Review for Girls und Panzer das Finale - Part 1
I love Girls und Panzer. It’s a brilliant idea, highly entertaining, and executed to perfection. It’s quite understandable that the original TV series turned into an epic franchise, and MVM have done the show justice, releasing the series, the OVAs and the movie. Cute girls have fun with non-lethal tank combat, and with the wonderful characters, great stories, and excellent animation, this is a show that I can watch on a loop without getting bored. I was really looking forward to this release, new Girls und Panzer in the UK, but then the real world poked its ugly head in. Russia invades Ukraine, and now I’m reluctant to watch a cute tank combat show. It’s the smallest and the pettiest problem to have, and people have a lot more immediate and tragic issues to face. But sensitivities to these things can be unpredictable. It might be worth buying this release and the second part now, and putting them to one side until the mood finds you, and you should buy this show. After all, das Finale isn’t exactly complete just yet.
When it was announced that the Girls and Panzer story would conclude with das Finale, a series of OVAs that would be released theatrically, I was certainly thrilled at the prospect, although given the release format, I wasn’t certain that we would ever see it here. Six OVA films, each of around 50 minutes in length (or so it seems on the strength of the first two discs), you get maybe a cour worth of story. But they are taking their time in releasing the series. To date, only three of the films have been completed, and given the two year gaps between releases, we might not see the final film on UK Blu-ray until 2027! This spring, MVM will release the first two instalments on Blu-ray; they’ll be waiting on Sentai in the US for a home video release of part 3.
To be an elegant, well refined, and educated young girl takes education, deportment, etiquette, a knowledge of the finer things, and tanks. In the world of Girls und Panzer, young girls are expected to learn and participate in the Martial Art of Sensha-do, tankery, in which they compete in regulated tank warfare games, learning to work together as part of tank crews and battalions, in a world where girls’ schools are set aboard gargantuan aircraft carriers turned into small cities in their own right. Miho Nishizumi was escaping this world when she came to Ooarai Academy, a school without a Sensha-do club, but circumstances compelled her to return to the sport anyway. The school was threatened with closure, and the only way to save it was to make a big impact. The school would be saved if it won the world Sensha-do tournament. And so Miho had to take a bunch of quirky girls, and a battalion of salvaged, decrepit tanks, and turn them into a highly trained, tactical fighting force to save the school. Then she had to do it all over again for the movie! As das Finale begins... this time it’s personal.
A year has passed, and it’s all change in the student council, with Miho’s teammates now taking over from the previous administration. Speaking of which, the previous student council PR Manager, Momo Kawashima is in trouble as this film begins. Rumours abound that she has failed her exams and will have to repeat her final year at Ooarai Academy. It’s not quite that bad; it’s just that she’s having trouble with her university entrance exams. So the girls come up with a plan, to get her into university on a Sensha-do scholarship. It does mean that she’ll have to take over as commander from Miho in the forthcoming Caterpillar Tread Cup. It’s a good thing that they’ve found a ninth tank for their team, and a new crew to drive it. Their first opponent in the tournament is BC Freedom Academy, and given all that they have faced, Ooarai are understandably confident. It turns out that they are overconfident, and BC Freedom has their measure as the tournament begins.
Girls und Panzer das Finale 1 gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on this disc. The image is clear and sharp, excellent with detail and with rich colours. This outing gets a cinematic level of production value when it comes to the character animation, and especially when it comes to the tank action. While you have the usual cute girl designs, the characters are animated well, and you get to see their different personalities. The budget goes to the tank designs, which manage to inject an air of authenticity even in this cutesy, primary colour world, and which through the use of deft CGI blended into the 2D animation really comes across well. You get all of the edge of the seat action and tank strategies brought to life in this anime.
You have the choice between DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround English and Japanese, with subtitles and signs locked during playback. I went with the Japanese audio for the familiarity of experience with the voice actors. The surround track is a step-up from the stereo of the TV series, but I did feel it was a little overcooked when it comes to the character voices, deliberately placed around the speakers in an unnatural way at times for off-screen characters. The action is powerfully conveyed, but to the level that it can overpower the dialogue, or rather the centre speaker needs a higher volume level. Either way, I wished that there had been a stereo option. The surround is watchable enough, but it could have been better balanced. The subtitles are accurately timed and are free of typos.
You get one disc in a BD Amaray style case, with a reversible sleeve (if you don’t like ratings logos). The disc boots to a static menu, and the film is followed by a silent translated English credit scroll. On the disc you’ll find the following extras.
Textless Opening (1:46)
Textless Closing (1:49)
Japanese Promo (1:32)
Part 2 Trailer (1:02)
Trailers for Heaven’s Memo Pad, Magical Girl Site, Say “I Love You”, The Magnificent KOTOBUKI THE MOVIE
The creators of Girls und Panzer know which side of their bread is buttered. They know full well that what the fans want is ‘more of the same’; cute girls and tank combat action. The story shouldn’t drift too far from the premise, lest the audience be disappointed. On the other hand, there has to be enough that is new to hold the attention, and Das Finale Part 1 certainly has that, beginning with a flash-forward that clearly shows Miho and the Ooarai team on the losing end of a tank battle. This time, the goal is smaller scale, and less of a Damocles Sword than an imminent school closure. This time it’s just a matter of getting Momo Kawashima into the university of her choice, aiming for a Sensha-do scholarship when entrance exams aren’t enough.
We also get a new tank and a new team, which involves a bit of archaeology in the hidden depths of the aircraft carrier that the girls call home. It turns into quite an adventure, as their exploration takes them into the delinquent part of Ooarai, where all the girl gangs and the dropouts congregate, and where nice girls like our heroes are lost and intimidated. They wind up in a den of pirates, or pirate wannabes, who have been using the missing tank as a large oven to cure meat. Naturally these reprobates, Ogin, Murakami, Cutlass, Flint and Rum, wind up becoming the ninth Ooarai team, Team Shark. The tank they drive is an epic Easter Egg too; at least it had me squealing with glee. I expect you’ll feel the same too, if you’ve seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade!
That preamble takes up half of the runtime, encountering Momo’s problem and coming up with a plan to help her, and finding the final tank, before the arena shifts to the Caterpillar Tread Cup, and the first match against BC Freedom Academy. Ooarai go into the match full of confidence; just as it happened with Saunders in the series, Yukari Akiyama went on one of her patented espionage trips, producing a movie in the process, and her reconnaissance revealed BC Freedom Academy’s weaknesses. Sure enough as the match begins, it seems that Yukari’s intelligence has been validated, until they fall into a trap. There is a climax to the film that is satisfying, but the film does end in the middle of the battle and be warned that the trailer for Part 2 on this disc spoils the conclusion of that match. Although this is a six part film series, and it would be odd if the tournament ended this early.
My misgivings aside, diving back into the world of Girls und Panzer was an absolute joy. There’s very little here that is new, if you’ve seen the series, the OVAs and the movie, but there are times when you don’t need things to change. Girls und Panzer das Finale 1 is like a familiar friend, it’s comfortable and unchallenging in many ways. But the animation is excellent, the new characters are a blast, and the story is delightful fun. Thankfully, MVM are releasing the first two parts of das Finale in short order, so we get to see how this first match concludes in the space of a few weeks. Actually at the time of writing, Anime on Line have already sent out pre-orders before the official release date.