When their futures are at stake, a group of high school girls will learn the art of Tankery.
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 division. 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.
Contains episodes 1-12.
The audio presentation for this release is quite good as we get the original Japanese language track and the new English language dub in stereo, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that has its tracks locked, making comparisons between the two of them difficult to say the least. The series is one that has a lot going on with a wide range of characters, many on screen at the same time, talking to and at each other and in a number of different situations that adds to the overall presentation. The dialogue is well placed throughout and some depth definitely works really well with it. When it comes to the tanks and the action, it definitely hits some very good moments throughout as it has some good impact and a heightened audio level that brings a lot of it home in a great way. Some of the scenes where the tanks fire are just strong and definitely stand out, sometimes in comparison to other tank sequences, where it can startle and remind you of what you’re dealing with. Dialogue itself is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2012, the transfer for this twelve episode series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The series is spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second where we also get two full length recap style episodes. Animated by Actas, the series has a bright, vibrant and appealing look to it both in the regular animation and the 3DCG modeling of the tanks. There’s a lot of detail to both sides of it and a good bit of variety across the screen with the characters involved and the combination of the two comes across very well here. Colors are bright and full with good saturation while being free of blocking or other significant noise issues. The action sequences are well paced, especially in the last couple of episodes as the battles get more complicated, and it all has a smooth and solid look to it that definitely serves the material well. There’s a lot to like with the transfer here as it gives us a great looking show with a lot of pop.
The packaging for this release is kept simple as we get a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs inside against the interior walls. The front cover for this uses one of the more common images out there for the property as we get the core team of girls in their tank with smiles and more that’s set against the larger and longer look of the ship itself. It’s very industrial for obvious reasons and though there’s that cold and hard aspect, the girls bring some good color to it and some fun while also adding the pinks and greens from the logo along the top. Familiar as it may be, it definitely sets the tone right and is easy to see what’s involved here as there’s girls and tanks. You can’t ask for more than that and at least it’s not awkward fanservice. The back cover uses the pinks and greens in blocks to break things up well and we get some fun bits with the character artwork, shots from the show and the tagline. The premise is fairly easy to read with black on green and it covers things well. The extras are clearly listed and we get a clean breakdown of the episode and disc count. Production credits are clearly broken out and easy to read while the technical grid covers the setup of the discs in a solid way that’s accurate. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release at least avoids just replicating the cover art, though it works with some of the themes in a natural and good way. The left third is given over to the actual navigation strip, which doubles as the pop-up menu as well, where we get the breakdown of episodes by name and number where it uses the green, pink and white from the logo in an effective way. The rest of the screen is given over to the character artwork which has a different configuration for both discs. With a white background that has some of the map material across it, it’s very clean and a bit bright but captures the look well and allows the characters to stand out. Submenus load quickly and easily and the layout is definitely serviceable and sets the mood decently.
The second disc is where all the extras are at and there’s some good stuff here. The biggest things are the two introductions episodes, which are full length episodes in their own right, which basically recaps and introduces us to the world that the show exists in, the characters and their relationships as well as the tanks and mechanics of it all. After watching the show, there wasn’t much to really engage here and they were more useful during broadcast where they helped to plug in some delays in the show. Beyond that, we get the clean opening and closing sequences as well as the various promos and TV spots for the show.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While a manga series was kicked off back in June to help gear up for the show, Girls und Panzer is an original work from Actas that ran for twelve episodes, had a couple of recaps and a brief OVA series as well. The series has a particular draw to it with its blend of girls and military hardware that’s made more so with word that the military advisor for Strike Witches and Upotte!!, Takaaki Suzuki, is involved with this one as well. Which basically leads you to wondering which of these series will it be more like since they’re both quite different with what they do even though they share a similar bond through the heavy military style and the attention to detail with weaponry and gear. I had checked out the first episode when it first aired, but I was too burned out on the Upotte!! show at the time to really give this a good chance. And I think the marathon session I had here definitely was for the better.
The series operates in a world that’s just like normal except for one distinct fact; the martial arts skill of the day for girls is that of tank battles. Which is what we see at the start as a match is underway in the wilds as we see two teams go at it, including one with a variety of different styles of tank manufacture as well as color since we even get bright (gaudy bright) pink and yellow ones. The match is simple but effective in showing off the way they move and how the teams operate, giving us clue to a decent bond that’s at play here among the girls that work and school together. Like a lot of shows, we get many of the usual trappings of an all girls school life, from uniforms to a high end school, just with the added fun of them driving around in tanks.
The premise of the world is given quickly at the start of the school year, which the show delves into fully early on, with the friendships that are there and the introduction of Tankery as a new elective to be had there. One that the student council president strongly suggests that new student Miho take up. The full auditorium presentation of Tankery is hilarious as it’s chock full of propaganda, including the fact that men will adore you should you excel in it. This gets several of the girls very excited about it even as it feels like it’s right out of the fifties. This then segues into the next part as we see the group of girls that sign up for it, though they’re mostly just ciphers at this point with little in the way of distinct personalities. They’re all nice and pleasant and we see a good sized group that will come together for it, with the incentive of a big national event coming for it. I like the respect and awe they have for the tank they check out at the very end, but the whole pull back sequence from there to reveal where they really are is just… weird. Revealing that the town, school and grounds around it are basically a city on an oversized aircraft carrier? This is hugely intriguing and we see a couple of these at times throughout the season, but it’s sadly kept to more just a curiosity than actual story device.
Girls und Panzer gives us a very large cast of characters to work with and most of them are pretty much cutouts when you get down to it. With the Sensho-do program that’s started up for the tankery at the school, we get the usual pulling together of disparate parts to build something that has to compete in the nationals against other schools after going through some qualifiers. This school manages to pull together five very different tanks, each which does have its own history, and the teams break down well. While we do get a command team who has some personality as we learn why they’re putting all of this together later on, we get some that don’t get explored at all, such as the volleyball girls that join in hopes of doing something with that team. But largely, we focus on the core five that make up the Anglerfish team that use the Panzer IV model.
The core of the group is Miho, a high school girl who comes from a long line of tank commanders and even participated in the nationals the year prior, which went very badly for her. So badly that she came to this school, Oorai, because it doesn’t have a Sensho-do program. So naturally when one starts up, she really doesn’t want any part of it but gets caught up in it because she does make friends here and is drawn to them because they don’t see her in the way she does. Because of her lineage, training and general skill, she is the ace in the hole here and it is something that is used regularly as the matches go on. She’s not exactly an ultimate tactical genius or anything, but she’s smart and competent and has a crew that she can work well with. It also doesn’t hurt that the other teams they face underestimate them regularly since it’s a startup school Sensho-do program.
Because of the style of the series, it’s not one that we get a lot of detail with the characters that fleshes them out. We get their personalities well enough, and some like Miho obviously get some attention paid to their backgrounds, but most just exist as going to school, participating in the mandatory elective and working their tanks. There is some fun down time, but that revolves around the tanks and experiences as well. I’m rather mixed on whether this is a good or bad thing though because the show does run fairly tight in terms of being all about the qualifying matches and moving on to the bigger events. And that means a lot of strategic competitions that are definitely fun to watch. I grew up playing strategy games of this nature so there’s a lot to like here, from the open field matches to the forest layer. Going for a snow based one was definitely fun but we also get a great and expansive city sequence, which left me wanting to know more about the past of the locale.
Girls und Panzer also goes for a direction that’s all too common and also understandable by giving us an all female series. No boys show up here at all, which you can work to some degree before it just gets to be too much and you have to ignore that issue. The designs for the show definitely gives us some cute girls with their own personalities to them through the look of them and they also evoke the feelings that the creators want by making them small and almost wispy, especially when placed against the tanks themselves. I liked the designs well enough but found myself wanting more character out of them. The tank side of the animation is really quite good and after the first episode or so, the blending (or lack of blending) between the 3DCG and the rest of the animation isn’t much of an issue. The fluidity of the tanks is important here in the action scenes and the details likely make fans of the mechanics of it all very happy. For me, it just looks good, has some solid diversity and moves well throughout.
My initial experience with Girls und Panzer when it was first simulcast was one that sent me running from it. Coming into it now, beyond the broadcast hype of it all, definitely made for a more enjoyable experience overall. The whole girls with tanks thing is an easy angle to run but they do it well here with some good polish with the animation and action and a smoothness to the script that really does keep things moving. There are down and quiet moments, but it never drags or feels dull. Some of the more interesting ideas in the show aren’t explored as much as I’d like, such as the ships and the nature of this world, but its focus on the tanks, the competitions and the formation of the team is what definitely dominates here and it does what it needs to. While I’m certainly not as fanatical as some of the fans, there’s a lot to like here and plenty of room for it to grow if they want to do it. It has the feeling of a passion project and that shines through well here.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Introductions, Japanese Promos, Japanese TV Spots, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: December 3rd, 2013
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.