious, and Maho expresses relief that Miho’s found her own way again, while Shiho looks on, pleased with Miho’s tenacity. This is Girls und Panzer, one of the most iconic anime of the 2010s: despite being plagued by production issues and possessing what initially appeared to be a weak premise suited for little more than fanservice, Girls und Panzer‘s historic run in 2012 and 2013 led the series to unexpected success that defied all expectations.

At its core, Girls und Panzer speaks to the importance of friendship and support in helping individuals overcome their own doubts and fears. Miho begins her journey uncertain, having lost her way from a defeat that, in the Nishizumi Creed, was untenable. She transferred to Ooarai with the hope of escaping Panzerfahren and living an ordinary life. However, when circumstance pushes Miho to take up the duty of a Panzerfahren commander, it is with the support of her friends that allow her to make this transition. Initially, it is warmth from Saori and Hana that gives Miho the courage to step back into a tank. Over time, as Miho leads Ooarai to victory time and time again with her kindness, compassion and empathy, she earns the admiration, respect and trust from those who fight alongside her: Ooarai’s Panzerfahren team rallies behind Miho, placing their faith in her to create opportunity and pursue success even where hope is slim. This support is what pushes Miho to fight for them; as a result of this mutualistic dynamic, Ooarai ultimately is able to save their school, and Miho rediscovers what Panzerfahren is about. The key distinction in Miho’s newfound approach to Panzerfahren over her original techniques stems from her own genteel character, in addition to concern for the well-being of those around her. Miho embodies Sun Tzu’s terms of a great leader from Art of War, being a commander who is tough but fair, compassionate yet resolute. By caring for those under her command, and setting them straight without being impatient, Miho creates a team who is willing to fight to the ends of the earth with her. This kindness is a component of the friendship themes in Girls und Panzer; Miho’s personal style, in integrating adaptivity, sportsmanship and compassion, not only helps unite Ooarai, but also inspires the rival teams that she ends up meeting in battle. Darjeeling, Kay, Katyusha and even Maho come to appreciate Miho’s choices, in time, supporting Ooarai in their journey to victory.

While the themes in Girls und Panzer are nothing novel, the success story Girls und Panzer found comes from the consequence of the series excelling with the integration of feel-good themes together with a compelling level of technical excellence in Panzerfahren itself. Girls und Panzer meticulously researched World War Two-era armour to a level of accuracy that is comparable to Tom Clancy’s, and as such, allows the series to define very specific rules and constraints for Panzerfahren. Armour and projectile properties, tank movement characteristics and operational procedures are all explored in detail, faithful to their real-world counterparts. The sum of this level of technical detail allows Girls und Panzer to create highly-nuanced discussions on armour doctrine and tactics. For instance, knowing the attributes of the Panzer IV Ausf. H’s 7.5 cm Pak 40 and the significance of the armoured skirt allows one to comment on Miho’s odds in squaring off against Maho’s Tiger I: there is both fact and historical precedence to guide discussion and speculation on what could happen in a battle. However, while Girls und Panzer draws heavily on real-world details, the anime does not make them mandatory for enjoyment; in the total absence of any knowledge about World War Two armour, one could still have a complete, satisfying experience with Girls und Panzer. This is what sets Girls und Panzer apart from similar series of its time: the anime stands solidly on its own with the virtue of a strong cast, a simple but well-presented theme and a superb audio-visual presentation, but also invests enough into the details to really captivate viewers with existing knowledge of armoured warfare. There is something in Girls und Panzer for everyone, and regardless of one’s background, there is something to enjoy in this series.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • If Girls und Panzer is nearly seven years old, and I’ve written about the series to death before, what would drive me to revisit the series, one asks? The answer is actually two-fold: the first is that in the seven years between now and when Girls und Panzer finished airing, my writing style has shifted somewhat, and I feel that now, it is a bit easier for me to articulate what makes the series so enjoyable for me, as well as why the series has not lost any of its charm since its original run in 2012-2013. The second reason is a bit more insidious – I’ve deliberately timed this post to coincide with Girls und Panzer: Das Finale‘s second movie’s home release.

  • I will be writing about Das Finale‘s second film very soon and strive to have the ‘net’s first and most comprehensive discussion. Until then, this revisitation of Girls und Panzer will provide readers with a rough idea of why after all this time, I’m still writing about Girls und Panzer. The anime begins with Miho transferring to Ooarai, and quickly befriending the warm Saori Takebe and composed Hana Isuzu. Out of the gates, they help her get used to life in school; although Miho still has difficulty in participating in Panzerfahren, Saori and Hana’s friendship steels Miho’s resolve.

  • Even this early on, Girls und Panzer did a phenomenal job of foreshadowing. Girls und Panzer had originally been expected to be a joke, a fanservice-laden series with no meaningful message, and so, when its run was underway, viewers were shocked as to just how well-written and detailed things were. From things like characterisation, to details behind each tank, everything in the series was of a quality that far exceeded initial expectations, although Girls und Panzer made it clear that knowledge of armoured warfare notwithstanding, anyone could go in and have a good time.

  • Initially, once Miho decides to take up Panzerfahren again, Ooarai forms a Panzerfahren team and go on a hunt for tanks to use. A long time ago, Ooarai had been a school known for its Panzerfahren, but the program eventually was shut down, and tanks were left around the school ship. In Japanese, the girls refer to the art of operating tanks as 戦車道 (Hepburn sensha-dō, literally “way of the tank”), and Panzerfahren is a compound word derived off the German Panzer (tank) and fahren (“to go”). In my context, Panzerfahren is approximated as “tank riding”, and English translations peg sensha-dō as “tankery”, which is admittedly strange-sounding, so Panzerfahren stuck with me.

  • After a day’s efforts, the girls find a 38 (t), StuG III, M3 Lee and a Type 98B in addition to the Panzer IV Ausf. D. Thus, five teams are formed: Miho joins Anglerfish with the Panzer IV, while the student council take the 38(t). The history fanatics take the StuG III, the first years take the M3, and the Type 98B are given to the volleyball club. Of these tanks, Battlefield V has the Panzer IV and 38(t): the former is an excellent all-around tank that plays well with Miho’s adaptability, while the student council’s decision to 38(t) suggests at their faith in Miho even this early in the game – the 38(t) is a light tank with a weak gun, and in Battlefield V, it is completely ill-suited for anything other than anti-infantry combat. Even then, a few well-placed Panzerfaust rounds will melt the 38(t).

  • During their first practise match, Miho operates the radio, Saori takes on the role of the commander, while Yukari acts as the gunner, and Hana drives. Mid-match, Hana is knocked out from an impact, and the girls look to be demolished until a chance encounter with Mako Reizei, who promptly picks up on driving the Panzer IV. With Miho’s instructions keeping them focused, the Panzer IV manages to knock out the other Ooarai tanks despite being stuck on a rickety bridge, and the first years fall into a panic, de-tracking their tank in a desperate bid to escape. This early match is a far cry from the scope and scale of later matches, but was critical to show viewers that a proper team must similarly have a proper leader, and at the smaller scale, every tank must also be properly operated.

  • After the practise match, the girls begin to deck out their tanks to fit their own personalities. It is assumed that at this point, each team has begun learning the essentials of their own tanks, while at once training to master the basics, such as compensating for gravity when firing, how to move so as to minimise the tank’s profile and maximise the amount of armour pointed at the enemy to reduce damage. While Miho ends up leaving the Panzer IV in its default colours (to Saori’s disappointment), the first-years paint their tank bright pink, and the history buffs make their tank a walking war museum. The student council’s customisation is the most ostentatious: they opt to go for a brilliant gold finish.

  • Battlefield V‘s tank customisation is practically non-existent, but in Battlefield 1, it was indeed possible to deck one’s tank out with a gold finish, exactly as the student council had done. Upon seeing the results, Yukari is scandalised – being an expert in all things armour, Yukari loves tanks and became saddened to see armoured vehicles being desecrated. Miho finds things hilarious, and although she’s accustomed to properly camouflaged tanks, she allows her classmates this customisation so that they feel at home with her. There is one other unspoken reason: Miho is the sort of person who prefers experience to speak for itself, and letting the volleyball team, history buffs and first years to learn of the consequences of bling on a tank on the battlefield would be far more effective than if she’d lectured them herself.

  • Giving people the freedom to explore and learn is oftentimes a more effective teacher: sometimes, it takes making mistakes in a risk-free environment to really drive a lesson home, and sweating out in training beats bleeding out in war. During training, Miho drills the others on basics like manoeuvre and firing techniques, and I’m particularly fond of interior shots of the tanks themselves. Besides showing the claustrophobic space inside (and Miho’s thighs when we’re talking about the Panzer IV’s interior), interior shots really go to illustrate how sophisticated the art and animation in Girls und Panzer is; the reflection from the optics Hana is looking through is reflected on her shoulder.

  • Once Ooarai’s Panzerfahren team is assembled, Anzu, student council president, arranges for a training match against St. Glorianna. At this point, Miho is asked to be the commander for the whole of Ooarai, which she accepts, and the roles for the Panzer IV are also determined: Mako is to be the driver, Saori takes on the radio operator role, Yukari becomes the loader, Hana is the gunner, and Miho is the commander. Miho’s crew becomes considerably more effectual once everyone settles into a role suited for their personalities, and the first friendly bout between two schools takes place.

  • Against St. Glorianna, Miho fields her variety of tanks against Darjeeling’s Churchill Mk. VII and the Matilda A12 Mk. II. The Matilda’s the predecessor to the Valentine Mk. VIII that I’ve operated in Battlefield V: the Valentine has slightly lighter armour and a slightly reduced top speed compared to the Matilda, but could be produced more inexpensively and quickly. I favour the Valentine for its balance in gameplay and never had much success with the Churchill.

  • The first match with Darjeeling’s crew is set in the streets of Ooarai, a coastal town in Japan’s Ibaraki Prefecture. The town is counted as one of the dullest, most unremarkable places in Japan to be, but this was before Girls und Panzer changed that. Here, Miho drives past the Ooarai Marine Tower, and during their first battle, many familiar locations around Ooarai are depicted. I’ve covered this in great detail in an earlier post, and note that since Girls und Panzer, the town has seen an increase in tourism.

  • While Miho effectively solos the whole of St. Glorianna’s team and disables all of their Matildas, the Panzer IV Ausf. D’s 7.5 cm KwK 37 L/24 is completely inadequate to punch through the Churchill’s armour. At ranges of under 100 metres, the main gun on the Ausf. D could only penetrate the equivalent of 41 mm of armour, and the Churchill Mk. VII has a minimum armour thickness of 51 mm in its rear, with the turret front and hull having a maximum of 152 mm of armour, while the sides possess 95 mm of armour.  Simply put, Miho would have had no way to defeat Darjeeling on her own: the StuG III that the history team fielded had already been knocked out of the fight by this point.

  • In order to defeat the Churchill at this point in Ooarai’s career, Miho would’ve needed to keep the StuG III and its Kwk 40 L/48 alive for longer: at under 100 metres, this 75 mm gun would have penetrated a maximum of 143 mm of armour, so attacking from the sides or rear would’ve been sufficient. Miho does indeed end up losing, and it shows that this early on, Ooarai still needs to improve as a team. As a consequence for losing, Miho and the others must do the dreaded “Anglerfish Dance”, and I’ll feature Miho doing the dance for no discernible reason beyond the aesthetic properties of this moment.

  • Miho, Yukari, Saori, Hana and Mako end up visiting a tank-themed sweets cafe that serves cakes in the shape of tanks, and here, they run into Miho’s older sister, Maho, and her best lieutenant, Erika Itsumi. While Maho is presented as being cold and reserved, this belies a friendly and warm personality; she cares greatly for Miho and worries about her. Erika, on the other hand, is more disparaging towards Miho, holding a grudge that Miho’s actions the previous year had cost them a victory. The choice to introduce Erika here was probably meant to show that Miho and Maho are very similar. Rather like how Erika greatly respects Maho, Yukari will go to the ends of the earth for Miho and stands up to defend her. Early on in Girls und Panzer, the similarity between the two siblings are not immediately apparent, but even here, care was taken to subtly indicate that Miho and Maho are definitely sisters despite outward differences.

  • In preparation for their first round against Saunders, besides training to improve their teamwork and coordination, the girls also repaint their tanks to standard camouflage to avoid sticking out on the battlefield. Because Miho’s been out of her game for a little while, Yukari decides to assist and sets off on a reconnaissance mission to Saunders to learn more about her opponents. Yukari’s first time is marked with inadequate fieldcraft, and she’s quickly discovered. Reconnaissance is a legal part of Panzerfahren, and despite being compromised, Yukari learns of the loadout and disposition of their first opponent.

  • To Yukari, befriending Miho, Saori, Hana and Mako marks a major point in her life: she explains that until now, she’d never really met anyone that shared her love for armoured warfare and all of the accompanying elements. With a profound interest and knowledge in tanks, Yukari is aware of survival tactics and equipment in addition to the properties of different armoured vehicles. While she may be a loader in Panzerfahren, Yukari offers Miho suggestions and in time, also becomes a capable reconnaissance unit able to gather intelligence and get out without being compromised.

  • If there were a single screenshot that could capture the magic of Girls und Panzer, this would be it: I remark that in retrospect, Girls und Panzer is a series that I could’ve easily written episodic reviews for. Each episode advances the story in a meaningful way, and each episode features plenty of material to walk about from a hardware and physics perspective. However, in the interest of keeping things as concise as I can for a Masterpiece Anime Showcase, I’ve elected to stick to forty screenshots, and as such, will not fully represent all of the moments within this series.

  • The match against Saunders allows Ooarai to experience both sides of Panzerfahren: Saunders, reflecting on the American way, has an incredible access to resources, and during the match, Alisa uses a special balloon to intercept Ooarai’s radio communications, giving them a seemingly-supernatural edge. Miho realises this and switches her team over to SMS, while providing false information to send Saunders’ tanks into traps. When Kay discovers this, she stands down her tanks to match Ooarai’s number in the name of fairness.

  • With the equipment gap closed, the battle between Ooarai and Saunders becomes one of pure skill. After locating the Saunders flag tank in pursuit of Ooarai’s flag tank, Mako parks the Panzer IV so Hana can make the shot. Saunders’ top sniper, Naomi, prepares to fire and interrupt Hana, but a steady aim allows Hana to fire moments before they re disabled. The resulting shot disables Saunders’ flag tank, bringing the match to an end. Panzerfahren matches in Girls und Panzer come in two varieties so far: elimination is decided based on who runs out of tanks first, while the VIP game type involves protecting the flag tank, wherein losing the flag tank causes a team to lose the match regardless of their remaining numbers.

  • While Darjeeling had the composure and grace to thank Miho for a match well-played, it isn’t until Ooarai’s victory over Saunders where themes of sportsmanship really come into play in Girls und Panzer. Kay personally thanks Miho for a great match and notes that victory is only meaningful if achieved in a fair, honest manner. Sportsmanship is one of my favourite aspects of Girls und Panzer, creating a very warm and inviting environment that contributes to the anime’s universal appeal, and for this, Kay very quickly became one of my favourite characters outside of Ooarai for embodying the boisterous, hard-working and bold spirit that represents the best traits of the United States.

  • At Girls und Panzer‘s halfway point, Miho opens up as to why she was initially against taking Panzerfahren, and at AnimeSuki, an anime forum I occasionally peruse, this led to a flame war on whether or not Miho’s actions were justified. While most people (myself included) agree that Miho made the right decision in saving her classmate even at the cost of the match, one Akeiko “Daigensui” Sumeragi and willx argued that Miho was better served leaving her classmate to certain danger for the sake of winning. This resulted in a week-long festival of ad hominem attacks, self-aggrandisement and mudslinging between the two parties.

  • Sumeragi was eventually banned from AnimeSuki, and since then, discussions there on Girls und Panzer have been more reasoned and peaceable: thou shall not be missed. Sumeragi was wrong about pretty much everything related to Girls und Panzer‘s themes despite being a so-called “expert” on all things related to armoured warfare, and in retrospect, my decision not take Sumeragi and willx to school proved a good one. This allowed me to finish my undergraduate thesis on time and enjoy the final two episodes without worrying about remaining edits or other work. Back in Girls und Panzer, viewers are introduced to Pravda, a Soviet-themed school whose commander diminutive stature is matched by a big and confident personality: having never heard of Ooarai before, Katyusha  is confident she’ll be able to mop floor with Miho and then take a shot at beating Black Forest.

  • If and when I’m asked, Miho is my favourite anime character of the 2010s: she possesses all of the traits that I respect in people, being fiercely loyal and optimistic even in the face of overwhelming odds. Polite, soft-spoken and shy, Miho is a very human character whose growth comes as a result of the time she spends at Ooarai; her doubts are slowly displaced by confidence as she continues to fight for those important to her. As an side, the fact that Miho’s specs are 82-56-84 increases her appeal, although given the nature of this post, that is neither here nor there.

  • During the match against Pravda, overconfidence causes Ooarai’s tanks to step into Katyusha’s trap, and they find themselves encircled at the church. Katyusha, doubtful Ooarai will put up much of a fight, decides to offer them a surrender instead. The girls quickly become demoralised from the cold and the situation, and it is here, in the darkest hour, that Anzu, Momo and Yuzu explain the truth: that Ooarai will shut down unless they can win the Panzerfahren tournament to prove the school is still relevant. Spurred on, Miho uses the lull to send Yukari, Erwin, Mako and Midoriko out on reconnaissance, before doing the Anglerfish dance herself to raise everyone’s spirits.

  • For a Girls und Panzer post, the observant reader will note that I’ve got very little in the way of actual screenshots from the combat sequences: this post was written with the characters and themes in mind, rather than the tanks, but I’ve also included a few pivotal moments, such as Miho making use of the StuG III’s low profile to do what I personally would count as the height of dishonesty in Battlefield V: camping is despicable, and in Katyusha’s place, since I don’t underestimate opponents, I would’ve opted to slag Ooarai instead. However, in Girls und Panzer, we are cheering for Ooarai, so I’ll concede that camping with a StuG III is technically not the worst thing one could do in Panzerfahren.

  • Between Miho dancing the Anglerfish Dance and Katyusha properly thanking Miho for a good match, expressing that she’s impressed with Miho, the Ooarai victory over Pravda was my magic moment to Girls und Panzer. Up until now, the series had been engaging in its own right, but after this episode, I was thoroughly convinced that I was watching a masterpiece unfolding before my eyes. It was therefore something of a shock to learn that Girls und Panzer would experience an intermission, as the series had run into difficulties in production.

  • I thus busied myself with mastering principles of software engineering and preparations of my undergraduate thesis while waiting for Girls und Panzer to catch up: the difficulties that Girls und Panzer experienced brought to mind the Project management triangle (if you do something quickly and cheaply, it’ll not be good; if you do something quickly and well, it’ll not be cheap; if you do something cheaply and well, it’ll not be quick), and in Girls und Panzer, I remarked that given the quality of the series, I was okay with ACTAS sacrificing “quick” to ensure the series was good. I would not be disappointed.

  • Towards the end of Girls und Panzer, lingering questions of family are addressed: Mako and her grandmother come to an understanding, as does Hana and her mother. Yukari and her parents are on excellent terms, and Miho is a bit envious of their relationship compared to the strained relationship between her and Shiho, her mother. On the final night before the final match against Black Forest, Miho and her friends share a tonkatsu dinner; all of the Ooarai Panzerfahren members have tonkatsu to some capacity to show their unity and resolve. With its origins in the 19th century, tonkatsu is a deep-fried pork cutlet and usually served with a special sauce, and it is an excellent dish that is very hearty.

  • On the day of the final match, Miho faces against the toughest opponents that she’ll encounter in the Panzerfahren tournament: Black Forest (Kuromorimine in Japanese, I’ve deliberately gone with the English spelling since it’s faster for me to type) is known for respect for discipline, order and structure, which are Prussian values. Driven purely by victory, Black Forest is not particularly on good terms with the other schools, and their doctrine is one of superior firepower and force, based on Shiho’s own interpretation of the Nishizumi Style. Entering the final battle, the outcome of the match was a foregone one for me; having studied Sun Tzu’s Art of War, the pure Nishizumi Style is stymied by rigidity and an inflexibility that, on paper, would prove vulnerable to a flexible, adaptive doctrine.

  • As it turns out, the classmate Miho ended up saving was grateful that she’d done so. This simple moment decisively cleared up the long-standing argument from AnimeSuki: Girls und Panzer had been so focused on themes of friendship and sportsman-like conduct that this response was the only one consistent with everything the series had built up. It is here that Girls und Panzer showed that despite the cold, impersonal interpretation of the Nishizumi style that Black Forest practises, their students are still human, able to accept and understand things like respect, integrity and compassion.

  • Besides Sun Tzu, the fact that I’ve been a practitioner of Gōjū-ryū (literally “hard-soft style”) for upwards of two decades also impacted my perspective of Miho’s Panzerfahren style. Our school’s original founder, Chōjun Miyagi, embraced the idea that the hard (linear strikes) and soft (circular, open-handed techniques) was not just applicable to martial arts, but to life itself. Arguing that switching between the two would allow one “to deal effectively with the fluctuations of life”; in other words, success comes from adaptability and flexibility. Black Forest, on the other hand, would be over-reliant on the hard, and therefore, lack the adaptability for success. As such, while Ooarai is understandably nervous about their final match with Black Forest owing to the latter’s fearsome reputation, Black Forest’s might is not as insurmountable as one might think.

  • In retrospect, the heavy tanks of Black Forest, suited for engaging equivalently armoured tanks or larger numbers of technically inferior tanks, were immediately at a disadvantage in their fight against Ooarai, whose motley-looking arsenal of light, medium and heavy tanks reflect on Miho’s ability to improvise and adapt. It speaks volumes to the quality of writing in Girls und Panzer that despite having a very clear outcome based purely on precedence set both in military strategy and life lessons, the anime would nonetheless keep viewers on the edge of the seats for every minute of every battle. There is only one other franchise that has successfully conveyed its themes and captured the viewers’ excitement despite having a protagonist that can do no wrong, and that is Ip Man.

  • In order to reinforce the idea that Miho’s “nobody gets left behind” mindset is both honourable and appropriate, after creating chaos amongst Black Forests’ armour, Miho leads her units across a river, and Rabbit Team’s M3 becomes stuck in the river even as Black Forest is in hot pursuit. While Rabbit Team implore Miho to leave them, Miho refuses and personally directs the efforts to free their tank. For her efforts, Miho is rewarded when Rabbit Team go on to knock out a Jagdpanther, whose powerful 128 mm main gun would’ve almost certainly caused trouble for Ooarai. Miho’s fierce and unyielding loyalty, for better or worse, is one of her defining traits, and in a broader interpretation of the Nishizumi Style, this unwavering dedication to what she believes in means that Miho has indeed made use of Shiho’s teachings, albeit in a very indirect fashion.

  • Despite the dramatic differences in setting and context, Ip Man‘s titular character shares a great deal in common with Miho. Both are proficient in their chosen martial art to a near-supernatural level, and believe that the style matters less than one’s on commitment to what they respectively believe in. Neither are invincible, but instead, Donnie Yen’s Ip Man and Miho both are polite, respectful, observant, finding victory from a combination of uncommon resilience and creativity. Consequently, when it comes to Girls und Panzer and Ip Man, excitement comes not from the outcome of a battle, but rather, how the respective series’ protagonist finds a way to win. I recently had a chance to watch Ip Man 4: The Finale, and thoroughly enjoyed the movie; it was no secret that Donnie Yen’s Ip Man would best Scott Adkins’ Barton Geddes, but against Geddes’ overwhelming power and technique, Ip Man ends up using pressure points to bring the tough-talking, hard hitting Gunnery Sergeant to his knees in Ip Man 4‘s riveting final fight.

  • There was never any doubt that Ip Man would win, but the fight gave both Yen and Adkins a chance to shine. Similarly, in the fight against Black Forest in Girls und Panzer, while Miho was certain to win, the final fight featured plenty of surprises, such as the super-heavy tank, Panzer VIII Maus. Only two prototype mockups were ever built, and for their extreme firepower and durability, such tanks would have proven impractical as the world began moving towards the main battle tank, a combination of powerful engines and main guns, as well as improved armour technology, that gave medium tanks the mobility of a lighter tank and the firepower and armour of a heavy tank. In Ooarai’s arsenal, nothing conventional would’ve been effective, so Miho decides to cook up a clever scheme for defeating the Maus: success rallies Ooarai and sets Miho on course for a one-on-one showdown with Maho.

  • In an evenly-matched one-on-one, Miho narrowly comes up on top: having upgraded to the Panzer IV Ausf. H with a Kwk 40/L43, Miho had more than enough firepower to deal with a Tiger I from under 100 metres. With the ability to penetrate up to 133 mm of armour at close range, and the fact that the Tiger I’s maximum armour thickness is120 mm, this upgrade proves instrumental in helping Miho secure the win for Ooarai. Even without knowing this, however, the outcome of Girls und Panzer nonetheless remained quite evident. This was in fact, the key strength in Girls und Panzer: having knowledge of the tanks’ properties is helpful but will not diminish enjoyment of the series – viewers can have a full experience of the series irrespective of whether or not they have any a priori knowledge about World War Two tanks.

  • Ooarai’s victory is well-deserved, and acts as a definitive ending to Girls und Panzer. Here, Girls und Panzer could have ended on a high note even if no movie and film series had ever been announced: the original TV series is a self-contained experience that got every detail correct. Seven years later, Girls und Panzer looks as sharp as any contemporary anime when it comes to visuals (a few areas do appear more simplistic, and watching Das Finale gives one a good idea of how the art has improved since 2012-2013), and the soundtrack is of a top tier, featuring a combination of tense battle music, classic marches and gentle slice-of-life pieces that capture Miho’s journey of rediscovery.

  • With the additional seven years of life experience since Girls und Panzer‘s conclusion, I find that Miho and Shiho’s portrayal in the original series to an incomplete and somewhat unfair one, as it does not adequately represent them as people. This is a consequence of the series’ short run-time of only twelve episodes, but at the end of the championship, Maho praises Miho for having found her own way, and even Erika remarks that she’s looking forwards to challenging Miho again. As icing on the cake, a proud Shiho looks on and applauds her youngest daughter for her achievement. As it turns out, Maho dotes on Miho and is similarly selfless, having set herself down a rigid path to uphold the family name, and despite her strict, no-nonsense demeanor, Shiho cares deeply for her daughters as well, going to respectable lengths to look after both Miho and Maho.

  • At its core, Girls und Panzer creates a very warm and optimistic story of growth, discovery, and friendship masterfully woven with armoured warfare. By approaching the anime with an optimistic and open mind, people found in Girls und Panzer a series that was enjoyable for a variety of reasons. Since Girls und Panzer, no other series has had quite the same magic as Girls und PanzerHai-Furi was one series that had a very similar premise and was superbly enjoyable, but Girls und Panzer continues to hold a special place in my heart even seven years later, attesting to just how well-done the series is.

Girls und Panzer was initially a series I had decided to watch on the basis of its premise: entering, I had very low expectations and had purely intended to watch, and write about it, so that I could dispel complaints and criticisms that may have arisen. However, when the anime began airing during the autumn of 2012, I was up to my eyeballs in trying to keep up with my undergraduate thesis project, and the series fell to the back of my mind. However, news of production delays, and seeing a video of Miho motivating her classmates with the Anko Dance during the match against Pravda drive me to watch Girls und Panzer in earnest. I thus pushed through the series, reached the tenth episode, and found myself in anticipation of the remaining two episodes, whose release dates coincided with the wrapping-up of my undergraduate thesis. This was a stressful time, and while I had been very confident about the strength of my project (a multi-scale model of renal flow using a hybrid model), the work it took to get my project was substantial. Watching Girls und Panzer helped me to both relax and focus: seeing Miho’s resolve under stress was a bit of inspiration, and it hit me: if Girls und Panzer could stick its landing, then I would, as well. I thus finished Girls und Panzer, found a series that beat all expectations, and then went into my undergraduate defense with a similar mindset. I ended up finishing my undergraduate programme on a high note, and since then, Girls und Panzer had rekindled my interest in armoured warfare. For having accompanied me through my undergraduate thesis and then continuing to shape my expectations of what defines a good anime (accessibility in appealing to a diverse audience, and a meaningful story), I count the original run of Girls und Panzer a masterpiece that has aged remarkably well: seven years after its original run, the series still looks and feels amazing, and it is no joke when I say that anyone who’s not seen Girls und Panzer is missing out on what is perhaps one of the most outstanding and quintessential anime of the 2010s.

Girls und Panzer Das Finale Part Two: A Nine Minute Preview and Remarks on Release Patterns

“Delay always breeds danger; and to protract a great design is often to ruin it.” –Miguel de Cervantes

After Miho’s armoured column evacuates from the wooden bridge, they set up an ambush for BC Freedom’s tanks and push them towards a garden. Here, Mallard team causes chaos amongst BC Freedom’s tanks: after Saori had noticed that their Char B1 bis possessed the same turret as the Souma S35, Miho decides to give their tank a custom paint job and has Mallard sneak behind enemy lines to create instances of friendly fire. While BC Freedom can fight in a united manner under Marie’s command, Oshida and Andou’s animosity for one another ends up being exploited: the two wonder if there’s a traitor amongst them and disregard Ooarai, firing on one another instead. This is the short preview that has been presented for Girls und Panzer Das Finale‘s second act, which premièred in Japanese cinema back on June 15. Possessing a total runtime of 54 minutes, the second act will see the conclusion of Ooarai’s match with BC Freedom, whose outcome is foregone but where the journey to reach said outcome will still remain worthy of watching. With BC Freedom in the books, trailers show that part two will allow Miho a small break before their next match with Kinue Nishi and Chi-Ha Tan, where she spends some time at a Boko-themed amusement park with Alice. For folks, such as myself, who do not have the luxary of going to Japan to watch Das Finale‘s second act, this is about the most that is known for the present: a re-screening of both parts is scheduled for the Thanksgiving Long Weekend, and unlike Part One, whose home release date was announced a month after its première, no information has been provided as to when the home release for Part Two will be.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I will come back and do a proper talk on Das Finale Part Two once it’s actually available; for now, we’ll have a chance to look at the nine or so minutes of footage that mark the opening sixth of the second act. It seems logical to start by talking about Marie. From what little has been seen of her so far, Marie has a haughty personalty and places great store in her skill as a commander. While capable of convincing Andou and Oshida to cooperate, Marie seems to care little for tactics, leaving her subordinates to fight while she eats cake even in the midst of a battle.

  • Conversely, Miho is always shown to be fighting alongside her comrades, directing them from the frontlines and encouraging them to do their best irrespective of the outcome. The gap in leadership and camaraderie amongst Ooarai’s Panzerfahren team is one of the reasons why they’ve always found ways to win over their enemies: other commanders tend to be confident and distant from other members of their team, Miho’s taken the effort to learn about everyone that participates alongside herself.

  • As a result of Girls und Panzer‘s previous performances, it is reasonable to suppose that Ooarai will win this match against BC Freedom, as well. The excitement comes from watching the process that leads to Ooarai’s victory, and I am now confident that it will be Momo who scores the winning kill: from a technical perspective, the FT-17 is a World War One era tank that was revolutionary for its time, but its maximum armour thickness of 22 mm would have offered no protection against the Jagdpanzer 38’s 7.5 cm Pak 39 (L/48), which could punch through 106 mm of armour at ranges of under 100 m.

  • Even at two kilometres, the Pak 39 is rated as being able to defeat 64 mm of armour if the round had hit its mark: the FT-17 would be useless, and Marie’s choice of tank is both to reflect on her preference to let her teammates do the fighting in their World War II-era, more capable tanks, as well as give Momo a fighting chance. I would further suppose that Miho’s determination to see Momo successful would mean that she’d sacrifice herself to make this happen, and so, I see her giving the order that causes her own Panzer IV to be disabled, which clears a way for Momo to take (and make) the winning shot.

  • Having done all of the housework and whatnot, today’s actually been a rather quiet day. Lazy weekends are the perfect time to spend making ludicrous foods: I had some grass-fed beef patties from earlier this month, and the time had finally come to break them out and use them to make burgers. Per request, these burgers feel like they come straight out of Man v. Food: besides a double patty, the burger I made was topped with cheddar cheese, bacon, sautéed onions and a fried egg. A side of fries and a tall glass of soda rounded things out. It was incredibly fun to put together and even more enjoyable to eat: grass-fed beef has an earthier, lamb-like taste, and the meat itself is leaner.

  • It is not lost on me that almost seven years have now passed since Girls und Panzer first began airing. Its success was unprecedented, and no one initially expected the franchise to do as well as it did. The reason for Girls und Panzer‘s unique success lies in the series emphasis on sportsmanship, finds ways of making each of the characters likeable, and for the incredible attention paid to detail. Appealing to military buffs and moé fans alike, there’s something in Girls und Panzer for everyone.

  • Capitalising on BC Freedom’s internal instability and the fact that Mallard Team’s Char B1 bis has the same turret as the Souma S35, Miho cleverly exploits their opponent’s weaknesses to create in-fighting during the match. Where Yukari had been dismayed to learn that the internal conflict at BC Freedom might have been a ruse, it turns out she was actually on the money: it is through Marie’s mediation that Oshida and Andou are able to nominally cooperate, but this cooperation is a fragile one.

  • While Der Film counted on spectacle and a scaled-up experience from the first season, Das Finale places much more emphasis on the skill-based elements of Panzerfahren. We can therefore expect creative tactics and problem solving approaches in upcoming movies, one of the few things along with the enjoyment factor, that is a constant with Das Finale. As frustrating as it is to be unable to do little more than wait, I fail to see the logic in going to Japan to see a movie that I won’t be able to write about in my usual format.

  • When Das Finale‘s second act finally comes out for home release and my copy arrives, I will be doing a much more in-depth talk about things. I expect that once BC Freedom begins tearing itself apart, it’ll be a short ways to the end of the match, and then the remainder of the episode will deal with Miho’s date with Alice to the Boko amusement park, as well as Ooarai squaring off against Chi-Ha Tan for the first time as opponents. With this preview in the books, I’ll be writing about Dumbbell wa Nan Kilo Moteru? next.

More optimistic estimates for Das Finale‘s second part to have a home release will put the date as being in December 2019, supposing that the re-screenings also double as an announcement for the next release. Previously, I had made the assumption that there would be a three month gap between the theatrical screenings and the home release for Das Finale, with an average of eighteen months between the different acts. By these estimates, this month was when Part Two was supposed to be released in full. Since these were off, the future release pattern for Das Finale becomes much more challenging to forecast. While I appreciate the effort going into the production of Girls und Panzer Das Finale to ensure that each instalment is of a high standard, Actas is proving to be about as reliable as 343 Industries when it comes to release dates. Following Das Finale is a bit of a painful endeavour on account of these wait times, and I do apologise to my readers for the considerable delays encountered in writing about Das Finale. My ability to write about this six-part film series is entirely dependent on the home releases, as I aim to provide detailed discussions, with high-quality screenshots. While I could be financially irresponsible and fly myself out to Japan for the singular purpose of watching the film to provide a pure-text summary, I would be compromising the quality of my content by taking this route. This is the cost of quality, and I will resolve to get a proper talk on Das Finale‘s second act as soon as the home release is available, a talk that I hope readers will find satisfactory.