Ōarai Girls High School is basically a charter school with tanks. As is often the case for charters, the Ministry of Education would like to shut them down, but it is politically difficult for them to do so, as long as Ōarai keeps winning their sensha-dō armored warfare matches. Once again, the plucky Oarai tank crews will have to win to save their beloved academy, but this time they will have to face off against a seasoned college team in Tsutomu Mizishima’s (dubbed) anime feature, Girls und Panzer der Film (trailer here), which is currently screening across the country, including tonight in Los Angeles.
The Ōarai team commanded by Miho Nishizumi will experience a rare defeat in an exhibition match. Allied with the more impulsive Chihatan Academy, they lost to the joint forces of St. Glorianna and Pravda, who sound like they should be bitter enemies, but this is anime, so whatever. To add insult to injury, the oily Department of Ed bureaucrat suddenly explains an oral contract is not worth the paper it is printed on, so he is closing Ōarai despite their agreement.
However, thanks to the intercession of a rival’s benefactor desiring a re-match, Ōarai gets one more chance to save their school, but they will have to face the university champions, commanded the child genius, Alice Shimada. Ōarai is vastly outnumbered and outgunned, but they get surprise reinforcements from the other high school teams, who arrange temporary transfers to even the odds.
Basically, der Film is two massive tanks battles separated by a mild bit of fan service. As blueprints for anime features go, it is certainly a workable plan that takes into account what the franchise’s fans want and delivers accordingly. The tank action is undeniably supercharged and over-the-top explosive, but chief animation director Isao Sugimoto and his team make the battlefield action clear and easy to follow.
Granted, der Film does not waste a lot of time on character development, but it is probably assumed most of the audience will be familiar with the GirlPan crew from the manga and television anime series. Besides, what’s not to get? They are high school girls who blast the heck out of each other in vintage WWII tanks, periodically stopping for a cup of tea.
It is easy to imagine Newton Minowesque critics of TV and film violence blowing a gasket over GirlPan’s war games, in which tanks take direct hits from artillery shells, resulting in a little white flag dispatched, while the big-eyed crews pile out, safe as houses. It is not very realistic, but this is a fantastical anime world—and it is a lot of fun.