Ok, first I'll admit this piece of review will be one of the most biased things you'll ever read because, when you look into my profile, you'll see that it's my 2nd top favorite anime. I usually try to be objective, but really whenever I think about this anime I only see awesome in it, but anyway here goes:
I usually just leave story unrated because, as I like moe, slice-of-life anime, they usually don't even have a real story at all, and to be frank they don't need it. As for Girls und Panzer, the whole story can be summed up at this:
WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD!
"Miho messed up in the last Senshadou Tournament Finals and costed her school the victory (...in order to save a drowning teammate)! She's so shamed that she decided to move to a small school without Senshadou. There's just one problem: the school's so small it's going to be closed unless it has an epic victory, so its Student Council President re-opened Senshadou and forced Miho to join, where she must command her school to victory in this year's tournament in order to save her new school as well as prove her worth to her own family (which she eventually succeeded)!"
Not sure what you think, but I personally think the animation in this series is perfect. Sure it may not be as shiny as, say, KyoAni's moe masterpieces, but it works. I reckon it'd look pretty strange if everything looks dreamy and brilliant to the Clannad level, but it's gorgeous in its own ways. The characters look cute, the scenery looks vivid, and I couldn't find any imperfection in the animation itself, especially the tanks', they are just glorious yet so believable (except for the speed buff in everything but uh... that's another story).
This anime has some of the best songs and soundtracks I've heard, the glorious OP DreamRiser for example, and I'm not even very fond of marching music. Besides, the sounds the tanks make (tracks sound, turret traverse sounds, GUN sounds, oh the gun sounds...) are all pleasing to the ears, I can understand perfectly well why "Firing the tank's cannon for the first time is shown to be intensely pleasurable for Saori, Hana, and Yukari" (according to TVTropes). As for the voice acting, I'm not so good at analyzing that, but I'll just say none of the voices sounded annoying or fake to me. My only qualm is that Shirou remixed the main theme (apparently called "Panzer vor!" if I'm right) a little too much.
Ok, most reviews before me said that the characters weren't too interesting and were shallow, but consider this: It's a 12-episode anime, with 4 fully-shown tank battles lasting 2-3 episodes each, plus a training match. See? It's not like those overly-long action animes where you can "develop" your characters however much you want because you always have time. And then, GuP has a LARGE BUNCH of characters, since there're many teams and each team (if you count each rival school as a single team, then there're TWELVE teams in total, and I'm not counting Anzio) is composed of 3-5 chars. The very fact that not many of them are copies of one another at all is already a merit.
And yet, it manages to be quite the opposite, while the characters are not deep in overly-complicated ways like you often see in long action or drama animes, their traits were executed quite well. They're not all Ms. Troubled Life, but they're who they are.
WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD!
Yukari is a tank nut who's extremely loyal to Miho, Miho is a gentle yet genius strategist, Saori is someone with a good tongue who's crazy about love, Mako is a lazy-as-s...eh...sloth genius, Anzu is an extremely easy-going manager who actually cares a lot about her teammates and always micro-managing everything in the background for the best, Momo is extremely loud yet considerate and determined, Darjeeling is someone who always act elegant and tell nice-sounding quotes even her best friend can't understand, Karina is a shy and a bit noisy girl but is also actually quite passionate when her teammates are concerned, and the list goes on...
Some of the characters' eh... character are fleshed out in just one single scene, and sometimes that's all she needs.
The tanks battles actually gave me some of the best thrills in my life that normal action animes couldn't, and I enjoyed it all while assured that none of the characters will actually be harmed (because I'm just that much of a coward and a light-hearted person, plus none of the characters deserve to be harmed), since there was an explanation on how no one can actually be killed in the sport (although I gotta admit that was a half-assed explanation that kinda came out of nowhere, but hey at least there's an explanation that at least sounds plausible).
Plus, the breathers episode were well placed and very relaxing, plus they helped a lot with character development, like a true slice-of-life anime. I hated how everyone just rated this anime with action criteria, since this is clearly an action-sports-slice-of-life hybrid.
Oh, and I said it gave the kind of thrills normal action animes couldn't. You know why? Because everything was handled realistically. Ok, it may not be too realistic when the exact specs of the tanks are strictly concerned, but they were worked out with very believable tactics and real teamwork. Whenever Ooarai wins, it actually felt like they won, not like they-won-because-the-author-wanted-them-to, which I think is the problem with most action animes. In those animes, in times of need, the "heroes" always get some s...uh...special powers that help them win magically because "power of friendship" and "protecting something" or "determination" or some s...stuff, or just plainly because the author wanted it.
WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD!
My only qualm is that in most of Ooarai's victories, the rival schools give them too much of an advantage, but it's all firmly explained. Also, in most victories, Ooarai and the rival school shoot at the same time at each other's flag tanks, and then Ooarai hits first.
Overall: 10/10 (Rounded score, but still...)
Making it's way to the legion of solidly crafted anime, namely the Toradora's and Kobato's. Girls und Panzer fits comfortably in to this category of well aniamted, character driven, grounded stories that find themselves having little to no flaws at all.
The first thing I noticed was that the characters had such strong identities that it was impossible to forget who they were. There the one that's doing it to be popular, the sleepy one that's doing it for credit, the one that's a tank nut and the one that's doing it for the thrills. This kind of character design paves the way to being likeable protagonists.
GUP has a knack for humour as well, especially when it comes to ludicrous set-pieces. Ignoring that fact, the characters alone have equally hilarious quirks and personality.
The art and world design is very bold and living, you kind of get the idea of how huge the scale is when you see an entire town atop an aircraft carrier and yet we still get to see the smaller details like the residents going about their daily business in the town or spectating matches. Even the civillians have personality and aren't just there to fill up the background.
I specifically recall the scene where a shopkeeper remarks how his store was wrecked in a tank match and is looking forward to being compensated for it.
That is world building with substance.
It's also worth noting how dedicated the studio was to tank terminology and strategic accuracy. I especially like how it zooms out to an RTS view when they are executing manuevers.
The opening is great too with a pleasant vocal song and striking visuals. It manages to not be break away from genric opening design by being unique in it's presentation resulting in something I seldom skip.
Girls und Panzer has a fantastic premise. Did the writing reinforce the potential of this premise? Unless you like to hear teenage girls talk about tank specs for half an hour at a time, no, it didn't.
The story of Girls und Panzer is this - Miho Nishizumi grew up in a family known for their talent at Sensha-do, the art of tank warfare. Sensha-do is treated like a sport, reminiscent of how football is in America. Everybody commends the tankery team regardless of the fact that the tanks end up destroying the surrounding area. The team consists solely of girls, as males are not allowed to participate. In my book, males (namely as love interests) being excluded automatically adds ten points in the anime's favor, but I know that's not everyone's preference so I won't rave about that feature. Miho enrolls in Ooarai Girl's Academy specifically because they don't have a sensha-do team. Unfortunately for her, they decide to reform the sensha-do team this year, and all her friends want to join. Hilarity ensues until the whole show becomes trapped in an endless torrent of tank specs. I started off loving Girls und Panzer, but as the characters became more enraveled in tanks and less in having personalities, it begins to fall flat. It seems like they really tried to appeal to this niche base of WWII fanboys and nobody else, which is really my only problem with the show as a whole. Much of the time the characters are either talking about whatever millimeter barrel whatevers, or making some obscure WWII reference that maybe 1% of people will recognize. It becomes difficult to remain interested.
The animation was sub-par. The characters weren't particularly cute and their movement was relatively static. I would venture that 75% of the animation budget went into the CG models of different kinds of tanks, which I guess makes sense considering the tanks are what you're looking at much of the time. It just ends up disappointing the people who went into it expecting cute girls doing cute (violent, destructive) things.
The characters, much like the story, fell flat of their potential. Saori is cute as hell. Hana is cute as hell. Yukari is cute as hell. The side characters are cute as hell. The thing about them is that after a certain point they don't get screen time. Tanks get screen time. I think the entire series would have worked better as a video game, as there was far more emphasis on combat than story or character. You end up forgetting that you're watching an anime and not a sports broadcast.
In conclusion, I would reccomend Girls und Panzer to any military fanboy. Whenever I witness anyone praising Girls und Panzer, it almost always happens to be praise for the WWII references. If you're looking for cute girls, I suggest going... literally anywhere else. This show just teases you with cute girls for a couple of episodes and then you barely see them again. For this reason, it wasn't my cup of tea - my judgement of a series is largely based on how much I like the characters, and I felt a bit deceived by the start of the series.
TL;DR Light entertainment anime, good for a once over, with no rewatch value.
This anime was pleasant. I enjoyed watching it, because it was light and easy to handle. It tries to have a deep story and background motivation for all of the girls, but it doesn't actually manage to make the watcher care. This has absolutely no rewatch value apart from the clips that you can see on youtube.
Now, in most fanslations they have german words sprinkled allover the place, which requires at least a basic understanding of German to understand. So, there are lots of moments where you will have no idea what they are saying, but it won't matter because the story has no depth.
I could spoil the entire story for you in one sentence. I won't do that, but this is basically it "They fight in a big tournament with shitty tanks, and are the underdogs." Take a wild guess at what happens.
The animation is kind of budget at times. Not really badly so, but there are places where you can see corners cut. Their tanks look wayyyy cooler in the beginning, and then they stop having them customized. That was sad, because it would have been more entertaining with them looking ridiculous.
Sound fits the stuff. Tank noises are all muted, but that is necessary to hear them talking, so i don't mind that. Intro and outro songs are boring as hell, I skipped them every time.
Characters. The characters are different enough that people will have favourites, and while they have personalities, they seem forced, and the little bit given to background stories seems really rushed and contrived.
There are enough jokes that I laughed at least once an episode.
This anime was a complete surprise for me. I watched an OVA thinking it was the first episode :P When I realised the mistake, I got so into it I looked for the anime everywhere to watch it.
I think the story is really good, some cute (kawaii) details, some very funny moments and a strange-working combination: anime and tanks. Come on, the anime isn't even historical, it's about a "sport" involving tanks. AND IT WORKS!!!
It's absolutely great, just genious, I strongly recommend it to everyone. Specially if you like History and want a different insight of tanks.
GO WATCH IT. NOW.