Girls Und Panzer is a twelve-episode anime series currently available to buy in the UK courtesy of MVM Entertainment. The show is dedicated to Tankery, a fictional sport that has teams battling it out using a range of World War II era tanks. Even though driving an armoured vehicle doesn’t come across as a feminine pursuit, Tankery is extremely popular with teenage girls. Why is that you may ask? Because anime shows must shoehorn in a high school setting, regardless of subject matter, that’s why! Besides, everyone knows that when it comes to merchandising female figurines sell far better than male models.
The show’s main character is Miho Nishizumi, who is the youngest member of a family who are renowned for their Tankery prowess. When the series kicks off we see Miho enrol at Ōarai Academy – an all girls boarding school situated atop an aircraft carrier. I’m not sure what the educational merits of studying aboard a warship are, but whatever. When Ōarai Academy revives its defunct Tankery club Miho is appointed as team commander and tasked with winning the upcoming World Championships. Ōarai’s participation in the tournament is a desperate attempt to keep the struggling school afloat (no pun intended.) Should they fail to scoop the title the institution shall get shut down. No pressure Miho… do your best!
Assisting Miho in her endeavours are her quirky classmates Saori, Hana, Yukari and Mako. Saori is obsessed with hunting down a boyfriend although the odds of her finding one are pretty much zero, as the show is virtually devoid of male characters (no one wants figurines with a penis.) Saori’s relationship woes however pale in comparison to Hana’s family troubles. Poor Hana has been disowned by her mother for having the gall to abandon flower arranging in favour of becoming a Tankery gunner. Floristry is serious business folks! Yukari is a tank fanatic (no surprise then that she has no friends) whilst Mako is the team’s driver despite suffering from narcolepsy.
In addition to the above-mentioned ladies Girls Und Panzer has a fairly large supporting cast, but most of them are nothing more than amusing two-dimensional caricatures. The same complaint can also be levied at the opposition teams Ōarai Academy face during the championships. These include a British team who spend their time drinking tea… heck even their team insignia is a cuppa! The Russian school, Miho eventually faces, is led by a diminutive commander who has height esteem issues. She insists on riding atop her subordinate’s shoulders so she can look down on her rivals. Miho’s stern sister is also participating in the contest. She’s an ice queen who only cares about winning. I’m sure the two won’t clash in the finals. That would be too predictable right?
My rating for Girls Und Panzer is four stars out of five. It’s good light-hearted fun and a welcome change from other animes, which are often overly melodramatic or guilty of sexualizing their cast. Watching the innocent antics of Miho’s chums always put a smile on my face, whether its their decision to paint a tank pink or buying cushions, as sitting in metal vehicles is hard on their tushies. Although the series can be too sweet at times, the action sequences are surprisingly well put together. Instead of depending on the CG tanks to dazzle audiences, the battles end up being entertaining as they focus on how Miho’s intelligent tactics prevail over forces blessed with superior numbers and weaponry. If you enjoy sporting shows like Bamboo Blade I can highly recommend Girls Und Panzer. It’s so good that you’ll forget that you are cheering on for the Nazi tanks to win!