Girls und Panzer

Girls und PanzerType: TV Series
Episode Count: 12
Genre: Comedy / Tournament
Vintage: 2012

Version reviewed: Japanese, Subtitled
Date of Review: 1 Jun 2016

Grade: B

Just another series about cute girls… who drive tanks.

Plot Summary
Miho has transferred to Ooarai High School for a very specific reason: she had a bad experience with Sensha-do in the past, and Ooarai does not offer Sensha-do. Sensha-do (also known as “tankery”) is something which many girls in the country and around the world enjoy, since they widely consider it a way to learn skills which bring out their femininity to become “ideal” girls. Or that’s how the club is presented to potential members, at least. It is also the basis for a worldwide school tournament with each one bringing a squad of tanks to the playing field. As Miho begins to make new friends at school, the student council approaches her and shatters her dream. For some reason, with Miho in the student body, they have decided to bring Sensha-do back to Ooarai and insist that Miho join the club.

The Review
Do you like shows featuring cute girls? Do you like tanks? Do you like tactical RPGs? If your answer to one or more of those questions is “yes”, then Girls und Panzer is for you. Girls und Panzer is a light series and is all about fun, so if you are expecting a serious story, this is not the show you are looking for.

Let’s get the bad out of the way first. Characterization in Girls und Panzer leaves much to be desired. With a cast of no fewer than twenty, there is simply no way to give all of these girls backstories, except for a few from the main team. This leads to the next point: the characters in the series are all grouped together by teams, since the nature of the show has a team assigned to each tank. Except for the main team, each one is a group of girls sharing a paper-thin stereotype. There are the eager first-years, the volleyball team, and the military historians just for starters. These secondary characters have no depth at all, and exist only to populate the rest of the tanks on the squad. First and foremost, Girls und Panzer is about Miho, and to a lesser extent, the other four girls on her team. (And because you want to know the main team’s archetypes, from left to right in the picture above: Saori is the self-proclaimed “love expert”, Miho is the reluctant leader, Yukari is the tank otaku, Mako is the quiet loner, and Hana is the gentle ojou-sama.)

But you’re not watching Girls und Panzer for in-depth character studies. Can a show populated largely by cardboard cutouts actually be any good? Surprisingly, yes. For what the series lacks in character depth, it makes up for in tank action. First of all, those interested in tanks from the era of the World Wars will surely enjoy their CG recreations here. Many different kinds from different countries are represented, and Yukari will tell you all about them. Despite the importance of tanks to the story, Girls und Panzer is not a historical or military series. It takes place in an alternate present day, and the tanks are used for a global tournament among schools. This is no war. That said, the students from some of the schools Ooarai faces have personas that match some well-known historical political factions. It’s played for fun here, though.

Finally, the best thing about Girls und Panzer are the tank battles. Those who have played tactical RPGs such as Valkyria Chronicles or Advance Wars will feel right at home. Not every moment of every episode is a battle, but when the focus shifts to the tank action, that’s when the series shines. I can forgive the lack of character depth because the battles are so fun to watch. They are also very loud. Watching on a full home theater system, when the tanks fire their rounds, you’ll definitely know it.

Being a tournament series, you pretty much know how Girls und Panzer will end before it even begins. Yes, it’s predictable. Yes, most of the characters are as thin as tracing paper. But watching the matches between the tanks is where all of the fun lies, so if you can forgive the show’s shortcomings, and are a fan of tanks or tactical RPGs, then Girls und Panzer is a show you should check out.

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