From time to time, the anime series ‘Girls und Panzer’ has been mentioned here on the forum, often in conjunction with a kit release tied into the series. Having seen these releases earlier in the year, curiosity prompted me to check out some clips on YouTube, and I had decided that yes, I would love to get the DVD box set at some time in the future
Then, just over a week ago, Netflix announced they would be streaming the series, and the sequel movie, ‘Girls und Panzer: der Film.’ I have just finished binge-watching the whole lot, and here’s my thought, for anyone who’s interested.
I have to start by saying that if your not a fan of Japanese-style animation, you may not at first enjoy this work, but if you have any interest in armour then I would strongly encourage you to give it at least a try, as the work that has gone into the accuracy of the animation modelling is off the charts, and the references to actual tanks, battles and even other movies is astounding.
The pot centre’s around the students of Ooarai Girls High School, which has just revived the art of tankery, a martial art that pits teams of girls against other schools in a battle for honour. The idea is to knock out the opposing teams flag tank, before they knock out yours, though in the battles no-one is ever seriously hurt. Unbeknownst to the girls, their school is under threat of closure, unless they can win the world tournament. No pressure, then! I won’t go into detail, but the girls, amateur rookies, are up against the best teams in the world.
The high points of this series, for me, is the incredible levels of accuracy the animators have put into each tank. Although my first love of militaria is WWII aircraft, I admit I can also recognise a large number of tanks, too, even to some of the sub-variants, and this series nails it, every time. I’m less familiar with tank interiors, but these too have an air of accuracy I am not willing to doubt.
Movies get referenced, sometimes so quickly you may miss them. ‘Kelly’s Heroes’ is one of them, with one of the characters picking up the nick-name of Sgt Oddball. In another scene the girls are watching TV, and there is an exact, animated re-creation of the part where Oddball slams a paint shell into the back of a Tiger, while the Tiger is trying, and failing, to traverse its turret.
Famous tank battles, generals, political leaders and other military minutia all get dropped in, and always with correct continuity with the plot. This show was clearly made by people who knew their stuff, because it is sumptuous in its accuracy.
The movie was, if anything, even better.
Released in 2015, it was the highest grossing film in Japan that year, with the second highest audience figures. Again, the girls of Ooarai Girls High School face having their school closed, but this time they are pitted against a hand-picked team of university students in another battle to save it. Except the rules have been manipulated, in order to ensure their defeat. It’s not capture the flag, but total annihilation, or last tank standing. Another movie is referenced, this time Steven Spielberg’s ‘1941’ and the part where the M3 Lee is shooting out the city lights during an air raid. The war references come really thick and fast this time, including one that only the nerdiest of nerds will get. When the battle moves into an old abandoned amusement arcade, there is a dog figure with what looks like a satchel strapped to it’s back. During the war the Russians trained dogs to run under tanks with mines strapped to their backs. Unfortunately, they trained the dogs on their own T-34’s, so during actual battles, when released, the dogs didn’t run under the German tanks, but…! There is also another reference to 1941, with a Ferris wheel. If you’ve seen the movie you know what happens next!
The drama and tension builds all the way through the battle, with the fight swinging back and forth, as each team gains the advantage. The climax of the battle was worth the wait, and honestly had me on the edge of my seat.
If I had any criticism, it’s that there was a certain amount of the willing suspension of disbelief required, such as the fact that the tanks would blow up without harming the girls inside, the tanks themselves moving at a much faster speed than they did in reality, and you cannot drift a tank!
In conclusion, if you are an armour modeller, or if you have any interest at all in tanks or WWII, I urge you to watch this, I personally found it hugely enjoyable.
Finally, here’s a YouTube review, though there are a lot of spoilers in it.