The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Girls und Panzer

Title: Girls und Panzer
Genre: Action
Company: Actas
Format: 12 Episodes
Dates: 9 Oct 2012 – 25 Mar 2013

Synopsis: On her first day at her new high school, Nishizumi Miho gets apprehensively recruited to the tankery club. Joining her are Mako the skilled driver , the tank-crazy Yukari, the gentle gunner Hana, and the chatty radio operator Saori. Can Miho lead this motley crew to tank glory on the battlefield? Panzer vor!

The Highlights
Animation: Flawless.
Music: Thematically creative, perfectly executed.
Action sequences: Riveting.
Composition: Perfect pacing, brilliant storyline, refuge in audacity.

Girls und Panzer is so entertaining, so elegantly simple that it proves that even the most outlandish premises can become spectacular shows. The anime appears to be the modest tale of the young Nishizumi Miho leading her school into the world of competitive tankery. The plot and setting can be best described as ridiculous, but the show proceeds with the confidence and wit of a true masterpiece.

Girls und Panzer is so focused that the tightness of its narrative is almost an afterthought. The show explores characters, setting, and conflicts at will. The seamless pacing feels so natural because the girls are either fighting in tank battles or preparing for them; there are no inane beach episodes to be found. No matter what the girls are doing — looking for abandoned tanks or getting dessert at the tank café — the show never strays far from its subject matter: tanks.

Early in the show, it is evident that Girls und Panzer takes tankery seriously. The anime might take place in a fantasy land where tank battles are a high school sport and there are cities on massive aircraft carriers, but the tank details are as real as they get. The battles feature creative cinematography, combining high angle action shots with first-person views through the tank rangefinder to create an immersive and exciting experience. The CGI tanks look great, and it is clear that Actas put great effort into making the graphics blend seamlessly into the animation.

Ooarai Academy’s opponents are personifications of the tank-fielding powers in the Second World War, such as Britain, Germany, or Russia. The girls of the British-themed school are graceful and drink tea, while the members of the Russian team sing “Katyusha” as their tanks roll into battle. Not only is the theming incredibly amusing, but it gives identity to the opposing teams. This creates empathy and makes the conflict truly a match between two narrative forces, rather than the “good guys” versus “generic opponent”.

Girls und Panzer further throws shounen action tropes out the window with the way battles are executed. Rather than our characters drawing powers by reaching a sudden understanding deep within themselves, Ooarai overcomes obstacles with cunning tactics and actual strategy. It is fantastically exciting to see Miho keep calm under unnerving circumstances and devise a plan to turn the tables. At work is not some arbitrary concept of fighting spirit, but preparation, training, and brilliant leadership. This is as good as action anime get.

The show could probably explore the members of the Ooarai Academy more. The crews of the other tanks don’t seem to have much presence, but their personalities are so straightforward they don’t need any exposition. Some of the character storylines, such as Hana being disowned by her family for pursuing tankery, get tied off rather abruptly, but can I really say I would trade in tank scenes for that? It seems like a tiny nit to pick atop a glorious mountain of utterly delightful entertainment, topped with smart pop culture references and superb production quality. Girls und Panzer is well-paced, and it doesn’t bog itself down with needless character exposition. Even without its charming subtleties and creative world building, Girls und Panzer drives at the very raison d’être of creative media. There is simply nothing wrong with that.

The Rating: 10

Reviewed by: kevo

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