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Girls Und Panzer: TV Collection
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You may have heard of kung fu, but the girls at Oarai Academy practice gun-fu - really, really BIG gun-fu, in fact. It's called Tankery, and it's the martial art of operating armored tanks! And even though the Tankery program at Oarai has been defunct for years, the student council has taken a sudden interest in the art and no one they set their sights on is safe. Which is how Miho Nishizumi, who transferred to Oarai specifically to stay out of tanks, gets drafted to join the newly revived Tankery divison. But it's not all bad, because joining her in Team Anglerfish are her new found friends Saori, the highly receptive radio operator; Hana, a flower arranger turned gunner; Mako, their brilliant, but chronically sleepy driver; and combustible tank fangirl and loader Yukari. They may not be on the half-track to fame and fortune, and maybe some of them would rather shop for tank tops than become tops in tanks, but once their focus is locked and loaded, they're absolutely driven. It's mad, it's metal and mayhem is guaranteed! It's GIRLS UND PANZER!
The school adventure series Girls Und Panzer (2012) combines a kawaii (cute) cast of teenagers with World War II-vintage tanks, a juxtaposition even more incongruous than the big eyes/big breasts/big guns cliché. Shy Miho Nishizumi comes to Oarai Girls' School because the curriculum doesn't include "tankery." Her family has a long association with tanks, and her brittle older sister has rejected Miho for sacrificing an interscholastic match to save her teammates from drowning. But the Oarai student council president adds the program, announcing that training for amateur tank warfare makes girls "polite, graceful, modest, and gallant." Miho and her friends, a standard array of anime girls' school types, form the crew of one tank. To no one's surprise, Miho's talents for planning strategy and commanding subordinates lead to victories, first in intramural scrimmages, then in contests with expensive, high-ranking academies. They fight on a variety of terrains, all of them built onto a sort of aircraft carrier the size of a large island. As Takaaki Suzuki, who served as military adviser on Strike Witches, also worked on Girls Und Panzer, it's not surprising that the two series have a similar feel. But Strike Witches was an inane fan service adventure set in a British Neverland. Having characters praise a specific tank model as a favorite of Rommel's or a key armament in the Blitzkrieg may strike American viewers as tasteless, if not offensive--as a series about the Enola Gay might offend Japanese audiences. But Girls Und Panzer proved popular, generating a novelization, a video game, and a manga adaptation, plus a theatrical feature slated for 2014. The extras include two programs of "Introductions," recycled footage of the characters with some extra narration describing them. (Rated TV 14V: violence, violence against women, nudity, potentially offensive WW II and Nazi imagery) --Charles Solomon
(1. Tankery, Here It Comes! 2. Tanks, We Ride Them! 3. We're Having a Match! 4. Captain Does Her Best! 5. Veterans of Their Trade: Sherman Corps! 6. Our First Battle Comes to a Climax! 7. Up Next Is Anzio! 8. We're Fighting Pravda! 9. Last Ditch Effort! 10. Classmates! 11. The Battle Gets Fierce! 12. The Battle We Can't Back Down From!)
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My only issue was with the dub. A lot of the voice acting in English seemed either rushed on some lines or didn't convey the feelings the characters should have been experiencing. While Mako Reizei's Japanese lines in particular were soft spoken, the subs helped you understand what she was saying. The dub, on the other hand, used even quieter voice acting and has no English subtitles at all, so her lines sometimes became unintelligible. I also didn't much like the way they pronounced certain words, particularly turning the honorific "-chan" from Chah-n into the same way we usually say Jackie Chan's name. Not that these things can be helped. The dubbers have to match the mouth flaps to their own voice work, so they can be forgiven.
Please watch this. Drop everything you're doing, buy a copy, then get the OVAs, the movie, and the mangas. You won't regret a thing!
It's slice-of-life. It's Moe. It features tank combat as a social exercise.
It is the story of renewal. Of a pariah seeking a life away from the family business of Tankery, but ends up pulled right back in, only to find that there is much more to it than just winning battles. She find friendship, courage, and a nice cushion to make that steel a bit more comfortable.
This could have easily been a goofy fan-service fluff piece. Instead it's full of heart, full of hope. And full of tanks. My only complaint is that it isn't longer. Something THIS awesome deserved a 24 episode run. In any case, I would highly recommend it to those that enjoy stories with heart, with a side of accurate tank combat. In other words, I recommend it to everyone.
The plot is somewhat standard sports fare- a relative underdog team, with a talented but less than confident leader, must defeat all its rivals and win the tournament, but it's done fairly well. The various characters have their own reasons for competing, which helps the viewers get invested in their struggles and root for them.
Miho is a relatively interesting protagonist who changes a great deal over time, particularly becoming somewhat more confident in herself and willing to command, without losing sight of who she is. Her friends also have their own struggles to deal with, and develop nicely over the course of the series.
The secondary cast is fairly large and diverse; its size is a natural result of how each of Oarai's five tanks requires 3-6 girls to crew, and the team gets larger over time, and its diversity is a result of a broad variety of clubs and groups of friends being recruited. Unfortunately, many of the groups are limited to one or two personality quirks per individual.
Oarai has an interesting collection of rivals, from the laid-back and friendly Kay from the American-themed Saunders to the egotistical and ruthless Katyusha of of the Russian-themed Pravda. Such characters could have used more screen time, though, especially Miho's older sister Maho, who becomes significantly more likable and interesting in light of Little Army showing more about her true motivations and relationship with Miho. Additionally, Oarai's match against their second opponent in the tournament, the Italian-themed Anzio, is skipped entirely, and only shown in an OVA.
The tank action is quite entertaining, and appropriately suspenseful for the protagonists, who tend to be outnumbered and overpowered in most of their battles. The "flag tank" rule in most tankery matches- defeat a single tank with a flag to win- gives the Oarai girls a fighting chance in spite of their disadvantages, and effectively keeps things suspenseful.
The series is somewhat short, at around 12 episodes, and while the series resolves most of the plot threads, there are some that could be expanded on further, such as Miho's relationship with her family. Here's hoping there will be a second season..
While I'm usually a fan of English dubs, I recommend watching the original Japanese in this case. The English voice actors are decent, but not especially good.
All in all, Girls und Panzer is well worth your time, as it provides both exciting action and a well-written story.