Tanks for the Memories: Remembering GIRLS und PANZER

"Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog" looks back at the moe sports show that puts the heavy in heavy ordinance

Paul Chapman (@gooberzilla) struggling in the jaws of a life-sized model hippo.

 

Summer is here, the new anime season is nearly upon us, but there's no shortage of great titles from the days of yesteryear for anime fans to enjoy. “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog” is here to help curate your queue because our goal is to point fans toward shows that they may have missed the first time around.

 

This week, we believe that it's possible to drift a tank, and we tear treads across the battlefield as we check one of the best sports anime to combine high school athletic competition and heavy artillery when we look back at GIRLS und PANZER.

 

Girls und Panzer

 

What's GIRLS und PANZER?

 

GIRLS und PANZER is a 2012 TV anime with direction by Tsutomu Mizushima (SHIROBAKO, The Magnificent KOTOBUKI) and animation production by Actas. Crunchyroll describes the story of the series as follows:

 

A powerful tank battle has been created by an enviable staff, cute girl characters and 3DCGI! The world has evolved into something different from Japan as we know it. Traditional Japanese girls are expected to have "tank skills" as well as flower arrangement and tea ceremony skills, and every school has a "tank club".

 

Adding to the description of the setting, GIRLS und PANZER follows Miho Nishizumi, a 2nd-year high school student who finds herself roped into the newly revived Tankery club when she transfers to Ooarai High School. With only a handful of second-hand tanks and a group of lovable misfits to pilot them, can Miho and her friends defeat all challengers and win the National Tankery Championships?

 

Momo Kawashima stands before a beat up old tank and glares in a scene from the 2012 GIRLS und PANZER TV anime.

 

Brave New World.

 

Although it doesn't become entirely clear until a spectacular reveal at the end of the first episode (no spoilers!), GIRLS und PANZER takes place on an Earth with an alternate history that deviates in several significant ways from our own, one of the smallest being that Tankery  — an athletic competition centered around wargames using tanks  — is considered a traditionally feminine pastime.

 

As the show repeatedly states, Tankery is not war, and GIRLS und PANZER takes pains to de-couple the form and function of World War II-era tanks from their real-life history. Rather than killing machines, these tanks become athletic equipment, and while the details of their operation are rendered in painstaking, military otaku fashion, the tanks operate under the physics of slapstick comedy, so no one can get killed or seriously injured.

 

Caesar and Erwin of Hippo Team flaunt their tank's flashy paint job and banners in a scene from the 2012 GIRLS und PANZER TV anime.

 

Marching Orders.

 

Director Tsutomu Mizushima has an excellent sense of comic timing, and his skills are on full display in GIRLS und PANZER. The comedy in the series can be both obvious and subtle. For example, the various teams that represent historical powers also manifest stereotypical cultural traits, such as how St. Gloriana Academy (representing the British Empire) is obsessed with the aesthetics of tea or how Pravda High School (representing the Soviet Union) dine on borsch and perform the cossack dance.

 

Other jokes are more oblique, especially the references to historical marching music that accompany action sequences and character moments. At one point, Yukari and Erwin sing portions of “Marching in the Snow,” an anti-war anthem from the First Sino-Japanese War that  — despite its upbeat rhythm  — reflects the terrible experiences of the troops as they suffer from hunger, cold, and a lack of equipment and support. The series is full of these sort of quiet subversions.

 

Katyusha, the commander of the Pravda High School Tankery team, rides on her subordinate Nonna's shoulders to get a better look at the battlefield in a scene from the 2012 GIRLS und PANZER TV anime.

 

The Quintessential Sports Show.

 

Despite its moe character designs and its emphasis on heavy military ordinance, GIRLS und PANZER is at its heart a quintessential sports anime in which the plucky underdogs band together as a team and exert themselves to the utmost in order to save their beloved school from disaster.

 

Along the way, the series plays with ideas of generational conflict (e.g. with Miho's departures from the Nishizumi Tankery orthodoxy and Hana's bold, explosive style of flower-arranging compared to her mother's more conservative style) and athletic rivalry, but the ultimate takeaway is a lesson about good sportsmanship and being true to oneself.

 

Miho Nishizumi prepares to confront her older sister, Maho, in a showdown during the Tankery finales in a scene from the 2012 GIRLS und PANZER TV anime.

 

Panzer Vor.

 

Crunchyroll currently streams GIRLS und PANZER in 29 territories including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. The series is available in the original Japanese language with subtitles in English. The GIRLS und PANZER TV anime, OAVs, and the first theatrical film are released on home video in the United States by Sentai Filmworks.

 

Equal parts hilarious and action-packed, GIRLS und PANZER is an ideal pick for anime fans that want to experience a solid sports show with a large cast of colorful characters and an outlandish premise. If that idea appeals to you, and if the series is available in your area, then please consider mounting up and charging forth with the girls of GIRLS und PANZER.

 

The girls of Turtle Team are eliminated from the Tankery finals when their tank is disabled in a scene from the 2012 GIRLS und PANZER TV anime.

 

Tanks for joining us for the most recent installment of “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog.” Be sure to tune in next time, when we take a look at another entry from Crunchyroll's library that fans may have missed when it was brand spanking new.

 

Is there a series in Crunchyroll's catalog that you think needs some more love and attention? Please send in your suggestions via e-mail to [email protected] or post a Tweet to @gooberzilla. Your pick could inspire the next installment of “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog!"

 

 

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Paul Chapman is the host of The Greatest Movie EVER! Podcast and GME! Anime Fun Time.


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