Hey, it takes time to get those sparkly eyes just right, you know.
|If you’re like me, you’ve been counting down the days for this release for at least the past week. The two-and-a-half month wait for the penultimate episode of the best anime of 2012 is finally over, and, well, if you were disappointed, I’m curious what you were expecting. With still an episode to go, it didn’t deliver anything climactic, but we got plenty more of what we know this show is the best at: wonderfully directed tank-on-tank combat, from start to finish.|
Oarai team decides the match is not worth the trouble and just go to the nearest White Castle instead…
As Eri Kitamura said in Engrish, all’s fair in love and war. If you recall, episode 10 ended with the tournament final starting between our heroines of Oarai Academy and our heroine’s sister’s team the Black Forest Peak Academy. Miho started with a greater than 2:1 disadvantage in tanks, quickly made into almost 3:1 by the online girls’ tank getting taken out. Unable to take on the opponent head on, she had no choice but to be creative. Yet her tactics were also evolutions of those she had employed before. She took the cover of smoke the volleyball team had used against Saunders in episode 6 (a grenade in that case) and used it for the entire fleet to escape. By fleeing to higher ground, they managed to put themselves in prime attacking position, like their first tactic during their friendly against St. Gloriana in episode 4. And she had stuck the student council team as a free-acting wild card to pester and cause chaos in the enemy line in order to aid escape, much like against Pravda in episode 9. That one was glorious. It’s as if Anzu isn’t happy only to be the protagonist of that other series, she has to steal the spotlight in this one whenever she appears. Basically, there was no technique that Oarai could afford to ignore if they wanted to leave victorious against the much more experienced, much better equipped Black Forest Peak team.
Generous use of split screen in this episode, more than any of the recent episodes. It works.
Now, there weren’t any truly intense or heart pounding moments, but it’s hard to find fault in that when a. this is just the beginning of the match and b. the visuals are just so damn good. Seriously, this is heads and shoulders above anything else I’ve seen in late night anime, if not technically, certainly stylistically. I’ve harped on the point before – Girls und Panzer‘s cinematography reminds me more of live action shows and movies more than anime. Quick cuts, budget-saving stills, and nonsensical camera angles in most action scenes in anime create a wholly artificial feeling. They make for great looking stills, and sometimes even great looking clips, but generally lead to scenes that end up feeling messy and uncoordinated.
Girls und Panzer does none of that. Instead of cutting from tank to tank, we get a series of quick zooms and pans with split screen used to show the girls confirming that the smoke launchers are ready. Instead of a cut from the student council tank to the Black Forest Peak tanks, we get a quick zoom out from one to the other. Overall, moving cameras abound, often tracking the tanks or just showing through the barrel views. Wide angle shots are interspersed, used effectively to communicate the general layout and situation of the battlefield quickly. Angles are kept consistent so that we never have a disorienting shift from shot to shot. There’s a sense that we are observers of events taking place, not that the events are taking place in order for us to observe them (the actual truth).
Effective use of faraway shots to give us a lay of the land. Notice the consistency in camera location relative to the mountain so that we don’t get turned around between cuts.
I have to point out the one disappointing part of the episode: Miho’s run. It was so beautifully animated, but also an utterly wasted opportunity. I mean, did you see those key frames? Single cut pan from her tank all the way to the first years’ (with the nice zoom out before that showing the path she’d have to take), in a moment exemplifying her radical style of tank combat. Intentionally or not, she was driving home the point in the face of her unforgiving family-cum-enemies, that yes, she is strong enough to save everyone and still beat your ass. What a powerful statement!
But then they had to give her jumps no arc.
What makes this especially painful is that Miho’s animations were mostly spot on. Just, the physics was way off (click bottom image to see full video).
I’m not asking that the show take a realistic approach to human movements. It’s anime, where even in a serious non-fantasy show like Psycho-Pass features a character scales a wall that would leave David Belle impressed. But at least make her look like she isn’t on the Moon. Or better yet, emphasize the difficulty of a regular teenage girl like Miho clearing those significant gaps between the tanks. Make her miss the jumps, having to grab on the edges with her hands and pull her body over. It would have made the pan less smooth, but a single cut would have still been possible, and seeing her actually struggling would have made it even more badass.
It would have been alright in any other series, but you’ve trained me to expect more from you, Girls und Panzer. That could have been the scene of the episode. That should have been the scene of the episode.
But hey, I can let it slide. We’ve still got the finale next week, after all. This was a fine return for the series, a reminder of why the first 10 episodes had left us so very disappointed at the news of the delay. Heck, plenty of fanservice too, with each of the defeated enemies (the ones that matter, anyway) making some sort of appearance. And for the tank lovers, the legendary Panzer VIII Maus made an appearance at the end. Seems kind of like a game breaker considering that none of the Oarai tanks seem to be able to damage it at all, but this is the sport that allows a team to field 20 tanks against an opponent’s 8 after all. The big question is, what devious trick will Miho come up with to take it down? Given that it’s urban warfare time, I bet they knock a building over onto it. Alas, we are going to have to remain patient for just one more week before we get to see the thrilling conclusion.
Maho has been impressively calm and collected throughout the match. Surely she has some more tricks up her sleeve for her little sister.