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Tag Archives: The Art of War

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

知彼知己,百戰不殆;不知彼而知己,一勝一負;不知彼,不知己,每戰必敗。

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The role of the frontal lobes on Miho’s decision-making capacity and qualifications as a commander in Girls und Panzer

“The human brain has a hundred billion neurons, each neuron connected to ten thousand other neurons. Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object in the known universe.” —Michio Kaku

The Girls und Panzer Movie approaches; even though there’s no solid release date yet, the recent release of a PV that depicts St. Gloriana engaged with Ooarai and what appears to be Chi ha-tan’s forces engaged in the exercises after the former wishes to participate in a drill using a much greater number of tanks. Anticipation for the movie is mounting, and for good reason: Girls und Panzer turned out to exceed all expectations and presented an excellent story to audiences about sportsmanship and teamwork. The series’ protagonist, Miho Nishizumi, is seen as a suitable hero, being competent, compassionate and humble. However, there have been ill-conceived beliefs that Miho is in fact a “frail emotional young girl”, motivated by over her actions during a Panzerfahren match that would cost Black Forest their title. During this match, Miho chose to save her teammates who had fallen into a river, in the process abandoning the flag-tank and allowing it to be shot down. Naturally, even after all the discussions, debates and investigations that had happened during and shortly after the season’s run, no one was able to reach a satisfactory conclusion. The issues were soon completely forgotten, leaving behind the myth that Miho is “frail” and “emotional” in some circles. This myth might have been allowed to endure, were it not for the Giant Walkthrough Brain. I was observing a rehearsal of the Giant Walkthrough Brain at the Banff Summer Arts Festival, and while the visualisation software was guiding viewers to the frontal lobe, Jay Ingram mentioned that the frontal lobes played a role in decision-making. I read this moment a thousand times in the script while fine-tuning the software’s timing for this section of the brain, but after hearing the entire presentation for the first time during rehearsal, I soon realised the brain holds the explanation to bust this myth for good. In this post, I will show that there is substantial evidence to illustrate that Miho is, in fact, a calm, collected hero and her decision during her ill-fated match, far from illustrating her deficiencies, further shows that Miho’s personality is one befitting of a commander, regardless of whether or not it was inappropriate in its context.

  • This post, my four hundred and sixtieth,  is written for Girls und Panzer fans to enjoy: I offer a unique spin on what was once a controversial topic, and with more than a year having elapsed since the flame wars over whether or not Miho’s decision was correct. Instead of arguing semantics here about how plausible it is to escape sinking armour or whether officials would have called the match, I chose to look at the situation from a biological perspective. This ultimately leads to one unusual analogue: assuming most of the discussions’ participants are adults with developed frontal lobes, their attempts to rationalise Miho’s decision is roughly equivalent to that of an exasperated parent wondering why their teenage offspring have such a propensity towards risk-taking.

As a quick bit of background, decision-making processes are carried out in the frontal lobe; this area of the brain assesses the future consequences of a given set of options and drives individuals to pick the optimal solution, while dissuading individuals from poor decisions (usually those with detrimental consequences for the future). Important as they are, the frontal lobes do not fully develop in humans until around the mid-twenties, accounting for why youth are more predisposed towards risk-taking [1]. This is particularly important: Miho’s decision during the now-infamous championship match can no longer be attributed solely as a product of rational thought, but rather, partly influenced by the complex chemistry within the immature frontal lobes. At the time, Miho was fourteen, so physiologically, her frontal lobes are not yet developed. Thus, Miho’s actions would then be driven by a combination of her innate personality (compassion towards her teammates) and an incomplete decision-making process, explaining why she chose to take the actions that she did. With this in mind, whether or not the downed tank was in any actual danger is no longer of any relevance: what matters is that Miho believed them to be in danger, and her subsequent actions have a physiological basis based on her belief, leading to what we ultimately see. Expecting anything more from a high school girl, especially with the frontal lobes’ incomplete development and the corresponding impact on decision-making, might prove to be unreasonable, and Miho might even be said to have acted as one might expect someone around her age to act.

  • There is a citation in this post, but that is because the information I required here necessitates a proper citation. I prefer the Vancouver style for its conciseness and used it wherever I could during my undergraduate courses. Now that I’m moving away from the health sciences, I will have to get used to the ACM and IEEE standards. Now, it is to my understanding, even with Miho’s frontal lobes being at the forefront of all discussion, readers will probably still be drawn to her other, well, features.

For the present, we will briefly set aside the matter of Miho’s frontal lobes. As with everyone else, they are constantly maturing and so, we can assume that Miho will be less prone to impulsive action as time wears on. Throughout Girls und Panzer, Miho is depicted as kind and caring, almost to a fault. In the series’ opening, she is willing to take up Panzerfahren against her will solely for her friends’ sake. In training, she offers her teammates advice and never demands the impossible of them, while in battle, she continuously reassures her teammates and does her best to help all of them out of tight spots. She treats all of her opponents with respect, befriending those she meets on the battlefield and forging long friendships. This temperament leads Miho to save her teammates; even if the decision was rash, she is compelled to act in this manner because to Miho, her teammates’ safety is worth sacrificing a victory for. This is an admirable branch of thinking, and although the moment is tarnished by immature frontal lobes, it illustrates that Miho’s priorities are in the right place. We recall Sun Tzu, who notes that a commander who cares for their subordinates and treats them accordingly will eventually find themselves commanding subordinates who are willing to follow them wherever they go. It becomes evident that Miho has the characteristics of a good commander; perhaps with more developed frontal lobes, Miho may have assessed the situation more carefully and have been able to pull off a victory, while reassuring the downed tank that they’re going to be fine, and make a more well-reasoned decision as to whether or not hopping into the river was in fact necessary.

  • Truth be told, the reason why discussions were going in circles were partially attributed to the lack of any concrete information from official Girls und Panzer sources. Another of the participants mentioned that this topic might’ve been lost to time, but I imagine that I’ve supplied enough content to persuade and support the notion that Miho’s actions, though inappropriate given the context, nonetheless underlie her capacity as a qualified commander.

Brain physiology is a complex subset of medicine, and although I am nowhere near qualified to delve into it with more a more rigorous approach, an abstraction already provides a succinct outside-the-box approach towards explaining Miho’s actions, without requiring a full understanding of what conditions can cause a Panzerfahren match to be suspended. I’ve tried to look at things from all possible perspectives, and while I find opposing viewpoints to offer well-argued positions (i.e. that Miho’s actions might not be necessary), using a rational, methodical  analysis, it’s clear that Miho is a suitable hero for Girls und Panzer. The facts and footage have been assessed with a critical eye: while Miho’s decision during the championship may not be appropriate, it also has a physiological basis, meaning that Miho did not act after a reasoned thought process. However, when taken in conjunction with her general demeanor and decisions throughout Girls und Panzer, it shows that Miho has a calm and kind heart, traits equally as vital as forward thinking and flexibility for a highly competent and capable commander. This evidence would suggest an appropriate and logical conclusion: the championship represents a one-off for Miho, serving to illustrate that even though impulsiveness may have far-reaching consequences, one can never be sure about the correctness of their decision until they resolve to make the most of things. Here, Miho succeeds in rediscovering her love for Panzerfahren, and with this in mind, we may finally speculate what awaits Miho in the Girls und Panzer Movie without being troubled by doubts surrounding how capable of a commander she is.

References

  1. Giedd JN, Blumenthal J, Jeffries NO, et al. Brain development during childhood and adolescence: a longitudinal MRI study. Nature Neurosci. 1999; 2 (10): 861–863.

The Nishizumi Style, or better yet, The Road to Ruin

“Your compassion is a weakness your enemies will not share.” ” That’s why it’s so important. It separates us from them.” -Henri Ducard and Bruce Wayne, Batman Begins

A few nights ago, the full moon was out, illuminating the yard in an ethereal blue light. I was having trouble sleeping, and decided that I would relax with a little bit of reading before attempting to retire for the evening. I scanned my shelves and came across a copy of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. My inclination was to revisit some of the principles that had previously helped guide me through challenges at university and life in general, recalling several key phrases that I constantly cite as my favourite quotes from The Art of War. When I set the book down half an hour later, I realised that The Art of War would find applicability in at least one other place, albeit one where there’d be little relevance to the real world, and as I drifted off, my mind began drafting this post, where I intend to discuss in some detail the Nishizumi Style and in particular, how its paradigms contradict those written by Sun Tzu two thousand years ago.

  • Thought-provoking posts are actually quite tiresome to write and may have its share of grammatical and syntactical errors. I hope that one Sumeragi “Daigensui” Akeiko eventually encounters this post, which unequivocally shows that her way of thinking is wrong.

Specifics about the Nishizumi Style are only hinted at in the Girls und Panzer anime; one would need to read through Girls und Panzer: Little Army to gain a more definitive understanding of the Nishizumi Style, although this is in itself a reasonably straightforward endeavor. Simply put, Shiho Nishizumi states that the Nishizumi Style emphasises: “victory and strength, advancing without hindrance by emotions, and achieving victory without fail.” (C7.P23) In other words, this doctrine assumes that one needs to be superior in numbers and equipment; where this assumption holds, the goal is victory at any cost. There are moral implications to this particular school of thought, but that would fill several books and therefore is outside the scope of this decision. During the course of my readings, I came across two passages that illustrate the shortcomings of the Nishizumi Style: Sun Tzu himself said that “he who is strong everywhere will be weak everywhere”. That is to say, a doctrine that is driven by strength will naturally be weak, ergo making it susceptible to failure. Of course, those who’ve seen the Girls und Panzer anime will concur to some extent when I claim that Miho’s Panzerfahren is successful because it is consistent with Sun Tzu’s writings. In particular, I will make use of Black Forest’s performance in the anime to draw the comparisons between the Nishizumi Style and Miho’s own approach: the former contradicts virtually everything in The Art of War, while Miho best demonstrates how to correctly utilise weakness, strength, position and disposition. It is therefore unsurprising that Ooarai continues to put up excellent fights against technically superior opponents.

  • For anyone who has yet to read the Little Army manga, it clarifies a lot of detail and also makes Maho seem far friendlier than her anime self. I contend that the antagonist in Girls und Panzer is quite simply not having fun doing what one does. The head of my department once said that our field of study is simply “what we do”, signifying that the ultimate pursuit of something should be done for the sake of the pursuit itself. Maho wishes for the same thing for Miho, even if it is not immediately apparent in the anime.

Sun Tzu Said: There are five circumstances which can make the commander win victory. He who knows when he may fight and when he may not will win; he who knows how to adopt the appropriate military art according to the number of his own troops and his enemy’s will win; he whose generals and soldiers can fight with one heart and mind will win; he who is well prepared while his enemy is unprepared will win; he who is a wise and able general and whom the sovereign does not interfere with will win. It is in these five circumstances that the way to victory is known.

The Nishizumi Style fails to satisfy any of these criteria. Because it so strictly advocates moving forward, practitioners of the Nishizumi Style lack any real understanding of when they may need to make a tactical retreat, instead, pushing themselves forward by virtue of superior numbers and firepower with the expectation that they will be successful. The second point is directly tied to the first: Sun Tzu notes that being aware of the enemy’s numbers is useful, and capitalising on those numbers is what will allow victory. The smaller army should carefully assess the larger army’s movement to pick the best positions to attack, or should the need arise, retreat and fight another time under more favourable conditions. A larger army should intimidate the smaller army and wear down its morale before firing any shots. The Nishizumi Style completely ignores this aspect: during Black Forest’s fight against Ooarai, they immediately set up an ambush, but Miho’s knowledge of Maho’s techniques means that her forces do not lose their resolve to the extent required for Black Forest to achieve a victory. Thus, Ooarai is permitted one key advantage, despite its inferior numbers and weapons, leading to the third point. Miho is well-established as a capable leader, not so much for her forcefulness, but for the care she shows all of her crew. At another point in The Art of War, Sun Tzu mentions that a capable commander punishes and rewards his subordinates appropriately such that they respect him without hating him. Miho’s compassion for each and every one of her teammates forges the bonds that motivate them to follow her orders and trust her completely. By comparison, it appears that Maho’s teammates arrive at the battlefield and seek victory under the assumption that Maho will lead them to it (yet another flaw). Ooarai is unified in hearts and minds, out of both respect for Miho, and the threat of their school closing. Sun Tzu’s fourth point, preparedness, is again ignored by the Nishizumi Style. As strange as it seems, it becomes apparent that Ooarai is has Black Forest by the nose for much of the battle’s opening phases, leading them up a hill and taking the high ground: instead of preventing threats, Black Forest is reacting to them. In doing so, they lose the initiative. Sun Tzu notes that: “…he who arrives later will make war in haste and be weary.” Granted, Black Forest gradually gains the upper hand by virtue of having a Maus and drawing out the battle using their numbers to deplete Ooarai’s forces, but this battle illustrates just how critical adaptability is. Sun Tzu’s last point, conerning minimal interference from the soverign, is perhaps an afterthought where the Nishizumi Style is concerned. Practitioners of the Nishizumi Style must follow it completely, and in doing so, bind themselves to a rigid, unyielding style whose strength is also its weakness, whereas Miho, free of the need to conform, is able to find her own tactics.

  • This post may be about my thoughts on a particular idea, but I’m still free to populate it with images of my choosing. Moreover, it’s summertime right now, so I imagine that an image of this sort is not only enhancing my content, but is in fact appropriate. I wonder how supporters of the Nishizumi Style will react to such an image.

Sun Tzu Said: Having more soldiers in war does not give absolute superiority. Never advance recklessly by sheer force, but concentrate your troops through a correct assessment of the enemy’s deposition and you will defeat the enemy. He who lacks careful thought and strategy and underestimates the enemy will surely be captured by the opponent.

Contrasting this to the Nishizumi Style’s “advancing without hindrance by emotions”, we already note an immediate contradiction. Sun Tzu advocates carefully determining how the enemy organise themselves and their numbers, before deciding on where their weaknesses are, and striking at those weaknesses, such that the expenditure of resources and manpower is minimal relative to the results achieved. However, from what we’ve seen in Girls und Panzer, Black Forest (in keeping with the Nishizumi Style) prefer to overwhelm their opponents with superior firepower and numbers. Until they challenged Ooarai, this approach worked, but a constant advance is not sufficient where an opponent is aware of their enemy’s advantages. Maho does order her tanks not to pursue recklessly at one point, instead, requiring her units to regroup before maintaining pursuit. Throughout the course of their battle, Maho keeps her operational tanks together as a large group, bypassing the classic “Divide and Conquer” strategy that would otherwise be afforded by their superior numbers. Assuming that their superior weapons would defeat Ooarai, Black Forest fails to anticipate the guerrilla tactics Miho employs and is thrown into disarray. This alone is sufficient to undermine their morale. Quite honestly, I was originally expecting impressive strategies from Maho during the finale prior to their release, but by this stage, it is hardly surprising that Black Forest’s techniques appear unimpressive and in some cases, even foolish. In retrospect, it appears that in-universe, the Nishizumi Style is respected for its reckless force, and that few schools appear prepared to take on such an opponent head on; even when confronted with a numerically and technically equal enemy, the Nishizumi style would likely continue advancing, regardless of the casualties they sustain to non-essential (i.e. any tank that is not the flag tank) forces. This grim determination would portray to the opponent that they are going up against a force that is hellbent on advance, without any concern for their own safety. Such attitudes have proven highly effective at intimidating the enemy in history, and against high school girls, would be sufficiently frightening as to demoralise them, depriving them of the will to fight. Advancing quickly would ensure that the other tank crews lose composure even if the commander remains collected, preventing them from rallying the team. This would account for why other schools who have faced Black Forest thus far have fallen. Conversely, when faced with strategies that follow Sun Tzu’s writings more carefully, it is obvious that brute force alone falls to precision and determination.

  • I did promise that Girls und Panzer posts would be fewer after the series ended. However, I cannot guarantee that, given that there may be such nights where my mind drifts towards some of the things in that anime and I subsequently consider as worthwhile for discussion. For the present, so ends another Girls und Panzer post, albeit one classified as “General Discussion”.

For brevity’s sake, the discussion will wrap up shortly: after all, this is a blog, and not a 6000-word paper I’ll need to turn in for a class. In summary, throughout the course of the anime and through the Little Army manga, viewers are exposed to the Shiho’s beliefs in the Nishizumi Style and its accompanying flaws. There have been some suggestions that Girls und Panzer is a deliberate attempt to drive home the point that sportsmanship and fun are more relevant than some barbaric, bizarre adherence to “honour”. However, there are some who have insisted that the Nishizumi Style is appropriate. I have only given two points here, but perhaps it is saying something when only two points are already sufficient to demonstrate the weaknesses of the Nishizumi Style. I certainly don’t carry out my academics or martial arts with the “victory at all costs” mindset, and would in fact view a refusal to back down from such an aggressive position as sociopathic and counterproductive. In closing, I remark that Sun Tzu’s The Art of War has been around for a little more than two thousand years, and the fact that its writings remain effective even to this day bear testament to how knowledge, adaptability and understanding are central elements towards achieving victory.