“Being in the army is like being in the Boy Scouts, except that the Boy Scouts have adult supervision.” – Blake Clark
The girls of Ooarai Girl’s High School are back, and this time they are fighting to regain something they have lost.
It has been a while since the last Girls und Panzer release came out: over three years to be exact. Luckily, for those who don’t remember all the details, one of the extras is, “Girls und Panzer in (about) three minutes” (it’s actually much closer to four), which quickly explains the entire plot. Aside from this, the only other extras in the film are textless opening and closing.
That plot being that the series is set in a world where after World War Two the tanks were kept and reused in the all-women sport of “Tankery” (aka “sensha-do”). The series follows a team based at a girls’ school, whose main tank, a Panzer, is led by Miho Nishisumi, who comes from a long line of tankery fighters. Also in her tank, codenamed “Goosefish”, are Saori Takebe, the radio operator who’s looking for love; Hana Isuzu, the gunner with a passion of flower arranging; loader and military otaku Yukari Akiyama; and the tardy driver Mako Reizei.
Also in the school squad are: the “Turtle” team made up of the student council; the “Mallard” team featuring the hall monitors; the “Duck” team consisting of the school’s former volleyball squad; the “Hippo” team of history buffs; the “Rabbit” team featuring first-year students; the geeky “Anteater” team; and finally the “Leopon” team consisting of the school’s automobile club who make all the tank repairs.
The film begins with an exhibition match, with Ooarai allied with the gung-ho Japanese-themed Chi-Ha-Tan Academy, fighting against the British-themed St. Gloriana and the Russian-themed Pravda schools. The fight takes up about a quarter of the movie and is a thrilling battle with plenty of comic moments too. However, the plot really gets moving after the battle is over. Ooarai learn that despite winning the national championship, which occured in the main TV series, the school is still being shut down by the Ministry of Education, who claim that their verbal agreement has no legal standing. Thus the old battleship on which the school is based on is seized, but their tanks are saved by their friends in the American-themed Saunders school.
While the team is currently relocated in an old school building and Saunders returning their tanks back (via parachute drop), the matter reaches the ears of Miho’s mother, Shiho, who, thanks to her desire of wanting to see Miho and her older sister Maho have a rematch, helps to push forward a new written agreement between the Ministry and Ooarai. The deal is that the school will stay open if they can beat a more experienced team from a university.
The Ministry arranges things to be as difficult as possible for Ooarai: their rivals are a team led by a child prodigy named Alice Shimada, who also happens to have a love of the same beaten-up teddy bears that Miho likes. Also, the university team vastly outnumbers Ooarai, having 30 tanks to Oarai’s 8, and the conditions for victory are to knock out every single tank. On the day of the battle, against what look like impossible odds, Miho gets some good news. By exploiting a loophole in the rules, Miho’s friends from their rival academies temporarily sign up to Ooarai, and thus their tanks join her team, balancing out the numbers and giving Miho and her friends a fighting chance to save the day.
Der Film has plenty of things to like about it if you are a fan of the original series, although it does start oddly if you’re British. The first thing that comes up in the film is the lead of the St. Gloriana team saying that there is an old English proverb that if you see a tea stalk floating upright in your tea you will soon be visited by a splendid guest. I have never heard of this proverb and I don’t think anyone else in England has either.
Most of the movie though is great. There are some great comedic moments, like the “Rabbit” team being knocked out of the exhibition match because one of team is distracted by a butterfly. This team supply another of the funniest moments of the film in the university match, where most of the action takes place in an abandoned amusement park and to help some of their fellow teammates, they shoot off the couplings on a Ferris wheel that then rolls down a steep hill to cause chaos among the opposition.
Another pleasing point is some of the technical aspects of the movie, namely what one would probably wrongly describe as the “camerawork”. By this I mean that some of the best action in the tank battles comes from where it’s filmed from the point-of-view of the tank driver, so you are riding along with the crew, making the movie much more immersive and exciting for the viewer. There are other thrilling scenes too, such as when we discover that the university team has a gigantic tank, a Karl-Gerät, that fires 600kg shells. This marks two things: one, fear for the Ooarai team as they face such a monstrous machine; and two, the realisation that the people making this film have being looking into some obscure stuff, given that only seven of these tanks were ever made, and out of those just one survives.
On the downside, as this is something of a “plucky underdog” dog film you can guess how most of the plot is going to turn out, although there is the odd surprise here and there. Also some of the 3D animation doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the movie, but mostly it is a good film.
If you do enjoy it, you will be interested to know that more Girls und Panzer is on the way, waiting to be released in December, but given the title is Girls und Panzer das Finale you can tell that it will be the last outing for the girls.