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.
This was just a recap of the story so far, providing some new details about the new characters and tanks, but nothing we hadn’t already researched (on the tank side, that is.) As expected, the main story remains frozen at the start of Black Forest Peak’s sneak attack on Ooarai. (No Rating)
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.
Having beaten Anzio, Oorai moves on to the semifinals, where they’ll face the Russian school Pravda, the foe that defeated Black Forest Peak because of Miho. Her mother intends to disinherit her. The match will take place in the Arctic, and Oorai is outnumbered 15 to 6 by Pravda, led by the bad-tempered, hyper-competitive Katyusha. Miho wants to tread carefully, but the teams want to launch a single direct attack on Pravda’s flag tank to end the match quickly. In their haste, they’re drawn into a village and surrounded by Pravda. Katyusha sends an envoy, who tells them they have three hours to surrender. The student council tells Miho if they lose, Oorai Girl’s School will be closed down.
First, we just want to point out how silly it is to allow 15-on-6 mismatches. The Saunders team cut down their strength to make it a fair fight ; no such luck with Pravda. They’re playing to win, and they aim to crush their inferior foe like a bug; though their rendition of “Katyusha” is very lovely, and belies the fact Katyusha the girl is an insufferable little brat. Second: if your school’s future is on the line, why would the student council agree on the riskiest strategy to win the match – a direct attack on a team that excels at counterattacks – and only inform Miho about the stakes when they’re cornered and about to lose anyway?
Cornered is putting it mildly; two of Oorai’s six tanks are damaged, and in three hours they have ot make a move, the cold will play a factor. There’s no way they’re getting out of that abandoned church in one piece, unless perhaps all the other tanks form a physical barrier preventing the Russkies from hitting the flag tank. Even then, once those tanks are immobilized, the flag is trapped. While the news of the school being closed down if they lose comes out of left field and the girls are a bit foolhardy, this was nonetheless a rousing, fun episode packed with action and peril, aided by the harsh arctic settting.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
Tank Cameos: Pravda’s main force is composed of 13 T-34 tanks, the mainstay of the Soviet army in WWII. The other two tanks are absolute monsters: a KV-2 (Kliment Voroshilov) Heavy Artillery Tank packing a 152 mm howitzer, and a JS-2 (Iosif or Joseph Stalin) with a 122 mm gun. Darjeeling watches the match beside her ACV-IP armoured car.
With Mako’s grandmother on the mend, the girls head back to the ship and prepare for their next opponent, Anzio. When Miho is hit by a barrage of requests for advice and help, the other members of Team Anglerfish divvy up the work. Despite the group making progress, Miho is doubtful their current compliment of tanks is good enough to withstand future matches. Isuzu discovers records of other tanks aboard ship, so the president orders the teams to search for them. They find a Renault B1 bis in a creek, and another tank in the bowels of the ship. Despite neither being ready in time, Team Oorai quickly defeats Team Anzio in the next round.
Miho comes from a very stern, serious family that values victory above all else and at any cost. The Nishizumi motto is “Forward Ever, Backward Never” (it probably sounds cooler in Japanese). So when she placed the welfare of her teammates over victory in a battle that, if victorious, would have earned her school its tenth consecutive title, and lost, she didn’t stick around an endure the storm of hate. She moved forward, away from her family, and to a new school. She thought she was moving on, but fortune put her right back into a tank, and she kept moving forward. Miho learns Mako’s parents are dead (of course they are), and that things didn’t end well between Mako and her mother (they fought the last time they saw each other). Miho doesn’t want thinks to end like that with her mom, when she inevitably meets an early end because she’s the parent of an anime character.
Joking aside, for an episode that had no tank battles, it was still very lively and entertaining. We liked how Hana, Mako, Yukari and Saori all took pressure off Miho by handling the many requests of their teammates. This was a nice time to expand our familiarity with some of the other teammates, as well as explore the ship and its bowels. Saori’s explanation for why they’re on a ship – “To cultivate the next generation of world leaders, and to strengthen independence and self reliance in youths” – is priceless. But the team also has a sheen of confidence about them after their first victory, and the episode quite abruptly closes with their second consecutive victory over Anzio. This episode focused on preparation, world-building, and characters rather than battle. And it did a good job with it.
Rating: 6 (Good)
Saunders’ Arisa continues to cheat, but she leads Kei to an empty location. One of the Oorai teams finds Saunders’ flag panzer by accident, and they lead it into the clearing where the other Oorai panzers are waiting. Kei balances the battle by relieving Arisa with just four of her panzers, including Naomi in the Firefly. Two Oorai teams are taken out, and the remaining three are sandwiched between the flag panzer and the rest of the Saunders team. Miho’s panzer climbs a ridge, and Naomi follows them. Hana manages to take out Arisa’s flag panzer a moment before Naomi takes them out, and they’re victorious. Their day of victory ends with a call to Mako informing her her grandmother fell; Miho’s sister lends her a helicopter to rush to Oorai.
After all the twists and turns and distortion of reality in the Eureka Seven finale, it was nice to settle back into some nice, uncomplicated girl-on-girl tank warfare (that just sounds wrong). And after really putting the nasty, f-bomb-spewing cheater Arisa (voiced by Haruhi herself) right in our faces for extended periods of time, we were pretty confident the episode wouldn’t let someone that insufferable win and gloat about it later on. Instead she gets scolded by her Commander Kei, who preferred a fair fight to total domination.
Saunders lost, but it was a honorable and exciting battle, not an easy, boring win. Such chivalry is part of Sensha-do, or Tankery, or Panzerfahren, or whatever you wanna call it. And it was exciting: lots of tanks chasing other tanks like a game of armored tag. And it’s not a total victory for Oorai either, but a win by the seat of their pants, as Hana manages to get her shot off a heartbeat before the too-cool-for-school, gum-chewing Naomi. Mako’s sudden family emergency caught us off guard; it was apparently a reminder that at the end of the day, all this playing around in tanks isn’t as important as family…we guess.
Rating: 6 (Good)
In preparation for Oorai’s battle with Saunders, Yukari infiltrates their school and collects recon. Her cover is blown, but she learns what their flag Panzer will be. Still, Saunders is an exceedingly wealthy school with three teams, and they’ll be sending ten Panzer against Oorai’s five. The match begins, and Oorai soon learns Saunders is using a radio interception balloon to listen in, so they switch to cell phones and make the first kill.
While enjoying Panzer-shaped desserts delivered to the table by RC Dragon Wagons in a Panzer cafe, Miho and her team cross paths with her sister Maho and her flunky, Erika. Their exchange is, shall we say, chilly, with Erika calling Miho’s school “nameless” and their efforts an “insult to Panzerfahren”, while Maho says…nothing. She warns Miho not to soil the Nishizumi name in the coming battle. But while the confrontation is unpleasant all Miho & Co. can do is keep their eyes on the immediate match against Saunders, which commences in the episode’s second half and will conclude (one would think in Oorai’s favor) next week. As always, the odds are against them.
The Saunders Panzer corps emulate the Americans in all things, including Shock-and-Awe with regards to their numbers, facilities and resources. But they also possess a healthy dollop of arrogance and overconfidence. Arisa listens in on communications, apparently unaware all that needed to happen for her to be getting false info would be someone on Oorai spotting her balloon, which is exactly what happens. It’s Oorai that draws “first blood”, so now it’s nine on five, with the Saunders Shermans spread out all over. Now that she knows what both Hana (being disowned) and Yukari (having friends for the first time) have invested in Panzerfahren, Miho is compelled to prevail. Thumbing her nose at Maho won’t hurt, either.
Rating: 6 (Good)
Car Cameos: Darjeeling and Orange Pekoe watch the match beside their vintage “Pink Panther”, a modified Land Rover used by the British Army’s Special Air Service.
Tank Cameos: As stated, an M25 “Dragon Wagon” Tank Transporter deposits tank-shaped treats to the girls. The Saunders team is composed of ten Sherman tanks, including one Firefly, one M4A1 76mm, and eight 75mm. Yukari spots rare M4A6s on the Saunders hanger deck.
The friendly between Oorai and St. Gloriannas begins with a simple baiting tactic Darjeeling easily sees through. Her counterattack causes Team D to panic and abandon their tank and Team E loses a track. Miho orders C and D to fall back and re-engage the Brits downtown where they use stealth tactics, and Miho even has Darjeeling one-on-one at point-blank, but the Churchill’s superior armor wins the day. After losing and performing the Anglerfish Dance with Team E, Team A shops around town. They bump into Hana’s mother, who faints upon hearing she has joined tankery. Hana refuses to budge, and her mother disowns her. The girls recieve tea from St. Gloriannas, a symbol that they were a worthy opponent. They enter the national tournament.
This week the show about teenage girls battling in tanks who live on giant city-ships goes for realism: that is to say, when it comes to the ultimate result of the Oorai Tankery Club’s fist match. It leaves victory in reach as long as it can, but ultimately St. Glorianna’s prevails, as it should have. It’s a hell of a fight, though, with tanks darting all over the place. We’re still not clear how this is at all safe (especially when the tanks start doing real damage in the town), but…who cares! As Miho continues to improvise ways to keep her chances alive, Darjeeling gets more competitive, even spilling her black tea – something she promised she would never do! Still, training, discipline, experience and armor win out over rawness, pluck, luck, and a commander still finding her footing.
The tank battle never lags, and as we said, had our belief in the underdog’s defeat suspended. But surprisingly, the friendly isn’t even the whole episode. After the Anglerfish dance (which indeed looked just as horrible as the girls insisted), they simply enjoy the town that graciously and eagerly hosted their battle. And then they bump into Hana’s mother, and we learn that even in this world that deems tankery the most feminine thing you can do, there are some who harbor the opposite opinion. Hana’s is a family of flower arrangers, and it’s shocking how swiftly her quick-to-faint mother freakin’ disowns her when she refuses to give up tankery. Miho simply allowed herself to get mixed into something she was already very well versed in, but Hana has forsaken her family calling and dived into the glory of tankery head first. That makes her pretty cool.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
Tank Cameo: The Oorai team’s next opponent, Saunders, is from America. They appropriately ride in M4 Shermans – lots of them – to the playing of The Battle Hymn of the Republic.
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.