Girls und Panzer, Episode 3: We’re Having a Match!

Monday, October 29th, 2012

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WARNING: The following post discusses spoilers from Girls und Panzer, Episode 3: “We’re Having a Match!” If you do not wish to be spoiled, please stop reading now. You have been warned.

Girls und Panzer episode 3, entitled “We’re Having a Match!,” resumes moments before Miho and her friends are about to run over a sleeping Mako in episode 2 while fleeing in their tank from pursuing classmates. I expected her to be in a deep sleep, given how sluggish and tired she looked last episode, but to my surprise, she gets right up, jumps onto the tank, climbs inside, and learns to drive it in less than a minute by reading the instruction manual. It turns out Mako is a brilliant student, but suffers from low blood pressure, which accounts for her extreme drowsiness and chronic tardiness. Regardless, the girls want her to be their driver.

Mako, however, declines. Saori, who has been friends with her for some time, persuades her to join by pointing out that her constant tardiness has almost killed her prospects of graduating to the next year and that the tankery program offers grade bonuses to all participating students. However, shortly thereafter, Mako threatens to quit when the student council schedules the tankery girls for a 6 AM Sunday practice duel with another school. Indignant, she asks the girls, “Can humans even wake up at six in the morning?”

Notice she’s questioning whether humans can wake up at six in the morning. You’d think she’d be talking about herself, but her wording, tone, and facial expression suggest otherwise. She looks and sounds angry, but my gut says she’s bitter—but about what? Humanity? Back in episode 2, she remarked, “Life is painful.” Why? What happened? I think her lethargy could be a psychological defense, not just a symptom of low blood pressure.

Exploring her past, however, will have to wait—the girls still need their driver. Saori retorts with two additional reasons to stay. One, if held back a year, Mako would have to address Saori and the others as her senpai (a title for one’s seniors in school). Saori challenges Mako to call her “Saori-senpai,” but for some reason, she struggles to do so and fails, unable to utter the last syllable. Two, Mako’s grandmother would be angry if she failed her grade. The thought terrifies Mako—her normally droopy eyes flare open, and her body stiffens and shivers. I wonder what other stimuli can provoke that kind of reaction from her. And why is she so fearful of her grandmother?

Faced with Saori’s growing mountain of reasons, Mako reluctantly stays. And thus, our four-girl group becomes five—five friends, five tank personnel, just like the flash-forward in episode 1.

Saori surprised me. Despite being impulsive, boy-crazy, and prone to emotional outbursts, she actually reasoned soundly with Mako despite being upset. Her mind is sharper than I thought it was.

The student council president, however, has an even sharper mind. She always looks like she’s plotting something. It turns out persuading Miho to take tankery was part of a plan. Perhaps it’s to save the school, in line with the vice president’s concern back in episode 1, but I strongly doubt that. The president comes across as a selfish machinator, the kind who would use her deceptively cute, diminutive appearance to manipulate others. Having said that, I don’t think she’s malevolent, so it can’t be a sinister plan. What she wants with Miho remains to be seen, but I have a bad feeling about it.

To complicate matters further, she sets another plan into motion: she calls the St. Gloriana Women’s Academy and arranges the aforementioned Sunday practice duel. St. Gloriana is a high-class institution. The one room we see is spacious and richly adorned. Its students are well dressed in dress shirts, ties, skirts, and V-neck sweaters. Two of the students we see are enjoying afternoon tea with small cakes and sandwiches and expensive china for the tea. They sit very properly, backs erect and hands below the table. The sole speaking character, whose sweater, unlike the two dining girls, is accented with a red stripe, is highly articulate, enunciating nearly every syllable in her speech, even normally glossed over ones like su. These girls’ behavior is highly refined—and an understated sign of discipline. I think they’ll make unflinching opponents for our heroines.

Speaking of discipline, “PR” of the student council finally has a full name. In episode 2, the council president addressed her by her last name, Kawashima. In episode 3, the vice president calls her “Momo-chan.” I find it hilarious an authority figure like her would have such a dainty-sounding name. Momo could be short for “Momoko,” so her full name should be either Momoko Kawashima (my guess) or Momo Kawashima. Just don’t call her Momo-chan to her face, though, as doing so will greatly upset and fluster the normally unflappable girl.

Kawashima behaves out-of-character in other ways. She acts excitable, crazy, and bloodthirsty as she prepares to fire on Miho and her companions. She snaps hard when someone questions her decisions (more on this later). It’s jarring to see her calm in one scene and cackling or screaming the next. Clearly, her authoritative behavior is just a façade. I wonder what drives her to act so authoritative and strict and why she feels the need to be in control—of herself and over others.

By contrast, Miho is a natural leader, although she may not realize it. At the start of the episode, despite being under fire from two tanks, Miho exits her tank to assess the situation and lead the tank across a rickety suspension bridge. And when all four opponent tanks threaten to trap them on the bridge, Miho instinctively begins coordinating her friends. It is Miho’s self-assured leadership that cripples the volleyball girls’, the military buffs’, and the student council’s tanks. (The youngsters become terrified and try to flee in their tank, only to break one of its treads trying to escape a patch of mud.) Whereas Kawashima aggressively asserts her authority, Miho simply leads. In her, we begin to see truth in Introduction to Tankery’s description of a tankery practitioner, heard back in episode 1:

“Intense and strong like [a tank’s] iron…

“…adorable like the clattering of its track…

“…and passionate and precise like its main cannon.”

Miho, however, is largely, if not completely, unaware of her own strengths. After the mock battle, she reverts to her usual meek self. Her friends, however, do see her strengths, and they encourage her to become their leader. Though reluctant, Miho eventually wills herself to accept the position.

Before Oarai’s practice duel against St. Gloriana, the student council gathers representatives from each tankery team to formulate a strategy. Kawashima, the captain of the teams, briefs the others on her plan: lure the heavily armored St. Gloriana tanks into a kill zone with one of their own tanks, then take out the St. Gloriana tanks with the four remaining tanks. Miho, however, questions Kawashima’s wisdom, sensing the St. Gloriana team will anticipate her tactic and try to surround them first. This causes Kawashima to snap in the aforementioned manner.

The president, however, remains unperturbed. Pleased with Miho’s intuition, she appoints her captain instead of Kawashima. Curiously, despite her demonstrated need for authority over others, not to mention her violent outburst moments earlier, she does not object. Just before the practice duel with St. Gloriana begins, she simply reminds Miho that “everything depends on [her].” I wonder what makes her so submissive to the president. I don’t think it’s merely rank—Kawashima could easily depose her.

On the day of the practice duel, the Oarai carrier docks at a port to meet with the St. Gloriana team. As our heroines disembark, Saori makes an offhand remark I find rather disturbing: “Everybody used to have school on land a long time ago, right?” What happened to all the land-based schools? Have they simply become unpopular compared to carrier-based schools, or did something terrible happen? And how long ago is “long ago”? Something feels wrong to me…

Nevertheless, the reality is that schools are now on town-carriers. And soon, a massive town-carrier docks next to Oarai. This is St. Gloriana. So far, everything about St. Gloriana seems bigger, literally and otherwise. Its budget is demonstrably bigger, and its tankery team, having been active longer, is far more experienced. The Oarai team, on the other hand, has to make do with formerly dilapidated tanks and less than a month of training, maybe even less than a week of it. The odds are stacking up against our heroines.

After introductions, a panel of judges sends each team to its starting position. At this point, episode 3 has come full circle with episode 1. Also, the episode ends here. Evidently, Girls und Panzer‘s producers love cliffhangers. At least this one doesn’t feel as abrupt as the one in episode 2.

Back in episode 1’s flash-forward, Miho said the team was to follow Kawashima’s bait-and-strike strategy. This doesn’t make sense. Why is she following the very plan she has serious misgivings about? As captain, shouldn’t she have formulated a new strategy?

As Miho feared, Kawashima’s plan doesn’t go well. The flash-forward ends with a tank shot flying straight toward Miho’s face. I don’t see how Miho can possibly dodge this, but we won’t find out either way until the next episode.

Until then, I’ll leave you with the following observation. You can see the St. Gloriana students in the last third of the opening. They are the first of a series of rival tankery teams, the last of which is…

…Maho and her comrades. It seems Miho is destined to confront her sister—and her past.

Girls und Panzer is currently streaming on Crunchyroll. New episodes air every Wednesday at 8 PM Pacific Daylight Time for premium users. Free users will gain access the week after.

About Oscar Tong

Oscar joined oprainfall late September 2012 in response to a recruitment drive. He quickly discovered his job was much harder than he had anticipated. Despite the constant challenge, he has come to enjoy his responsibilities.

When he is not scrambling to meet a deadline, Oscar enjoys story-driven games with a strong narrative. He is especially fond of computer adventure games, role-playing games, and visual novels. He hopes the world will one day awaken to the power of video games as a storytelling medium.