Everyone by now knows what Girls und Panzer is all about, and if not, the title should give it away. The question is will the show be any good anyway, and if not can it provide enough WTF moments that I won’t care?
It has a great start. We see the main characters, girls in school uniforms, spying on some tanks and then doubling back in THEIR tanks to be a decoy. Cheerful martial music plays. We watch from inside the tank and as the gun swivels we swing past a girl’s head–and I absolutely cracked up. There was something about the surprised look on her face that made the incongruity perfect. The girl waving from the next tank over added to the effect. But it’s a dream, or something, and we flash back to the commander, Miho, waking up in an average apartment and preparing for school like any other day. The oddness stops for awhile while we introduce characters and explain the situation.
It’s not terribly interesting. Miho is befriended by Saori and Hana and it’s all very girly until nasty student council folks pop in to more or less order Miho to join the panzerfahren team. We later learn that she’s from a family steeped in panzerfahren glory, but she wants nothing to do with it (cue painful flashbacks, one of which seems to involve nearly drowning). Saori and Hana are on her side–until they go to an assembly and watch a film about the glories of tank battle.
Here the WTF returns with a vengeance. We’re told through this grainy propaganda film that looks like it came out of WWII that panzerfahren is one of the most noble of the arts and extols the most womanly of values. Indeed, a character says later that she can’t imagine a man driving a tank. “The two just don’t go together.” … In this show I can hardly imagine a man, period. The only one we see is a guy in a pastry shop. Anyway, Saori and Hana are thrilled by the film and want to join up, but stick by their new friend. We’re back in the less interesting high school world now as the student council downright threatens Miho and she has to make a decision.
If you look closely at it we’re getting nothing really new in the story. Facing your fears, making friends, working hard, teamwork, goals, etc. The whole girls-in-tanks nonsense is just novelty-frosting at this point (I didn’t even get to the aircraft carrier), though if you’re a tank nerd I think you’d have a good time with this show. As for me, the weirdness worked (weirdness usually does for me); it’s too soon to say in terms of the characters or story.
Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo … Sorata is a perfectly normal boy who’s been living in his high school’s dorm for weirdoes because he adopted a kitten. we’re introduced to the weirdos so quickly that there’s hardly time to remember what their eccentricities are before he’s off to school, where he’s ordered to pick up the dorm advisor’s niece and take her to the dorm where she’ll living. In other words, Sorata is put-upon by just about everyone he encounters apart from two friends at school, who are normal and therefore a little dull. Well, Namami has a cute crush on Sorata and his cat-rescuing ways. The new girl, Mashiro, is beautiful doesn’t know the basics of living. Like dressing herself or bathing.
We get the point that Sorata now has two pets to take care of, a white cat and a girl whose name means “white” and whose favorite color is white (oddly, the cat hates the girl) though cats are easier to take care of then girls. This leads to the inevitable scenes where Sorata has to wake her up and finds her naked, that sort of thing. There’s some clever stuff in the script and it’s directed well, never pausing when it can press on, but Sorata does nothing but react to everyone else’s looniness all episode, and so far Mashiro has no personality to speak of, allowing her basic ineptitude to get her laughs, though there’s a moment when Sorata looks at a manga she’s making and sees that while it looks great the characters, like her, have no personality. In other words, she has no experience at anything besides breathing and drawing. It’s not hard to see where the show’s headed. The dormies Misaki and Chihiro are fun as hell. A decent start.
I’m slogging through episode ones, and now the twos are showing up. Never mind. Shin Sekai Yori 2 is as stylish and bewildering as the first.
We start with something 500 years ago, which I think makes it 500 years in our future, an Emperor of Delight being crowned. He proves from the start that he’s a loony by killing the first 100 people who stop clapping. I heard Stalin did that, too. While we’re digesting that we turn to that legend again, but this time the boy is one who secretly looked down on everyone else’s opinions and built up so much bad karma that he became a destructive demon, rather like that murderous kid in the present day we saw last week. Visually, it’s amazing to watch the story unfold and try to connect it with what we have just seen and what comes after.
And what comes after is a silly game where you have to roll a big stone ball with little clay helpers you make yourself. We learn all sorts of rules and wonder why the hell they’re spending so much time on it, both the rules and the game. The upshot of it appears to be that one side cheated, and though not punished at the time the culprit vanishes almost immediately after, just like Reiko did. We see a quick cat shadow, too. So is it the school punishing him or is that legendary cat-thing working on its own, with the school’s tacit permission? Just what is the school trying to teach them? Right. As if this series was going to flat-out tell us anything, apart from the rules of a ball-rolling game …
No, scratch that. We get another infodump when the young Saki asks her dad about queerats, an odd species which children aren’t allowed to interact with because children don’t have developed cantus yet. I’m not getting this cantus thing but it was a factor in the game’s cheating. When, back in real time, Saki rescues a queerat, using her cantus against the rules, it’s clearly a good, decent thing to do, but if the school finds out I’m worried that that big cat shadow’s going to appear again. On the other hand the queerats were clearly grateful and I suspect that’ll come into play later. Apart from the excessive time spent on that game it was another good episode. We don’t know what’s going on, but we’re getting just enough information to follow along. Rather like Saki and her friends.