Shows You Might Have Missed: Girls und Panzer

Girls und Panzer
Studio: Actas 
First aired: October 2012
Episodes: 12

Hailing from a subgenre of anime along the likes of shows which feature girls as past ace pilots, girls as guns, girls as ships, and girls who are ships, is a show about cute girls driving tanks. Unlike many of the above shows however, which often lean on the side of the fantastical or science-fiction (some more than others), Girls und Panzer is a more realistic take on the genre, with many aspects of its tank battles borrowing heavily from its real life tanks and their use.  That's not to say that its all gloomy, generic and militaristic however, quite the opposite in fact, as it is easily the most lighthearted, earnest and fun of its peers.

Girls und Panzer takes place in a world much like present day, but one where sensha-do is popular sport. Sensha-do, as the show calls it, is a female only traditional martial art that involves teams driving real tanks duke it out to claim victory by knocking out the opposing team's lead vehicle, and is rather humorously hugely popular with the girls as it thought that taking part "exemplifies their feminine qualities". The story starts off with main character Nishizumi Miho, a past sensha-do ace from a family prestigious practitioners, who for her own reasons transfers to Oorai Academy, a school she presumed no longer practiced the sport. It did not take long however for the student council to grasp their opportunity to revive the school's sensha-do team, with Miho as its leader. Initially reluctant, Miho eventually warms up to the team and tries her best to lead a band of rookies with essentially zero experience to become a formidable contender in the national championship. Oh, and their school is on an aircraft carrier by the way.
If all this sounds abit silly its because it really is. Girls und Panzer takes many liberties with its world-building and just Runs with it.
Nary a person in the show will so much bat an eyelid at the ridiculousness of it all and sensha-do itself is taken very, very seriously as a legitimate sport. For all of its extravagance, the show is really much like a sports anime, with similar themes of teamwork, hard work and having fun. 

The show has a bit of a slow start in its early episodes where the Oorai builds its team from the ground up, but it doesn't take long before the tank battles are brought to the forefront as the real stars of the show. The fights themselves are well-paced and exciting affairs, but also show a degree of thoughtfulness that is rare these days in the strategy and team chemistry needed for team Oorai to overcome their frequently better trained and better armed opponents. 

Despite its slightly bizarre premise, its the little things in combat where the Girls und Panzer shows great respect and understanding of its source material, and by that I mean the tanks themselves are as much the stars of the show as the girls themselves. Its the way the tanks are lovingly recreated, the physicality of its movements, the way the individual crew members operate the vehicle, how multiple tanks communicate and coordinate towards a greater strategic goal while going against another team doing the same, all of it is surprisingly grounded and a moderately accurate representation of how tanks and their crew operate in real life. Familiarity with the subject is hardly mandatory, but people who do appreciate it will be in for an extra treat.

As for the characters, this show very much uses a large ensemble cast, having a huge number of unique individuals which drive or maintain the many tanks of the team Oorai as well as those on opposing teams. The shows primary focus is on Miho and her crew of five and a few major rivals, and development is somewhat limited in the other characters, which is one of the main flaws of the show. Miho's other teammates are often relegated to a supporting role and many are not much more than their pre-determined stereotypes, but despite that their frequent hijinks and fun team chemistry did eventually grew on me and I even somewhat liked some of them near the end.

Girls und Panzer is a fun, quirky show about girls driving tanks and exhilarating tactical battles. If you're in it for just a good time, the show will deliver that in spades. Tank and history buffs might get more out of it, but there is still plenty to like for the average viewer.


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