Category Archives: Girls und Panzer

Year in Review 2016: N-listing

I’m putting this out first because the other post can stand by itself, introspection or not. Hey, it’s not March yet.

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Canonization, Comparison, Criticism

Let’s revisit Girls und Panzer for a second. That anime is great because it’s a sports anime, it’s got the usual “go to koshien” schtiks, the characters are eclectic and fun, and tanks go boom. It’s well-executed. It’s got a lot of heart.

Just about none of those I would say is true for C3-bu. In fact I don’t even know where Author is getting his marketing talk from. No links, bro! It’s kind of amusing, though, because reading his post makes me feel as if he is watching some other show that is entirely different than the C3-bu that I watched.

But I did say this about homework, so let’s compare answers.


First, I should take back one thing: the characters in C3-bu are still fun. Maybe they can be eclectic, just not for me. I think the range is much smaller; from Rin to Sonora, there’s not much of a gap. Karila provides a level of excitement that many of the other girls don’t have for the sport; it’s like she thinks airsoft like how Rento thinks of tea and cake. And to be honest I have a hard time picking out anyone other than Yura, Rin and Sono-chan.

In other words, for better or worse, C3-bu is different. In fact I think it’s unique for the all-girls after school club genre, if such is a thing. I know I enjoyed the show for bits of its originality. It has a mix of actual sport, character-driven development, lofty visualized analogies, dreams and fantasy sometimes mingle with reality, and cold, hard truths. I think it is the story about Yura and Sonora and how they develop as adolescents, even if they’re like Railgun characters in a way, acting too old for their age on paper.

Another way to look at Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3 Club, I think, is in the same wrapping context. If Saki is “girls and mahjong and high-tension tournaments” then C3-bu is “girls and airsofts and overcoming deep-seeded, self-inflicted emotional wounds.” In fact I think the whole reason behind why C3-bu is a tough watch compared to these very popular shows in recent years. It’s not a pretty topic.

As much as Girls und Panzer tries to bring this element in, for the most part, it resorts to a checklist style of broaching the issue. There’s the Nishizumi older sister angle, there’s the abandoning the game to help a friend angle, but the show doesn’t really detail “how” Miho overcome her inner struggles, other than having a circle of friends validating each other, as “nakama.” Girls und Panzer is more concerned about glorifying the correct answer without really showing the work, and honestly, we would rather not see all the laboring details, the negative inner emotions, the personal struggles, the repeated setbacks that set the stage in how one may try and try again and eventually overcome. Do we see how Miho obtain her steel-like inner resolve? Her brilliance of thinking outside the box while under siege, in the cold? It’s in the shadow of these brilliant feats of Tankery that I feel C3-bu, instead, takes that brave step forward and gets into the black box that too many shows sidestepped. It’s good time to note that Yura achieved greatness in a very similar way, to honor her friend, but the stories of these two girls are very different, with all the pluck, luck, and “ganbatte” in the world, we see how it could have turned out in polar opposites.

Well, I can’t blame these shows for sidestepping it. The detour to the dark side hampers execution like a wet rag and people in general don’t like that stuff in their escapist fantasy. But this is why I think anime today is great; there’s such a diversity of thought that even within the same, generally stable diet of teamwork-glorification and affirmation of what is universally considered good, a depiction of a girl who answered correctly but still got it wrong on the test. It’s about a person who has everything but lost herself in the process. A teenager who has finally gotten over herself.

Bonus round: Here’s a third way to look at C3-bu, Girls und Panzer, and the Koshien tournaments Japan idolizes. I linked to the article before, it’s worth a read not only as a cross-cultural lesson in sports, but also in getting an idea of what “koshien” means to that country, that society. There’s a reason why these coaches leave these teenage monster arms out in the hot summer sun for hundreds of pitches per game, potentially blowing up million-dollar baseball talents in these bouts of glory. Because it’s all about form. It’s about deeply-held beliefs, almost religious, that transcend physical reality–like heart mixed with courage can overcome the impossible. This is one solution; it just only satisfies some, not all, and certainly not anyone who lost in this negative-sum game.

Execution Gets Me to Rise to My Feet: Girls und Panzer

There is a spectrum of concept to execution in where on one extreme, we have shows like Robotics;Notes, where it is a very high concept story about robot, how we perceive reality, and how that connects us as a community. On the other end, there’s Girls und Panzer.

Girls und Panzer is not a high concept anime, at least per se. (I mentioned the meta before.) The whole story is about a future/parallel world where competitive tank battles are a varsity sport for high schoolers. It’s not the normal garden variety of tank battle that we witness in, say, WW2 films, but a modified, athletic sport closer to modern kendo than the bloody sword arts practiced by Japan’s dead swordsmen in its violent history. In the same way, the practice tankery (or whatever you prefer to call it) has limits to the age of the tanks, the technology deployed, the tactics allowed, and that whole nine yards to make it something of a competitive sport.

The narrative vehicle is about a lonely girl who makes friends while practicing this sport. Girls und Panzer takes on the shell of a “Go To Koshien” story when the first-time tank battle club members must find themselves to the top in a local tournament, fending off better equipped, better trained rivals, including our lead girl’s former school, lead by her older sister. Everything was on the line as Miho and her new-found friends triumph while championing heart-warming themes like friendship, self-sacrifice, steadfastness, keeping a cool nerve and other various leadership qualities.

With a line like that, when executed well, any story will get most people up on their feet for a standing ovation. And in the case of Girls und Panzer, well, that’s exactly what happened.

That’s actually not even half of the story to Girls und Panzer’s commercial success or strangely far-fetching popularity. It’s not the only reason why I enjoyed the hell out of that quirky anime. But it’s probably the one true reason behind its popularity, and how it’s so accessible even to people who are just curiously interested in either the late-night anime format, interested in competitive sports, or interested in WW2-era military hardware. I think it’s the same phenomenon behind Strike Witches and Saki–“otaku” is a very diverse group and most aren’t into any specific niche, be it the military or mahjong, but somehow they become compatible pack-ins, respectively. [I mean, there’s an engaging Karuta anime currently on the air, let’s set the bar here.]

Of course, good execution itself is a very broad tag. The music, the art direction, the direction, the choices in the pacing and writing, and of course, a lot of the details behind the production all had to line up. While the production is solid, if nothing outstandingly remarkable, on the flip side Girls und Panzer had a major broadcast delay due to the production slipping schedule for various reasons. But maybe that didn’t harm the series nearly as much.

The 2 delay-induced recap episodes might have helped–to stretch out the series without diffusing the tension that the plot as built. In the recaps we revisited Miho and her friends, and while the cast of character steadily ballooned, the repeat viewings and clips somewhat helped to mitigate our short attention spans. By putting the show on hold for its finale, the series also gave the fandom time to drum up interest and anticipation, giving cautions fans an opportunity to catch up and celebrate its finale with everyone. It’s a little Madoka-like, this positive feedback loop.

I'll never see anglerfish the same way again

Still, credits is due where it is due. In the end, Girls und Panzer gave us exactly what was advertised in the OP:

踏み出した空に 走っていく光
一番先へ 目覚めるスピードで
破れそうな鼓動 連れていくんだ
もっと強い 可能\性になれ
Rise to my feet!!

I realized that the show worked when, at the finale, I was pulling for Usagi Team/Team Rabbit. It was a short 12 episodes but it sure did a whole lot.

Straightening Out Katyusha

So I read this, and I’m like, OK that’s pretty good.

But here is the thing:

The Crunchyroll stream of Girls und Panzer spans not just the US, but also Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, and South Africa. So it’s not a simple (or more likely, technically risky, logistically complex, and expensive) thing to do. Second, Sentai is really the party with the North American license here. Why look to CR to do anything? (Don’t answer, I know.)

I actually contacted CR customer service and they said basically they knew this was going to the case, they asked, and the licensor decided to just not do it. Lvlln’s wax poetry about copyright does not point out the not-as-obvious thing that DiGi Kerot points out–the song is not in the credits for the CR version. That kind of make it obvious that this is a Japan decision, to edit the credit scroll like that.

Now, is Katyusha in public domain in Japan? I actually have no idea. You would think if Japan’s copyright law respects WIPO then it would be life + 50, and given how the creators of Katyusha did not pass away until 1973 and 1990, the song would still be in copyright in Japan. There was probably some complex wrinkle in that so it would be prudent to err on the safe side, but given the production committee nature any Japanese copyright would’ve been easily cleared by the publisher.

At least no aniblogger is trying to claim Apple’s patent is provisionally invalidated. That sort of reporting is just outright public disservice. You’re better off watching a TEDx talk about chanting mantra for Gaia. Again, the “refrain” goes: copyright is too complicated, don’t even try to decipher it, not even your average lawyer can hack it well enough–expert only please.

Why Is Girls Und Panzer Brilliant?

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.