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
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.