By Oscar Tong / November 30th, 2012
WARNING: The following post discusses spoilers from Girls und Panzer, Episode 6: “Our First Battle Comes to a Climax!” If you do not wish to be spoiled, please stop reading now. You have been warned.
Girls und Panzer episode 6, “Our First Battle Comes to a Climax!,” lives up to its name as it concludes Oarai Girls’ Academy’s tankery match against Sanders College High School. The second half of the match pushes Miho and the other girls to their limits, testing their characters as well as their tankery skill.
The first-year girls have grown more courageous, refusing to run from their worsening predicament, unlike their past battles in episodes 3 and 4. It’s a shame they got taken down so quickly. As in episode 3, their tank’s right track breaks again. Is this going to be a recurring problem? To be fair, it only broke after the tank got shot.
(There’s a visual goof when the first-years are being driven back to Miho and the others following their victory. In the first shot, Yuuki is absent. In the next shot, she suddenly appears behind Karina. Whoops!)
By contrast, Kawashima’s façade of strength finally cracks, exposing her inner weakness. It’s gentle Yuzu and flippant Anzu who remain calm instead, comforting their hysterical friend. Their predicament, though adverse, brings the deepness of their friendship to the fore. I especially like how the normally happy-go-lucky Anzu’s face turns serious as she comforts Kawashima.
The situation becomes bad enough that even Miho trembles a bit. It amazes me how, even when she’s genuinely afraid, she can still steel herself, analyze the situation, find a logical reason to remain hopeful, and inspire her friends and schoolmates with a rousing speech.
This time, however, I think she gave her speech partly out of necessity and partly to convince herself there’s still hope. She had to force herself to play the part of the fearless leader. Fortunately, her friends are there to encourage her just as she encourages them. I like that Miho is not absolutely fearless, but has the strength to manage her fear.
I guess I was completely off about Mako and her grandmother. She really does care; otherwise, she wouldn’t have tried to swim to Oarai proper to see her hospitalized grandmother. Or maybe their relationship is just complicated.
I think it would have been better to show or hint more obviously that Mako cared about her grandmother before episode 5.5. Miho told us she cared, but it didn’t make sense because the show had only depicted Mako expressing fear of being punished by her grandmother. It’s good that it’s showing it now instead of just saying it, but it would have been more effective and less confusing to show it first before saying it.
We also get to know Sanders’ Kei, Arisa, and Naomi better as tankery practitioners. Naomi hardly speaks in this episode, instead letting her tank do the talking. On the tankery field, Naomi acts more like a sniping machine than a human. She looks more like she belongs in a late-1980s or early-1990s action anime than a 2012 light high-school drama.
There’s one side of Naomi, however, that I don’t understand. Throughout the match, she looked increasingly annoyed at Oarai. I expected her to seethe with even more anger or fly into a rage when her team lost. Instead, she relaxed, laid back, and smiled just a little. Was she relieved the match was over? Was she impressed by how Miho and her friends defeated her team at the last second? Or did she simply find the duel stimulating despite the loss?
Naomi’s tank, a Sherman Firefly, is a British variant of the M4 Sherman fitted with an Ordnance Quick-firing 17 pounder tank and anti-tank gun. This is what makes the Firefly so powerful. However, its reload time is slow, which proves to be Sanders’ undoing, giving Hana just enough time to line up her shot and fire. It’s ironic, I think, that Sanders’ most powerful weapon is British (at least in part), considering Sanders is otherwise very all-American.
Arisa is scum, but I think she’s also the most interesting (albeit the least likable) of the three Sanders girls. When her plan unravels, she not only loses her cool, she also seems to lose her sanity. I can somewhat understand why she’d ramble about the supposed superiority of the M4 Sherman, but it’s just plain weird how she later starts rambling for seemingly no reason about her unrequited love Takashi. When she’s not going fully insane, she’s laughing and shouting maniacally about crushing Oarai. She’s also a terrible commander, berating her subordinates instead of leading them. In my opinion, Arisa is far too psychologically unstable and verbally abusive to be a tank commander or any kind of leader. I hope Kei will either convince her to change or remove her from her position.
I think Arisa is a lot like Kawashima. Both are aggressive, both have a penchant for shouting, and both crack spectacularly under pressure.
I suppose I was wrong about Kei. I thought she might have been just a figurehead, but it looks like she commands enough respect from Arisa and Naomi that they’ll comply with her orders. Too bad Arisa doesn’t respect her enough not to go around her back, and neither of them respects her enough not to intimidate the competition before a match. She was also still too trusting of Arisa before learning of her dirty tricks. Although she could instinctively tell her advice sounded suspect, she still trusted her. I think she needs to learn to trust herself instead.
At least she has a strong sense of honor. I really respect that.
Kei and Maho separately hint at the philosophical side of tankery. When Miho asks Kei why she fought with fewer tanks than she had, Kei replies, “Because that’s tankery!” When Maho’s comrade protests against Maho’s offer to fly Mako to her hospitalized grandmother, Maho replies, “This is another part of tankery.” It seems, like most martial arts, tankery incorporates a code of honor.
I doubt, however, that someone as nasty as Maho’s comrade has any sense of honor. I do not trust her at all to fly Mako and Saori safely to Mako’s grandmother. She may have obeyed Maho while she was nearby, but what’s to stop her later from stranding Mako and Saori in a hostile place or dumping them into the ocean? She sees them and all of Oarai Girls’ Academy as an affront to tankery. I can’t help but feel she will do something terrible to the girls.
Maho, at least, has some semblance of honor. This is the first time she has shown any glimmer of humanity. Her terse but unqualified offer to fly Mako to her grandmother shocked me. It’s also the only time she talks in the entire episode. It seems she isn’t entirely without compassion, even if it’s merely compliance with a code of honor.
But the show then reminds us she has no such mercy on the tankery field.
We also get a glimpse of one of Miho’s next opponents from the opening. This could be Pravda High, which Kawashima discussed with Anzu and Yuzu. Assuming this is Pravda, their handiwork looks just as brutal as Kuromorimine’s, if not more so. Did they have to trash their opponent’s tank so savagely? With its severely damaged cannon, it seems to writhe like a cat or dog pounded repeatedly with a sledgehammer. Its crew even raises two surrender flags, as if one wasn’t enough. The sight made me sick to my stomach.
The tanks defeated by Pravda and Kuromorimine raised manual surrender flags instead of the automatic flags we’ve seen on every other tank. I’m not sure whether these teams lacked the funding to install the automatic system or were hit so hard, the system broke. I’m more inclined to believe it’s the latter. To me, the manual flags strongly suggest they suffered a devastating assault, which, in turn, hints at Pravda and Kuromorimine’s brutality.
Perhaps Maho’s comrade wasn’t entirely out of line when she derisively called Miho “naïve.” Miho may be making friends now with nice, honorable rivals like St. Gloriana’s leader and Kei, but her next opponents won’t be so friendly. Fortunately, she and her teammates won’t face Pravda or Kuromorimine just yet—they’ll be dueling Anzio Senior High School first.
Tankery is starting to look even more hazardous than before to me. When Naomi blasted the volleyball girls’ tank, it burst into flames inside and out. Back in episode 2, Yukari said tankery ammunition was supposed to be “used with an emphasis on safety.” Blasting a tank so it bursts into flames is not putting “an emphasis on safety.” I’m starting to think this safety guideline is routinely ignored, especially by elite teams. Oarai had better be wary.
Girls und Panzer is currently streaming on Crunchyroll. New episodes air every Wednesday at 8 PM Pacific Standard Time for premium users. Free users will gain access the week after.
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