Girls und Panzer is hardly perfect. The girls themselves aren’t great characters, relying more on their specific gimmicks to endear themselves to the audience, the matches end invariably in favor of Miho, and there was severe underutilization of Darjeeling and Katyusha, the two best side-characters. But fuck that noise, because the finale is one of the most engaging, thrilling, and frenzied displays of unconventional tank warfare that I’ve seen. I was expecting to have a good time—but not such a tank-ramming, tank-ramping good time.
The whole episode is one extended exercise in thinking outside of the box, and I can’t begin to imagine just how much fun the writers had in imagining some of this shit. It really speaks volumes for how creative the action is when it involves the craziest means of crippling a tank yet, and only in the first six minutes. The way that Ooarai disposed of the Maus had me giggling like a schoolgirl both because of its absurdity, and because sitting on the Maus with another tank, after ramping onto it with the help of yet another tank, to keep it from revolving its turret is the stuff that legends are made of. I mean not even Beowulf or Hercules did that, so basically what I’m saying is that Ooarai is collectively a more iconic hero than Beowulf. All the while, it never lets up on the subtle touches of humor that are the delicious frosting on an even tastier cake. Even if the rest of the episode was complete shit on a bagel, these first few glorious minutes would have been more than enough to leave the series a place in my heart.
Of course if you’ve followed Girls und Panzer this far (why would you be reading this post if you didn’t?), you’ll know that it isn’t content to have one excellent scene of unconventional tank warfare, instead opting to stuff itself with as many acts of motorized lunacy as time and taste will allow. Yet it never feels like it’s packed full of unnecessarily indulgent action, opting to break things up between the set pieces with more humor and strategizing. While it doesn’t quite attain the same “what the fuck did I just see?” impact that it crystallized during the Maus scene, it nonetheless keeps the momentum going with little effort, and no notable clunks in its gears.
I was a little disappointed that it finished the match by using its standard ending gambit, where the two opposing tanks fire at each other at almost the same time, and Miho manages to hit just a split second before the opposing team hits her. The atmosphere was so electric though, and was assisted by an all-or-nothing tank drifting maneuver that honestly left me breathless, that any attempts to criticize it for resorting to the same match-ending move would be missing the point entirely. It’s a case of the journey meaning more than the end, and when that journey entails fucking tank drifting and some great, unobtrusive use of CG, it means everything in the world.
I couldn’t have asked for a better episode to end this show with. It’s a culmination of everything that I love in it with either the problems mitigated to the point of nonexistence, or wholly overshadowed by everything that it does right. Girls und Panzer is a breath of fresh air that knows exactly what it is, and never loses sight of that. While it’s hardly the best show to come out of the year, it’s certainly one of the most encouraging, with the white hot passion that went into making it being displayed in every lovingly-rendered CG tank sequence, and every inexplicable anglerfish dance. I couldn’t have asked it to bow out in any more graceful a fashion, and I sincerely hope that its sales rise at a steady clip. We need more shows like this to break up the stranglehold of imouto incest fantasies.
Oh, and for those curious about last week’s Maoyuu, picture the Battle of Minas Tirith with all satisfaction and urgency stripped to addin more economic discussion and hideously thin moustaches. Skip it, rewatch Girls und Panzer instead, and relive the Maus scene again and again. After all, seen one ghost come out from under a maid’s frock, you’ve seen them all.