Last summer saw the release of “This is the Real Anzio Battle!” Original Video Anime, a double-length episode that falls at the end of Episode 7 in the TV series. I, of course, ordered it, despite the minor problem of it being all in Japanese, with no subtitles. It came this week.
First thing I noticed was that it was packaged for the Japanese market. That is to say, no security tags and no impenetrable seals. Break the flimsy plastic wrap and you’re in. Additional swag is minimal — a book of screen-shots and tank specs, and another one of character pencil sketches.
Watching it in Japanese without subtitles was fun, and frustrating, because I can only pick up one word in twenty or thirty (OK, forty). On the other hand, this was GaruPan at its finest, and much of it didn’t need translating. The one place I missed it most was the meeting between Suzuki Takako (AKA Caeser) the Roman history expert and gunner/loader for the History Club’s Hippo Team and Hina-chan (AKA Carpaccio), a childhood friend with a similar interest in things Italian, now attending Anzio. Her full name might be Tsukoda Hina, if I heard one discussion correctly.
I won’t go into a lot of detail, because spoilers, but
there are some key plot aspects that I think it’s OK to talk about: like Yukarin pulling another intelligence mission onto the Italian school ship (based on the never-completed WWII Italian carrier Aquila), and the fact that, this being an Italian school, food plays a big part (Yukarin has a plate of the Anzio School’s idea of omurice — omuspaghetti). Much of the first half is a training montage, with the Volleyball Team playing the part of the Anzio CV33s.
The Anzio tanks are typical of the poor-quality systems Italy fielded in WWII, all the more so because Anzio’s finances are in a typically Italianate state of disrepair. Their big gun tank is a Carro Armato P-40 (75mm gun), equivalent to the PzKwIV, purchased with their lunch money; they have several M41/Semovente 75/18 self-propelled guns, equivalent to the Hippo Team’s STUG III with Caeser‘s friend Carpaccio as the gunner/loader for one of them; and a bunch of cute little CV33’s, more properly called tankettes.
On the Oarai side we only have the original five tank teams – we see the Porsche-Tiger being overhauled, and the Hall Monitors have only just signed up.
The battle itself takes up most of the last half of the OVA. It starts with a [redacted] surprise, and soon breaks up into a running fight between the P40 and PzKwIV, a slugfest between Caeser and Carpaccio in their self propelled guns, and everybody else and all the CV33’s that are scampering around. It’s exciting and hilarious at the same time. It ends with a re-enactment of the closing scene from Episode 7, after which there’s a party. And after the final credits, which for once include the opponent’s tanks and not the Oarai tanks, we find out why “Duce” Anchovy didn’t show up in Episode 11 to congratulate the Oarais.
This OVA was a little more cartoony than the standard episodes – the Ducks pick off CV33s running along a ridge like they were targets in a shooting gallery; the CV33s keep flipping over and over and ending right side up. Since it doesn’t mean much if you haven’t seen the original anime, I think it was the production team having fun and dropping in in-jokes and playing off tropes. They skimped a little on the animation, but not where it counted. So, the food scenes were mostly stills, and in one shot of the Rabbit Team zig-zagging it was just the girls heads that moved. On the other hand, all the combat was animated with the same loving skill as the original anime.
The music was selections from the high-quality soundtrack of the original series, marred only slightly by the producer’s choice of which tracks to include where. Sometimes the effect was jarring. The only addition was funiculi funicula as the BGM for Yukarin’s mission to the Aquila.
Extras include a discussion of Italian tanks by Yukarin and Anchovy (in Japanese, follow along with the pictures), and coverage of a couple of the Oarai City GaruPan festivals, including appearances by some of the Seiyūs (which end up looking about as inane as those things usually are).
If you’re a GaruPan fan, it’s worth spending the Japanese import price and putting up with the lack of english. Maybe you only get half of what’s going on, but with GaruPan, that’s still 10% more entertainment than any other anime will give you. UPDATE: I’ve seen it via fansub, and I haven’t changed my opinion.