By Oscar Tong / May 3rd, 2013
WARNING: The following post discusses spoilers from Girls und Panzer, Episode 11: “The Battle Gets Fierce!” If you do not wish to be spoiled, please stop reading now. You have been warned.
After a three-month-long hiatus, Girls und Panzer returned late March 2013 with episode 11, “The Battle Gets Fierce!” It picks up right where episode 10 left off, with the elimination of gamers Nekonya, Momoga, and Piyotan from Ōarai’s match against Kuromorimine, accidentally but fortuitously taking a blow meant for Miho and her friends, whose tank is the flag tank for this match. Although I’m still disappointed they were eliminated in just one episode, I was impressed by how well they held up against Erika’s attack.
For some reason, the girls are more verbose than usual about acknowledging orders in this episode. Whereas before, they’d respond with a quick “hai” or execute Miho’s instructions and talk at the same time, this episode depicts each team individually echoing Miho’s orders before executing them. I feel this bogs down and disrupts the flow of the action, making the episode less fun to watch.
Erika is pretty defiant in this episode, firing her tank’s machine gun despite Maho’s cease-fire order. It’s not surprising, given how much she hates Ōarai. I hope this’ll get her in big trouble next episode.
What is surprising to me is how defensively Maho is fighting. With her team’s twenty heavy tanks, iron discipline, and strong start from episode 10, she could easily have pressed on her attack. Instead, she holds back and cautiously studies Miho’s tactics. Maybe she’s right. Maybe Miho really is trying to get Maho and her team to exhaust their ammunition. Maybe she’s wary of Miho’s unpredictable tactics. Or maybe she’s simply cautious and methodical by nature. She seems to spend more time analyzing and second-guessing Miho than actually fighting her, unwilling to proceed without knowing what she’s getting into. In my opinion, she’s stalling a bit to avoid fighting her sister. But not only will Maho have to fight her eventually, she’ll also be under tremendous pressure to uphold the honor of the Nishizumi name.
Until recently, I never gave much thought to the Vehicle/Automotive Club’s team name, Leopon. I had assumed “leopon” was a shortened Japanese loan word for something, like how the Japanese shorten “department store” to depaato or “animation” to anime. But it turns out it’s an actual English word for the hybrid offspring of a male leopard and a lioness. If the Wikipedia entry on leopons can be believed, Japan had a fairly successful and popular leopon-breeding program, which, I think, could explain why the girls thought of the leopon so readily when naming Leopon Team. I think another reason for the name is that, just as leopon cubs tend to die before they can fully mature, the Porsche Tiger breaks down easily and, during World War II, never made it past the prototype stage.
More than any previous episode, episode 11 drives home Miho’s steadfast refusal to sacrifice her friends or her humanity to secure victory. She values them as friends first, and teammates second. It’s why she forfeited Kuromorimine’s victory to rescue her sinking friends, why she followed her foolhardy Ōarai friends into Pravda’s trap, why she’s more concerned about the gamers’ well-being than their inadequate preparation, why she tows the Porsche Tiger uphill despite the heavy burden of doing so, and why she risks the entire match and the future of Ōarai Girls’ Academy to save the first-years. Through kindness, she defies her mother’s way of tankery, confident she will triumph.
Having said that, however, I have to admit Miho’s heroic tank-hopping sequence feels overdone. The distance between each tank feels exaggerated, and Miho looks like she’s jumping much farther than she should be able to. The overly smooth frame rate doesn’t help, either. These theatrics cheapen what should have been a dignified moment vindicating Miho’s character.
|The tanks look pretty close together here…|
|…but much farther apart here.||Not much space for a good running start…|
It was pretty risky of Miho to have the student council run solo for as long as they did, but it worked out rather well. Despite Yuzu’s gentle, non-confrontational nature, she’s a gutsy driver. She excels at close-quarters tank combat—it’s like she’s dancing with the other tanks. Her swift, nimble driving is amusingly ironic for a team named Turtle.
|Fun fact: Hetzer means “baiter” and “agitator” in German.|
I’m glad Anzu has remained the team gunner since switching places with Kawashima in episode 9. It really feels like their team has come into their own. The Hetzer’s diminutive size seems to bring out Anzu’s impish, predatory side. Too bad she doesn’t get to eliminate any tanks. If they kept breaking that one tank’s tracks, wouldn’t it eventually run out of spare parts? I wonder if the judging device would count that as an elimination…
|Hetzer’s gonna Hetz!
(Or so they say on the Internet…)
Katyusha lets slip a side of her she normally hides. I didn’t really expect it, but there’s actually a sweet little girl buried underneath her thick layers of belligerence. I would have assumed she had mutilated that part of her long ago. I wonder if she’ll ever realize she doesn’t need to grow up that fast and can just be herself. On the other hand, being the youngest tankery practitioner in Japan—and a captain, at that—must pressure her immensely to appear as capable as her older peers.
It’s nice to see Yukari’s parents, Hana’s mother, and Shinzaburou get some extra screen time. I’ve always liked how supportive Yukari’s parents are of their daughter. It’s even nicer to see Hana’s mother being fully supportive of her daughter. Her newfound enthusiasm is a far cry from her unreasoning vileness in episode 4. It’s too bad we don’t see much of Mako’s grandmother, though.
I don’t know how plausible it is for a heavy tank like the Porsche Tiger to pop a wheelie, even a small one, but—plausibility be damned—it looks cool. However, I feel bad for the stone bridge it destroys. It looks like a charming, rustic remnant of an older civilization—utterly irreplaceable. Even if the Tankery League or the Japanese government repaired it, they can’t replace the weathered charm that must have taken decades or centuries to develop.
After six-and-a-half episodes of good judgment (including this one), Miho makes her first really big blunder. I can’t believe she couldn’t tell the Kuromorimine Panzer III was leading her on. It’s just one blunder, but it’s a big one, especially when the monstrous Panzer VIII Maus comes out to play.
|When a lone tank deliberately plays peek-a-boo with you, it’s probably a bad idea to go after it…|
Remember when episode 10.5 said Tankery League participants could, pending League approval, bring unfinished World War II tanks to a match? Well, the Maus (German for “mouse”) is one such tank. Work on the ironically named super-heavy tank began in 1943 Nazi Germany but ended in 1944, when new orders halted all development. Only two prototypes were built, and only one remains in the real world, in the Kubinka Tank Museum in Kubinka, Russia. Accounts disagree on whether the Maus ever fought a battle.
Evidently, in the Girls und Panzer universe, either the sole remaining Maus went to Kuromorimine, or Kuromorimine acquired it from the museum. Either way, it’s a fearsome weapon, dwarfing all the girls’ tanks, repelling all their fire, and easily and brutally taking down the hall monitors and the history enthusiasts. The mere sight of it instantly unnerves even Katyusha and Darjeeling. The Maus’ shots are so powerful, windows shatter whenever it fires. There’s going to be a lot of tedious but hazardous work cleaning up all that broken glass.
The only advantages the girls have are their tanks’ small sizes and nimbleness. All their remaining tanks can outrun and outmaneuver the 188,000-kg (414,469-lbs) Maus. But when you’re that big, deadly, and nigh-impenetrable, does it matter? The girls can’t run forever, especially in the confines of the town. They won’t have as much maneuvering room as they did in the open fields of their previous matches or earlier in the current match.
If the remaining tanks had enough smoke left, they could always choke the Maus with it. According to Achtung Panzer, a comprehensive website on German World War II tanks, the Maus’ test crew had to rely on fans and ventilators to breathe when all the hatches were shut. Clog the ventilators with smoke, and the crew would be forced out. But that would be a pretty nasty tactic, so I doubt the girls will use it or anything like it.
I can’t imagine how Miho and her friends are going to get out of this, but I’m sure Miho will think of something. The pressure of a tankery match always brings out the best in her as a captain. Nevertheless, with only five tanks left and Kuromorimine’s other fifteen tanks steadily advancing toward them (not to mention only one more episode left in the season), she doesn’t have much time to form a counterstrategy.
Girls und Panzer season 1 is available for viewing on Crunchyroll for both free and premium users.
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