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Posts Tagged ‘Nishizumi Miho’

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“You know, I thought the world ended right then and there. With that last blast against Black Forest Peak, I thought there couldn’t be something more exciting, more incredible waiting ahead. So I thought I would be satisfied, whatever the result…”

So yeah, when I started watching this show, I had no intention of shipping any of the characters together. Blame the people highlighting jealous Yukari screenshots and the like.

I have probably had more experience with writing “opposites attract” couples than similar people coming together, but I see Yukari and Miho as the latter. Both of them suffer from low self-esteem/self-confidence and need acceptance, a place to stretch their wings after a period of hardship. 

When taking on Girls und Panzer in general, and especially Yukari as the main pov of a story, I thought there were two basic rules to follow:

  1. No matter how serious the characters’ intentions, the execution must be sufficiently silly.
  2. The best way to express feelings is through a tank.

Other than that, the setting of Girls und Panzer offers a fun challenge in the often invisible differences between the common sense of its inhabitants and that of our world. The existence of a tank license, with separate rules and regulations, is a necessity brought about by the existence of sensha-dou. The south-east standard mentioned in the story refers to the south-eastern part of the city as seen on a standard map, which is drawn with the assumption that the bow of the ship is pointing north.

Here’s hoping that both of the girls find themselves stronger people after their adventure with this year’s sensha-dou tournament is over.

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Another week behind us, and Girls und Panzer continues to do its magic. Episode eight has a fair share of poignant moments. The student council fold in their attempt to tell Miho the whole truth about the stakes of the tournament. Mako effortlessly sees through Sodoko’s haughty front. The girls agree that giving up is actually an option (!). But it seems I am not alone in singling out the Russian loli rendition of “Katyusha” as the one scene that blew away all others.

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At first, I just realized the song was awesome. It took me some time (and pressing the repeat button many, many times) before I started wondering why exactly the impact of the insert song is so great. There is the obvious element of surprise – Russian in our anime, the war anthem coming completely out of left field – Girls und Panzer’s ability to combine silly and cool to make something completely fresh. But I think the scene would not have been half as powerful if not for its context, the place it takes in the episode as a whole.

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First of all, we meet Katyusha, the Russian loli commander who is doing her best to raise all the overconfident-and-incompetent-villain flags in existence. She calls her opponents a nameless school, feels no need to keep in shape before the battle, fails to research the opposing team properly and does not listen when her own vice-commander offers advice. All of this in a one-minute scene. Later on in the episode, we will also learn that she has a superiority and height complex and motivates her schoolmates by throwing threats at them. As if that was not overkill, the official twitter account of the show mentions that the reason Katyusha became commander of her unit was that it was her tank that shot down Miho’s flag tank in last year’s competition… and viewers are left to imagine how much of that was to Katyusha’s credit.

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Another thing clearly presented in this episode is how green the Ooarai girls still are, even after getting through two matches. You can see it every step of the way – the lukewarm motivation of the first-years, the way the girls fool around during practice and before the match. And to top it off, the final briefing shows how much the team lacks cohesion as the girls get carried away and pressure their experienced commander into changing her tactics.

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It is no coincidence that the Katyusha scene comes immediately after that briefing. In a matter of seconds, the false sense of security bestowed by the Russian commander’s portrayal is blown away. The Pravda team reveals itself as a single, breathing organism, a beast of war united under that one name – Katyusha. That the commander’s name overlaps with the name of the song adds another layer to the message, leaving no doubt that the Pravda girls will obey Katyusha’s orders to the last tank standing, just like the song itself is a tale of loyalty to one’s homeland and loved ones. There is no comparison whatsoever to the lack of discipline and integrity displayed by Ooarai.

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It is through those two contrasts that the rendition of Katyusha gains its significance as a scene, and that significance lends it power necessary to make as much of an impact as it does. Hats off to director Mizushima.

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“Keep in mind that a single Panzer IV tank shell weighs just below 7kg (15,4lbs)…” , “the tank hatch might seem thin and light, but it’s one heavy lump of metal…”, “the jacket buttons are just a decoration – there’s a zipper underneath…”.

If the final effect was not enough to clear any doubts, the detail-packed character setting sheets that recently found their way out into the net serve as a reminder of how much thought and work goes into the the creation of every original drawing (sakuga) frame presented in Girls und Panzer. (And the Miho sketches are damn cute, too.)

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The real-life town of Ooarai is currently cooling down from the recent Ankou Matsuri / Anglerfish Festival. Ooarai itself boasts a population of just a bit below twenty thousand, and in recent years the number of visitors for the festival has been estimated to total about twenty-five thousand. This year, however, the number of participants has suddenly shot up to around fifty-five thousand. I wonder why~

Tour around Ooarai (posted some time before the festival):

The Girls und Panzer crew can also be spotted on the Ibaraki prefecture home site and, naturally, on the Ooarai town home site. It should be no surprise, though, that those particular girls know how to carry out an invasion. Panzer vor!

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What mother disowns her daughter over the latter’s choice of club activities? Probably the kind that takes care to remind her daughter of the ‘proper distance’ between them with every sentence she speaks.

It is not unique to Japanese that very polite and formal language appears cold and distant from the listener. But with the greater complexity Japanese offers in terms of politeness levels of speech, the words chosen show much more about relationships between people than in many other languages.

Mrs. Isuzu apparently opts to address her daughter by <first name> + <san>. Considering the "first name basis" here to be mostly a necessity (as the two obviously share their last name), the main politeness indicator would be the <san> ending. It is commonly thought of as a (rough) equivalent to the western Mr./Mrs./Miss, which makes it quite formal indeed. Of course, it might seem silly for a western parent to address their child like that, but it is not unheard of among Japanese parents. Sometimes it is a matter of treating the child as an individual, without the condescension inherent in calling a child with a <kun> or <chan> ending. Sometimes the situation is just too formal for anything else. But here, it is just part of the refined image Mrs. Isuzu tries so hard to uphold.

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But if it is just about keeping up appearances in public, it might get better when in private, right? It does not seem so, as out of the gazillion ways Japanese has of saying “you”, Mrs. Isuzu decides to stick to <anata>. This particular pronoun can be linked to high-class and good upbringing, but it is as often seen as an easy way out when you do not know (or care about) somebody’s real name. After all, <anata> is as impersonal and neutral as Japanese gets, a word belonging mostly to language textbooks and Internet surveys.

This kind of environment had to leave its mark on Hana. The pressures of her upbringing and the expectations resting upon her shoulders are to be found in every sentence Hana speaks. From ending sentences in <desu wa>, through constantly using every polite noun and verb form you can think off (<hito> –> <kata>, <iru> –> <irassharu>, …) and up to complaining of a stomachache in historical play style (<jibyou no shaku ga>), Hana is walking proof of her mother’s principles.

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And of course, her name. Hana – the flower – obviously written in the traditional and more difficult way (花 –> 華), leaves little doubt about what Mrs. Isuzu expects her daughter to do with her life. Hana seems to have adapted to this way of way of life so well so far that the standoff between mother and daughter shown in episode four might have well been their first. And although Hana is perfectly polite throughout the entire exchange, it must have been a shock for her mother that Hana can even have a mind of her own.

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In stark contrast to the Isuzu family, the Akiyama household is much laxer in its approach to how they address each other. The head of the family addresses his wife by <omae>, which most people probably know as a rude form of address between males. Here, it actually shows how much at ease Yukari’s parents are with each other, not needing to hide behind any formalities. Mrs. Akiyama, on the other hand, points to her husband using the term <otou-san>, literally “father”. This is a typical leftover from the child raising period where everyone in the family is addressed from the child’s perspective, and it subtly implies a warm family atmosphere. The only highly polite language in those scenes is clearly humorous in nature – the ritualistic greeting from Yukari’s father coupled with a dogeza bow (normally reserved for apologizing for grave offences).

The difference between being polite and distant is best shown through Yukari’s mother. You can hear her using polite noun forms (<o-tomodachi>) coupled with informal verb forms to create a good balance when addressing her daughter’s friends – people she wants to be polite to without making the atmosphere too stiff.

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On the topic of family, we also have the slowly unraveling mystery of why Mako reports to her grandma and not her parents (considering her reaction to the Akiyama family photo, it’s likely more than a matter of convenience), early hints pointing to Miho’s harsh military-style upbringing and Saori’s comments about her doting father. All things considered, Girls und Panzer presents a set of characters with widely different familial backgrounds, something of a rarity with so many “disappearing-parents” anime.                      

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