“Civilization is a youth with a Molotov cocktail in his hand. Culture is the Soviet tank or L.A. cop that guns him down.” – Edward Abbey
There are many anime that could arguably fit into the category of “series set in school that would never exist in the real world”. For some it is supernatural reasons (Vampire Knight or Soul Eater), for others it involves some sort of bizarre school policy (Baka and Test or Princess Princess). In this case it is alternative history – a history in which girls practise a sport involving World War II tanks.
In Girls und Panzer, the people of the world decided after the war ended to keep all the tanks and to use them for the sport of “Tankery”, also known as “Sensha-do” (“The way of the tank”). A sport for women, the object involves two teams firing live (but not lethal) shells at each other. In some games the object is to knock out all of the enemy tanks, in others it is just to go after one tank waving a flag.
The series begins with Miho Nishizumi, a girl from a long line of tank drivers who has brought shame on her family after abandoning her tank in one game in order to save some fellow players from drowning. She therefore moves away from her family and attends Oarai High School, stationed on a large ocean-going ship, which no longer practises the sport. However, upon arriving she learns that the school is reviving their tankery team and reluctantly she joins the school team.
Miho is made the commander of the “Goosefish” team, controlling a Panzer IV Asuf. D, whose fellow members are man-seeking radio operator Saori Takebe, flower-arranging gunner Hana Isuzu, military mad Yukari Akiyama, and tardy Mako Reizei. There are also four other teams in the school club: the “Turtle” team, made up of the student council; the “Duck” team, consisting of the school’s former volleyball club; the “Hippopotamus” team, whose members are all history lovers; and the “Rabbit” team, all of whom are first-year students. In the series we witness the team taking on various schools in a national tournament, with Miho coming into conflict with her elder sister Maho.
Girls und Panzer makes for a surprisingly entertaining watch. When I first came across it I thought that it would end up being like Strike Witches and be a bit fan-service heavy. But no, there is no fan-service at all. The only time the characters are nude is when they bathe, and you never see anything untoward. The series also have other plus points, such as the quality of the art and the soundtrack.
The plot moves along at a steady pace, and while there is not much to expect in terms of how the plot unfolds, the way the events are played out is good. Some of the ways that the Oarai team play the game are clever. They rely more on tactics than brute force. On the downside, some of the story is skipped over. One round of the tournament is totally skipped altogether. Other problems include the rather dodgy 3D animation.
Concerning the production of the DVD, there is no really major problem with the subtitles. However, at the start the word “Oarai” is spelt like that. But later on it is spelt “Ooarai”, to reflect that in Japanese the “O” has an accent (it should really be spelt “Ōarai”).
In terms of extras, there is textless opening and closing, trailers, and two clip shows from the series that serve as Episode 5.5 and Episode 11.5. The first looks more about the origins of the characters (given the number of teams that is a lot of people), while the second goes over the rules of tankery.
Girls und Panzer is an entertaining anime, and for those annoyed by the fact that some of plot is missing, more is revealed in the forthcoming OVA.