I REALLY REALLY wanted to like Girls und Panzer.
Seriously, among other things I have been a World War II buff for years. My dad – Staff Sergeant John J. D’Alessio, 525 Squadron, 86th Fighter-Bomber group, winner of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart – fought in the Big One. And he was a pretty cool dad.
So as a student of war rather than history, I thought the tanks in Girls und Panzer were really cool. In appearance they are very accurate, as is the information given about them.
Unfortunately, it was the dumbest damned thing I watched in a while.
There were two reasons why I say the series is dumb. One is relevant to what I do and one is not. Remember, I look at anime and manga from my perspectives as a writer and animator: as a writer the series has a problem, what we writers call a plot bunny.
And after years of wargaming I know a fair bit about tanks.
Which one shall I do first? Okay, here we go: Tanks.
The data they give on the tanks and their relative performances is fairly accurate. When they say, for instance, that the gun on one tank could not penetrate the armor on another above a certain range, that’s generally pretty accurate. Trust me in this unless you REALLY REALLY want to know: you can Google this stuff. There are all sorts of performance reports and tests posted online these days, most of them declassified material from World War II.
But the tactics they use on the show bear no relationship to reality.
One battle that particularly irked me was when Our Girls had to fight a team using Matilda tanks, Matilda II’s to be exact. There were all sorts of shots of the Matildas zooming along in a wedge formation, tread to tread.
Well, the Matilda II was what was called an Infantry Tank, which meant by design it didn’t drive a whole lot faster than a soldier could walk. They were slower than DIRT!!! Zoomy zoomy? No no no!
Our girls would/should have just driven circles around them and shot them up the tailpipe. That StuG they dug up would do the job nicely: It was more than twice as fast, had a 75mm gun to kill the Matilda, and armor too tough for the Matilda’s 40mm popgun.
See? Told you I knows me my tanks. And the writers of Girls und Panzer didn’t.
The plot hole bothers me more, and I’ll tell you why.
The fundamental premise is that in the school’s tankery team absolutely, positively MUST perform well, to the point where they force a traumatized kid to play a game she doesn’t want to play.
Right? Think about that. Miho goes to that school because she DOES NOT want to play that game any more, but the student government peer pressures her into it. They DEMAND she play! Why? Because if the tankery team doesn’t perform well, the school will be closed.
What the actual…
Well, she should have given them the middle finger salute and transferred right out of that loser school, but let’s reason it through.
- The tankery team is an extracurricular activity. It’s roughly the same as an athletic team, except, you know, they are firing lethal munitions at each other. But I can buy the parallel with athletics. That works. In fact, I wouldn’t mind trying a couple rounds of tankery if I could borrow a tank. It could be fun.
Of course, I said that about Quiddich, too. Okay back to the point…
- Name any other school anywhere where they will shut the school because it performs poorly in an extracurricular activity.
Got nothin’ right?
There’s a reason why extracurricular activities are called “EXTRAcurricular”: because they are OUTSIDE the actual function of a school, which is to EDUCATE.
Now, that doesn’t make extracurricular activities bad. Quite the opposite. Extracurricular activities add real value to any school and any educational process. A great deal of accidental or incidental learning goes on in them: the development of leadership, learning organizational skills, figuring out how to work with other people.
Plus they are fun, the bum knee I picked up playing soccer for my frat nonwithstanding. (Actually, for a few moments I was a real hero when I unwrapped the knee for everyone to look at and it was all swollen and green and purple. Plus our frat house “doctor,” pre-med student Ian Frierich, usually wrote us “prescriptions” for injuries, real or imagined: “Wild Turkey bourbon, applied internally.” We used to fake injuries all the time.)
But because they are EXTRAcurricular, the future of the school does not and should not depend on them. A school depends on curricular activities, math, science, writing, stuff like that. You know, the three R’s: Reading, wRiting, and ‘Rithmetic. (Whoever made that up almost certainly failed writing.)
So you sit there watching a game that is kind of cool, but being played dumbly for a reason that is dumb. I mean, the girls are kind of cute, too, but hello? Anime? All the girls are cute.
You could solve that good enough for government work if the writers had cooked up a reason to play tankery that made sense. Suppose they were in the world of Girls’ Last Tour and they actually needed to know how to fight. Or some kind of Attack on Titan situation, for that matter. Or suppose that instead of school they were in some sort of historical recreation society, a club of long standing started by someone prestigious many years ago but now in dire financial straits.
Please, please, please, give us a better reason than “They’re going to close the school.” Because a) if the school is that crappy it probably shouldn’t be open, and b) they’re not going to close the school if it’s doing its REAL job. You know: Educating.
Fiction requires the willing suspension of disbelief. To be affected by it you have to be prepared to accept what you read/watch/listen to/whatever as real even though you know it’s fiction because it says so right on the package.
But there’s only so much disbelief you can willingly suspend, and when you reach past that point, the whole product looks/sounds dumb. I had the same problem with Senran Kagura: A series about girl ninjas with gigantic bouncing anime-girl breasts. I like gigantic bouncing anime-girl breasts – but not on ninjas. They get in the way. Ask any large-busted woman.
Girls und Panzer is cool at times. The characters are bland but not too bad and the tanks are neat. And there’s a natural tension between the cute little schoolgirls all the characters are and the big, heavy, greasy steel tanks they play with. Although in a perfect world there shouldn’t be.
But the underlying premise, the world they build, doesn’t work for me because it is literally unbelievable. Build a better world, and you’ll have a show that works better.
I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.
PS Ian Frierich was a fun guy, happy-go-lucky and goofy, and smart as all get out. He sailed through pre-med and med school, became a pediatrician, married a lovely lady and had a terrific little boy.
Then the shadows grabbed him. He got depressed so badly he couldn’t work, lost his job, was unemployed for two years. One day he took the only way he could see to end his pain.
Rest In Peace, Ian.
If you’re reading this, and you’re not doing well, particularly in the age of COVID where a lot of us aren’t doing great, for the love of anything you prize GET HELP. We all love you, and the world is a better place with you in it.