It has been awhile since we’ve joined our girls aboard the Ooarai School Carrier. In the three years, seven months, and roughly eighteen days it has been since that very first episode to the release of the movie on Blu-Ray and DVD, I’ve taken the focus of this blog from my random thoughts on politics, life, and food, and evolved into an episodic review format.
Here I was talking myself out from writing this post. I’ve done a movie review before, and that was a bit of a faff. But much like Strike Witches, I cannot in good conscience, leave this one be. I consider GuP to be one of the shows that started to define my early adult tastes. Away from the raaa raaa action and romances and more towards shows that I would like. That ‘fizz’ as James May would say.
Anyways, to the film. The summary is rather long, which explains my hesitance to do reviews of films, so as a change, I placed my thoughts on the film first.
Where do I begin? I tried catching my thoughts, but much like Saki Maruyama, it seems I’m just going to gaze forever at butterflies until I see a Ferris wheel. I do feel a bit embarrassed that I’ve recounted 4chan’s popular and endearing nickname for her, but it can’t be helped. The original GuP clan on WoT NA was my first actual clan and made up of 4chan folks from /a/ and /k/ boards.
The movie itself was not bad, it certainly pulled at my heartstrings and kept me enthralled at every second of the movie. Continuation High School (officially Jatkosota High School, the Finnish name for the Continuation War) was easily my favorite new characters. There is an air of mysteriousness that is accented by Mika’s playing of her kantele and of course, the rather epic battle the Continuation HS’s BT-42 had with the three M-26 Pershing medium tanks. The moment the BT-42 lost its tracks and Mikko pulling out the steering column had me going crazy in going “they did not just pull that off”.
The BT-42 being based on the BT-7, were basically Finnish hash jobs of captured Soviet tanks. There was some grumblings from fellow WoT players in why the BT-7 was never shown in the anime back when it was airing, but I think this close. Now Continuation HS to me is best remembered also for the music Mika was playing. Known as the Säkkijärven Polkka, it holds significance in Finland and was also used in the Continuation War apparently as an anti-mine measure against the Russians, who had placed them in the city of Viipuri with radio frequency detonators.
Apart from that, I did take a liking to Rosehip and her Crusader. Again this stems from my time playing her tank and I remembered the feeling of speed it gave me. Rosehip is a rather gung-ho tanker, and I thought very representative of what I believe a Cruiser commander would be. St. Gloriana teased the Crusader back in Episode 4 I believe, but it wasn’t until the movie that we see it in action. I’m quite surprised in how Rosehip is able to hold her tea even in such a speedy little thing as the Crusader Mk. III, let alone when she removed the limiter, but I imagine impacting against the wall would’ve meant she finally spilled her tea. She was easily my favorite individual to be introduced in the movie.
In terms of tanks, I too felt crossed when I saw the Karl-Gerät. It’s a siege mortar, had it been a self-propelled artillery piece, I can understand, but it isn’t a ‘tank’. Though it’s all because of the MEXT representative’s ways to help stack the cards, and shows that not only did they want to keep Ooarai from reopening, but wanted to crush them completely through superior numbers and the utilization of technology that made the Maus back in Episode 12 look like a child’s plaything. Speaking of the Maus, I wondered what would’ve happened if the Maus had met the T28 Heavy Tank, and going with what Darjeeling had said, I also wondered how the Tortoise would’ve fared against it.
In all, the University Strengthening Team fields not only the Karl-Gerät, but the T28 Heavy Tank, twenty-four M26 Pershing Medium Tanks, three M24 Chaffee Light Tanks, and one A41 Centurion Mk I (BESA Armed, not 20mm Poldren). This is in comparison to the hodgepodge of tanks that Ooarai and other high schools bring. I can honestly say the University Team brought along a good mix of a solid medium tank in the M26 Pershings, fast speedy scouts in the three M24 Chaffees, but keeping overall strategic problem solvers in the T28 and Karl-Gerät. The fact that Alice used the 17-pounder armed A41 Centurion Mk I doesn’t change too radically her force mix which can respond to anything the Combined High School team can dish out.
Speaking of the tanks, if Rosehip was my favorite character to appear in the movie (outside those already from the anime and OVAs), then the inclusion of A41 Centurion led me to proclaim that my “tank-boner won’t go down” rather crassly on Facebook. The Centurion and her variants, but in particularly the famed Sho’t used by the Israelis, were as ubiquitous to me as what a ‘proper’ tank looks like as most Americans see the Patton and the Abrams. There is something just enduringly strong from such an armored vehicle, and to see the 17-pounder armed version tango with her opponents sent chills through my skin.
Chihatan’s inclusion into the show was rather amusing. Their emphasis on charges is very reminiscent of the IJA’s frequent usage of manpower-extensive ‘Banzai’ charges, and like those charges, if done against a well-entrenched and coordinated enemy, would fail. You can sense the frustration the Ooarai team has in trying to rein in their teammates in the exhibition match, though it seems that the youngest commander, and the school leader have picked up some tricks and patience when working with the other schools in trying to save Ooarai. It is as much character growth we can hope they continue onwards.
Speaking of growth, I honestly love the little interactions each of the characters had. From the very minor (Anteater team going from pure NEETs to rather buffed NEETs) and Mako and Sodoko’s role reversals in which the truant Mako is actually the one bringing the disciplinarian Sodoko to line. But I think the most touching of it all is just Miho recounting her childhood with Maho, and how her sister isn’t really shunning her. We saw this in the anime, and supplementary materials made it clear that Maho is enduring this coldness and stern by-the-book Senshado so her beloved younger sister can live the life she would want, and to participate in Senshado in the manner she pleases.
The addition of the blonde-haired Klara also adds another dimension to Pravda I think. While the Nishizumi vs Shimada climax at the end was edge of your seat stuff, the scene in which the Pravda contingent fight a delaying battle to ensure Katyusha escapes was easily the most heart-wrenching scene in the whole Combined High School vs University Strengthening Team battle. Klara’s shout “For Pravda” before her tank is hit by a shot by the Karl-Gerät and with Nonna and the KV-team erases the little jokes the movie tossed in there (KV tipping over in the beach, Katyusha berating Nonna and Klara for speaking Russian) and it weighs heavily on her.
Granted, they’re not dead, but’s quite easy to forget that with the scene, the rain, and the mournful music.
The movie is full of these scenes, and each comes in near-perfect transitions that, as I’ve said, kept me enthralled. But of course, I do want to take some annoyance. Regardless of the ‘carbon’ armor used to protect the occupants of the tanks, people have brought up the effects of blast over pressure, rolling, and other hazards to the crew, especially unsecured crew. I’m amazed none of the girls have lost their hearing yet, if not from the constant firing of their weapons, but from the Karl-Gerät’s shots or from the endless snaps and hisses of ricochets. I can’t help but feel this has more of an element of World of Tanks in it than realism. But then again, this is anime, and Senshado is a female sport meant to increase their feminine qualities.
Speaking of World of Tanks, many eagle-eyed friends noticed that Nicholas “The Chieftain” Moran was apparently an advisor to the show. For folks who do not know, The Chieftain is WarGaming North America’s resident historian. His day job is to go dig into museums and archives to grab some random tidbit of information from the existing examples of military vehicles and boxes of yellowing paper to send to the main office to be added into the game in some minor or major way. He also hosts the popular WarGaming YouTube Series Chieftain’s Hatch as well as write articles on various armor subjects on the website.
I think he’s a good choice as an advisor, considering the collaboration WarGaming Japan/Asia has had with the Girls und Panzer franchise from the onset and the popularity of the game and show attributed to the rise of players in the Asia region. But it’s also because The Chieftain is not only an intelligent person, but witty and personable to a fault. He is a historian in every traditional view of the occupation, but with the social media savvy.
Another familiar name I saw was WETA Workshop, best known for their prop work with the Lord of the Rings movie franchise as well as the series of Halo commercials directed by Neill Blomkamp as well as the Halo: Forward Unto Dawn miniseries. WETA Workshop was known for building the static Panzer IV Ausf H display at a Girls und Panzer event.
Anyways, I’m starting to ramble.
In all, I liked the movie. I consider it the perfect endcap to the franchise. And it also serves as the perfect bridge to a possible 2nd season or 2nd set of OVAs. It is full of the usual ‘whiskey tango foxtrot’ realism bending things, hints to military history (Säkkijärven Polkka usage; Alice naming the bear ‘woitek’, alluding to the Wojtek the Bear adopted by the Polish Army; Turtleland featuring the in-universe equivalent of Thomas the Tank Engine being Tank, Heavy Assault, Tortoise (A39); etc…), and just great characters all around.
I don’t normally review films, but when I do, they hold special significance to me. Girls und Panzer was the first anime I ever did an episodic review on, turning my blog into something more than just a Facebook stand-in. I also recommend reading Infinite Zenith’s post on it, though his observation that the Ooarai Combined High School Team vs University Strengthening Team was akin to the Vietnam War was a little jarring and somewhat of a stretch (possibly because I read his post on Memorial Day). I always saw it as an underdog vs giant one, but I agree with his assessment of the matter. MEXT is using UST and Shimada to knock Oorai down completely.
The film starts off with a tag-team exhibition match between Ooarai and Chihatan versus St. Gloriana and Pravda held in the town of Ooarai. While initially on the offensive, the impulsive charge-ahead nature of the Chihatan team breaks down any unit cohesion and it becomes a running gun fight in the streets. The old man’s shop and home is once again destroyed, while there were some spectacular stunts with Rosehip’s A15 Crusader forces, and proving once again the KV-2 to be the butt monkey of the Pravda team.
In the end though, reduced to just the core of the Ooarai team, St. Gloriana and Pravda take the lead as Katyusha’s T-34/85 takes a hit for Darjeeling’s Churchill, allowing the Churchill to knock out Miho’s Panzer IV Ausf. H., winning the match.
As the teams relax in the post-match spa area, Anzu is called back to the academy carrier. Later that night, the girls find the school gates barred and a high-ranking representative from the Japanese Ministry of Education, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) and Anzu informing them. It seems that the supposed agreement to save their school was just that, just an avenue to reconsideration, and Ooarai would still be closed down.
As the girls adjust to this news and the residents of the academy carrier make preparations to leave, a C-5M Galaxy heavy lift transport arrives at the Ooarai school grounds. Fearing that they would lose their beloved tanks, Saunders had come by to pick up their tanks while the Ooarai Student Council had listed the tanks as missing equipment. They would hold the tanks until Ooarai is transferred.
The next day, it seems like the students of the school were divided by clubs, with the Senshadou teams having a place of their own. The girls try to keep their spirits up, but it’s showing as the Morales committee are sapped of their usual gung-ho strictness that even Mako is able to toss a zinger at Sodoko’s unkempt appearance. Saunders makes good on their promise though and drops the Ooarai tanks at their new location. As the summer drags on the girls do what they can to stay sane.
While on the way to the store and discussing the need to go back to their parents to sign transfer paperwork, Miho comes across a sign for a museum featuring the Boco Bears she loves, and she and the rest of the Anglerfish team tour the amusement park even in its depilated state. There they see someone else in the museum (Shimada Alice) at one of the little stage plays, and runs off after Miho hands her the last of a limited-run toy.
Behind the scenes though, Anzu has a meeting with the MEXT representative. The two exchange the legalities of what he had said, with Anzu citing Japanese Law but the rep wouldn’t budge. Back at the temporary camp, Momo is trying to keep things in order while Yuzu notes how Momo is putting up a brave face in their current situation. Anzu and Instructor Ami tries to have the Senshadou Federation help them in trying to save Ooarai, though he explains that MEXT is more concerned about scouting for the national team for the upcoming World Tournament and considers the Ooarai situation as outside any sort of importance. It was at this point that Ami and Anzu realize where they can turn to.
Miho though makes her way back home, apprehensive at facing her mother and the life she escaped from. Maho greets her at the gate and states she’s always welcome home, though when the elder Nishizumi asks who she was, Maho explains that it’s just a friend from school. Miho waits at her old room before her older sister comes back with the transfer form, having taken her mother’s name stamp to approve her paperwork. This leads her to recount the time where she and Maho hung out when they were kids. Leaving behind something for her mom, it seems that Instructor Ami had arrived at the Nishizumi household, and explains the situation.
With the threat that Kuromorimine not being able to defeat the current champions, and her role as the Chairperson of the Pro League Committee. Realizing the tough place he’s placed in, he says Ooarai won through luck, leading the elder Nishizumi to sternly proclaim that there is no luck in Senshado, only skill, a tacit acknowledgement of Ooarai’s formidable performance. Asking what they should do to accept them, he proposes, reluctantly, that if Ooarai would beat the University team, they would be kept, to which Anzu agrees, though this time with pen and paper to back it up.
Later, Nishizumi meets with a counterpart, the Shimada style’s master and head of the University team, of the agreement, to which she says she won’t hold back. On the training ground, the University team notes the ninja-like tactics of the Shimada style’s heir, the girl from earlier, Alice. Alice meanwhile merely thinks of the show she has recording. Her mother calls explaining the match. The Shimada heir is the same girl from the Boco museum. She only agrees to it if that if she wins, that the Shimadas sponsor the museum to keep it from closing, to which she agrees.
Back at the temporary lodging, Anzu returns and Momo’s façade finally breaks. In a reversal of roles, it is Mako that comes to drag Sodoko back to the assembly hall, where Anzu explains that a match has been decided against the University Strengthened Team. Proving that the promise is real this time, she presents documents signed by the minister of MEXT, and all Senshadou Federation level heads. Realizing they have a chance, Miho though is a bit worried.
Looking over the results of the last match in which the University team won against an adult team, Miho realizes the commander of the University team is the same girl from the Boco museum. The daughter of the Shimada Style, she skipped grades to University. Anzu notes that not is the match a chance to return to their school carrier, but is also a showdown between the two major senshadou styles (Nishizumi and Shimada).
The issue here is the challenge facing them is mounting. Not only are they outnumbered thirty to eight, but the match is pure annihilation, which more or less makes the match impossible for Ooarai, most likely playing into the MEXT representative’s hand. Surveying the battlefield, Anzu apologizes for the burden she’s placed on Miho, but Miho isn’t concerned. They’ve faced tough matches before, and in the end of the day, they have their comrades, who are doing their own ways to prep for the upcoming match.
Elsewhere, it seems St. Gloriana, Saunders, Pravda, Kuromorimine, and Chihatan are moving out for somewhere, heeding the call from someone.
The next day, as Miho meets the Shimada team lead, she’s agonizing over the tactics they would need to beat their enemy. Before the match starts though, Maho appears with a platoon of four tanks consisting of a Tiger I, King Tiger, and two Panthers. Dressed in Ooarai uniforms join the match, presenting short-term transfer documents, it seems the other schools have done the same, much to the annoyance of the MEXT representative and to the amusement of the Senshado Federation’s head.
One by one, representatives from Saunders, Pravda, St. Gloriana, Anzio, Continuation and Chiahatan even out the numbers to make it an even thirty on thirty match. With the University Strengthened Team’s leader not objecting to the new arrivals, the MEXT representative just saw his stacked hand dealt a blow.
At a command tent, Miho divides the combined high school forces into three companies and has Kay and Maho command their element while she commands the third. Naming their companies ‘Sunflower’, ‘Morning Glory’, and ‘Dandelion’, each company commander and second seems to have different ideas on how to go about the battle in keeping with their school’s (and nation’s) battle doctrine. Miho though suggests that ‘Sunflower’ be the main force while the other two shore up the flanks.
Moving along the battlefield, the University team seems to have read the combined Ooarai team, with each division being effectively cut off from each other by the numbers. This isn’t helped by the disqualification of two Chihatan tanks and the arrival of the siege mortar ‘Karl’ which takes out the two Kuromorimine Panthers. The heart-wrenching part of the initial stages of the battle was when Nonna, Klara, and the KV fend off the UST Pershings and allow Katyusha’s T-34/85 to escape and regroup with the rest of the team.
After this, as Ooarai regroups, it seems that Kay and Arisa have an inkling of what the enemy artillery piece is, though not without some good-natured teasing from the rabbit team. They had wanted to purchase the siege mortar but it wasn’t approved yet. Knowing this much, Miho asks Anzu, Isobe, Anchovym and Mika a favor. The ad hoc tank platoon forms up and heads for the enemy’s main force. After an initial bombardment, they dismiss the charge as a feint, but their true goal is finding the Karl.
Back at the observation tent, the Federation head is aghast that such a monstrous ‘tank’ was approved, though the MEXT representative, smug at this revelation, merely calls it a matter of perspective. Isobe though has a plan, and while it is reckless, though the tank commander for Continuation High School trusts their decision.
The fight against the Karl and her three Pershing escorts take place with the Continuation BT-42 conducting a hit and run attack on the escorts, which chase it, while the rest of the team go for the Karl. Duck team launches Anchovy’s CV-33 with its skid at the rear of the tank, but it is unable to damage the Karl with just its machine guns. Turtle team would use the CV as a ramp to fly up and align its cannon with the Karl’s gun, firing into the siege mortar and disabling it, while the Continuation High School’s BT-42 manages to destroy the escorting Pershings through its higher speed and ‘secret weapon’. The fact that Christie-suspension equipped tanks were meant to also be driven without tracks, allowing it to stay mobile (if not even moreso) when its tracks were blown off.
Finally regrouped, the Combined High School teams make their last stand within the grounds of an abandoned amusement park, and with each school utilizing their own styles in a team. With the teams divided within the various cardinal direction exits and the central plaza, Anchovy provides recon by placing the CV-33 on top of the park-spanning roller coaster’s lift hill. The University team makes its move towards the south gate, but is found to be a diversion made with a few Pershings and smokescreens. The Chihatan tankers initially aim to charge at the offensive, though the youngest commander (Fukuda) has a plan (though berated by the other drivers) that Chihatan’s commander agrees upon.
At the Eastern entrance, Darjeeling’s force is broken through with the University team employing the T28 Super Heavy Tank (originally meant to break through the Siegfried line), and are forced to retreat. While they are maintaining an excellent defense in depth (with the Chihatan force utilizing camouflage to engage their group of Pershings), they are nonetheless corralled to an amphitheater where the University team surrounds them on high.
Unable to help, the Rabbit Team’s Maruyama Saki. Saki had uttered some nonsense in the exhibition match, but this time she has a stroke of genius and the Rabbit Team’s M3 Lee destroy the supports holding up a nearby Ferris wheel. The runaway fairground attraction (guided by shots from the high schoolers) manages to clear a way for the encircled high schoolers allowing them to escape and disperse.
The dispersed teams enact their own ways to whittle down the enemy team. Rosehip’s Crusader, Mallard, and Hippo bait their foes to long straights, where Hippo’s camouflaged Stug III destroys the chasing tanks (akin to the Anzio’s tactic in the OVA). Katyusha, Leopon, and Anteater disable their pursuers in a Wild West themed set, while the Chihatan team with the Duck team destroy theirs by inventive uses of terrain and pinning the turrets on one of the Pershings, allowing for another to destroy it through the turret ring. One of the University’s commanders chase Anglerfish and Turtle to a hedge maze, and after two of her supporting tanks were disabled, finds out about Anchovy’s position.
The University team commanders are fed up with the hit and run tactics the Combined High School team is doing, but are unsure if they can ask help from their commander. Alice merely sings in response to this, leading her team to realize she’s joining in the fight. Hippo Team is defeated when their attempt to use camouflage a third time is seen through by one of the UST’s sub-commanders and disables the Stug. The last thing Anchovy manages to report before being chased by a Chaffee on the roller coaster is the arrival of Alice’s A33 Centurion Mark I. This would lead Duck and Chihatan engage Alice, whose Centurion effortlessly dances around them and disables everyone.
Elsewhere, Darjeeling and Naomi defeat the T28, which had cast off its outer set of bogies to fit through an archway, but Darjeeling’s
Cromwell Churchill was destroyed by the T28’s escort of a single Chaffee and Pershing. (Made a mistake, I have no idea why I said her tank was a Crommy.) Pincered in the tracks by two Chaffees, Rabbit manages to disable both but is taken out by Alice. Kay and the other Saunders tanks are defeated in close duels with the sub-commanders Pershings and Alice disables Turtle and Anteater while Rosehip disables the limiter on her tank and destroys another Chaffee while disabling herself.
Meanwhile, Mallard and Anchovy bait a Pershing and disable it, only to be taken out by Alice. The heavy tanks can’t keep up with the enemy sub-commander’s Pershings, but with Leopon employing a super-tuned motor that disables them, they manage to take out one of the sub-commanders.
Meeting at the central plaza, Miho and Maho work together to disable the other two Pershings, and engage in 2 on 1 jousting duel with the Centurion, culminating in a straight game of chicken where Maho shoots her sister’s tank with a blank shell, propelling the Panzer IV at high speeds at the Centurion, allowing its gun to disable the Centurion at the cost of being disabled itself.
With that, Ooarai wins the elimination match and apart from the MEXT representative and the respective heads of the NIshizumi and Shimada schools (the rep watching his plans go to waste and the masters merely sighing in relief), everyone is ecstatic. As the participants gather around Miho, Ooarai bows to the other schools in thanks for their help, while Alice arrives on the mechanical bear to give Miho the Boco Bear plush from earlier and considers it a medal, to which she takes. Their mothers merely note there should be a rematch without any strings attached.
During the credits, Miho and Maho share a quiet farewell before the other schools depart for their own. Alice is shown to be opening a newly restored Boco Bear museum, while Miho and the rest of the Ooarai Senshado team watches as their ferry reaches their moored Academy Ship.