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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.