Girls und Panzer was a series that I personally enjoyed quite a bit. The series was a big enough hit that, in 2015, it got a sequel film. It’s by Actas, the same studio behind the series proper and the Tales of Phantasia adaptation. The big question I have going into the film is where they go from the series. After all, it was complete. The girls won the day with friendship, les-yay & tanks. They saved their school from closing. Are there actually going to be stakes in the film or is it just going to be about a friendly competition? I don’t know, but I’m looking forward to finding out. Let’s jump right into it and see.
In the aftermath of their victory, we find our heroines from Ooarai engaged in a friendly team exhibition match. They’re partnered with Chi-Ha-Tan against Pravda & St. Gloriana. If you don’t recognise Chi-Ha-Tan, it’s because they were briefly mentioned as Maho’s first round opponents and we saw maybe a scene or two of them in the anime proper. Our heroines fight valiantly, but the less than well thought out tactics of Chi-Ha-Tan (charging forward without regard for the circumstances) quickly put them at a disadvantage against the combined team of two competent opponents. The girls are all relaxing after their match when Anzu is called out. Turns out, Ooarai is still going to be closing. Anzu manages to politic her way into a new deal, this time signed. If they can beat a university team, they won’t be closed. This time for true.
Therein lies the biggest flaw with the film. The plot is basically a faster retread of the plot from the series proper. They try to increase the stakes by making the opposing team a University and by making the match an elimination one, thereby eliminating their chance to win by taking out their lead tank, but it doesn’t really work and I question whether or not they really needed to increase the stakes. Couldn’t they have had them fighting to get some funding for a museum that needed it or something? There’s a museum that needs funding in the film any way and at least they would have been doing something different.
There are plenty of positives as well. The film has a lot of high moments. The scene where Ooarai is sent tanks from a bunch of the schools they’ve interacted with to make the battle even is superb. I also appreciate that the University could make an objection to it but their captain, Alice, elects not to since she sees no harm in her opponents having the same number of tanks as she does. The initial friendly exhibition match also comes back into play in a significant way during the important match. To be specific, something that one of the participating teams learned really impacts the battle. The way Anzu manages to coerce the signed agreement is pretty clever. I do like that the major battle gives every school involved a chance to shine and have their own crowning moments. As dumb as it may be to have the film also be about the school’s potential closing, I do like a lot of the scenes of the girls trying to cope with the situation. It allows us some insight into their characters and how they handle adversity and they also showcase what their time together has meant for them. The scene where the Ooarai girls “appropriate” the school’s tanks is a bit mixed. On one hand, it’s kind of awesome in the way it illustrates their feelings towards tankery and the tanks that have served as their partners. It also helps establish their cooperation with the other schools early on. On the other hand, it’s kind of stupid and the logistics don’t really add up.
The film suffers from the same issue as the series. There are far too many characters to develop all of them. As such, you get a small amount of development for some of them and the rest are as they were in the series proper, largely under-developed.
There are positives, though. The way the film handles Miho & Maho’s sisterly relationship is pretty strong. It also does a bit to strengthen Katyusha’s character. I’ve already mentioned the way the adversity over seemingly losing their school serves to demonstrate a bit of how they handle adversity, which is especially true for Sodoko & Momo. In general, the cast is kind of endearing and entertaining in spite of most of them being under-developed. Which does serve to imbue the film with a sense of fun that serves it well.
There’s a lot to appreciate about the art. The tank battles are spectacular. There’s a lot of detail in the backgrounds and in the tanks themselves. I actually appreciate the character designs. As mentioned before, there are a lot of characters in this franchise. None of them have really outlandish hair colours or styles. The one who comes closest is Anchovy. Yet, they manage to look distinct. The only ones you might confuse are the “triplets” of the Goose team but that’s clearly a very deliberate thing. I also love the shots that show you the details on their school’s carrier. They are superb and there was clearly a lot of effort put into making the world seem populated and lively.
The acting is really well done. This is actually a case where there’s just enough to the characters that the cast is able to make them sound more complex than the writing makes them. There are too many characters to go through all of them individually, so I’ll just mention the stand out performances. Fukuen Misato, Ueda Kana, Kanemoto Hisako, Fuchigami Mai, Iguchi Yuka, Taketatsu Ayana & Tanaka Rie all stand out for giving particularly strong performances. The music was composed by Hamaguchi Shiro, who also did the track for the series proper, and it’s just as good. It should be since a lot of it is the same. On one hand, there wasn’t any reason to change it since it is really good but it’s also kind of lazy.
Girls und Panzer is a franchise that loves its yuri subtext almost as much as Voyages of the Cerberus loves its yuri text. Shameless self promotion aside, we have some betwixt Sodoko & Mako. There’s also the implied relationship between Carpaccio & Takako. Which I get the feeling started in one of the OVAs since it also comes up in the manga but clearly didn’t start with it. The fact that all the characters with meaningful relationships are ladies does lead to a lot of them reading as crushes or something more.
As a whole, I rather enjoyed the film. It isn’t deep or complex but it’s really entertaining and an amusing watch. If you enjoyed watching the series, you will also enjoy this. Maybe not as much, but you’ll enjoy it. For myself, I give it a 7/10. Next week I’ll take a look at Vivid Strike.