Friday, 9 August 2013

World of Girls und Panzer

So this isn't exactly breaking news any more, but it's still recent., the company behind the free-to-play pc game World of Tanks just announced that it will be launching in Japan this fall on September 5th. In order to help make the launch successful, they will be doing a collaboration with the recent anime Girls und Panzer. The details of the collaboration have not yet been announced.

Let me start off by saying... You have no idea how excited I am! I watched the Girls und Panzer anime back in the spring, and it was amazing! Actually, that show is the reason that I started to play World of Tanks. I was watching one of my friends play the game, and it looked like a lot of fun. Then he said "It's basically Girls und Panzer the game," and I knew I had to try it. I just have my four year old laptop, so I tend not to play pc games because it usually starts crying when I try to run them (i.e. over half of the time I played Batman: Arkham Asylum it was running at about 5 frames per second). But this game looked worth the risk, and it was free, so I figured, why not?

Four impressive looking tanks flanking the World of Tanks Logo.
Them tanks man. They'll get ya.
Yeah, it was freaking awesome. The game can be a bit intimidating to get into, just because there are so many choices (and you know how much I love choices). There are six different countries that you can choose tanks from, each of which has their own advancement track. Because it's a free-to-play game, it relies heavily on the rpg-style of "gain experience points, spend points to buy new, better things" to keep people playing. Personally, I'm a sucker for earning experience points (as attested to by my hours playing Call of Duty local multiplayer), so it works out great for me.

The first couple of times that I played it, I was playing in a party online with my friends. Recently, however, I've just been playing by myself against random online opponents (while listening to Podtaku, I might add). It's definitely more enjoyable of a game when you're playing with friends, that's for sure. But really, what isn't? Well... The Walking Dead I suppose, but we don't need to get into that here. In any case, even by myself I've had a fun time playing online. It's a lot harder to coordinate strategies or anything like that, but usually I've found that my teammates aren't idiots, so it makes for an enjoyable game (even if I do end up dying in the first minute).

The game isn't cruel, so even if you die without doing anything and your team ends up losing, you still get enough experience and currency to pay for the repairs to your tank (as I've found out numerous times). Actually, one of the cooler features of the game is that when your tank is destroyed in a battle, you can either spectate the game, or you can return to your garage (the main screen); there are no respawns. However, if you decide to return to the garage, you can't use the tank that you just destroyed right away. You have to wait until the game is over before you can use it again. The in-universe reason for this is fairly obvious: the tank's burned out shell is sitting on an active battlefield, so no one can go and retrieve it for repairs. But because this is a free-to-play game, there is a more cunning reason behind it too: this way, you are forced to own more than 1 tank. You can't enter a battle, die, exit, get your xp, and start a new battle immediately all with the same tank. This forces you to slow down your progress. Because you probably own at least 3 tanks (you start out with 6: one from each of the countries), you're constantly switching between them all, trying to earn enough experience on all of them to upgrade to the next level, and trying to get your first victory of the day so you can get that x2 bonus!

Me, driving along an alleyway in my tank, about to die.
This was actually right before I died...
The game is very popular. It holds the Guinness World Record for most players online at once or something like that. Unfortunately, it's not only free-to-play, it's pay-to-win. Well, slightly. You can spend real money to buy higher tier tanks, but if you're not used the game, playing against people who worked to get to that tier will just crush you. You won't stand a chance. You can also spend real money to buy stronger ammo, which could mis-balance things, but often times you die very quickly anyway. Tank destroyers have super powerful guns!

The other big announcement earlier this summer at E3 was that World of Tanks is coming to Xbox 360, free-to-play (if you have Xbox Live Gold, which I do at the moment). It should be out later this year as well. Unfortunately, there's no cross-platform play between pc and Xbox, but that's probably for the best. I'm sure it's a very different feel on Xbox.

I tried to not watch Girls und Panzer. My reasoning was that I knew that I would like it, but it looked stupid. It's main hook is that it's a "cute girls doing cute things" show (a genre known as moé), and I'm a total sucker for that. I'm not entirely certain why, but I have an unnatural love for the genre. The most famous moé anime is probably K-On!, a show about cute girls playing in a band... and that's about it. There's pretty much no overarching story, there's no conflict to speak of, and there's very little band-playing even. It's just about the day to day lives of a group of cutesy girls, and audiences loved it.

The main characters all hanging out on top of their tank.
Moé tanks, because yes.
Girls Und Panzer, instead of being about cutesy girls playing music, is about cutesy girls playing tanks. The world is an alternate version of our own where the art of "tankery" is the most refined thing that a woman can do. Like drinking tea, but with more explosions. Schools teach this art to their students, and every year there is a massive tournament among the biggest international schools. Oh, and tankery is a girls-only sport.

The way that I sum up how I feel about the show to anyone who I mention it to is this: It has no right to be as good as it is. I mean, it's a show about cute girls driving tanks and shooting at each other which on the one hand sounds awesome, but on the other hand, sounds really really dumb. But it's not. The show manages to catch you up in its world, as ridiculous as it is. For some reason, I was totally willing to suspend my disbelief and just let this show take me completely into its fantastic world. There are so many things that are just way over the top, but they only made it better. If you're going to have a show with a ridiculous premise, you may as well capitalize on it, I guess.

My favourite part of the ridiculousness is hands-down the schools. You see, the schools in this world aren't quite your ordinary schools. They're much bigger than that. Much bigger. They're basically cities, completely self-sustaining, and have normal citizens living in them and running normal businesses like bakeries and flower shops. But best of all: they're ships. Like, bigger-than-aircraft-carrier ships. See the picture below? See the green? That's a forest. See the little grey specks? Those are buildings. These things are massive, and they're completely fantastic.

Freaking huge aircraft carrier style school ships docked at port.
The small one is the main character's school. The big one is the
British school that's their competition.
You might think that with a show like this that's quite clearly cashing in on the current moé fad, it would be low quality and all around terrible. That's certainly what I thought, but I was wrong. The animation for this show was some of the best that I've ever seen, and the battles are all well planned out and intense. There is one shot where the camera follows the tank shell from the barrel it's fired from to the tank that it hits, all in one clean take. That may be my favourite shot from any anime ever. Seriously.

The story is your typical underdog plotline. The main character's school is starting a tankery program for the first time in years, so they have to patch together not only the people, but the tanks for them to use. As you can see in the screencap above, their school is really small compared to the others and the odds are against them, but they still enter the tournament with the intent to win. Heartwarming stuff, but you really find yourself caring about the outcome of each and every battle.

Getting back to the main point of this article, World of Tanks and Girls und Panzer are doing a crossover. I actually first heard the news from Infinite Zenith, an anime blog run by another Canadian undergraduate student (whom I've never met, never talked to, and who has never heard of me). Actually, this blog post is sort of a response to his posting about why he doesn't play World of Tanks. Well, not so much a response as just me explaining why I do play. If you want a fascinating article about how Sun Tzu's The Art of War relates to Girls und Panzer, check out this link (after watching the show preferably).

I came across this video on YouTube. It's a mash-up of footage from Girls und Panzer (showing off the awesome animation) with audio clips and the HUD from World of Tanks (that, if you play, you hear and see often). It made me laugh. If the actual collaboration turns out to be anything close to this, I might die of happiness.

Doesn't that just look fantastic? The only downside to this collaboration that I can see is that it is specifically for the Japanese launch of the game, which almost guarantees that I will never get to see it in North America. Plus, I'm sure the licensing for using the intellectual property would be a nightmare for additional countries.

But there's always the hope that someday I'll get to see my two favourite tank things together! I can dream.


  1. This stupid and dumb thing is an insult to my grandfather who fought in the Wehrmacht and died commanding a Panzer IV at Stalingrad. The German panzer troops are a tradition in itself with their unit lineages drawing from the Cuirassiers and Hussars of Old Brandenburg Prussia. If these retards wants to do their shit, dont't taint the Honor of the German Soldier!!!

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