I realized when I started writing this that I haven’t posted about mecha anime in a while and there is a reason for that. All the mecha shows I been watching for a few months now are having their reviews funneled into a little thing called Mecha March for 2020. I mean you know me, right? I’m always watching a mecha show in a non seasonal sense in one form or another. Just know that. For now, I hope you take this show in the place of one for now. A little Girls Und Panzer in these trying times? If not, then know that a mecha movie review is coming on New Years Day. It’s a Gundam movie too. I won’t directly talk about what it is, but it’s an older movie that has made it’s way in movie theaters recently. That’s a hint. Until then, let’s talk about what we are here for.
Girls Und Panzer is a deceptively simple series. Why? Because it’s skeleton is a pretty standard sports tournament formula except instead of sports, it’s a story about girls driving tanks. Our group of mostly amateurs from Ooarai High School learn how to use tanks, have an exhibition match against another school by the name of Saint Gloriana’s Academy, and then make their push towards winning nationals in tankery. It’s that sort of story, but I have to admit that the ride going from fun is simply great and full of fun. Predictability doesn’t hurt a story as long as the ride is fun. In this case the tank battles are fun and the characters are good. That’s enough to make a good series, but Girls Und Panzer is fantastic. What makes it takes it over the top of good is a lot of interesting twists on gender conventions.
Unlike my usual posts, let’s talk about characters and some world building at the same time. The two are more linked in this series then you would think. It’s easy to call this series a cute girls driving tanks in sporting events against other tanks and be done with it, except that dismisses some of Girls Und Panzer’s interesting little tidbits. There is some fun exploration of gender roles in this show that is done simply by switching the expectant genders of those who move the tanks. I mean yeah, the appeal of cute girls and tanks to tank otaku who are anime fans is there as well. No arguments there, but the writing is doing something else then just doing stand slice of life anime things. At least, that’s how I see it in my eyes. Beware my somewhat psuedo intellectual nonsense
The major example for Girls Und Panzer’s playing with gender roles comes with the main protagonist, Miho Nishizumi. She left her previous school because of a major incident happened in one of her previous battles. She decided that saving the life of her team mate was more important then winning. Something that is looked down upon by the school, Kuromoromine, she used to be apart of and her mother who is the current leader of Nishizumi Style. Kuromoromine takes the Nishizumi style of tankery who adopted it. The style in itself is about aggression and firmness with convention and Miho caring about other people destroyed all of that leading to their semi final match loss. The series is about Miho fighting against the curve in all directions and coming out on top with her own style. Our clumsy girl finds herself in a difficult position, because Ooarai makes her take tankery, and Miho wins in her own way. What is more satisfying then that?
Miho is only the tip of an entire ice burg when it comes to this fun sort of gender dichotomy. The world itself looks at tankery as a feminine activity which is honestly kind of fun and hilarious to me. I know it’s serious, but I couldn’t help but laugh when the advertising video played. There are males in this show, but they are never shown taking part in tankery. Of course, I didn’t have to look at the world to say how feminine the world is. It’s easy to just look at Miho’s tank crew to see this. Besides Mako’s relatable hate of waking up early, everyone else is a male character stereotype that is gender swaped. Yukari is a tank otaku who loves everything about tanks and finds it hard to make friends until joining tnakery, Saori is the Casanova wannabe that talks about getting dates with boys but hasn’t gone on any yet, and Hana is a flower arranger who took tankery to make her arrangements more forceful. Of course, there is more to that then the switching of gender roles. Each person wants to help the other succeed which forms a wonderful bound and friendship between all five of them that is unbreakable by tank shells or whatever else is thrown at them.
With that, we go the realm of the simplified, left for later, and what the hell? The what the hell is pretty simplified here. Did you know that all our girls schools are on giant aircraft carriers? WHAT? I know that plays somewhat in the plot because of how much money it takes to fund a school ship, but how did that come to be? Other then high school tankery on tv for everyone to watch, this was the most mind blowing thing that the show casually let us know about at the end of the first episode. I honestly kind of loved it because it was a not so subtle way of letting us know this world is far different from ours. This show doesn’t hold back and it’s just great.
The simplified and left for later are most of the other tank members in Ooarai’s tank team and the other schools. Our home team is made out of cobbled together tanks and team. Each tank is ran by a different club that gives each tank their own sort of personality without having to put much effort into digging into these characters more and that works fine honestly. This cast is huge, so concessions had to be made somewhere. Other tank squads are made from different school clubs and organizations which instantly gives them some characterization. The other girls academies who are opponents are treated in a similar fashion. They each have their own gimmick because they have a country gimmick which each tank group lives up to in terms of fighting style. Two main characters from each group, a quiet one and a louder one, gives each opposing side much more personality. It’s all well done though, honestly. Out of all the opponents, Saint Gloriana is my favorite because they followed Ooarai since their exhibition game and are always psotivie.
Of course, the main contender and opponent, Kuromoromine, has some larger characterization despite following that formula too because they are from Miho’s backstory. They are lead by her sister Maho, who is the Darth Vader of this series to emperor played by their mom, and the annoying leader who has to insult Miho at every turn. I really do like how this show portrays Maho because she is put in such a difficult position. Maho clearly loves her sister Miho and will defend her whenver she can, but she’s also pressured by their mother in to succeeding how her mother wants her to. Maho probably stays quiet most of the time because she can’t say what she wants to say until Ooarai beats them completely. Miho winning most have taken a lot of pressure off of Maho as well which means this was a great win for everyone!
I’m going to split my visual perspectives because this obviously from my point of view. In this anime, there are two sides: out of combat and combat itself. Either part has tons of effort and love put into them. So yeah, treating this like a mecha review because it is in some ways. The out of combat portion of Girls Und Panzer is honestly amazing. While characters have moe designs, there is a lot of work into making these characters look very different from each other unless they are related. In Ooarai, our characters wear the same uniform but have differences that make them stand out. The volley ball team will be wearing their shorts instead of a skirt or the history club will wear things attached to the era they are masters of understanding. Plus, the art behind buildings and such is pretty fantastic. Add in some great and fluid character animation and animation in general when they do dances and move around and it’s almost perfect.
The In combat is a little different and requires a lot of cg for the tanks. It’s pretty obvious cg that can take you out of the experience if you aren’t enjoying the tank battles in question. But, there is obviously a lot of love put into the cg tank models. The animators didn’t just make one generic tank model and make everyone use it, There are a lot of models from all sorts of tanks from World War 2. While Ooarai has the most diverse amount of tanks, other schools aren’t stuck with the same model for each group either. That’s one of those showing my work things where how each tank moves, fires their weapons, the different types of armor they have outside their tank, and what their inside are like that are measured here. It’s obvious that there was a lot of love and passion put into this anime and I don’t know if they would be able to do all of this with standard animation. A more then easy pass for me.
I loved watching Girls Und Panzer. It’s honestly a lot of fun and thoughtful before all my psuedo intellectual nonsense that I spurted out in this post. If anything, the tank battles and how Ooarai somehow pulls out a win are always fun and full of excitement. This is war, this is tankery. That’s the edge which gives them the win. So thank you for Jon Spencer to kind of, sort of getting me to watch it on twitter. I’m wondering why I didn’t check it out in the first place. Probably because of the moe character designs that I didn’t appreciate when the show first came out and am finding very interesting now. The more I look at my self from my past where I only watched mecha, science fiction, and shonen jump series, the more I see myself as a jerk. I’m glad I’ve at least grown a little bit sense then. Anyway, Girls Und Panzer is a solid anime. Possibly even more so. If you haven’t watched it yet, you know what to do.