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Manga: Gunka No Balzer

Gunka no Baltzar (Baltzar Militarismus) is a seinen manga by Nakajima Michitsune, where an officer from a military superpower is assigned to an ally's military academy to teach the student body of a Military Academy the modern ways of war.

The story is set in an alternate nineteenth century in Europe. Fifty years ago, The Empire in Central Europe balkanized and collapsed into civil war; the state of Weissen became one of the dominant powers in the region. Major Bernd Baltzar of the Weissen Army is a rising star due to his performance in battle; his career takes a surprising turn when he is reassigned as an adviser and military academy instructor to the newly-allied state of Baselland.

But Baselland's army is out of shape for modern war and its citizenry are hostile to anything related to war or the military. Baltzar has to deal with Baselland officer corps’ conservatism in order to prepare Baselland to fight the next war, whenever it breaks out. Other events seek to compound Baltzar's troubles internally in Baselland, and externally in Weissen's relations with the other major powers on the continent...

Gunka No Baltzar provides examples of:

  • Anti-Cavalry: In chapter 22, Baltzar's combined forces form into two infantry squares when Nielson's unit attacks them with a cavalry charge. The cavalry actually manage to break one square and inflict some casualties with their halberd-lances.
  • Armies Are Evil: Baselland’s civilians are staunchly anti-militaristic, and it shows in their attitudes toward Weissen and Baltzar's gun salute.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Baltzar points out that this attitude amongst Holbeck's commanders led them to suffer a number of significant defeats in the First Norden-Trade War. In chapter 20, the first volley fired by the Baselland regiment seems to have halted the attacking Holbeck force. Then the Holbeck officer orders a bayonet charge.
  • Bleached Underpants: Before creating this title, the mangaka under the pseudonym Makiko Yumi authored some Hetalia doujinshi titled Die nationale Urlandschaft des Sonnenunterganges. Even some of the background art is recycled!
  • Bling Bling Bang: Subverted. Reiner is given an ornate lever-action rifle to use on the hunting trip with the General Staff Chief, but he opts to use a regular Weissen bolt-action rifle instead.
  • Batman Gambit: Rudolph's plan to allow the Weissen military more autonomy relied on his knowledge that Baltzar, out of desire to minimize bloodshed, would report to his superiors of a planned coup by officer cadets resulting in the suicides of the conspirators which would in turn inspire nationalist and military pride in the citizens. It worked.
    • As revealed in chapter 16, Rudolph is responsible for starting a second war between Weissen and Holbeck over the Norden-Trade Duchy by providing Holbeck with war funds. Baltzar and Reiner were deliberately kept in the dark on international developments by the General Staff Chief during the secret negotiations, so that Reiner would willingly sign a military alliance with Weissen.
  • Bayonet Ya: Bayonet charges are employed on two occasions in the series, but none of them are successful. Weissen's rifles use knife bayonets while other countries use spear bayonets.
  • Blade on a Stick: Instead of lances or sabres, Holbeck cavalry use halberds as their arme blanche.
  • Bling of War: Granted with the work set in the latter half of the nineteenth century. In Weissen, the officer candidates and officers in the General Staff Chief's council wear hussar jackets with gold lace. The Baselland cavalry division students wear a pelisse with their hussar jackets.
  • Blood Knight: This is how Captain Nielson is introduced. Lose 600 men to probe the enemy's defenses? No problem. His post-battle dialogue makes him look like someone who sees battle as an elaborate game.
  • Cavalry Officer: Captain Nielson is one, as a commander of a unit of halberd-armed lancers.
  • Cavalry Refusal: Type A. The Baselland police force and regular army were never mobilized to face the workers' uprising, leaving only the military academy to face the insurgents. Later we see that the police and army were deliberately stood down by Franz and Rudolph.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Baselland soldiers say that they'll do everything in their power to protect Prince Reiner even if it means being a human shield. A few chapters later...
  • Citadel City: The inner section of Baselland's capital city is arranged like a star fort.
  • Coat Cape: The Chief of Staff wears one in chapter 18.
  • Cool Helmet: Holbeck soldiers wear a type of medieval helmet while the cavalryman and officers wear cuirassier helmets.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: When Marcel is captured by the journalists, they attempt to extract information from him by "manicuring" one of his thumbnails. Fortunately he is saved by Baltzar Just in Time.
  • Draft Dodging: Paul attempts this by drinking tobacco juice to avoid participating in the war against Holbeck. Baltzar interrupts the act by kicking the tobacco juice and offering a bottle of castor oil. Tobacco juice will make you really sick, so please do not ever try drinking it to dodge drafts! He doesn't do it and ends up joining the Baselland contingent.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: The captain in command of the Hoppsted garrison just doesn't care about his duties; as far as he's concerned, he's guarding a path of a quiet supply line. When Baltzar reprimands him for his garrison's lack of combat readiness, he snubs Baltzar back and makes him look like an officer with little practical experience.
  • Easy Logistics: Averted. The author gives attention to troops needing enough water and rationing the food supply when the characters are conducting a retreat after a battle. Baltzar also emphasizes the importance of not setting fires and rotating sentries when encamped.
  • The Engineer: Dieter Strunz. What does he do when he's supposed to assemble with his regiment? Seek out a mitrailleuse and squee over it.
  • Ensign Newbie: Pretty much all of the officer cadets who are sent along with the Baselland volunteer regiment to the Norden-Trade Duchy. Each of them has to lead a unit of 50 soldiers and are pretty much dropped into the water in their new positions. Fortunately, the regiment has a few NCOs to help them out.
  • Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: The Weissen Army Chief of General Staff didn't have his name revealed until volume 5, as Holst von Stauffenberg.
  • Evil Former Friend: Rudolph to Baltzar, after the failed military coup in Weissen.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Weissen is a Expy of Prussia, while Baselland resembles one of the southern German states (most likely Bavaria) before the 1871 unification.
    • Now with the addition of the obligatory Austrian/Habsburg Expy in the Ezreich Republic (though described as an empire).
    • The Republic of Friel is an Expy of France while the Ratov Empire is one of Imperial Russia.
    • The Kingdom of Holbeck to the north of Weissen is an Expy of Denmark with a significantly more potent naval force. Also, there are elements of Sweden.
    • The Norden-Trade Duchy is an Expy of Schleswig-Holstein.
    • The empire that collapsed before the start of the story is almost certainly an Expy of the Holy Roman Empire.
  • Foreshadowing: As Rudolph points out to Baltzar and Reiner in chapter 16, many of Weissen's neighbors have unresolved grievances against the country; at the end of the chapter, Weissen declares a second war against Holbeck over the Norden-Trade Duchy.
  • General Ripper: The Weissen General Staff Chief is this; he is a hardline militarist who has a great amount of influence over the civilian government, and he advocates expansionism at the expense of friendly relations with Weissen's neighbors. Though, he is mostly calm as he is the Captain Ersatz of Moltke the Elder.
    • Downplayed when he is persuaded by Baltzar that Baselland's military contribution from the academy to the Second Norden-Trade War should be minimized as much as possible. The General Staff Chief is only interested in Baselland's formal (even if it is nominal) participation in the war.
  • Geo Effects: During the "shooting trial", Baltzar's team takes advantage of the cover and concealment provided by the vegetation and rocks against the infantry line; he also sends two soldiers to shoot from an enfilade position. In chapter 20, Baltzar defeats the enemy's bayonet charge ordering the regiment to fire a volley once the enemy begins climbing the frontal slope of their defensive berm.
  • The Ghost: The sickly King of Baselland is often mentioned by the characters and never seen, but the real political power has shifted to his sons.
    • The same trope applies to the King of Weissen. He's far from being a "Supreme War Lord" as are his real-life counterparts, because the Chief of Staff has the most political influence in the country.
  • Glory Seeker: Because Baltzar was the only officer cadet to survive the failed coup, the Chief of Staff suspects him of being one, and has Yuri and Dimo as investigators hidden under their official role.
  • Great Offscreen War: The civil war caused by the collapse of an empire fifty years ago in central Europe is briefly mentioned; Weissen and Baselland were once members of that empire.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The Baselland troops form a human wall against Nielsen's cavalry so Balzer, Reiner and the others can make it into the forest.
  • Hidden Elf Village: Baselland was spared the destruction of recent wars due to its geographical location and was able to thrive as a result. However, the isolation (and the Crown Prince's policies) meant that Baselland was unable to develop a railroad network and its military has stagnated to Napoleonic mass formations and smoothbore muzzle-loaders.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Reiner's "shooting trial" pits a 50-man platoon armed with smoothbore muzzle-loading muskets and trained in close-order drill against Baltzar's handful of men equipped with bolt-action rifles. The results were not dissimilar to any Prussian in 1866... Justified because Baselland's army has never really accepted post-Napoleonic military developments before Baltzar's arrival, due to the country's isolation.
    • The academy's cavalry division is totally alien to the idea of using cavalry for anything other than a mounted charge. When Reiner reads Baltzar's essay published in a foreign military journal on the obsolescence of cavalry, he proposes a race between the cavalry division and a new "cavalry replacement" of Baltzar's choice. He ends up using bicycles with Helmut. Helmut wins the race and crashes into the finish line, putting her fellow cavalry students to shame.
    • The Hoppsted garrison commander positions his troops right on the edge of a coastal cliff, without any entrenchments and in close-order formation while engaging a Holbeck landing force. Holbeck's warships supporting the landing then batter the defenders to bits.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Most of Baselland's soldiers (and most of the infantry students at the academy) can't hit a barn at even 25 meters from their noses. Their flintlock muskets aren't rifled, and the training does not encourage individual skill improvement. This gets better when the Baselland regiment sent to Norden-Trade gets armed with Weissen rifles and participates in shooting exercises out of combat.
    • The conspirators who capture Marcel can't hit Baltzar at spitting distance with their revolvers, even when he runs out of bullets and starts stabbing them with his dirk (boy these bad guys suck at everything, don't they?).
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Marcel Janssen, a very-much abused cadet in the Infantry Division, scores the best (he nearly got the bulls-eye) during training in chapter 3. He was using the same crappy model of musket as his classmates, so that feat of his at the firing range is improbable (if not downright impossible)! Later, he manages to preemptively nail a striker through the heart across a river using the same old musket. Ouch!
  • Improperly Placed Firearms: Weissen's and Ezreich's bolt-action rifles closely resemble Karabiner 98ks, but they are depicted as single-shot weapons using paper cartridges and Minié bullets (the former trait should actually apply to the Prussian Dreyse needle rifle but the Dreyse could be easily mistaken for other long arms of the time period since its only difference from muzzle-loaders is its breech loading mechanism); Baltzar is seen cleaning a cap pistol in the first chapter, but he uses a Lefaucheux revolver in a flashback chapter and a LeMat revolver later on in the story. In chapter 19 Weissen coastal guns are modeled after an 8-inch British gun from the 1880s. A Weissen officer is seen with a French Modèle 1892 revolver in chapter 21.
    • Word of God said the 98K is used because it is more symbolic (industrial might vs the traditional brute force of sheer manpower alone, and the incredibly obvious visual distinction from muzzle-loaders). Lever-action Winchester rifles show up for some odd reason or other in volume 4, alongside muzzle-loaders. One wonders why the transitional cap-lock Minie rifle hasn't made an appearance or why Baselland hasn't made a breech-loading conversion of its muskets chambered for Weissen ammunition.
      • For the latter, it could be explained by the rapidity of the events happening in the manga, which would preclude even a small batch of converted weapons. However, we do see Reiner's purchase of a local arms factory, which could produce converted muskets later in the story.
  • Interservice Rivalry: The Weissen Navy is very much looked upon with contempt by the Army and is the junior service. In chapter 18, when the navy fails to break the Holbeck blockade and loses two ships, the Chief of Staff sends a message that he would reincorporate the Navy under Army command if they continue to fail.
  • Leave No Survivors: Nielson executes the wounded Weissen soldiers left behind by Baltzar in Hoppsted village. Baltzar's comment that the world doesn't live in "the dark ages anymore" implies that there are cultural and institutional norms against that kind of behavior, but Nielson isn't having any of that.
  • Offered the Crown: Reiner doesn't offer Baltzar a place in Baselland's royal family, but he asks for his personal support in overthrowing Crown Prince Franz, with the promise that Baltzar would be awarded with a high military position in the Baselland Army. Baltzar rejects the offer and instead proposes a secret treaty with Weissen instead.
  • Magnetic Hero: Baltzar to the Baselland Military Academy students. His genius, nice personality, good speaking skills and helping hand to defend them makes the students in the Cavalry, Artillery and Infantry look up to him. Another reason Baltzar is nice to the students is because if he acted like a jerkass to them, they won't hesitate to shoot him in the back in the future.
  • Malicious Slander: Baselland journalists associated with labor organizations portray the suppression of the worker's uprising as a deliberate massacre of civilians, and Reiner as a puppet of Weissen. Baltzar fights back by organizing a funeral ceremony through the capital city for the students who were killed in action to gain the sympathies of the cityfolk. Later, we see that the journalists used high-quality cameras and printing equipment, courtesy of Rudolph.
    • In chapter 15, the same journalists intend to publish documents which paint Reiner as an usurper.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Rudolph to Franz. He has also been providing the Crown Prince with modern equipment and training from Erzreich as a counter to Reiner's modernization program.
  • Military Coup: Rudolph planned one as a junior officer in the Weissen Imperial Guards against the country's weak National Assembly and the influence of capitalists; the coup failed, but the attempt gained the sympathies of the citizens and it led to the Weissen military's expanded autonomy.
  • The Mole: Weissen not only sent Baltzar to Baselland to teach but also spy on their military strength as the Weissen government wants to annex Baselland into their country whether by peaceful or hostile means. Baltzar is uncomfortable with this.
    • Yuri Heseen and Dimo Baumann—the two officer cadets accompanying the Baselland regiment are also tasked with reporting back to the Chief of Staff if Baltzar begins to show political ambition from his actions. We later learn that Yuri has personal reasons for keeping on eye on Baltzar; his brother was one of the ones who committed suicide in the failed coup d'état eight years ago.
  • More Dakka: The Montigny ''mitrailleuse'' volley gun shows up in chapter 18. Dieter gets really excited seeing it but Baltzar thinks it would be useless on the battlefield, citing the weapon's many shortcomings. The design suffers from Crippling Overspecialization, as its only advantage is continuous firing for a period of time before it needs a new ammo clip while it cannot hide, change targets easily due to its limited traverse, and it more importantly, it cannot target people at long ranges, so it must be used as a mid-range offense rather than indirectly firing artillery. It is also stated that they were copied from a foreign design, possibly from Friel.
    • In Real Life, the mitrailleuse was considered terrible for everything but short-range counter ambush, but as a result of it being used in the best way possible at times, soldiers attacking the gun would have an Oh Crap moment while trying to kill the gunners while trying to avoid being reduced to Ludicrous Gibs (do not attack a mitrailleuse head-on).
  • Naval Blockade: Holbeck deploys one on Norden-Trade's ports. See Pretext for War.
  • The Neidermeyer: Reiner August Winkfeldt, also a Royal Brat.
  • Nice Hat: The shakos worn by the Baselland military academy students and Weissen officers like Baltzar, and the pickelhauben worn by other Weissen military personnel. The convicts in the shooting trial, the Holbeck Navy, and the soldiers of the Baselland volunteer regiment wear bicornes.
  • Occupiers Out of Our Country: Some citizens in Baselland resent the encroachment of Weissen's goods and the Weissen army corps stationed in their country, which leads to scathing anti-Weissen posters distributed and random vandalisms by hired thugs; agitators like Rudolph play on this sentiment which leads to the uprising against the military academy.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Weissen's citizens sympathized with the coup conspirators due to Rudoph supplying photos and information to thirty five newspaper agencies throughout the country.
  • Pretext for War: Holbeck uses Weissen's occupation of the Norden-Trade Duchy as a pretext to impose a Naval Blockade on the latter's northern ports; Weissen uses the blockade to declare war in response, playing into Rudolph's Batman Gambit.
    • In chapter 18 we see that the military leadership planned for this war to happen intentionally, when Reiner points out how quickly the Weissen prime minister and his cabinet decided for war.
  • Raging Stiffie: Nielson gets one in chapter 21. One of the Hoppsted villagers sees this and tells another to "hide the young girls".
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: Holbeck's soldiers were notorious for this in the First Norden-Trade War. It got so bad that they had to pay heavy reparations when the war ended.
  • Realpolitik: Later, General Groener tells Baltzar that Weissen's Foreign Office intends to remove pro-Ezreich Franz from power and put Reiner in his place.
    • And as we see when the Second Norden-Trade War begins, Erzreich signed a secret aid treaty with Holbeck to counter Weissen's influence in that region.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Major General Hermann Groener is this to Baltzar.
  • The Reveal: When Rudolph admits to being a colonel in the Erzreich military.
  • Rock Beats Laser: In Chapter 11, insurgents with illegally obtained Weissen bolt-action rifles are defeated by Baltzar and the military academy's cavalry division, all of whom are using sabers while on horseback. It just turns out that the insurgents aren't really great at marksmanship. They also are standing on one end of a bridge previously barricaded by the academy's infantry divisions, preventing their own escape when the cavalry corner them.
    • Volume 5 has the protagonists and the remnants of a Weissen infantry company running from a Holbeck cavalry unit. Infantry rifles have a difficult time with charging horses and their halberd-wielding riders, even with good training.
  • Royal Blood: The Empress of Ezreich is the great aunt of Crown Prince Franz.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Reiner maybe a hardass but at least he cares about improving the Baselland military using his inheritance money compared to his older brother Crown Prince Franz, who mostly spends his money on parties, girls and has no interest in politics. After Reiner is shown the inferiority of his country's army he is serious on making sure Baselland can remain a country independent from superpower politics. In chapter 19, Reiner gets really upset that the Hoppsted garrison commander is only interested in idling about instead of preparing for possible action with the enemy.
    • Later, it is shown that Reiner is very good at using Weissen's standard bolt-action rifle, as he kills a wild boar with it from really far away.
  • Selective Historical Armoury: Breech-loading rifled artillery does not seem to be in regular use, even in the Weissen Army. The only ones to exist so far are the Armstrong-style field guns in Reiner's secret armory. Later it is shown that Weissen's coastal artillery units use a gun based off of an 1880s British 8-inch breechloader.
  • Soldiers at the Rear: At the start of the Second Norden-Trade War, Baltzar intends to have the Baselland academy students deployed as far back as possible in battle. It would be a blow to Baselland if Reiner and the academy students were hurt...
  • Shown Their Work: When the artillery officer cadets prep their guns to fire for a salute, the process in loading, aiming and firing cannon is shown in meticulous detail.
    • The portrayal of the musket drills was slightly off, though, since all the gunpowder was poured into the flash-pan. In a real musket, only a small amount of powder is put in the pan. The rest of it goes down the musket's barrel. THEN comes the musket-ball and paper wadding. But then again, the academy's muskets are really old and crappy, so the tiny detail might not matter.
    • Genuine military tactics are portrayed very well. The author points out the value of cover and enfilade fire in infantry tactics during the shooting trial.
    • Reiner is shown drawing his sabre with the grip guard facing him. Truth in Television as this is intended to avoid dulling the sharp side of the side.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Helmut.
  • Succession Crisis: In chapter 15, it is revealed that Reiner's plans that would've been published as Malicious Slander are authentic; he wrote them seventeen years ago to impress Franz, but as the Crown Prince looks more as a puppet of Erzreich he wants to put the plans into motion. While the plans coincide with the goals of Weissen's foreign policy, Reiner wants Baltzar's personal support.
  • Take a Third Option: In chapter 19, Rudolph points out the impossibility of landing troops on the Norden-Trade Peninsula's east coast due to Weissen's decision to move the majority of its coastal guns there. As Baltzar deduces from the wounded scout's report at the end of the chapter, the Holbeck Navy invades the peninsula's naked west coast instead.
  • Technical Pacifist: Baltzar is a soldier, but during the coup and the Baselland workers' uprising he is careful not to cause excessive casualties.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: In chapter 9, a demonstration by Strunz Heavy Industries workers grows into a massive uprising headed for the capital city; the mob's grievances are ostensibly against Reiner's nationalization of the Strunz arms factory. However, one of the accompanying journalists point out that the insurgents do not care about the factory's nationalization at all and are just using the uprising to vent their anger. It is later revealed that Rudolph is responsible for agitating the situation to let anti-Weissen sentiment proliferate further and to discredit Reiner, and his connections with Ezreich allow him to procure a small number of modern rifles for the insurgents.
  • Trading Bars for Stripes: The soldiers (except for the team leaders) in Reiner's shooting trial are convicts who volunteered for a chance for freedom if they manage to defeat the opposing side.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The Weissen-Ratov dispute over the passage of an eastern strait sounds very similar to the Russian Empire's desires to control the Turkish straits in our nineteenth century.
  • We Have Reserves: This is Captain Nielsen's attitude towards commanding his soldiers in battle.
  • Wham Episode: Chapter 16: The Weissen National Assembly declares war against Holbeck after the latter enacts a naval blockade of Weissen's northern ports, moments after Reiner signs a treaty with Weissen's Chief of General Staff. The General Staff Chief suggests that Reiner send a cohort from the Baselland military academy for the upcoming war, though later this is changed to a volunteer regiment from the regular army.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: As Baltzar points out himself, Paul's understanding of his choices' consequences means that he has the greater soldierly potential over Dieter. When he is chosen as part of the academy contingent for the war against Holbeck, he does not ponder over his future lightly.
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men: The Holbeck Navy is still using wooden sailing warships, but they are fitted with steam engines. One Virginia-type riverboat is also used.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: In reaction to The Reveal in chapter 12, Baltzar plans to withdraw Weissen's military forces and focus on building a Weissen-gauge railroad network (with the cooperation of Dieter's father) in northern Baselland to woo public opinion over to supporting Weissen.
  • You Are in Command Now: Once the Hoppsted garrison captain returns back to Hoppsted village with his battered force, he hands over command of its remnants to Baltzar.

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alternative title(s): Gunka No Balzer
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