Girls und Panzer – the anime 1

My full collection of commentary on GaruPan can be found in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, A Study in Command, Girls und Feminism, and the DVD

I was originally going to do a double-feature writeup and compare this program to some other, based on a shared topic or trope or something. I didn’t do it, because from the jaw-dropping pullback at the end of the first episode, to the equally jaw-dropping arrival of the instructor on top of the Headmaster’s Ferrari F-40, to the musical in the snow to the cliff-hanger battle before their spring break, Girls und Panzer is simply incomparable. It may not be high art. It may not be the greatest anime ever written. It is unique. (This is Part 1. Part 2, the exciting finale is here, and Part 3, post season commentary, is here)

I'd like to make my classroom arrivals this dramatic

I’d like to make my classroom arrivals this dramatic

The setup is simple: in a slightly-alternate-history version of our world, small unit tank combat has become a varsity sport for high-school girls. One can see why. Sensha-Dō (戦車-道) is literally the way of the tank, with way (Dō, long o) being used in a philosophical sense, like Tao (the symbols are identical), or like other martial arts (弓道 kyūdō, way of the bow). The localizers saw fit to translate it tankery, probably in parallel with archery, but tankmanship might be a better phrase. What better way to turn young girls into strong, resolute women? Women who are every bit as kawaii as the clatter of a caterpillar tread.

There's nothing cuter than a girl and her tank

There’s nothing cuter than a girl and her tank


Our heroine (Nishizumi Miho) is the youngest child in a household devoted to  Sensha-Dō. From the few scenes we have of her home life, it is a cold, dour, Prussian existence, redolant of oil and steel in the Kuromorimine (Black Mines of Mori?) Academy. How bad was it? In Episode 1, Miho is out of bed and has the bedclothes folded (panic breathing) before she wakes up fully and realizes with a smile, I’m not at home any more. The Nishizumis have dominated the National Competition for years. They won the National nine times in a row, and it would have been ten, except that Miho stopped her tank to go rescue the crew of a tank that had slid into the ocean, and let the flag tank be killed by the opposing team. Ostracized by her family, she fled to a school that didn’t even offer  Sensha-Dō, only to find that the school has restarted the program, and is intent on dragooning her into a leadership positon.

True leaders know when to lead

True leaders know when to lead.
(did you know that Rommel’s crossing of the Somme was held up by a Panzer IV jammed on a bridge?)

Miho leads her team of girls — there isn’t even a token boy, I mean c’mon, boys driving tanks? — through the search for new tanks,

The History Club knows how to find old things

The History Club knows how to find old things

…sometimes in unusual places

"Found in a rabbit hutch" is the Internet's next cool phrase

“Found in a rabbit hutch” is the Internet’s next cool phrase

…very unusual places

Are you sure we're on an aircraft carrier?

Are you sure we’re on an aircraft carrier?

and then on to their first match, barely losing to the aristocratic St Gloriana Girls Academy (very British, they drink tea, in china cups, during combat). The other girls know nothing of tanks, or  Sensha-Dō, and so do things like paint them in traditional Japanese fashion,

If only Oda Nobunaga had one of these

If only Oda Nobunaga had one of these

and fill them with homey touches like pillows and air freshners. It’s an approach she couldn’t concieve of, back in the Kuromorimine Academy, and despite the fact that the losing team had to do the Anko Dance (after which it’s impossible for a girl to get married) she finds she now, for the first time, really likes tanks.

Tank commander Darjeeling prepares for battle

Tank commander Darjeeling prepares for battle

The rest of the series alternates between thrilling tank battles and character development. For example, Isuzu Hana, the quiet girl from a flower-arranging family (Hana means flower), first breaks up with her mother over her choice of  Sensha-Dō over calligraphy, but then reconciles after her mother sees the vigor that her new experiences brings to her flower arranging. They successively beat the Sherman tanks of the American Saunders Academy, the Italian Anzio High School, and the Russian Pravda High School.

Team Mallard can do it

Team Mallard can do it

That last battle had them trapped in an abandoned building, doing the Anko Dance — to raise their morale. Outside, the Russians have just finished an exciting drive across the steppe, while singing a traditional Russian folk song, written at the start of WWII. (As an aside – don’t get me started – it’s still in copyright in the US, so it was clipped from the Crunchyroll showing and can only be enjoyed by pirates and not by paying customers. It might or might not be available here. It’s been DMCA’d, so you have to google “katyusha girls und panzer”, to find it. It’s not for nothing that this episode was called “Girls und Panzer, the Musical”.

The Russian leader offers to take their surrender, whereupon one of the History Team Momo-chan says “That’s nuts“. It’s at this point we learn why the Student Council is so intent on winning the Nationals. If they don’t, the school will be closed as a cost-cutting measure. Miho rises to the occasion, and the team wins in a wild battle in the snow.

They don't get much closer

They don’t get much closer

The girls have now reached the National Finals, and are facing Miho’s sister, heading the Kuromorimine Academy team. The battle has just started, and the Kuromorimine Academy’s German tanks have surprised the girls by taking the shortcut through the forest — the anime doesn’t give us the name of the forest — when suddenly…the production team decides to take a three month break. So, we won’t know how things have turned out until the end of March.

For my other reviews, click on the Anime tag, below.

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4 Responses to “Girls und Panzer – the anime 1”

  1. Kurt Kremer Says:

    Agree on all points. I haven’t had so much fun watching an anime in years, with the cross of cinematic and video game-like details, the quirky cross sectional approach to Japanese culture and girl culture, and the tankload of old movie references. Thanks again for this rec.

  2. Girls und Panzer – the anime 4 | FoundOnWeb Says:

    […] is the fourth and last installment of my writeup on Girls und Panzer. Here’s the links to Part 1, Part 2, and Part […]

  3. Girls und Panzer — the anime 2 | FoundOnWeb Says:

    […] is the second installment of my writeup on Girls und Panzer. Here’s the links to Part 1, Part 3 and Part […]

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