I’ll get all the deferential flimflam out of the way first: I know very little about romance manga and anime and, if Ao Haru Ride (Blue Spring Ride) is anything to go by, I know even less about teenagers as well. Though I often try to forget, I too was once an adolescent but due to circumstances I won’t elaborate on, most of that time was, for me at least, spent surviving high school rather than, well, anything that goes on in Ao Haru Ride.
not just furtive glances and accidental touches, oh no
Futaba had a crush on Kou in middle school until he up and disappeared. And now he’s come rocketing back into her life, with floppier hair, a fancy new last name and a whole heap of emotional baggage. Broken bird meet your new caretaker! Or so I thought. What I expected going into the series was a story of teen romance and certainly the opening episode seems to be heading that way. Only it’s less of a teen romance than a teen drama which, when I sloughed off my expectations, turned out to be a lot better than just a straightforward puppy love schmaltz.
As I was sorting through the screenshots for Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun (Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun) I found myself first smirking, then chuckling, laughing, and then finally guffawing so much that I had to rewatch one of the scenes just to provide some kind of closure. It’s that kind of series: where in context it’s funny but in isolation, it’s perhaps even more so.
grinning since the moment the episode started
It starts humbly enough with that most stalwart of high school romance tropes: the confession. In this case by the adorably diminutive Chiyo Sakura to the tall and stoic Umetarou Nozaki. Confusion abounds when he thinks she is asking for an autograph because she’s a fan of his shoujo manga. That’s the hook at least, in reality the series relies on two core jokes that the rest orbit around.
Everything you need to know about the Photo Kano anime series is in the image above. You might not think so, but what if I said the source material was a dating sim? Seven girls (“routes”), sure, but take note of the legwear sported by each of them. This is a series that is predicated not only on choosing a girl, but on that girl’s personality being defined by their tights, stockings or socks. Guess which of the girls in the picture is the childish gymnast? Sporty tomboy? Bit more difficult: childhood friend?
No ideas? What if all the girls were instead represented by potted plants?
Yeah I’m not really sure why either. Language of flowers anyone?
“Ugh, nothing happens!” is one of the oft uttered arguments against contemporary, character-led light comedies or, more colloquially, “slice of life” series. In a sense it is largely true; nothing burns, dies, transforms, flies, barrel rolls, crashes, magically disappears, is chased or otherwise suddenly explodes in slice of life series. It’s an argument that’s largely missing the point though, for as mercurial as the definition of “slice of life” is, the focus is largely on presenting an exaggerated take on the mundanity of everyday life. This is to say nothing of the contentiousness of the phrase and its taxonomic convention, carrying as it does agingvolumes of discussion, regardless of the term’s demotic usage.
just a peaceful amble [...] with copious hair brushing and peculiar banter
Three recent (ish) anime which typify the spirit, if not the minutiae, of the term include Acchi Kocchi (Place to Place), GJ-bu (GJ club) - both of which peer into the lives of middle/high-school students - and Servant × Service (or to give it its full title Servant × Service ☑) which deals with the rarely seen world of an entry level Japanese government employee. It is perhaps fair to say though that the success of such a series largely relies upon the personalities of the characters and the ability to keep either the comedy or the drama fresh enough across its run.
In a world where tanks are a part of everyday life, and pre-UN countries send teenage girls out in war machines to fight not to the death, but to the white flag, one rag-tag team will face their toughest opponent yet. Can they overcome all the odds, work as a team and deal with all of their various family issues and rise to the top?
Of course they can. Girls Und Panzer is an underdog story with just about every trope from the genre ticked off. Think Cool Runnings as an anime, except tanks instead of bobsleds. The knowledge that the girls of Oorai High School can't lose - at least not always in conventional terms - should make this a by the numbers affair. That it manages to be not only supremely entertaining but equally tense and heartfelt speaks volumes for a familiar idea well implemented.