Finales: Panzer, Kanojo Pet

Girls und Panzer‘s finale is their biggest and most hopeless-looking battle yet. But you know Miho isn’t going to give up. First they have to take out that monster Maus.

How to trap a maus.
How to trap a maus.

It’s ingenious, like most of Miho’s plans when the odds are against her, but it’s early in the episode yet and there are still a lot of Tigers out there. It gets confusing, but the upshot is they get four or five enemy tanks chasing each good tank. “Operation Stagger.” This evens the odds, well, a little, and it also gives us a chance to watch every team using some tricky maneuver or another to thoroughly flummox their opponent before getting taken out themselves. My favorite was… Hell, I don’t remember which team (the show never tried very hard to introduce the girls beyond the core characters), going in reverse and repeatedly bumping their opponent, getting too close for them to use their guns. Yeah, they get taken out, but they take out a tank or two themselves and manage divert danger from their flag tank. The other teams do their best, too, and finally it’s just Miho and Maho’s tank, in a courtyard with a sealed off entrance (thanks to another noble sacrifice)

waiting for that flag ...
waiting for that flag …

Of course it had to come down to this. We knew it in episode one. The resulting battle is maybe the series’ best. The two tanks circle and race away, firing down open streets when they can, and thanks to some excellent direction we’re racing around with them. Meanwhile Miho and Maho’s heads pop in and out of their tanks, impassive, thinking. Miho sets up one last shot, tracks skid and fly off … Well, you can guess what happens. After that it’s just denouement, celebrations, an important reconciliation, and no weird dancing needed.

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I said last week how the return of this series was a bright light in this dismal season, and the creators didn’t screw up the ending. It’s all good. I watched most of the episode with a grin while hoping other shows can learn some lessons from this one. Face it, it’s a silly premise with by-the-book development. Apart from the novelty (and novelty wears off), there was no reason whatsoever to watch this thing. But the creators found reasons. The hackneyed story of estranged sisters and saving their school provided just enough of an emotional framework for them to develop the concept’s strengths (Schoolgirls! Tank nerdery! Battles!) to their fullest. The battles were well-choreographed, clear (mostly), and genuinely exciting to watch, and when you get all those shouting schoolgirl voices in there you can’t help but smile. The soundtrack, especially the girls marching theme, was infectious, and then they do things like show the Russian team singing a full verse of their song. The show was full of eccentric moments like that. And I haven’t even touched on the WTF of the show’s actual premise, or that aircraft carrier. I even learned more about tanks than I ever expected to. Applause to everyone involved. Other animation companies stuck with dumb projects: this is how you do it.

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We also say goodbye to Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo, another show which at the start showed us the potential of being dismal and instead wound up … not bad.

There's a lot of kissing and embarrassment in this episode.
There’s a lot of kissing and embarrassment in this episode.

Okay, pretty good. They did this by doing an interesting twist or two in its young, put-upon boy in charge of beautiful but hopeless girl premise and considered by several angles the difficulty that the average, hard-working person has in the face of blinding genius. Our Salieris here are burned more than once when comparing themselves to people like Mashiro or Misaki, and the confusion in the geniuses when the people they live with and care for lash out in frustration gave the show a strong dynamic to work with.

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The other thing that worked in the show’s favor was having the characters forge friendships in spite of their differences in ability. From Mashiro and Misaki, people so talented that they shouldn’t even be there, down to Sorata and Aoyama, who have to work their butts off just to take a single step, they all learn from each other and become a tight enough unit that if one of them left, it would hurt the entire dorm. But this is high school so they do have to go eventually, and so the finale felt more bittersweet than it otherwise would. But that’s okay. Aoyama manages to return, Misaki moves in next door and the dorm’s got two new residents, a genius girl and a pervert boy. They’ll fit right in. Not a great show, but a decent one that I’m sorry to see go.

Just what the season needs: Girls und Panzer 11

A three month wait for another Girls und Panzer, and I can’t believe how much I missed it.

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The show’s weakness is the personal stuff they put in to try and make the characters more sympathetic, but there’s none of that here, well, apart from the fact that Miho’s battling her sister, and the school closing down if they fail. Apart from a line here and there these things aren’t touched on at all. Instead we get the show’s strength, an episode-long battle, and it isn’t over yet!

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And I say that even though the battle scenes are predicable, up and down affairs. You can tell by the music when a counterattack is imminent. This one is no exception. It starts out dire for the heroes, but Miho pulls them (almost literally) out of their predicament and places them on a hill (marked on her topographic map with a smiley bear, such is the nature of this show), whereupon they execute some smokescreen razzle-dazzle and throw the by-the-book enemy into chaos. You really thought Miho would go down without a fight, Maho?

No tank left behind.
No tank left behind.

And before the Maus shows up and ruins everything, the battle seems to stand still as Miho refuses to abandon a tank that’s stalled in a river. It’s a dangerous and potentially costly thing to do, but I guess the show had to make certain before the final episode to remind us why everyone follows Miho. My guess it that it will pay off some time in the finale. Hell, it better pay off quick. That damn Maus that the other team produces out of nowhere (no one mentions it beforehand) looks invincible. Great fun all around. Just what we need to liven up this dismal season.

Pet 9 and Panzer 8

Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo 9 starts the next crisis for Sorata and Mashiro. Some crisis.

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A new girl, Rita, arrives and tells Mashiro she should go back to England with her. People are waiting for her next painting. Naturally, Rita’s beautiful, sort of a Mashiro with bigger boobs who can dress herself, and she winds up staying in Sorata’s room because Mashiro doesn’t want to see her. Why she can’t stay with Aoyama is not explained. Anyway, she’s, er, quite convincing, and the show spends some time with Mashiro mad at baka Sorata for even listening to her.

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And then the episode is nearly derailed when the previously unseen, mysterious Akasaka appears. We get scenes with him (in spite of visual evidence) in class not respecting the teacher. The story we had been following goes away. Since this story seems to be as interesting I didn’t mind very much, but then the show forgets about Akasaka and we get back to the story at hand, well, sort of. It’s cultural festival time and the dorm decides to do something together. I guess this will be the backdrop for the unfolding Mashiso/Rita drama.

Mashiro's paitings are immersive.
Mashiro’s paitings are immersive.

The show takes pains to show us just how talented Mashiro is with a paintbrush. Rita takes Sorata to see one of her paintings and is torn, after all, not many paintings can invoke an out-of-body experience like the one the episode shows. It also helps to put to rest a “manga is not real art” conflict I was hoping they’d avoid. Mashiro is just really really good at painting. But why doesn’t Mashiro just paint in Japan? We get a scene in the school’s studio where she’s doing just that (which also suggests that she hasn’t abandoned painting altogether). I’m guessing that’s the direction we’re headed in. By the way, Sorata, do you know just how expensive your bedroom walls are now?

How not to command.
How not to command.

Miho learns a few things in Girls und Panzer 8. First, stick to your game plan in spite of what your subordinates want to do. Because they wanted to forge ahead in spite of being outgunned 15-6, she drops her more conservative strategy and they blunder into a trap. Second, if your subordinates decide to charge when you’re telling them to halt, give them a direct order instead of going “Wait … wait.” Given her background you’d think Miho would have learned something about command, or maybe not, as it looks like she might be disinherited soon. Maybe it was the cold that made the girls rush in like that, even while Erwin was reminded of Stalingrad. Still, it’s fun to see a battle in the snow at night.

A bit late to be asking that.
A bit late to be saying that.

The other thing she learns is that the school will be closed down if they lose. Maybe Anzu and the rest of the student council should have told her before their remaining tanks were stuck in an old church surrounded by the enemy, like back when they intended to at that hot-pot dinner. I assume we’ll learn why the school’s future is pinned to a single tank battle next week. Here they just used it to heighten the cliffhanger’s importance, not that it needed it. I’m much more interested in how they’re going to get out of that church in one piece than what happens to their school. I am also worried about that disinheriting talk, but that can wait. In fact, if she pulls out a victory here her family might well change their minds. Overall, however, the episode was the usual fun. I especially liked the patriotic song the Pravda team sings on their way to the battle. But one note to the fansubbers should they be reading this. When the enemy tanks have surrounded you and they’re demanding your surrender, the correct response is exactly what Momo says: “Nuts!”

Chu2koi 9, Panzer 7

Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai! 9 lightens the mood a little, easy to do when it’s Rikka in love.

Rikka deals with her attraction to Yuuta in her own way.

Or rather, Rikka in denial of love. Since that time together last episode Rikka has been avoiding Yuuta and moping more than usual. It gets so that Touka visits Yuuta’s room to ask him what he knows, which is nothing. Rikka’s weird, that’s all. So is Touka, considering she was waiting for him under his bed! Why? To play with his head a bit? No wonder Rikka’s terrified of her. Anyway, when we get a scene where Rikka’s describing how Yuuta’s presence affects her, she interprets it as something wrong with Yuuta, some anomaly, no doubt planted in his mind by the overseer, er, Touka. At least, that’s what I think she said. It’s more running away from reality, but this sort of running away is more common in a girl her age, and leads to better comedy.

Nothing good can come of this.

We get several good scenes as everyone works things out (around a subplot about the cultural festival–all I’ll say about the occult/nap circle doing anything for that is “Bad idea!”). The shrine scene laid it out clearly. Then there’s the cat leaping through a heart made of butterflies scene, surreal even for this show, not least for Rikka’s deciding to trust Shinka. Shinka’s motivation is easier to understand. She likes to meddle. And it’s all within the standard high school romance canon. It helps that Yuuta manages to spend a couple of minutes saying just the right things to Rikka, basically letting know that he understands why she acts the way she does. Which, really, is all she needed to hear, before the scary moment that sealed, well, something between them.

There was something I can’t describe in how it worked out. A genuinely dangerous moment defused by a routine they do every time Rikka climbs down to visit Yuuta. Gently guide the feet to the rail … Lovely bit. How it’s going to affect the romance I don’t know. Yuuta hasn’t shown much romantic interest, and she hardly knows what’s going on, but for now we’ll leave them at that sweet little moment.

Girls und Panzer 7 lives up to the show’s standards of amusing oddity, even though there’s no battle this week. Well, there IS, but after the buildup and the scary look at the Anzio team I was expecting more than seeing the enemy defeated and our girls hi-fiving. It’s like we’re not watching this for the battles or something.

Advice of the heart by Saori.

What we get is Mako’s sick grandma who turns out to be just fine, abusive and funny in turns. After that we finally get the story of Miho’s painful memories, and, since I was expecting that she nearly drowned in a tank, the truth (she saved others from drowning and because of it lost the match and her family was pissed) isn’t as bad as I thought, and tells us that her reluctance to join up was a moral rather than an emotional position. After that we get some splitting up of duties and the discovery of two more tanks1 The first one is given as much an introduction as any of the girls has gotten. We also learn why everyone’s on an enormous (enough that one team gets lost in it and has to be rescued) ship, I’ve already forgotten the answer, so boring is it. Basic ass-covering doublespeak; clearly someone fucked up somewhere and they had a big ship with nothing to do but put a girls’ school on it, I suppose. But that’s part of the reason this show is entertaining if you don’t look at it too closely.

Tonari 8, Kanojo Pet 7, Panzer 6

Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun 8 manages to get stuff done amongst some silly scenes, to my surprise. And it made me think too: just how long is Shizuku going to put up with this?

I think it’s the show’s lighthearted atmosphere of the school festival that threw me off. Starting off with Shizuku as a haunted nurse with a face ala Black Jack, I expected not much of importance was going to happen. When such stuff did happen I really didn’t take it seriously, well, until Haru accidentally slugged Shizuku again, setting off another outburst. Or maybe I couldn’t take it seriously because Shizuku was feeling bad about being pissed off–after getting slugged. Not to mention Kenji insisting that it was all his fault, when, uh, guys, it’s Haru’s fault. I don’t know what goes on in these characters’ minds. But something here gets accomplished amid all the inner monologues of a nurse-zombie, not to mention all the other craziness. Kenji hangs out with Shizuku and to her surprise turns out to be a perceptive guy (that bullshit line about loneliness being impossible without other people around aside) who doesn’t seem interested in making a move on her–except if it pissed off Haru, that is, .

This part was kind of funny.

And Haru has another, much more serious lapse, which came out of the blue because it was one of those “people needing to be alone or hide from other people find themselves all in the same classroom” type of thing. Since it was coming off of an amusing conversation between Oshima and Haru (apart from the “using force” line, a precursor as it turned out), it looked like a comedy topper; Shizuku and Kenji eavesdropping on Haru and Oshima when Yazun walks in. I was getting ready for an entertaining confrontation between Haru and Yuzan, with Kenji as an added bonus. Instead, Haru gets truly frightening for the first time since episode one, and poor Oshima is the near-victim.

This part wasn’t.

I understand that he feels bad afterwards and Shizuku knows it and all that, but a lot of messed up people know that after they mess up. There’s plenty of guilt and then it starts right up again. Then again, Shizuku seems to think her reaction to his antics is somehow a problem, too. She does indeed have a problem. Asana didn’t deserve to be talked to like that. But getting hit, even accidentally, and having to talk Haru down from what’s basically a hostage situation, and not seriously reevaluating her involvement with him, is an act of stupidity. Okay, at the end she does say she needs to think about it, but that’s just because her heart gets all thumpity when she’s trying to study. It’s a shame because the episode (and the series) otherwise can be great fun to watch, but those moments stick out so much it yanks me right out of watching.

Yuuko meets Mashiro.

Just like Sukitte, Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo 7 starts lighthearted, but it stays this way. No plot advancement. No Misaki/Jin angst, no Sorata angst, no Aoyama despair. Sorata doesn’t even hear back about his game proposal. Maybe the creators thought for this episode “Man, it’s too soon for the new story arc, so let’s throw in all the spare gags we had lying around.” So they get Sorata’s little sister Yuuko to visit and do all the things anime little sisters tend to do …wait, she doesn’t clean his room or find any porn. But she does meet the girls at the dorm and get led into believing the usual things about big brothers and evil, lascivious older women who want to corrupt them.

Yuuko meets the maid avatar.

And it’s pretty funny. Yuuko is especially inspired with the little sister tropes and establishes a lot of ways to be angry when Aoyama goes in denial mode about something misconstrued but innocent, and all Mashiro has to do is open her mouth to cause sibling shock. To help out we get some different artistic styles when Sonata’s desperately calling home, including a live-action puppet thing. Not only that, but the Mashiro breaks the bath so we get a public bath fanservice scene. And now and then they cut to Misaki taking driving lessons. You can imagine how those turn out. It slows down a bit when Sorata takes all the girls on a “date,” though it didn’t get any weaker. Yeah, it was a predictable episode but well-done, and a nice break from sentiment. Just sit back an watch the jokes fly by.

The battle in Girls und Panzer 6 gets a little confusing in spite of the fun of watching the characters react and over-or-under-react, depending on the temperament. We got Oorai leading the Saunders Shermans off to nowhere and then stumbling upon (and chasing) their flag tank, a coincidence that masks its silliness by having the tank commanders not believing it, either. So our gals can win if they can take out that one tank, but when the Shermans come back they seem to forget this strategy and have to be reminded of it. Well, we got the usual from both the heroes and adversaries. Loved the sneaky Saunders commander suddenly babbling about how some guy doesn’t love him. And apart from for battle confusion and the too-long “we’re doomed” bit in the middle, it’s fun to watch as usual. Too bad they have to invent a new crisis at the end, involving Meko’s grandma. But next week, we’re promised Anzio! Don’t know if that’s good or bad …

Chu2koi 6, Panzer 5.5(?), and a couple screenshots of those short shows.

I suppose they felt to explain the reason for Rikka’s delusions in Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai!, but part of me wished they hadn’t.

Rikka’s too calm.

The show could have gotten along just fine without giving Rikka a Tragic Event to hide from. Yuuta didn’t have one, Sanae, as far as I know, didn’t have one either. You could argue that Rikka should be outgrowing hers, but people mature at different times. They could have kept this as a silly, fun series all the way through. As it is, it’s still fun, and they’re doing their best to present the sad backstory in keeping with the general silliness, but we’re in danger in lapses into bathos and that worries the fun. Well, the other members of the gang (who ALL have time during their precious summer vacation time to take the trip, not that I’m upset about that) manage to keep things going. I find gags about trainsickness, well, sickening, but that’s my taste and there were some good bits in it. But at the same time we had Rikka being quiet and moody, throwing a shadow it all.

And once we get to the grandparents house the mood just gets worse. The grandparents disapprove of Rikka’s behavior, Rikka mopes in her room fiddling with a shortwave (which we don’t get into. Maybe next week), and even the beach scene is cut short by Rikka wanting to take Yuuta somewhere. It doesn’t help that the continuity gets confusing here. Tooka says to follow her and the next thing you know Yuuta and Tooka but not Rikka are at the father’s grave. Did I miss something? Later, Rikka gets Yuuta’s help to escape to the “ethereal horizon,” where she claimed she saw her father after he died, and Tooka tries to stop them. Rikka is delighted with Yuuta; Tooka obviously isn’t. Why did she invite him? Whose side did she expect him to take? And at the end, with Rikka and Tooka squaring off for another battle, itself an excellent way to work out the situation, I had to wonder just why they had kept the news of the old house a secret from her. She could see the grace, but not the house, or lack of one? If she’s been running from reality all this time it seems they’re helping prolong her delusions by not letting her see this reality herself, not even forcing her, but allowing her to go. It would have been hard for her but it would probably speed up the healing. Yuuta is really the hero here for helping her escape; judging from the other family members’ attitudes she had been waiting for someone to take her side … Well, it was a good episode anyway. As I said before, it mixed the silly charm with the deeper issue well and I expect that to continue next week. But I still wish there wasn’t a deeper issue to work with.

Girls und Panzer, er, 5.5 is a recap episode too early in the season. Production issues? Well, it’s a good way to get up-to-date with each team and learn how to tell their tanks apart. Since there’s no plot to advance I decided to use a screenshot of my favorite team. Honestly, why the other teams don’t dress up I don’t understand. Volleyball uniforms don’t count.

The characters in Teekyuu and Lychee Light Club both want to go swimming, but it’s raining.

But their hawaiian shirts looked pretty nice.
Mistaking a rooftop for a waterslide.

Bakuman3 5, Tonari 6, Panzer 5

Geez, Bakuman doesn’t stop for anything, does it?

It’s not that the series feels rushed, well, busy maybe, it’s that the the everyday working events are made dramatic by the precariousness of the manga artists’ profession, and then emphasized by time jumps to the big moments. What happens in episode 5 occurs in a time period of maybe under two months, but it’s all slammed into 25 minutes, this means Shiratori’s story (getting support from his peers but no love from his rich, appearance-happy mother) only gets the episode, but, since it’s pretty lame as a story (son rebels, father and daughter take his side, mother goes out in a huff, similar to Mashiro’s story) it really only deserves the time it got. Though the rich daughter giving the best inspirational lines was a nice touch.

It’s not like he has enough work to do.

More important to the main characters is Takagi’s participation in Shiratori’s happy dog story. Mashiro wants him to improve but clearly has some doubts. He’s worried that PCP’s quality will drop. He’s perhaps also worried about their partnership. And he’s worried about Eiji, who’s drawing two manga at the moment. In true Bakuman fashion (no matter how hard you’re working you can always work harder) he decides to learn to draw more quickly so he can do two at once as well. Not so coincidentally, Shiratori happens to great at that. No wonder they want him around … And if that wasn’t enough (I didn’t even get to Otters and Aoki’s cancellation), there’s going to be a Super Leaders Fest where EVERONE will do a one-shot, MORE work for our heroes. And so the hardworking series about hardworking people, FINALLY brings the episode to a close. Get some rest, guys.

Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun 6 is as lively as Bakuman’s episode, but here it’s due to working into the jokes.

Haru’s bluntness is sometimes a good thing.

The episode juggles two stories at once, and I got a little bewildered by it. We start with Shizuku realizing that she’s in love, and we see her reaction: That just won’t do. It’s hurting her grades. But we’re almost immediately thrown into Oshima’s backstory (no friends, lonely, etc). Hers is rather like Shizuku’s except the latter doesn’t seem to care if she’s alone or not. This isn’t true, but that’s the appearance, and what she’s telling herself. Haru blunders into Oshima’s sadness and decides to do something about it whether Oshima wants him to or not. Just like that, Oshima has friends. If that’s not bewildering enough for her, the nearly-forgotten Shizuku story decides to mess with THAT, because it’s interfering with her studies. One, no, two great scenes follow.

The first, Haru’s “make Oshima friends” meeting sets off Shizuku, who’s trying to study. After she says a few blunt things to Haru, he returns the favor, while the girl they’re meeting about sits cowed, wondering if it’s all her fault they’re fighting. Shizuku later says no. And the next day there’s another scene where she finds herself in the middle, and her sudden outburst about Haru’s density about love rattles everyone but us. Watching from a distance we’re seeing her not as a strange, unliked outsider girl, but a member of a group with her own idiosyncrasies, if she can only realize it. The scene also carries a wonderful depiction of Shizuku’s blunt honesty. She basically says she’s avoiding him because she’s in love with him and it’s a distraction from her studies, without using word “love.” So while we’re reeling from those scenes we get a “date,” where Shizuku has reset herself completely, claiming she’s no longer attracted to him, and while we know she wants to study, we can’t figure out why she’s enclosed herself like that all over again. In a side scene Yuzan claims that Haru is a coward, but it’s Shizuku who’s doing the running away right now, while sitting there studying.

Happy to see Miki got work after iDOLM@STER.

You can’t really blame the Saunders team for “cheating” in Girls und Panzer 5, after Yukari had snuck into their school and infiltrated a strategy meeting. Besides, there’s nothing against it in the rulebook. It does, however, make you wonder why all the teams don’t rely on cell phones if they’re available and not the radio. This is overall a silly show so you have to expect some of it won’t bear close scrutiny. We can thank Miho for turning the tables on Saunders in the first place. So by episode end our heroes still have all five tanks and Saunders has only … nine. Elsewhere, we meet Miho’s sister, who apparently is with Black Forest Park School, and who comes off as just plain evil, at the panzer cafe. Of course they have panzer cafes.