Written by A. H. on 17 Jun 2014
Distributor Seven Seas Entertainment • Author/Artist Ryohichi Saitaniya • Price £8.99
Following on from the surprising success of its original anime which blind-sided many, it didn't take long for Girls und Panzer to make the leap to the printed page in manga form, via a series which has now reached the west courtesy of those eagle-eyed folks over at Seven Seas Entertainment.
Interestingly, this first volume of the series isn't quite a precise adaptation of the anime with which you may already familiar, most notably switching its perspective from reluctant tank commander extraordinaire Miho Nishizumi and instead viewing events through the eyes of the enthusiastic tank-loving Yukari Akiyama. This first volume also skimps heavily on setting up its premise in favour of getting straight to "the bits with the tanks" - thus, between the change in perspective and pacing we see little of Miho's initial reluctance to take up "Tankery" (the art of driving tanks, beloved of girls everywhere in this fictional universe where the logical place to put a high school is on an aircraft carrier), leaving it only to be suggested from some nervous looks before we quickly get on with the serious business of jumping in a tank and romping around. This we duly do via the school Tankery club's first practice match, before setting things up for a proper match against the tea-swilling Brits as represented by St. Gloriana Girls Academy.
This lends the manga a curious quality that we've seen in other similar efforts revolving around other anime-original series - it feels more like a "greatest hits" for anyone looking to enjoy Girls und Panzer's story via a different medium rather than an offering for people with no history with the franchise to delve into; a decision made all the more difficult to justify given that the series works far better when presented in animated form than via static panels on a page.
That said, this manga adaptation isn't a disaster, and it still manages to capture much of the freshness and charm of the anime. In fact, at times it arguably ups the ante in terms of presenting the tremendous power and sense of potential danger that comes from these killing machines even when they're in the hands of school girls - it might be missing the roar of shell fire and rumbling tracks, but the artwork of this volume does a great job of depicting the vibrations that rock and rattle these armoured vehicles and the bone-shaking intensity of the munitions that they can deploy.
You could probably go as far as to say that most of the love lavished upon this manga is directed at the "Panzer" side of its equation rather than the "Girls" part - while the tanks consistently look good and backgrounds are passable, human characters frequently veer wildly off-model and rarely look all that great. With this volume even going so far as to make a joke about a technical error regarding the capabilities of one of the tanks in the series made in the anime, and its final pages also sporting a host of technical specifications for the main tanks in the volume, this is definitely going to be a more compelling read if you're interested in the mechanical masterpieces on show than their crews.
If you're yet to follow the hype and enter the world of Girls und Panzer for yourself, we'd still recommend that you do so via its TV anime (especially given that it's now readily available in the UK on DVD and Blu-Ray), as it takes the time to set up its story and characters in a way that adds to the enjoyment and understanding of later events. However, the first volume of this manga adaptation offers much of the humour and energy of the original work with just enough of a unique spin on it that fans of the anime will glean some enjoyment of it - it isn't a must-read, but if you simply can't get enough Tankery in your life then it's probably worth making tracks to pick this manga adaptation up.
Author: A. H.
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