If there are any shortcomings to Girls und Panzer, it would be the following:
- You got the races wrong. Seriously, these people are just Japanese people painted with the respective nationality’s “skin” on it. It’s super inauthentic.
- You got the wrong main characters. Pick a different set of 5.
- The budget and resources were insufficient to achieve the director and creators’ vision.
But don’t get me wrong. None of those things, as per the usual late night anime situation, stop it from being brilliant and entertaining. It’s like giving Uesuka Sumire a role as a Russian girl and have her bust out that русский язык. That is one way to phrase it. The other is that simply, those things are not excuses. They’re not valid ones in my book at any rate.
As to the main question at hand about Girls und Panzer’s greatness, I think it simply channels something simpler. It’s almost like the otherworldly nature of karuta in Chihayafuru, where there’s this otaku-centric vertical about military gear and tanks, along side of that para-militaristic cultural tidbits (as far as Japan goes, which somehow has this sub-sub genre regarding WWII), which may be just downright pandering but the imaginative “tankery” barrier gives it enough separation. That’s all on top of the juxtaposition of these stereotypically anime-style high school girls being the subject matter of the story.
To make a parallel with Strike Witches, tankery is basically the lack of pants, not the magic or the striker units–those are like the actual tanks themselves. And I think just about everyone prefers that over the lack of pants. It’s not to say the lack of pants is not a creative idea, it is just, well, problematic and lacks that depth, which now in Girls und Panzer, is deep two ways.
To sum it up, it’s about maneuvering a plot idea in a way where the distance in the perception comes in at the right angle. What is being told by Girls und Panzer is not some totally genius new idea (eg., varsity sports), but we are now approaching this tried-and-true concept from an unusual angle. (And I’m just thankful it’s not the upskirt one.)
PS. This may be relevant.
PPS. The Crunchyroll stream does not feature the “highlight” of episode 8. I’m miffed but it didn’t occur to me until much later on that this was entirely excised. They did a really clean job of it.