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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.

Reflections on 2020, Welcoming 2021 with the Girls und Panzer 2021 Calendar

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” –Winston Churchill

That 2020 was a bit of a rougher one is probably an understatement. In a year where the world was ravaged by pestilence, unrest, uncertainty and misinformation, it seemed a challenge to find any positivity to define the first year of a new decade. Amidst provisions to keep distant from unknown contacts to slow the ongoing pandemic, the closure of businesses and services, and a segment of the population’s adamant refusal to adhere to these provisions, 2020 saw the world tried by challenging times, and while adversity has often brought out the worst in people, 2020 demonstrated that it could also bring out the best. For every individual who claimed the provisions were an infringement of their rights, two more individuals did their part in keeping society safe, understanding that rights only exist because of the attendant responsibility. Doctors, nurses, front-line responders and healthcare staff worked tirelessly to look after those who contracted the virus, while countless more individuals in science, engineering, technology, services and trades continued doing their utmost to keep society going. 2020 thus demonstrated that, while the selfish are vocal, the selfless remain the majority; humanity is still resilient, and still optimistic that hard work will allow us to overcome the challenges that we face. It is with this hope that we thus enter 2021: 2020 has affected all individuals on the planet, and for me, exiting 2020, the biggest take-away I got was to count my blessings. 2020 illustrated how the things we often take for granted, but cherish, can be taken away in an instant, and for me, I exit 2020 relatively intact. In terms of personal growth and career, I continued to operate as normally as I could. Working remotely for much of the year, I strove to deliver functional, clean software, and in the process, contributed to my workplace’s ability to weather out these tough times. Keeping distant from friends and society alike has meant that one of my own aspirations, to reach a point where a kokuhaku was possible, ended in inevitable failure. 2020 was about resilience and survival: I count myself lucky that my career outlived 2020, and on matters of the heart, I’ll pursue that path once the time is appropriate. However, even in a year like 2020, some things also thrived, with this blog among them. 2020 was a record-breaking year for Infinite Mirai: I ended 2020 with a total of 263 868 page views and 184 099 unique visitors. 739 likes and 428 comments were accumulated over 144 posts, which averaged around 4269 words each. Over the course of 2020, I ended up writing 614 790 words, became more engaged with the anime blogging community and hosted three separate collaborative events. 2020 wasn’t all bad, and now, here on the first day of 2021, the hope is for the new year to be successful, as people find their stride and put in their best effort to bring the globe back on its feet.

Every year, I make a variety of resolutions for the New Year that are big-picture oriented. 2021 is no different: from a professional standpoint, my goal for 2021 is to keep an eye open for opportunity and discovery. Having personally overseen no fewer than iOS five apps completely through from design to release on the App Store over the past four years, I finally feel comfortable implementing any iOS app from scratch myself, from the UI to the business logic, from wireframe and unit testing, to preparing certificates, provisioning and navigating the App Store submission process. Of course, there is much to learn, and 2020 demonstrated that when it comes to Core Animation and method swizzling, I remain a greenhorn. As such, my goal this year will be to continue my journey with Swift and CocoaTouch, all the while being open to whatever opportunities arise that require my skills. From a personal perspective, I strive to maintain strong relationships with those who matter to me, such as keeping in touch with old friends. In addition, I will aim to do what I can to improve my fitness: I haven’t done a proper bench press or squat for over nine months, and I’m sure I’ll be as weak as Kirito by the time fitness centres open up. Discipline and effort will be needed so I can build myself back up to where I had been entering 2020. I have no specific fitness goal in mind, but I will count it a win if I can return to a regimented, regular lifting schedule. For games, I’ve already alluded to this in an earlier post: instead of expending money on studios and publishers who waste their resources on battle royale, I resolve to make a dent in my backlog and appreciate the games I still have yet to properly give attention to. Finally, for this blog, I aim to continue providing useful and relevant articles for readers. With this, I leave with all readers, and the folks part of the anime blogging community, a Happy New Year 2021!

Controversed: Moyatori’s November Workshop (Part IV), On Handling Critique, Criticisms and Controversy Fatigue

“A person who was demoralised is unable to assess true information. The facts tell nothing to him. Even if I shower him with information, with authentic proof, with documents, with pictures; even if I take him by force to the Soviet Union and show him [a] concentration camp, he will refuse to believe it, until he [receives] a kick in his fan-bottom. When a military boot crashes his balls then he will understand. But not before that. That’s the [tragedy] of the situation of demoralisation.” –Yuri Bezmenov

We’ve come to the last item in Moyatori’s Controversed: as a short refresher, it’s a bit of a special workshop Moyatori’s been hosting to understand how peers become versed in maturely and expertly navigating controversial topics. For this final week, the name of the game is handling criticisms and feedback from readers – up until now, the topic has always been how we wrote about difficult topics. However, the readers’ inputs are also a key part of the process: they may offer insights to augment our own, challenge us with different ideas or, my personal favourite, swing by with colourful insults, never to be heard from again. The comments are thus a necessary part of any discussion involving controversy, and Moyatori’s questions this week deal in some of the more memorable experiences that we’ve had in the community with bad comments, specifics behind how everyone handles feedback, and the sort of things I do to combat fatigue amidst flame wars. Thus, for this post, it’s time to go storytelling for the first item, spend some time explaining my own comments policy and style, and then wrap up with another story. Before I begin, I will note that all comments here, and most other WordPress blogs, are moderated automatically by a tool called Akismet, which automatically filter out spam comments from bots looking to sell essays or Sildenafil from dubious, malware-infested sources. New comments that are not determined to be spam are pushed to a queue that I personally review, and only after being cleared, will comments become visible to all readers. As far as my WordPress comments experience with this blog goes, a vast majority of readers, I am happy to report, are civilised, well-mannered and rational people who have interesting and valuable things to say. By speaking with them, I learn or have a good time in considering different points of view. Over this blog’s nine year history, I have only ever deleted a single comment from a user who clearly had nothing of worth to add to my discussion of the Kokoro Connect Incident, and in general, I tend to keep even the ad hominem comments, if only so I can make an example of those who are unable to have a civilised discussion. In short, my WordPress experience has been very smooth sailing, and I have no horror stories to report here.

  • It is a bit surprising to see that the end of November is already upon us, and that this is the fourth Controversed post. Because Moyatori indicated that the deadline was going to be the upcoming Sunday at noon Pacific Standard Time, I figured that I should get this done as soon as possible. This event has been quite fun for pushing me to explore directions that this blog wouldn’t normally explore, although I do get the feeling that far from helping readers to understand how I do things, I’ve only really succeeded in dropping my follower count.

Because my blog has been around for quite some time, it’s drawn readers who have found the content here to be enjoyable or relevant to them, and some of these readers have been courteous to spread the word by sharing links to my posts elsewhere online. Most of these conversations use my materials as a starting point for their own discussions, and I do not begrudge people for doing that in any way. However, it is also off-site where almost all of the criticisms are levelled at this blog. There is a recurring trend in that some readers find my style to be very dense, dry and difficult to read. I find this to be perfectly valid: I have a particular style, but I don’t find it easy to write in a conversational manner. I try to address this with my figure captions, where I do get to be more informal. Beyond this, I’ve been accused of being self-aggrandising, writing to “listen to the sound of my own voice” and the like, as well; again, had these folks decided to leave the feedback here, it might’ve been possible to query them and gain insight into what precisely they were looking for: it could be the case that I am being pedantic for readers, but it is equally possible that I happened to disagree with them and found a way to so thoroughly shut their argument down, that their only retort amounted to naught more than a juvenile insult. If folks insist on making their criticisms in their own venues (Reddit and TV Tropes are where most of my critics congregate), then there is no opportunity for conversation or understanding, since I don’t make it a point to ensure a hundred percent approval rating from websites that I am unrelated to. The goal of this blog is certainly not to appease Redditors or Tropers to validate their egos, and with this being said, I typically find that the off-site criticisms about this blog remain relatively mild compared to the story Moyatori’s looking to hear for this Controversed. In response to whether or not I have a horror story about feedback, I do happen to have such a story, and it is a thrilling one.

  • The page quote is sourced from Yuri Bezmenov, who spoke of the “active measures” that the Soviet Union had employed to undermine the foundations of western civilisation. While it seemed improbable that generations of people would suddenly stop believing in facts, what I’ve seen around the internet has indicated that, foreign influence or no, the western world does seem to be trending towards a lack of respect for facts and science. Some nobody with a Tinder-style Twitter profile picture is more trustworthy than an expert in the field, and in their minds, should be afforded equal respect.

This story deals with K-On! The Movie, which follows Yui and her friends as they travel to London after a miscommunication results in the group setting up a graduation trip to cover their actual goal of writing a song for Azusa. During the course of their travels, Yui sees what Azusa means to her and the rest of Houkago Tea Time. With Naoko Yamada directing, this movie was a smash hit by all definitions. However, the series’ success has also been viewed by a small, but vocal group of people as being detrimental to the industry. In the summer of 2012, shortly after K-On! The Movie‘s home release had become available, AnimeSuki’s Reckoner (a writer at Behind the Nihon Review) published a lengthy harangue about K-On! The Movie. Behind The Nihon Review has had a history of criticising K-On!, and while Sorrow-kun, the site’s lead writer, always maintained that they were a bastion of intellectual discussion, the reality was that they had used academia and intellectual methodology as an immature (but effective) cover to complain about genres that made anime look like anything other than intellectually stimulating treatises on philosophy, sociology and politics. Ten days after the movie came out, I awoke on Saturday to find this atrocity of a “review” in my list of subscribed threads:

K-ON! has always been one of the most disingenuous anime franchises of all time to me. If there is any big reason why this movie ultimately falls flat on its face it is because they try to strike a sentimental chord about the nostalgic high school years in a franchise whose sincerity has gone completely bankrupt a long time ago. Not to mention the amount of distraction that is caused by what ultimately felt like a minor side point to this story, their trip to London.

Seriously what was the point of this movie in ever venturing off to London? Half the movie, if not maybe a little more actually takes place back in Japan. The time they do spend in London is just waltzing around random parts of the city and hardly utilizing any elements of the culture and setting for the purposes of the movie. When they did their little performances, one was at a sushi bar and the other was at a Japanese cultural fair. Home away from home? Give me a break. This movie never needed to go to London to do what it did because it never actually really used the goddamn setting in anyway meaningful. The focus here is completely off.

I also have to note why people in London were portrayed like the biggest weirdos ever. I mean c’mon now, I know Japanese people tend to not be very good with foreign countries but this sort of ridiculing portrayal of foreigners has got to stop. I usually forgive TV more for this since well they don’t got the budget and stuff, but this is a goddamn movie and they can’t actually do a better job here? Worst the engrish still exists and they can’t get proper english speakers? Give me a break.

If this movie was supposed to be about how they wanted to say goodbye to the their good friend, then good grief did they go about in the most roundabout manner possible. It does not help that most of movie is pretty much recycling the same old jokes and personality quirks that have long since gone past their life time of freshness and amusement.

And like always this franchise hasn’t been about music. That became very clear in its very first season and it still is clear now. I never got the impression that the music was something deeply important to the character, rather it was the experience with themselves as friends that they seemed to value more. Essentially the hobby didn’t matter, it was just that they all interacted with this hobby. To the very end this permeated the show, and I still have to ask the question here, why music? If K-ON!! ever truly sent the message here about why music was here in the first place, I never got it. It had about as much purpose as it did in something like Angel Beats, it’s just sort of there. This franchise is still completely false advertising in this regard.

I also do not like how they always manage to play so damn perfect in their songs. Oh we wrote a song, we don’t really practice it and all of a sudden they’re on stage and the whole crowd eats it up. Great. It’s a disservice to the process of music completely. The only time they did any different was the very last song that they prepared for Azu-nyan, but these scenes were far and few in between through this entire franchise and even in the movie.

In reality this didn’t need to be a film. The pacing throughout was completely off and very uneven. The production values were honestly a bit disappointing for a Kyoani effort. A lack of a cohesive narrative structure plagued the film all throughout because of two completely different focuses never meshing together. The sentimentality doesn’t work because it never properly built a base by distancing itself from its obvious 4-koma roots in the first place. When most of your show consists of eating cake and drinking tea with 4-koma styled humor and interactions throughout, it just does not feel sincere. The film wasted too much time in an ultimately pointless side adventure to make up any ground here on this front.

I hope this is the last we ever of the K-ON franchise. This film was extremely, extremely poor.

Within moments of finishing reading this that morning, counterarguments began racing through my mind: if anything, it was Reckoner’s “review” that was extremely, extremely poor. Reckoner was wrong on all counts about K-On! The Movie. This “review” demonstrated his emotional bankruptcy, as well as small-mindedness and inconsolable envy at the fact that a series with a theme on something that wasn’t “intellectually stimulating” could perform well. The London trip in K-On! The Movie was an accident, a consequence of the girls trying to conceal their graduation gift to Azusa, and that the fact it happens shows that Houkago Tea Time is very much a go-with the flow band. The movie also used native English speakers, and I felt it reasonable to suppose that Reckoner is probably a non-native speaker if he had trouble with comprehending the dialogue. The series has never been about music, and instead, was a story of discovery and appreciation, as well as expressing thanks through music. Houkago Tea Time’s consistently high standard of performance comes from the fact they’ve been playing for three years and know how to put on a show. Reckoner’s dishonesty was disgraceful in his “review”, and calling the movie out for poor production values is to be outright lying: the film looked and feels sharper than anything seen in the TV series, making use of sophisticated lighting and camera angles. Behind the Nihon, if anything, was false advertising, claiming to have “intellectual” discussion when all they did was complain about moé anime. It was fortunate that beyond AnimeSuki, Reckoner’s “review” never made it anywhere else, as it represented an unsatisfactory effort based on emotion rather than well-reasoned thoughts. Amidst this jumble of thoughts, I knew that Reckoner was entitled to his opinions of the film, but as I’ve continued to maintain, being entitled to an opinion does not mean one is entitled to an audience, or entitled to having people agree with him for free.

Thus, rather than counter-argue against the “review” directly, I attempted to probe further and see if I could get Reckoner to rationally justify why he had watched the movie if he’d never been a fan of the franchise. If people were going to agree with him, I felt that Reckoner would really have to earn this right. However, I never got any further: back in those days, AnimeSuki possessed a reputation system that was originally intended to show which forum members had anything useful to say. Naturally, Reckoner, being a longtime user of the site, had a much higher reputation score than myself. When I asked why people were agreeing with Reckoner despite his rant being contributing nothing of value to the discussion, this prompted people in the discussion to dole out negative reputation to my account. Over the course of an hour, I’d gone from being reputation positive to being very reputation negative, which resulted in my being totally ignored in all parts of the forum. All of this resulted from challenging a longtime member to really justify their conclusions properly in the spirit of discussion. Because Reckoner had completely convinced his arguments were indisputable and counting on his reputation rather than merit, to defend his position, he resorted to crude means of closing the discussion, expecting that people agree with him simply because he’d been around at AnimeSuki for longer. At Reckoner’s request, for months afterwards, all of my posts were completely disregarded, which completely defeated the purpose of participating in the forum, and my blog even experienced a significant drop in traffic as Reckoner asked in the Behind the Nihon Review community to boycott me for challenging his authority.

The lesson learnt from this incident was that there are people with frail egos who do not like to be challenged, and on virtue of their reputation, demand agreement from others. Were I to go back and do things over, per Moyatori’s question, I’m not sure if there is anything I could’ve done differently to have a conversation with Reckoner directly – this writer from Behind the Nihon Review had a large, but fragile ego and had been utterly convinced that K-On! was something no one should watch. I imagine that had I continued, I would’ve simply been banned. In retrospect, while attempting to get a rational answer from Reckoner was impossible, I could’ve turned the entire situation around by re-writing Reckoner’s review from a completely positive standpoint and made a more concerted effort to gain the support from the other forum goers, to prove that the positives in K-On! The Movie far outweigh the negatives. I never did get around to doing this, however: in the end, I ended up speaking with the admin, who noted that, while Reckoner’s actions were in the wrong, reputation was not something they preferred to deal with (if they allowed me to reset my reputation, it would set a precedence where people could also ask for the same). However, they did permit me to deactivate my old account and spin up a new account for a fresh start. Since my old account was deactivated, I was not violating any rules with the new account. Since then, I’ve been rocking this new account. Further to this, AnimeSuki did away with the reputation system as a result of this incident, and with reputation gone,  all of the forum members were now on equal footing, and I found it much easier to properly have discussions with people when I did rejoin. While it created new problems, allowing Sumeragi to hijack threads and flood them with lies (I’ll discuss that in a few moments), removing reputation was largely a positive move for AnimeSuki: without reputation, Reckoner had to defend his opinions on merit alone and began posting with a dramatically reduced frequency. Finally, as for Reckoner’s efforts to boycott this blog, people soon forgot about things: today, this blog seems to be doing well enough, and dare I say, considerably better than Behind the Nihon Review, which gets as much traffic in a year as I do in a day now.

  • I absolutely stand by my assertion that the hostility towards K-On! stemmed from the fact that the individual had saw himself as being above the creators. This brand of thinking has since permeated the world, with people believing their own knowledge supersedes expert opinion. This is because if their truth is overridden by the truth, the foundations of their world no longer make sense to them, and further to this, the instant gratification afforded by the internet, and social media in particular, mean that highly specialised, technical disciplines are not worth pursuing to them simply because they take a great deal of time to cultivate. Patience and social media do not align: if it takes years to acquire the expertise and skillset needed to understand a topic, it won’t help one get retweets or upvotes, these people reason.

On the matter of how I address my critics and criticisms, I start by noting that there is precious little I can do about discussions that happen off WordPress, and I suspect that my most vocal critics deliberately choose to attack my blog off-site for this reason, likely fearing (non-existent) retribution. However, they are mistaken in their assumption that I censor everything the same way Sony NA does, and in fact, I count this blog’s commenting policy as being very open. Further to this, I strive to be fair to readers who take the time to comment: assuming the comment has cleared the spam filter, is relevant to the discussion and is free of prohibited materials, I always aim to ensure my reply to a comments are close in length to the original, and I strive to answer the commenter as best as I can if they have a question. Readers who leave a sentence and a reaction will likely get a smiley face with their light-hearted reply, and commenters who take the time to write paragraphs will receive a paragraph back in response. The goal here is to foster discussions from across the spectrum: if users are looking for a quick reaction, I can accommodate that as readily as I do lengthier conversations. All sorts of comments are welcome here, and I usually make an effort to reply to comments as soon as possible, usually before I publish my next post. There is only one exception to this rule: I have a zero tolerance policy for memes because of their repetition, which is wasteful, and in particular, the so-called “pepega” meme is outright prohibited here. Posting that hate symbol is the fastest way to be permanently banned from commenting. Beyond this, I welcome comments from readers – besides offering insights I may not think of, there are the occasional comment where a reader writes about how my posts have helped change their lives in a tangible, positive manner, and those are always a joy to read and respond to.

  • Consequently, there is decreasing respect for the scientific method, experts and facts, and this means that controversies become more common. When there is no foundation to build discussions off of, people only have their subjective experiences and emotions to argue from. I call these “feels” in a derogatory manner, and my participation in Controversed found that a lot of misunderstandings in controversies happen precisely because of these so-called “feels”: without context and facts, some people fall back on a knee-jerk reaction to simplify complex issues into a us vs. them debate. In a proper discussion, this does not happen because there is context, and a common ground to build arguments from.

The last item on today’s itinerary is how I handle the potential exhaustion that may result from discussing controversial topics. We suppose that avoiding them is not an option in this case, since my nominal answer is to simply sit them out while they’re raging: a few years ago, a forum-goer calling themselves “Sumeragi” was arguing that Miho was not justified in saving her teammates in Girls und Panzer, and claimed that his own personal views were the correct way of living out life. This resulted in a massive flame war, and while other forum members attempted to counter with logic and reason, Sumeragi insisted on how his beliefs and backgrounds proved that all other arguments were void. This is something straight from the playbook of extremists who’ve rejected reality and replaced it with their own delusions. Against a foe of this sort, it is simpler to not participate. In the case, however, where one is entangled, I would suggest disabling notifications to posts and replies in the social media environment, and for forums, using submit-and-forget approach. The key to avoiding fatigue is understanding that a constant presence in the debate and a swift reply is not worth the stress it introduces. For social media, disabling notifications means not being constantly bombarded with updates, while on forums, writing infrequently and only responding periodically reduces the amount of effort one has to spend replying to people who may not be arguing in good faith. In both cases, the idea is to make the person on the other end of the screen endure the deluge of notifications and refresh their pages anxiously. Even with this approach, heated discussions can get very tiring, and in this case, my favourite course of action usually follows: head offline and do something fun, whether it be going for a walk, grabbing a beer, or unwinding with a good film. There is a price to “winning” online arguments, whether it be suffering from anxiety or, in Sumeragi’s case, a permanent (and well-deserved) ban from AnimeSuki. I remark that there is a difference between a spirited discussion done with folks one is familiar with, and arguing with anonymous people who are convinced they are in the right: with people where a mutual respect is shared, discussions happen at a casual pace, and there is never any exhaustion.

  • To undo demoralisation, then, people must look to accepting that there are other people in the world who specialise and excel in different areas, and that it is the sum of this knowledge that progress is built upon. This means having faith in a physician’s diagnosis of a patient, an engineer’s designs for a building and the software developer’s explanation of how an algorithm works, rather than deciding that one’s own access to Wikipedia makes them equal to an expert. These are my closing remarks for Controversed, and I assure readers that December will be a lot more conventional in nature, as I focus on my usual topics: perhaps then, the readers I’ve frightened off may return.

I believe that with this post, I’m now finished Controversed. I’m not too sure how useful my content has been for Moyatori, and if anything, participating has helped me to recall why I prefer to avoid online controversies altogether – a recurring phenomenon in controversies is that people are often unwilling to listen. Even when presented with the facts, people will cling to their ideology and emotions until the bitter end. A computer program or mathematical proof is insufficient to convince these people of reality, and they stubbornly insist they’re correct even in direct contradiction to empirical data. In this situation, we speak of the demoralisation that Yuri Bezmenov warned the world of decades earlier: when facts fail to be respected, and argument boils down to “feels”, there is nothing to be learnt, and no discussion to be had. Social media exacerbates this, and it gives the terrifying impression that rational, logical thought is rapidly going the way of the dinosaurs. Logic and reason are the sole tools in ensuring that in a controversy, people find the willingness to listen to all sides of the argument. In an age where this is often forgotten, complex issues are reduced to matters of black and white, where all context is stripped from the argument. This accounts for why controversies continue to erupt over every trivial thing in anime and other matters. While knowing how to navigate controversies and discuss these topics is doubtlessly important, the topic Moyatori chooses to close off Controversed is equally important – in a world where every debate is potentially black and white, and where neither side refuses to yield or concede that the other side has merits, knowing precisely how to handle difficult individuals and situations is vital in keeping one from burning out. As long as there are enough people who adhere to civility, logic, reason and a willingness to listen in their arguments, interesting discussions will always be had without getting out of hand, and within the circles I’m a part of, I’ve had no trouble asking difficult questions of my peers, who’ve given me insights I certainly wouldn’t have heard otherwise.

Greyhound: A Movie Reflection, and Some Remarks on Expectation Management in the Military-Moé Genre with a Case Study in Hai-Furi

“This is the captain. We are running down the target. Let us attend our duties well. This is what we’ve trained for.” –Commander Krause

Commander Ernest Krause is assigned to the Atlantic convoy as the captain of the USS Keeling, call-sign “Greyhound”, with the goal of escorting cargo ships carrying vital supplies bound for Liverpool. When the convoy enters the Mid-Atlantic Gap, a treacherous stretch of ocean out of the range of Allied air cover, the Keeling and other Fletcher-class destroyers begin picking up German U-boat signals. They manage to defeat a U-boat before moving to assist the convoy rear on their first day in the Mid-Atlantic Gap. Krause orders his sailors to rescue the crew from a sinking tanker. On the second day, the U-boats resume their attacks, and with their depth charges running out, the Keeling and Dodge manage to sink a U-boat using a broadside from their main guns. In the attack, Krause’s mess attendant is killed. Entering their third day, Krause comes under attack from the remaining U-boats, and manages to evade them long enough for a shore-based Catalina bomber to sink a boat pursuing the Keeling. Relief has arrived, and the convoy cheers on the Keeling’s crew. Exhausted, Krause heads below deck for some much-needed rest. This is Greyhound, a World War Two film starring Tom Hanks as Ernest Krause that was originally intended to be screened in June. However. owing to the global health crisis, the film was never screened theatrically, and instead, the distribution rights were sold to Apple TV+. At its core, Greyhound is a tale of valour and commitment to duty during the Battle of the Atlantic: the whole of Greyhound‘s run is characterised by a sense of unease and dread at the unseen enemy, as well as admiration for Krause’s ability to effectively lead and command his ships despite this being his first-ever wartime command. The result is a gripping and compelling film that accentuates the sort of leadership and teamwork that naval combat demands; to overcome a merciless, invisible foe, every single member of a ship’s crew must do their duties well. I certainly had fun watching Greyhound, and during its ninety minute runtime, I was riveted by the film. The emphasis on anti-submarine warfare in a World War Two setting, however, also brought back memories of Hai-Furi: this 2016 anime dealt with an alternate world where high school students learn to operate World War Two era naval vessels and train to be effective members of a naval patrol to keep the world’s oceans safe.

Hai-Furi: The Movie‘s home release will be coming out later today, making it appropriate to consider how differences between war films and the military-moé genre require an accordingly different approach: one of the leading challenges I’ve seen in finding any good discourse on the latter stems from a consequence of mismanaged expectations. In particular, regardless of which military-moé series I follow, it seems inevitable that I will always run into a certain kind of viewer who deems it necessary to gripe about some minor detail in said work, ranging from the fact that Darjeeling besting Miho in each of their engagements was an insult to her, or how the Long Lance torpedoes carried by the Harekaze should’ve done more damage to the Musashi than was portrayed. The reason why viewers fixate on these details stem from the fact that they approach military-moé as a “military work with high school girls in it”, rather than “high school girls doing military activities”. The former presupposes that the military story is given greater emphasis, akin to a work such as Greyhound, Saving Private Ryan or The Hunt For Red October, where the focus is on an event and its people. In a war film, the characters might be drawn from history, and the plot is dedicated to telling how something unfolded, as well as how people responded to the aftermath. Such works feature trained personnel and professional soldiers with background, so the characters’ competence is never a major point of contention. Viewers then watch the work with the expectation that these characters put their knowledge to use in exceptional circumstances: for instance, in The Hunt For Red October, sonar technician Ronald Jones is able to use an innovative manner in order to track the Red October because, in addition to possessing the background as a sonar operator, Jones was also characterised to be very bright, with an eye for small details. Conversely, in the latter, seeing high school girls as ordinary people operating extraordinary gear means accepting that they are going to make rookie mistakes, commit to decisions on the basis of emotion rather than experience and even forget the fundamentals. A major component of this story is learning skill to be effective with their tools, and the discipline to work cohesively as a team; with time, these mistakes go away, and this journey is an essential part of the journey.

These two different approaches in mind are the difference between night and day; a viewer who enters military-moé on the assumption that they are watching students learn, discover and make mistakes along the way will interpret an event very differently than someone who watches that same work with the expectation that high school girls will have the same degree of competence, professionalism and experience as soldiers would. The disconnect between this can be disappointing if one’s expectations are not appropriate. Two particularly vivid examples come to mind here. In Girls und Panzer, protagonist Miho Nishizumi had left her old school after making a decision to save her classmates, who’d fallen into a river during the championship round. Her call costs her school the match. From a military perspective, Miho’s decision was unsound: the correct call would’ve been to communicate and have a higher-up make the final decision. Had Miho been leading a retreat, she may have led to the death of her entire armoured column, rather than lose her school the championship. However, the same decision, seen from the viewpoint of someone who sees Girls und Panzer as a high school anime with an uncommon activity, Miho’s decision makes sense: she cares about her teammates, and values those around her over victory. This paints Miho as a kind-hearted individual, a positive outlook on the same decision. Whereas those who view military-moé from the armoured warfare perspective would’ve found reason to disagree with Miho, those who saw Panzerfahren as a high school sport will find positivity in what Miho did. There is no question that the latter would be more accepting of Miho than the former. Similarly, in Hai-Furi, when Akeno left her ship in a bid to save Moeka, the all-serious perspective would be that Akeno’s decisions are rash, and that delegation would have been the correct answer here, which would have allowed her to retain command and keep abreast of a situation while her subordinates carried out her orders. However, at the same time, this moment had occurred very early in the series, and from the perspective that Hai-Furi was about learning, this moment simply shows that Akeno was not mature yet. Indeed, Akeno does learn to trust her subordinates and delegates leadership of a rescue operation to Mashiro later on. Seeing this was rewarding, and similarly to Girls und Panzer, it becomes evident that military-moé confers viewers with the most enjoyment when treated as a story about high school girls, doing activities that are military in nature, rather than a military setting that happens to have high-school aged girls in it.

Commentary and Other Remarks

  • Krause commands a Fletcher-class, a venerable line of destroyers that was designed in 1939 and was involved extensively in every aspect of naval warfare during World War Two. Besides the original specifications to carry at least five 5 inch guns, a pair of depth charge racks at the stern, six smaller launchers and ten deck-mounted torpedo tubes, the Flecher’s large size allowed it to carry a pair of 40 mm Bofors cannons in a quadruple mount, as well as six 20 mm dual anti-air guns. The Flecher class could reach a maximum speed of 70 km/h, and altogether, was a formidable vessel that would’ve been more than a match for Japan’s equivalent, the Fubuki-class.

  • If and when I’m asked, Tom Hanks has become one of my favourite actors for his ability to wear a variety of hats well. In Greyhound, he presents Commander Krause as a dedicated leader who leads by example. Out of combat, he is a polite, devout individual, who says Grace before taking a meal and breaks up fisticuffs amongst his crew. During combat, Krause is concise, focused and calm: he congratulates his crew where credit is due, looks out for them by doing the best he can despite limited resources and wastes no time in making the call to help ships in distress.

  • With Hanks’ skill as an actor, Krause really comes to life. Previous films saw Hanks play similarly capable characters, whether it was John H. Miller in Saving Private Ryan, Sully‘s Chesley Sullenberger or Bridge of Spies‘ James B. Donovan. Hanks has a very matter-of-fact, down-to-earth style about his performances. Where he is cast as a professional, he wears the role exceedingly well, giving viewers a reassuring sense that no matter the challenge ahead, Hanks’ character will lead the others towards their goals.

  • The sort of leadership that Krause has in Greyhound is exemplary, and leaves no doubt in the viewers’ mind that the Keeling’s crew are in capable hands and therefore, able to do their duties well. In most war movies, it can be safely assumed that the characters will be generally competent. Conversely, in Hai-Furi, when viewers were first introduced to Akeno and her crew, they seemed quite incapable of surviving even a training exercise. This was deliberate; the point of Hai-Furi and other military-moé anime is typically to place emphasis on the experiences characters have en route to becoming a proper team.

  • Consequently, I have no issue with story choices presenting characters as being incompetent or making rookie mistakes in anime: we are dealing with youth in situations that are either completely out of their depth (Strike WitchesIzetta: The Last WitchHai-Furi, Warlords of Sigrdrifa) or are in a setting where mistakes are forgivable (Girls und Panzer). In the context of anime, the story typically has a theme surrounding teamwork, friendship and hard work, all of which require the occasional mistake-making to accommodate the lessons being learnt. Conversely, in movies like Greyhound1917Saving Private Ryan and Hacksaw Ridge, the objective is to tell a specific story about a group of people and their experiences.

  • There is a very large gap in what war films aim to do, and what anime in a military setting aim to do; this accounts for the discrepancy between something like Greyhound and Hai-Furi. As a result, when I watch an anime, I’m going to enter the same way I’d approach judging a youth science fair. Because I am adjudicating projects made by youth, who may not have the same depth of knowledge an adult might, I am much more forgiving of their mistakes, and care more about how well they understand what they’re doing, as well as whether they gave any thought to the implications of their results and applications of their findings.

  • Conversely, when I’m sitting in on seminars and presentations made by peers, I am able to look at their projects more critically and really probe to see whether or not the project is sound, as well as how the presenter handle any constraints in their process. Because a peer is going to be knowledgeable in the field, I can poke further and try to enrich my own learning by asking trickier questions. The same holds true in films: in war movie like Greyhound, it is okay for me to expect characters to act professionally and with competence because that is the background the movie has established.

  • Indeed, Krause’s leadership was probably one of my favourite aspects of the film: one subtle detail I particularly enjoyed was how courteous Krause was to his mess officer, and how despite being offered his meals on the bridge, Krause would always politely refuse meals mid-combat, preferring to take a coffee and eat once he was reasonably certain there were no more sonar contacts. Seeing this doubtlessly would’ve inspired his men to keep at it: if fighting under a leader who was willing to give it their all, this would be highly motivating.

  • Greyhound was a very suspenseful movie: even though the film’s outcome is a foregone conclusion, how the film reaches said conclusion always leaves much to the imagination. A good film is really able to make viewers feel as though they were right there with the characters, and in Greyhound, the tension felt when the sonar officer begins seeing blips on their screen, signaling the presence of U-boats, was palatable.

  • As the Keeling engages U-boats and begins to run low on depth charges, Krause is forced to improvise, eventually using a surface broadside to sink one of the pursing U-boats. U-boats were equipped with either the SK C/35 or SK C/32 deck guns, allowing them to engage surface targets. These guns were nowhere near as powerful as a surface vessel’s main guns, and indeed, began to be phased out as surface vessels became increasingly powerful: submarines would turn to stealth as their ultimate defense. However, the weapons are still lethal, and during this engagement, Krause’s mess officer is killed.

  • After a short ceremony to pay respects to the fallen, Krause returns his focus onto the task at hand: it may seem callous, but grief can be a distraction from the remaining danger, and it speaks volumes to Krause’s resolve as he shifts attention back to his duties. In a manner of speaking, the dead would have truly died in vain had Krause allowed grief to consume him, costing him the mission and the lives of those serving under him. The ability to compartmentalise emotions from duty makes a leader, who recognises that carrying out their responsibilities is also a way to respect the fallen.

  • Of course, in an anime, I wouldn’t expect the same of high school students. Besides a gap in emotional maturity as a result of life experiences, the differences in brain chemistry between a teen and an adult are dramatic. In teens, the frontal lobe is not fully developed, and this leads to decisions that may come across as rash to an adult. Conversely, adults, with their fully-developed frontal lobes, are able to slow down, regroup and reason out a solution even during more challenging, stressful situations. As such, when anime characters overreact during times of crisis (such as Rin Shiretoko’s tendency to dissolve into tears whenever the Harekaze comes under fire), I do not count this against them.

  • Having firmly established how I watch military-moé anime and war movies with a different mindset, backed with both literary and scientific reasoning, I am curious to know why some folks expect high school girls in military-moé settings to behave as trained professional adults would: it is one thing to take real life seriously and do a satisfactory job of one’s occupation, but people turn to entertainment to relax, not shout themselves hoarse trying to convince others of a particular perspective regarding said works of entertainment. As such, the severity that some approach military-moé with is a bit confusing for me.

  • At the height of its run, Hai-Furi discussions were focused purely around the improbability of its premise, and discussions ran on everything from how no known pathogen could cause the phenomenon observed in Hai-Furi, to how Akeno’s behaviours should have landed her a court-martial. Very few people chose to focus on the actual developments between Akeno and Mashiro. Hai-Furi was never meant to be a speculative fiction portraying the survival of humanity in a world with higher sea levels, and so, the lack of realism was never a problem – at the end of Hai-Furi, Akeno learnt to be an effective leader without thoughtlessly wading into a problem, while Mashiro accepts Akeno as her commander. As such, while the series was far from perfect, it remained quite enjoyable.

  • During the course of Greyhound, the German U-boat commanders occasionally will open up the radio and taunt Krause. He simply ignores them and continues on in his duties, placing his faith in his crew to do their jobs better than the U-boat crews will do theirs. In the climatic final moments before the convoy exits the Mid-Atlantic gap, Krause and the Keeling are pursued by a dogged U-boat, and having exhausted their depth charges, all Krause can do is attempt to out-manoeuvre their foe. Just when it seems the Keeling’s luck has reached its end, a PBY Catalina arrives and drops its payload of depth charges into the water, sinking the U-boat.

  • The idea that Hai-Furi is an anime form of The Hunt For Red October is a mistaken one, and one that has its origins on Reddit, after a user found an interview where scriptwriter Reiko Yoshida, in response to a question about whether or not external sources had been used for Hai-Furi as references, replied:

吉田 鈴木さんから参考資料を貸していただいたり、映画はいくつか観ました。『レッドオクトーバーを追え』などですね。船内の生活の参考にしています。

Besides the reference materials that director Suzuki lent me, I also watched some films. For instance, I referenced The Hunt For Red October as a source for life on board (a ship).

  • This particular Reddit post received very little attention (amassing a grand total of eleven up-votes and seven comments altogether), and the suggestion that The Hunt For Red October was related to Hai-Furi was only of tangential interest to viewers, at least until one Myssa Rei found it and decided to rephrase the interview as “the entire staff watched The Hunt For Red October as a reference. Let that sink in”.

  • With Myssa Rei’s claims, suddenly, the community felt it necessary to analyse every nut and bolt in Hai-Furi to ensure the series was accurate. Many viewers began to assume that Hai-Furi was an anime counterpart to The Hunt For Red October, which naturally resulted in the series failing to meet expectations. Hai-Furi‘s story is completely different, and submarines only figure in one episode, whereas in The Hunt For Red October, the focus had been on proving the captain of a cutting-edge Soviet submarine was defecting. Conversely, I would argue that Greyhound is more similar to Hai-Furi than The Hunt For Red October ever was: both Greyhound and Hai-Furi have a destroyer as its focus and focus on World War Two-era hardware.

  • Of course, had I attempted to correct Myssa Rei, I would’ve at best, been ignored, or at worst, been called out for being rude to an idol. Her impact on anime discussions remains an excellent example of how misinformation can spread – for reasons beyond my understanding, she was regarded as an expert on all things military-moé, and even where she made mistakes, people continued to consider her claims as fact. Compounding things, Myssa Rei would become very defensive when her mistakes were pointed out, resulting in flame wars. I can only imagine how exhausting it was to maintain such a confrontational, know-it-all attitude for over a decade. This was evidently not something that could be maintained – Myssa Rei eventually faded from prominence, leaving behind a legacy of negatively influencing how people would approach military-moé.

  • Hai-Furi: The Movie released mere hours ago to BD earlier today (October 28 in Japan, and October 27 for me): this post was deliberately timed to coincide with the release, and I remark that I have every intention of writing about the film once I’ve sat down and looked through it. Admittedly, with Myssa Rei absent, more rational, level-headed folks are free to continue their own discussions without needing to pay her deference in order to have their perspectives considered. I anticipate that conversations surrounding the recently-released Hai-Furi: The Movie will be rather more peaceable, and so, I look forwards to checking out this movie for myself.

  • While Hai-Furi: The Movie might’ve just come out today, I imagine it’ll be a few days before the BDs start making their way to folks who’ve purchased them. In the meantime, anyone looking for an engaging naval film will find Greyhound to be an excellent watch: despite being only ninety minutes long, Greyhound is a veritable experience that captures and conveys the dread of anti-submarine warfare in the Battle of the Atlantic.

Because I subscribe to the idea that military-moé is “high school girls doing military activities”, I generally have a great deal of fun with these series, seeing how the hardware fits together with the slice-of-life pieces and discoveries made during battle. This is why I typically end up finding something positive to say about a given series, whether it be Strike Witches, Girls und Panzer, Kantai Collection, Hai-Furi and even Warlords of Sigrdrifa: I do not expect the characters to be professional soldiers with extensive experience in their area of expertise, nor do I expect the characters to carry out all of their missions with the focus of a soldier. My expectations therefore liberate me from having to worry about what’s realistic or reasonable, leaving me to freely enjoy the story that comes from the characters and their experiences. It is often disappointing that some folks often forget how to have fun whenever they partake in military-moé series: such stories, while making extensive use of real-world military equipment and tactics, still feature high school students as their protagonists, and consequently, it would be unfair to expect of students what we would of adults. To approach military-moé with such a negative mindset creates a diminished experience, and one must wonder if there is any point to taking anime this seriously to begin with, especially when considering that anime is intended to entertain, first and foremost. With Hai-Furi: The Movie on the horizon, I’ve been fortunate to avoid all spoilers for it during the past nine months, and I have every intention of writing about it once I finish. I have no idea what’s coming, but I am fairly confident that the approach I’ve taken towards watching such films will allow me to have a pleasant time. For like-minded folks, I’m positive that this film (and other military-moé works) will prove enjoyable, whereas those who find my methods to be unsavoury would do better to steer clear of military-moé and stick with other fiction dealing in war: movies like Greyhound or The Hunt For Red October should be more palatable for those who prioritise detail and realism, as well as competent characters who carry out their duties with utmost devotion.

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.