This may be a new era in which anime series are rapidly available through online streaming, but if the first descriptions don't grab me, even if I then happen to notice how excited other people seem to get over a particular show, it still has to take its chances before I get around to it myself. Such was the case with a show named Girls und Panzer. It did seem to be kind of "high concept," the idea over which we're invited to suspend our disbelief being "suppose that for Japanese high school girls, a hallowed method of developing femininity in authorized school settings is to become a member of a World War II tank crew and go into live-fire tournaments." (The official translation of this is "tankery.") Having decided over the past few years that a good number
of the series
I've found considerable enjoyment in have been ones where I can feel a sense of healthy, straightforward absurdity about them, this series certainly did seem to qualify. With one thing and another, though, I didn't get around to watching it until now, when I already had two volumes of its manga to move on to afterwards, and
if I actually liked the anime itself.
In the first episode or so, I did wonder if I'd heard comments to the effect of "it gets better later." I also wondered if going in expecting
absurdity wasn't quite the same thing as sort of discovering it. Too, having heard the series was similar in structure to "sports anime," I did find myself thinking of one of the first proper sports anime I've seen, the baseball series Touch, and the sense I got halfway through it that its protagonists didn't really want
to be in the sports they were in, but were in them anyway for the good of their community. The similar feeling that the protagonist Miho Nishizuni was being strong-armed into restarting her school's "tankery" program did get to me. Just an episode or two later, though, as the tanks started rolling, I did start feeling like the absurdity was appealing to me after all. I also happened to notice how often Miho's radio operator Saori was talking about boyfriends; not that any of those controversial entities actually appeared, but I did get to thinking that with the tanks being operated by crews ranging in size from three to six (the school scraped together several to start with, although the other teams tend towards having "similar themes" even if there's some actual variety in the basic character designs), there might not be quite so much of an opportunity to wink and nudge at the thought of pairing the girls off romantically. (Then, as it turned out, there was a scene later on that just might be jumped on to an even wilder conclusion...)
As the tournament was set up and the scratch force of lightweight and obscure armour took on cultured and tea-drinking schoolgirls in British tanks, brash and casual schoolgirls in American tanks, crude yet hearty schoolgirls in Russian tanks, and finally chilly yet efficient schoolgirls in German tanks, I was able to enjoy the whole thing. The "mechanical" animation of the tanks was done with computer animation, but it looked as good as some of the detail work in the character animation. Having heard the manga focuses more on Miho's loader Yukari, who starts out sort of tentative but immediately opens up once she can start talking about tanks, I am sort of interested in getting to it too when I can.