Review

by Jon Hayward, Mar 24th 2014

Girls und Panzer

Synopsis:
Girls und Panzer - Blu-ray
Oarai Academy needs a Tankery team and there's only one student for the job, transfer student Miho Nishizumi. However to be on the tracks to victory in the International Tankery Championship she will need to assemble a crack team of specialists, her friends Saora, Hana, Yukari and Mako. Together they make Team Anglerfish and they need to work hard in their trusty German Panzer IV Ausf. D to defeat other high schools and the myriad tactics that they employ.
Review:

Miho is trying to start a new life at a new school, she's no longer living with her family and all she wants to do is have a standard regular normal high school life. However she is quickly drawn into the one thing she wants to avoid, tankery, the proper ladies sport of shooting people in tanks.

The concept of a world where tank warfare is a school sport alongside such activities as calligraphy, tea ceremonies and flower arranging is bizarre. But you roll with it, you know, cute girls, tanks, you can get on board with that. Then the show zooms back to show you the traditional Japanese environment you have been shown is actually aboard a gigantic aircraft carrier that purely exists for the purpose of teaching girls. That's when you know for sure that you don't have to take the Girls und Panzer seriously, you just sit back and enjoy the show.

Girls und Panzer runs at a fast clip, Miho makes new friends and is quickly blackmailed by the student council to join the Tankery class (known as Sensha-Do in Japanese) which she doesn't want to do due to unspecified and shadowy flashback that will be further explained at a future date. The club is assembled and the five different teams find, repair, repaint and get to the action where the rest of the series is a underdog tale worthy of Emilio Estevez on ice. The overarching plot deals with Miho and her team fighting to keep the school open by placing first in the international tankery tournament, however Miho's family do not approve of her participating in their traditional sport as she (previous to the series) eschewed the families tactics and cost them the win in the previous year's tournament. This very thin thread of conflict is through the entire series but it happens to be just enough to keep the tank treads rolling.

At regular intervals we're given a closer look at one of the girls and what makes them tick and with over 20 cast members (and a main five to focus on) it can be difficult to decide to cheer on a particular girl. Do you prefer girls obsessed with history, specifically war history? Or how about a volleyball club or a bunch of 1st graders? And for kicks we've thrown in the student council as well. And this is where it all really falls apart, there's too many girls and they are just not memorable. If you take a look at the core five girls you have Miho - the happy go-lucky leader, Hana - who will show her mother that tankery is as good as flower arranging, Saori - who is obsessed about boys, Mako - a quiet girl that reads the manual (and who is pretty much Yuki from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya) and Yukari who has an unhealthy obsession with tanks. We get snippets of their lives and short perspectives on the characters, but nothing that could be seen as reasonable character development, everything is a foregone conclusion and the difference between the girls at the start of the series and the end is that they can drive a competition winning tank. It feels like the cast were assembled by committee and they wanted to make sure there was a girl for each and every kind of viewer. At least there's no panty shots.

Girls und Panzer does excel at visual gags, the entire show is built around the odd juxtaposition of cute girls on/in tanks so we have tank running down the road in the morning, tank on a bridge, tank painted bright pink, tank taking out a small town, tank getting cleaned and tank picking up the girls for school. And then we get combat that would make Commando magazine happy for years, tough conditions, overwhelming forces, communication tapping, teams of British, American, Italian, Russian and German schools to fight against? Fortunately they decided to skip the dogs with explosives strapped to their backs. Combat is presented as a popular school sport on the mainland where families come in to watch the show from a safe distance, entire towns are abandoned so damage can wreak havoc and it's here when we finally see a few guys. This post WWII world is really weird but entertaining with everyone loving classic tank warfare and being obsessed with WWII. I just really wanted to know more than the one line we get on why the school ships exist, I mean, how would they produce something bigger than the largest ship known to man and have enough horsepower to drive it?

The crew that produced Girls und Panzer is solid, Tsutomu Mizushima directed the show and he was responsible for directing Blood-C, Genshiken OAV, TV series and Second Season) and xxxHOLiC TV series, Movies and OAVs). The series was scripted and composed by Reiko Yoshida who was responsible for all of the K-ON anime and the original character designer was Humikane Shimada, the original creator of Strike Witches. This series just oozes with talent, but it's a package where the sum of it's parts doesn't quite come together and stun you. The animation is nice, there's no shortcuts with the 2d girls and 3d tanks packaged together so well you won't believe the tanks are not hand animated. The writing while bland never drops a beat and only visits the bathhouse a couple of times. There is fanservice in this series, the trailer on disc has the director claiming that there would be no panty shots and to his credit he finished the series without a single one. But there's a few bathhouse scenes and one busty student council member inexplicably in a bikini.


I will admit I wasn't a fan of the Japanese voice track with Mai Fuchigami's role as Miho Nishizumi making me switch to the English dub track due to the high pitch. I quickly found I preferred the English voices with the voice acting far better than I was expecting for this title, Janice Williams's work as the ADR director and the English voice cast should be commended for their work with barely a voice out of place.

I wasn't expecting to watch the show from start to finish, I will admit the tank combat kept me going and the setting made it very easy to sit back and turn the brain off. This release does have the two .5 episodes that are recaps of the previous episodes and a couple of the original Japanese tv spots alongside the standard clean opening and closing animations. But this release is exactly what a Blu-ray should be, nice crisp animation and excellent sound quality, no problems here.

So in summary it's a little light on plot and characterisation, the designs are not memorable but the animation is decent. So would I recommend it? Yes, if you're looking for a nice story of some girls making it through their international sports league one shell at a time Girls und Panzer is a great watch. There's not much there but what Girls und Panzer does deliver is an entertaining watch.

Tanks for reading this review ;)

Grade:
Production Info:
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : C
Animation : A
Art : B
Music : C

+ Simple and fun series with some fantastic tank battles to watch. Nice smooth animation.
Plot and characterisation is thin on the ground, characters are not memorable.

Director:Tsutomu Mizushima
Series Composition:Reiko Yoshida
Script:Reiko Yoshida
Storyboard:
Hiroyuki Hata
Atsushi Kobayashi
Tsutomu Mizushima
Meigo Naito
Masami Shimoda
Yasutaka Yamamoto
Noriyasu Yamauchi
Episode Director:
Yōsuke Hashiguchi
Hiroyuki Hata
Takashi Ikehata
Atsushi Kobayashi
Shin'ichi Masaki
Tsutomu Mizushima
Akihisa Shibata
Yasutaka Yamamoto
Unit Director:Masami Shimoda
Music:Shiroh Hamaguchi
Original Character Design:
Takeshi Nogami
Humikane Shimada
Character Design:Isao Sugimoto
Art Director:Yutaka Ōnishi
Chief Animation Director:Isao Sugimoto
Animation Director:
Yūsuke Isouchi
Takeshi Itou
Yuko Iwaoka
Shin Young Kim
Yong Sik Kim
Yuuta Ootaka
Isao Sugimoto
Atsuko Takahashi
Takao Takegami
Natsuki Watanabe
Asuka Yamaguchi
3D Director:Keiichiro Yagino
Sound Director:Yoshikazu Iwanami
Director of Photography:Naoyuki Ohba
Producer:
Youhei Hayashi
Takeshi Ishigaki
Yasuyo Ogisu
Yōichi Sekine
Kiyoshi Sugiyama

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Girls und Panzer (TV)

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