Boys Und Sensha-do is one of a large genre of Girls und Panzer fics that make a simple yet surprisingly popular change to the concept- adding boys. There are quite a few possible reasons for this. Some see it as a logical change- why shouldn't boys get involved in tankery? Others see it as a way of inserting their original characters into the plot.
Another Fandom-Specific Plot that exists on a lesser scale is boys flying World War II-era fighter planes (and yet another is having the boys fight as infantrymen, but that didn't become popular until some timeafter Boys und Sensha-do was published).
Boys Und Sensha-do is not the first to go down either road, but it's one of the more popular Girls und Panzer fics on the site. And so, after seeing it on the Fanfic Recs page, I decided to give it a look, and found that it made an impression on me in a few different ways.
I'm neither a die-hard fan nor a rabid hater of this fanfic. There are things that it does well and things that it does not. But I have found a great deal to talk about regarding it, so much that I cannot fit it all into one of Fanfiction dot net's reviews. And so I decided to establish a liveblog, to provide a more comprehensive look at this fic. More recently, I have decided to revise and update this liveblog after gaining experience liveblogging.
I will admit to having certain biases, though, some of which are more obvious to others and others are ones I may not be fully aware of myself. For example, Maho has been my favorite Girls Und Panzer character since I first saw Chapter 7 of Little Army. I also don't know that much about tanks, so if you want an analogy, my perspective is closer to Saori's than Yukari's.
There's yet another disclaimer; there will be unmarked spoilers for Girls Und Panzer and this fic. With this fic, I will occasionally allude to future events, but I can't guarantee I won't spoil anything.
Now let us begin.
The fic, not unlike this liveblog, begins with a long author's note. The author expresses his desire to not refer to tankery by its English term, but its Japanese name. I tend to disagree, since I found tankery to be a good translation of the term, and tend to prefer using English terms when there is a good equivalent; when I write fanfics, I tend to use Japanese Honorifics and Japanese Sibling Terminology, and that's about it. The author tends to disagree, but I'll elaborate on that more later.
The author says that he gave everyone simunitions, saying that the sport was "dangerous enough" already. Fair enough; you need to approach tankery with a certain level of suspension of disbelief. However, this is not consistent with the impact rounds have when striking surfaces like rock and dirt; I doubt that the damage to those was somehow simulated, or that Hana could have blown up the snowbank like she did in Episode 8 if she were using a simunition round. Of course, the fact that they are simunition will become plot relevant later.
The author says that open topped vehicles remain illegal unless they're modified to include roofs (a bit like how the Pz (38)t was modified into the Hetzer).
The author notes that vehicles not only have the carbon coating, but also "pyrotechnics" to simulate the impact of the blasts. Considering that the shells explode and cause damage when they strike the surrounding areas, the idea of having the tanks simulate this as well is quite farfetched.
The author promises new schools and new characters. The use of OCs in fanfics can be risky; sometimes they can be pulled off well, but often, they come off as forgettable and cliche, if not a Mary Sue or Gary Stu.
The author says that "Girls und Panzer is the property of Actas", which, lke the other disclaimers of its kind, is ultimately unnecessary.
Now the fic proper begins.
Much like Girls Und Panzer, it begins with an action scene. Before I discuss the particulars of that scene, I would like to point out that it's less necessary to do so here for the anime, and possibly even detrimental at that, given that it's in a text format. In the anime, the tank combat doesn't begin until near the end of the second episode, so there has to be something to hook viewers. In Girls Und Panzer fan fiction, there are good fics that forgo tankery combat entirely.
But one problem fanfics have is trying to live up to what canon did and falling short, to say nothing of attempts to improve on it (Do not even get me started on the attempts to "improve" Naruto by turning him into a cynical anti-hero who hates the Leaf Village and is willing to kill Sasuke).
Unlike the anime, in which the girls shown were entirely new to viewers who hadn't looked at summaries of the work or promotional material, and only Mako was referred to by name, there's a mix of familiar and new characters. A newcomer named Akio observes the tanks with Miho, taking a more active leadership than Senmonka, Keibiin, or Gunjin.
Back to the story. Akio looks out and sees four Shermans off in the distance. Miho notes that the enemy has spread out trying to find them, and believes they should be able to deal with them on their own. They then get back into their tanks- Miho's is the Panzer IV from canon, which tends to be called "The Anglerfish" here (although the name refers to the crew, rather than the tank), and Akio gets in a Panzer III/IV that's designated as Shark Team.
Miho and Akio's tanks fire on the enemy, taking out two of them, which is unusually easy compared to most of their battles. Meanwhile, the Shermans fire back somewhat ineffectually, and try to head toward their attackers. Anglerfish Team fires again, taking out a third Sherman, and Shark Team fires as well.
At this point, Akio thinks back to how he got here- an odd thing to do in the middle of a battle, but a decent segue back to the actual start of the story, meaning that while Scene 1 is considerably after Scene 1, there's at least some logical tie to it.
The scene shifts to Akio- the male lead and most important OC, with his grandfather, in the latter's garden, with a shishi-odoshi going off every now and then. Akio helps his grandfather, who at this point is unnamed, with the gardening, calling him "Ojiisan."
At this point, the Gratuitous Japanese begins, not just terms like the aforementioned "sensha-do" and "sentoki-do", but also "Ojii-san" (for "grandfather"), and even "Hai" (which means "Yes"). There are times when using Japanese terms works better than translating into English (for example, "-san" is roughly equivalent to Mr./Mrs./Ms/Miss in English, but it is often used on first names), but there are times when there's no reason not to use the English terms (Is it too much to ask the author to write "Yes" instead?)
Akio's grandfather mentions that they haven't seen each other in a while, since Akio went to America and the Shoryuhai school ship, and asks about Akio's fears. Akio says that he's still afraid of flying, and can't fly as his grandfather does. Akio's grandfather says that at his advanced age, his days of flying are behind him.
Akio's grandfather asks about Akio's schooling, and Akio reveals that his school ship is being shut down and he's being transferred to Oarai Girls' Academy. Akio's grandfather asks if that was a girl's school (it's part of the school's name, albeit one that isn't always included) and jokes about Akio hiding something from him (which is slightly corny, but could provoke a Dude, Not Funny! reaction from transgender people who are worried about how their families will react). Akio mentions "fiscal difficulties"; considering that it's often brought up in relation to the public treasury, perhaps he should have used "financial"
Saburo mentions that there are few electives that would appeal to Akio as a man. I can see this being true for Flower Arranging, Incense (which Miho chose instead of tankery) and Tea Ceremony. You could make a case for Calligraphy and Magic. But what about Aikido, Long Sword, Archery and Ninjutsu? Manly young men could take those without losing any of their "street cred", so to speak.
Akio chooses tankery, a choice his grandfather approves of, since it's another form of budo and Akio's grandmother was involved in it, although Akio, seeming oddly meek apparently worried that he wouldn't like his choice given his involvement in Sentoki-do.
Akio's grandfather mentions that he managed to get the Sensha-do federation to allow men in exchange for letting Kuromorimine into the Aces Authority. The fic goes into some of the politics behind tankery (I'll keep on using this term except for the name of the Sensha-do Federation), so we'll see more about this later. Akio's grandfather tells him to listen to Miho who comes from a long line of tankers (whom Akio's grandfather hates, but that's another matter), and is an ace in her own right. He then asks who's transferring with Akio.
We return to Oarai and our canon characters. Evidently, the switch over to a coed school happened mid-year, without much warning or time to adjust. This seems like a somewhat impractical decision, but also one that lets the author keep the third-years, such as the Student Council, most of the Auto Club, Sodoko and Piyotan around. It's mentioned in passing that it's also conveniently time d with the decision to include men.
Miho hears that 16 new males have joined the tankery team, and Miho goes about assigning them. Since Leopon needs a radio operator, Anteater needs a radio operator and a loader, Turtle needs a radio operator, Rabbit needs another loader, and Mallard needs a loader and radio operator (Notice a pattern? You may recall that in the manga, Ami said that only teams with four people had a dedicated radio operator, and only teams with five people had a dedicated loader), thus causing six people to get assigned to tanks, and leaving the other ten to crew two tanks of their own. Unfortunately, Momo says that they can't buy new tanks, but Anzu proposes trading the new aircraft for tanks, or perhaps finding tanks somewhere they haven't looked.
Miho finds that the students fit nicely into each group, happening to possess the same interests as the canon characters.
- Akira Chishiki, a student council treasurer, joins Turtle Team.
- Yoshi Saito, a freshman with good PE scores, joins Rabbit Team.
- Takuma Yakuin, a former morals committee member, joins Mallard Team.
- Yuuta and Ryou (no last names), being gamers, join Anteater Team.
- An unnamed student (Tsubasa Mitsubishi), a former Auto Club member, joins Leopon Team.
Momo says that they will break down the aircraft and put them into long term storage, while searching for new tanks.
Miho says that it will be strange having boys, but Momo reminds her that her victory only bought time, and they need funds. As far as I know, most schools don't go coed simply for money, but to have more flexibility in choosing students, or out of a demand for coed education. While Momo's response is calm, Miho acts as though she's offended her and needs to placate her, insisting that she's not complaining, only concerned that the boys might not follow her; Anzu insists that since she's head of a championship winning team, they will, but she's unconvinced.
A word about Miho. She's by no means bossy or arrogant, and does come off as fairly meek, but she's not necessarily a pushover. In Little Army, it's said that she came to Oarai over her mother's objections, and when she's forcefully recruited into tankery, she resists both the student council's implicit pressganging and her new friends' unwitting peer pressure, and says no, only changing her mind to do it with them when they stand up for her. When she's in her element, she's completely confident in herself and can lead well. Miho's often a difficult character to write well, and some writers make her too confident or not confident enough.
The narrative returns to Akio and his former schoolmates on a plane, where it's made clear that Akio is deathly afraid of flying. His schoolmates try to get him to calm down, wishing that they'd gotten him drunk or given him drugs before they left, seeming more annoyed than sympathetic. Since the window shade is already down, to get his mind off of it, they discuss the Oarai vs. Kuromorimine "High School" (actually Women's College) match, going over some of the highlights (the defeat of the Maus and Mako- whose accomplishment is erroneously credited to Miho- drifting behind Maho's tank). The latter is of particular interest to Tsubasa, who's amazed that even the Porsche Tiger, with its electric transmission, can drift, and Akio momentarily forgets that he's on a plane. The boys asks what they know about Oarai, and they only mention the obvious- that it used to be all girls- which is particularly exciting to Isamu.
Unfortunately, by this point, there isn't all that much characterization for the newcomers, with the possible exception of Akio. Granted, most of Girls Und Panzer's secondary characters don't have all that much depth to them, but Saori and Hana establish their personalities as a friendly and energetic boy-chaser, and an elegant and proper lady fairly quickly. These characters seem to be on level with Rabbit Team in that they only have slight variations from each other.
The fic goes back and shows Anglerfish for the first time, briefly describing their personalities. I won't repeat it here, since if you're familiar with the show, none of what is said about them in those paragraphs will be new.
The fic then moves on to how Miho won against Kuromorimine and her older sister Maho. What is new, is that:
- "Miho heard that her mother intended to disown her. She still did, but then Maho told her to avoid speaking with mother at almost any cost."
The second sentence is extremely confusing. Does it mean that Shiho has, in fact, disowned Miho? Later developments seem to suggest that's not the case, even though that's what I gathered from the sentence.
As for the entire subject of disowning, the fic seems to be going by the anime continuity. In the manga, Miho is told in Chapter 10, after the off-panel dinner with the student council, that she will be disowned if she does not win against Pravda. Obviously, she does, but the scene in which she's planning to surrender despite knowing that becomes as painful to read as it is painful to Yukari (Miho's fangirl, who overheard the conversation) to watch. The manga also explains why Shiho went home without saying anything to Miho after the match; if Miho wins, she doesn't have to follow through.
Miho looks over the other seven tanks, which are briefly described (again, I won't repeat this).
Some Sentoki-do planes arrive, but are set aside, because the minimum time for joining the Sentoki-do Aces Authority is a year. That's somewhat interesting; most fics would have included the planes immediately. Yukari is disappointed to hear it, though, although one would have to imagine that if Sentoki-do existed in the Girls Und Panzer universe, we'd have heard about it from her.
A passenger plane lands, and the boys get off. Momo greets them and asks the 16 who will be taking tankery to raise their hands. They constitute roughly a third of the arriving students (48 students doesn't seem like that much help, considering that it's suggested that the schools on ships are much larger than their on land equivalents).
Miho then divvies up the boys into teams. Akira gets sent to Turtle Team, Yoshi gets sent to abbit Team(with Miho briefly seeming unimpressed with his physique), Takuma (who has "helmet hair" like Sodoko and the others) goes to Mallard Team, Yuuta and Ryou get sent to Anteater Team (who seem to know them), and, after a somewhat abrupt scene transition, Tsubasa goes to Leopon Team. Tsubasa's especially excited to work with the Tiger's electric transmission and Maybach engine. Nakajima then informs them that since they're the only mechanically inclined people in the school besides the commander, they work with all the tanks, and they're excited to meet another "petrol head."
The author seems quite fond of Leopon Team, as they get the lion's share of the screentime apart from Miho and Akio, even though they weren't all that interesting or well-developed in canon. Perhaps it's because such scenes allow him to go into detail about the inner workings of the tanks, which is something GuP fanfic writers are quite fond of.
Miho turns to the 10 remaining students, apologizing for not being able to get them a tank, and informing them that since the Aces Authority won't grant their school membership for a year, they'll have to put the planes in storage, since none of the clubs will pay for hangar rental. She then welcomes them to Oarai and offers to show them around.
As she leaves with them, Tsubasa briefly complains about being stuck with the job, while Satoko Nakajima (who didn't have a first name in canon) says that's how things go; she has a point, given that the Auto Club members are the best people for the job. She looks at the engine and hopes to get it into a car.
Hours later, the planes are in storage, and they miraculously find two tanks in long-term storage. Granted, Oarai is short on cash, but one has to wonder why they are finding tanks when they searched the entire ship (long-term storage is probably an area they should have thought to search first, before abandoned sheds, caves at the bottoms of cliffs and underwater), and only found the Chi-Nu because it was in the middle of the parking lot, and had been passed over because the search parties thought that it was worthless if it had been kept in plain sight the entire time.
While searching for his apartment, Akio ends up literally running into Miho. After an awkward exchange of apologies (the author tends to eschew contradictions, which, among other things, makes the dialogue come off as a bit wooden and stilted at times) Akio finds that his apartment is next to Miho's. Miho apologizes for not assigning him a tank, but Akio doesn't mind, being more interested in how Miho knows his name. The answer is simple; she memorized the roster of incoming students, just like she memorized her class roster (although these days, she isn't quite so desperate to make friends). She then gets a call from Nakajima telling her about the new tanks, and brings Akio with her when she comes to check them out.
If you've started reading after the pairing brackets were added to "Miho N" and "OC" on this site, you can tell that they're already setting up Miho and Akio to get together.
Miho rides the elevator down with Akio, evidently nervous to merely be in close proximity to him. They're accompanied by Yukari, who's quite excited to see the new tanks. The Panzer III/IV is so rare that it was never prototyped, and only replicas exist, while the KV-1S is supposedly better than most of Oarai's tanks, albeit not as powerful as the Porsche Tiger. The former goes to Akio and his friends, while the latter goes to the model club.
Granted, the crews have been put into whatever tanks were newly available around the time they were found, and the author later makes a point that the canon characters would have to relearn their new tanks. But it seems a little unfair that the newcomers get tanks superior to those that their contemporaries get, and a possible sign of them becoming overpowered in the future.
The chapter then ends with Miho setting a practice time.
An author's note describes some of the tanks as having significant strengths and weaknesses, which is somewhat at odds with Yukari's enthusiastic description of them. The author describes the eight planes as "mirrors" of Oarai's initial eight tanks, and suggests that if the fic goes on long enough, we will eventually get to see Sentoki-do in action, noting that the other teams possess WWII-era aircraft. That's a potentially promising prospect, but it also suggests the author hasn't planned out very much, and may not complete it.
Now for a comments section of what I liked, what I didn't, and what I think of Akio in the story thus far, taking into account what has happened until this point. I haven't always used it, but decided to keep it around for this liveblog.
What I liked:
- Exploring the long-term struggles Oarai might face in the future.
- Actually having a plausible reason for boys to suddenly show up at the school.
- Significant amount of worldbuilding.
What I didn't like:
- Poorly executed Action Prologue
- New characters don't seem especially interesting and are seemingly given an edge over canon characters in terms of their vehicles.
- Lots of Gratuitous Japanese
Evaluation of Akio So Far: He's not especially interesting at this point, but doesn't seem like much of a Gary Stu.
Please feel free to leave comments, questions, criticism, or so forth- after all, I am sharing my opinion on this work- and stay tuned for the next installment, which will go into Chapter 2.