Girls And Panzer Complete OVA Series (Cert 12)
1 Disc (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 81 minutes approx.
When Girls And Panzer arrived a couple of months back, it was found to be a pleasant, amusing, often lightweight but original slice of moe fun based as it was around a group of school girls who indulge in World War II battle re-enactments using authentic tanks and weaponry from that period. It’s a concept that sounds too ludicrous to work or even take seriously as a central theme but work it did, being one of the more pleasant surprises of the year.
Aside from this interesting idea, it also scored points for its educational value in delving into the history of the tanks and the arsenals employed by soldiers from the great global skirmish of ’39-45. By providing us with some substance to counter the deliberately commercial tact of the cute, eye candy character designs the series has thus far been well received and the result is a feature length film which should have been released in Japan by the time you read this review.
So to whet our appetites in between the long period of anticipation before the film (hopefully) reaches our shores, MVM bring us a compilation of six mini OVA episodes that first appeared with the individual Japanese DVD releases. A reason to rejoice right?
Well sort of. There is a caveat that comes with these bonus clips. One thing that made the original TV series stand out from the other moe/school girl leads shows was the absence of fan service and eschewing of clichéd storylines and plot conventions, such as the almost obligatory beach episode or the strictly for laughs talent competition, none of which had any relevance or place within the focused storyline of the original series. Hence these OVAs.
This will either be your worst nightmare or your prayers answered but the first two instalments in this set feature our perky protagonists indulging in your typical flesh baring fashion parade as they all rush off to the nearest swimwear retailer for suitable attire for a trip to the beach. I’m not entirely sure why it is that no female character in the history on anime EVER seems to own a swimsuit or bikini until someone suggests a trip to the beach resulting in a last minute rush to buy one!
Anyway if not seeing your favourites from the Ōarai Girls’ High School line up, like Miho Nishizumi Saori Takebe, Hana Isuzu, Yukari Akiyama, Mako Reizei or the lolicon Student Council head Anzu Kadotani, in skimpy beach wear in the TV series left you disappointed and unfulfilled, these OVAs are your manna from heaven. Complete with the giggly cheesecake poses and frivolity this is your gateway to boob infested bliss. Apparently bikinis are also regulated apparel for camping trips as we learn in the second episode where disaster strikes when they overcook the food for the barbecue. Oh noes!!!
The third OVA begins with a promise to the chaste direction of the series as we take a deeper look into the ocean drifting academies these adventures are set on. If you recall, instead of dwelling on land entire communities have been built on the back of giant aircraft carrier type ships. Of course this negates the previous beach episodes because how can there be a costal line when the borders of the land are in fact on the ship itself? Logic gap aside, this is our first in depth look at these floating communities and very welcome it is too, although the episode ends with the girls in an open air onsen – onboard the ship, naturally.
After the brief diversion of the Anglerfish Dance in part four the fifth part takes us back top one of the arcs from the series; to be precise the contest against the rival Russian squad from Pravda. In this adjunct to that story, two of the Ōarai girls Yukari and Erwin find themselves lost on a recon mission and are forced to disguise themselves as Pravda students in order to ensure a safe return to their own station. This could quite easily have been included in the original storyline as a pertinent subplot as opposed to being an incongruent inclusion in this supplementary selection, such is the clash in both its content and its direct relevance to the parent series.
Finally we get the full blown comic relief of the talent contest which should – and does – raise a giggle or two. There are a couple of the usual oblique cultural references thrown in that will be lost in translation, but the humour on the whole is broad enough for most of us foreigners to appreciate it, with some cute spoofs that should be universally recognisable.
Despite being mere bonus additions to the franchise, the animation and visual presentations are up to the standard of the main series so no complaints on that front. Obviously the decision to take the characters down the typical paths refreshingly avoided in the TV series might be seen as a disappointment depending on how seriously one takes this show. However we should be somewhat grateful that these tired clichés were relegated to these OVAs and don’t interfere with the focus of the main series; this means though that as special attractions, the fact these there OVAs don’t really add anything to the series, they aren’t quite so special after all – unless you really want to see the cute cast in bikinis!
While admittedly hugely fun fluff pieces, hackneyed and predictable material aside, this OVA collection, in all honesty, isn’t really an essential purchase unless you happen to be an absolute die hard Girls And Panzer fan, in which case indulge yourself. For everyone else who would prefer more of what the main series offered, best wait for the film!
Japanese Language w/ English Subtitles
Impersonations Take 2
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animations
Rating – ***
Man In Black