“What were you trying to prove? That deep down, everyone’s as ugly as you?! You’re alone!” –Batman to The Joker, The Dark Knight
As it turns out, Mako’s grandmother is in fine spirits and implores everyone to go back to school. Saori explains that despite what looks like a rocky relationship, Mako cares greatly about her grandmother because her parents had passed away in an accident when she was younger, and her grandmother is the only family she has left. The next day, Miho is surprised to see her friends join her for lunch – Miho reveals that a year earlier, during the National Championship match, she’d abandoned her flag tank to save allies whose Panzer III had fallen into the river. This cost Black Forest their tenth consecutive win, and led her to leave Panzerfahren, but Yukari and the others reassure Miho she’d done the right thing. With the match against Anzio, an Italian-themed school, approaching, the Panzerfahren team set off to find more tanks and come across a Char B1 Bis, as well as a 7.5 cm KwK 40. Miho finds herself overwhelmed with requests from the other teams, but each of Yukari, Saori, Hana and even Mako step up to help her out. On the day of the match, Ooarai smashes up Anzio for a decisive victory. Spurred on by their win, Ooarai is in fine spirits for their match against Pravda, the previous year’s champions. Pravda’s commander, Katyusha, is confident Miho and her crew will pose no challenge to her, while spurred on by their success, Ooarai’s teams are fired up and look forwards to squaring off against Pravda. The Student Council invite Miho over to dinner with them so they can share something with her, but lack the courage to do so, and feel it to be best if Miho doesn’t know why it’s so imperative that Ooarai win the National Championship. Meanwhile, Shiho expresses to Maho her intent to disown Miho. On the day of the match, Ooarai’s spirit leads Miho to adopt an offense-driven strategy; although she’d wanted to feel Katyusha’s forces out before engaging, the snowy terrain leads Miho to agree that a swift strike would prevent attrition. Although Ooarai appears to take the initiative, they are ultimately drawn into a trap and surrounded. Katyusha sends a pair of emissaries to offer them a chance to surrender, and while Miho considers this route, Momo finally caves from pressure and explains that Ooarai must win, otherwise, their school will be decommissioned. Girls und Panzer floors the accelerator with one revelation after another, and although the match against Pravda doubtlessly illustrates the dangers of overconfidence and failing to play things more cautiously in its initial stages, the seventh and eighth episodes of Girls und Panzer also reveal the reason behind why Miho left Panzerfahren to begin with, as well as why the Student Council had reiterated to Miho, time and time again, the importance of winning. In particular, the question of whether or not Miho’s decision to save her teammates at the expense of the champion ship lingered – this discussion sparked one of the most vitriol-filled, emotional flame wars I’d ever had the misfortune of witnessing. For a full week, AnimeSuki’s forums saw two individuals insulting the characters, slinging ad hominem attacks at those who disagreed with them and even self-aggrandising in an attempt to persuade others of their own opinion’s validity. While it speaks volumes about how engaging Girls und Panzer is, such behaviours are unacceptable and speak poorly about a small subset of AnimeSuki’s users – we will leave them for the present and focus purely on the arguments themselves.
Miho’s decision to save her teammate is entirely justified from the literary standpoint – Girls und Panzer strives to portray how Miho is compassionate and cares for those around her, and that this is her individual approach to Panzerfahren. Simply put, Miho wins battles through hearts and minds, not through overwhelming force and unerring discipline, and because Kay had indicated Panzerfahren can be played in any way so long as it’s fair, it follows that Miho’s approach to Panzerfahren is not wrong. However, the adherence to detail in Girls und Panzer naturally invites a more technical discussion about whether or not the Panzer III’s crew was in any imminent danger that necessitated Miho’s actions in rescuing them: to answer this question, the only thing viewers have to go off of was Miho’s flashback, which show Miho jumping into a relatively deep river with moderate current to go after the Panzer III, after it’d fallen down an embankment that looked about 6-7 metres in height. However, this flashback, in conjunction with two things Girls und Panzer had already shown to viewers, is sufficient to work out a conclusion. Firstly, it is established that shell impacts can knock crew unconscious. This happened to Hana during their training exercise in the third episode. Second, Miho is shown to ask for sit-reps whenever her allies are hit or mission-killed, checking in to see if everyone’s alright. Finally, Miho had practised the Nishizumi Style all her life and is shown to be quite disciplined, which allows us to infer that she follows protocol as best as she can. While Miho may have been less experienced during that particular match, having these three points means the following could logically have occurred – after the stray shell loosened the ground and sent the Panzer III careening into the ravine below, Miho immediately called in and asked if the crew was okay. However, she receives no response: either the entire crew is knocked out, or the radio is damaged, rendering them unable to reply. Being in a flowing river could only lead to further injury or even drowning, especially if the tank is taking on water and the crew are knocked out. With no other way of checking, Miho decides her teammates’ safety is more important and therefore acts. By making a judgement call and acting on it, Miho was able to get one of the Panzer III’s hatches open and get the crew out before the tank had sunk too deep for an escape to be safe. This is a split-second decision that characterises Miho’s approach towards Panzerfahren, and by drawing on existing facts in Girls und Panzer, I’ve established that there had been a potentially dangerous, life-threatening situation that Miho mitigated by acting as quickly as she did, and in doing so, this provides my answer for whether or not Miho did the right thing: she unequivocally and indisputably did.
However, there is another side to things – some have argued that Miho had acted inappropriately, sacrificing the bigger goal for her own ideals. From the perspective that the team matters more than the individual, Miho’s actions saved a single crew at the expense of the team. In Eastern values, this is a poor decision because collective goals tend to be given greater emphasis than individual goals. A difference of values would prove immensely difficult to argue, and while I myself do believe that there are situations where it is appropriate, even necessary to make short-term sacrifices for long term gains, a value-laden approach results in cyclic discussions because values are rooted in subjective emotion (and therefore, cannot be intrinsically said to be either valid or invalid). As such, alternative perspectives of Miho’s actions must establishing that the opposite conclusion is true (i.e. the Panzer III’s crew were not in any imminent danger). The main piece of evidence that seemingly points towards this, is the fact that the match had not been temporarily halted. By this argument, Panzerfahren matches are paused if referees determine there is sufficient danger as to warrant such a call, or simply not stopped for anything. However, while matches are watched closely by cameras, Panzerfahren is quite unlike something like football or ice hockey: they are laid out over a large area, and it would take crews time to arrive to do anything meaningful. Further to this, rough terrain means not everything can be seen (and therefore, reacted to). Even on the supposition that matches can be paused, there is a possibility that the Panzer III’s crew could have suffered from additional injuries as a result of colliding with any rocks in the river, or even have drowned if they’d been rendered incapable of exiting the Panzer III under their own power. Conversely, being in the immediate vicinity, Miho was in a position to act. Similarly, because Miho had been present, she would be able to assess the situation for herself before making a judgement call. It is not valid to say Miho recklessly abandoned her duty, or that she unnecessarily endangered herself in the process – Miho was at the scene and therefore able to assess what was happening before choosing her course of action. Had the Panzer III replied to her hails, Miho may have perhaps breathed a sigh of relief at their safety and continued with the match. Because this is a flashback, there is insufficient evidence to say definitively whether or not the circumstances were safe, but indicators elsewhere in Girls und Panzer suggest that, at the very least, there was the possibility that the Panzer III’s crew could have been rendered incapable of escaping a sinking tank under their own power, and had Miho just left her teammates to suffer from injury in pursuit of a trophy, it would speak especially poorly to her character. As it was, this incident shows Miho was brought up in an environment that was not conducive towards compassion and empathy; because this contradicts Miho’s own intrinsic values, it created tensions that would drive her to leave Black Forest and, incidentally, set her down a new path that allowed Miho to rediscover her own strengths anew. While there might be merits to both sides, there are slightly more evidence favouring Miho, which is why I continue to hold that yes, Miho did the right thing.
Screenshots and Commentary
- While it is to general relief that Mako’s grandmother is fine, Girls und Panzer‘s seventh episode would end up torching off the single most vitriolic, undisciplined and tiring flame war I’d bore witness to (far surpassing the flame wars for Rising of the Shield Hero and Redo of Healer). This particular matter surrounded the validity of Miho’s decision during the previous year’s championship round, and the venue was AnimeSuki, ground zero for the flame war of the century. I was lucky enough to sit things out at the time, since I was in the middle of studying for my software engineering, databases and statistics course. At the same time, I was also wrapping up the written thesis for my undergraduate research project course. The decision to sit out that particular flame war meant I would end up ending my term strong, and in turn, paved my path to the present.
- However, a part of me has always regretted not joining the fray and setting a few strongly-held misconceptions straight for the record. This post is, in part, a chance for me to address a few things I’ve wanted to long address, and as such, it will be a little longer than usual. Further to this, I’ve elected not to mention any names until this point, but now is not the time for subtlety: Akeiko “Daigensui” Sumeragi, and willx were the two individuals behind AnimeSuki’s flame war. Whereas the remainder of the community had (quite civilly, and thoroughly) argued that Miho’s decision was in the right, these two insisted that there was no basis for Miho to exit her tank and save her teammates because there hadn’t been sufficient evidence for danger. Sumeragi’s biggest mistake was misconstruing the argument into a debate about martial arts.
As if people were actually in danger of dying. I expect injuries and possible deaths to happen, as with any activity. The difference here is I consider the assumption that [to] not automatically help [those in trouble] equals bloodlust to be absolute intolerance of the essence of traditional martial arts.
- By indicating that Panzerfahren is a sport where there is intrinsic risk of death, Sumeragi created the impression that “the essence of traditional martial arts” entailed the expectation of death or injury, and that anyone who thought otherwise was “soft” and “gentle”. Having been a practitioner of Gojū-ryū karate for just a shade over two decades, I myself hold a nidan (second-degree black belt), and over this time, I’ve trained under the knowledge that taking martial arts seriously simply means driving for self-improvement. This is what Sumeragi was fundamentally missing about martial arts: while injury is a present risk, practitioners will actively strive to ensure they do not injure themselves, or their opponents, whether it be during a match or training. One therefore cannot fault other members of the forum for reaching the conclusion that the idea of “expecting” injury, or even death, to occur, is to demonstrate violent tendencies. This is most definitely not taking martial arts seriously, but rather, demonstrates sociopathy and a complete lack of concern for others in favour of one’s own ideologies. When Sumeragi was questioned about whether or not he’d considered being inside a tank that was sinking in a river to be a dangerous situation, the following response was given:
Been there, done that, and if someone of my statute can do it by [himself], I don’t see how a crew of five cannot do it unless they were unfit for the job in the first place. Admittedly I am harsh, but I do put high standards on everything I do.
- This is insufficient because it both assumes poor faith (i.e. the tank’s crews lacked the know-how and competence to look after their own safety), and because the analogy Sumeragi raised is dependent on additional evidence that he flat-out refused to provide. This is a prime example of an argumentum ad verecundiam (appeal to authority) fallacy, specifically, a false authority argument: in order for Sumeragi’s anecdote to apply to the argument at hand, Sumeragi needed to provide concrete evidence that he had been in an analogous situation where 1) an armoured vehicle was sinking and 2) he escaped under his own power after it had been submerged. Had this actually occurred, it would have been satisfactory to indicate that Sumeragi’s method had some merit. Unfortunately Sumeragi refused to provide the necessary evidence to indicate this was true. Further to this, because no proof was presented contrary within Girls und Panzer, one could not definitively say that the Panzer III crew were in a situation where they had the capacity to extricate themselves.
- Overall, Sumeragi’s arguments were weakly-formed, based purely Sumeragi’s belief that his statements were self-evident (i.e. “I don’t need to explain myself because my arguments are self-evidence on virtue of my reputation”). This is arguing in bad faith: Sumeragi plainly had no intention of hearing out the other perspective, and he would ultimately go on to assert that he would not “compromise [his] values just because the rest of the world is being soft”. In such situations, the best move is simply to pay such individuals no mind: Sumeragi’s position doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, and at best, can be disregarded for bringing nothing of note to the discussion. At worst, it represents a dangerous and harmful way of thinking, one that would endanger both the individual and those around them. However, things at AnimeSuki would deteriorate further when willx, a longtime proponent of Sumeragi’s because they’d platooned together in World of Tanks, stepped in and took a tactless, hard-line approach by calling out people for disagreeing with Sumeragi.
Sorry, this has gotten ridiculous, people are particularly speculating on that one instance of the “tank in the water” — if that’s the case, answer me this, how does Miho diving into the water change the situation you outline above? Why not call for assistance? You can’t open the hatch from the inside — how the hell do you open it from the outside? If you can open it from the outside, then you can open it from the inside. It was either serious — and therefore Miho wouldn’t be able to help or it was not serious — in which case Miho was derelict of her actual duty.
- As a courtesy, I will first answer willx’s pointed questions; Miho’s decision to save her teammates was rooted in protocol. Given her actions in Girls und Panzer proper, of radioing in to check if her crews were okay (as she did when Duck team was taken out of the fight against Saunders), we know Miho observes procedure well enough. That she jumped into the river would show that something had happened as to render her worried enough to do so. If the Panzer III’s crew was indeed knocked out, in a tank that was filling with water, then there might not be enough time to wait for officials to come in and save them. Miho can’t communicate with the crew, so she has no way of knowing if they can even get the hatch open in time before the water pressure becomes too great. Her quick acting in getting the hatch open allowed her to ascertain their status before this became too difficult, and so, Miho was most certainly not deserting her responsibilities. I imagine that this would not be enough for willx because, like Sumeragi, he was also arguing in bad faith:
Look folks, people keep falling into differing tangents and drawing weak analogies to instances of “safety first!” “protect your comrades!” “ideals!” — but these are not perfect analogies. Getting led into a strawman argument comparison is not what it’s about. The question is this: was Miho’s response based on the fact of the matter reasonable? Beyond a doubt? Did she perform her duty? Did she fail to perform her duty?
- The analogies people had chosen were based on the limited information that was available from that scene. Girls und Panzer admittedly did not give viewers much to go on, and this leaves people to draw conclusions from what was known. To dismiss these arguments as “tangents” or “weak analogies” simply because they are succinct and complete shows a total lack of willingness to accept that Miho’s response might have a reasonable basis, beyond any doubt, and that further to this, she had not failed as a commander. This conclusion can be reached on the basis that, in a situation where there is little evidence to be definitive, it just so happens that there is slightly more evidence to say Miho performed her duty (as I’ve already shown in the paragraphs above), than there is to suggest Miho failed to perform her duty.
- Another poster, Wild Goose, eventually ended up drawing on expertise from SpaceBattles. Wild Goose similarly tired of both willx and Sumeragi. However, rather than arguing on their terms, Wild Goose took the higher route by consulting with people who had previous experience and therefore, were more qualified to assess the situation. Like myself, Wild Goose been of the mind that there had been imminent danger, and spotting how stubborn Sumeragi and willx were even in light of facts, decided to ask members of SpaceBattles who’d served in the armed forces for their thoughts. A Canadian non-commissioned officer (NCO) replied to Wild Goose:
Safety is a major concern on peacetime field exercises, including the adoption of several practices that would not be used in wartime to reduce the risk of harm…while deaths do happen in training, the general rule in the militaries is that no training objective is worth a life. Realizing that we work with inherently dangerous equipment in often chaotic situation, there’s some realism involved of course – any training completely devoid of risk would not be worth much, but the risk has to be balanced against training value.
- The key points to take away here is that in training, safety comes first. Miho herself had said so as much: Panzerfahren is done with the participant’s safety in mind, and but participants are similarly aware of the risks. Because Panzerfahren similarly entails use of heavy military machinery, organisers and regulators will have done their best to ensure the sport is safe, but even then, things can occasionally happen. In response to Wild Goose’s query about what happened in Girls und Panzer:
It’s not even close to a difficult decision. You stop the exercise and ensure the safety of the crew in the tank in the river. Soldiers can and have died when their vehicle fell into water, so it’s a complete no-brainer. Anyone who would continue a mere exercise and forgo the chance to ensure their safety has their priorities badly out of whack. In the Canadian Forces, they would be charged for negligence, and probably have criminal proceedings brought against them if any of the fallen tank’s crew actually died while they continued to play war.
Whether your assistance is actually physically needed is completely irrelevant. You do not have a crystal ball, you do not know whether your assistance is required. At worst, they do need assistance, and you are removing their chance of survival. At best, by continuing the exercise you are distracting others now dealing with serious real life problems, with your silly exercise bullshit. You stop training (this goes for BOTH sides in a force on force) and stand by to render any assistance to those in need as required.
- Thus, we had an expert opinion, presented by an individual who was qualified to talk about things from a military perspective. In Girls und Panzer, the matches’ referees should have spotted something was off, and ordered the match halted until the Panzer III’s crew could be secured, similarly to how play is stopped if a player takes an injury in a sports competition. The Canadian NCO further remarks that regardless of whether or not the Panzer III’s crew was in actual danger, Miho’s actions of checking is the correct one, as it is impossible to determine if assistance is actually needed unless one knows what the scope of the situation is. In typical manner, Sumeragi stated “And no, I don’t give particular care for the Canadian Armed Forces”, while willx saw fit to declare that he was more authoritative than someone from the armed forces. In a sarcasm-filled reply, willx attempted to write counterpoints for everything the NCO had shared with Wild Goose, arguing that if the situation in Girls und Panzer had been the no-brainer that the NCO suggested, the discussion would have ended long ago.
- What willx failed to grasp was that, the reason why the other forum members were persistently hammering home the point that Sumeragi was wrong, wasn’t because Sumeragi had simply been presenting an alternate viewpoint, but because Sumeragi was insinuating that he alone held the only valid opinion of things. Sumeragi’s position was backed so far into a corner that willx was forced to reply with this:
Looks like I need to address this point by point. This is not a no-brainer. If it was then there wouldn’t be this conversation. Keep in mind that the people you are discussing (remember, discussion, not debate) are likely (maybe!) for all intents and purposes fully grown adults with jobs, education and perhaps leadership roles in various organizations. Let’s not presume anyone is stupid here or is missing something obvious.
- willx’s response in this moment had suggested to me that the argument should have been as good as over. Besides willx, the only individual who had been on the other side of things was Sumeragi, so to suggest that Sumeragi was meritorious of consideration because he held various qualifications in life struck me as unusual (in fact, to this day, I remain baffled as to why willx would go to such lengths to defend Sumeragi). Whether or not Sumeragi is a “fully grown [adult] with jobs, education and perhaps leadership roles in various organizations” is neither here nor there, and even if Sumeragi was indeed someone with a leadership position at their workplace, it does not change the fact that the position he held pertaining to Girls und Panzer was tenable – arguments must stand of their own accord, and just because Sumeragi claimed he was “actually … in such a position [that] merges ruthlessness with situation awareness, and loved for it” didn’t have any relevance to the discussion at hand. Like willx, Sumeragi likely knew that, at this point, his position was untenable, hence the fallback on such crude claims to authority. One can therefore ignore willx’s demands that others listen to himself and Sumeragi purely on the basis that they were supposedly in positions of authority, because that is irrelevant. We therefore return to the concrete points of the debate that willx poses in Sumeragi’s steed.
1) They can stop the exercise! — No, they cannot, they were in a match. They lacked that authority. I don’t even know if they could call for a stop to the match but the match based on the portrayal in the show was not stopped. This was not their decision to make. The Senshado organization did not stop the match. Either 1) because there was no real danger, 2) the danger is considered acceptable or 3) Senshado matches are simply not stopped?
- In the match with Pravda, referees consider stopping the match owing to poor visibility arising from a snowstorm. Therefore, we’ve established that point three is untrue. Similarly, Miho mentions to Saori that numerous measures are in place to keep participants safe during their match against St. Gloriana. That Miho feels confident to keep her copula hatch open indicates she’s not worried about tank shells and debris flying by her head, and she doesn’t exit her tank to check on crews of a mission-killed tank, either. For Miho to react as she did to the sinking tank meant there was a good reason for her to be worried, so there’s differing levels of what is an acceptable amount of danger. Hence, point two fails to hold. Lastly, having established that Panzerfahren matches can be stopped, we suppose that owing to the size of the matches, and how spread out teams are, it will take some time to make a judgement call and halt things. Similarly, the large maps mean that in the event it was judged necessary to halt play, any rescue team would still take time to reach the trapped crew. In this time, they may have sustained injuries or find themselves in a more perilous situation. willx is jumping to conclusions here about the match not being stopped; stoppage could’ve been called after Pravda scored the winning shot, when the referees determined it was necessary, but the flashback does not provide us with this particular detail.
2) Because of #1 above, people are attributing to Shiho and Miho respectively “Ruthlessness/Bloodthirst [sic]” and “Heroism” — but why is this applied to the characters when they have no control over the situation? If anything the factum is that it is the “Senshado” organization that did not stop the match. The premise people assume is that people were in danger .. and even if they were or were not, Miho still acted recklessly as my statements above and previous (including factual discussions on tank hatches, underwater cars, etc.) As for “crystal ball” – this is addressed somewhat in [the NCO]’s paragraph 2, which I will now address in point #3.
- Shiho’s words to Miho in the aftermath of Black Forest’s loss are vague: she only restates the Nishizumi Style’s core tenants. While Girls und Panzer‘s themes mean that Shiho’s interpretation of the Nishizumi Style means she’s unlikely to be “ruthless” or “bloodthirsty”, the lack of information otherwise within the anime could reasonably lead to the conclusion that Shiho is ignorant about things like compassion and only concerned with victory. That Shiho is ruthless is therefore a valid bit of speculation, even though Shiho’s personality is explored to a larger extent in supplementary works, and the reality is that she’s got a poor idea of how to get along with Miho. Ultimately, there’s nothing malicious at play – through its portrayal of both rivals and familial conflict, Girls und Panzer actually does imply Shiho adheres to the Nishizumi Style as a family tradition, rather than any misguided or unjust reason, although to reiterate, this may not have been immediately clear based on how little we’ve seen of Shiho so far. Secondly, as I’ve noted previously, there is no evidence to say with confidence that the match had not, in fact, been stopped, either. This is not a valid assumption to make. Miho’s actions similarly have been indicated in other matches throughout Girls und Panzer proper: she’s shown as being consistent, and the main thing about her that changes is confidence. Therefore, it is valid to say that Miho had thought things out and made a split-second judgement call. Her actions were, in no way, reckless.
3) You don’t know if you can help but you should go see anyways! — Whoa, hold on there partner, as the leader of the platoon you must make calm impartial decisions. Running into help in an unnecessary circumstance will — 1) disrupt the chain of command and 2) could potentially make things worse. From what we saw portrayed, Miho, upon seeing the tank go under jumped out of her tank and dived into the water. Her crew did nothing. No one else did anything. She left the chain of command absolutely paralyzed and dove underwater. Do I need to finish my thought? She could have drowned? She could have added to the lives needing to be rescued? One tank already fell into the water .. her abandoning her tank could have made the situation much much much worse. All we can assess is what we are shown on screen and any person looking at it coldly and dispassionately can see it was not decision making and leadership at it’s finest.
- willx’s claims directly contradict what the Canadian NCO stated; even in the absence of additional information, that we had first-hand experience from a professional, coupled with information that Girls und Panzer had presented, indicates that Miho’s choice was rooted in a rational process. I further remark that, as the NCO has actual experience, I am inclined to place more weight on his remarks than those of willx’s. I concede that this scene is best reviewed with evidence available to us, but in willx’s haste to defend Sumeragi, it is clear that there are a large number of boundary cases willx left unaccounted for. Black Forest likely have trained its crews for the eventuality that one member may need to leave the tank or is knocked out, and moreover, roles are not static (we see characters change roles on the fly if needed on a few occasions). Miho may have very well asked someone to keep driving the tank, and it was bad luck that they were cornered on a narrow cliff-side road, leading to their loss. While perhaps not the best decision in the world, there is nothing to suggest firmly that Miho was wrong in her decision-making and leadership, either – she simply values the lives of her crew more than she does a title.
I am not debating ideals here folks — I am discussing the facts of the matter as portrayed on a screen. It is unclear from the footage and dialogue that Miho was effective at all. If anything, based on my recollection, the only time I heard that Miho actually “saved” anyone was one of her current teammates at Oorai saying: “I’m sure they’re happy you tried to save them”
- Whereas willx claims to be laying out what was observed on-screen, he completely fails to acknowledge that the lack of additional context could mean things can go both ways. Further to this, hints throughout the remainder of Girls und Panzer show that there is a reason behind why Miho chose the course of action that she did. Similarly, willx seems to demonstrate selective memory regarding things: it is the case that Yukari only speculates that Miho’s classmate was grateful for Miho’s rescuing them, but in what constitutes as a spoiler (but necessary for this debate), the commander to the tank Miho had tried to save openly expresses gratitude to her when they meet up later. Had Miho’s help been unwanted or inappropriate, this classmate would have regarded Miho coldly and not gone out of her way to thank Miho. Her tone towards Miho clearly indicates that she realised the danger she and her crew had been in that day, and therefore, Miho had been very effective. In this case, I’m not debating ideals, either: with the information portrayed on screen, using the evidence given, and some supplementary observations, I would think the choice is clear.
tl;dr — People are forming opinions about Shiho and Miho’s personality based on their own presumptions of this incident but failing to comprehend that the connection is tenuous at best or if seen from a different perspective then those opinions would be invalidated. All I am doing is reviewing facts and footage with a critical eye. I will admit here that I could very well be wrong. The next episodes may show Shiho standing up proclaiming: “Victory at all cost! I don’t care if you girls die!” — but somehow I doubt that. Same with Miho being a perfect depiction of a hero. A calm collected hero or a frail emotional young girl?
- I have now thoroughly offered counterarguments for each of willx’s points – examining everything available to us from within Girls und Panzer finds there is a little more evidence in favour of saying Miho had acted appropriately. However, willx’s tone and choice of words throughout this entire debate suggests to me that, all of this seems to be a very roundabout way of expressing his hatred of Miho, as evidenced when willx calls Miho a “frail emotional young girl”. Suddenly, it becomes very clear that willx is arguing in bad faith and was predisposed to dislike Miho from the start; at this point, there isn’t any more discussion to be had, simply because Willx had closed the door to alternate viewpoints regarding Miho. In reality, Miho is neither frail nor a hero: Girls und Panzer is a tale of rediscovery through friendship and trust, not of heroism, or war and its consequences. Since willx’s intentions are in the open now, I counter with a remark of my own – treating a fictional fifteen-year-old so harshly, and holding her up to the same standards as a qualified adult or trained professional, is to be unreasonable to the point of ridiculousness.
- One could easily make the case that Miho had made a less-than-ideal judgement call in the moment from a rational and fair perspective, especially if we consider other cultural values. Eastern values favour collectivism, and people are expected to make sacrifices at their own expense if it helps the group out, but these sacrifices are context-sensitive, and unnecessary sacrifice is seen as wasteful. Mention of something like this would easily have given Sumeragi and willx’s perspective weight, but instead of such a route, Sumeragi and willx’s conduct became increasingly poor as discussions wore on. willx considered his and Sumeragi’s “cold” and “dispassionate” posts to be the only correct stance on the matter, while seeing fit to lecture those who had felt Miho had acted correctly, by suggesting they were everyone else was being “emotional”.
tl;dr — Stop getting emotional. It irritates me and I don’t like feeling any emotion of any kind. Calm, cold, rational analysis shows that this young girl may not have made the right decision. People’s opinions of an ancillary character (Shiho) based on their personal interpretations of that one instance have people acting uncivilized to actual human beings. Think about that, opinions about a show have got people acting poorly, and irrationally, towards other real persons.
- Again, the caveat here was that neither willx nor Sumeragi had not done enough meaningful analysis to provide enough evidence for backing their claims. Instead, willx simply resorted to the tu quoque fallacy, claiming that everyone in the thread was getting on his nerves for using a value-laden approach. willx’s choice of words here struck me as irritating: analysis needs to be fair and reasoned, not “cold” or “dispassionate”. The latter indicate a disregard for things like empathy, compassion and understanding – in a discussion about human decisions and human emotions, these elements necessarily need to be considered. Ironically, it had been willx who’d been getting the most emotional, and despite an insistence Miho adhere to his standards for “calm”, willx himself did not appear calm during these discussions.
- I am now at the same age as willx had been during this little flame war, and to be frank, I find his behaviour disappointingly immature: at our age, one should have the patience and open-mindedness to hear others out. willx’s largest mistake was insisting that he was right, and that opinions contrary to his own held no weight. Conversely, I make an effort to listen to what others bring to the table, because a different set of eyes on things means becoming aware of how other people see the world. If someone said to me that Miho’s decision was untenable and walked me through their thought process, I’d be more than willing to acknowledge there are cases where Miho should not have acted the way she did. On this token, I won’t act as though my word is indisputable, either. I never see disagreement as a personal attack, and in fact, I welcome it because it helps me to evaluate my own world-views – sometimes, people do really bring things to the table I’ve not even considered, and in this way, This is why the Jon Spencer Reviews community is so valuable: there’s people from all walks of life, with their own experiences and thoughts.
- As an aside, I ended up befriending Wild Goose: Wild Goose’s attempts to talk sense into willx and Sumeragi was met with moderators deleting his posts, and a week-long ban was levelled against his account. Meanwhile, Sumeragi and willx got off scot-free: neither had any of their posts deleted, despite the fact that many of these posts were abrasive and counterproductive, and similarly, neither were banned for disruptive behaviours that were certainly in violation of forum rules. However, there had been a silver lining to this – Wild Goose’s ban from AnimeSuki had led us to exchange our thoughts via this blog’s comment section. In this way, I gained a reader and peer that I’ve come to greatly respect: although we’d met through a mutual dislike of Sumeragi and willx, we found shared interests in many things and had numerous, productive conversations even when we disagreed on several matters. Like myself, Wild Goose leads a busy life, and I’ve not heard from him for quite some time, although I do hope he’s been well.
- At this point, I believe I’ve done a thorough job of showing the set of circumstances that lead to my concluding Miho had done the right thing, acknowledged there is a case where people can see Miho as having made a mistake, but also, that Sumeragi and willx approached this from the wrong way. I therefore leave it with the reader to decide, for themselves, if Sumeragi and willx had any merits in their approaches and return the focus to the episode itself: to emphasise that Miho’s amongst good company, after their latest training session, the entire team approaches Miho looking for suggestions, leading to Miho’s friends delegating out tasks so Miho isn’t overwhelmed. Whereas Miho had appeared to try and take on too much as a result of her own belief that she shouldn’t burden others, at Ooarai, Miho learns that the people around her are there to support her to the same extent that she supports everyone else.
- Hana elects to help the student council with paperwork, while Mako helps the volleyball team drive their tanks better. Yukari speaks with the history buffs about improving their load times, and Saori helps the first years manage some of their problems. Messages of friendship, understanding, respect and sportsmanship dominate Girls und Panzer, and looking back, it is actually a bit surprising that during its airing, such messages were completely discarded in favour of arguments like how Panzerfahren worked, or whether or not a sinking tank posed a credible danger as to warrant Miho’s actions. This is what prompts the page quote: I’m not sure what exactly some of AnimeSuki’s members were thinking, but Panzerfahren certainly isn’t meant to be taken as seriously as it was, and while it may be presumptuous for me to say so, I highly doubt there are many who share Sumeragi and willx’s stance on things. The core messages are significantly more important, but even now, it seems that there is next to no respect at AnimeSuki for the themes Girls und Panzer had sought to convey.
- While Ooarai’s done modestly well with its existing arsenal, it becomes clear that other schools have an advantages in both numbers and hardware. To help the Panzerfahren team out, Momo suggests that they go looking around the school ship to see if there’s any tanks that survived the sell-off some years ago – it is stated that Ooarai had a formidable Panzerfahren programme some twenty years ago, but undisclosed circumstances led Ooarai into decline, and to keep the lights on, they’d been forced to sell their tanks. While hunting for new gear, Miho manages to find a Char B1 Bis, a French heavy tank that was originally designed to punch through trenches. Sporting up to 60 mm of armour, the Bis variant was more than capable of holding its own against German tanks of the day, although it was a slow-mover and consumed fuel at extremely high rates.
- Besides a Char B1 Bis, Miho also locates a KwK 40 L/48, a tank gun based off the Pak 40. The long barrel allowed for almost double the muzzle velocity of the KwK 37 L/24: with the right ammunition, the KwK 40 L/48 could punch through up to 176 mm of armour at ranges of under a hundred metres: in Panzerfahren, this renders the Panzer IV capable of dealing with virtually anything most schools can conceivable field, and this upgrade leaves Miho with the ability to deal some real damage now even against the Tiger I. While Ooarai still has a disadvantage in numbers, locating two new tanks, plus a new gun, provides them with much needed firepower that leaves them in a much better state than they’d been in at the start of Girls und Panzer.
- Saori had accompanied the first years while they went off to hunt down a lead about another tank in the depths of Ooarai’s school ship, and they get lost in the process, prompting Miho and her friends to go looking for them. This excursion provides a chance to show other sides of Anko team: Miho starts easily in unfamiliar settings, while Hana has an iron will and isn’t worried about the school ship’s darkened corridors. It is also revealed here that Mako has a fear of ghosts, which is ironic considering that she’s at her best during the night. Ever-prepared for all eventualities, Yukari has a helmet light, and using a bit of divination, she’s able to find Saori and the first years. Saori had done her best to keep the first years together, and as it turns out, their efforts result in a Porsche Tiger being found.
- While there isn’t enough time between the present and Ooarai’s match with Anzio to get the new tanks and equipment installed, finding the new gear is a massive boost for morale, and Miho promises everyone that she’ll do her best in the upcoming match against Anzio. Despite the episode’s name suggesting viewers would see a thrilling exchange between Ooarai and Anzio, the anime actually disappointed here in that only the outcome of the match would be shown.
- This led myself, along with other viewers, to wonder if Miho had curb-stomped Anzio in a battle that was not worth watching. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and a year later, an OVA detailing the actual Anzio battle was shown. As it turns out, Miho had no idea what Anzio would bring to the table and asked Yukari to do more reconnaissance, while Carpaccio and Takako Suzuki, two friends, reunite. The match is thrilling, with Anchovy utilising both her tankettes and P40 in creative ways to give Ooarai a worthy fight, but in the end, Miho comes out on top. The Anchovy of the OVA is hot-blooded but friendly, sharing a good sense of sportsmanship with Darjeeling and Kay, standing in stark contrast with her manga incarnation.
- I believe that the manga, and by extension, Ribbon Warrior, to be non-canon spinoffs, so attempts to analyse Anchovy’s character based on her manga form would prove futile. After the match with Anzio, the mechanical club install the KwK 40 L/48 onto Miho’s Panzer IV and have brought the Char B1 Bis to life, as well, with the Student Morals Committee agreeing to act as its operators on account of it serving to improve the school’s image. With things falling into place, Miho prepares for their semi-final match against Pravda, a school known for luring their opponents in with a false sense of weakness, before mounting an aggressive counterattack.
- As Ooarai sails further north, Anzu, Yuzu and Momo invite Miho over to a hot pot dinner, with the intent of sharing with her the reason behind why they’d been so insistent on having her join Panzerfahren to begin with. In the end, none of the student council’s members are able to convey the truth to Miho. Not content to merely disparage Miho and uphold an untenable position regarding the “tank falling into river” incident, willx would return and claim that Girls und Panzer “puts [the student council] in a neither “here nor there” situation”, and then during combat, “they then are shown to be arrogant but completely ineffectual” during actual combat. This is a load of hogwash derived from emotion rather than observing what Girls und Panzer presents us. The student council’s weaker combat performance early on comes from the fact that they deliberately chose a 38(t), which is an anti-infantry vehicle. As they learnt their tank’s strengths and weaknesses, they would become increasingly capable with it.
- willx and Sumeragi both operated under the belief that the Nishizumi Style was infallible; Shiho only mentions that the style means “strength” and “victory”, and while many viewers did take this to refer to a ruthless, relentless style that is far removed from what Miho practises, on their own, “victory” is defined as “achieving one’s goals”. Similarly, strength exists in many forms. A strong individual might not be able to bench press like a power-lifter, but possesses extraordinary discipline and resilience to adversity. However, since the Nishizumi Style also emphasises “always advancing, never taking a step back”, Miho is not counted as practising this style because she has no qualms with reversing her decisions if they prove unfavourable. Overall, then, the Nishizumi Style states that once makes a decision, they must stick it out and see things through to the end. Against opponents with weaker discipline and resolve, the Nishizumi Style is intimidating, but foes like Miho and Darjeeling both show that there are cases where the Nishizumi Style may not work if practised in its purest form.
- I have previously written an extensive defense of the Nishizumi Style and what Shiho adheres to: I am not suggesting the style is entirely dependent on overwhelming force of arms and numbers to achieve victory at all costs, as that would stand contrary to the themes within Girls und Panzer, but rather, that it still adheres to real-world martial arts. At the Nishizumi residence, Shiho announces her intent to disown Miho, and Maho’s expression hardens for a fraction of a second before she promises to give Miho a match worthy of her best. This prima facie suggests Shiho has no love for Miho, but again, without additional information, it is difficult to assess Maho and Shiho. From an alternative point of view, one that would later prove to hold weight, Maho practises the Nishizumi Style to uphold her family values and leave Miho free to be her best self, while Shiho disowning Miho would similarly allow Miho to pursue her own path without being weighted down by the family name and the attendant expectations. There are, of course, better ways of achieving this, but having established Shiho is a poor communicator, it is understandable that her intents and viewpoints have been misrepresented.
- After arriving at the match grounds, Miho finds her teammates fired up and ready to roll; her original aim had been to feel out Pravda to see if they could create a situation where they might attack a much weaker force, before going after the flag tank decisively. However, Ooarai’s spirits are high, and they mistakenly believe that with their momentum, they might be able to go straight for Pravda’s flag tank before their commander can strike back. Even Miho is not immune to the power of suggestion, and she agrees to the plan after feeling a quick strike would allow them to end things before the weather deteriorates. A more experienced commander would ask their subordinates to take a step back and act with their minds, rather than their hearts: overconfidence is a dangerous thing, and this match against Pravda pushes Ooarai to the brink of defeat precisely because the crews underestimate their opponent.
- Pravda’s commander, Katyusha, possesses a Napoleon complex about her height, and has a mouth to match her tactical ability. She promises to wipe floor with Ooarai, believing that a no-name school will pose her no trouble, and this characterisation, coupled with Ooarai’s energy, does give viewers the impression that Pravda might be a load of hot air. However, Girls und Panzer expertly reminds viewers not to fall into the same trap that Ooarai does: en route to their objective, Katyusha, Nonna and the other Pravda tankers sing Katyusha, a Soviet military march written by Soviet poet Mikhail Isakovsky about a Russian woman who sings for her lover, a soldier fighting to defend the motherland, and how she will cherish his love. It’s reminiscent of the Wehrmacht’s Erika, although in Girls und Panzer, Katyusha is unique in that Hisako Kanemoto and Sumire Uesaka (voice actresses for Katyusha and Nonna, respectively), provide the lyrics for the song. The song shows that Pravda is ready to kick names and take ass.
- For many viewers, this was the “magic moment” in Girls und Panzer, during which the series really defined itself as paying attention to details: up until this point, each of St. Gloriana and Saunders both only had instrumental themes. Exclusion of this in Sentai Filmworks’ home release of this was considered enough of a deal-breaker for people to refuse purchasing this on the grounds it invalidated the entire experience, and Sumeragi disparaged another forum member for not knowing the “obvious” fact that Katyusha was copyrighted (but in typical Sumeragi manner, failed to elaborate further). I was skeptical that American publishers could hold copyright to a Soviet era song, but as it turns out, Katyusha is subject to the Russian Civil Code Part IV, which came into effect in 2008 and enforces a 75-year period of protection after the original author’s death.
- Since Isakovsky passed away in July 1973, Katyusha returns to the public domain in 2049, rather than the 2040 that Sumeragi claimed as fact. I’m running the original footage, but folks watching the Sentai Filmworks version won’t have access to Katyusha and Nonna singing Katyusha. This shouldn’t be enough to break the experience (as Wild Goose succinctly puts it, it’s like going to a steakhouse and getting a steak with everything except one’s favourite brand of BBQ sauce, when every other aspect of the meal was flawless). Back in Girls und Panzer proper, Katyusha stops for a quick bite while commenting on how Ooarai’s strategy is a little too audacious.
- In the snowy fields of this northern battleground, Miho directs her forces forward, and at the edge of a wood, a pair of T-34s are spotted. Miho’s tanks swiftly disable both, which amps Ooarai up: Pravda had already been known to be a formidable team, so striking first gives Ooarai a massive surge in morale. The T-34 is the most produced tank of the Second World War, being manufactured to overwhelm enemies with sheer numbers and reliability. The base T-34 had a maximum of 60 mm of armour on its turret and carried a 76 mm M1940 F34 tank gun, which offered comparable performance to the Panzer IV’s KwK 40.
- Unlike the heaviest German tanks, the Soviet T-34 was known for its reliability and ruggedness: German commanders who encountered T-34s acknowledged that their simplicity was their greatest assets: earlier German tanks had also been highly mobile, but as the Second World War dragged on, emphasis was placed on highly armed and heavily armoured tanks that were prone to breaking down. In roles, the T-34 is similar to the American M4, although overall, the M4 holds the edge in crew comfort and craftsmanship, sporting better optics, fire control and radios.
- Against Miho’s orders, Ooarai’s remaining tanks charge head-first at their foes, not realising the reason why they’ve encountered success early on was precisely because Katyusha had placed the weaker T-34s out front to bait them in. Now that Ooarai is lured into the village, Pravda’s heavier equipment, including the IS-2 and a KV2, are brought to bear. These tanks would instantly waste any of Ooarai’s armour: the IS-2’s M1931/37 (A-19) had a bore of 122 mm and could penetrate 155 mm of armour at ranges of under 500 metres. Meanwhile, the KV-2 was a variant of the Kliment Voroshilov outfitted with a 152 mm howitzer; despite its firepower, the KV-2’s sheer mass made it ineffective in reality.
- Indeed, the KV-2 does not actually score any kills against Ooarai owing to its slow turret traversal, although in this moment, the appearance of Pravda’s heaviest tanks proves overwhelming. Miho orders all of Ooarai’s tanks into a building for shelter, and unexpectedly, Katyusha orders her tanks to cease firing. Instead, two emissaries are sent out on Katyusha’s behalf: they give Ooarai three hours to surrender and call the match in. This approach is most unusual, and as the Auralnauts comment, Pravda had every opportunity here to stomp Ooarai’s head in at this point.
- The idea of allowing a foe to surrender deals Ooarai a crushing blow to morale: offering Ooarai this route shows that Katyusha is confident that Miho has no answers to things. Faced with the incredulity of the moment, Momo exclaims “nuts”, a reference to Brigadier General Anthony Clement McAuliffe’s reply to a German ultimatum for surrender during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. As the story goes, McAuliffe said “aw, nuts” when reading the German message, and discarded the message. McAuliffe’s subordinates were drafting a message but struggled to find the words for their response, until Lieutenant Colonel Harry Kinnard suggested McAuliffe had captured the gravity of things pretty well. Thus, the message to the Germans only consisted of the one-word response, “NUTS!”. Colonel Joseph Harper ended up delivering the message, which confused the German Commander, and when asked for an explanation, Harper replied that McAuliffe was never fond of profanity, so this message was meant to mean “up yours”.
- That Ooarai’s now been backed into a corner finally forces Momo to reveal what she’d been holding back from Miho and the other members of the Panzerfahren team this whole time: that Ooarai’s under the risk of permanent shut down as a result of their lack of achievements. Anzu had revived Panzerfahren, arguing that MEXT wouldn’t dare close down a Panzerfahren champion. This moment explains why the Student Council had been so determined to press Miho into Panzerfahren and strive for victory: their school’s existence was on the line. This single moment gives newfound weight to Ooarai’s quest to come out triumphant, and for me, was a satisfactory account of why the Student Council had acted in the way they did. That hints of this were foreshadowed as early as Girls und Panzer‘s first episode shows the series had been intended to captivate and thrill viewers right out of the gates: Miho is shocked to learn of this, but from a storytelling perspective, keeping Miho from learning of this truth early on, and allowing her to enjoy life at Ooarai, allowed her to cultivate a much deeper connection to those around her.
- Had the student council openly said this on day one, Miho would have likely felt duty-bound to help her new classmates, but with the expectations and pressure on her, remained distant from the Panzerfahren team. By leaving Miho in the dark, not knowing Ooarai was closing down allowed Miho to do things at her own pace, and so, when faced with this new devilry, all of her teammates view her as a treasured friend who’d been there for everyone. This hearts-and-minds approach is ultimately what makes all of the difference between success and failure in Girls und Panzer. With this, I’ll wrap up this uncommonly lengthy post (10159 words) and apologise to current readers for the approach I’ve taken; I dislike what are colloquially referred to as “call-out” posts, but these two episodes had created quite a bit of a fuss amongst the AnimeSuki community, and for the longest time, I’ve wondered if my perspectives held any merit (versus those of Sumeragi’s and willx’s). #AniTwitWatches became an opportunity to hear back from a different set of perspectives, and before closing things off, I would like to hear back from readers: have I presented 1) a satisfactory account of why Miho’s decision was appropriate and 2) were Sumeragi and willx justified in using the methods that they did to defend their perspectives?
The results of Miho’s actions, plainly the right one to the community, and clearly the wrong choice to her mother, Shiho, would ultimately result in ancillary conversation about what the Nishizumi Style entailed. During the conversation to Maho, Shiho expresses that the Nishizumi Style is to relentlessly push forward and strive for victory at all costs. This led to some viewers immediately marking Shiho as “ruthless” and even “bloodthirsty”. However, such an assessment would contradict the themes in Girls und Panzer; having previously established that Maho is stoic and not exactly an expressive communicator, signs show that Shiho is similar. On this basis, Shiho is stiffly expressing that Miho is not suitable as someone to carry on the Nishizumi Style as she wished, and by disowning Miho, this would implicitly give Miho the freedom she needs to be herself. Maho had done something to this effect, as well, embodying the Nishizumi Style to both respect her mother’s wishes and liberating Miho of this particular burden. Girls und Panzer has, time and time again, indicated that despite appearances, everyone has unique eccentricities and idiosyncrasies that make them unique: once time is taken to understand someone, common ground can be found. Had contemporary viewers extended Maho and Shiho this courtesy, it is unlikely that Miho’s decision would have provoked such uncivilised discussions at AnimeSuki – there was no need in assuming Shiho and Maho were willing to see death and injury on the battlefield to preserve their own integrity, but at the same time, arguing that one had previously dealt with the “tank in river” situation in reality without the slightest shred of evidence to back this claim was also disingenuous. It became clear that neither side had brought anything useful to the table. This stands in stark contrast with the #AniTwitWatches community – previous discussions have all touched on topics that were thoughtfully handled. During the past week, for instance, iniksbane had mentioned that there might’ve been jingoistic tones with Ooarai’s portrayal, and while the schools’ themes can portray that, Ooarai itself is unique and speaks to distinctly Japanese values. Such a conversation would’ve immediately invited flame wars at AnimeSuki, but with #AniTwitWatches, the goal is to hear out participants’ experiences. It is interesting to see how others perceive the different teams (I myself belief Ooarai’s loadout speaks to something else entirely, for instance, but yes, Ooarai is portrayed as the heroes, the scrappy underdogs who earn their wins, through and through), and this allows one to gain a better measure of how different backgrounds shape people’s views of the show. As such, with the #AniTwitWatches crew here, I am now curious to know what the thoughts out there are regarding both Miho’s decision to save her allies, as well as whether or not the short conversations we’ve seen insofar is a succinct and fair assessment of Maho and Shiho as people. Jon Spencer Reviews has already indicated that Miho is in the right, suggesting that, perhaps to the shock of AnimeSuki’s vocal minority, that those who felt Miho had done the right thing may have a point (or two) after all.