The Ooarai team nevertheless keeps Black Forest Peak on its toes through the use of unconventional tactics like smokescreens, towing their slowest tank with the others, reaching the high ground, then using the 38(t) to weave in and out of the enemy formation. The orderly discipline of Black Forest Peak is shaken up, allowing Ooarai to break through and make a run for it. They ford a river, but the Rabbit team’s M3 stalls in the middle. Rather than leave it behind, Miho stops and helps them out. They enter a town, but a super-heavy Maus is waiting, and takes out the Ducks’ Type 89B and the Hippos’ StuG III.
We were going to wait until the twelfth and final episode aired to do a review, but then we thought, “why would we do that to ourselves”, and also didn’t feel like waiting. We daresay it was worth the wait: this episode provides perhaps the most tank-on-tank combat awesomeness per minute than any previous episode. And with good reason: it’s the final battle! Not only is it yet another underdog battle, but it’s also a battle of wills and philosophies. Miho wants to conduct a caring, loving Panzerfahren that treats no one as disposable and puts the lives of her comrades before victory, while still aiming for victory, in defiance of the Nishizumi School.
The thing is, while their cheeky and audacious tactics do indeed rile up a good many of the Black Forest Peak team – and piss off Erika to no end – Peak’s leader, Miho’s sister Maho, remains an island of tranquility in a sea of chaos. Whatever her lil’ sis throws at her, she’s not going to lose control of the situation like Miho’s previous foes did. Even with all of Ooarai’s efforts, the fact is they’ve lost three tanks and are down to five against Maho’s seventeen, including that ridiculously massive, scary Maus. Despite all of their small victories throughout this episode, by it’s end, defeating Black Forest Peak seems no more plausible than the first time we laid eyes on their massive force.
Student council members Kadotani, Koyama and Kawashima tell the others how they were informed before the year began that Ooarai Girls’ School would be shut down as part of budget cuts, because it’s an unremarkable school with no major accomplishments. Miho rallies the girls, and sends Irwin, Yukari, Mako and Midoriko to scout out Pravda’s positions. After repairing the tanks and strategizing, Ooarai bursts out of their corner at top speed, managing to catch Pravda off-guard. They split their forces and keep the Duck Team in the flag tank on the move. Yukari finds the Pravda flag tank. Anglerfish Team corrals it into a trap and Hippo takes it out, but almost simultaneously, Nonna hits the Duck Team…
Ooarai Girls School were dealt a rough hand. The Student Council insists that they have to win the Panzerfahren championship in order to avoid the school getting closed down because it sucks. While we can understand their reluctance to let their classmates know about this, they couldn’t have picked a worse time to drop it on everyone. Some people work better under pressure, but others fold like a table. Fortunately, Miho isn’t one of the latter, and she marshals the troops with an inspiring Anglerfish dance. What follows is the most heated battle of the series, and it’s an absolute hoot. Yes, Pravda makes it easy by keeping their forces totally sedentary for the extent of the truce, allowing Ooarai to craft an intricate path to victory.
And they make it!…or do they? Nonna definitely hits their flag tank, but the Hippo Team takes care of theirs. This episode doesn’t tell us who won, but somehow we doubt they’ll lose. Even if they do, Pravda’s victory is so thin, perhaps the Ministry will spare a school like Ooarai anyway, as a young, bold Panzerfahren team that’s shown promise, and very nearly taken victory from the jaws of defeat against a far superior adversary. Or they just won. In any case, the fast-paced underdog battle is an excellent payoff, with Ooarai’s inferior tanks darting and juking every which way, narrowly missing volley after volley. If Pravda lost, it wasn’t just because its leader Katyusha was a little too confident and indulgent. It was because Miho and her team never gave up.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
P.S. We half-predicted Polyushka Polye to be played before this arc was out, and we were right! That’s our favorite Soviet march song.
Mako jumps aboard Team A’s Panzer before being run over, and while attempting to cross a bridge, a shot from another team knocks out Hana. Mako takes the controls, and Team A successfully immobilizes the other four teams, winning the mock battle. Hana, Saori, and Yukari name Miho their new commander, and Yukari grudgingly joins as driver. The class president arranges a friendly practice match against the elite St. Glorianna Girls’ School, and names Miho mission commander. The Ooarai township makes port as the match is to take place on dry land.
In spite of the inherent ridiculousness of the premise of this show, we find ourselves eminently charmed by its elegant execution and the earnest portrayal of its many characters. This is a world that is confident in its convictions and in its ability to tell a straightforward story that also entertains and delights. We still aren’t quite sure how no one gets injured from shells being fired at one another (even non-explosive ones – shrapnel, anyone?) but there’s clearly some underlying technology ensuring the girls’ safety (including those automatic white flags). It may lower the stakes, but it also makes a high school tankery team more plausible if the girls aren’t at risk of getting maimed each time they roll out.
We also liked how the various teams decked out their tanks: from feudal banners and war paint to gold-plating. One team even had the temerity to paint their M3 hot pink. Tank history buff Yukari makes sure the Type IV is spared external “personalization”, but the inside is made more livable with cushions and knick-knacks. While it’s never explained why the town is on the flight deck of a huge ship, an even huger ship shows up to dispatch the St. Glorianna contingent, cementing Ooarai’s new Tankery team as green underdogs. They’ll be leaning heavily on Nishizumi Miho’s tank pedigree, experience, and leadership.
Rating: 6 (Good)
Tank Cameos: The St. Glorianna’s team operates British Matilda II tanks, led by a single Churchill Mk VII. (thx Sonya!) Their insignia is of a Western tea service.