Monday, January 07, 2013


I have made my opinion known to anybody who'll listen (and, no doubt, several who would have preferred not to listen) how I feel about moé anime. Traditionally, the word "moé" is followed by the word "bullshit".

This outlook is based almost entirely on my experience with a single show, K-ON!, which I found to be a tepid, cynical and borderline offensive waste of animation, music and voice talent. The show's bloody-minded determination to avoid its own central premise - that of a musical club learning to play their instruments - comes close to the most frustrating viewing experience I've had with anime.

I was fairly certain that GIRLS und PANZER would stray into similar territory. With a bright, primary colour palette, perpetually upbeat characters in their mid-teens and the familiar "setting up a school club" premise, my hopes were not high.

However, I neglected to take into account that tank battles are awesome.

Starting in the 1920s "Tankery", the maintenance and driving of tanks, was seen as an essential pursuit for young women - similar to a martial art - which gives them an opportunity to learn teamwork, self-reliance and, according to a promotional film in the show, makes girls "more polite, graceful, modest and gallant".

After a traumatic experience with tanks, Miho Nishizumi transfers to the Ooarai High School ship in an attempt to avoid Tankery, but her family's long history and illustrious reputation in the sport results in her being drafted by the school's student council to start a new Tankery club.

All the tanks in GIRLS und PANZER are real vehicles, and great attention has been paid to the way they operate, their strengths and weaknesses, and real-life tank tactics. Once the club starts competing, there are some brilliant tank action set pieces and the tension's palpable when the teams start taking each others' machines out of commission*.

There's also a much bigger cast than you might expect. Each of Oorai's five tanks has its own crew with distinct traits and unique ideas about camouflage: for instance, the Hippo team are military history buffs who constantly compare their situation to historical battles while the Duck team are the former volleyball club, hoping to boost their flagging membership numbers. The variety of personalities - even if they are universally cheery - keeps things interesting where a smaller group of just the main characters could get boring.

So far, only ten episodes (plus two recaps) have shown up on Crunchyroll; the remainder of the series is due to begin airing in March. Unless it goes seriously off the rails in the last two, and even if I have a strong sense of how it's going to end (I'm definitely expecting a Princess Nine ending), I'm really looking forward to it. The next battle is building up to be pretty epic, and if the series has proved anything so far, they know how to deliver an exciting confrontation.

I'd also like to point out that the comments under each video on Crunchyroll are brilliant; rather than the usual quality of internet debate, you have tank enthusiasts geeking out over strategy, armour and the correct use of an M4 Sherman in battle.

* A solid hit from an enemy shell causes a white flag to pop up from the hit tank, which also seems to cut its engine and prevent firing. There are apparently never any serious injuries resulting from shell hits, even though Miho spends most of her time sticking her head out of the tank during live fire games.

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