The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Mako Reizei

Revisiting Girls und Panzer: Saunders, Sportsmanship and Spotting The Compassion of Maho Nishizumi At The Halfway Point

“Win or lose, do it fairly.” –Knute Rockne

Prior to their match against Saunders, Miho and her friends visit a tank-themed café, where they run into Miho’s former classmate and her older sister, Maho. Later, Miho worries about the line-up Saunders plans to bring to the table, and Yukari decides to help her. The next day, Yukari is absent from practise, and the others decide to visit Yukari’s home to see how she’s doing. It turns out Yukari had been on a reconnaissance mission and was able to learn Saunders plans on deploying a Sherman Firefly, along with several Sherman tanks upgraded with a 76 mm cannon, in addition to the base Shermans. However, Yukari was burned during this op, and on the day of the match, Saunders’ commander, Kay, greets Ooarai warmly, inviting Yukari to visit normally at next opportunity. When the match starts, Saunders appears to have an almost-supernatural knowledge of Ooarai’s positions, and they keep the pressure on until Miho learns that Saunders had deployed a wiretapping balloon allowing them to intercept Ooarai’s transmissions. While Hana and Saori protest, Miho realises she can turn this to their advantage, and by communicating on their phones, Miho uses fake radio commands to lure Saunders into open areas, allowing Ooarai to take down their first tank of the match. With the advantage gone, Saunders’ flag tank becomes encircled, and upon learning that flag tank commander Alisa had used such methods, Kay orders four of her tanks to stand down in the name of fairness. Alisa regroups with Saunders’ main force, and Ooarai comes under fire; the M3 Lee and Type 89 are knocked out, leaving the Panzer IV and StuG III to cover Ooarai’s flag tank, the 38(t). Although seemingly out of options, Hana requests that Miho allow them to fire from a hill and end things decisively. Although Saunders’ Firefly takes them down, Hana was able to get a shot off that strikes Arisa’s flag tank squarely, bringing the match to an end. In the aftermath, Kay thanks Miho for a match well-played, and remarks that Panzerfahren is about sportsmanship and fair play, hence her decision to withdraw half of her fighting forces upon learning of Arisa’s radio tapping. While celebrating their first win of the tournament, Mako learns her grandmother was hospitalised, and Maho offers to take Mako over using their helicopter, noting that this is also a part of Panzerfahren. Meanwhile, Ooarai is scheduled to take on Anzio in their next round.

Kay’s approach towards Panzerfahren speaks to Girls und Panzer’s portrayal of integrity and honesty as being a vital part of what people do. As Panzerfahren is meant to be a martial art that cultivates graceful, strong-willed and compassionate individuals, it follows that the sport itself places an emphasis on sportsmanship, treating an opponent with respect, fighting a match with one’s best and accepting the outcome graciously. Darjeeling had not spoken of this topic after she’d beaten Miho and her team during their exhibition match, but the gesture of sending Ooarai tea was meant to show that Darjeeling similarly respects the traditions of Panzerfahren. Thus, when Arisa resorts to something like wiretapping to gain the upper hand, Kay immediately responds by balancing the odds out: as she says, Saunders would’ve likely won in a straight fight, but this victory would not have been representative of their true skill or capability. Instead, by ordering several tanks off the field, Kay is ensuring that, if Saunders wins, they are able to win of their own merit, skill and creativity, rather than through strength of numbers or equipment usage alone. Such a mindset speaks volumes to both sports and life in general: a victory earned though honest, sincere means is the highest possible victory because it was attained purely through what one brings to the table. This is why flag tank matches are employed in Girls und Panzer‘s National Tournament: a capable team, although out-gunned and out-numbered, can utilised clever tactics and adaptive strategies to offset disadvantages and earn their win anyways. In doing so, Girls und Panzer openly endorses the idea that the principals of Panzerfahren (and sports) applies to real life: fair play is how one discovers their limits and capabilities, and winning through honest means show that one’s skill is at a satisfactory level as to have earned a win. Similarly, Kay indicates that there is no shame in losing to a team that has won fairly, and that there are many ways to fairly practise Panzerfahren: she promises sit Arisa down later to review the latter’s decision, showing that sometimes, those who employ below-the-belt practises may have things backfire on them, hence the importance of approaching something with integrity.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Maho and Erika’s appearance at a tank-themed café is a surprise to Miho and her friends; Erika’s scathing remarks immediately draw the indignation from Yukari, Hana, Saori and even Mako, causing some to paint Black Forest with a broad stroke – for the remainder of the season, Erika’s actions here led viewers to allow their own prejudices to shape their perspective of Black Forest and Maho. However, Maho’s only remarks here were to comment on her surprise Miho’s back in Panzerfahren: on their own, Maho’s words are neutral and betray very little about her character. However, Girls und Panzer‘s overarching themes mean that even though Erika overstepped in this moment, it does not mean she is necessarily a haughty or unworthy practitioner of Panzerfahren.

  • The dramatic gap between how Ooarai and Black Forest prima facie conduct themselves on the battlefield, in conjunction with Hana, Saori, Yukari and Mako’s strong reaction to Erika’s comments, would lead to the impression that Black Forest and the Nishizumi Style as a whole was ruthless and unyielding. Miho’s own reaction doesn’t help; she looks completely defeated here. Given Miho’s previous participation in Panzerfahren and Yukari stating she agreed with Miho’s choice, Girls und Panzer is foreshadowing that something happened at her previous school that led her to desire a change of pacing from Panzerfahren. This is what the scene had intended to accomplish, and, putting two and two together, Erika’s attitude towards Miho suggests one thing alone: that Miho had done something previously that must’ve been costly.

  • This “something” ended up sparking a flame war of leviathan proportion at AnimeSuki, and I will save the topic for when that particular bridge is crossed. That Miho’s already thinking about their match with Saunders even after running into Erika and Maho suggests that Miho doesn’t dislike either, but instead, something from the past was weighing on her mind. Seeing Miho in this state, Yukari decides to do a little snooping around on her own to help Miho plan out their strategy ahead of the match and ends up skipping practise. Worried about her, everyone swings by the Akiyamas; it turns out Yukari’s parents run a barbershop of sorts and moreover, care for their daughter very much.

  • Yukari’s first reconnaissance mission is simultaneously a failure and success – despite getting burned (spook-speak for “found out”), Yukari is able to secure information about Saunders’ lineup, including the fact that they will be sending out their Firefly, a modified M4 Sherman with a 17-pounder cannon. Miho is grateful for the help, and here, it turns out that until Panzerfahren, Yukari’s love of tanks meant she found it difficult to make friends with others. Ever since meeting Miho, Saori, Hana and Mako, Yukari’s world has changed, and although she may not see it, her contributions to the team are non-trivial: she is able to bring her expertise to the table and help Miho to make important decisions.

  • This sort of friendship is a key part of Girls und Panzer, and the main reason why I’m reluctant to treat Maho, or even Erika, as a villain. In fact, there’s a track on the soundtrack (composed by Shiro Hamaguchi, who’d previously done the music for Hanasaku Iroha, Tari Tari, Shirobako and Ah! My Goddess) named “Yesterday’s Enemy is Today’s Friend!”. Girls und Panzer had been aiming to convey how competition brings people together, and those who attempted to frame this as a serious portrayal of martial arts, or even armoured warfare, were completely mistaken. I myself would very much like to understand the rationale behind why it was necessary to take an anime this seriously, but returning to topic, here, the first years restore their M3 Lee back to factory conditions ahead of their first round in order to blend with their surroundings better, but also adding a rabbit logo for customisation.

  • All of the teams take on animal motifs, and it is worth mentioning that the team names are assigned based on a story behind each group. Miho’s team become Anglerfish Team simply for the fact that they’d danced the Anglerfish Dance (Anko Team from here on out for brevity), while the Student Council are Turtle Team (per Anzu’s belief that slow and steady wins the race). The first years are Rabbit Team (a rabbit is spotted sitting on the tank they find, and the history buffs are designated as Hippo Team (having found their tank underwater). The volleyball club members become Duck Team (they descended from the skies to find their tank). Here, Miho and her friends have their three sizes taken ahead of a surprise, and while queuing up, Mako cops a feel of Saori’s chest. Meanwhile, Yukari smiles upon hearing Miho’s three sizes (82-56-84): this is how Yukari was able to pick out a properly-fitting swimsuit for Miho during one of the OVAs despite Miho not trying any of them.

  • Once the uniforms come back, Miho and her team look ready to rumble: the Ooarai uniforms are as simple as they are functional, giving the Panzerfahren team an air of readiness about them. While Girls und Panzer only shows the team practising occasionally, it is clear that under Ami’s supervision, and with Miho’s guiding everyone, the team is improving constantly. This was a point of contention for some, who felt that Ooarai’s performance in battle was not consistent with the amount of training they went through. However, most of the training happens off-screen (similarly to how K-On! has practise happening off-screen to emphasise the cake and tea moments); when Miho leaves a notebook behind and returns to retrieve it after one practise, she finds Mako and the others going ahead full steam.

  • I’ve been around anime long enough to know which details are relevant, and which things can be presented with a reduced emphasis; generally speaking, it’s the nit-pickers who tend to show just how little they know, and for this reason, I’m glad to have sat out most of the discussion at AnimeSuki while Girls und Panzer was running. At this point in the season, my autumn term was coming to an end, and it seemed like the stars had lined up for this term. I was dominating my English literature class, was keeping up with genomics and health policy, was able to pull my weight on my team for the university’s first-ever iOS development class, and had time to spare for working on my undergraduate thesis. By late November, I’d already had the foundations of my virtual renal system model set up with its particle systems.

  • Kay immediately became my favourite Panzerfahren commander outside of Ooarai following her appearance in Girls und Panzer: boisterous and friendly, Kay sees Panzerfahren as a sport for bettering oneself, an opportunity to practise fair play and have a good time doing so. Besides unsportsmanlike conduct from her own teammates, very little gets under Kay’s skin, and she greets Yukari like an old friend after they formally meet. Anzu seems to get along well with Kay, as well. When it comes to things like sport, or recreation, I believe that Kay’s mindset is the right one; we watch films and TV shows, read books, and play games to relax, not to outdo one another in meaningless internet fights.

  • Conversely, in real life, I play to win: there are some things that should be taken seriously, such as one’s career, responsibilities and obligations. The mark of a mature individual, then, is knowing when to be all-business, and when to take it easy. Curiously enough, I find that it is possible to have best of both worlds, in both worlds: I find that in reality, sometimes, appropriate humour can lighten up an otherwise stressful situation and help to show those around me that while things are tough, and I am focused on fulfilling my duties, I can also see the humour in things. Back in Girls und Panzer, between the fact that they’re outnumbered 2:1 and that there’s a still-undisclosed reason for why they must win at all costs, the match does feel a little more stressful for both Miho and viewers alike.

  • Saunders’ mainstay is the venerable M4 Sherman; the M4 was the most-produced American tank of World War Two, and by default, came with a 75 mm cannon that could punch through between 91 and 109 mm of rolled homogeneous armour equivalent at 100 m depending on the variant and ammunition used. With a maximum of 177 mm of armour in the front, American doctrine was to overwhelm enemies with numbers, and during famous engagements, like the Battle of the Bulge, M4s would attack Tiger Is en masse. An individual M4 could not defeat a Tiger I, but one M4 was enough to keep the Tiger I’s 88mm cannon busy, so it was common practise to send four other M4 tanks to attack from different directions, aiming for the thinner rear and side armour.

  • Ooarai does not possess a Tiger I in its arsenal at the time of this match, and the Panzer IV’s maximum armour thickness of 80 mm meant that it could not take a direct hit from even the 75 mm M4s. However, for this match, Ooarai is playing under VIP rules: alternatively known as a flag tank match, VIP rules dictate that a match ends when a designated VIP, the flag tank, is knocked out. Such matches favour strategy which separates the opponent’s flag tank from its defenses, and allow schools fielding weaker tanks to stand a chance. Ooarai’s match takes an unexpected turn when Saunders is able to pinpoint their location early in the game. It turns out that one of Kay’s teammates, Arisa, has deployed a radio-interception balloon, allowing them to eavesdrop on Ooarai. Arisa chalks this up to “girls’ intuition”, which seems to satisfy Kay.

  • With Ooarai on the backfoot, Miho orders her tanks to disperse and evade the Saunders offensive for now: a straight fight would be foolish, and Saunders has the advantage in numbers. While moving to their next waypoint, Miho spots the radio-interception balloon and hastens to inform her crew of the turn of events. Officially, there are no rules forbidding the use of such equipment, although it is frowned upon; Hana and Yukari’s minds go straight towards following a conventional train of thought and they immediately wish to report this incident.

  • However, Miho’s got another idea in mind; rather than fight fire with fire, she adopts a technique reminiscent of what gojūryū karatedo practises – in martial arts, one of the central principals is that in a fight, there is a high chance one is fighting someone far stronger than oneself. To fight this individual on their terms is to invite loss, but the stronger someone is, the more force they exert, and this force can be used to one’s advantage. For instance, if someone were pulling on my arm towards them, conventional wisdom dictates that I’d pull in the opposite direction to resist. However, if that someone was much stronger than myself, I’d be overpowered. So, in order to get out of that situation, I’d actually push myself in the same direction they’re pulling and use their own force to loosen their grip, which would throw them off-balance creating a chance to escape.

  • Miho ends up doing the exact same thing: since Arisa is completely dependent on radio interception, Miho is able to use Arisa’s force against her by feeding her a stream of untrue statements. Meanwhile, all of Ooarai’s tanks coordinate via SMS. Although Arisa is confused as to why her observations are completely inconsistent with what Ooarai says they’re doing, she doesn’t really spot that they’ve been had until Ooarai manages to lure a handful of Saunders’ tanks into a trap, and using the StuG III, they manage to take out one of the M4s. The remaining M4 escapes, but the surprise turn of events is enough to send Arisa into hysterics, during which she devolves into a rant about how her crush never notices her.

  • No one had anticipated that Ooarai would be able to score a kill against the tougher armour Saunders brought to the table, and suddenly, the momentum in the match shifts: emboldened, Ooarai regroups and prepares to go after Saunders’ flag tank. While Miho’s exploiting Arisa’s tactics only net them a single kill, the effect that this has on morale is where the main accomplishment was – Ooarai’s other crews now realise that they might actually have a shot at things. Meanwhile, Saunders’ sense of invulnerability is shattered, forcing them on the back-foot.

  • Momentum is a critical part of sports, and life, in general: this is why for Saunders, it is so important to have a commander like Kay around. Even when things start turning around, Kay maintains her cheerful demeanour and sets her tanks to regroup. Seeing the M4 in action brings back memories of Battlefield V‘s acclaimed Pacific War update, and the M4 was remarkably fun to use. The M4 became my third most-used tank after the Valentine Archer and Panzer IV, and I scored a total of 205 kills with it over four hours of play. The base Sherman comes with the 75 mm cannon, although I upgraded it to the 76mm M1A1 cannon, whose higher muzzle velocity gave it better anti-armour performance: the coaxial machine gun is plenty for anti-infantry roles, and I found it more versatile than the optional anti-personnel flame-thrower.

  • Miho had sent the volleyball team in search of Saunders’ flag tank, and after punching through a bamboo forest, the team is successful. Both teams stare at one another for a few moments before Arisa loses her cool and orders her tank after it. The Type 89 wouldn’t have a hope in anywhere of defeating the M4, even at close range, but the volleyball team’s goal is luring Arisa into an ambush. Under pressure, Arisa reveals to Kay that she’d been using radio-tapping, earning herself a reprimand from Kay. Now understanding what’s going on, Kay sends four of her tanks off, feeling that it is only fair to engage Ooarai with equal numbers.

  • Regrouping with the other tanks shifts the momentum in this match; for Arisa, it’s a matter of holding Ooarai off long enough for their sniper to get a bead on the 38 (t). Things begin looking bad for Ooarai when Saunder’s remaining tanks converge and manage to take out both the Type 89 and M3 Lee. While the first years’ contributions to this match are still limited, they’ve improved considerably since the first match against St. Gloriana, and no longer run away from their duties even when under fire. Growth among the characters in Girls und Panzer is subtle but present, and for me, this was one of the series’ greatest strengths, even more so than the impressive attention to technical detail and clever callbacks to both history and famous World War Two-related works.

  • Despite the fact that any round from an M4 that connects will take Ooarai’s tanks out of the fight, firing while on the move results in highly inaccurate fire: the M4 and M3 were among the earliest tanks to use a gun stabiliser, but those were rarely used and ineffective if the tank was travelling at more than 16 km/h. Improvements to stabilisers were made after World War Two, making use of a combination of a gyroscope and servos to keep the gun trained on a target even as the tank itself moved, and by the 1970s, tanks like the M60 Patton could fire as accurately while moving as it did while stationary. Modern tanks use computers to help with calculations, and consequently, are able to hit moving targets while itself moving at 50 km/h at a range of two kilometres.

  • I imagine that such technology would completely defeat the purpose of Panzerfahren: because World War Two tanks don’t have meaningful stabilisation technology, Miho and her crews are trained to manoeuvre into position, stop and allow the tank to settle, fire their shot and then move on to avoid being hit if their intent is to land a good shot off; beyond this, shots fired are purely mean to create cover. By this point in Girls und Panzer, Momo’s poor aim becomes something of a joke: Yuzu is fond of remarking that Momo’s missed her mark, and while this often happens in situations where Momo shouldn’t miss, it is the case that firing while on the move will often mean one hits nothing but ground: in other words, Momo is forgiven here.

  • Although Miho herself is timid and shy, lacking confidence in her own abilities, when the moment calls for it, Miho is composed and acts in a manner befitting of a commander. With the remainder of Saunders’ tanks in pursuit, the match seems lost, but Miho reassures her crew: as long as they can do their best, the outcomes will follow. This lights a fire in Hana’s heart, and she resolves to bet everything on a single well-placed shot. Kay immediately spots this and sends Naomi’s Firefly onto the ridge in pursuit of Miho’s Panzer IV. Thanks to Miho’s situational awareness, she spots the Firefly and manages to evade their first shot, buying enough time for Hana to take that critical shot.

  • At around 200 m, the maximum penetration of the Panzer IV’s Pzgr. 39/1 round would be around 52 mm, and the M4 Sherman’s side armour is 38 mm. With Hana’s sharpshooting, Arisa is taken out of the fight, bringing the match to a close. It matters little that Miho and her crew are also disabled, since the round is over. It typifies Miho’s willingness to do what is necessary for the team win, even if it means sacrificing herself when appropriate: at the end of the day, Panzerfahren is a team effort, and individual pride is not relevant compared to contributing to the final outcome.

  • One small detail I noticed was that despite being taken out of the fight towards the end, Miho and her friends don’t appeared scuffed up at all, reflecting on their high spirits after the match. Hana credits Miho with encouraging her to be her best self, and the others are happy they’ve managed to win. For Miho, she’s curious to know why Kay ended up withdrawing half her fighting strength, and in the post-game, after shaking hands with Kay, Miho learns that Kay approaches Panzerfahren from a very mature standpoint: she’s as determined as anyone else to win, but adheres to a code of honour and fights on fair terms.

  • In real-world situations, and even per Sun Tzu’s Art of War, a fair fight means insufficient planning, but in athletics and martial arts, fairness is integral. Facing off against Kay in the first match helps Miho to truly appreciate that there are many ways of approaching Panzerfahren, contrasting the world she’d previously known. More so than the win itself, the biggest gain Miho derives from their first round against Saunders is the understanding that Panzerfahren is more profound than strength and victory; sportsmanship, professionalism and creativity also counts. With this encouraging her, Miho is able to do Panzerfahren in the way that she is most comfortable with.

  • #AniTwitWatches participants are immensely fortunate in that they’ve got access to all of Girls und Panzer‘s twelve episodes at present: back in 2012, viewers would’ve had to wait an additional week after the StuG III took out one of Saunder’s M4 Shermans: in their pursuit of excellence, ACTAS ran into production delays with Girls und Panzer, resulting in a recap episode being released, covering the events that had occurred up until now. Recap episodes are almost universally reviled amidst the anime community, and although fans generally understand that recap episodes are done to put something in an anime’s broadcast slot, being left hanging regarding the story can be a bit tense.

  • With their first match over, things begin winding down until Mako receives a phone call indicating her grandmother’s taken a fall and has been hospitalised. A dread fills her, and spotting this, Maho offers Mako use of Black Forest’s helicopter. This singular action speaks volumes about the kind of person Maho is; while she doesn’t speak much and isn’t very expressive, she cares for those around her. Allowing Mako to take the helicopter suggests that Maho considers Miho’s friends her friends, too. Similarly, while Erika initially shows some resistance to the idea, she relents and flies Mako and Saori over to the hospital Mako’s grandmother was admitted to.

  • As such, it stands to reason that Erika is someone who admires Maho, but is occasionally left guessing at how Maho is feeling simply because the latter isn’t open about herself. Rather than arrogant or villainous, Erika’s actions suggest someone looking for acceptance and her own path. Contemporary discussions (especially those of AnimeSuki) completely skated over this fact; after the sixth episode aired, no one gave any thought to the characters, and almost everything was focused on speculation surrounding Panzerfahren and how it works. The end result of this was that Maho and Erika were swiftly branded as evil, irredeemable, setting the stage for what would become the worst anime discussion I’ve seen anywhere.

  • What this flame war entailed is something that still rankles for me, and for next week’s #AniTwitWatches, I will be looking forwards to hearing what the community today makes of things. In the meantime, I will note here that Maho and Erika arrived to watch Miho’s match in a Focke-Achgelis Fa 223 Drache, a helicopter of German design. The earliest rotorcraft flew in 1920, and with a cruising speed of 175 km/h, the Drache was designed as a cargo carrier. It could carry up to a thousand kilograms of cargo and move at a maximum speed of 120 km/h. Only twenty were ever built, and two were eventually recovered by American forces.

  • While Mako and Saori arrive at the hospital, Anzu discusses the difficult fight ahead: both Pravda and Black Forest decimate their opponents. While Girls und Panzer make use of framing to suggest the power behind a foe (both Pravda and Black Forest appear to be unbeatable behemoths), this portrayal stands in stark contrast with the series’ themes. On closer inspection, both Pravda and Black Forest are able to defeat their opponents only because of a disparity in skill and tactics: here, Maho wipes floor with Chi-Ha Tan because at that point in time, their strategy had been to bum-rush their foes. The Chi-Ha and Chi-Nu tanks Chi-Ha Tan fields wouldn’t have been able to do any damage to the Tiger Is, making their defeat inevitable, and similarly, Pravda squared off against Bonple, a school with weak armour who attempted to end things quickly, only to walk into a trap. Thematic elements indicate that Pravda and Black Forest are tough at their best, but certainly aren’t indestructible monsters even in spite of the imagery the series uses, and I imagine this is deliberate to create a bit of tension.

Although Girls und Panzer plainly espouses integrity and sportsman-like conduct, at first glance, it would appear as though Black Forest’s Erika and Maho do not adhere to these principles. When meeting Miho for the first time in a few months, Erika openly disparages Ooarai’s program and claims that weaker teams should be barred from participating if they sully the name of Panzerfahren, implying that Miho’s methods are crude and unsightly. Erika’s claims seem to also suggest that there is only one proper way of approaching Panzerfahren, standing in contrast with Kay’s belief that Panzerfahren can be approached in the way best suited for the individual. Consequently, Erika’s attitudes toward Miho and Panzerfahren has led to the impression that Black Forest as a whole is arrogant, but can put their money where their mouth is. In turn, this led to Black Forest being branded as villains by period viewers. However, such characters would stand contrary to what Girls und Panzer‘s main themes are, and there are several hints in this scene that indicate Maho, Erika and Black Forest do not contradict Girls und Panzer‘s central message. The first is how Maho’s only comments throughout the entire meeting was to express surprise Miho’s returned to Panzerfahren, and the second is how readily she suggests that Mako be allowed to board their helicopter for a quick flight over to the hospital that Mako’s grandmother was admitted to. While she might appear otherwise, Maho is actually a compassionate and caring person who worries about Miho’s happiness, and understands that kindness is also a part of the lessons they learn. That Erika accepts Maho’s request to fly Mako out without resistance similarly hints at her own personality: it is evident that she greatly respects Maho, and so, her comments towards Miho were a consequence of her own assumptions of what Maho is looking for. Because Maho is so taciturn, it becomes difficult to spot how she’s feeling, and it’s clear that Erika’s biggest shortcoming is her desire to be accepted. In this way, Erika is to Maho what Yukari is to Miho. Both are lonely individuals who loved tanks and only found friendship after meeting their respective Nishizumi sister. The only difference is that Maho probably finds it tricky to indicate she’s grateful to Erika, leading Erika to step up her boot-licking, whereas Miho openly expresses thanks for what Yukari does, encouraging Yukari to be her best self. In this way, it is not a fair assumption to claim that Maho and Erika are villainous; Girls und Panzer strives to show how, thanks to sportsmanship and integrity, even the most intimidating opponent is, at the end of the day, human; that there is greater merit in befriending, rather than antagonising, one another.

Revisiting Girls und Panzer: Hidden Depths in Ooarai, Ibaraki and Parallels with Ooarai Girls’ Academy After Four

“I like this guy’s lack of style.” –The Donbot, Futurama

During their match against St. Gloriana, Miho opens by directing her tanks to a ridge such that they have the elevation advantage, and then has her own crew bait St. Gloriana’s tanks into following them into an ambush. Their initial attack fails owing to Ooarai’s poor aim, and with St. Gloriana returning fire, the first years flee the battlefield, while Miho has the remaining tanks fall back into the streets of Ooarai. Here in the narrow roadways, Miho and the others use the area’s layout to neutralise St. Gloriana’s Matilda IIs – St. Gloriana’s commander, Darjeeling, is shocked that a single Panzer IV has taken out her supporting tanks. However, the remainder of Ooaria’s tanks get knocked out in the process, as well. Miho gambles on a risky manoeuvre to gain the upper hand Darjeeling’s Churchill Mk. VII, but anticipating such a move, Darjeeling returns fire, taking Miho out of the battle and ending the match. In the aftermath, Darjeeling thanks Miho for a splendid game and remarks that she is nothing like her sister. Miho and the others perform the Anko dance as a consequence of losing, and later, Miho, Saori, Mako and Yukari accompany Hana to visit her mother. Hana learns that her mother is disapproving of her pursuits and effectively disowns her, but Hana vows to follow her own path. Ooarai enters the national Panzerfahren tournament and Miho draws Saunders Academy as their first opponent. Girls und Panzer‘s fourth episode marks the first time Miho leads Ooarai into a match against another school, and sets precedence for what is to follow: Panzerfahren matches are categorised as either elimination matches (immobilise all enemy tanks) or VIP matches (take out the designated tank), and here, viewers are afforded a glimpse of what happens during a match: understanding one’s strength and weaknesses, taking advantage of the environment, and playing on the other team’s psyche all come into play. This is the definitive moment for many viewers, showing the emotional tenour surrounding a match, while at the same time, also giving viewers insight into the meaning behind Panzerfahren: Darjeeling is a graceful winner, and after the match ends, expresses her respect for how Miho conducts herself on the battlefield. Sportsmanship is a key component in Girls und Panzer, and Darjeeling is the first to set this example for viewers.

St. Gloriana proves to be an interesting school against the style that Miho brings to the table; documentation shows that their preferred combat style entails elegance, advancing in a neat and structured manner while returning fire, and when pressed, St. Gloriana tends to hold their ground. Against most foes, St. Gloriana acts patiently, bidding their time and letting the enemy make the first move. Conversely, Miho introduces her own brand of Panzerfahren to Ooarai, using tactics to break up formations and destroy enemy tanks individually to counteract the fact their tanks lack firepower and armour. By favouring mobility above all else, Ooarai’s methods are the polar opposite of those St. Gloriana uses: Miho will come to frequently order her units to get creative and move around in a way to make themselves difficult to hit, compensating for their lack of armour and allowing tanks to position themselves in a way as to score hits on the comparatively lighter rear and side armours of enemy tanks. In such a match up, experience is the deciding factor, rather than style. If Darjeeling’s tanks have truer aim, they’d pick off Ooarai’s tanks before there’s a chance to return fire. If Miho’s team can be precise and purposeful in their movements and positioning, they can out-manoeuvre a static opponent. The outcome of this first battle lays bare the obvious: Miho and her crew still need time to build up their team chemistry and acclimatise to their tanks’ capabilities. Such a match also exposes where Ooarai is presently weak – their marksmanship is poor, and the first years outright abandoned their posts. Ooarai is plainly beginning their journey, but the makings of a capable team is present. To overcome St. Gloriana, Miho has already shown that her style of capitalising on her tanks’ mobility can present a challenge to St. Gloriana: at ranges of under 100 metres, both the M3 Lee’s 75mm L/31 and the Panzer IV’s 7.5 cm KwK 37 could punch a hole in the Churchill’s rear armour if they could get behind the tank. Similarly, the StuG III’s 7.5 cm KwK 40 would be able to punch through the Churchill’s front armour at a range of 250 metres with APCR rounds. Had the correct teamwork been present, the tanks Ooarai fields would be more than satisfactory for the job. As such, this battle shows how equipment disparities notwithstanding, what matters most in a Panzerfahren match is the team itself – a successful team will work together to augment their strengths and cover for their weaknesses, theoretically allowing teams using weaker tanks to nonetheless hold their own and even surprise teams with some of the most iconic tanks of World War Two. Thus, losing to St. Gloriana shows Ooarai while they presently lack finesse, there is potential amongst the team, giving Ooarai a tangible objective to work towards ahead of their match against Saunders.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The topic of St. Gloriana remained a contentious one long after Girls und Panzer ended: in typical AnimeSuki fashion, it was argued that this represents a significant gap in Girls und Panzer’s storytelling, because Miho’s inability to take Darjeeling apparently “[represented] an “unsolved problem” for Oarai as a whole” that “wound up selling both sides short” because Darjeeling was supposedly forced into close quarters (when her tanks were capable of engaging foes at longer range), and Ooarai was supposedly written to be weaker to make St. Gloriana look better. Such claims represent a massive subjective leap in judgement.

  • For one, most Panzerfahren battles end up being close quarters matches because accuracy is low, and so, schools would rather risk entering a range where a steady aim and quick trigger finger matters more than what their tanks can deal out and take. Similarly, in a close quarters environment, doctrine and skill matter less because chaos introduces an element of luck. Things like terrain and environment can confound matches by adding new elements into the equation. Skill affects the set of variables one can control on virtue of experience, whereas luck entails things with a probability component, and where teams approach one another in terms of skill level, luck often determines an outcome.

  • Another topic that became a point of contention was whether or not Miho’s explanation of safety as being provided by the fact that tanks possess a carbon lining was adequate. As the first episode already established that this was a universe where material science and physics deviates slightly from our own through showing the size of the school ships in this series, I find that attempts to shoehorn real-world constraints into Girls und panzer is an exercise in futility: conversations at AnimeSuki did precisely this, and one viewer tried to argue that Girls und Panzer fails to maintain internal consistency because of the characters’ actions. However, internal consistency strictly refers to the workings of the world, and throughout Girls und Panzer, there is no point where observed behaviours within the world contradict one another as to break this consistency.

  • As such, arguing the characters are inconsistent is incorrect – characters react in the moment to a stimuli, so different variables lead to a different response. This is the luck piece, which is something that the authors control; a story is directed in a direction that is consistent with the themes, rather than following outcomes that adhere to what is observed in real life. Since the point of Girls und Panzer was never about Miho’s ability as a commander, but rather, following the path that brings her to not only take up Panzerfahren, but find a newfound reason to enjoy it. Miho’s growth as a person has nothing to do with the fact that she cannot beat Darjeeling, and in fact, the biggest unresolved element in Girls und Panzer as a whole is whether or not Miho can come to terms with what had led her to leave Panzerfahren to begin with.

  • The loss to St. Gloriana is ultimately inconsequential from the perspective of Miho’s development as a commander, but rather, sets the precedence for themes of sportsmanship and chivalry amongst people. In this arena, Girls und Panzer completely excels. Making such a claim based on only a handful of battles is not particularly meaningful, and in this first battle, while waiting for Miho to draw in St. Gloriana, Ooarai’s remaining tankers are plainly shown as slacking off, whereas an experienced team would be at the ready, their sights already zeroed for the attack ahead.

  • Moreover, Miho’s crew have no prior experience in aiming at moving targets, even when firing from stationary: this speaks to everyone’s general inexperience,  and Hana is shown struggling to work out the Churchill’s range early on. Their first effort at ambush fails completely when the other tanks miss at close quarters, allowing Darjeeling to begin encircling them. This outcome was not to be too surprising, and the me of nine years earlier did wonder what would happen if Ooarai’s aim had been true. The lighter tanks would have no hope of getting through the Matilda or Churchill’s armour, but the StuG III, Panzer IV and M3 Lee could’ve knocked out at least two Matildas here.

  • While things look grim for Ooarai, even St. Gloriana’s technique is not perfect, and this allows Ooarai to escape into the town proper. Ooarai’s lost the M3 Lee to deserters (the first years panic and run off), and the 38(t)’s tracks come off, but Miho still has the StuG III and the surprisingly tenacious Type 89 along with her Panzer IV. She thus orders a tactical retreat, hoping to take advantage of Ooarai’s narrow streets to buy time and break up her foe.

  • I’ve previously done a full-scale visit of Ooarai in a location hunt, and a quick glance at map data finds the road leading into town actually comes from the golf course. There are no rocky fields or cliffs as seen in Girls und Panzer: the entire region surrounding Ooarai is comprised of farmland and towns. At this stage in Girls und Panzer, ACTAS had not anticipated that the series would be as successful as it was. However, this did not stop the studio from doing their best to bring Ooarai to life: once St. Gloriana and Ooarai leave the starting area and enter town, Girls und Panzer really kicks into high gear.

  • When one of the Matildas report that they’ve been disabled, Darjeeling drops her tea in shock. Having boldly claimed that nothing would cause her to drop her tea in combat, this moment signifies how Ooarai is full of surprises, and although Darjeeling had entered the practise match thinking it would be a quick one, the fact that Ooarai is putting up a bit of a fight despite being inexperienced is a bit of a surprise for her. Darjeeling’s relaxed demeanour evaporates, and she realises that if they are to win, she and her team must step their game up.

  • The history buffs and their StuG III are the first to score a kill against one of St. Gloriana’s Matildas: the StuG III’s main gun has no trouble punching through the Matilda’s armour, and the history buffs gloat in a hilarious (but still adorable) fashion. They prepare to take on their next target, but while they comment on the StuG III’s low profile, they’re blasted from the match: the flags they’re carrying have cost them. Meanwhile, using a feint, the volleyball club surprise another Matilda, although their Type 89’s weak main gun fails to penetrate the Matilda’s rear armour. They are taken out of the fight shortly after.

  • Miho’s team is surrounded, and right when it looks like certain defeat for Ooarai, the Student Council appear out of nowhere to buy Miho time. The 38(t) has no hope in anywhere of dealing any damage to the Matildas from the front (and certainly not the Churchill), but Momo doesn’t have a chance to find out: even at a range so close it’s almost a contact shot (again, I reiterate that this is not “point blank” range), Momo seems to have a fantastic tendency to miss shots. In return, St. Gloriana’s tanks pound the 38(t) into the ground. However, Miho captialises on this moment to take one of the Matildas out of the fight before fleeing further into Ooarai’s streets. Amidst the chaos, Miho manages to single handedly have her crew take out two more Matildas, leaving a one-on-one fight with Darjeeling’s Churchill.

  • The Matildas remind me of the Valentine tanks that Battlefield V provided as the British medium tank, although Valentines were more inexpensive to produce because they lacked the Matilda’s armour, and as a result, could achieve the same speeds. In my Battlefield V days, I absolutely destroyed using the Valentine’s Archer variant: compared to the Churchill, I have eight times as many kills. I found the Churchill to be slow and cumbersome, preferring the medium tanks to heavy tanks in general. Here in Girls und Panzer, Miho attempts a risky manoeuvre to try and get behind the Churchill: a Churchill Mk. VII’s rear armour is only 51 mm thick, and the Panzer IV’s KwK 37 can defeat up to 54 mm of armour at ranges of under 100 m when using Pzgr. 39/1 shells.

  • However, this fails: when the Panzer IV fires, the round strikes the turret’s side, which has an armour thickness of 95 mm. The placement of such a shot is still, at least for now, beyond the skills of Miho’s team. In the aftermath, Miho looks absolutely woebegone. However, Yukari is in fine spirits: although they’ve been defeated, the match had been most instructive and marks the first time she’d participated in a match with another school. From the looks of things, the worst that happens when characters’ tank suffers a mission kill is that they become scuffed up. Although certainly not plausible in reality, the Girls und Panzer universe suggests to viewers that the technology is there to accommodate for such matches and leaves things at that.

  • Upon meeting Miho, Darjeeling expresses that she fights with a completely different style than her older sister; despite a seemingly aloof and noblesse oblige attitude, Darjeeling and her classmates are cultured, civilised people who simply conduct themselves with grace, but otherwise, are not above acts of kindness and understanding. Darjeeling is presented as someone who is difficult to impress, but her comments to Miho suggest that there is something special about Ooarai.

  • In this fourth episode, Ooarai is just as much of a star as Miho and Darjeeling’s teams were. Locations in town are faithfully reproduced, and here, as a part of the conditions of losing, Miho is made to perform the Anglerfish dance in the town festival. Seeing this detail led me to wonder about why Ooarai was chosen to be the school Miho attends, and ultimately, I felt that compared to Japan’s largest cities and famous destinations, Ooarai is absolutely drab and unremarkable by comparison: it is a coastal town surrounded by fields and hills. In this way, Ooarai parallels Ooarai Girls’ Academy’s students – on first glance, everyone is dull and not particularly standout.

  • However, on closer inspection, much as how Ooarai Girls’ Academy has a very colourful collection of students, each with their own unique stories, aspirations and desires, Ooarai itself can surprise visitors in pleasant ways, too. This detail was not picked up upon by folks counting themselves to be authorities in Girls und Panzer, although in retrospect, this should not be too surprising; viewers of the time were too wrapped up in debating whether or not St. Gloriana represents an “unsolved problem” for Miho and the nature of the carbon to look beyond minutiae and appreciate details that relate to the thematic elements Girls und Panzer strove to convey.

  • One such aspect that went unnoticed is the parallels between Miho’s relationship with her family, and the other members of Miho’s team; after their match ends, Miho and the others prepare to go shopping at Ooarai Seaside Station whilst they still have some shore leave, and here, they run into Hana’s mother, who is so disapproving of Hana’s decision to take Panzerfahren that she faints on the spot. The topic of parents’ opinions of their children’s choices is one that’s hotly contested; having grown up with parents who are first-generation immigrants, I ended up getting best of both worlds. While my parents had hoped I would pursue a career in medicine, I ended up turning my undergraduate learnings towards software development. I always had the freedom to choose a career and field of my interest, so looking back, I do not have any regrets about the choices I’ve made.

  •  When Girls und Panzer was airing, I’d been in the middle of my undergraduate thesis project, and there were numerous details I did not catch. Subsequent revisits allowed me to pick up such details, although laziness led me to not write about things episodically. With #AniTwitWatches, I am now afforded a chance to go back and put my thoughts into writing; so far, the experience has been fantastic. Besides gaining insight into a host of other perspectives, I am also learning that many of the details that troubled the community nine years earlier are actually non-issues. For instance, 4 of 5 people find that the Student Council’s threatening Miho with expulsion was only meant to be foreshadowing and in no way diminishes their contributions to the series..

  • In the end, although Hana’s mother forbids her from returning home (in effect, disowning her), Hana promises to make the most of things and one day convince her mother to respect her choices. Miho’s quiet promise to do the same foreshadows a similar situation with her family, and to the learned viewer, this topic would immediately become more pressing than something like realism behind the “carbon” technology behind Panzerfahren, or whether or not St. Gloriana represented a clear and tangible narrative hole. Because of how Girls und Panzer is presented, I was never too worried about Hana: they return to their school ship, and here, Miho finds a surprise awaiting them.

  • It turns out Darjeeling has sent a gift of tea to Miho and her team; for the viewers’ benefit, Yukari explains that St. Gloriana only does this for worthy opponents, foreshadowing yet again the potential that lies in Ooarai. Darjeeling has spotted this, and while Miho draws Saunders for their first round opponent, Darjeeling’s experience suggests that it is Saunders who will be surprised when they meet Ooarai in competition. With this post in the books, I am looking forwards to seeing what #AniTwitWatches has to say about things, and further remark that unwinding with Girls und Panzer is a pleasant way to wrap up this Family Day Long Weekend: I’ve been up since 0600 local time awaiting the setup of a new Fibre network at the new place. Cursory tests using WiFi devices finds I’m getting a maximum download speed of around eight times faster than my current network, while upload speeds are now 95 times faster.

When the match between Ooarai and St. Gloriana has Miho’s team pushed to the defensive, Miho directs her forces into the town of Ooarai itself, capitalising on her team’s knowledge of the area to buy time while she works out how to best engage them. All of the schools in Girls und Panzer hail from different parts of Japan: St. Gloriana is from Yokohama in Kanagawa, while Saunders is located in Nagasaki. Pravda is situated in Aomori, and Kumamoto is where Black Forest calls home. Each of these locations have their own specialties and attractions, worthy of visiting. Similarly, the various schools seen in Girls und Panzer all have their own distinct traits: St. Gloriana is a school for refined young women who practise aspects of British high culture, while Saunders has an all-American theme, calling for enthusiasm and a go-big-or-go-home mindset. Conversely, Ooarai Girls’ Academy doesn’t have a distinct theme, mirroring the fact that Ooarai in Ibaraki has been counted as one of the dullest places to visit in Japan. A quick glance at Ooarai finds why: it is a coastal town located north of Tokyo and, aside from hosting Japan’s nuclear energy research programme, has very little going for it in the way of attractions. However, being an agricultural town, Ooarai does offer several notable products, including fish and sweet potatoes. In addition, the presence of Ooarai Marine Park and shopping malls, plus the presence of engaged, spirited residents, show that Ooarai is more than what its outward appearance suggests, and similarly, Ooarai Girls’ Academy can be full of pleasant surprises despite not having an identifying trait. The decision to have the first match in Ooarai itself allows Girls und Panzer to tell a story about Ooarai Girls’ Academy without needing to take away from the focus on Panzerfahren matches: by having Miho, Saori, Hana and Yukari do the Anglerfish Dance and discuss plans to unwind after their training match, Girls und Panzer suggests that contrary to impressions otherwise, Ooarai does have its own charms, and in this way, we are reminded that Ooarai Girls’ Academy also has its own charms, too. Indeed, the lack of style in Ooarai suggests that this is a school that is a blank slate, able to adapt and overcome in their own way; although on first glance, Ooarai Girls’ Academy might be boring or dull, those with the patience to look beneath the surface will find a group of colourful individuals, each with their own strengths and merits, just as how the town of Ooarai has much to offer to visitors and certainly is more than its designation as one of Japan’s most boring places to visit, in turn foreshadowing the surprises that Ooarai Girls’ Academy has in store for viewers.

Revisiting Girls und Panzer: Appreciating The Student Council’s Benevolence After Three

“I don’t mind hidden depths, but I insist that there be a surface.” –James Nicoll

Miho Nishizumi is a a new transfer to Ooarai Girls’ Academy, and looks forward to her high school life here. Although she’s shy and a little clumsy, she quickly befriends the outgoing and cheerful Saori Takebe, and the elegant, refined Hana Isuzu. While Miho had been hoping to take up flower arrangement as her club activity, the Student Council demands that Miho join the school’s newly-resurrected Panzerfahren (sensha-do, literally “way of the tank”, “Tankwando” or “Tankery” depending on the translation) programme, even going as far as threatening Miho with expulsion. Upon seeing the lengths to which her new friends will go for her, Miho reluctantly decides to join the Panzerfahren team, and despite her aversion to the sport, finds herself immediately at home among the tanks. Moreover, after a presentation from the student council, a few students take an interest in the sport as well, including Yukari Akiyama, who’d been in love with tanks since childhood. After locating tanks scattered around Ooarai’s school ship, the student council bring on Ami Chōno, a JSDF captain and tank commander who’d trained under Miho’s mother, to help bring the students up to speed. She sets Ooarai’s Panzerfahren team on a training match, allowing everyone to get a feel for the sport. During the exercise, Hana gets knocked out, but fortunately, Saori sports another one of her friends, Mako Reizei, sleeping in the field. Saori convinces Mako to become their driver, and Miho’s team edges out a win over the inexperienced teams. In the aftermath, Ooarai continues to train. Miho is made the team commander, and the teams are laid down. To prepare them for matches between schools, the student council organises a practise round with St. Gloriana, another school with a Panzerfahren programme. The first three episodes of Girls und Panzer had eased viewers into the series, opening with an introduction to the sport of Panzerfahren and establishing Miho’s return to a sport where she plainly had prior experience, including something that has dissuaded her from continuing.

After the earliest episodes aired, viewers almost immediately set about vilifying Anzu, Yuzu and Momo – their approach in convincing Miho to return to Panzerfahren was decidedly a hostile one, and threatening Miho with expulsion out of the gates created a highly negative first impression amongst viewers of 2012 (AnimeSuki’s “willx” refused to accept the series’ themes even after it had ended and branded them as “arrogant but completely ineffectual”. People like willx were mistaken in their beliefs: despite Anzu’s brazen threats coming across as harsh, once Miho accepts participation in Panzerfahren (however reluctantly), the student council acts in a way that indicates that there is a hint of desperation in their actions. This occurs after the newly-minted Panzerfahren team goes on a hunt around Ooarai’s school ship for tanks: after a hard day’s search, Ooarai adds the M3 Lee, Panzer 38(t), StuG III and Type 89B to their inventory, along with the Panzer IV that had been found inside the warehouses. The student council end up picking the 38(t), a light tank of Czechoslovakian design. With a maximum armour thickness of 30 mm and the 37 mm KwK 38(t) L/47.8 as its primary armament, the 38(t) was adopted by the Wehrmacht after it was determined that it outperformed their own Panzer I and IIs in combat. Despite having high mobility and reliability, it is clear that the 38(t) was no match for medium tanks of the day, and even anti-tank rifles could get through its thin armour if fired at the right spots. Of the tanks available to Ooarai, the 38(t) would easily be destroyed by heavier tanks. In spite of this, the student council chooses this tank, allowing the other students to have access to tanks with better arms and armour. A selfish student council, motivated by self-interest or their own ego, would take the best tank available to maximise their survival and performance in a Panzerfahren match, and yet, they willingly adopt the 38(t) as their tank. This action shows that, contrary to their initial attitude towards Miho, they have high hopes for her and are ready to place their faith in her ability, but saw no other way in persuading Miho to resume Panzerfahren. There’s something bigger in play, although at this point in time, Girls und Panzer betrays nothing about what leads the student council to this level of desperation. Consequently, those who were quick to vilify the student council were jumping to conclusions, plainly mistaken in their thinking. Even this early on, Girls und Panzer shows how understanding the tanks contributes to understanding the characters further. This aspect is what makes Girls und Panzer so enjoyable: there are subtle details that can offer hitherto unparalleled insight into what’s happening, but at the same time, even in the absence of knowledge regarding World War Two era armour, there remains much to enjoy in this show.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ve not done an #AniTwitWatches for a good half-year now: since Astra Lost in Space back during the summer, I became a little too busy to participate, but this latest iteration was a win-win: all of the choices would’ve been enjoyable, and I was lucky in that my nomination for Girls und Panzer won the vote. As such, I now have a ready-made excuse to revisit Girls und Panzer and some of the topics that I’d like to cover, where I previously did not have the time or motivation to do so. Girls und Panzer is a masterpiece of a series for me because it was able to cater to viewers of all backgrounds.

  • From humble beginnings, Girls und Panzer captivated viewers with its likeable characters, fantastic world-building, a suspenseful story and incredible attention paid to details. There is something for everyone in this series, and while the premise of armoured warfare as a martial art prima facie appears ludicrous, that everything gets put together so well speaks to how creativity can create truly unique experiences. When I first heard of Girls und Panzer, I’d just finished squaring off against the MCAT, and I actually did have plans to watch and write about the series with some frequency: the premise had resulted in a cool reception amongst viewers, and I imagined that I’d have the series to myself.

  • The reality ended up being anything but, and to my chagrin, the community’s worst showed up to the party almost immediately, picking apart every pixel of the series and criticising the characters before Girls und Panzer even had a chance to establish itself; the student council’s actions created controversy in the community from day one, and the flood of conversation surrounding the series lead me to put off watching the series until after I learnt that production had hit a hiatus. Joining this round of #AniTwitWatches, I am looking forwards to hearing thoughts from a community that is rather more civilised than those of say, AnimeSuki’s.

  • While I’ve had my share of disagreements with the #AniTwitWatches previously (e.g. with Kanon), what separates our conversations from those of AnimeSuki’s is that we actually enjoy hearing divergent thoughts and walking one another through how we end up reaching our conclusions. On the other hand, AnimeSuki treats attacking a position held by a well-regarded poster as equivalent to attacking said person, and this allowed discussions on Girls und Panzer to get particularly troublesome. As such, I have no qualms admitting that I am curious to see how #AniTwitWatches will handle scenes from Girls und Panzer that have previously started flame wars: while we might not agree on everything, all the time, the #AniTwitWatches community has proven to be more than capable of holding civilised and reasoned discourse on topics of all sorts.

  • The topic of the student council would form the first of many controversies in Girls und Panzer at AnimeSuki: Miho had transferred to Ooarai because she wanted to get away from Panzerfahren, and upon meeting Saori and Hana, had looked forwards to picking up a new activity. However, Anzu ends up strong-arming Miho into doing Panzerfahren against her will, even going as far as threatening her with expulsion. This immediately rubbed viewers the wrong way, and at AnimeSuki, the student council immediately became branded as bureaucratic villains more interested in their own image than the well-being of their fellow students: while it is true that Anzu and Momo come on very strongly, Girls und Panzer‘s central themes are built entirely around understanding, compassion and sportsmanship.

  • Throughout Girls und Panzer, the anime has strived to convey that people are more than their appearances suggest, and that while first impressions might be important, having the patience and willingness to empathise with others is considerably more meaningful. Reading between the lines, that Anzu is willing to use expulsion as a threat means two things: first, they’re in a bit of a bind and have no choice but to be forceful, and second, they’re willing to gamble everything on Miho’s joining Ooarai’s Panzerfahren team. This is a bit of foreshadowing on the series’ part, although even after once things became clarified, people stubbornly continued to hold the student council in poor regard.

  • Hana and Saori both demonstrate that beyond their cheerful demeanours, they have wills of iron and are willing to go to any lengths for their friends: they are ready to risk expulsion just to keep Miho from being pressured into doing something against her will. These traits are, coincidentally, the sort of thing that makes for a good tanker in the Girls und Panzer universe. Seeing what Saori and Hana are prepared to sacrifice for the sake of someone they’d just met leads Miho to understand that she’s found true friends in them: were it not for the student council’s high pressure tactics, Miho, Hana and Saori may have ended up backing down. I’ve noted previously that characters act in a way to drive the story, and while Girls und Panzer was still very much finding its footing, the student council’s portrayal here is not something I found to degrade or diminish my opinion of the characters.

  • Hana and Saori end up taking Miho to their favourite ice cream joint on Ooarai, which specialises in making sweet potato ice cream. Sweet potatoes are an Ooarai speciality, where they are known as Beniazuma, and Anzu is always seen with a package of hoshi imo (dried sweet potatoes) in her hands. Girls und Panzer might be an anime about armoured warfare made martial art, but also succeeds in selling their home, Ooarai’s, specialities, to viewers. Despite being counted as one of the dullest places in Japan, Ooarai became a popular destination for Girls und Panzer fans after its airing precisely because the anime was able to sell the area to viewers.

  • After Miho consents to join Ooarai’s Panzerfahren team, the series begins to finally kick off in earnest, and here, other Panzerfahren hopefuls show up to see what the sport is about. Here, the History Buffs and the first years are visible along with Hana and Saori; Girls und Panzer has a large number of characters, but every team has unique identifying characteristics that make them easy to tell apart. Even now, nearly a decade after Girls und Panzer finished airing, I haven’t memorised everyone’s names, but I do recall all of the teams on Ooarai by sight and traits without any difficulty because that’s how well they were written.

  • Miho gazes upon the old Panzer IV sitting in the warehouse and finds that it’s still in operational condition. The first episode then cuts out to a scene that shocked all viewers: it turns out that the town is actually set on the deck of a super-massive carrier known as a school ship. Ooarai’s carrier is 7.6 kilometres long, and nine years earlier, I’d done a full breakdown estimating the sizes of the ships seen in Girls und Panzer. This is the blog post that put me on the map, and even now, people continue to refer to my post as the de facto source surrounding the sizes of the ships in Girls und Panzer. The very fact that Ooarai Girls’ Academy is situated on the deck of a ship surpassing even the UNSC Infinity in size was meant to achieve one important thing: establish that Girls und Panzer was set in a world that’s similar to our own, but where there are enough technological differences to accommodate the sport of Panzerfahren without it becoming dependent on viewers suspending their disbelief.

  • J.R.R. Tolkien actually had put it best – a good author never needs their viewers to suspend any disbelief because their work will always be internally consistent. Girls und Panzer is fanciful, but remains internally consistent throughout its entire run, so this was never a problem. Here, Miho, Hana and Saori receive an introduction from Yukari Akiyama, an adorable tank otaku whose knowledge of armour and armoured warfare doctrine is unparalleled. Although she tends to get over-excited when tanks are mentioned, her knowledge means that she has the potential to be a major asset for Ooarai’s fledgling Panzerfahren team.

  • The fact that Ooarai has tanks scattered around the school ship indicates that they once had a Panzerfahren programme, but for reasons outside the anime’s scope, the programme ended up losing funding, leading tanks to be sold to other schools. The remaining tanks were abandoned around the school, and the Panzerfahren team’s first activity is to hunt them down. Hana’s acute sense of smell allows her to pick out a 38(t): earlier, Hana had remarked on how she’d yearned to do something other than flower arrangement, drawing parallels with Miho’s own initial aversion to Panzerfahren.

  • In the end, four more tanks are located: Ooarai now has a total of five tanks including the Panzer IV. None of these are particularly fearsome tanks: World War Two’s most iconic tanks include the American M4 Sherman, the Soviet T-34 and the German Tiger I. However, giving Ooarai iconic weapons would undermine the school’s journey as the underdog, and Girls und Panzer is all about humble beginnings. After the tanks are found, the students set about cleaning them up before handing them over to the mechanics club for repairs.

  • Yuzu’s bikini is about the only bit of fanservice there is in the whole of Girls und Panzer proper (outside of the OVAs); the near absence of conventional fanservice in Girls und Panzer completely shocked viewers, who’d been expecting the series to be the next Strike Witches: the first few episodes of the series betrayed almost nothing about where the series would go, presenting Panzerfahren as a school elective no different than astronomy, light music or fishing. Indeed, these first few episodes have a slice-of-life feel to them for the most part, although on subsequent watch-throughs, subtle details are already present. Miho’s fear of Panzerfahren involves an accident and a tank falling into water of some sort, Hana’s family situation parallels Miho’s, and Miho herself is an excellent judge of character, quickly able to spot Saori and Hana’s best traits within a few moments of meeting them.

  • Similarly, from Miho’s conversations about her sister and mother, as well as her reaction to seeing a televised media interview with her sister, it is clear that there definitely is a family issue going on. For the time being, Girls und Panzer sets these aspects aside to ensure that all of the central players are introduced first, and this includes giving Yukari a bit more shine time. Yukari’s an interesting character, being presented as incredibly knowledgeable about tanks and further to this, greatly respects Miho to the point of appending a –dono as her honorific (殿との is akin to addressing someone as “master” or “my lord”). Despite her obsession with tanks, Yukari is kind, respectful and resourceful, doing her best no matter what.

  • With respect to how “seriously” I took Girls und Panzer when I first watched it, as well as what my expectations for the series were during its initial run, I approached it similarly to how I did for Strike Witches, a series which had a moderately focused story balanced out with slice-of-life aspects and world-building. The series began airing in October 2012, and during this time, I actually had sat the season out because I was enrolled in my capstone course, Honours Thesis and Research Communication. Having come out of the summer with a 35T on my MCAT (518 in today’s terms), I also managed to get a paper published over the course of the summer.

  • While my term had been reasonably straightforward, this thesis project was a massive undertaking. I had fun working on the project every step of the way, and in October, I’d already had a clear idea of what I wished to do. Besides this project course, I was also enrolled in English, Genomics and a special topics course on iOS development. While having three courses meant I had the lightest semester I’d ever had in my undergraduate programme, most of my time was filled up with work on my thesis project. Since I didn’t keep time sheets back then, and I no longer have access to the SVN repository at the lab, I can no longer recall what I did on a day-to-day basis, but I do remember that the fall term had been too busy for me to actively watch anime.

  • As such, I did not begin Girls und Panzer until the winter term had begun. This was actually to my advantage, since it allowed me to sit out the über-serious AnimeSuki discussions and enjoy the anime at my own pace: even in these earlier episodes, people were already complaining about how it is unrealistic to expect high school students to operate tanks without training, that it was unsafe to be outside of a tank while the main cannon was fired, how the student council was evading karma by getting away with strong-arming Miho into joining, et cetera. Nonstop criticisms day in and day out would grow tiring, and even now, I fail to understand why military-moé series like Girls und Panzeare scrutinised the most harshly.

  • I have speculated that the reason why military-moé series is placed under the microscope is because the combination of cute girls and serious hardware seems to bring out a phenomenon reminiscent of what occurs when people make fools of themselves attempting to impress their crush. However, since we are dealing with the realm of fictional characters, this manifests as people trying to show off how much they know (and correspondingly, how much they care about the characters). However, without any confirmation that this hypothesis is true or false, it’s tough to understand why people go to such lengths to challenge every bit of realism in a show like Girls und Panzer. Back in Girls und Panzer itself, Saori is completely salty that their instructor, Ami, is a woman (failing to recall that in this universe, men don’t operate tanks at all).

  • The initial roles are assigned by lot: Saori becomes the commander, while Yukari takes on the runner’s role, Hana drives, and Miho acts as the loader. As Yukari, Saori and Hana’s first time operating a tank, Miho offers suggestions on what to do, guiding her friends to become familiar with the Panzer IV. The other teams include the student council (38(t)), some first years (M3 Lee), the volleyball club (Type 89B) and the history buffs (StuG III): it’s their first time driving these armoured machines, as well, and because Miho has a reputation behind her, the other teams decide to gang up on Miho for kicks.

  • Because Miho is still new to guiding her friends out, they initially make some rookie mistakes. This is, however, the whole point of training, and when the Panzer IV comes under fire, Hana is knocked unconscious from a glancing impact. However, Saori spots Mako sleeping in a field, and manages to convince her to act as the driver for the time being. Despite her lethargic and sleepy nature, Mako is a quick study, and in no time at all, is able to drive the Panzer IV like a champion. Even with Mako’s skill, the other tanks close in on her, forcing Miho to suggest that they navigate a rickety suspension bridge to escape their pursuers.

  • In the end, thanks to inexperience, the other teams fail to capitalise on the fact that Miho’s team has positioned themselves poorly: shots fired miss them, and this allows Miho to return fire, leaving them victorious in this training exercise. Despite everyone still being novices, this first drill gives viewers a chance to see what Panzerfahren is like – even though this is a low-stakes exercise, it becomes clear that there is a joy to Panzerfahren. With Ami satisfied that the students can at least get the tanks to go where they wish, the remainder is up to Miho and her teammates.

  • From here on out, I will refer to the teams by their interests during Panzerfahren matches for brevity’s sake; although Girls und Panzer has a large number of characters, grouping everyone by team becomes much easier – everyone’s identifying characteristics are such that every member of a team has something in common with one another. For Miho’s team, a conversation in the baths lead to everyone’s role assignment – Saori is very outgoing and enjoys speaking with others, so she chooses the radio operator’s role. Hana fell in love with the Panzer IV’s 75 mm KwK 37 L/24 and becomes the gunner, while Mako’s skill operating the tank leads her to become the driver.

  • Yukari, on the other hand, does whatever she can to assist Miho; being the loader allows her to provide Miho with advice and suggestions during combat. Finally, thanks to her prior experience, Miho takes on the commander’s role again: she’d chosen to be a loader earlier because she’d felt unworthy to fill this duty, but the truth is that her prior experience makes her suited to be the commander. It takes a bit of strong-arming to get Mako to participate, but with Miho’s crew set, the next step is practise and preparing their armour. Here, I will note that with everyone in their element, Ooarai’s tanks are one step closer to being ready for a live match: people who are performing roles they’re less effective or interested in results in inefficiency.

  • Initially, Ooarai’s tankers all decide to customise their tanks. Saori suggests adding cushions and other effects to make their tank’s interiors more comfortable, while the other teams take customisations to the next level. In particular, the first years give their M3 Lee a pink finish, while the history buffs colour their tank red and add nobori flags. The end result is that the tanks all feel like something straight out of a video game. When I first watched Girls und PanzerBattlefield 3 was the biggest game around, and in those days, tanks did not have cosmetic options available to them.

  • By Battlefield 1, tanks were permitted customisations, and had a variety of skins to choose from. Owing to the way I played, I ended up picking up a handful of high-end skins for my favourite tanks, including an all-gold finish for the Mark V similar to the colour that the Student Council ends up going for. Tanks are given drab colours for a reason, however, and bright colours would make the tanks stand out on the battlefield, turning them into easy targets. Yukari is horrified that the tanks are being treated this way, standing in contrast with Saori, who becomes pouty that Anko Team did not consider giving their tank a custom finish.

  • Having now become familiar with their tanks and trained extensively to grow acclimatised to how to manoeuvre, gauge distance using the hash marks on the gun sights and position their tanks to minimise the profile for enemy attack, Ooarai prepares for its first match with another school. The student council have arranged for St. Gloriana, a British-themed school, to participate in a friendly match with them. Although nothing is at stake, determined to push Miho to her best, the student council set the terms of the match: should Ooarai lose, Miho will be forced to perform the infamous Anglerfish Dance.

  • While Mako is tempted by the offer to expunge her attendance records through participation in Panzerfahren, her desire for sleep wins out initially, and she declines to join after learning that practise sessions will begin at 6 AM – in a famous declaration that I recall vividly to this day, Mako declares that it’s impossible to wake up at six in the morning. In my time as a university student, I joked to my friends that 6 AM starts were common for me. I used to get up at six so I could go lift weights before my day started. For the past two years, this habit has gone on hold, although post-move, I am looking to get weight lifting back into my routine.

  • I am admittedly very excited about where things are headed: once I move, on days where I work from home, I’ll be able to wake up at six, go hit the weights at seven in the building over, and have enough time left over to take a shower before I start work at a quarter past eight. Alternatively, I can now hit the gym after hours, as well, if I don’t wish to wake up at the crack of dawn. While I will probably work out of the office on a few days of the week, I also have the flexibility to switch freely between working in office and working from home; once I settle in, I imagine that Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I’ll go into the office, and then the remainder of the week, I’ll work from home.

  • On the day of the practise match with St. Gloriana, the tank commanders for each unit bow to one another and bid one another a fair match before starting. Because Girls und Panzer is one of those series with such a broad spectrum of topics, for this #AniTwitWatches session, I will be writing about a special topic for each week of the group watch, and once the community begins to offer their feedback and impressions, I am looking forwards to seeing what similarities and differences there are between our discussions, and those that took place nearly a decade earlier.

Even nearly a decade 2012’s Girls und Panzer finished airing, this is a series that continues to generate discussions amidst the anime community owing to the sheer depth the series confers. Prior to its airing, the only thing that was known about Girls und Panzer was a sub-par blurb from Sentai Filmworks, which characterised the students as “a few of them would rather shop for tank tops than become tops in tanks, but once their focus is locked and loaded, they’re absolutely driven”. Beyond this, expectations were low, and among the community, people indeed wondered if Girls und Panzer would become the next Strike Witches, better taking the name Girls und Pantsu by focusing on the girls’ pantsu while they were operating the tanks. The Sentai Filmworks description ended up failing utterly to describe Girls und Panzer‘s stakes, and speaking to the series’ incredible writing, the only bit of fanservice that does show up is when the well-endowed Yuzu dons a white bikini to help wash out the dirtied tanks. In fact, the director has commented on how pantsu would most definitely not be a part of this series. Girls und Panzer would go in a completely different direction, one that would captivate viewers: even the doubters would become fans by the time the series ended. Three episodes in, the series did a fantastic job of introducing both Ooarai’s Panzerfahren team to their tools, as well as viewers to this unique world. However, at the same time, Girls und Panzer also uses a striking bit of imagery to remind viewers not to take this series too seriously: as the first episode draws to a close, it is shown that Ooarai is actually situation on the deck of a massive aircraft carrier. I had previously found documentation to show that this carrier was some 7.6 kilometres in length, and since no means exists for constructing such vessels in reality, the use of school ships is a decisive and visceral show that the physics and rules of Girls und Panzer are not entirely equivalent to our own. Consequently, it is an exercise in futility to focus too much on minutiae in this series. I had mentioned that while a prior knowledge of tanks and World War Two armoured warfare doctrine might be helpful, it is not a prerequisite for enjoying this series, whose strengths lie not with the technical detail, but for its masterful combination of a touching story with suspense, thrills and likeable characters.

Girls und Panzer Das Finale Part Three OVA: Daikon War!

“What do I know of man’s destiny? I could tell you more about radishes” –Samuel Beckett

Miho, Saori, Hana, Mako and Yukari head off to Ooarai’s Agriculture Department to deliver some documents for their representative, Jane, although they struggle to acclimatise to their horses, which were provided so they don’t have to walk. It turns out that the agriculture representative has missed a series of meetings, and as a result, is short a bunch of printouts. As Saori and the others travel further, the rice fields give way to the foothills. Here, they speak with a farmer who indicates that Jane’s in pursuit of a ruffian, and they press further into the desert. Although the task is lengthy, the girls soon encounter Jane in an old western town after hearing a gunshot. Their conversation is interrupted when Belle shows up, and after Belle fires a round that ruins the churros, Mako is angered. She confronts Belle directly, leading the others to come out and surround Belle. Belle in turn demands a one-on-one duel with Jane. Unfortunately for Belle, Jane’s the faster draw in the west, and she finds herself splattered with paint. Belle decides to make a break for it, but having learnt how to ride Choco properly, Saori captures her. As it turns out, Belle was wanted for the theft of daikon radishes. Belle takes Jane and the others back to a smokehouse, where she’s making iburigakko (smoked and pickled daikon); it turns out Belle had wanted to share some recipes with the school at large, but no one was willing to give her recipes a go. With the misunderstanding cleared, Jane agrees to help Belle secure daikon so she won’t have to resort to stealing them. Later that evening, Miho and Jane share a conversation: Jane’s interested in having some extra hands to help out, but Miho remarks that everyone’s got their own activities, and wonders if Jane would like to join Ooarai’s Panzerfahren team. The pair agree to go their separate ways, and Jane promises to support Miho’s Panzerfahren team before riding off into the sunrise. Tus ends Daikon War, the OVA accompanying Das Finale‘s third act that continues in Girls und Panzer‘s tradition of demonstrating how having the patience to talk things out is how conflicts can be resolved: once Jane understands what Belle’s intentions are, things quickly turn around, and Jane goes from hunting down Belle to helping her secure daikon for her recipes.

Besides being a heartwarming tale of how Girls und Panzer would see disagreements and misunderstandings sorted out, Daikon War also gives viewers a bit more insight into the School Ships within the Girls und Panzer universe. These vessels are gargantuan in scale: despite a length of seven-point-six kilometres and a minimum width of nine hundred meters, Ooarai’s Zuikaku is actually on the smaller end of things, and even larger school ships exist. The amount of deck space available allows entire towns and biomes to be hosted, and this in turn creates a limitless potential for adventure. Daikon War is one such example, showcasing a side of Ooarai’s school ship that we’d not seen before: it was fun to see how Ooarai’s Agriculture programme is large enough to encompass several different kinds of farming, and how students can also be involved in keeping the peace in larger areas of the ship. The Girls und Panzer universe is immensely intricate, and exploring things outside of Panzerfahren shows what other nuances exist in their world. However, Daikon War also creates a new challenge for Girls und Panzer. Zuikaku’s layout has been shown as being very consistent throughout Girls und Panzer; most of the deck is covered by the town, and the school is situated at midship. There’s a couple of forested hills on the ship’s starboard side, and at the bow, some fields can be seen. However, in Daikon War, Saori and the others ride through rocky, mountainous terrain reminiscent of the landscapes in Arizona. These areas aren’t visible from the top of the vessel, creating a minor bit of discrepancies in how the Zuikaku is laid out. This is one of the hazards about longer-running series: inconsistencies like these can result if older materials and newer requirements are not reconciled. In this case, the Zuikaku is not expressly shown as having desert areas, so one does wonder whether or not the school ship has undergone terraforming updates or similar. Of course, such details are probably only on the minds of fans like myself, who’ve been around the block for a while: Daikon War itself is a fun OVA that gives viewers a chance to see Miho, Saori, Hana, Mako and Yukari outside of Panzerfahren, hanging out with their classmates in a world that is quite similar to, but also quite unlike our own, and a few discrepancies hasn’t stopped me from being all smiles while watching this latest Girls und Panzer OVA.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The last time I went horseback riding was back during band camp when I was a middle school student, and while a walking horse was reasonably easy to ride, I had a bit more trouble when horses went into a trot. Experience horseback riders will have no trouble managing their horse even while it gallops, and here, Miho struggles to steer her horse. I found it interesting that Miho and the others remain in their school uniforms while riding: normally, long pants are preferred, and I imagine that riding a horse with bare thighs could become quite uncomfortable because it exposes one to various pinches, burns and scrapes.

  • Daikon War’s first moments show the girls passing through farmland similar to that of Japan’s inaka, and the Das Finale‘s visual quality is stunning: it genuinely does feel like the satoyama out here. As Miho’s group passes through then region, satoyama gives way to fields similar to those of Southern Alberta, British Columbia’s lower mainland, or Montana, I find myself feeling that this spot reminds me a great deal of home: in the southern reaches of my province, the foothills near the Rockies are dotted with farms, and during summers, it is incredibly relaxing to drive down here.

  • Amidst the ferocity of armoured warfare, there’s precious little time for characters to act as they normally would because they’re so focused on the task at hand. Conversely, moments like these allow viewers to see how Saori and the others are when they are outside of Panzerfahren. Saori ends up naming her horse Choco after its dark brown coat, speaking to her personality, although the horse doesn’t seem to take kindly to being named: it promptly bucks, causing Saori to fall off its back.

  • Hana ends up explaining what the purpose of this excursion is: the agriculture representative, Jane, has been absent at several student council meetings, and since Hana is now the new president, it’s her responsibility to get the documents delivered. That Miho, Mako and Yukari follow along for the adventure shows how close the five have become during their time as Panzerfahren teammates.

  • Being able to see parts of the Girls und Panzer world that would otherwise not be explored is one of the main reasons why Girls und Panzer OVAs are always fun to watch. Here, Hana speaks with a farm girl who helps to point them in the right direction: Ooarai’s school ship is home to around thirty thousand people, and seeing other people on board the school ship speaks volumes to why Miho’s efforts to win the Panzerfahren championship, and then a match against the University team, was so important. Had she failed, and Ooarai been closed, thirty thousand people would’ve had to have found new homes and schools.

  • Stakes like these is probably why Der Film was able to threaten Ooarai with a second closure: the sheer size and scale of a school ship means that it takes a very large amount of resources to keep them running, and while Ooarai may not offer any one specialty as the other schools might, thirty thousand people call the ship home, and it is clear that those who live here love their home very much, which created the weight behind Der Film. This is something that wasn’t shown in Der Film, so it is understandable that not everyone will agree with this sentiment. In fact, back in the day, some folks at AnimeSuki had been left so disappointed by the film that they ended up ditching the franchise outright. Given that Das Finale has placed an emphasis on teamplay and strategy, and has hinted at Ooarai squaring off against St. Gloriana in the final match, I imagine that Das Finale is the continuation that these individuals would’ve been looking to watch.

  • After encountering folks who are familiar with the area, Hana and the others travel deeper into the mountains. The verdant landscapes soon give way to arid desert, devoid of any vegetation. Throughout the day, Mako’s been becoming increasingly hungry, and a running joke here is that everyone the group runs into is enjoying food of some kind. Some individuals with Indigenous attire are chilling with popcorn, and a cowgirl is seen holding what appears to be a turkey leg. While Mako implies she’d very much like some, Saori presses the initiative, and the cowgirl soon points them to the last destination.

  • Upon arriving in town, which possesses Pueblo architecture, Miho and the others meet Jane, a blond-haired sheriff with a similar aura about her as Saunders’ Kay. Hana explains why they’re here, but Jane counters that she hasn’t time for things yet, since she’s busy chasing down an outlaw. Admittedly, seeing Spaghetti Western-styled OVA in something like Girls und Panzer was completely unexpected, but it also speaks to how versatile the world is, in being able to accommodate so many kinds of stories without once making the stories feel like they’re out of place.

  • Having grown up in what is considered to be Canada’s cowboy country, and living in a city with The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth means I’m no stranger to elements of the Old West: in both American and Canadian history, the west was long considered to be the Frontier, and both governments invested into expanding into this territory. In Canada, efforts to settle the prairies weren’t made until the 1840s, when Prime Minister John A. MacDonald pushed policy to encourage development of the west. With the Dominion Lands Act and founding of the RCMP, homesteaders moved into the prairies as farmers. Conversely, in the United States, settlers often conflicted with Indigenous peoples already living in the West, leading to violent clashes that saw most Indigenous people lose their land.

  • These struggles are glorified in Old West films, and the term Spaghetti Western comes from the fact that some of the most successful films had Italian producers. Here, after Mako mentions that she’s quite famished, Jane passes her a churros. This Spanish dessert is also popular in Mexico, consisting of fried dough lightly dusted in cinnamon sugar. I had my first churros in Cancún during a conference, and I find them quite delicious. It was quite endearing to see Mako with a smile here, and Yukari’s smiles are similarly heartwarming.

  • Jane and the others promptly come under gunfire from the outlaw that Jane had been chasing. When a stray round takes out Mako’s churros, Mako’s frustration brings her out into the open. She grabs Jane’s hat and confronts the outlaw, leading Miho and the others to back her up. The odds have suddenly turned against Belle, who’s cornered, and this gives Jane a chance to finish things off once and for all. During this engagement, Miho wonders if they’re using real guns: Jane and Belle are both using revolvers. I believe that Jane’s rocking a 1873 Single Action Army, but it’s a little hard to tell.

  • The 1873 Single Action Army is one of the most iconic weapons of the Old West, prized for its stopping power and reliability. Such weapons might’ve been a little less suited for duelling, since the longer barrel would increase draw time. In a one-on-one, a shorter barrel or snub nose might be more appropriate; at shorter ranges, lower muzzle energy isn’t quite as important as stability and weight. Jane ends up accepting Belle’s challenge for a duel, and the square off at sundown while Miho and the others look on, with no small degree of apprehension.

  • Before Belle can even react, Jane’s already drawn and pulls the trigger. Belle’s head disappears behind a cloud of red, but fortunately, this is just a paintball gun. This shouldn’t be too surprising: in Japan, firearms are tightly regulated. Shotguns and air rifles are legal to possess, so long as one consents to random police checks and an extensive screening process, while all other weapons are prohibited. Similarly, it is inappropriate for students to be carrying actual firearms, so paintball guns are more than suitable as a substitute. The end effect of the duel causes the tension to taper off, as comedy displaces the suspense: Belle is now covered in red paint.

  • After Jane wins the duel, Belle decides to beat a hasty exit, but thanks to Saori ranking up her riding skill, she’s able to nab the escaping Belle. Belle is subsequently tied to a post, and the others learn of what’s happening here: it turns out that Belle had been stealing daikons from nearby farmers, so Jane was sent out to investigate and figure out what was going on. Miho and the others are surprised by this outcome; they’d been expecting something a little more dramatic.

  • Daikon are a common food in Japanese cuisine; pickled daikon are used in a variety of dishes, but it can also be simmered in oden. In Chinese cuisine, daikon (known as 蘿蔔, jyutping lo4 baak6) are used to make turnip cake, a savoury and delicious dim sum made of shredded radish and flour, mixed with several ingredients like Chinese sausage, dried shrimp, Chinese sausage and shiitake, then served with soy sauce. Now that I think about it, turnip cakes feel like a Cantonese version of okonomiyaki.

  • Back at her smokehouse, Belle offers Jane and the others iburigakko (いぶりがっこ), smoked and pickled daikon originating from the Akita prefecture. The process involves smoking freshly-picked daikon for a minimum of two days using wood sourced from oak or cherry, and then pickled in a low temperature rice bran for forty days, creating a dish with a very distinct flavour profile. Belle offers Jane and the others here a sample of what’s possible with iburigakko, and I note that daikon is actually one of the components of our family’s Cantonese-style hot pot (打邊爐, jyutping daa2 bin1 lou4): one of my family traditions is to have a 打邊爐 this time of year, when the weather is chilly, and the nights are long.

  • Last evening, I sat down to a hot pot featuring lamb, beef, giant prawns, oyster, cuttlefish, four kinds of fish balls, lettuce and cabbage, as well as daikon two ways. Besides freshly-sliced daikon, I also added shredded daikon with a splash of lemon juice to my soy sauce dip, adding a kick to things. The thing I love most about these homestyle hot pots is that they’re cozy, and things were chased with the leftover champagne from our New Year’s Eve party. Here, Saori, Yukari, Miho, Mako and Hana try out some of Belle’s iburigakko creations, and immediately, they’re blown away by the rich flavour.

  • Once Jane comes to understand Belle’s story, which is a bit of a pitiful one (other students at Ooarai refuse to give her daikon because they see no merit in iburigakko), she ended up resorting to theft to make some. If Miho and the others’ reaction were anything to go by, it appears that once others have had a chance to try iburigakko, they’ll be much more receptive towards things, too. I imagine that Belle’s interest in iburigakko is a personal one that she’s turned into a school project of sorts, as well. Without further exploration, this won’t be known to viewers, but the implications are that school activities on a school ship are very engaging and essential part of education; I’ve long found that hands-on education is the most effective, and have always performed best when given a little background before being set loose with a project or a chance to learn on my own.

  • After things are resolved, Jane thanks Miho and her friends for stepping up to help, before the pair exchange the wish to join one another’s respective activities. I particularly liked this moment because it was a chance to see how Miho is outside of Panzerfahren: when she first met Hana and Saori, Miho had been quite shy and clumsy. The Miho we see today is more confident and spirited, and for me, this does help make the case that while Das Finale might be about Momo, there could yet be a chance for Miho to properly reconcile with Shiho. A more outgoing and assertive Miho would have an easier time with doing this. Daikon War ends with Jane riding off into the sunrise while a Western-style theme plays to close the episode out.

  • The soundtrack to Das Finale‘s first half released back in May of 2021, and while it doesn’t have this ending song (which I imagine will make it over into the soundtrack for Das Finale‘s second half), it does have both versions of La Chanson de l’oignon, a vocal version sung by BC Freedom’s students, and an instrumental version. The soundtrack is fun, and it’s great to be able to listen to the new incidental music heard in Das Finale. With this, I imagine this is the last I’ll be writing about Girls und Panzer for a while: on the estimate there’s a 664 day-long gap between now and the next act, I’ll be stopping by next in 2023 to write about Das Finale‘s fourth chapter and its associated OVA. In the meantime, we’re now two days in 2022, and all of the anime that’ve caught my eye so far are airing on January 7, so it’s time for me to ease up with the blogging and take it easy until Slow Loop begins later this week.

The immense successes that Girls und Panzer enjoyed over the past decade stems from a combination of a strong thematic piece, lovable characters and meticulously-researched armoured warfare details. However, through its OVAs, Girls und Panzer also shows that the potential for telling stories outside of Panzerfahren is unbound. OVAs such as these are prima facie frivolous and don’t add anything substantial to the series’ main themes, but their value is found in being able to give characters a chance to bounce off one another outside of Panzerfahren matches. One aspect of Girls und Panzer I’ve always enjoyed ware the slice-of-life moments; in Das Finale‘s third act, seeing the characters engaged in their usual duties, as well as taking it easy in between preparations for upcoming matches, provides unparalleled insight into the characters themselves. These moments hint at how different characters approach Panzerfahren, and suggest that how individuals’ dispositions are outside of their duties can greatly impact their actions when the chips are down. Seeing Mika build a snowman before a match both shows that she’s one to let her mind rest before a challenge, as well as how she believes that great ideas can come from anywhere, whether or not one is actively preparing or taking a rest to regroup. Similarly, watching Miho and the others venture into the heart of Ooarai’s farmlands shows that they’re a friendly and open-minded bunch. Saori has a talent for picking things up, and the normally laid-back Mako becomes all business if anyone messes with her food. Miho is also shown as being less shy than she’d been at the series’ beginning; she’s now able to carry a conversation and even consider inviting people to try Panzerfahren out. Altogether, these short OVAs are valuable to viewers for providing insights into characters and the Girls und Panzer universe in ways that Das Finale‘s main acts do not. The fact that Das Finale‘s second and third acts include an OVA serves to enhance the experience for those who choose to watch the series at home: these bonuses add to things in a way that just watching something at the theatrical première cannot confer.

Girls und Panzer Das Finale Part Three: Review and Reflection

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” –Charles Darwin

Ooarai pursues Chi-Ha Tan’s forces through the dense jungle, but poor visibility and Chi-Ha Tan’s unexpected plays complicate the engagement. In spite of the challenges posed, Momo promises to do her best so she can attend university with Anzu and Yuzu. During the chaos of battle, Ooarai manages to disable several of Chi-Ha Tan’s tanks, including the elusive Ka-Mi amphibious tanks, but in turn, loses several tanks of their own. With their numbers whittling down, Kinuyo orders her tanks to pursue Miho, reasoning that Miho’s ability to rally Ooarai means if she goes down, her teammates should fall apart. After reaching a rocky section of the river, Anko Team is surrounded and taken out of the fight. Surprised that their strategy succeeded in eliminating one of the toughest tanks around, Kinuyo and her teammates erupt into cheers. However, they’d completely forgotten about Ooarai’s flag tank, and as Chi-Ha Tan celebrates this milestone, Ooarai’s Hetzner arrives on scene, with Chi-Ha Tan’s flag tank dead in Anzu’s sights. She pulls the trigger and knocks Chi-Ha Tan’s flag tank out, giving Ooarai the win. In the aftermath, Haru Fukuda reflects on the match and her promise to play volleyball with Duck Team during spring break. Upon returning to Ooarai, Momo, Mako and Midoriko visit Bar Donzoko, while Saori and Hana assist Anzu and Yuzu with their student council duties. Miho and a handful of the teams have gone out to watch other matches in the Winter Tournament: Black Forest defeats Pravda when Erika decides to utilise a hitherto unexpected technique, while Anzio falls to St. Gloriana when Anchovy falls into Darjeeling’s trap. Meanwhile, Mika and Continuation Academy beat Saunders thanks to their sharpshooter, giving them a spot in a match against Ooarai. Mika and her teammates return to their school ship to celebrate Christmas before their next match is set to take place. During their match, Ooarai pursues several of Continuation’s lighter tanks into a village, where they are ambushed by tanks hidden in the snowmen dotting the village. Quick thinking allows Ooarai to extricate themselves, but Mako spots glint from a distant tank, and moments later, Anko is taken out by Continuation’s sharpshooter, leaving Duck Team on their own. So ends Girls und Panzer Das Finale‘s third act, which comes almost twenty-two full months after we left off with Miho pursuing Kinuyo’s forces into a dark forest. As its preceding two acts have done, Das Finale‘s third act sees the conclusion of one match, gives the characters a bit of breathing room and then creates anticipation for the next round. While Das Finale may have appeared to have entered routine in its execution, the unpredictability inherent in every match, coupled with the insight that interludes offer into the teams’ day-to-day lives provide, means that despite the lengthy gaps between instalments, Das Finale nonetheless continues to hold the viewer’s engagement: Girls und Panzer still has what it takes to create an enjoyable, compelling experience.

Having seen the various teams in their preferred roles throughout much of Girls und Panzer, Das Finale‘s began to mix things up with character combinations and strategies, with the end result being that that in matches, opponents are left astounded and surprised by what’s unfolding – previously, teams had trained with the expectation that their foes would conduct Panzerfahren a certain way, and as such, strategies could be devised to handle things accordingly. Chi-Ha Tan, for instance, was renowned for their tendency to charge head-first into an engagement without any concern for the consequences, and so, they could be goaded into an ambush. However, on suggestion from the Volleyball Club, Haru decides to try a new strategy during their engagement with Ooarai, with the end result being that Ooarai is initially caught off guard by Chi-Ha Tan’s solid use of hit-and-fade tactics under the cover of night. Ooarai’s forces have not previously fought in such a claustrophobic environment with low lighting (against Pravda, the open fields meant it was easier to determine where the enemy tanks were and plan with this in mind), and so, Chi-Ha Tan is able to surprise Miho with a strategy that is unlike anything they’d previously used, much as how BC Freedom deceived Yukari into thinking they were still a divided school. However, what makes Miho and Ooarai so potent is that, while they might be caught off guard by a school utilising unusual strategies, they are always able to adjust and adapt. In this case, Miho ends up deciding to have everyone on Anko Team switch positions in order to capitalise on the fact that Mako’s night vision is more acute, and then have her direct the tank. Further to this, Miho is a team player, willing to lay down on the wire and and give her tank up if it means protecting a teammate. This level of concern for those around her is Miho’s greatest asset, and when combined with her ability to lead, plus the fact that Ooarai’s tankers have resolved to give it their best, means that in the end, they stand triumphant over Chi-Ha Tan, who nonetheless put up an impressive showing. The idea of switching things up applies throughout this third act to remind viewers that Das Finale is going to continue doing its utmost to differentiate itself from its predecessors. During one match between Pravda and Black Forest, Katyusha orders her forces to dig in and hammer the advancing Black Forest force, counting on their position and use of the KV-2 to wear down them down. This is not without basis: Black Forest has historically valued advancing at a methodical pace under all circumstances. However, when commander Erika recalls Maho’s advice to her, to be herself, she does something completely unexpected – Erika exits her Tiger II and commandeers a lighter tank, using its mobility to get the edge over the dug-in Pravda forces and in the end, secures the win by utilising a method that is contrary to the Nishizumi Style. Girls und Panzer has sold creativity and adaptability as a part of its central themes in its original run, but it is only here in Das Finale where things are really emphasised. This is to Das Finale‘s advantage, keeping viewers on the edge of their seat; as the third act draws to a close, Miho and Anko Team are knocked out of the fight in moments against Continuation Academy. Without Miho coordinating their movements, Ooarai must now draw on their own experiences and expertise in order to find victory in a scenario quite unlike anything they’d previously dealt with.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This talk on Girls und Panzer: Das Finale‘s third act is my 1400th post, and at the time of writing, I believe this is the internet’s first and only full-sized discussion, complete with screenshots. When I wrote about Das Finale last, it was March 2020, and I still remember the evening I started my post: it had been a particularly cold night, and the local media was discussing the possibility of a lockdown and supply shortage as the global health crisis reached North America. Nearly twenty-two months later, I count myself incredibly fortunate to be here, a consequence of the support I’ve received both through readers like yourself, and people I know in person. Before I delve into this post, I would like to thank all readers, whether you be a long-time veteran or a newcomer, for accompanying my journey through things like Girls und Panzer.

  • Because such a large amount of time has passed since Das Finale‘s second act, I ended up going back to re-watch both the first and second acts so I could get a better sense of things. Last we left off with Das Finale, Ooarai had managed to put Chi-Ha Tan on the backfoot, and had pursued them deeper into the jungle with guns ablaze, but since Chi-Ha Tan had switched out their usual tactic of charging at an opponent, they’ve become much trickier to fight, since Miho had been planning for a team who favoured bum-rushes over hit-and-fade tactics.

  • I will stop briefly here to note that the gaps between the individual acts to Das Finale are something I’m completely cool with: these longer production timeframes means ACTAS is able to write out scenarios they are satisfied with and create stories that captivate viewers, while at the same time, being able to properly research all of the armour, equipment and tactics used to create an authentic, immersive experience for viewers. Finally, additional time means being able to really polish the animation; this shows in Das Finale, whose visuals surpass even those of Der Film. There is justification in spacing out the releases, since the quality is reflected in the end product. Conversely, I disagree most strongly with the fact that there is a considerable delay between the theatrical première and home release. While some defend the practise, there is little to suggest that an extensive delay between the theatrical premières and home release is meaningful.

  • Granted, films are expensive projects that must recoup production costs through box office sales, and even in Japan, anime movies have a niche audience, which leads to the approach of playing to the fans’ devotion to the series and encouraging them to watch a film more than once in the theatre would be the most suitable way of driving up ticket sales. However, this approach is antiquated and quite frankly, limiting – the average film makes around eighty percent of its box office sales within six weeks of release, and keeping a film in theatres for longer will not generate any meaningful return. By putting their film on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and other equivalents, or simply make the BD releases come earlier, studios can at least still make some revenue on films by reaching a much wider audience, well beyond the dedicated fans who have home field advantage.

  • If memory serves, Battlefield V was still going strong when Das Finale‘s second instalment had become available. At the time, the Pacific Theatre had fully released, and I was having a blast with all of the new weapons and vehicles. For gameplay reasons, the Type 97 Chi-Ha tank is balanced to go toe-to-toe with the M4 Sherman, whereas in reality, the M4’s AP rounds would fly right through a Type 97 without dealing much damage, prompting tankers to use HE rounds instead. Conversely, Battlefield V is set up such that a properly geared Type 97 could still be lethal against an M4. Besides the M4 and Type 97, Battlefield V also gave players the Type 2 Ka-Mi and an Allied equivalent, the LVT. These amphibious tanks were incredibly fun to play as, and like Kinuyo’s teammates find, their utility is being able to move about in water to launch surprise attacks.

  • The main disadvantage about the Ka-Mi is that they have comparatively less armour than a Type 97, and an in Battlefield V, I primarily used them as an anti-infantry platform. However, with the right upgrades, I do remember that they could also be used to make short work of LVTs and “encourage” M4 drivers to back up: one of the specialisations that the Ka-Mi could equip in Battlefield V was a 75 mm cannon, making it a match for the M4s. Girls und Panzer‘s Ka-Mis are limited to their real-world counterparts’ armaments – as far as I can tell, no Ka-Mi has ever been equipped with a 75 mm cannon (or a 120 mm howitzer as Battlefield V permits), but in functionality, they are more flexible: besides frustrating Ooarai’s tankers, they can also be utilised as makeshift bridges. Miho spots this and uses a Ka-Mi to quickly cross the river, taking off the Ka-Mi’s turrets in the process.

  • When several of Chi-Ha Tan’s Type 95s attempt to use the Ka-Mi tanks as a bridge to continue the pursuit, chaos causes them to fall into the river. Even this isn’t enough to knock them out of the fight; the Ka-Mi amphibious tanks prove troublesome for Ooarai in that they’re small enough to hang out in the water, below most of their tanks’ maximum angle of depression, and despite being pushed around, they prove surprisingly resilient. In reality, the Ka-Mi came into service much too late to have been used in their intended role, but their relatively thin armour (6-12 mm) means that, at least in theory, any sort of attack would knock one out if one were to land a good hit on them.

  • Conversely, the Ka-Mi’s 37 mm cannon had a maximum armour penetration of 25 mm at a range of up to one kilometre. While incapable of scratching medium tanks like the Panzer IV at range, in CQC, the damage these tanks can deal is non-negligible. These elements come together to make the Ka-Mi worthy foes for Ooarai, even more so than the Maus and Karl-Gerät – earlier installations of Girls und Panzer traded strategy for raw firepower to intimidate viewers, but for me, I’ll take clever use of hardware over brute strength any day of week. Here, after Chi-Ha regroups, the Ka-Mi operators hop onto land and pick up their turrets before manually replacing them. I’ve not read anything to see if this was indeed possible in reality, but if so, it would imply the armour on a Ka-Mi would be quite thin.

  • In the end, a clever bit of driving from Rabbit Team allows Ooarai to take out both Ka-Mis, although Rabbit Team trades with the remaining Ka-Mi ends up being dispatched. This moment does seem to suggest that amongst Ooarai, the first years have become quite proficient with strategy, and should Miho ever become taken out, Ooarai might yet have a fighting chance, with Rabbit team taking up the role of calling creative strategies. One of my readers had hoped that Haru’s team would square off against Duck Team during a discussion for Das Finale‘s second half: this wish is fulfilled in the chaos of jungle warfare, where, after Duck team receives permission from Miho to do so, they break off to engage Chi-Ha Tan’s forces. Haru and Duck team briefly face off against one another, and while duck team makes use of the infamous duck coverings seen in Der Film as attempt to deceive the Chi-Ha Tan forces, this attempt fails. Duck team are taken out shortly after, allowing Chi-Ha Tan to focus fire on Anko Team.

  • Upon realising their Panzer IV is headed straight for the river where the bridge had been taken out, Miho immediately orders Mako to stop the tank. Mako’s been nothing but on fire during this match: even more so than their match against Pravda, Mako is fully awake and is able to do her best. With her speedy reflexes, Mako is able to prevent the Panzer IV from taking a swim and prematurely exiting the match, but there’s no time to be relieved, since Kinuyo’s tanks are waiting for them on the riverbanks. Miho subsequently switches roles and sets Mako to be the commander, counting on her unmatched night vision to even out the odds.

  • Speaking to Miho’s ability to adapt and overcome, even more so than her opponents, Miho has Yukari take on the role of driver, and she substitutes in for Yukari as the loader. Saori remains on the radio, and Hana continues operating the guns. This is a bit of a callback to the original TV series, where Miho had been a loader, while Saori commanded, Hana drove, and Yukari operated the guns. While Anko team has come quite a ways since picking up Mako, this moment suggests that off-screen, tankers also train in other roles so they can keep essential functions running even in the case of an emergency. Here, Miho squints in an effort to spot nearby foes: Das Finale has Miho with a greater range of facial expressions than were seen during the TV series, further bringing her character to life.

  • Even though this method helps Anko to stay alive, Chi-Ha Tan’s spirits remain high, and they continue to press the initiative. Miho ends up being pushed to a rocky segment of the river, and here, Chi-Ha Tan surrounds Miho’s Panzer IV. One of the Type 97s takes Miho out of the fight with a shot so close, it’s almost a contact shot (pressing the muzzle against a target, which mainstream media refers to as a “point blank shot”). Fans of Girls und Panzer have long decried the series for making Miho invincible to all but St. Gloriana, so having Chi-Ha achieve what was thought to be impossible is meant to show that in Panzerfahren, anything goes: it is possible to take Miho out if one has the advantage of numbers or the element of surprise.

  • The reason why Girls und Panzer engagements happen at point-blank range (the distance one can reliably hit a target without needing to compensate for projectile drop is the correct definition) is because in such close quarters, guns have a higher probability of inflicting a mission kill on another tank. This is why Panzerfahren matches always ends up going to close quarters: if tanks in Girls und Panzer were to follow contemporary armoured warfare doctrine, battles would consist of the team with better tank guns and better gunners destroying a foe at range with no opportunity for retaliation. Such an approach is appropriate for keeping one’s tanks from being damaged or destroyed, but at the same time, it would also make for boring matches for viewers.

  • Here, Kinuyo joins her teammates in cheering on their triumph over Miho’s Panzer IV. However, Haru has yet to join the fight and she notices that Ooarai’s Hetzner is still up: the Hetzner’s been noticably absent from the proceedings. She attempts to convey this to Kinuyo, but the comms are alit with Chi-Ha Tan’s tank crews celebrating what was thought to be an unachievable feat. As far as details go, at such short ranges, the 57 mm gun’s performance is sufficient to get through the Panzer IV’s rear armour. At longer ranges, the 57 mm gun Type 97s equipped were woefully inadequate against period armour because it had been designed for infantry support rather than anti-armour roles: the Soviet BT tanks could shrug off rounds from the 57 mm, and later Type 97s were equipped with the Type 1 47 mm gun, which, despite having a smaller caliber, also possessed a higher muzzle velocity.

  • However, joy turns to abject terror when Kinuyo spots the Hetzner approaching her from the flanks. The Cantonese have a saying for the trap that Kinuyo has fallen into, 高興太早 (jyutping gou1 hing1 taai3 zou2, literally “happy too early”); save Haru and her crew, it seems the whole of Chi-Ha Tan have fallen into a trap over their accomplishment and have forgotten they’re still in the middle of a match. While this lapse in judgement will cost them the match, I’m still rather fond of Kinuyo; she’s boisterous and polite, as well as a stickler for formalities. However, despite being well-liked and competitive, Kinuyo is also honourable and open-minded: she allows for Haru to suggest new tactics beyond their usual propensity of charging head-first into a foe. However, in this moment, her confidence gets the better of her, yielding a fantastic funny-face moment.

  • I recall a quote from The Matrix: Reloaded, when the Oracle’s guardian, Seraph, fights Neo: he notes that one only gets to know the other when they fight, and while this can be interpreted in a metaphoric sense, it does hold true in that one gains a true measure of another individual or team when able to see how they react to adversity and challenge. Chi-Ha Tan has risen magnificently to the challenge here in Das Finale‘s third act, and while they do end up losing, Kinuyo’s willingness to try out Haru’s plans means that the team put up a superb showing. This could’ve been anyone’s match, and under different circumstances, Chi-Han Tan might’ve come out on top.

  • In the end, Ooarai squeaks by with another win, and the moment the day’s first bit of sunlight hits her skin, Mako reverts to her usual lethargic self. While Yukari, Saori and Hana are thrilled with the victory, Miho’s the first to notice. This subtle detail speaks volumes to Miho’s character; it might feel great to advance, but Miho’s concern is for the well-being of those around her, first and foremost. It’s small elements like these that made Girls und Panzer particularly standout, and even now, a full nine years after Girls und Panzer began airing, I’m hard-pressed to find another military-moé series with a similar level of characterisation.

  • Despite having taken a loss as a result of their overconfidence, Kinuyo remains in fine spirits, and here, they finalise their letter of thanks to Ooarai: sportsmanship has always been a major part of Girls und Panzer, and this idea carries forward into Das Finale. This is why I place such an emphasis on assuming good faith regarding the characters and their decisions: while it is the case that individuals or teams can make poor decisions or waltz into a fight with a cocky attitude, such actions are never done with malice. This held true with Marie of BC Freedom, it was similarly the case with Pravda, and even the seemingly aloof and haughty Black Forest demonstrate humility and sportsmanship as the other teams do.

  • After finishing her letter, Haru reflects on her own conversation with the Volleyball Club post-match and smiles, happy to have made new friends through Panzerfahren. These sorts of things are what make Girls und Panzer worth watching, and looking back, all of the heated discussions surrounding this series was completely unwarranted. In fact, I would argue that compared to messages of sportsmanship, cooperation and adapting to circumstance, the technical details in Girls und Panzer are actually secondary to things: their presence simply serves to greatly augment the experience, but even if the details were dialed back, strong themes in the series means Girls und Panzer would’ve still been quite successful.

  • In between battles, Das Finale gives characters a chance to unwind and take things easy. These have always been one of my favourite aspects of Girls und Panzer, showing how the characters are outside of combat. At this point in time, Mako and Midoriko are able to enter the Bar Donzoko without any trouble, and Mako’s become a regular: having spent time with the Panzerfahren team, Shark Team no longer seem quite so delinquent, and Momo ends up getting punk’d with a super-spicy rum. Ogin promptly apologises to Momo for having been knocked out of the fight so early and promises that they’ll be better prepared for the upcoming match.

  • While Momo is hanging out with the Bar Donzoko regulars, Saori, Hana, Yuzu and Anzu tend to student council duties. Saori and Hana were originally planning on joining different activities, but as they are advancing into their third year, they take the reigns from Anzu, Momo and Yuzu, speaking to their growth over time; although Saori and Hana had viewed the Student Council as overbearing when they’d first met, once Miho took up Panzerfahren, they’d gotten along without any problems. Initial impressions can be deceiving, which is why I tend to reserve judgement on characters until there’s been a chance to properly give them development. This certainly applies in Girls und Panzer, where every character winds up being cordial and respectable. This extends even to Shiho and Black Forest: with Maho graduated, Erika now leads their Panzerfahren team.

  • Das Finale‘s third act gives viewers a chance to see matches between other schools in more detail: Girls und Panzer had originally only shown the outcomes of these matches owing to a need to focus on Ooarai, but with Ooarai’s characters now firmly established, there is space to look at the other schools, too. Erika and Black Forest’s match against Pravda is shown: having long spent their time preparing against an equivalent foe, Katyusha anticipated their approach and had countered accordingly by digging in and hammering their foe, even taking out Black Forest’s Maus in the process using their KV-2. However, Erika recalls Maho’s suggestion to her, and switches over to a lighter Panzer III, directing it to close the distance and smash Pravda’s flag tank to earn them a win while the heavier tanks stay behind to cover. This sort of behaviour exemplifies how even the seemingly rigid Black Forest can adopt flexible tactics. Although short, this moment shows how has matured and become a Erika can be forward thinker, capable of adapting to a situation: after Maho had graduated, it would appear that Black Forest’s tactics can vary.

  • Maho had practised Panzerfahren according to the Nishizumi Style, but Erika doubtlessly would’ve formed her own approaches after seeing what worked, and what failed, wtih the Nishizumi Style. The results speak for themselves, and I was certainly glad to see this change, since it shows that adapting and changing is the only feasible means of moving forwards. Portraying even Black Forest as changing would probably ruffle a few feathers today: a handful of purists had insisted that the Nishizumi Style was infallible and that any interpretation contrary to theirs was to be “soft”. That Das Finale decisively demonstrates this train of thinking is false by showing how the Nishizumi Style was never meant to be the “correct” way of doing things; it is the case that in Girls und Panzer, messages of creativity and adapting to adversity is promoted.

  • Anzio is thrashed by St. Gloriana: while putting up a good showing, Duce walks right into a trap and is soundly defeated. Meanwhile, Continuation Academy and Saunders slugs it out on what appears to be a derelict airbase. While Continuation Academy’s armour is an amalgamation of Soviet medium tanks and the BT series of light tanks, they have a reputation for being tricky to beat owing to their emphasis on sharp-shooting. Saunders finds this out the hard way – despite gaining the upper hand after destroying the remainder of Continuation’s armour and cornering Mika’s flag tank, they is ultimately defeated when their flag tank is sniped from a distance. Flag tank matches are a matter of strategy, since they are not dependent on completely mission-killing every tank a foe has. Ooarai had capitalised on this to win their earlier matches against numerically superior foes.

  • Poor sportsmanship in Girls und Panzer is primarily employed for comedy, and here, Alisa devolves into a rant about a failed kokuhaku after being sniped, resulting in their loss to Continuation. To this day, I find it hilarious that Alisa is voiced by Aya Hirano, whom people know best as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s Haruhi Suzumiya. In Das Finale, Alisa’s still easily flustered by enemy fire, and although she might be a vice-commander, were I in Kay’s position, I would sub her out as the Flag Tank, since Alisa tends to collapse totally when under pressure. One must feel bad for Alisa’s crewmate, whose expression suggests that she’s completely used to these outbursts.

  • With the matches’ outcomes now clear, Ooarai is set to fight Continuation in their next round. A quick glance at things shows that in Das Finale, we’ve seen two familiar schools returning from Der Film: both Chi-Ha Tan and Continuation answered the call to help save Ooarai during the movie, and since they were fighting alongside Miho and the others, one only got a limited glimpse of how they operated. Conversely, in a more conventional setting, having the schools fight Ooarai means being able to see first-hand how everyone rolled when in their element, and it becomes clear that for schools running tanks with lighter armour and weaker guns, they’re not at a disadvantage for this, provided they utilise their tanks creatively. However, because of how things are likely to roll, St. Gloriana will likely beat Black Forest, leaving them to fight Ooarai in the final: the choice to take Saunders out was done so viewers can see Ooarai take on different schools, so it follows that Ooarai won’t fight Black Forest again.

  • Das Finale‘s third act shows a glimpse of Continuation’s school ship, which is based off the USS Federal (ID-3657), a freighter that served the United States during World War One, was sold to the United Kingdom in 1937 and then subsequently captured by the Japanese in 1941. If the assumptions I made nine years earlier about the school ships’ dimensions hold true, I imagine that Continuation’s school ship would be around 3.7 kilometres in length, which is on the small side (Ooarai’s school ship is around 7.6 kilometres long, but the larger school ships, like St. Gloriana and Pravda, have lengths of up to 13 kilometres). Despite its smaller size, the Continuation school ship has one distinct feature: a massive tree fashioned from the central mast.

  • On board Continuation’s school ship, Christmas festivities are in full swing, with vendors selling everything from apple cider to Advent Calendars. I’ve long wished to visit a Christmas Market, and while there are local markets that aim to reproduce the atmosphere, there’s nothing quite like checking out the real deal: high on my list of places to travel to will be Germany or Austria during the winter season so that I can take things in.  However, this isn’t to say that Christmas festivities back home aren’t enjoyable: for me, Christmases are a time of rest and relaxation, of sleeping in and enjoying great food.

  • Yesterday’s weather was similarly surprising: the skies completely cleared out by noon, allowing me to go for a pleasant, if frigid walk, over to the hills nearby under -20ºC conditions. In previous years, Christmas Eves were a half-day for me, and I would go to work in the mornings before returning home to unwind. This year, since I’ve got vacation time, I ended up taking the last two weeks of the year off. I was contemplating building the MG Kyrios this week, but I had a gut feeling that with all of the furniture deliveries, I might not have had time to do the build, so I ended up finishing the Kyrios two weeks earlier. I’m glad to have made this decision: it left me a lot less busy this Christmas Eve, and I was able to spend the day enjoying the unexpectedly clear skies, before helping out with preparing and enjoying Christmas Eve dinner (roast lamb on the bone with sautéed onion, garlic and carrots, potato dollars, pan-seared asparagus and prawns with a white sauce yi mien). Back in Das Finale, Aki wonders if now is the time to take it easy by building a snowman, and Mika replies that these moments let people find their own truths. Although seemingly deep and mysterious, all Mika is saying is that relaxing is key to regrouping and being their best.

  • For this match against Continuation, Miho’s decided to keep Momo on as the commander, in keeping with the idea that having Momo lead Ooarai on will give her the credits she will need to get accepted into her post-secondary of choice. We recall that this is what motivates Ooarai to participate in the winter tournament, an approach that was definitely more plausible than Der Film‘s attempt to close Ooarai a second time. I find that Der Film could have still had Ooarai square off against the university team as an exercise to secure bursaries or similar, and the story still would have progressed as it did. Das Finale irons out these holes and gives viewers a more satisfying reason for Panzerfahren.

  • When the camera pulls out to reveal the extent of the cold, wintery landscape, it’s reminiscent of the weather we’re in the middle of here on the prairies: thanks to a Siberian air mass hanging out over the country, today’s high is projected to be -27ºC, and with wind-chill, this equates to a bone-chilling -35ºC. Winter weather in the prairies is an iconic part of life here, and authors write fondly of how the frigid, endless grey skies are as integral to prairie life as fields of wheat and canola under blue skies. Girls und Panzer excels in its landscapes, which have a personality of their own.

  • As with BC Freedom and Chi-Ha Tan in earlier instalments of Das Finale, the terrain matches Continuation Academy’s traits. The French had their bocage, the Japanese are at home in the jungles, and the Finns are associated snowy, mountainous terrain. This leads me to wonder how the locations are picked in Girls und Panzer: the TV series had largely been set in generic locations, save the fight against Pravda, which was set in an area reminiscent of the Volga basin. Conversely, Das Finale seems to have picked locations that seem to mirror the style and aesthetic consistent with Ooarai’s opponent’s home environment, and this does seem to favour Continuation, who are most comfortable with snowy terrain.

  • Until Das Finale, we’d only ever seen Mika’s BT-42 in combat, so the match between Continuation and Ooarai (as well as Continuation’s match against Saunders earlier) represents a fine chance to get a good look at the tanks they field. Here, a pair of T-26s exchange fire with Ooarai’s forces from a distance in a bid to lure them in. These tanks were originally of Soviet design and equipped a six-pounder; the T-26 was quite effective during the 1930s, but advances in anti-tank weaponry reduced their survivability. Continuation Academy has a track record of stealing armour from other schools under pretense of borrowing them, a parallel to Finland’s use of captured armour during the Second World War.

  • On paper, Ooarai’s forces should be evenly matched with Continuation’s – the latter’s arsenal consists primarily of faster tanks and the venerable T-34, so with tanks of this style, I imagine that Continuation’s preference is to utilise the lighter units to close the gap and sow confusion, allowing for their medium tanks to hang back and pick off high value targets while their foes engage the light tanks amidst the chaos. Mika had been seen doing this during the match against Saunders, during which she discards her BT-42’s tracks and distracts Saunders’ main force, allowing their sniper to pick off Saunders’ flag tank. Miho attempts to probe Continuation by entering a small village nearby to gauge their reaction, but immediately come under fire: Mika had foreshadowed use of snowmen as a part of their strategy, and while this method would fail today thanks to things like FLIR optics, the lack of such gear in WWII-era tanks makes this a particularly clever approach.

  • In reality, the Finns were better known for their infantry’s anti-tank tactics: against the technically and numerically superior Soviet forces, Finnish fighters became famous for adopting the use of the Molotov Cocktail to defeat Soviet tanks. Unlike the crude kerosene bombs favoured by rioters, Finnish Molotov Cocktails utilise a combination of alcohol, kerosene, tar, and potassium chlorate, which would stick to a surface more readily, and rather than a simple rag, utilised a storm match (a special kind of match that can maintain a flame even when wet or when windy). Using these Molotov Cocktails, Finnish soldiers would allow Soviet tanks to close the distance, and then swarm them once they got close.

  • Anteater Team is made the flag tank this match, in keeping with Das Finale‘s third act’s portrayal of mixing things up. Anteater team has come quite a long ways from their first match: I still vividly recall when they were knocked out by a round meant for Miho during the round against Black Forest, but here, they’ve evidently improved as tankers, enough to make a meaningful contribution to Ooarai. While Anteater Team brings to the table strategies and methods they derived from playing an in-universe version of World of Tanks, they’re now best known for lifting weights and being the strongest members on Ooarai’s Panzerfahren team.

  • This change is, in retrospect, a fantastic choice: World of Tanks is nowhere nearly as popular as it was eight years ago, during Girls und Panzer‘s heyday. I myself never got into World of Tanks because the mechanics were far different than what I had patience for, and today, the major Girls und Panzer clans for World of Tanks have largely disbanded. This isn’t going to stop me from using Battlefield Portal‘s match creators to create a convincing simulation of what would happen if I were to square off against AnimeSuki’s Mädchen und Panzer, a haughty bunch that actively practised the Nishizumi Style in their gameplay. Back in Das Finale, the decision to have Anteater Team be the flag tank ends up being a wise one: while Miho is able to organise a tactical retreat and exit the closed-in village, a round suddenly slams into the side of her Panzer IV.

  • This round comes from none other than Jouko, a gunner whose accuracy has earned her the name of “The White Witch”. The moment I heard this, I immediately thought of Simo Häyhä, a Finnish sniper whose remarkable kill count came from his unerring skill with the Finnish-made M/28-30 and a preference for iron sights so scope glint wouldn’t give him away. Häyhä estimated that he’d made around 500 kills in his career, and he became a source of terror for Soviet soldiers, who named him “The White Death”. This reference swiftly establishes that Jouko is Continuation’s sniper, and as such, an instrumental part of their strategy. While sources indicate that Jouko operates a tank of unknown type, I imagine that given Continuation’s lineup, it’s a either the T34/85 with the DT-5 85mm gun, or a Sturmi, the Finnish StuG III Ausf.G, which sports a 7.5 cm KwK 40. While incapable of trading blows with a Tiger or Panther, the T34/85 tanks were more than capable of knocking out Panzer IVs, and the StuG III is a purpose-built tank destroyer, so both would be suitable as candidates for Jouko’s choice of armour.

  • Against a team known for highly-accurate distance shooting, there are several approaches that can be utilised. Smoke would be the best bet, obfuscating the sharpshooters view, and since World War Two-era tanks lack any sort of thermal optics, use of smoke in conjunction with methods to close the distance and engage, or else create enough of a distraction to prevent the sniper from landing hits before closing the distance and handling them. Without Miho and Anko in play, the remainder of Ooarai must now find another way of keeping Anteater alive while dealing with their flag tank; perhaps Rabbit team and their tendency to use inspiration from old war films will step up to the plate. This is something that we viewers will likely have to wait a ways to see, but for the time being, I’m glad that Das Finale‘s third act is out in the open: it’s the perfect Christmas gift, a fantastic way to spend the day, and on this note, I’d like to wish all readers a Merry Christmas! I’ll be returning in the New Year to write about the accompanying OVA, Daikon War, and in the meantime, a few more posts will round out this year.

The potential for variety in Girls und Panzer is staggering, and while the entire series’ outcome is preordained, how a conclusion is reached remains the most thrilling aspect of Das Finale – there is not doubt that Ooarai will prevail over Continuation Academy, but this is secondary to how the outcome is attained. This aspect is what creates excitement in Girls und Panzer, compelling viewers to retain their anticipation for upcoming instalments. However, while the armoured warfare piece of Girls und Panzer is doubtlessly why the series has seen such success (technical excellence and unparalleled choreography makes every second gripping), Girls und Panzer‘s charm comes from being able to weave gripping combat sequences with meaningful life lessons. Throughout the whole of Girls und Panzer, messages of patience, open-mindedness, creativity and humility dominate the series. As characters board their tanks and engage one another, they learn more about things like teamwork, collaboration and sportsmanship. Through Panzerfahren, characters discover more about themselves, as well. Hana becomes more confident, and this shows in her flower arrangements, in turn leading her mother to respect her decision to take up Panzerfahren. Yukari is overjoyed to have new friends to share her passion with, putting her parents at ease that now, she’s no longer alone. Mako takes solace in the fact that her grandmother is now rooting for her success. Similarly, through Miho’s uncanny ability to pull victories off where it should have been impossible, she’s managed to regain her mother’s respect, as well. However, until now, Miho remains a little too apprehensive to have an open discussion with her mother, and similarly, while Shiho seems to want nothing more than to reconcile with Miho and acknowledge her skill, the opportunity never seems to present itself, either. Because Girls und Panzer had previously shown how confidence helps characters to face down some of the challenges they internally face, it is logical for Das Finale to carry this message forward and have Shiho and Miho reconcile in full: Panzerfahren has, after all, been shown to bring people together and even bring out the best in individuals. Such an outcome would consolidate the fact that series like Girls und Panzer can retain the slice-of-life aesthetic while employing creative activities for characters to conduct, although for the time being, whether or not my hopes will be realised is something that viewers will need an abundance of patience for. Das Finale‘s first chapter became available to the world in mid-March of 2018, and the second chapter followed suit in late February of 2020. Das Finale‘s arrival in late December 2021 means that on average, the wait from one episode to the next is twenty-two-and-a-half months. On these estimates, the BD for the fourth chapter to Das Finale will release in mid-October of 2024. There is little doubt that Das Finale‘s strengths means that the next instalments are worth waiting for, and I’m rather excited to see how the battle against Continuation Academy will unfold, especially now that Miho’s been taken out of the fight. As such, even if we suppose that the fourth installment of Das Finale reaches me in 2024, I will be more than happy to write about it for readers.