「ガールズ&パンツァー 劇場版」 (Gāruzu & Pantsā Gekijōban)
“Girls und Panzer Movie”
I’ve been wanting to cover this one earlier, since I’m quite fond of Girls und Panzer and World War II tanks in particular, but time has been tight (as usual, really) and movie posts have a habit of taking up far too much of it. Girls und Panzer der Film weighs in at a whole two hours, which is treat for fans but demands more effort than the usual episode of anime from a humble anime blogger. But with the twin powers of sleep deprivation and masochism, here we are! I probably won’t be able to go on and on about individual tanks like I’d like to, but I’ll be able to give some impressions on the movie, at least. I’m sure there’s plenty of tank nerds in the comments who will be on hand to rattle off all the stats that you may want about the numerous war machines that make their appearance in this animated feature.
I was actually slightly apprehensive about a Girls und Panzer movie—happy, but apprehensive. Conclusions first: I ended up enjoying the movie quite a bit, but let me get some quibbles out of the way before I heap on the praise. While, again, I did enjoy the TV series and would very much have liked a sequel for more tank on tank action, on the other hand Girls und Panzer was more or less a complete anime. There was a goal: it was accomplished. They had beaten the Russian tanks, and then beaten the German tanks—that is, the best tanks (or at least, the sexiest tanks). Miho and her friends have reached a pinnacle in the narrative; would extending the ascent feel too artificial? One of the things I like about anime is that it knows it has to end, as good stories should. Dragging one out too long risks having it eventually twist into nothing more than a parody of itself, which is a sad way to end. Better to go out with a bang. Indeed, the plot of Girls und Panzer der Film is still milking the ‘school will be closed!’ drama, which has by now been stretched a bit thin. Sure, it tries to introduce a new villain, but Girls und Panzer never really had a villain and this piece of ham didn’t make for much of one. In fact, he was hardly a character, just an obstruction with no motivation. Much more interesting was the relationship between Miho and Maho, which predictably played an important role in the climax and maybe could have been the main focus of the movie. What’s the Nishizumi family situation like, anyway? Apparently so bad that Maho has to forge her mother’s signature for her sister (which was sweet, but also terribly illegal). But the mother apparently still cares? Is Miho disowned or not? More in the second season, perhaps.
One way to breathe life into the narrative is to introduce new characters, but that path is also fraught with hazard. Girls und Panzer already features quite the large cast, and to add more may lead to unsustainable weight. It’s inevitable that many of the characters will come off as not very memorable, or one note. The Japanese team, for example, only rises slightly above CHIHATAN MUST ATTACK. The opposition university team does little better. Commander Shimada Alice (Taketatsu Ayana) gets some development, so she’s mostly okay, but the lesser triumvirate don’t make a very strong impression. Perhaps it’s because the university team, unlike the other rival teams we’ve seen before, don’t have a national theme, and no real leitmotif. The strongest aspects of Girls und Panzer, to me, has always been sound design and music, and just having a musical cue goes a long way to give them an identity. I had no real clue what the Finnish were all about (I mean, they weren’t in the original series, and are then suddenly just there) until their leitmotif started playing (or rather, they started playing their own leitmotif), and then I could grok it. The simple fact that other teams get a march while they get a polka says something. Sure, perhaps it’s an obligatory Finnish war song (Finland used that music to defuse mines in the Continuation War. Seriously.), but it gave them personality that I feel the university team lacked. The badassery helped, of course.
Even if the plot and characterisation was a bit thin, they were never really the point of Girls und Panzer, were they? And whatever it be working with, there’s a lot to be said for good execution. The drama is recycled? Push it hard with the wistful shots. And, honestly, the main draw of Girls und Panzer has always been panzer first and girls second, and as long as it does the tank action well much can be forgiven. The tank animation of this franchise has always been surprisingly good, alternating between giving tanks a real sense of weight and not so much weight that they can’t pull off some physics-defying stunts. The unsung hero, in my opinion though, is again the sound design—the gunfire, the explosions, and the whine of the engines go a long way to give the entire experience a sense of authenticity even if we know that, deep down, it really isn’t. These aren’t the most realistic of tank battles, to be sure, but they are the most spectacular. On my part, I am capable of suspending a lot of disbelief so long as the tank fights are cool. And they were way cool. The matches we got in der Film definitely go above and beyond what we’ve been used to in the TV series. They were crazy! And a bit silly. Well, Both at once, really. But ultimately, it all was heaps of fun, which is the important thing. It’s approriate that the big match was set in a theme park, since the entire thing was more or less a theme park ride. Actually, I heard that Girls und Panzer de Film got a ‘4D’ screening, that is with shaking chairs and everything. I wonder if the set was intentional.
While it may seem like the only praise I have for Girls und Panzer der Film is that the fights were cool, but considering that as much as three quarters of the movie was fighting it’s a very important thing to get right. It’s hard to argue that the main draw of Girls und Panzer is not in fact the panzer, so I got what I wanted—tanks doing awesome things, but even more over-the-top than usual because a movie can afford to do so. I do wonder how a potential second season is going to keep up though. Sure, the plot is nicely set up with mentions of the Pro League and whatnot, but as far as spectacle goes, we’re fast running out of bigger guns and bigger explosions. At the same time, GuP is certainly popular enough to sustain a second season. I’d be interested to see how they work it. Perhaps they can’t top a movie—but it’d be very entertaining to see them try.
- Only in this world can a fleet of tanks get ‘lost’ and nobody cares.
- Argh! My diabetes!
- ‘There is no luck in senshadou!’. But there is divine intervention.
- Don’t worry, this sport is totally safe.
- So very safe.
Full-length images: 31.
ED: 「piece of youth」 by ChouCho