Girls Und Panzer is an anime about a school that has an elective called ‘Tankery” and the girls who take that elective.
They learn to drive in and fight with tanks in, well, tank vs tank combat, with promises that it will make them well-liked, popular, and desirable to others. Everyone else will either want to date them or be them.
The plot is as simple as that there are several different schools, each of which seems to be located on its own converted aircraft carrier, and the schools have teams of girls who fight each other using tanks. Each tank has several girls operating it, and the teams work together to eliminate the opposition and win some sort of national championship, which will make them the most popular people, etc.
The problem is, it is essentially a twist on every other motivational family-friendly sports show. There is a team of underdogs, some of who have past problems, and they fail early on, but it inspires them to work together against all odds and defeat the number 1 ranked group and win the championship, and gain friends, admirers, respect, etc.
Girls Und Panzer is early on in the series, but all major and minor details of that plotline have been established, and I can confidentially say I know how it will end (hint: the team the show is based on wins the championship, all while learning valuable lessons about friendship and such.)
The problem is the lack of any interest in the characters beyond base types. We already have the sleepy character, the clumsy character, the twintails student council president, and more. In just a few episodes, we already got a bath scene, with just barely-out-of-frame nudity, as well as the girls in gym clothes and bikinis washing the tanks and spraying water, with the requisite lines (such as “It’s cold” or “you can see my bra.”)
Those would be excusable if there was any depth to the characters. each group that makes up the team follows a central theme, such as a sports team group, the military looking group, the student council group, and the ‘assorted’ group, as I call the primary characters.
The best way to characterize a character is, well, through actions. Show, don’t tell. Thankfully, the people who made this show completely ignored that and have the episode where they will simply tell us about each of the characters. An actual character introduction episode. It remains to be seen if they will all be in the club room talking about each other and such, or having a sleepover and talking about relationships and such, bt seriously, an entire episode devoted just to introducing the characters, and it isn’t the first episode. The opening episodes of a series should introduce the characters and build the foundation of the main characters, not just toss in an episode where you will just give some concise details about each good character.
THAT IS NOT GOOD STORYTELLING. You are supposed to weave exposition into the narrative, not have an episode that is just a glossary.
And if anyone thinks I am going to ding the show for having schools with tanks, well, I am not. It turns out you can just by tanks. Some light ones are cheaper than things like a Ford Focus. It seems that you can get a surplus FV101 Scorpion for the cost of a small Ford. T-72 tanks are pretty much the most common ones you can get, mainly because the Soviets just made so many of them.
However, WWII tanks are fairly rare on the surplus market, and it is interesting to see teams made of several different tanks working together. You have the issue where tanks get heaver and better armed, and they get much slower. A light Sherman tank will easily outrun a heavy Panzer. In fact, the Panzer can’t even swing the gun around fast enough to get a hit on a Sherman that is evading. But the Panzer has a better range, and can pick the Sherman off easily at a distance. The interesting thing is, none of this has really been seen. The tanks are cosmetically different, and each is a real tanks, but they all are shown being essentially the same.
Then of course there is the whole thing of ‘using live rounds in the real events.’ Expletives were said upon hearing that. Shooting with someone downrange, even armored, is a big taboo. Now, they are shooting rounds from tanks designed to blow through the armor of other tanks and kill the occupants at each other. Not to mention when the tanks are shooting at them in the one episode, and the person is HANGING OUT OF THE TANK. Tank rounds are designed to penetrate armor that can easily be half a foot or more in thickness. People tend to be a bit softer than cold-rolled homogenous steel armor. People tend to be softer than the cast iron and wood used to mock up tanks in early design stages. Let’s just say that there is no way to use live ammunition ‘with an emphasis on safety’ when it is being shot at someone else. Unless they are shooting paint rounds or simunitions (and they aren’t), the only amazing thing is that nobody ends up dead.
In short, a fun concept, let down by the fact that the schools can somehow get away with shooting live ammunition at each other. Suspension of disbelief only goes so far.
Pros: a nicely different twist on the standard sports anime.
Cons: breaks out of the suspension of disbelief. introduction episode slapped in the middle of the show is haphazard, and bad design. Characters are simply base and bland stereotypes. Entire show is predictable, eliminating any potential element of surprise.
Afterthought 11/25/2012: I just watched the introduction episode. They showed each character, stated what they did, stated a name, and stated what that character liked, and showed a few scenes from the last few episodes that involved that character.