Review: Girls Und Panzer

Thanks to Fred Warren at Frederation for writing about it in his Ink and Paint series. He tipped me into a good series.

 

3.5 out of five stars. I don’t think any other series that I’ve watched with the exception of Angel Beats demanded 26 episodes instead of 14 to tell its story. It’s a very good series that is too straightforwards for its own good, and doesn’t have the room to humanize all of its awesome cast.

Miho has a problem. She’s just transferred to a new school, but finds the one subject she desperately hoped to avoid is being reinstated in her school, and the student council is pressuring her to take it. The subject? Tankery. Apparently in this Japan, learning to operate and fight in tanks is a very feminine thing to do, and her school’s future is riding on a good showing in the national tankery competition. Miho must deal with her past as black sheep of a famous tankery family, and lead her school to victory.

This is far better than you would think.

Essentially, this takes the idea of Strike Witches (and shares its military adivisor,) completely strips it of any fan service, and makes a coherent world about tanks with such precise detail that it transcends what would be an absurd premise in any other form of media. Schools that exist on massive aircraft carriers terraformed to be like cities, even down to parks and water, fight each other in surprisingly fierce battles waged with tanks. The level of attention to tanks and tank combat are almost obsessive.

Yet these tanks are piloted by teams of teenage girls, and the contrast is often hilarious. There’s the main team, the team of history nuts, the bubbly first year students, the volleyball club, and soon others each piloting and operating a tank like trained soldiers. The battles are surprisingly intense, and use strategy to deal with being outnumbered or outplayed. It’s a tank otaku’s dream come true and even for non-military minded watchers, it’s a surprisingly good and dramatic series to watch.

So why only 3.5 stars?

The length, for one. It’s 14 episodes, two which are recaps and introductions of the cast. That leaves only twelve episodes to tell the story, and a lot of the cool characters don’t get much screen time. I loved the volleyball team/team duck, because all their pipsqueak manager wants to do is win the tankery competition so they can finally get their volleyball club reinstated, and maybe a new athletic center to boot. The bubbly first year team often has their moments too. However, there’s really only time to detail the problems of the main tank team, and most of the episodes are battles between other schools. The last two tank teams to join (one of which might play World of Tanks in their spare time) get little to no characterization.

This also leads to another problem. The series is very straightforwards. Most of it is comprised of awesome tank battles, but beyond that there are no twists and turns, or even much doubt that they will achieve what they seek. Honestly, if there had been 26 episodes, this would have been solved, but due to the short length, I think the plot had to be compressed to fit all the tank otaku nerdiness and battles in. It’s not bad enough where you’ll be bored or dislike the series, but you really want the series to slow down and have more, deeper digressions. The vehicle club in particular when they join up and start arguing whether or not they can get their Porsche tank to do a drift makes you long for an episode based just on them.

For Christians, the series is G-PG

Yes, G.

There is nothing objectionable whatsoever in the series, apart from tank on tank violence. The tanks however aren’t even destroyed. If they are damaged enough, a small white flag pops up, and the team gets escorted off the field. Tankery is little more than a full-contact sport with some risk to it, and it’s possible to enjoy the battles without much concerns about violence. There are no scenes of fan service save for one character wearing a swimsuit when it’s 100% warranted, and the breast size of one minor character in the OP above which honestly doesn’t get shown in the series. There isn’t even the pseudo-human violence of something like Angelic Layer; it’s clear tankery is treated as a sport, and apart from minor bruises, no one gets hurt.

I can’t honestly say enough how refreshing this is. Usually series that focus on things otaku love tend to heavily pander to otaku interests, meaning lots of fan service. This is why Strike Witches went from a completely awesome idea to a mediocre jiggle-fest, and there’s almost always something in these series to set your teeth on edge. Girls Und Panzer completely avoids this, and focuses on the thing itself; tanks, and the love of them. The detail spent on the is meticulous to the point of actually learning things; these aren’t magical tanks, but every aspect from loading, to driving, to the need for coordination and aiming are as much stars as the girls. If you want to try an anime, but are worried about content issues, I can fully recommend this one to fellow Christians as a series with no offensive content whatsoever.

So as much as I would like to give it a higher score, the length and straightforwards nature of the series works against it. It really needed more episodes to breathe, and to explore its characters. When it does, it does so well-the sleepy tank driver of the main tank is often hilarious, for example, but it’s so compressed that it skips an entire battle and you want some more meat in between the intense fights.


11 Comments on “Review: Girls Und Panzer”

  1. bainespal says:

    They’re wearing crosses. Is it a Catholic school?

  2. Fred Warren says:

    The national stereotypes were kind of fun, too, ala Hetalia…the tea-sipping British ladies, the rich, carefree Americans who say “Okay!” a lot (and aren’t above cheating a little), the hapless Italians–who rated only a still shot of their forces in ruins after their battle with Oarai (missed opportunity there to show Oarai actually dominating a battle), the Russian team cossack-dancing around their campfire, etc.

    I would have enjoyed more time for character development as well. Only a couple of supporting characters got a bit of side-story. Some of the teams introduced near the end were interesting, and it would have been nice to have a chance to get to know them better, too. For example, there was a fun moment near the end where one of the Auto Club girls is repairing her tank, on the move, crooning encouragement to it as she works. Little things like that were what made this series for me.

    • dmdutcher says:

      Yeah, the little moments were great. I liked the whole “scavenger hunt for tanks” that happened early on, and it was funny how tankery is supposed to be a feminine thing but one of the first year students complained how she lost her boyfriend shortly after joining the club. You replied on Ink and Paint about how it seemed like all the men had vanished too, and whenever you saw even the carrier crews, they seemed to be female. Makes me wonder if you were right and something happened to the men that they had to make tankery sort of a proxy way to fight.

      Mangafox has the Girls Und Panzer manga online, so I’m going to check it out and see if it expands on anything. Manga companies in the USA seem to be slipping; it’s odd no one is all over that series.

  3. Fred Warren says:

    ” I liked the whole “scavenger hunt for tanks” that happened early on…”

    Yeah, I’m still not sure how the tank got into that little storeroom *inside* the aircraft carrier…or how they got it out. :)

  4. stardf29 says:

    This show has become one of my favorites, particularly from 2012. I do wish they could have developed the various characters more, but with the cast being as huge as it is, I could see how that could be hard, especially with only the one cour (1 cour = 12 or 13 episodes) they were given to start. Sales for this show in Japan are tremendously high, though, and it looks like chances of a second season are high as well, so perhaps that’s something to look forward to (especially if they decide to make the second season two-cour).

    There’s also apparently some bonus OVA episodes on the video releases, which I hope Sentai Filmworks includes when they release this show themselves probably sometime late in the year.

    Anyways, for what they were given, I think they did a tremendous job with this show and I would definitely recommend it to others.

    • dmdutcher says:

      A second season would be great. Sentai filmworks-honestly, they seem to do a horrible job at picking what series to bring over. They seem to like to bring over moe/ecchi series, and I lost faith with them when they keep bringing over duds like Kampfer, Heaven’s Lost Property, and Cat Planet Cuties. I don’t know if it’s because they can’t afford to license the big series, but apart from the Key anime, I look twice at them.

      • stardf29 says:

        I have to correct you: Heaven’s Lost Property and Cat Planet Cuties are FUNimation titles.

        As for what titles Sentai Filmworks picks up, it’s actually more that they seem to have relationships with certain Japanese production companies, like Showgate, King Records, TBS, and to an extent Media Factory, such that they pretty much automatically pick up anything those companies produce. As such, if those companies produce a lot of moe/ecchi anime (which they do, because that’s what sells in Japan), that’s what ends up in Sentai’s hands.

        However, this also means Sentai picks up a number of good series each season, too. So I’d say they’re worth a second look. Then again, as I’m admittedly a fan of moe shows myself (not ecchi, though), maybe I’m not the best person to be saying that…

      • dmdutcher says:

        Yeah you’re right on that. I guess I just associated all three together in my mind.

        I don’t know about Sentai picking up all that good stuff. I’m browsing their catalog to make sure my impressions aren’t limited by what I see locally, and they really seem to be bringing over a lot a mediocre stuff, even when it’s not moe or ecchi. Like I can’t fathom why on earth they feel the need to bring a second season of Kampfer over, or why they brought Ghost Sweeper Mikami to us. Or Akikan, or Needless. It sucks in a way because they often also bring over series and not put them up on streaming, like Special A, and you kind of have to trust their judgment whether or not to risk a purchase. When they bring over a lot of junk, it makes it hard for me to make that leap, especially if I’m sinking $50 into a full season.

  5. [...] D.M. Dutcher offers reviews of Another and Girls Und Panzer that are directed toward Christian viewers. [Cacao, put down the shovel!] [...]

  6. Eadwacer says:

    bainespal: In the manga adaptation of the anime (now available on Amazon), and the original manga “Little Army”, the girls’ blouse fillets have a Germanic eagle clutching a rondel. I suspect they changed it for the anime.

    BTW, as another example of the producer’s insane attention to detail — building in things that never get mentioned — about a month ago, I found out that the headmaster’s car, in episode 2, is a Ferrari F-40 (the one with the air scoop on the side).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 169 other followers