Delicious cake, you must eat!
After the excellent episode 4, the question in my mind about Girls und Panzer was, could it keep up the great action? Was the 4th episode more than just a one-off, but rather a sign of greatness to come? That’s a bigger question than can be answered by one episode, but episode 5 did its darndest to respond with a resounding “yes.”
Also, check out Desu ex Machina’s latest FAPcast if you’d like to hear me rave with other fans about this show.
This movie wasn’t quite as good as the stuff Kyoto Animation produced – particularly lacking creativity in shots – but the light use of CG to enable some of the moving camera parts was nice.
It’s become clear that the production team has invested heavily into CG, and that’s paying off by enabling them to consistently create shots that just isn’t common in anime. This episode featured a notable use during a non-action scene, in Yukari’s infiltration of Saunders University Prep School. Some of you probably know already that I’m a big fan of in-show footage, such as the student films in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya or Hyouka. Anime art is generally clean and unblemished, and the film-within-a-film forces the animators to consider, how does this world appear to someone actually living in it? It can force them to use cinematography techniques that are more associated with live action, in order to convince the audience that this is really something filmed within the world. Some parts of her infiltration had me scratching my head – there was no way for her to shoot that, then turn the camera on herself for commentary, without giving herself away. But that aside, the first person shots were both appropriate and aesthetically pleasing.
And that’s without even mentioning how funny the whole thing was, from her poorly thought out disguise to the “special thanks” in the credits Yukari put together on her way home. It’s a good thing that the humor was so charming, because I’m still finding precious little for me to grasp onto in the story, world, or characters. I’m not expecting Shin Sekai Yori level world building, but the more that’s revealed, the clearer it becomes that the rules of this world are more out of narrative convenience than believability. The tank battles limit each team to 10 tanks, but no further effort is made to balance the sport. It allows the battles to be more epic, because the poorer and less equipped Oarai Academy girls now get to take down enemies twice their size, but whoever is organizing this should realize that without any further efforts at balancing, this sport really doesn’t deserve much respect. Kind of makes me laugh at what Miho’s sister’s sidekick said in the first scene about the unwritten rule among practitioners.
Which brings us to a pretty major character introduction in this episode, Miho’s sister. To be honest, I’ve forgotten practically everything about Miho’s family back story from episode 1, so maybe I’m way off base, but could it be that Miho’s dislike of tanks has something to do with her sister? Will the story of the show be of her leading her scrappy team to victory over her own sister? Or maybe her sister will put her in her place, thus leaving open a plot point for a season 2? Either would be cool, but I’m a sucker for stories where victory comes at great cost, or even ends up Pyrrhic, so I’d prefer the latter. There’s a good enough base here to build a compelling story, so it’s a shame the show seems to be taking baby steps at best towards it.
These shots don’t look particularly bad by themselves, but in motion, they’re even more wonderful.
But who cares? I just want more hot tank on tank action! I can’t say that the chase through the woods or the near misses had me on the edge of my seat, but they were still beautifully shot. The CG of the woods were quite good, not at all jarring against the real animation, and allowed for the long tank-view shots that we’re growing accustomed to by now. Considering this episode covered only the start of the match, it’s reasonable that it couldn’t match the intensity of the friendly against St. Gloriana in the previous episode. But it still managed to keep us on our toes, with the radio intercepting balloon adding a nice twist. It’s important to recognize that this show isn’t about geeking out over just tanks, but also the associated equipment, tactics, training, etc. Strike Witches featured not only the fighter planes, but also the guns and battleships used in World War 2, along with chaff grenades introduced in the movie. Likewise, Girls und Panzer gave us a covert method to spy on enemy communications, a tactic for subverting a tool that’s critical for coordinating multiple tanks. The fact that that itself was subverted so easily using SMS was a bit disappointing – the Saunders girl surely must have realized how easy such a work around was – but it left me curious as to what other non-tank-based tools these girls will exploit to aid them in battle.
It’s a shame that we have to wait an extra week for the next episode, since this one ended on the first real cliffhanger of the show, right in the middle of what’s proving to be another really fun tank battle. But at least the show’s quick pacing helps to alleviate that a bit. Frankly, a recap episode this early to a show this shallow in story and characters seems inappropriate, but hey, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann‘s 6th episode was also a recap, and that one ended up just fine. 2 episodes isn’t enough to establish a trend, but I have plenty of hope that the production team can keep this up with its high quality action. And that alone would be enough to make Girls und Panzer a show that we’ll remember fondly for a long time.
I guess we’ll have to wait, maybe sip some tea, for what is hopefully the thrilling conclusion next week.