WARNING: The following post discusses spoilers from Girls und Panzer, Episode 10: “Classmates!” If you do not wish to be spoiled, please stop reading now. You have been warned.
Girls und Panzer episode 10, “Classmates!,” starts with the girls’ narrow defeat of Pravda. I couldn’t predict how smug Katyusha would react to losing to peons like Oarai. I was very surprised when she reacted humbly, getting off her high horse (and off Nonna) and offering to shake Miho’s hand, a lovely bookend to the less friendly handshake scene in episode 8 with her and Anzu.
Miho’s mother, however, remains unimpressed. Maho, on the other hand, recognizes—and even seems to respect—Miho’s talent. I think it’s the first time she has said anything good or bad about her. It has only just occurred to me that by watching all of Miho’s matches, she now has a much better understanding of her leadership capabilities. And as her former Kuromorimine captain and her older sister, she knows her strengths and weaknesses as a tank commander and, to some extent, how her psyche works. Miho is about to face an opponent who knows her almost as well as she knows herself.
To prepare for the finals, the girls restore more tanks and recruit new teammates. First to join is the Vehicle Club (or is it the “Automotive Club”?). Next are online gamers Nekonya, Momoga, and Piyotan, who play an online tank game together. (Maybe World of Tanks (http://worldoftanks NULL.com/)? I think the girls would find the Girls und Panzer mod (http://forum NULL.worldoftanks NULL.com/index NULL.php?/topic/183240-girls-und-panzer-world-of-tanks-the-anime-mod-collection/) more than a little unsettling…) The Vehicle Club may know the technical side of tanks, and the gamers may know their tanks in-game, but can they handle the pressures of the tankery field, especially with so little time left for training and against a fierce opponent like Kuromorimine?
Furthermore, with only two episodes left after episode 10 (not counting episode 10.5), isn’t it far too late to introduce new characters? The Vehicle Club only appeared two episodes ago, and the gamers are only being introduced now. It’s true that somebody has to operate the newly restored tanks, but introducing new characters this late is unfair to them. They won’t have enough time to define themselves or shine, and they’ll become scarcely more than placeholders serving a function.
Meanwhile, Hana’s mother and Mako’s grandmother appear again. While I’m glad they’ve reconciled with Hana and Mako, their change of heart strikes me as somewhat implausible and at least a little sudden. Well, I suppose with Hana’s mother, there may be enough information for one to draw a sufficiently believable conclusion.
I think Shinzaburou has been persuading Hana’s mother since episode 4 to give Hana a second chance. In episode 8, he did the impossible and convinced her to go to Oarai’s match against Pravda. However, this does not explain why she’s ignoring her deep-seated disgust toward “barbaric” tanks. The only possible clue I can think of is a brief scene in episode 9, in which Hana’s mother tells a fretting Shinzaburou to calm down about Hana being trapped. She didn’t sound too worried about her then. She could have cursed Hana for bringing ruin upon herself by practicing tankery, but she didn’t. I’m grasping at straws here, but this could have been a subtle hint that her opinion on tankery was softening. This doesn’t explain why her opinion has changed, but it might suggest when it began to change.
Also unexplained is how Hana’s mother went from being horrified at Hana’s divergence from Isuzu-style flower arrangement to praising her for it. I can’t decide whether the writers goofed or Hana’s mother rethought her stance. If it’s the latter, I would guess it’s the cumulative effect of Shinzaburou’s persuasion, watching Hana at an actual tankery match, and seeing Hana’s distinct, tankery-inspired flower arrangement with her own eyes. In addition, she says Hana’s old Isuzu-style flower arrangements “lacked personality and freshness,” even though she praised them in episode 4 for ‘fully encapsulating the Isuzu style.’ I wonder if she’s really talking about herself. Seeing Hana’s new work could have made her reevaluate the family tradition and convinced her that “more vigor” isn’t such a bad thing.
There’s also a much simpler possibility. Perhaps Hana simply accomplished what she said she’d do in episode 4: “Someday, I’ll arrange some kickass awesome flowers that’ll make my mother understand.” (The subtitles initially read “kickass flowers,” but thankfully, they were later changed to the far less out-of-character “awesome flowers.”)
Mako’s grandmother, on the other hand, just comes around seemingly for no reason. The last time we saw her, she was violently berating Mako and her friends in episode 7, cursing tankery as a waste of their time. After all the venom she spewed, a few paltry rice cakes are hardly a sufficient apology, in my opinion. She does come to watch the finals, though, as promised, and Miho and the others don’t mind her. They must see something in her that I don’t. The best thing I can say is Mako’s grandmother is extremely bad at showing that she cares.
At the finals, she stands by herself in an empty seating section. She’s all alone, and Mako is among friends. Who’s the antisocial one again? To her credit, though, her face doesn’t look so hostile this time. I feel it even looks kind of serene.
Well, I suppose the important thing is that she has made peace with Mako, and Hana’s mother has made peace with Hana. Now, the two girls can concentrate on the finals with clear hearts.
The night before the finals, the girls spend time with their closest friends. Strangely enough, they all eat the same kind of meal: some kind of katsu (http://www NULL.kikkoman NULL.com/foodforum/spotlightjapan/17 NULL.shtml) (Japanese deep-fried meat cutlet), either pork or chicken. Supposedly, some Japanese students eat katsu before a major exam (http://lang-8 NULL.com/33465/journals/765455/Today%252C-many-Japanese-people-might-eat-fried-meat-cutlets-%2521%253F-%25E9%25A0%2591%25E5%25BC%25B5%25E3%2582%258C%25E5%258F%2597%25E9%25A8%2593%25E7%2594%259F%25EF%25BC%2581) or other significant trial because the noun “katsu” (「カツ (http://en NULL.wiktionary NULL.org/wiki/katsu#Noun)」) sounds like the verb “katsu” (「勝つ (http://en NULL.wiktionary NULL.org/wiki/katsu#Verb)」), which means “to win.” It can also mean “to conquer” and “to vanquish,” both of which would apply to the girls’ predicament. If they lose, this will be their last night together as schoolmates.
Saori continues to impress. I can’t believe she’s been working hard all this time to earn her Amateur Second-class Radio Operator license from Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (http://www NULL.tele NULL.soumu NULL.go NULL.jp/e/ref/material/capacity/index NULL.htm). (The subtitles refer to the second-class designation as “level 2,” which is why the girls speak of it as better than a “level 4”—or fourth-class—license.) The second-class license permits her to transmit with more power (up to 200 W) and without the frequency restrictions of lower-class licenses. I don’t think these factors will come into play, though—I think the point is to show how Saori has matured.
Saori received her license in August. That should place Girls und Panzer’s timeframe in summer. However, the tankery field for Oarai’s match with Pravda was covered in snow. That probably means it was in Earth’s southern hemisphere, where it would be winter. I had assumed it was in Russia.
At the finals, Katyusha encourages Miho to “crush Kuromorimine like Operation Bagration (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Operation_Bagration) did.” Operation Bagration (Багратион, pronounced “bah-grah-tee-ON”) was a 1944 Soviet World War II operation that drove Nazi forces out of the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic and eastern Poland. In the book Bagration 1944: The Destruction of Army Group Centre (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/Bagration-1944-Destruction-Centre-Campaign/dp/1855324784/?tag=opr-20), author Steven Zaloga described it as “the most calamitous defeat of the German armed forces in World War II.” What does this have to do with Kuromorimine? The Kuromorimine insignia is identical to that of the German Bundeswehr (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Bundeswehr) (Federal Defense Force).
Arisa seems much more cheerful toward Miho than before. Gone is her overbearing attitude following Sanders’ defeat, just as with Katyusha. I guess that stern talking-to Kei gave her actually did some good. Or maybe it’s just an act to placate Kei. Who knows?
Darjeeling tells Miho “a horse may stumble, though he has four legs,” that “strength and victory are not forever.” At first, I thought it sounded rather ominous. Was Darjeeling warning Miho not to assume her strength (and Oarai’s) would last, that she should be prepared for defeat as much as for victory? Or maybe she was referring to Kuromorimine—mighty, yet not infallible…
Darjeeling also remarks on how Miho has made friends with the captain of every team she has defeated. However, Anzio’s captain never appears…
It’s nice to see at least one of the Kuromorimine girls Miho saved is grateful and that she is a nice person and a human being. I wonder if the other rescued girls feel the same. I’m shocked Miho feels unsure whether saving them was the right choice. It may not have been right for winning the match, but it was right morally. Who knows? Maybe Miho and her friends will find themselves in a life-threatening situation this time, and it’ll be the rescued girl’s turn to save them.
In episode 5.5, Miho said she didn’t have any normal friends until she met Saori and Hana. But the rescued girl seems quite normal. Was she once no different from Maho and her lieutenant? Did she change after her near-death experience? Or is Kuromorimine so stifling an environment that it inhibits the development of friendships, even among normal students?
Maho seems to have learned well from her observations of Miho. I think she can predict Miho’s predictions about what she’ll do, at least for now, allowing her to blindside Miho with a completely unexpected strategy. Maho could be countering Miho’s adaptability with unpredictability, which could exhaust Miho psychologically. Unlike Katyusha, Maho is smart enough not to underestimate her.
Worsening Oarai’s bad start is that Momoga somehow didn’t notice until now that she has difficulty shifting her tank’s gears. How could she not notice during practice?! The bigger question is why Momoga is driving when it was Nekonya who said she knew how to drive. I wonder if she and her friends have any other undiscovered shortcomings. Since their tank has been incapacitated, though, I guess it won’t matter unless there’s a second season or some other follow-up. I feel this has been a huge waste of a new tank and of three new characters, who will have to sit on the sidelines for the last two episodes.
For the final match, Miho and Maho are both commanding flag tanks. This sets them up for a very personal battle. Whoever wins will prove the superiority of her tankery style over the other’s. I wonder how they feel about this. No matter the circumstances, it can’t be easy to battle one’s own sibling. Maho has always acted cold, but she has never belittled Miho…
Girls und Panzer episodes 1 to 10.5 are currently streaming on Crunchyroll (http://www NULL.crunchyroll NULL.com/girls-und-panzer). 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 (http://www NULL.crunchyroll NULL.com/anime-news/2012/12/17-1/girls-und-panzer-finale-to-possibly-air-in-march), episodes 11 and 12, the final episodes, will not be ready until as late as March 2013.