OP: 「Grand Symphony」by 佐咲紗花 (Sasaki Sayaka)
「ガールズ&パンツァー 最終章 第一話」 (Girls und Panzer – Saishuushou Daichi Wa)
“Girls und Panzer das Finale the First Episode”
There is a lot of Girls und Panzer. Besides the anime, there are manga spin-offs, drama CDs, and an entire menagerie of cross-promotional mechandise that casual anime fans will not even scrape the surface of. Personally, I am but a humble anime blogger and have not probed the full depth of GuP, so when I heard the news that it was getting a ‘Finale‘ I was surprised. Wait, we were ending already? For a franchise that has grown so disproportionately large I felt like we hadn’t gotten a lot of anime out of it. How much GuP have I missed out on?
Perhaps it’s exactly the size of GuP that demands something like a definitive last chapter. Even if they intend to make more of it in the future (i.e. can it still make money?) an excuse for a reset can be very useful. Consider how large the GuP cast is right now. Due to its narrative formula it is in GuP‘s nature to continue accruing characters like layers of subcutaneous fat, and by now its cast is bloated indeed. Not unmanageably so, but it does make Gup look a bit pudgy around the sides. Let’s make a study of this first instalment of das Finale, shall we? Although it’s technically a feature film, in content it is probably as close as we’re going to get to Girls und Panzer 2nd Season. You can just imagine it as another episode from the first season? Change some names and dates around and it could even be from the same tournament, as round 2.5 or something. You will recognise the formula. They find a new tank. They rustle up a new team to fill that tank. Fight time! After getting slapped around a bit, Oarai rallies. Roll credits. It’s all comfortingly familiar. But the big difference is: this movie is twice the length of a TV episode. Part of this simply comes from more content — familiar formula though it was, the extra time available allowed for more flesh all the way through. But significant time is also spent cycling through each member of the cast, or groups within the cast, to make sure each of them got their turn to say a line. And that’s not even including the characters who don’t play any significant role this episode; even they needed a ‘where are they now? segment. On the one hand, it’s good that the cast is strong and that everyone can find a character to care about, but on the other hand it makes for a lot of necessary housekeeping if none are to be left out. So perhaps it’s a good thing for GuP to drop the curtain here, at least on this set of actors.
Evidently, besides from character bloat we also have tank bloat. Sure, in the history of warfare there have been a lot of tanks, but for a team where the tanks are characters unto themselves we need more than just a metal box with a turret. I don’t know if at this point GuP is messing with us or just scraping the bottom of the barrel, because the newest addition to the Oarai lineup is this ugly thing. Doesn’t look like a WWII tank? Well, it isn’t. It’s a WWI tank. And as you may expect from decades-antiquated technology, it’s terrible. While the Mark IV was designed with combat against its own kind as a consideration, back in WWI tanks were still mainly seen as tools to ford trenches and bully infantry. It was only by WWII where generals realised that the main weapon of any tank is its engine, and thus the Mark IV missed out. This thing is slow. Monstrously so. You know the Duck Team’s sad, inadequate Type 89b? Their medium-tank-wannabe can run circles around the Mark IV. Heck, you can probably jog faster than the Mark IV. It is a land-ship only in the sense of one that has beached itself and can now do naught but wriggle its turrets around hoping something wanders into firing range.
But those are all practical concerns, and GuP has never paid much mind to those. The important thing is that the new tank has character and has fun. And, yeah, pirates are fun. Fun has always been the top priority of GuP, overriding minor details like plot, OH&S, and physics. Therefore fun is always the primary metric by which I measure GuP, and thankfully das Finale is still wholesome girls + tanks fun all the way. I think GuP understands that it is bound to get more ridiculous as it goes (adding to the list of bloat: spectacle creep), and its license to do so is earned with gambolling fun. Why else would the movie originally air in ‘4D’, with the moving chairs and everything? It’s a theme park ride.
Sure, while das Finale has yet to reach the same heights of ridiculousness as der Film, I think it’s okay for it to start slow. While I loved der Film for all its panzer action, I also thought it perhaps could have used a teensy more on the girls side. Again, I didn’t listen to any drama CDs or whatever, I didn’t know who all the new characters were. And while das Finale didn’t have quite enough panzer for me (only half a match in 40 minutes and now I have to wait for more), they made sure the new characters stood out. The Shark Team got more chance to shine outside their tanks than most of the other secondary Oarai girls (since this was, I assume, their one opportunity to do so). They’re great, they have personality (though maybe too much personality). And while in der Film the rival university team was a bit bland, BC Freedom certainly did not lack in texture. It just goes to show how much having a clear motif helps. Sure, they’re playing on stereotypes, but their quirk needed to be established in a hurry and it can chuckle at them while they do so. It’s true: while the French may seem like they hate each other, never forget that they hate everybody else much more. I’ve never felt a general antipathy for all humanity quite like in Paris. Oh yeah, BC Freedom was the French school, I could tell. It also helps that the characters themselves are so into it and will ham it up at any opportunity they can get. Like Pravda, BC Freedom sings their own leitmotif, and it’s this kind of silly fun that perfectly encapsulates Girls und Panzer.
- Why is expulsion even a thing in GuP? They’ve already stopped pretending that anyone attends class here.
- Ah, so this is the Nishizumi style.
- I’ve been blogging too many SHAFT shows.
- Obligatory, but I still need to say it: Let them eat cake.
- So very safe.
ED: 「Enter Enter MISSION！最終章ver.」 (Enter Enter MISSION！Saishuushou ver.) 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)