You see, this past week has been a literal storm of real-life events for us living in the Philippines. To make it quick, seasonal changes brought about intense rains for several days straight, causing floods, suspending classes left and right, and leaving most people trapped in either their homes, their workplaces (because we all know the fact that the working class is waterproof), or in the midst of a 5-hour traffic that’s becoming more and more of a commonplace in this third world country. Problems are aplenty, and I ended up being in the first category mentioned – stuck at home.
I wouldn’t have it any other way, because being stuck at home opened up a lot of free time for me. When nature itself gives you a break, you gotta stay with it and make the most out of it, and so I did: a whole week of catching up to weekly anime (Tenkyou no Alderamin), rediscovering the fire to practice my anime drawing stints again, and finishing up two anime movies on my backlog (Persona Winter of Rebirth and Girls und Panzer der Film).
As the title already suggested, this is a blog post dedicated for a quick review and commentary on the Girls und Panzer movie.
It’s been a long time coming for the Girls und Panzer franchise. The first anime series made its debut back in 2012 and immediately became a financial smash hit. I don’t know what happened, but the series just struck a chord and became one of the most profitable IPs in the contemporary anime world.
Don’t believe me? Tell that to the BD sales statistics which showed an average of 36k per volume where the general consensus of break-even lies at around the 3k mark.
The numbers don’t lie, and what we had here was pretty much the military-themed equivalent of the Love Live craze that dominated most of 2014 thanks to strong marketing and the international release of the School Idol Festival game.
With these in mind, it would make all the sense in the world for them to go the next step, right? It’s time for them to take the series to further heights, by giving Girls und Panzer its own debut on the big screen in the form of a 2-hour movie. How does this movie measure up, then?
Just passing through…
Girls und Panzer der Film is the theatrical sequel to the smash hit TV series, and it takes place shortly after Ooarai (the heroes’ school) managed to win the grand sensha-do tournament and save their school from closure.
The story would have normally ended there. Due to some circumstances, the school’s closure will push through, and in order for them to truly save their school, the Ooarai team has to defeat a team made of the finest university students in the country.
Honestly, it felt sad having to write that down. Does GuP even need a direct sequel for a movie? The series’ story is complete as it is, so why not just make a filler movie featuring the girls on a whole new adventure? Who are we kidding? Let’s make all the TV series moot and recycle the same plot, but in two hours of running time!…. Except, it actually doesn’t feel like that, at least not entirely, and I’ll explain why.
Facing a force with triple their tank numbers, Ooarai’s measly number of tanks look to be set for an easy defeat. Luckily for our plucky heroes, yesterday’s rivals are today’s friends, and former tournament opponents all pitch in to even the odds. With that, the stage is set for a grand all-star showdown between high school and university students.
See, this is why I said the single season of TV anime is not entirely a moot point. The theory I had in mind as to why the movie wanted to recycle the TV plot is because it wanted to drill the enemies-turned-allies plot in. In a way, I think that’s a key lesson in tourney-focused anime. Rivals before turn into respectable allies soon enough, and the tournament may only have one winner, but in the end, everyone who crossed paths with our heroes would one way or another have their lives changed and form a connection with them. That’s the “consolation prize” tournament participants get, and it’s something that would strike me (and I’m sure a lot of the fellow writers here), with us being players of TCGs and all.
Moving on, the plot synopsis pre-emptively sets your expectations with the movie: more of the same old stuff. In fact, the movie starts off with an exhibition match, bringing viewers back to how the anime series started in the middle of a tank battle. I love how that specific battle showcases a lot of throwbacks to the various resourceful tricks Ooarai pulled in the series tourney in order to beat their opponents, only this time, the opponents are much more prepared for them.
Despite “same old stuff” often being associated in a negative light, I would say that the very statement is what makes this movie such a strong installment in the Girls und Panzer franchise. After all, I think the show’s biggest strength is not in its depth nor in its complicated twists. The very strength of GuP is its ability to take a “cute girls doing cute things” show, add in a lot of artistic licenses in physics, mix it with a simple, light-hearted story, and come out with a show that is one of the most worthwhile and entertaining in that genre.
To be more specific, the success formula for Girls und Panzer, I think, lies in two main sectors. They are in its tank battles and characters (the cast and their seiyuu). The best part about the film? You more of these two, turned up to eleven.
Physics? What’s that?
Speaking of the (in)famous tank battles, it may be hard to take them by themselves seriously, with tanks flipping through the air or bunny-hopping on water, while no one inside gets hurt. I guess those are just things that long-time anime watchers would learn to grow desensitized too over time, especially given all the crazier stuff that’s present in the medium. It really helps that despite all that, the tank battles show a level of depth with the plays being drawn out and actual involvement of strategy. It won’t take too long before the viewers even start getting a feel for each team and the plays that they tend to run based on their personalities and overall style. It’s no exaggeration to say that the tank battles are that elaborate, even going as far as giving each group of girls an invisible playbook, so to speak, and semblances of team chemistry with specific teammates.
In the transition from series to movie, all of that is present, and expect to see even crazier stunts such as the ones that can be seen from the screenshots above. I mean, when the brightest minds of high school sensha-do come together, only good things can come out from that seemingly dysfunctional group of leaders.
Just like the series, Girls und Panzer der Film showcases the second strength of the franchise while everyone’s focused on the excitement of the tank battle: the characters. Now, I know what you’re going to say so hear me out.
While it is generally true that Girls und Panzer doesn’t offer much in terms of character depth, with a most of the cast being archetypes and all, the movie more than makes up for it with meaningful interactions. Everyone from the TV series (and some new additions) makes a return to the movie with their usual quirks that fans have fully associated them with. The characters may not be complex, but hey, they sure know how to strike that chord and connect to the viewers.
When you can recognize even literal who’s with their backs turned and associate them with something, you know the franchise is doing something right with their characters.
For such a huge cast, totaling around 50 characters, even casual viewers who have watched the series would more or less know how to associate a character with either a personality trait, a gimmick, or a tank. Of course, it helps that the sound in Girls und Panzer has always been a strength with regards to its connection with characters, even going as far as giving each team their own theme song which plays when it’s their time to shine. I couldn’t help but sing along the moment “Katyusha” played when Pravda made their first appearance.
On the other hand, the movie at least tries to show a bit of character growth, as those who watched the series would know of the volatile relationship between Miho and her sister, Maho. That character arc between sisters was, in my opinion, given closure in this movie, and it ended up as heartwarming as it can be.
Yay childhood flashback
While I mostly talked about the two points that I felt were the strongest suits in Girls und Panzer, let’s not forget the level of detail on the art department. From varying backgrounds and vibrant colors, to character expressions and tank detail, there’s not much to dislike as far as art is concerned. Now I’m not gonna be able to comment much on the tanks since I’m not much of a warfare fan like some of my fellow writers here, but even I can see effort done to replicate the intricate designs of each WW2 tank, down to the last gear of every model. As some say, a good story needs to be accompanied by good art in order to produce a great movie. Personally, I would take that further and claim that a movie that sets up a merely passable story can be elevated to “great” status with the help of a powerful art team.
In the end, you might have noticed that I did not go too deep in pointing out the stuff that I liked with the movie. Everything I mentioned except some character development angles may seem superficial, but isn’t that what the movie is about? Girls und Panzer Der Film isn’t out to break new ground or question our philosophical beliefs, but is simply a show-turned-movie about having fun and making new friends. It’s a movie that requests the watcher to just sit back, throw a lot of physical logic out of the window, and just enjoy the show for the spectacle that the production team would churn out. Around half a movie worth of exciting battles, comfy soundtrack, sprinkled with some key character interactions make this a movie the sequel that Girls und Panzer deserved.
Where do we go from here? Only time will tell, although I won’t be surprised if we have more movies or OVAs on the way, given Der Film’s success. Till next time, Hime-senpai checking out.