Not that you didn’t know it already, but Hippo team is badass. They’ll play a role in a key situation in the near future, no doubt.
Some shows are pretty consistent in quality, while others are is very good at some things but mediocre at others. The latter type of show can be pretty frustrating, but I tend to enjoy them if they are aware of what they are good at and give those parts the spotlight. The best thing to hope for is that the show’s good parts will make up for its bad parts; it’s not usual for a show to improve significantly in an area that it has shown no competence in for half a season.
But Girls und Panzer is an unusual show.
Miho’s teddy bear is way too adorable. I want one.
Girls und Panzer has been wholly dependent on its action scenes thus far, with its student life segments generally stumbling along unimpressively, barely managing to be interesting only by how they framed the epic tank battles. While the standard high school girl antics were amusing, the characters just haven’t been interesting enough to make me feel invested in the various situations. So I was prepared to write off the non-tank sections as acceptable losses, but in the first half of the episode the show had to wallop me on the face with a marvelous scene that I couldn’t help but love.
I’m referring, of course, to the hot pot dinner party with Miho and the student council. Impeccable timing in conversation as the student council reminisced over memories that neither we nor Miho were privy to gave the scene just the right level of discomfort. The old photos were hilarious, and the veteran voice actors playing the student council were as sharp in their delivery as usual. The feeling of hesitant cheerfulness in the scene was perfect for the context that was revealed at the end of the episode, letting us properly enjoy the awkwardness before we even had any idea of the reason for it. More touching than when Hana was disowned and more amusing than when Yukari was caught doing espionage, this was the best non-action scene in the whole series.
Each one of these photographs needs an OVA episode. And how cute is Momo in all of them?
While the 1st half came as a pleasant surprise, the action-focused 2nd half had its share of surprises as well, though not all of them were pleasant. The battle in the snow was surprisingly mundane, featuring almost none of the cinematographic flourishes that had made the watching previous matches such a sublime experience. The fact that we weren’t treated to an overhead shot with a clear view of how the Oarai team was surrounded was tough to swallow, though admittedly most anime wouldn’t bother with such a shot either. I’m willing to cut the story some slack when it comes to the girls making mistakes in battle, but it felt a little discordant to see the Oarai girls fall for the exact same bait tactic that they themselves had employed against St. Gloriana in their first battle. And let me once again rant about the uniforms, which, while not different this episode, were made especially bad due to the setting. Suspension of disbelief is something that needs to be managed carefully, and making it a point to show the girls discussing the cold and how to fight it is not how you do it when every one of them wear short skirts for no discernable reason.
Oh yeah, there was also some insert song, but I didn’t catch it, because it was cut from the Crunchyroll stream. It probably wasn’t worth watching anyway.
Come on, girls. Not one of you thought that pants might give you a competetive advantage in this environment?
Just kidding (but more on the Crunchyroll thing later). Besides the aforementioned hot pot dinner scene, this was the highlight of the episode. It caught us completely off guard and fit in perfectly with the slightly surreal nature of the show. After all, if each of the teams are meant to be caricatures of the countries (the tea-drinking Brits, the cheating Americans), why not go in this direction with the Russians? I’m happy to report that my Russian friend was not able to recognize that the singing was done by Japanese upon hearing just the audio. I guess having an actual fan of Russian culture play the voice of Nonna in the scene paid off!
The episode also managed perfect timing with its end, with the student council prez dropping a bomb on Miho and the girls before cutting quickly to the ending sequence. With 4 episodes left, this is just the right time to escalate things to head into the final conflict. And though the fight-to-save-our-school trope is so overplayed by now that it has become a full-on parody of itself, giving us no time to think about it before ending the episode gave it the level of drama it needed. This latest match for the Oarai girls might not be the most fun to watch so far, but it is certainly the most intense one yet, and I’m excited to see what the production team has in store for the big finish.
I was very much with Momo on this even before the reveal. Surrender is never an option!
Now, regarding the Crunchyroll stream which cut out the Pravda singing segment entirely. No official statement has been made as far as I can tell, but the most plausible theory is that Crunchyroll couldn’t or didn’t want to license the song for the regions it serves. Anyone who’s seen the episode knows how much the absence of this scene takes away from the episode. And even though this sucks, I’m kind of glad that this happened last week, because I will be on Joe’s Anime Talk this Tuesday to discuss the very topic of copyright. This truly is an absurd situation and an excellent showcase of the ridiculous state of copyright today.
As you can see from its Wikipedia entry, Katyusha is a Russian song that was written in 1938 by Matvei Blanter and Mikhail Isakovski. Based on my brief research, the Uruguay Round Agreements Act passed in 1994 caused works like Katyusha to be retroactively covered under copyright, even though Russian works had no copyright protection in the US at the time. I am not a lawyer, but I believe that means that Katyusha is covered under copyright until at least 2015, which is 25 years after the death of Blanter in 1990. In other words, if Crunchyroll was to stream Girls und Panzer in its original form, it would have had to license the use of a song that is almost 75 years old.
This is absurd on its face. The fact that the song was brought back under copyright from the public domain (in the United States) is clearly crazy, but the fact that copyright terms are that long at all – life of author plus 25 years in Russia or plus 70 in the USA – is just as ridiculous. That might not be obvious if you haven’t thought about why copyright exists. In the past couple centuries, copyright holders have done a good job pummelling into our heads that copyright is an inherent right of content creators – that is, creators have the ethical right to the exclusive control of copying and distribution of their creations. But this idea crumbles under even the most basic analysis. Unlike physical property, creating a copy of intellectual property does nothing to affect the original or its owner. All it does is to increase the number of people who get access to a piece of work, which is undoubtedly a positive thing for society.
But there is a valid justification for copyright: to provide an incentive for artists to produce. If there were no way to monetize one’s artistic or intellectual creations, fewer people would choose to become artists, lessening both the quality and quantity of art that’s created. That’s bad for society, so a balance must be struck, and copyright is that balance: a social contract between the public and creators in which the public temporarily relinquishes the natural right to freely consume a creative expression, in exchange for a society with more and better art. Note that the temporary part is critical; since the sole justification for copyright is to improve and expand the art the public can consume, the art has to enter the public domain in a reasonable time.
The United States founding fathers understood this and expressed it elegantly in the constitution while giving Congress the ability to pass intellectual property laws.
United States constitution, article 1, section 8 (emphasis added):
The Congress shall have Power…
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
And indeed, copyright in the United States was quite limited when it was first implemented: protection lasted for for 14 years with a possible one-time 14 year renewal – up to 28 years. That meant that most content created in your life would enter the public domain before you died. And creators got almost 3 decades to make money off their works.
Yet here we are, with a steady series of laws over the years having extended the length of copyright far beyond even the life of the author – by 70 years in the United States. And in Girls und Panzer, we have a clear example of the cost that we the public is paying because of this ridiculous length. Copyright is demonstrably making art worse.
We shouldn’t have to stand for this. Katyusha is a part of world culture, and it belongs to all of us. We lent it to its authors as part of the social contract of copyright, but its authors are long since dead, and there is no reason why their descendants – or any other party – should have exclusive control of who can perform it for what. While there is little we can do about this unfortunate situation with Girls und Panzer, we need to recognize the problem that this represents and do what we can to solve it. The internet uprising earlier this year against SOPA and PIPA – in which we here at Metanorn took part – was encouraging, but that was a defensive move. We the public need to keep pounding on the fact that copyright as it is now not only fails to serve its purpose, but actively hinders it. I’m not hopeful that meaningful change will happen within my lifetime, but maybe if more of us stand up and shout, we could make sure our grandchildren don’t have to deal with not being able to perform a 75 year old song because its author died “only” 23 years earlier.
Sodoko clearly has no problems with copying.