Off The Shelf Reviews: Girls Und Panzer Der Film


Tiger Media Network

While I technically started watching anime when I was fairly young, thanks to 4KIDS, it was mostly anime based on video game characters like “Kirby: Right Back at Ya!” or card game anime like “Yu-Gi-Oh” and my personal favorite “Dinosaur King.” It wasn’t until around high school that I really got into anime, and even then, it was in very limited capacities. 

Even though I wasn’t watching that much anime, I saw lots of anime memes online, and so my friend and I would constantly send memes to each other and make jokes about anime in class. One of the jokes he’d often make was threatening to mail embarrassing anime merchandise to my house, stuff like anime body pillows and other weird stuff like that. Of course, he never did that… Until he did. One day, he threatened to buy a silly-looking show about anime girls driving World War II tanks and mail it to my house. Of course, I knew he’d never do something like that until the one day of the entire year when I was sick, I came back to school the next day to find on the top shelf of my locker (yes, everyone just kept their lockers unlocked) “Girls Und Panzer” on Blu Ray. After I watched the show, I tracked down the movie, and I blame this dang show for my current obsession with tanks and, to an extent, fighter planes/jets… but what the heck is a “Girls Und Panzer”? 

All-Stars University Team’s M26 Pershings prepare to fire on their target.

“Girls Und Panzer” is a 12-episode anime series, with a movie that is the main focus of this review, and is currently running through a six-part series called “Das Finale.” The series takes place in a universe where school is held at sea on gigantic aircraft carriers with towns built on top of them, and there’s a popular girls-only sport in this world called sensha-do which basically translates to ‘tank taekwondo.’ Sensha-do is quite a simple sport. You and your crew have to drive a tank, and take out the other team’s tanks. It’s awesome.

The series follows Oarai Academy, a school on the verge of closing down, but when a girl whose family runs a prestigious sensha-do academy joins Oarai, the student council makes a deal with the Ministry of Education that if they reestablish the sensha-do program and win the big tournament, the school stays open. Now, I’m about to spoil the show, but honestly it’s a pretty predictable series with a very simple plot. After 12 episodes, they win and save the school… that’s where this movie, “Girls Und Panzer Der Film,” comes in. 

Basically, the Ministry of Education didn’t keep their promise, so Oarai is getting shut down anyway; however, the student council president manages to pull enough strings and makes another deal, this time making sure all the legal stuff is signed, and now they just have to defeat a University level team that has 30 tanks, with their measly eight tanks to keep the school afloat (get it? Because their school is on a boat). Fortunately, some of the other schools from the show pitch in to help out and even out the teams… but will it be enough to win?

So yeah, the plot of “Girls Und Panzer Der Film” is pretty simple. In fact, it’s basically the same as the show but condensed into two hours. However, this is an action anime, so the plot doesn’t need to be super complex. It’s simply there to add some stakes and give our characters a reason to fight. What makes up for the rather simple story is the massive amount of fun characters.

Now, I’d love to go through every single character, but this review is already rambly enough, so I’ll just try to hit what’s important. “Girls Und Panzer” has a ton of characters, so it’s quite an impressive feat that they managed to make almost every single character unique in both character design and personality, for the most part. Oarai has the most depth since they’re the main school, and our main five characters are the most developed out of all of them since they’re the “main main” characters. They are the Goosefish team and drive the Panzer IV; first, the commander is Miho, who comes from a prestigious line of sensha-do masters. Then there’s the friendly Saori on coms, the kind Hana who operates the turret, the tank nerd Yukari who loads the cannon, and Mako drives. Her thing is that she’s not a morning person. They get way more development in the show, trust me. From there, the other Oarai teams all have their own shtick for the entire team: Turtle team is the student council, Rabbit team is a bunch of freshmen, Duck team is the volleyball club, Hippo team is the history club, Leopon team is the automotive club, Anteater team is the gaming club, and Mallard team in the hall monitors. Each of them has its own gimmick, like Hippo team constantly referencing various historical events or Leopon team souping up their Porsche Tiger to do things no tank could possibly do.

Goosefish team riding through town in the Panzer IV.

Meanwhile, all of the other schools are based on different countries from WWII, and they use this chance to poke fun at everyone. Saunders is based on the United States, so they’re all friendly and love food. St. Gloriana are the British, so of course they are always drinking tea. Pravda are the Soviets, so their leader thinks she’s the greatest thing ever, but she is also the shortest character in the series. Kuromorimine is based on Germany so they are very strict and ruthless (don’t worry, they’re not Nazis or something like that). Anzio is Italy, so they are obsessed with Italian food; their logo is straight up a pizza. Because this show is, of course, from Japan, they do not hold back on Chi-Ha-Tan, who represents the Japanese. They’re always bravely charging into battle just to get instantly destroyed and are very bad at communication. There’s also Jatkosota, who are based on Finland, being fairly reclusive and choosing their battles cautiously, and for our antagonists of the film, we get the All-Stars University Team, who are apparently based on the United Nations (I had to look that up) their thing is that they’re really good. Oh, and to make things really confusing, all of these schools are Japanese, by the way.

So yeah, there are a lot of characters here, as each school has two to three main girls that represent them. Each of these two or three will then have their own, admittedly simple, but distinct personality. Because this is an action movie involving tanks, it allows for a lot of character moments and interactions in the heat of battle, since they’ve all got radios and are sitting down pretty much the whole time. It allows for tons of great action, but it doesn’t feel too mindless, as there’s still a balance of character moments throughout. For example, there’s a great moment towards the end where the remaining Chi-Ha-Tan commanders have to learn that there are more ways of fighting than just charging straight at the enemy. 

Speaking of the action, it’s absolutely fantastic. I’d even go as far as to say that this movie has some of my favorite action scenes of all time. Some of the things that really help make these engagements so awesome are the cinematography and the sound design. There are a number of really cool POV shots either from a character’s point of view inside the tank, or from a camera mounted to a fixed position on the tank. The sound design is also amazing. The treads of the tanks going across various terrain, the blasts from the barrels of the tanks, the sound of the bullet colliding with the metal hulls, all of it works together to make these tanks just flat out cool. The tanks themselves are also beautifully designed to be as accurate as possible, aside from their speed, because it’s way cooler to have tanks capable of drifting. Each school, aside from Oarai, primarily uses tanks from their country, so Saunders uses Shermans while Kuromorimine uses things like Panzer IVs and Tigers. So it’s really cool to see such a wide variety of tanks from WWII all going up against each other in absolutely insane battles. By far my favorite action set piece has to be the mission to take down the Karl, a gigantic cannon that was apparently rushed for approval in order to win this match. So naturally, they send four of the smaller tanks to take it down in what is one of the greatest action scenes of all time. What really sells this scene, though, is the music.

The Karl-Gerat 040 makes its appearance.

Because of the fact that all of the schools are based on different militaries, the majority of the soundtrack is just various army marches, but the way they use each of them is absolutely perfect, and there is also original music in there and it’s great as well, typically being used for the intense action scenes. What’s used for the fight against the Karl? Some Finnish song called the Sakkijarven Polkka… it’s awesome.

And I think that’s the best way to describe not only this movie but the entire series: awesome. Yeah, this review kinda acts as a review for the show as well, but that’s just because of how consistently great “Girls Und Panzer” is, and so far, “Girls Und Panzer Das Finale” parts one through three have been nonstop hits. While the story is simple, and you kind of do need to watch the show to understand what’s going on in the movie, on its own, the film manages to deliver a fun cast of characters and makes each one distinct and memorable, and then also has some of the greatest action scenes of all time. There is a very good reason why “Girls Und Panzer” is my favorite anime that isn’t called “Chibi Godzilla Raids Again” and why “Girls Und Panzer Der Film” is my 10th favorite film of all time. It’s two hours of almost nonstop tank carnage. I give this film ten “M26 Pershing Heavy Tanks” out of ten!

Connor Keating is a junior at Fort Hays State University, studying digital media and journalism. Connor is an old-school movie fan, particularly Japanese monster movies, and is an avid DVD collector.