It takes a special breed of villainous bureaucrat to renege on a promise to a group of high school girls after they’ve just won the athletic championship that was supposed to save their school from closing down, but that’s exactly the premise that puts the wheels (or in this case, the tank treads) in motion in Girls und Panzer der Film.
In Girls und Panzer, an original 2012 TV anime with direction by Tsutomu Mizushima and animation by Actas, the members of the Oarai Girls High School tankery teams band together against great odds to defeat the reigning “senshado” champions in a last-ditch effort to save their high school. In Girls und Panzer der Film, a 2015 theatrical movie that picks up where the TV series leaves off, main character and reluctant scion to the Nishizumi school of tank combat Miho Nishizumi is at it again. It turns out that the verbal agreement to keep Oarai High open isn’t the worth the nonexistent paper that it’s printed on, and as a result the school is going to shut down and the tankery teams will be disbanded. The girls of Oarai High must once again team up to challenge a vastly superior foe: if Miho and company can defeat a professional caliber, college-level tankery team in a grueling annihilation match, they will save their beloved high school once and for all. Outnumbered and outgunned, will the girls and their panzers be able to pull off another stunning victory?
Girls und Panzer is a great show, full of masterfully executed action set pieces and comedic beats, so it’s not a knock to say that Girls und Panzer der Film is more of the same, albeit with a two-hour run time and a movie-caliber budget. The plot is just a flimsy excuse for more tank-battle shenanigans, as a cast of dozens of colorful characters—from the hall monitors of Mallard Team to the military history otaku of Hippo Team to the stereotypically foreign teams from rival schools—engage in the traditionally feminine sport of tankery. Since Girls und Panzer der Film is a direct sequel, it doesn’t spend a lot of time explaining key details, such as Miho’s strained relationship with her elder sister and her mother, the nature of the carrier ship high schools, or the fundamentals of “senshado” competition. The film assumes that you’re already familiar with the setting, characters, and conflicts of the television series, so it’s not really the best jumping off point for someone who is new to Girls und Panzer.
That being said, the action sequences that book-end the film are spectacular. Girls und Panzer der Film opens with an exhibition match that destroys most of downtown Oarai, while the movie concludes with an annihilation match that runs wild within an abandoned theme park. The editing and camerawork in these scenes are exceptional, especially the point-of-view shots that thrust the audience into the turrets of the dueling tanks. And like the earlier anime, Girls und Panzer der Film makes use of director Mizushima’s sharp sense of comedic timing.
One of my favorite additions is a mascot character named Punchy who is beloved by both Miho and the rival team captain, Alice Shimada. In a microcosm of the never-say-die spirit of the series, Punchy is a teddy
bear whose chief strength is his ability to endure being walloped.
Girls und Panzer der Film proved remarkably popular during its theatrical run in Japan, which lasted more than a year and garnered more than 2.4 billion yen in ticket sales. Now Sentai Filmworks is bringing the further adventures of the Oarai Girls High School tankery teams to North American home video, and like the earlier releases of the Girls und Panzer TV series and OAVs, the film includes a well-produced English dub as well as the original Japanese language track. I highly recommend it to anyone who is already familiar with the charming combination of sports competition and moe military anime that is Girls und Panzer.
studio/company: Section23 Films/Sentai