Image source: 「ガールズ&パンツァー」公式アカウント on Twitter

I went in expecting a casual, lighthearted little flick and ended up having arguably the most fun I’ve had in a movie theater all year.

Boiled down to a single phrase, Girls und Panzer is essentially “cute girls in tanks.” The 2012 anime series became a sensation that sparked a tank craze among Japanese otaku—much like KanColle did with warships—and even successfully put the rural town of Ōarai, that had been hurt by the 2011 earthquake, on the map. After a successful TV series, an OVA, and film, the series is entering its final chapter with a six-episode OVA series, the first of which was released to theaters.

In the final series, Girl und Panzer das Finale, the Ōarai Girls High School faces a new crisis when it is revealed that one of the members of their sensha-dō team and former member of the student council, Momo Kawashima, may be unable to qualify for any colleges. Hope arises with the reinstating of an old sensha-dō tournament, the Winter “Infinite Orbit Cup.” If Momo is able to prove her abilities in sensha-dō, she might be able to get in to a college on merit. This leads the girls to gather a ninth tank and crew for their team and enter their first match against an opponent they’ve never faced before, the BC Liberty school.

Structurally, the first episode is divided into two halves. The first half introduces the new problem and focuses on finding a new tank and introducing the new characters who will serve as its crew. The second half focuses on the actual tournament and the initial tank battle with the BC Liberty school team. Perhaps it’s because it’s only a little over 45 minutes and not a full length movie, but the episode makes full use of its screen time with hardly a single moment that feels like it’s dragging at all. Events happen one after another in a smooth pace moving you along through the story so that by the end you feel almost like you’ve seen a full movie despite the half-length.

While the first half focuses is mostly entertaining character moments, the second half plays to the tank fans. You could pretty much call it tank porn with the loving shots of each tank and individual audio for the different tank treads and gun fire. There’s something primal and satisfying about seeing heavy machinery thundering across a field.

Image source: 「ガールズ&パンツァー」公式アカウント on Twitter

As a series, Girls und Panzer is about having fun. While there are heavy stakes and moments of heightened emotions, there is always an overarching atmosphere of lightheartedness. After all, this is a series involving combat with tanks using explosive rounds in which no one dies. The first episode of das Finale continues on this path, making it all about the entertainment. As this is the first episode of six, while the episode itself has what could be called a conclusion, it ends very much in the middle of things.

At it very premise, Girls und Panzer is ridiculous. You have young girls maintaining and piloting tanks. They’re shooting at each other with live rounds that can obliterate the surrounding environment, but no one gets hurt. If you’re hung up on any of that and can’t let it go, then das Finale will do absolutely nothing to change your mind. However, if you’re already on board and are in simply for the entertainment, then the first chapter does not disappoint. If you’re there to enjoy it, enjoy it you will. It’s all about having fun even if there is little in terms of depth. I wouldn’t call my time in the theater the most enriching or psychologically stimulating experience this year, but it was hands down the most fun.

Image source: 「ガールズ&パンツァー」公式アカウント on Twitter

On a side note, the movie, Girls und Panzer der Film gained a lot of notice in Japan for its release in 4DX theaters. 4DX is one of a variety of synchronized rumble-seat technologies which essentially turn movies into rides. The creators have announced that after the release of the second chapter of das Finale, the first and second chapters will be released together in 4DX theaters. It’s fairly obvious throughout the first chapter of certain areas where they plan to utilize the 4DX motion and vibration functions. I, for one, cannot wait.

Image source: 「ガールズ&パンツァー」公式アカウント on Twitter

The first chapter of Girls und Panzer das Finale was released in Japanese theaters on December 9, 2017. There is currently no word on an international release.

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