Yoshika will Shin Reppuzan your ass!
|Sorry for the troll lead pic, but the Strike Witches fan in me couldn’t help but get excited at seeing that series’s ridiculously badass character (no small feat!) return in a spiritual sister also as its most ridiculously badass character. Of course, I’m talking about Misato Fukuen, voice of both Yoshika Miyafuji and Anzu Kadotani, the latter of whom went on quite the impressive run this episode against improbable odds facing 4 better-equipped, better-armored Pravda tanks. Well, she had the rest of the Turtle team backing her, but damn, that was as close to a solo performance as we’re likely to get from this show. And it wasn’t even the highlight of this near-perfect episode of Girls und Panzer.|
A little disappointing that Momo had to take the backseat literally but that was probably a good thing overall.
The show is making it very easy to make the comparison between Anzu and Yoshika with the former’s continual lackadaisical attitude towards everything despite being the student council president. The flashback explanation of the previous episode’s cliffhanger was hilarious in its simplicity. The school is going to shut down? The school used to be good at sensha-do, so let’s do that! It doesn’t matter that the program hasn’t been active for years, we can win the championships in our first year if only we try hard enough! Her dumb optimism was definitely giving me flashbacks to Yoshika’s heroics in her series (particularly the movie).
The entire episode was contained within a match from start to finish – the first such episode – yet it managed to provide the half peacetime/half battle split that the show’s action-focused episodes have been. And maybe it’s because the girls were actually focused on their tasks and working together as a team, but the lull before the fighting restarted was extremely entertaining. The leisure the girls enjoyed even during the match were the best parts. Yukari and Erwin singing during their scouting mission, the Sodoko trio wrapping themselves up in a blanket for warmth, and the Pravda girls eating rations while doing the squat dancing that Russia is so famous for (actually a Ukranian dance called Cossack). Speaking of dancing, the anglerfish song and dance returned in a particularly touching scene as Miho made one final effort to boost morale before the fighting started anew. The girl is starting to come into her own as a leader.
Despite being shown for less than 30 seconds total in the entire series, that this dance has become so significant is pretty cool.
If you’re a dirty pirate like me, you probably noticed that Katyusha returned this episode in instrumental form as a background piece. But if you are following the rules and watching this show through Crunchyroll, you once again missed out, as it was replaced by a classical piece. This is consistent with the hypothesis that licensing issues caused the omission in the previous episode. It wasn’t quite as big a loss this time, but the new music felt unfitting during the aforementioned squat dancing.
The second half of this episode was easily the best 12 minutes of the show yet, drawing successful elements from the previous battles and adding new twists of its own. The chase and the race to the flag tanks were reminiscent of the Saunders match, while Anzu’s run-and-gun tactics reminded me of the Anglerfish team’s massacre of most of St. Gloriana at the end of their first match. Yet this one was more exciting than either of those, thanks in no small part to the raised stakes. I’ve been critical of the drama in this show, but when filtered down to such simple terms – win or lose the school – it was hard not to get hyped up rooting for the Oarai girls. With every volley fired at the flag tank potentially carrying the shell that would shut down Oarai, the feeling of desperation was palpable. The girls were in overdrive mode, sacrificing everything to keep their flag tank safe, but even with all their effort it was hanging on by a thread, made to bounce around from the endless series of shells exploding around it.
One thing that occurred to me in this scene was that the production team must have used a physics engine to simulate the tanks’ movements. Sure, they could have been done by hand, but the reactions to explosions looked too darn believable for that. I’m not aware if this is a common thing in the industry; CG mechs tend to break the laws of physics quite easily and go unnoticed for obvious reasons, while CG cars tend not to go through the kinds of barrages the tanks in this show have to. And humans in shows like Black Rock Shooter, AKB0048, or Strike Witches tend to be animated by hand. I’m a big fan of more anime moving to CG as a shortcut for hand drawing, and the prospect of proper physics being integrated as a standard in the industry has me salivating. I’ve said it before, but it’s clear that the production team has put major investment into its CG, and it’s paying off in spades. The frantic scrambling of the Oarai flag tank was one of the most beautifully tension filled scenes I’ve had the pleasure of watching in anime. I was getting chills.
This part was what got me thinking about the physics engine. You can clearly see pieces of the tank fly off in the 1st shot.
The episode had to end on the most cliche of cliffhangers (though I have no doubt in my mind that Oarai will come out on top), which admittedly induced a little groan. But just like the ending to the previous episode, it used the cliche the right way, presenting it immediately after an awesome action sequence when we were too sucked into the badassery to care about anything other than how cool everything was. It’s always great seeing the girls employing pragmatic tactics that can be forgotten about with the focus on the tanks. Saunders’s espionage in episode 6 was a good example, and this episode featured Miho ordering Yukari to leave their tank to scout and the Hippo team to hide in the snow for an ambush, which proved to be critical for Oarai’s (presumed) victory. Plenty of shows are able to tell us how awesome a character is at something, but few are able to show it to us as well as Girls und Panzer does with Miho. Considering tank battles are something that most of us are not at all familiar with, this is no small feat, and the staff has plenty to be proud of, no matter how the next 3 episodes turn out.
Win or lose, one thing is for sure: Miho has her commander pose down.