If that’s not a good enough reason to get back into reviewing anime, I don’t know what is.
Girls und Panzer is the epic tale of one school club’s mission to defy the odds and become champions of their sport. So far, so familiar – with one difference. Their sport is Sensha-do (or Panzerfahren, or tankery depending on what subtitles you’re viewing).
What is Sensha-do? Why, tank battling of course!
Yes indeed, in this series mock tank battles are an internationally recognised sport practised solely by young women. Why? Well, because anime – but also because driving tanks is great for building good feminine values like kindness, strength, and blowing stuff up with really big guns. And besides, boys driving tanks would just be weird.
Oh, and don’t worry, Sensha-do is completely safe. How do they make it safe? They just do. Stop asking questions.
Miho Nishizumi is a veteran Sensha-do practitioner from a highly respected line of Sensha-do-ers(?), who has been in a bit of a slump after a traumatising event in her last match. Desperate to escape from Sensha-do, she transfers to Ooarai Academy – a school with no Sensha-do team. But as fate would have it, with a big championship coming up, the school’s student council decide to form a team – and Miho’s name is on the top of their list. Miho will have to learn to love Sensha-do all over again, because there might just be more than pride on the line…
Lucky for Miho, she quickly makes friends with a ragtag selection of heroines who vow to stick with her through thick or thin. There’s the bubbly Saori Takebe, the lovely Hana Isuzu, tank nut Yukari Akiyama and lethargic Mako Reizei. Together they make up Anglerfish/Goosefish Team (again, depending on your subtitles), driving the noble Panzer IV.
Along the way, they’re joined by:
Now, the tank nuts among you will read those tank names with keen interest, hands on chin, eyes closed, giving a good “Ah, yes. Indeed.” Everyone else will have no idea what any of that meant.
But that’s okay! The point is that Ooarai’s team isn’t exactly unified under one common banner. Luckily, as it happens that might be just what they need to find victory on the battlefield.
Needless to say, this series has a lot of characters. That list above doesn’t even take into account all the named characters, nor teams from other schools. Believe me, you won’t remember most of the secondary characters’ names, but there are plenty of anime where that’s an issue (Food Wars, anyone?).
Regardless, that’s not all that important anyway. This series isn’t about showing off a bunch of cute high school girls – it’s about showing off those sweet, sweet tanks.
The series’ writer definitely holds a sense of reverence towards World War II armoured vehicles, as all tanks used in Sensha-do are required to have been manufactured or designed no later than 1945. Some characters use tanks that only existed in prototype or limited form, like the aforementioned Porsche Tiger (of which only ten were made, the rest being converted into Elefant tank destroyers) or the Panzer VIII Maus (of which only one was fully manufactured).
Er, sorry. Didn’t mean to turn this review into a history lesson. Still, it’s remarkable how much attention to detail is paid towards the tanks, and many, many times each tank’s individual quirks and foibles are used for comic relief – like when Hippo Team can’t hit a target because their turret doesn’t rotate, or the Porsche Tiger constantly catching fire and getting stuck due to its inferior design.
Nonetheless, this battalion of broken biscuits driving broken biscuits will have to combat schools from all over the world of stereotypes, like St Gloriana’s English-themed line-up led by Commander Darjeeling; Pravda’s Russian tank brigade led by the tiny tsundere Katyusha; and (my personal favourite) Anzio’s Duce Anchovy and her Italian-esque underdogs, who get murked instantly by Ooarai but have their moment in the sun in der Film (more on that later).
Now, a tank show has to have good tank battles, or what’s the point? And Girls und Panzer has more than its fair share. I would be remiss if said the tank battles in the series were particularly realistic, but who cares when you get awesome stuff like this happening:
Yes, that is a 15 tonne BT-42 jumping a ravine and drifting. The best part? That’s not even the extent of the insanity exhibited in that scene. Even better? That’s one of the more realistic concepts – based partly on the longest tank jump ever recorded in a BT-7.
So, we have awesome tank battles, a likeable cast of characters and a lovely soundtrack composed of various military marches and original compositions. Is there anything bad about the series?
Well, the English dub is pretty weak. I watched a few episodes with both options and found the original Japanese audio far more suited to the characters being portrayed. Miho’s English actress Margaret MacDonald is easily the stand-out, but she did a far better job as Rikka Takahashi in Love, Chuunibyo and Other Delusions and just doesn’t quite have the nervous energy required by the part. I always like hearing Jessica Calvello (Hange Zoe in Attack on Titan) but again, her voice just isn’t right for Saori. I also disliked how Darjeeling and the other St. Gloriana members didn’t speak with English accents, which seemed like an obvious choice even if the characters are all Japanese and just pretending.
Plus, if you listen to the film with the English dub, you miss out on Jenya Davidyuk, an actual Russian speaking Russian and Japanese. Considering the rarity of non-native casts in anime production, it would be a shame to see that go to waste.
Overall though, I have to give the series a solid 8/10. It’s not so long that it overstays its welcome, but it leaves you hungering for more. Luckily, Girls und Panzer didn’t finish with the series, which brings us to a short review of:
GIRLS UND PANZER: DER FILM
Ohhhh, baby. Now, this is what I’m talking about. Now that all the character introductions are finished, we can finally have a 120-minute film featuring 90 minutes of pure, unadulterated tank warfare, featuring some of the most epic and ludicrous battles in the series. That BT-42 jump from earlier in the review? That’s from this film.
The film takes all the best parts of the original series and makes them bigger in every way. A bigger cast, returning favourites, and the ultimate fight in which Ooarai will have to team up with all their old foes to defeat an even greater threat – all with glorious 5.1 surround sound.
The final battle of the movie, in particular, is a stand-out achievement of the franchise’s sound design. For a few minutes, you hear nothing but the roar of the tanks’ engines, cannon fire and the clattering of metal, ricochets and shrapnel. It’s bliss, I love it. 9/10.
So there you have it. With the series at an 8/10 and the film reaching 9/10, I have to give the franchise as it stands:
Girls und Panzer is a delight for history and anime buffs alike, featuring a cast of fun characters, epic battle scenes filled with creative choreography and plenty of laughs. Fans of realism need not apply, but these girls come Highly Recommended.
Lucky for me, this is not where the Girls und Panzer story ends, with a new film series, das Finale, currently underway. But that, my friends, is a story for another day. до свидания Товарищ!