After successfully saving Ōarai Girls High School from being closed, Miho Nishizumi and her follow “sensha-dō” (the way of the tank) members compete in an exhibition match against the English-styled St.Gloriana and Russian styled Pravda High Schools alongside the newly introduced Japanese styled Chihatan Academy. After a narrow defeat, Ōarai is thrown back into the thick of it by once again needing to save their school from being closed; this time, however, they need to compete in a match against the university sensha-dō team. Outnumbered, outgunned, out-skilled, with all the odds stacked against them and an entire Aircraft Carrier of people depending on them, will Miho and friends succeed one more time, or will they succumb to defeat?
Girls und Panzer der Film is the latest entry into the Girls und Panzer series; since the original TV series aired in 2012 it has spawned numerous manga and light novel spin off’s; two PlayStation Vita games; OVA’s; a collaboration project with the game World of Tanks and now this film along with another film project being released later in the year. Produced by Actas (Princess Principal) the same studio behind the TV series, first released in Japan in November 2015, now being released by MVM Entertainment on Blu-Ray and DVD via Sentai Filmworks. On-disc extras, includes a 3-minute recap, clean OP and ED.
As for the narrative, Girls und Panzer der Film doesn’t have much of one and can easily be split into 3 sections, the first 30 minutes cover the exhibition match, against St.Gloriana and Pravda. The next 30 minutes has practically all of the narrative, where the Ōarai team must come to grips with the school being closed and finding a way to save it. During that section focus shifts to and from some of the more under-developed characters from the series, giving them their deserved screen time. The final hour of the film is spent entirely on the match against the university team, in one long action-packed battle, full of twists and turns and some over the top moments. Even though minimal time is spent on the developing of a plot, in this case, that’s not entirely a bad thing, because it doesn’t try to overcomplicate things and opts to focus on having a fun time instead.
With the focus mainly being on ‘fun’ it also helps that the animation is excellent, both in the use of the traditional style and CGI. Characters make their expressions known with many of the films funnier moments being assisted by character facial expressions and body language. However, the real stars of the show are the Tanks, this is where Girls und Panzer‘s use of CG is a game changer. Each of the tank models doesn’t look out of place against the background art or when weaving through city streets. They’ve all been well drawn, look unique and well thought out, right down to the smallest details. One of the details I like the most about the designs is the way that over the course of the matches, they become damaged and dirty, and retain those effects every time that tank is seen again. Another key feature of the tanks are the sound effects associated with them, the difference between the 88mm of the Tiger 1 and the 17 pounder of the Sherman Firefly firing is clearly audible, while the hum of turrets turning, and the roar of the engines are also distinct between the tanks. With the level of detail displayed on the tanks, each one can be considered as characters of their own. The use of CG also allows for some innovative and out of the box action sequences, with tanks pulling off high-speed manoeuvres, smashing through the environment, while the camera pans around, showing the full extent of the battlefield.
As mentioned, the sound effects are another outstanding point but it’s not just the tank effects, it’s the musical score which is also excellent. ChouCho who sung the opening to the TV series returned to sing the two theme songs ‘piece of youth’ and ‘GloryStory’. Along with them, some of the schools have their own ‘character songs’ which are perfectly used to represent each of them, most notably being, St. Gloriana has the song called ‘The British Grenadiers’ and the University team has ‘When Johnny comes marching home again’ (you’ll know it when you hear it). Both an English and Japanese language track is available, with both versions just as good as each other but I do prefer to watch the dub, which is well cast and in some cases the characters in the dub sound more natural. I do have a couple of small issues with the translation though, on two separate occasions the subtitles refer to the main character’s team ‘the Anglerfish Team’ as the ‘Goosefish Team’ instead, and a couple of times a word used in the dub didn’t quite fit in the context of the topic.
Girls und Panzer der Film knows that it doesn't need to rely on having an engaging or overly dramatic storyline to be good. It plays its cards right, by relying on having a fun time instead and is backed up well with the excellent use of traditional and CG animation and engaging use of music and slightly over the top action sequences, all in a fun-filled 120 minutes.