There’s More to Moe Than Meets the Eye
When it comes to shows about a group of girls doing a task together a few things may come to mind: light, fluffy, moe, casual, laidback, and so on. However, not every “cute girls doing cute things,” or CGDCT for short, show is built equally. I touched on this briefly in my deep dive into Love Live! School Idol Project, but Girls und Panzer is a fine example of one such show that doesn’t neatly fit into a traditional mold. Join me as we take a look at Season 17’s #AniTwitWatches title and why we all seemed to have such a great time with it.
Before we can really do that though, I need to tell you what the show is about. Miho Nishizumi, a recent transfer student to Ooarai Girls Academy after an incident involving Sensha-dou (which I will refer to “Tankery” for the remainder of this article because that’s what the dub uses and I like it better. Deal with it.), a team sport for girls where they fight using tanks. At first, she intends to leave the sport for good but the school has other plans for her. Now, with several new friends, she must make the best of their ragtag crew and lead them to victory as winning may be more important than they ever realized.
That’s a grossly oversimplified synopsis of the plot, but that is the gist of it. However, I think it already demonstrates a key point for this article in that it doesn’t really sound like a show where a bunch of girls just hang out. In fact, It sounds like there is a fair amount of drama and action involved. If you thought this, well, you’d be correct. It’s not deep drama, most of the conflict is relatively minor or small-scale, but it is a focal point of many of the anime’s plot points. That said, it isn’t as if the show is devoid of the more traditional moments of the girls just hanging out and being “cute.”
Perhaps the way I’ve chosen to phrase this sounds like a dig on the show, but it isn’t. I’ve spoken about this during the watch, but even those “cute” aspects of the show aren’t traditional either. Just look at these character designs, they are NOT conventionally attractive. They just aren’t. While some may overlook the series as a result, I believe this enhances the unique qualities of Girls und Panzer while challenging what can, or can’t, be considered moe/feminine/etc…
I’m not even sure this was intentioned with the inception of the series, but it is, if nothing else, a happy accident of the show on a thematic level at the very least. You can see this quite clearly in how Tankery is talked about and portrayed by the various cast members. It’s sold as this sport that will make you the pinnacle of feminine beauty and grace, but in reality is viewed similarly as how many might view the fictional sport today: girls shouldn’t be doing that. Obviously, I think that’s a silly notion, there’s not really “boy” things or “girl” things, I think there are societal predispositions, but that’s only a small piece of things. I could probably write a larger article on this specific topic, but we are getting somewhat off-topic here.
To get back to what I was originally saying, this same kind of thinking can be applied to what exactly a cute girls/moe type show can be. They don’t all need to be about sipping tea and goofing around (and I’d argue most aren’t that anyway), instead, this shows that they can have a whole lot to offer if given the chance.
What helps Girls und Panzer succeed is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. As I mentioned, the drama is exaggerated, sometimes to the point where it is made a deliberate joke. The focus is instead on character interaction with the various battles the girls participate in driving their growth. During this time, the girls are doing their thing, often being kind of cute or silly in the process, but there’s plenty of literal action there to accompany it.
I want to take a minute to note that action, specifically the literal kind, in a narrative isn’t always needed. What’s important is forward momentum, you want to feel like the story is moving or going someplace. This results in a work that feels like it has a point and isn’t just mindless time-killing. In short, it’s what makes a good story. With Girls und Panzer, the action is a necessary part of the odd fantasy being sold here, but it isn’t the focal point, it simply is a backdrop for driving that key character goodness.
Now, with that said, I will admit that the action is a BIG part of the appeal of the series. It’s explosively fun in a way you just can’t help but get swept up in. Is it always realistic? No, but the whole idea of this fictional sport of Tankery isn’t either. Still, it’s fun, a lot of fun. Seeing the creative solutions that Miho comes up with to lead her school to victory in each match is exciting even when you know most of the show’s outcome in advance.
As the series moves beyond the TV adaptation to the films, this concept is pushed even further and allowed to play with the concept even more fully than it already is here. If you haven’t seen the movie, it gets a big recommendation from me as it takes all the best parts of the series and only improves them. Still, I should talk about some of the messy parts of the show.
Unsurprisingly, Girls und Panzer is not perfect. A big driver for much of the plot is the fact that Miho didn’t let some girls drown to death, resulting in a thrown game at her old school and trauma in Miho. While I completely understand the concept of this, the actual practice of this pretty bad. It’s easy to brush aside the, frankly, absurd plot of the anime but when it comes to this it’s a bigger pill to swallow. One that you eventually can do, but not without several sips of water and a few uncomfortable coughs.
Otherwise, the only other complaint that isn’t just tiny nitpicking, would be in the abruptness of the ending. The show is only 12 episodes proper, and you can feel that. It’s not enough to ruin the show, or even cause it to be a dissatisfying experience, but it is one that will leave you wanting more if you enjoyed it. That’s a good problem to have though as thankfully there is more to be had in several OVAs and films, but that sense of something missing may gnaw at more viewers than not.
Taking this all into consideration, I have to say that this is one show I’ve revisited more than expected. This was my third time watching it and my third time enjoying it. While my score didn’t waver, I can say my enthusiasm for the series hadn’t either. It’s a great first step into something that has excellent potential, said potential I’ve seen pay off. Even so, Girls und Panzer has landed itself an influential role in how I view this genre of show. It really did initially open me up checking out a lot of shows I might not have otherwise by showing me that cute girls driving cool tanks can be more than that, if you let it.
What are your thoughts on Girls und Panzer? Let me know in the comments below. I also reviewed High School Fleet, an anime set in the same world as this one if you want to check that out. Sadly, I didn’t like that one nearly as much, but it is pretty unique. Thanks for reading, and if you enjoyed, please send some support my way by clicking the buttons below.