Girls und Panzer Review

This is review number one hundred and seventy six. This is another anime from the Fall 2012 lineup. I actually have two more anime to go before I finish this year so I pretty excited to move on with my goal. The anime I’ll be reviewing is Girls und Panzer. It’s a twelve episode anime about girls driving tanks and looking cute while they do it. This is a pretty surprising anime since I didn’t expect to be so entertained by it. Let’s read on.

Story

The show is about the girls of Oari High School and its recently revived Sensha-do program. It’s a form of “martial arts” where you battle using tanks. The school has gathered a bunch of ragtag people to join the program and compete against other schools far superior in the martial arts. The Oari team is led by Miho Nishizumi, the only experience tank operator of the group. The journey isn’t easy but this underdog team plans on winning and coming out champions.

Taking the Pants Off

She’s saying ‘Gomenasai”. Double alienation FTW.

Before I begin, I just want to point out that subs can really change the experience so by all means, find the best subs you can get your hands on. The subs I got were translating some Japanese lines into German which was infuriating and it actually muddled the whole experience. Some subs are really bad so find the best ones. This infuriates me because there were different nationalities in the anime that loosely represent WW2 countries. The main characters are Japanese so you don’t replace their lines with German expressions. The group representing the Germans appears later on in the anime. Respect the original material, please. Also, secondly, the anime aired an episode 5.5 and 10.5 which are recap episodes. You have the option to skip them but they provide play by play commentaries of the matches in the anime and a little bit of background on why the conditions of the matches favored one team considerably. The recaps provide clarity in ways the series cannot waste time on. Ok, that’s it.

I’ve been dying to see this anime for a long time now. The anime delayed the final two episodes for some reason pushing it into March of this year for it to end instead of late December. I don’t really know why the delayed it but I’m guessing they wanted to polish up the final episodes. It’s all good because the anime is really incredible. The anime is about girls and tanks. The combination doesn’t seem that absurd now because there once was an anime about girls and guns called Upotte. On paper, the two anime seems to be the same. They are both a take on military weapons and adding an anime twist to it. The twist comes in the form of cute high school girls handling the weapons. It’s absurd but, like I said, it’s been done before and I actually loved the concept. Upotte was a bit awkward in its execution though.  Girls und Panzer overcame that hurdle and featured its strongest selling point: the girls and the military weapons. The result is amazing. The show had strong negative aspects but it was overpowered by the stronger positive aspects of the show making it a pretty damn good one.

The anime had a simple story to tell. It’s about some of the girls in Oari High doing their best and rising to the top. It’s the familiar underdog story we’ve all heard and seen before so there isn’t really anything complicated about it. Throughout the anime, the characters train, meet far superior Sensha-do users, fight in overwhelmingly bad situations and try their best to crawl out if it. If they aren’t focused on tank battles, the characters are spending time together getting to know each other and slowly forming a stronger bond. This is the great thing about this anime because I was expecting a club related show that is a little bit awkward but I got something a lot better. The story is pretty easy to digest and the show is more action oriented than anything else.

panzer1

The anime’s biggest draw is the tank battles. There is actually a nice concept to it that made the whole thing pretty exciting to watch. The tank battles are more like a friendly sport than an actual war simulation. The tanks are equipped with non-piercing ammo that damages a target but doesn’t endanger the lives of the operators. The tanks are also equipped with a black box that assesses the damage taken by the tanks so if it can no longer endure the battle then it raises a white flag that signals their defeat. The object of the tank battle sin the anime is to try and beat the opponent before they beat you. The anime was smart about the battles though because there is a very nice storytelling in it that makes it interesting. It isn’t just a straight up fight where tanks over power another. The battles are actually filled with various tactics and tank maneuvers that made it more interesting. The personalities of the operators and the way the tide of battle shifts freely makes it pretty fun to watch. The battles nicely emulate a war with all of the strategies and attack formations involved. I think the show even employed an actual historian to add some depth to the anime. This works great because various tactics and strategies are often actually used in battle during wars involving tanks. Any WW2 fanatic or tank enthusiast would easily love the anime because of how legit the battles are. If you can get over the idea that high school girls operate them then you can easily see the wonderful storytelling woven in the battles.

You also don’t really need to be a huge tank expert or historian to love the battles because they are pretty easy to follow. Granted that certain details aren’t presented, the way the main characters claw and scratch their way to victory is pretty amazing by itself. The characters are underdogs so almost every fight in the anime favors the enemies at first because they are far more experience in the tank battles. The Oari High girls are first timers in this kind of thing but they are up against far seasoned operators. It’s a battle between LVL 10 characters against LVL 60 characters that is pretty exciting to watch because the LVL 10 characters are doing their best to overcome the odds. It’s not hard to root for the underdogs and watch in suspense how they will turn the situation to their favor. The psychology of the matches is pretty precise and you can never predict how the battles will end. The use of terrains, strategies and the different attributes of the tanks are pretty easy to understand and very fun to watch. In fact, some of the scenes in the anime are so nicely conceived that they are actually resemble video game cut scenes than a normal anime scene. It was amazing and this great aspect of the anime is the thing that really saves it. The tank battles are absolutely amazing but almost everything else in the anime is a bit weak.

The story of the anime is pretty simple. It’s both a good thing and bad thing that the story is a bit predictable. It’s good because there is enough to develop some characters and build up some of the tank battles. The predictability gave us a familiar setting that help make the tank battles more enjoyable. Since the underdog story is pretty familiar, the anime doesn’t do anything complex about it. It’s a bad thing though because the tank battles are so good that it clearly deserves a story that is just as better. The predictability hurt the anime a bit because you can predict the outcome of some narrative before it even develops. The simple story also felt a bit forced and there was a very great potential the story had that clearly wasn’t utilized. I understand though that the story is good enough to make the tank battles great even though it doesn’t possess a shining quality of its own. It’s smart because most of the storytelling is done in the battlefield. Everything else was just a small build up to the next one. I’m fine with that because I’m really in love with the tank battles. I can’t deny the fact that it wasted its potential though. The anime was only twelve episodes long so there really isn’t enough time to make both the story and the tank battles great.

The anime was so pressed for time that it trimmed a lot of things that could’ve made it much better. One of thing I didn’t appreciate about the anime was the way it didn’t properly introduce the tanks. There are a lot of tanks in the anime that are really cool you often wonder what it did during the war. The light weight tanks and the heavy armored tanks aren’t properly explained. The turret and the piercing powers aren’t clarified. The rich history of the tanks from how they were develop, who develop them, how they helped the war and how they are suited for battle aren’t explained as well. This could’ve added a lot to the story of the anime because the entire anime is already brimming with a WW2 aura to it that it feels a bit hollow no one was balls deep explaining the history to the viewers. Actually, the 5.5 and 10.5 did present all of this to us and it made certain battles a lot clearer so you should really try to watch those episodes as well to grasp the awesomeness behind the tanks. The history of the tanks isn’t the only thing left out the anime. The backstory of the world the anime is in was also left out. The girls attend a school that is in a town that is inside a warship. Why? Also, how did these metal death traps suddenly became popular recreational sports for girls? Why is it considered a “martial arts”? Why did the world suddenly stopped using tanks and left them to rust for all eternity? So many questions I felt the anime didn’t even try to cover. The annoying part is that this anime is an Original Screenplay. It wasn’t adapted from anything so I felt that it had the opportunity to add anything it wanted but decided not to. Bottom line, the tanks and the girls are awesome therefore the anime is awesome.

The characters are pretty decent. They are good enough to make the tank battles look good since their reaction and moments of heroicness is the thing that makes the battles unique. The girls are the ones giving the tanks the needed personality that helps add intrigue to the battles. There are a lot of characters though and majority of them are massively generic. Now, generic characters aren’t actually bad. The anime was able to use the familiarity of the generic characters to its full potential. You don’t really need to know a lot about some volleyball enthusiasts operating a tank that uses volleyball references like spikes and receives when they are engaging on tank battles. The problem with the anime though is that there are a lot of generic characters here to balance. I’d say more than twenty or so excluding the enemies. If you include the enemies and various side characters then there are at least less than forty characters in the anime. That’s too many for an anime as simple as this one. The only time they are utilized is when they fight in their tanks. Other than that, they are massive clutters but they’re worth a lot during the greatest aspect of the anime so it’s all good.

Besides, as the anime progresses, the generic characters does grow on you. I actually love the character dynamic in the various tanks because they have a certain quality to them that makes them unique. There is a bunch of volleyball players, some history fanatics, the student council, some freshmen with innocent demeanors and the main characters. They slowly grow on you and you actually enjoy seeing them bicker and cohesively work together while in engaging in fights. The main characters don’t really offer much. They are generic as well and the only person that really had a decent development was Miho Nishizumi. She started out as a shy girl with an awkward personality and grew into a pretty amazing person in the end. There were various side stories presented in the anime about the personal conflicts of certain characters but they are as generic like the story. It’s there to add volume but not enough to actually help the anime.

The enemies in the anime were generic as well. They are good enough to actually be a threat to the main characters and their generic personality persists as well but there isn’t a lot to make the characters really well defined. In the tank battles, they are awesome because the odds are with them and they are seasoned operators against the inexperienced characters. I also love how the various enemies resemble countries and their tanks also hail from their individual countries. There are American tanks driven by American enthusiasts, English tanks driven by proper girls, Russian tanks driven by aggressive Russian girls (even had a wartime song that was edited out by Cruchyroll) and German tanks driven by German girls. Again, history and tank fanatics will see the connection because of the backstory behind the tanks. Various tactics and maneuvers of the enemies were also the same as certain countries so it was certainly interesting to see them fight. I think the main characters are Japanese but they own a lot of tanks that came from German and French and other countries so I’m not sure where they fit. Anyways, this was the thing that made the enemies interesting. It made the individual battles interesting and really just an awesome experience.

This is an amazing anime. The flaws are pretty noticeable but they don’t ruin the experience. The anime was smart enough to feature its strongest aspect pretty effectively that the negative aspects barely made a dent. A predictable story and generic characters are all good when you have cute girls trying to best each other using tanks in a fight that’ll certainly catch your attention. I want another season and damn it, we need more giant metal death traps getting the moe anime treatment. When will Hitler get an anime version, I wonder? I’d watch that.

Sight and Sound

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The character design is pretty normal. It’s the familiar big headed characters with big bug eyes and a slender body. The style is used to make the characters extremely cute and it does so pretty nicely. The characters are generic so the looks are the ones that made them interesting. The main characters don’t have much but their simple design is what makes them stand out because the rest of the cast are pretty flashy looking. There are characters with colorful outfits that really made them memorable. The various teams operating the tanks also had enough group cohesion so you can easily remember them. There are a lot of characters but they anime never gets confusing and it’s all thanks to the character design.

The tanks are awesome. They are done in CG but they look really cool. There are a lot of details on them that are nicely designed that the various tanks really have individual looks to them. You don’t need to be a tank fanatic to enjoy the designs as well because the way they move, fire ammo and do tactical moves are enough to really make them amazing.

The animation is pretty great. The normal scenes had enough animation to it to tell the story and the characters don’t really move a lot. The facial expressions are actually the thing that stands out during the normal scenes and they do wonders in terms of animation. I distinctly remember Miho being shy then crying a bit then smiling then having a normal face in one scene which is pretty amazing. The animation becomes bad ass in the tank battles though. Again, they are so amazingly done that they almost resemble video game cut scenes instead of normal anime scenes. The details in the scenes and the way the tank battles are really nicely done you are easily drawn to them. The blend of the CG to the normal animated terrains is also pretty great. The animation really made the fight scenes so amazing.

The anime’s OP is “DreamRiser” by Choucho. It’s a pretty heartwarming song that captures the spirit of the anime. It’s a bit cute but the song is also strong willed. The singer’s voice is about the only thing that really made the song amazing so I like that part. She has clarity in her voice even though the song itself isn’t that remarkable. The OP sequence features all the girls in a cute montage and the tank battles as well. It summarizes the anime pretty decently but I was a bit annoyed some characters who appear so late in the anime was in the OP since the first episode.

The anime’s ED is “Enter Enter MISSION!” by Miho Nishizumi (Mai Fuchigami), Saori Takebe (Ai Kayano), Hana Isuzu (Mami Ozaki), Yukari Akiyama (Ikumi Nakagami), and Mako Reizei (Yuka Iguchi). It’s a cute song featuring the voices of the main characters. This is a great song because it’s a bit bubbly and the voices of the characters blend well together. There is so much energy in the song that it’s pretty catchy. The ED sequence features chibi version of the characters riding their tanks in a cute backgroung. It’s pretty cute as well.

Overall Score

8/10 “A fairly underwhelming anime brilliantly featuring a strong aspect that makes it pretty amazing.”

This is a great anime. The whole thing is just amazing and I love how it was able to keep me excited until the end. The anime is pretty simple and a bit predictable but none of those matters when the girls are out rolling in their tanks. It’s pretty awesome how nicely executed the anime is. I highly recommend it.

12 thoughts on “Girls und Panzer Review

  1. You forgot to mention the background musics through the whole show that are one of the big reasons that the show felt very WW2-ish.

    I love how each enemy teams use their “country” marching songs as their bgm. (It freaks me a little in a good way when I realize it’s Panzerlied playing in the background when Black Forest’s tanks are ganging up at Oorai’s in ep11)

    But I love it even more when Oorai’s (or GuP’s) theme start playing. Especially at the starting minutes of ep1 & when ep12 Miho was exchanging rounds with her big sis in that wall-off complex. So badass.

  2. A really well thought out detailed review, wish I had time to provide such excellent reviews on anime series. Heard quite a bit about Girls Und Panzer, all of it positive and your review has just reinforced that. Have the feeling this will be licensed!

  3. I’m thinking of watching this one (i.e will add to my humongous list :-(). Who do you think did the best subs/Where can you find the best subs?

    • I only tried one sub and the just added their own style to it. Any subs is OK since the story is easy to follow. Be sure to watch the .5 episodes.

Thoughts~

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