WARNING: The following post discusses spoilers from Girls und Panzer, Episode 9: “Last-ditch Effort!” If you do not wish to be spoiled, please stop reading now. You have been warned.
In Girls und Panzer episode 9, “Last-ditch Effort!,” the girls find themselves not only trapped by Pravda, but rapidly losing their morale and energy to the intense cold, as well. Oryou compares their predicament to the Hakkoda Mountains Incident (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Hakk%C5%8Dda_Mountains_incident) of 1902, during which 199 members of a 210-member military expedition died trapped in a blizzard in Japan’s Hakkoda Mountains, where they were to undergo cold-weather training. (There is a fictionalized account of the incident entitled Death March on Mount Hakkoda: A Documentary Novel (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/Death-March-Mount-Hakkoda-Documentary/dp/1933330325/?tag=opr-20).) The girls are similarly ill-prepared for the cold.
Further worsening their morale is learning of their school’s imminent closure. I was wrong about the school ships being private institutions—they’re directly administered by Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (http://www NULL.mext NULL.go NULL.jp/english/) (MEXT). The MEXT representative said Oarai had been losing students and lacked attractive programs. Oarai does look like a pretty ordinary school, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, except it’s a school ship, which is inherently high-maintenance, and MEXT is low on funds. It and other supposedly low-performing school ships could be victims of a weak economy. At least St. Gloriana, Sanders, and Pravda can offer cultural and language immersion, and Kuromorimine can offer elite tankery training. Much as I hate to admit it, I can see why MEXT would want to shut down Oarai.
The MEXT representative complains about the high costs of operating and maintaining school ships. If MEXT is so worried about high operating costs, why doesn’t it just take the simple solution of running land-based schools in those areas it considers less productive? Why did it approve the construction of school ships in the first place and allow them to replace all land-based schools if money was an object? If MEXT really wanted to do something about its own indecision, it could have worked earnestly toward improving its policies and processes instead of sticking the expensive and overextravagant school ship bandage onto its flaws.
One other thing puzzles me: Why is MEXT discussing Oarai’s impending closure with the student council? Shouldn’t it be discussing it with the headmaster and other adult administrative personnel?
Miho seems to be the only one largely unfazed by the cold. She’s probably trained and competed in such weather many times before, including last year. I wonder why she didn’t insist on bringing more supplies than they did, then, in case of a scenario like the one they’re in. In addition, why didn’t they have the good sense to trade their mini-skirts for winter trousers? (Well, it’s anime, so they’re probably obligated to wear mini-skirts, regardless of climate.)
Miho’s acclimatization to cold weather, however, seems to make her unable to empathize readily with her teammates’ physical and psychological exhaustion. While she’s ready to resume the match, they aren’t. Her initial lack of understanding prevents her from motivating them. If Kawashima hadn’t made her realize this, I wonder if she could have restored their will at all.
Fortunately, Miho is also creative under pressure. Having said that, however, the last thing I expected her to do was start dancing the dreaded ankou dance and singing its accompanying song. (She memorized the lyrics?!) Amazingly, it actually works, and the team is soon reinvigorated.
Saori is especially notable as one of the first to join Miho. She dreads this dance more than any other character—for her to willingly throw herself into it despite being recorded and broadcast on a big screen (and also, I would speculate, on national Japanese television, international satellite and specialty cable channels, and the Internet) reflects remarkable character growth. Saori has further sacrificed her reputation and marriage prospects, at least in her mind, to help Miho and her fellow teammates.
Erwin and Yukari (a.k.a. Guderian) continue to get along well. I think it’s because they’re both a little nutty and because Yukari’s tank obsession goes well with Erwin’s Nazi Germany obsession (the latter of which nobody minds at all, oddly enough). Out of the four history-loving girls, Erwin is the only one preoccupied with a period of modern history. But why were they singing so loud while scouting their opponents? How did no one from Pravda hear them?! Come to think of it, I think they might also share a preference for or a predisposition toward being unsubtle.
Conversely, Sodoko continues failing to get along with Mako. Her inability to restrain her animosity while working with her nearly jeopardizes the entire team, which is disappointingly unprofessional for a hall monitor. Judging from the way she overreacts to being corrected about the JS-2’s name, I’m starting to wonder if she’s a perfectionist both envious of and intimidated by Mako’s seemingly effortless genius.
Sodoko does, however, have two redeeming qualities. One, she has 20/10 vision. Two, she’s surprisingly resolute despite her lack of training and experience, drawing strength from her hall monitor pride. That indomitability may yet see her through the finals. Surprisingly, after Pravda disables her tank, she’s thoughtful enough to pray for the volleyball girls’ success. It isn’t the sort of thing she has to say, but she says it, anyway. Huh.
I think Mako might know at least a bit of Russian. When she recites the KV-2’s name to herself, she pronounces “KV” («КВ») in Russian (i.e., “kah veh”). However, she pronounces the “2” in English, as well as the “JS” in “JS-2.”
I didn’t notice last episode, but for this match, the girls have designated the volleyball girls’ tank as the flag tank instead of the student council’s like usual. I can’t imagine why they’d do that. I always assumed the council’s tank was the flag tank because it was the council’s privilege.
The volleyball girls perform very well, of course, but it’s Anzu who really shines. Until now, she’s been mostly shown just sitting around, making offhand comments, and eating dried potatoes, which is understandable, I suppose, since sitting and talking are what she would naturally do as tank commander and communicator. This time, however, she proves to be a skillful gunner as well as a gutsy commander. It never would have occurred to me that her flippant attitude would also give her a cool head and a steady hand in tense situations.
I hope Anzu will stay as her team’s gunner. She’s much better than Kawashima, who has yet to hit anything in a match. Kawashima appears to be an able loader, though. Oddly enough, although Anzu is technically the communicator, it’s Kawashima who corresponds with Saori via text message during the Sanders match. Well, she is the student council’s public relations officer, so I suppose she’d have some good communication skills buried under her gruff exterior. I don’t think it would be inconceivable for Anzu and Kawashima to swap roles.
During Oarai’s practice match with St. Gloriana, Miho ordered the girls to shoot at the tracks of St. Gloriana’s better-armored tanks. While they couldn’t do it successfully back then, Anzu executes the strategy successfully this time against Pravda’s tanks. It makes me wonder if she was listening all that time, analyzing and memorizing everything that was happening and being said.
There’s not much more to say about Katyusha, who’s as smug and hotheaded as ever. Nonna, on the other hand, is a little more interesting. Although she’s a steadfast lieutenant, she’s not afraid to point out Katyusha’s character flaws, and she’s completely unfazed by her screaming retorts. She also appears to feel some degree of sisterly or motherly affection toward her.
The song Nonna sings to Katyusha is called “Cossack Lullaby (http://www NULL.friends-partners NULL.org/friends/literature/19century/lermontov/lermontov13 NULL.html)” («Казачья колыбельная песня (http://ru NULL.wikisource NULL.org/wiki/%D0%9A%D0%B0%D0%B7%D0%B0%D1%87%D1%8C%D1%8F_%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%BB%D1%8B%D0%B1%D0%B5%D0%BB%D1%8C%D0%BD%D0%B0%D1%8F_%D0%BF%D0%B5%D1%81%D0%BD%D1%8F_%28%D0%9B%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%BC%D0%BE%D0%BD%D1%82%D0%BE%D0%B2%29)»), written by Russian Romantic poet Mikhail Lermontov (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Mikhail_Lermontov). “Cossack Lullaby” is not a typical lullaby—it’s a song for the son of a Cossack warrior written from his mother’s perspective. The song expresses the mother’s wish for her son to grow up to be a strong, proud warrior like his father, as well as her fear of being separated from him once he leaves home. The second verse is rather suggestively violent for a lullaby, in my opinion, enough that it is sometimes omitted.
The episode makes it look like Nonna took down Oarai’s flag tank first. I would guess both went down at the same time, but the episode showed each event separately to manipulate the viewer. Of course, there are still three more episodes left, and the next one, episode 10, is the cheerfully titled “Classmates!,” so Oarai probably won. Even so, I can’t help but feel anxious.
Unfortunately, according to Crunchyroll’s Scott Green, episode 11 won’t air after “Classmates!” (http://www NULL.crunchyroll NULL.com/anime-news/2012/12/17-1/girls-und-panzer-finale-to-possibly-air-in-march) Instead, episode 10.5, another “Introductions!” episode like episode 5.5, will follow. Episodes 11 and 12, the final episodes, won’t air until as late as March 2013. While this disappoints me and will surely leave me anxious for weeks, I’d rather the producers take the time to do things right than rush to meet a deadline. I believe quality is far more important than timeliness, and I applaud the producers for their dedication.
Girls und Panzer is currently streaming on Crunchyroll (http://www NULL.crunchyroll NULL.com/girls-und-panzer). New episodes air every Wednesday at 8 PM Pacific Standard Time for premium users. Free users will gain access the week after.