Is there really any excuse why I put this off for so long? Sure, the series had a weird schedule with the final two episodes coming out months after the first few, but it’s called Girls und Panzer for crying out loud! The very title is half German, and it is about a group of high school girls partaking in a sport known as Tankery. Certainly a very attractive premise, and one that swept me off my feet, giddy as I went on the ride.
GIrls und Panzer Review
Studio: Arise and Sentai Filmworks
Length: 12 story based episodes, 2 explanatory clip show episodes
Availability: Subtitled on CrunchyRoll
Mädchen and Tanks is set in an alternate universe where in the 1920s someone decided that it would be really keen if women learned how to drive tanks, and make their piloting of the hot chunks of metal into a sport. An aspect more or less glossed over, because how exactly would one justify such an act? Same could be said for how Japan reached a state where schools were decided to be on massive small town holding battleships, if only because, “To produce highly trained individuals capable of excelling in any field.” Is about the most vague reason one could muster.
Setting aside, the show is about a core group of five girls and their supporting cast of twenty-seven others learning about friendship, problem solving, and how to operate repurposed killing machines. A very bold idea, assuming the show wants to resume any sense of innocence with the girls after being in simulated warfare, but the show actually manages to stay at a very plausible level of delightfulness. If only because above all else, it is very much a follower of the 1980/90s formula for a kid’s sports movie.
A ragtag group of inexperienced kids with their own quirks are introduced to a a sport, which Tankery is considered in this world. Achieve greatness by the end by honing their skills and ultimately forging bonds that can outmatch any of the richer and better equipped teams. With the outside sense of polish not coming from a devoted coach as is the trope I picked up from catching glimpses back in the days of old. In fact, the coach character is almost nonexistent, with the skilled outsider serving as Miho Nishizumi, one of the five main characters and a former operator of the war machines who originally goes away from her previous life, but eventually needs to confront the team she left, because the cliche works, dammit! It’s a predictable set up, but one that does have a lot of time to develop. Which Girls Und Panzer makes the most of as it engages in the two things you would expect from the title.
Going back to how I slipped the almost ridiculous character roster, the show tries its best to give each character within the show their own personality, or at the very least a unique design excluding an oddly identical trio who are shoved into their own tank as a group. In part due to the desire to have massive battles with over two dozen tanks on the battlefield, the show goes on a tear when it comes to introducing characters who are able to meet the quota of three to six that is demanded for them to reasonably pilot a WWII tank.
This results in groups being made up of a former volleyball team who resorted to Tankery, an automotive club of four introduced to pick up the roster for the finale, and some girls who played an online tank game and want to help out for about an episode. I could be remarkably bitter about the almost bloated number of characters, but I actually was left very curious as to how they work as a group, and what the dynamics for all but two of the main teams were. In part due to how there is a good amount of character in the aforementioned main five, and because the bits of personality and designs were anything but unappealing.
I could say that the tank focus that does occupy roughly half the show, with the rest being observing the stuff around the battles and the preparation by the girls. But if anything, placing them inside of a ton of iron and having them use it to fight people in a similar situation gives way for loads of development, alongside some very tense and engrossing battle scenes. With the five shown within the show being rightfully long and tactical, having some rather creative ideas thrown about with the tanks utilizing terrain, various types, and making almost applause worthy keen use of their strength in the finale.
All tied to a tank exclusive set of CG paint, which does fit very well, creating an almost alien feel to the refurbished metal as the treads rotate along the terrain. In addition to capturing the weight and power behind the machines as they crash, move, or try to pierce the opposing tanks. Which is all good and well crafted boyish fantasy warfare, highlighted by a very upbeat, but fitting and perplexingly patriotic score to the battles, tied along with bits of banter from both exclusively female teams involved. Though, not unlike the similarly female populated YuruYuri, I find that the show lost something when it established that this is indeed a bigender society. It’s more of a preference than anything, but only mentioning males in passing for the first few episodes and then showing several in the background is just teasing.
Not that the series loses much on that or really any front, because of how well it handles itself all around. The preference card should probably be displayed before a full fledged recommendation, but aside from the fact that it bites off a bit more than twelve episodes can normally chew, I have nothing but good things to say about the show. In the grand scheme of things, it is a bizarre premise that shoves a bunch of girls in tanks for them to have the best of both a more action heavy show, and still have that feel-good sensibility that comes with most anime I’ve seen with a heavy female cast.
An exceptional product that is hindered by a few issues to the point where they are barely worth noting for this superb title. Definitely worth both your time and money.
Guh, thanks to the last sentence I’m thinking of the worst anime I’ve ever seen. Hell, worst professionally made entertainment I’ve ever seen. But I’ll not spoil this review with its very name.