By Oscar Tong / January 21st, 2013
WARNING: The following post discusses spoilers from Girls und Panzer, Episode 10.5: “Introductions 2!” If you do not wish to be spoiled, please stop reading now. You have been warned.
Girls und Panzer episode 10.5, “Introductions 2!,” is another clip show. Fortunately, the producers make the most of it, taking the opportunity to outline the Tankery League’s basic rules, shedding new light on previous episodes, and, of course, formally introducing more of the show’s colorful characters. While I enjoyed this episode despite it being a clip show, I have to question the use of these episodes, which would not have existed were it not for production delays, to establish character names. In my opinion, the names should have been introduced along with the characters, not sequestered in supplementary materials like official websites and clip shows.
Since there’s no story to reflect on, I’ll make observations where I can.
Tankery League Regulations
Tankery League competitors may only compete in tanks pre-dating August 15, 1945. This is not just any date: this is the day Japan announced its surrender to the United States, marking the end of the last major conflict of World War II. In short, any tank from World War II or earlier will qualify.
I’m not sure I buy the “judging device” explanation for Tankery League tanks. It feels like the writers are using vaguely defined computer technology as a crutch to explain how the tanks don’t destroy each other. I feel it could have been omitted entirely—just saying the shells are modified not to destroy a tank would have been enough. Magical high-tech solutions feel incongruous with the series to me.
I wonder how tamperproof the judging devices are. Since they’re electronic, somebody’s going to want to hack them, perhaps to make them ignore damage or trigger a premature surrender. I doubt we’ll see any such cheating in the show itself, but I can’t help but think someone somewhere in the Girls und Panzer world is trying to cheat. Even if the Tankery League forbids it, since when have prohibitions ever fully stopped anything? I can’t imagine everybody would be willing to abide by the Tankery League’s rules. There might even be underground leagues where anything goes.
Miho says Tankery League-approved ammunition is designed not to penetrate armor. Yet, as far back as episode 1 (or, rather, episode 1’s flash-forward to episode 4), armor-piercing rounds have been said to be part of a tankery team’s arsenal. Have the writers goofed, or is the rounds’ armor-piercing capability entirely virtual, computed by the judging device and the rounds’ onboard chips? Or perhaps they pierce the armor, but don’t breach the hull or turret.
Well, as Pravda and Kuromorimine demonstrated at the end of episode 6, there’s nothing preventing a tank from simply assaulting another tank until the victim and the judging device break. Determined competitors will always find a way to break the system, literally or otherwise.
The high-school nationals consist entirely of flag-style matches. It’s too bad there haven’t been any more total annihilation matches since Oarai’s practice match with St. Gloriana. I wonder why there aren’t any in the nationals. Wouldn’t a little variety be good for the audience? Maybe they’re more popular outside Japan or among college and adult competitors.
When discussing the number of tanks allowed in a match, Yukari says Mako once mentioned an “unspoken rule” about large numbers giving seasoned tankery teams an advantage. Her recall is incorrect—it’s Erika of Kuromorimine who, in episode 5, mentions an unspoken rule. However, she doesn’t mention the quantity of tanks. I thought she was talking about talent, since her team was far more experienced than Oarai.
I was completely wrong about Sodoko, Gomoyo, and Pazomi being sisters. Since they’re not related, I would guess they wear the same hairdo because it’s de rigueur for Oarai hall monitors. Interestingly, Sodoko is much more relaxed and patient with Gomoyo and Pazomi than with anyone else. She doesn’t mind them calling her “Sodoko” at all. Even more interestingly, despite hating others shortening her name, she has no qualms about shortening the names of Gomoyo and Pazomi. She’s not exactly following the Golden Rule. Why does her short name bother her coming from everybody else (especially Mako), but not from them? Is it supposed to be some sort of secret clique name for hall monitors only?
Nonna maintains a daily journal on Katyusha. It seems a tad excessive to me, but it is consistent with the maternal behavior she has shown toward her. What is Nonna’s relationship with her, exactly? Older sister? Legal guardian? Governess? Maidservant? Is that diary written for herself, or is it a report to a superior? Why keep such a detailed account of someone else’s life?
Miho says Katyusha was “talented” for baiting the rest of Oarai. But her plan was really quite obvious—one would have had to be blind or foolish not to see it, and the girls were both at the time. Miho, however, already knew something was wrong. Since it was obvious enough to her, why would she call Katyusha “talented” for slapping together such an obvious set-up? Maybe it wasn’t so much that it was cunning as that she was able to read the girls’ behavior before and during the match (e.g., their carefree demeanor, their head-on attack) and quickly determine the most tempting lure.
Miho chose to put her teammates’ soaring morale ahead of her more sensible plan against Pravda. I don’t understand why. She’s right when she says humans can’t be switched on and off like machines, but as a team, they sometimes need to switch on and off according to the leader’s judgment. Miho should also have realized her teammates would have lost their morale, anyway, by charging blindly at their opponent. I think the girls would have lost less morale if Miho had denied their plan. It would also have been a less painful lesson in humility for them. Hopefully, Miho has by now developed a better sense of when to relax her grip and when to tighten it.
On the other hand, this was before she knew the school’s continued existence hinged on winning the nationals. Her concern until then was for everybody to have fun, not stress out over winning. Considering this, Miho’s prioritizing high spirits over victory makes considerably more sense.
For some reason, the names of the Vehicle Club (or is it the Automotive Club?) girls—Nakajima, Hoshino, Suzuki, and Tsuchiya—are written in katakana instead of kanji and hiragana. A quick Internet search reveals these are the last names of several Japanese race drivers. These could be nicknames, similar to Caesar, Erwin, Saemonza, and Oryou. But again, why katakana? Will Whitehurst, one of Oprainfall’s Japanese-language translators, says there are four cases in which a Japanese name would be written in katakana:
- To indicate someone half-Japanese
- To indicate someone born outside Japan (Will cites singer Hikaru Utada [宇多田ヒカル], born in the United States, as an example)
- To indicate someone who has lived outside Japan a very long time (Will uses Yoko Ono [オノ・ヨーコ] as an example)
- Personal preference or stylistic choice—Will adds that kanji has begun to fall into disuse for Japanese names, with some even writing their names in katakana
Throughout the episode, Miho has had something good to say about all her opponents, even less savory ones like Arisa and Katyusha. She sees their praiseworthy qualities, even if they didn’t carry themselves honorably during their matches. I think she’s being nice to a fault, but it’s an admirable quality, too. Maybe her positive outlook is part of the reason she can so easily befriend her rivals.
A Comparison of the School Ships
By now, we’ve seen the school ship of every prominently featured high-school tankery team. St. Gloriana, Saunders, and Pravda are the biggest; Oarai and St. Gloriana have the most nature (Saunders may, as well, but we never get an overhead view of it); and Pravda and Kuromorimine are the most spartan, featuring the smallest residential zones. Kuromorimine stands out as the oldest-looking, to the point of being ancient and decrepit.
This contrasts sharply with Oarai’s contemporary appearance. Kuromorimine looks utterly joyless, much like Maho, Erika, and Miho and Maho’s mother. The place is so focused on tankery and the Nishizumi way, there’s seemingly no room for the simple joy of living. I doubt one would find injured teddy bears, cute street signs, sweet potato ice cream parlors, or even the warm glow of dawn there.
The Vehicle Club’s Porsche Tiger, or VK4501(P), was a prototype designed by Porsche founder Dr. Ferdinand Porsche. Hitler rejected it in favor of Henschel & Son’s competing prototype, the VK4501(H), which became the Tiger I. Since all the girls’ tanks are unwanted leftovers from Oarai’s original tankery days, the Porsche Tiger could be considered the reject of rejects. To add insult to injury, Kuromorimine has brought the more successful Elefant, a Porsche Tiger converted into a tank destroyer, to the match. Of course, I want to see the failure outlast or even beat the success. If anyone can operate it well despite its crippling flaws, it’s the Vehicle Club.
The gamers’ tank, the Type 3 Chi-Nu (featured in the December 2012 issue of Maru magazine), was a Japanese tank designed to counter the M4 Sherman. Too bad the girls didn’t find it before the Saunders match. During World War II, Chi-Nus were deployed in Japan to repel any American invasions, but Japan surrendered to the United States before they fought in any battles. The girls’ Chi-Nu does get to participate in a battle, but it’s the first to be knocked out. It feels like some kind of cosmic joke, as if it were destined never to battle.
The tank descriptions go over tank aesthetics a lot more this time. I bet Yukari wrote all the descriptions. At first, I didn’t really understand how anyone could consider them handsome, elegant, or cute. But having stared at pictures of tanks for hours and hours, these aesthetic descriptions are starting to make sense to me. This is one of the quirkier characteristics of tankery subculture, one I wish had received more attention in past episodes. I think a guidebook on tank aesthetics would make a great piece of merchandise, especially if it were written from Yukari’s perspective. Too bad it’d probably never be translated officially into English even if it existed.
The subtitles are disappointingly inconsistent with Miho’s Panzer IV upgrades. For the first upgrade (the long barrel cannon), they read, “The Automotive Club modified our [Panzer] IV into a [sic] F2.” For the second upgrade (the Schürzen, or side skirt armor), they read, “We added Schürzen [to the Panzer IV] and changed it into an Ausf. D.” (“Ausf.” is short for “Ausführung,” meaning, among other things, “model,” “type,” or “version.”) Miho’s Panzer IV was already an Ausf. D at the start of the series. It is consistently labeled as such in this episode (with its Ausf. F2 and Ausf. H upgrades indicated in parentheses). How does it go from being “modified…into [an] F2” to “changed…into an Ausf. D”? That would be going backwards. Is this a flaw in the Japanese dialogue or the English subtitles? The Japanese captions plainly state the Panzer IV is an Ausf. D upgraded to an Ausf. F2 [「IV号戦車 D型 (F2型仕様)」], and later to an Ausf. H [「IV号戦車 D型 (H型仕様)」].
The words 「型」 and 「仕様」, in particular, should have been translated more consistently, especially since they appeared twice in the same context. For the Ausf. F2 upgrade (「F2型仕様」), they were interpreted as “type” and “upgrade.” For the Ausf. H upgrade (「H型仕様」), the interpretations were changed to “Ausf.” and “version.” Even the Japanese equivalent of “Panzer IV” (「IV号戦車」) was translated inconsistently. First, it was simply “IV.” Then, it reverted to “Panzer IV.” Whoever oversees Girls und Panzer’s subtitle translation at Crunchyroll sorely needs to pick an interpretation and, barring any inaccuracies or poor phrasings, stick with it.
The last two episodes of Girls und Panzer won’t be ready until about March 2013. While I respect the producers for choosing quality over deadlines, interest will surely wane over the next three months. Will enough viewers be around by then to watch the finale? How will the long delay affect the chances of a second season? The girls still have a world championship to win…
Girls und Panzer episodes 1 to 10.5 are currently streaming on Crunchyroll. Normally, new episodes would air every Wednesday at 8 PM Pacific Standard Time for premium users, and free users would gain access the week after. However, due to Girls und Panzer’s production delays, episodes 11 and 12, the final episodes, will not be ready until as late as March 2013.
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