The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 81 – Girls und Panzer

Girls and Panzer

So far, while looking at the vast collection of “anime set in schools that would never exist in real life”, we have seen the supernatural and the impractical, but some schools will never exist because of what happened before. This week we look at a school set in a world with an alternative history.

Girls und Panzer began as both a manga and an anime at around the same time in 2012. The anime had 14 episodes (two of which were clip shows), there have been seven straight-to-video episodes (one series of six episodes, and the seventh being separate), and a new film is currently planned for release in 2015.

In this world, the main difference is that after the end of World War II the countries preserved all the tanks that had been used in the conflict. These tanks have since been put to another purpose: sport. In this world the sport of “tankery” is one of the most popular all-woman sports around. The game involves two teams of women driving tanks and the object is to either knock out all the enemy tanks or take out the head “flag tank”.

The series follows a new tankery team at Oarai Girls High School, which is actually stationed on an old naval warship. This annoys new student Miho Nishizumi, who came to Oarai because it had no tankery team. She herself comes from a long line of tankery exponents but wants to give up the sport. Instead she is dragged into the new team.

Miho is put in charge of an old Panzer and soon sets up her team: romantic Saori Takabe who becomes the radio operator; gunner Hana Isuzu whose main hobby is actually flower-arranging; driver Mako Reizei, whose good grades make up for her lack of punctuality; and loader Yukari Akiyama, a girl who is totally obsessed with tankery and military history. Together they form the “Goosefish Team” as it’s named.

The school also has four other teams in its squad: the “Turtle Team” consisting of the school’s student council; the “Duck Team” whose students are the school’s former volleyball team; the “Hippo Team”, all of whom are history buffs; and the “Rabbit Team” made up of first-year students.

Girls und Panzer follows Miho as she leads the teams in matches against other schools, most of whom consist of teams whose tanks come from one country, so there is a British-like team, an American-like team and so on. It also follows Miho’s attempts to prove to some of her family that she has her own “way of the tank”.

In terms of plus-points, the art is generally good, so is the soundtrack, and the plot tends to move at a nice decent pace, although some bits are skipped over. The matches between the schools are pretty entertaining. There are some issues however, such as the 3D animation being a bit low quality. When you first come across the premise who think it is going to be rather stupid, but it is actually fun.

This element of fun takes a surprisingly British turn in one of the straight-to-video episodes. In one episode the students are camping and eat normal army rations. This includes eating spam, which due to product placement laws in Japan gets bleeped over so all you here is “s*am”. But then the Rabbit Team of first-years suggest dishes such as “egg and s*am”, “egg, bacon and s*am”, “egg, bacon, sausage and s*am”, and “s*am, s*am, s*am, egg and s*am”. Then it cuts to these girls dressed up as Vikings in a café singing “s*am, s*am, s*am, s*am, s*am, s*am, s*am, s*am…” This makes Girls und Panzer one of the few anime to reference Monty Python – and as a big Python fan as well as a lover of anime, this is just a heavenly combination for me.

While there is always the issue about World War II and Japan’s involvement in it, this series is relatively non-offensive. It is mainly just about some girls taking part in their favourite activity, even if it is one that can never actually happen. Forget the fact you are using historical equipment, health and safety alone would prevent it from happening. That and most of the girls are too young to drive.

The Girls und Panzer TV series and the first six OVA are released on DVD and Blu-Ray from MVM Films.