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Girls Und Panzer Complete TV Collection Anime DVD Review

16 min read
Girls Und Panzer DVD
Girls Und Panzer DVD

Cute girls doing tank things.

What They Say:
You may have heard of kung fu, but the girls at Oarai Academy practice gun-fu – really, really BIG gun-fu, in fact. It’s called Tankery, and it’s the martial art of operating armored tanks! And even though the Tankery program at Oarai has been defunct for years, the student council has taken a sudden interest in the art and no one they set their sights on is safe.
That’s how Miho Nishizumi, who transferred to Oarai specifically to stay out of tanks, gets drafted to join the newly revived Tankery divison. But it’s not all bad, because joining her in Team Anglerfish are her new-found friends Saori, the highly receptive radio operator; Hana, a flower arranger turned gunner; Mako, their brilliant but chronically sleepy driver; and combustible tank fangirl and loader Yukari. They may not be on the half-track to fame and fortune, and maybe some of them would rather shop for tank tops than become tops in tanks, but once their focus is locked and loaded, they’re absolutely driven.

The Review:
Audio:
The release of this television series contains two language options for the presentation of the material- English and Japanese- though both tracks are present in only a 2.0 stereo mix. For the purpose of this review the Japanese track was selected and it is present on the disc with no dropouts or distortions noted during playback while the dialogue comes through clearly in almost all of the situations, even when some very loud effects are taking place at the same time. The audio largely works well for conveying what it needs to, be it whistled songs, whispered dialogue or the thunder of tank cannons while providing directionality where appropriate but I can’t help feel that something was missed by not having the material made in 5.1 which could have really taken the tank power the audio conveys to another level.

Video:
Originally airing late Japan’s 2012 television season (well, mostly anyway, though two episodes got pushed to March of 2013), Girls und Panzer is presented here in its original 16:9 aspect ratio complete with an anamorphic encode. The series uses a bit of a mix of styles with the girls being presented in a way that emphasizes they are anime characters rather than attempting to go for a more realistic look which contrasts greatly with the very meticulously (and very CG) tanks that most of the time works far better than it reasonably should, though perhaps the video is too clean and could have used some grain or some other element applied to help cover some of the diverse differences between the two (and at some points it is worse than others as the two can radically stand out in certain shots while not contrasting as badly in others).

Present on the disc during playback is a level of noise that is usually pretty moderate; a touch of banding at times; some minor ghosting; minor aliasing at times; some bleed through of background material through foreground characters; some rainbowing in certain scenes and some blocking that doesn’t spoil most of the scenes and only appears on occasion. Overall though the visuals come across very well with strong and solid colors being present both for bold and muted colors and which really helps to sell the presentation and having the 12 episodes split evenly across 3 discs probably helps with this as well.

Packaging:
The packaging for the release houses a total of 3 DVDs in a regular DVD sized case that includes a hinge insert that has space for a disc on either side with the final disc being stored in the back of the inside of the case. The cover for the release features the five main girls on their Panzer IV tank, seemingly just hanging out and having tea as there are snacks present in front of them while a large transport aircraft carrier-like ship’s titanic bulk loams behind them while a blue sky can be seen above it and the logo is present over part of both in pink, white and a light green colors.

The spine uses the pink color again for the primary backing this time with the title placed over it in white and an image of Miho present on the bottom third or so of the space. The back however is incredibly busy mixing the 3 primary series logo colors (pink, green and white) in a varying mix of boxes in which different stills can be seen along with the copy as the tech information is at the bottom. All in all I think I can see why this approach was chosen as it is eye catching but it far too busy and cramped for my preference and seems a bit garish.

Each of the 3 DVDs contain an image that has an image of small version of the Panzer IV with disc 1 belonging to Miho on left side and the tank on the right while the other two discs use a similar theme but with a pair of girls instead and each disc image has one of the girls handling a small model of the tank as well. Each disc also has the series title written in pink with it and the characters standing against a white background whit a green boarder circles the disc at the outer edge of the label.

Menu:
The menus are fairly basic in terms of mechanics in that they use static images of a character(s) on the right side with the left half being dominated by a green box with pink rectangles in which the options are presented in white. The characters used are a mix of images from some of the individual disc labels in addition to characters who didn’t make a cover, probably because of the number of discs in the US release but who very well have been on a Japanese disc cover. The Main Menus list the options selectable vertically with episodes being listed on top while the disc’s Language Option and Special Features and Extras are listed underneath and a portion of the opening or closing themes play for background music on all the menu screens. The menus themselves are on the simple yet effective side as they are quick to respond to changes in selection and also respond promptly to whatever option was chosen and, as an appropriate bonus ,the icon that indicates which option is highlighted is in the form of a tank presented in white from an overhead view.

Extras:
The menus are fairly basic in terms of mechanics in that they use static images of a character(s) on the right side with the left half being dominated by a green box with pink rectangles in which the options are presented in white. The characters used are a mix of images from some of the individual disc labels in addition to characters who didn’t make a cover, probably because of the number of discs in the US release but who very well have been on a Japanese disc cover. The Main Menus list the options selectable vertically with episodes being listed on top while the disc’s Language Option and Special Features and Extras are listed underneath and a portion of the opening or closing themes play for background music on all the menu screens. The menus themselves are on the simple yet effective side as they are quick to respond to changes in selection and also respond promptly to whatever option was chosen and, as an appropriate bonus ,the icon that indicates which option is highlighted is in the form of a tank presented in white from an overhead view.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally airing (mostly) in late 2012 (before a delay shifted the last 2 episodes to March of 2013), Girls und Panzer is an anime original production that blends some familiar aspects of sports anime with the idea of using tanks as equipment and the series goes one step further in standing apart as it has all of its combatants be girls (as it isn’t considered to be a boys sport). Amazingly despite the rather wild premise the show is played largely in a straightforward manner with only minor deviations as the characters primarily act in a manner that is in keeping with the amazingly detailed and seemingly accurate tanks that appear in the series and keeps a sense of consistency with the reality it creates and plays in.

The story opens with some quick action as it shows a group of girls and their tanks laying a trap for some opponent tanks that are traveling across a flat plain as they attempt to engage the first group of girls, though the tension of the moment is broken a bit by some of the tanks bold and decidedly not camouflage colors as well as rather odd operation plan title though a moment of danger is set up just before a flashback occurs. When the scene shifts to a slightly earlier time period the audience is introduced to Nishizumi Miho, a young woman who has just recently transferred to Oarai High School and also introduced to some of her moments of spaceyness which gets broken when two of the girls in her class, Takebe Saori Takebe and Isuzu Hana, approach her to have lunch.
Miho’s happiness isn’t destined to last though as the school has a policy of making students choose a mandatory elective and the student body president appears to push Miho into taking Sensha-do, a martial art type of endeavor where the participants compete as teams in tanks that have been specially hardened on the inside in order to survive combat better while sensor are used to detect shells that hit and determine if the force would be enough to qualify the tank as disabled under real circumstances. This opportunity however greatly troubles Miho as she had transferred to Oarai specifically because they did not have a Sensha-do program as she comes from a long line of tank drivers but her experiences were not positive and so she fled to a school where it wouldn’t be something she had to deal with.

Despite Miho’s reticence to have anything to do with Sensha-do and the kindness of her friends in going along with her alternate choice despite their obvious interest, Miho still manages to be pulled into the sport when the student council president uses the threat of Miho not being able to stay at the school long if she doesn’t join. As her friends fight for her in this unfair situation Miho makes up her mind to do her best along with them and she acquiesces to the pressure to take up Sensha-do once again. It turns out to be quite fortuitous for her fellow Sensha-do members that she joined as well because the school’s collection of tanks is sparse, eclectic and in bad shape due to years of neglect though Miho is able to help keep moral up upon the group seeing them as she recognizes the tanks aren’t as bad as they appear at first glance.

As the girls looking to participate in the Sensha-do program are sent out to try down enough tanks that may still be left scattered and abandoned in the area so they can form four teams in what seems a mighty task, a harder one awaits as each group is going to need to discover what job each member’s skills are best suited for as each tank has some very specific needs in terms of necessary roles to have it run at its maximum efficiency; a situation which may also mean that Miho needs to find a couple new members to man the German Panzer IV along with the three current members. As the groups find and restore the tanks they start to form a bond that is going to be needed to help them compete against other schools with far more experience and a budget that allows them to have tanks that more match the school’s battle philosophy rather than the ad hoc collection Oarai has assembled which forces a battle philosophy onto them. As the girls compete in international competition each one is going to have to quickly grow into her role both in terms of her individual responsibilities and overall part in the school’s team. As the games heat up and the competition grows fierce they may discover though that for them simply advancing in the tournament isn’t going to victory enough to get them the hope of trying again next year as a balm as failure will hold a large cost for them.

Given the cost of making an anime series it is unsurprising that many productions in this era are based off from existing properties that already have a built in fanbase, often with the intent being to use the series as a promotional tool to help boost the sales of the original core material- be it games, novels or manga -though some are used primarily to sell toys (ex. Gundam). Every now and then though a series that doesn’t exactly seem to fit these easy patterns appears which manages to find its own fanbase quickly and establish itself as a successful commodity in its own right without a preexisting source to rely on and Girls und Panzer certainly looks to have managed that (though the anime did have a manga serialization appear a manga anthology about 5 months before broadcast the which may have helped prepare an audience). With some rather remarkable video sales in Japan along with a pretty sizable amount of merchandise that has come out in just over a year the signs are all there that this title has all the marks of a very successful property which may turn out to have some legs to it.

Watching through the series it is not hard to see how the show found a rather sizable audience as it borrows elements from a number of different types of other shows to create a work that is entertaining in its own right, if a bit predictable on occasion. One of the things that may have helped the series to really catch attention is that the production team grasped onto the idea of making a sports themed anime with the really unusual premise of having the characters use tanks which helps to add an fresh feeling to a plot and flow of events that will almost feel very familiar to a good number of people- perhaps to a point of feeling too much alike at times- to a fair number of fans who have seen similar concepts and probably have an idea on how a number of the events will play out as they unfold, a feeling that probably has some validity to it.

To combat this structural issue the tanks help to provide some rather amazing action which helps to draw the attention to what is different here rather than what comes across as almost routine at points as the unusual elements work to help pull the conscious mind away from noticing the patterns in a few instances and- even when it doesn’t- it helps provide images that are fresh and unique that can serve to carry events through the parts that feel conventional. While the show also tries to not make the danger that even powered down artillery or specially armored up version of fighting machines the central focus of events the hazards are not ignored as it is present enough to cause a real sense of drama for those who are paying note while being just softened enough that those who would prefer to not think about the more realistic aspects are able to enjoy the absurdity that can come from fighting with tanks in such a manner.

Also a fun bit to the show is the details present as the material really looks to have done its research in terms of the tanks used and their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the meticulous nature with which they are presented here as almost every major bit of vehicular technology that the tank teams use comes from or is inspired by 1945 and the couple decades prior, giving off an odd reenactment feel where so much of the items around the sport and the equipment specific to it are rather faithful to a great degree, yet some of the less traditionalist members use cell phones as well though most other tech advances seem to be prohibited in the actual competitions. It isn’t just the mechanical parts of the show that shine when it comes to research either as the production team appears to have taken great care to try to show the obvious infatuation that this society has with the World War era that spawned the tanks as a few of the popular songs from that period find their way into the work as they are hummed by cast members going about different tasks and some other historical Easter eggs can be found in some of the dialogue used by the cast at certain points that would be familiar to dedicated fans of the time period that the tanks are paying homage to.

One additional last- and by no means least- aspect that really helps to sell the show is the respect that is shown to the cast as they are treated largely in a manner like which they would be if they were male, meaning that the show doesn’t go out of its way to sexualize the girls as fetish objects with the kind of panty shots and other types of fanservice that can be used in other shows to bring attention to the fact that the cast are girls and pander to a certain fanbase in the process. Since the show sets out with this in mind (one of the promos in the Extras contains a note from the director promising no panty shots) it has to work a bit harder than some show to capture its audience and it leaves them fewer shortcuts to establish its characters to give them a bit of life while giving the audience a way to connect with them. In fairness this isn’t always accomplished real well here as the show makes use of some rather typical to anime archetypes. This leaves some of the cast and their behaviors feel a bit cramped in the space they are given to try to flesh them out amidst a series bursting at the seams with characters, action and the unresolved issues that haunt Miho.

It is really in two places mentioned above that the series is brought down from some lofty heights to a more grounded terrain as the negatives of predictability of how events will likely play out and the lack of space for many of the characters to really stretch out and flourish become a bit like handcuffs that prevent the story from fully taking advantage of the many ideas and potentials that are presented and the possibilities that spin off from them. Unfortunately this issues aren’t unique here as many sports series suffer from some similar problems as the very act of being a sports series limits where the tale can go (unless it goes really off the board) while the need for a sizable cast to keep growing in terms of opponents and teammates to take on the next larger challenge forces characters at times to be bigger than life to try to sell their limited screen time which leaves little room for subtlety or more nuanced aspects to be shown.

I can’t help but wonder if the series was 26 episodes or more as some of the more targeted shonen sports series are if that might not have helped the product in the end to have a stronger outcome or if it the concentrated nature here that helps keep things moving and not get bogged down in too much stereotypical events and more time would simply have given more chances for it to be weighed down. Of course given that the staff couldn’t even keep up with getting twelve episodes out on time and needed two recap episodes and then a bonus airing of the final two episodes later that leave the impression of a situation that may simply have been one that wouldn’t have worked even if they had had an small idea of how successful the show would be. Still many of these flaws are present in any number of different series so they shouldn’t keep anyone who is a fan of any of the elements present here from giving it a try while even those who may not like some of the genres represented may still find a rather fair amount to love here.

In Summary:
In many ways Girls und Panzer will probably feel familiar to many anime fans in many places as its tale borrows from themes that appear in a couple of anime series categories and its twelve episodes feel like too short a time to quite do justice to all the ideas and characters present but its likable cast and their rather unique and tools manage to lift the series past just being compared to what it is like and become an entertaining and exciting story of its own. With its fun cast who get treated with more than a modicum of respect, some inventive ways of expressing their individualism being seen as well as incredibly detailed and researched material the show becomes one that will appeal to quite a broad base and it is easy to see how it became a hit in its native country and also why Sentai Filmworks is making a pretty big push with the title in the US. While it may remind people of other series at times it overall is a damn lot of fun and a title that will appeal to the more seasoned fan as well as being a very good entry point for new fans, making it a title defiantly worth checking out.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Introductions, Japanese Promos, Japanese TV Spots, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: December 3rd, 2013
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Samsung 50″ Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.

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