Not even a week ago, The Cart Driver played host to a long-winded and indirect marriage proposal toward the greatest anime of the season, and I daresay our time: Girls und Panzer. Not even two episodes passed before I was enraptured by its Captain Planet-esque take on including every single tank design and color under the loving treads and well-timed explosions of the gunmetal-grey rainbow. I was hesitant to make my proposal official, because it was just as likely as not that the show that I’d come to fall in love with would catch bubonic plague and spit a mouthful of bloody teeth in my direction before collapsing in a heap of agonizing, twitching death. But then a plane airdropped a tank with a single passenger directly into somebody’s car, and all doubts as to whether Girls und Panzer would make it past the crucial three episode trial period were assuaged.
Surprisingly enough, especially to me, there’s more to Girls und Panzer than a few audaciously stupid bits held together with bits of old twine and prayer. At the risk of ending up on the receiving end of raucous laughter, this series delivers a more compelling environment than nearly anything else this season, specifically because there are quite a few background details that intrigue me.
I’ll admit that there isn’t a bevy of content to latch onto with the ferocity and desperation of a lamprey. However, there’s just the bare minimum of details given about the world that these characters inhabit to make speculation a surprisingly fun, grounded exercise when delaying a post on a borderline interminable show for as long as physically possible. Or when writing a post to delay writing a post on a borderline interminable show for as long as physically possible.
Anyway, the merit of this post may be questionable at best, but I do actually have a point here that isn’t simply cramming as many fun-to-write sentences into a 700 word piece as my fingers will allow me to type. I was watching the latest episode earlier today with a few friends when one pointed out that the show’s superficial resemblance to Strike Witches made the near dearth of fanservice something of an oddity.
Sure, there are a few scenes of blatant pandering to a male otaku audience, like one where the bustiest character is cleaning a recently-salvaged tank in only a bikini. As inexplicable as the detail is, it isn’t lovingly crafted as the focal point of the scene, it’s simply there without being paid much mind, which almost makes its inclusion indicative of some kind of ulterior motive. Is it subverting the concept that these kinds of shows have no qualms about showing underage girls in skimpy clothing? Is it a deconstruction of the “moe girls with military hardware” genre? Or is its inclusion merely the result of the animators saying “fuck it, let’s throw in some underage tits”? The possibilities are endless, and they lead to all kinds of scenarios that paint Girls und Panzer as something that could possibly have deep, underlying themes, if it wasn’t obvious enough already.
Another object of debate in our little group was a cluster of injured teddy bears in the protagonist Rika’s room. Short of the first episode’s beginning, these aren’t paid any attention to, and simply exist as either a cute complement to the rest of Rika’s stereotypically girlish room, or as a subtle hint that these poor kids don’t know the extent of what they’ve gotten themselves into. Could it be that these bears are symbolic of the many scars that she’s taken in her many years of Panzerfahren (that’s the Ubermensch subs name, and I’m sticking to it), both mental and physical? Given the brief flashback at the halfway point of the first episode and the fact that they use some sort of live ammunition, it’s a distinct possibility, and it hints at darkness underneath the show’s otherwise bright and cheerful aesthetics.
Obviously, these points could just be me reading into the mythos of Girls und Panzer a bit much, but this is one of the rare shows where I think any amount of speculation is perfectly valid as long as it continues to dwell on the characters, rather than their surroundings. So, dear reader, pick your poison and build your own concept of Girls und Panzer’s ridiculous world with the sparse number of details given. Be it a matriarchy where men are all subservient and exclusively bakers, a pacifistic society where disputes are solved through organized tank combat and possibly death, or a culture that coerces little girls to fight to the death with promises of eternal glory and a free pass through high school, there are no wrong answers, at least until the next episode comes out.