Rating: 3/5 – A Proud Japanese Tradition – Girls and Tanks – Continues.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow.
In manga (and anime), there are certain longstanding traditions and thematic tropes which show up from time to time. The hero who finds himself surrounded by a harem of women, all vying for his affections. The team of newbies who must band together to pilot an experimental new giant robot craft. And of course…girls with tanks. Doubt my words? One need look no further than Masamune Shirow’s Leona and her mechanical pal, Bonaparte, from Dominion: Tank Police. Or there’s Ritsuko Inoue from Those Who Hunt Elves, with her Type 74 cat-possessed (work with me here) tank. And now we’ve got the popular anime Girls Und Panzer, brought to us in manga format by title of Girls & Panzer (for those not up on their German, I suppose?).
The plot is simple – Ooarai Girls’ Acadamy offers a course/club in Tankery, that team-building skill of operating old WWII era tanks in combat situations. So naturally five cute girls band together to become a squad and go up against other schools in what seems to be the oddest mash-up of sports and high school girls manga genres. If you’re scratching your head at this point, you should probably read more manga, as this is pretty tame on the weirdness scale. There, too, if you’re a tank lover, this may become one of your favorite books.
Artist Ryohichi Saitaniya obviously loves drawing tanks. It shows in the various different models that permeate the book (and are explored in more detail in a section at the end). Unfortunately, it would be nice to see him devote as much attention to the women themselves. Faces appear loosely on their frames in some panels, while in others it’s difficult to determine which girl is which. Characterization, too, has problems. One character is introduced as a tired, overworked genius, only to quickly become a take-charge driver within a few page turns. This is likely a result of the writing being done by committee, via the group “Girls Und Panzer Projekt”.
This leaves me to wonder if the anime might be the better route to take for those interested in the series, as the manga is spun off of it. In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I have not viewed the anime, but I think I will in the very near future to see if the difference is appreciable. It’s difficult to truly convey some of the action going on with a printed page. There’s an intensity that has to be lost with the static imagery, and Saitaniya’s artwork can only do so much to show it, particularly when it becomes unclear which girl is performing what action.
Girls & Panzer continues a fun trope in Japanese storytelling – that of girls and tanks – but it’s the weakest link of the titles I’ve mentioned earlier. Tank enthusiasts will enjoy Ryohichi Saitaniya’s command of vehicular design, but may find themselves disappointed with his uneven hand at drawing the girls commanding those vehicles. The story itself is entertaining enough, but it is likely better told in anime format, bringing the tanks and the girls to life in a way the books simply can’t.
Reviewed by: Al Sparrow – firstname.lastname@example.org
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