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Looking For Quacks In The Pavement

3WA 2017 #28: Girls und Panzer

The “sports anime” is a whole style and subgenre all its own, with reliable tropes galore. Take an underdog team, add a protagonist who is charged with bringing this team to some kind of victory, put this team through the proverbial wringer, and you have the makings of a sports anime. You will find this formula applied to the damnedest of activities…

What is it?

Girls und Panzer is a 12 episode anime series (if you don’t count two “recaps”, the follow-up OVA, the short “special episodes” on the DVD/Blu-Rays…) from the Winter 2012 season. It spawned various adaptations and follow-ups, and the property has been used to promote a tank-battle video game.

What kind of story is it?

A girl who thought she’d left tank-battling behind transfers to a new school and gets caught up in the tank-battling scene. Competitions, high morale, low morale, and succeeding despite the odds ensues.

Cheer up, girls! I’m sure you’ll win!

Even if you don’t watch much anime you’re probably familiar with the general arc of the plot. A group of plucky, oddball underdogs faces a series of competitive challenges, yadda yadda. The fact that it’s been done before doesn’t mean it can’t be entertaining. It’s not the trope, it’s how the writers wrangle it, after all.

Why do you like it?

There’s this weird blend of the comfortable well-worn narrative tropes that you can relax into and the utterly bonkers idea that schoolgirls are engaging in competitive tank battles. I mean, seriously. This is one of the silliest show concepts in my list for the year, and remember that I’ve already written about Ouran High School Host Club and Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz, and I haven’t yet gotten to Gr… er, never mind. Ahem.

Look. Either you see this picture and think “WTF, I MUST watch this show” or “WTF, NO.” No middle ground allowed.

I can’t help but cheer for the home team. They’re smart, they’re quirky, they’re motivated, and they’re cute. The tactical matches are reasonably well thought-out as well (at least to this layman’s eyes) so it’s intellectually engaging enough on that level to add to the entertainment value.

What might one not like about it?

Unless the very concept itself is off-putting, or maybe if an all-girl cast is a problem to you, there shouldn’t be too much to offend anyone’s delicate sensibilities here. Maybe just a general “not my cup of tea,” I suppose.

And yes, you must suspend a lot of disbelief. This is anime, remember? Par for the course.

Other thoughts about it?

When a show is built around a young female character, often you end up with the “spunky but inept” archetype. They don’t quite go that route in this show, and in fact what we get is someone with competence but not confidence. Miho has a bit of a tragic backstory, at the risk of overstating the situation. Overcoming that while forging her tank crew into a cohesive fighting unit is the arc of her progress in the series. I find this interesting because usually it’s the male leads who have “something dark in their past” and so forth.

Miho, taking charge.

The worldbuilding is kind of ridiculous but also quite adorable. In an early episode, the girls drive a tank through town along residential streets, and folks lean out of their windows to “ooh” and “ahh” over the tank and to wish the girls luck, like this was nothing particularly unusual. You just have to kind of roll with it.

You will probably learn more than you ever wanted to know about various tanks, by the way. One of the selling points of the show was the realistic CGI tank models.

Where can I watch it?

Once again, Crunchyroll has your schoolgirl team competitive tank action on tap.

1 Comment

  1. There is a trilogy of doujinshi for GuP that, for whatever reason, removes the safety features from the tanks for a tournament.

    I sorta got a little nauseous at the scene where the Team Turtle tries to escape from their burning Hetzer… and don’t succeed. Or when an American .50cal HMG points out the major flaw in Team Duck’s tank: the lack of armor.

    It’s brutal stuff, but it’s drawn so well it’s hard not to admire it in a weird, twisted sort of way. Sort of like if the Kantai Collection anime had used the historic ending for the Battle of Midway, and everybody died.

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