Girls und Panzer being delayed for three months back in December was like a punch to the gut, the bastion of light at around the middle point of each week’s tunnel being pushed toward the back of several months’-worth of tunnels, the echo of the Sensha-do March acting as the siren song to move us forward. So now, after three months of chasing after this elusive light, we’ve reached it—and it’s just a little brighter and more pleasant to look at than when we last beheld its splendor. Some slight visual polish aside, enough to be appreciated without being terribly jarring, this is the same series that I’ve been frothing at the mouth over since the Fall season. Katyusha even makes several contractual appearances, because how could people not think she’s the most adorable character to come out of last year?
Its strengths, the well-choreographed tank matches and sharp sense of humor, have not been diluted by time. Same goes for the way that the series continuously plays with expectations without outright defying them; usually in tournament stories like this, a team introduced at the very last minute becomes instrumental in some way toward the underdogs coming out victorious. However, the newly recruited tank skirmish enthusiasts served decently as cannon fodder at the expense of actually being useful additions to the team. The proud entrance of Cat-Ears Who Looks Suspiciously Like Me, Momo Eyepatch, and Third Wheel before the final match was quashed anticlimactically before they even had a chance to make an impact. It’s both hilarious and refreshing to see the obligatory blatant otaku bait taken out of any position of relevance before they can damage to the show’s quality, or steal more than their minuscule focus.
Then there’s the slack that the student council pick up, the president and her lackeys being the only characters that would probably be worth bringing back in a regular capacity, should the show call for a second season. Where the other tanks think about strategic placement, making every shot count, and not getting blown to bits by live ammunition (all important), the student council’s team just fucks the very concept of strategy beyond finding effective cover to launch a surprise attack from, before running through the opponent’s line, scattering them like metal, tread-bound sheep that run on combustion. Hell, the entire episode is an exercise in the student council griefing the more experienced, numerically superior enemy, and it wouldn’t be quite so fun if it were a battle fought fairly on an open field with tit matched for tat. As Darjeeling says best, “Aru izu feya in ravu ando waa”.
Most other matches have lacked one particular team that stood out from the rest, each filling their specific purpose but not going above and beyond to really be noticed, but here it’s the student council’s game through and through; not even Miho’s tank parkour and the automotive club’s creative adjustments their tank could sell the episode this much. However, Miho’s parkour scene is 100% indicative of just what I love most in Girls und Panzer: Inspirational music swelling to a crescendo over slightly dubious CG of girls doing things with tanks.
Being Girls und Panzer though, these unconventional and downright exhilarating moments are balanced quite a few times in this episode by tactics that go against every iota of common sense under the sun. When you decide that you’re going to traverse a river in tanks that occasionally break down and die under normal circumstances, rather than look for another route, it should come as no surprise when the engines give out, or the tank treads sink in the loose sediment. I mean it did give us a chance to see just how limber Miho can be, but she wouldn’t have had to jump across various tanks in slow motion were the risk not so great.
Then there’s the second time when they get kited into a gargantuan, unwieldy tank that Black Forest Peak has waiting, but at this point nitpicking over Girls und Panzer is kind of silly; the occasional idiotic moments don’t put a damper on what’s shaping up to be a fun final battle between Miho and her sister, and the student council again assuage any of my gripes with their stoic acceptance of their wonderful supporting role. Should Oorai win (most likely) or lose (it’d be interesting), I won’t be the least bit disappointed, though it’d have to pull some other trick for an unexpected victory beyond having Oorai hit the enemy a millisecond before they themselves are hit. Girls und Panzer’s a smart show though, so I don’t doubt that they’ll come up with something new and satisfying to end its brilliant run with.