「プラウダ戦です！」 (Purauda Ikusa Desu!)
I am without words. Except for those. Also all of the following, but holy shit! It’s rare for an episode of anime to leave me quite as pumped as this one, despite some of its more… questionable choices.
It’s not hugely surprising that the big secret that the student council has been so tense over all this time, constantly pushing on Miho to be sure she knows they need to win, is that the school will be closing down if they cannot win this tournament. This is not an unrealistic scenario – school funds running low, nothing notable about it to make people interested in keeping it open. Winning a tournament to get some fame and earn sponsorships and the like could be a legitimate way to stop the school from closing. Or so I interpret it rather than assuming that it rests directly on the outcome of the tournament – the tournament provides a last ditch attempt to save the school. Unfortunately, while it’s a reasonable ultimatum for an anime like this, it’s also an overly common one. I find that I can’t really take it as seriously as I’m obviously supposed to, so I’ll put it aside and leave it at that. The rest of the episode is too awesome to be marred by a single flaw.
You see, Pravda is a whole new level of enemy. They top their predecessors in so many spectacular ways and the handling of this was brilliant. Show, don’t tell – this is one of the keys to good storytelling; you can spend masses of exposition explaining just how terrifying these foes are, but that won’t be nearly as effective as showcasing it in style. I’m not a huge tank buff and it would be detrimental for the anime to assume that all potential viewers would be, so showing tanks which vastly outclass their opponents would never be enough to accomplish the job effectively. Yet Girls und Panzer manages to bring across just how much of a step up Pravda is with perfect clarity.
It begins with the characterisation of their leader – Katyusha (Kanemoto Hisako). Like every one of the other teams, she represents her designated country through attitude, appearance and choices of musical themes. And my god, Girls und Panzer knows how to use music. The episode opens with Darjeeling having tea on the Russian ship, joined by Katyusha and the deadly Nonna (Uesaka Sumire) while the stately notes of Tchaikovsky’s March from The Nutcracker Suite play in the background. Later, during her introduction to Oarai, another piece from The Nutcracker plays, one that many should recognise: Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. This is perfect for characterising Katyusha – not only does it match her cutesy appearance and small stature, but it also has that slightly unnerving edge which coincides with the harshness of her mentality and assertions of dominance. The icing on the cake is the frequency with which we see her with red substances all around her mouth, suggesting a brutality and savageness not seen in any of the others so far. In complete contrast, Nonna is the perfect, silent Russian assassin. Where Katyusha goads the others into attack, Nonna is the one who lands the final blow, calmly and without any hesitation. Together they have the makings of an excellent team.
But this is not enough – not by itself. Even the facts that they outnumber Oarai fifteen to six and were the previous champions were not what pushed me over the edge. The crowning glory here, the one thing that designates Pravda as a much greater threat than the others, is deceptively simple. It’s a demonstration of the clever subtlety that frequently makes Girls und Panzer a joy to watch. Every team has had a musical theme so far, drawn from the library of wartime musical cues native to each of the countries they represent. Pravda’s theme is Katyusha. I imagine it’s no coincidence that their leader is named for it- wait are they actually singing it? Holy shit! These guys don’t mess around! It’s all over. Oarai is finished.
To be fair, they really should be. Now I’m not exactly extremely knowledgeable on the specifics of individual tanks and their firing capabilities, but particularly during the ambush I felt as though we were seeing the effects of the Principle of Evil Marksmanship. Oarai can hit two T-34 tanks at a distance but the combined forces of Pravda only manage to disable their turret and damage a set of tracks at close range? This aside, Oarai’s previous victories have made them overconfident – only Miho retains any sense of caution at this point. She even knew that something like this could happen – that the Russians were notorious for counterattacking while retreating – a tactic that worked perfectly against such inexperienced foes who wouldn’t listen to Miho’s guidance. Either she never told them about it, or they never gave her a chance. The latter seems pretty likely given how they acted over the course of this episode. After the whole Leeroy Jenkins situation, I have no idea how they can make a convincing comeback. Even the Sodoko clone army and their additional tank won’t be enough to save them here. I do still fully expect them to win though. How else would Miho face off against Maho for the climactic battle?
tl;dr: @MoombaDS – It’s all over. Pravda teaches Oarai just how inexperienced they are. #GaruPan
- I’m kind of sad to see Gloriana knocked out of the runnings, but a traitorous part of me is also beginning to like Pravda more…
- That said, the Brits really don’t give a damn about the weather! Look at them sitting out in the snow as per usual!
- Despite their ultimate overconfidence, it’s nice to see that the first year team gets it – that winning doesn’t really matter as long as you have fun. Or wouldn’t were it not for Oarai’s current circumstances.
- It’s also good to see that the student council held back a lot when it came to putting pressure on Miho. While it seemed they were being cruel by pressuring her not to lose, they could’ve made things so much worse by telling her the truth. They genuinely cared enough not to want to burden her with the fate of the entire school.
- Continuing on the same lines, it seems Maho may not be quite as bad as expected. Rather than that, it seems more that she’s under the thumb of an overly strict mother.
- Ever since we first saw the OP, I’ve been looking forward to an awesome snow battle!
- Lying in the snow in nothing more than school uniforms? The Russians are truly a terrifying foe.
- I can’t wait for this OST. There had better be a full version of Katyusha on there!
ED: 「Enter Enter MISSION !」 by 渕上舞、茅野愛衣、尾崎真実、中上育実、井口裕香 (Fuchigami Mai, Kayano Ai, Ozaki Mami, Nakagami Ikumi, Iguchi Yuka)