Before starting this review, I should point out that I'm no expert in Manga or Anime. My exposure to Japanese cartoons consists of watching a few episodes of Pokemon. So please feel free to correct any mistakes I make in the comment box below.
I've never watched a full anime series or film. So when ‘Girls und Panzer' popped up in my Netflix feed, I was a little surprised. I can only presume Netflix knew I liked to watch Tank documentaries, and that I'd recently started watching the Japanse reality series ‘Terrace House'. The super-smart Netflix algorithm put two and two together and came up with ‘Girls und Panzer', to be fair the impressive rendering of the Tanks on the preview clip was enough to pique my interest. So maybe the algorithm isn't that dumb after all.
Within two minutes of starting the show, I had soooo many questions! Why does a Japanese high school have a collection of World War Two era tanks? Why is this town situated on the deck of an Aircraft carrier? What the hell is ‘Sensha-do'? Spoiler alert (it's a form of martial arts involving tanks). Why can only girls do it? Why are the schoolgirls wearing Nazi uniforms? The total ‘bonkersness' of this cartoon blew my mind. I feel there is a considerable backstory I've missed?
Once you can get past these questions, or ignore them as I did. The story is relatively simple to follow. A group of young girls must compete in the prestigious ‘Sensha-do' championship for the honour of their school. The series focuses on the young ladies of Ooarai Girls Academy; a school where girls learn how to battle with all kinds of WWII tanks. As mentioned earlier, the tanks are incredible well-rendered, and the girls learn authentic tank fighting tactics from WWII. I was surprised to see the tactics used in ‘Girls und Panzer' were more realistic than those depicted in the Hollywood tank movie ‘Fury' – honestly!
Series 1 has 12 episodes and culminates with our girls battling the legendary German ‘Maus' tank. A battle I thoroughly enjoyed watching, as the ‘Maus‘ never actually went into production before the end of WWII, this cartoon is the only way you'll get to see it in action.
If you're willing to suspend any sense of reality, this is an enjoyable animated series. OK, the premise is clearly bonkers, but so is Harry Potter! and Hogwarts doesn't even have tanks!