Friday, August 02, 2013

High School Girls in Short Skirts, Middies and Werhmacht Jackets

What's not to like?

In line with this week's "let's think about a takeover by Nazis" theme provided to us by our unthoughtful Finance Minister -- who yesterday repudiated his discombobulated attempt to illustrate...well, no one knows what (Link) -- there is the news out Oarai Township, Ibaraki Prefecture. Oarai is home to one of Japan's, which is to say the world's, great aquariums. I visited Aqua World (Link) in March and, despite a debilitating bout of hay fever, had a wonderful time.

Unfortunately, when folks talks about tanks and Oarai nowadays, chances are they are not talking about fish tanks:
Ibaraki town's tank attracts tourists
The Yomiuri Shimbun

MITO--The town of Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture, has adopted an unusual symbol to attract visitors: a Ground Self-Defense Force tank.

Oarai is the setting of the popular TV anime series "GIRLS und PANZER" in which high school girls learn "senshado," a fictitious popular martial art that uses tanks as its main weapon, at Oarai Joshi Gakuen girls' high school, a fictional school in the Ibaraki Prefecture town. Many tanks appear in the series, in which various facilities and streets of the town are precisely re-created.

The series is popularly called "Garupan" (a portmanteau combining "girls" and "panzer") by its fans.

During a recent seasonal beach-opening festival, the town displayed a real state-of-the-art GSDF tank with the cooperation of the GSDF.

Events were held during the three-day festival, which began on July 13, with the participation of GSDF equipment and personnel. The town's efforts to attract sightseers, whose numbers fell after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, harmonized with the GSDF’s wish to promote the significance of GSDF tanks in the nation's defense among the public.


The town proposed the idea of bringing a real GSDF tank to the festival.

Oarai Mayor Takaaki Kotani said, "We wanted visitors to see a real tank like those that appear in 'Garupan.'"

The GSDF willingly accepted the offer to provide the tank and even provided information about various tanks to a company that produces the anime.

The GSDF apparently was eager to cooperate because it feels its status lags behind that of the other two forces--the Air Self-Defense Force and Maritime Self-Defense Force. For instance, originally 1,200 tanks were scheduled to be deployed mainly in Hokkaido in the 1970s, but the GSDF currently deploys only 400 in Hokkaido due to such reasons as the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In contrast, the number of submarines possessed by the MSDF, which has to deal with Chinese submarines and ships in the South China Sea, has been beefed up from 16 to 22.

"We'd like to make the public aware of the necessity of tanks and other GSDF equipment through various events," a senior GSDF official said.

Hosei University Prof. Toshiyuki Masubuchi, who specializes in "content tourism," a field that actively uses movies and dramas to promote tourism, said: "'Garupan,' in which the townscape, shops and streets of Oarai are quite precisely rendered, is widely supported by the town's residents, so the current boom should last for a long time.

"There are pros and cons to using tanks to promote a town, but this can be a good chance to once again consider what peace means to Japan."
(Read the whole article, and do please read it, here)

Ummmm...where to begin...

OK, let us leave aside the issue of the charms of the short-skirt-wearing high school girls of Oarai Joshi Gakuen (a prefectural school -- come on we are not talking about one of those sleazy private institutions) lolling about atop functioning tanks (Hey, you can buy the shirt here). What some folks fantasize about is really none of my or anyone else's business.

The governance question is who in the Ministry of Defense is signing off on the release orders for the transport of top-of-the-line tanks to anime events? If one really wants to demonstrate that your tanks are of zero military value -- i.e., for display purposes only -- I cannot think of a more blatant way of doing it.

Then there is the icky business of the "und Panzer" and at least one girl's dressing up as a Werhmacht dominatrix (Elvin (sp?) is a member of the school's moody "Hippopotamus Team." The Hippos drive and maintain one of the the school's two German tanks. No, I am not making this up). Or the ersatz Iron Crosses on collars (Link) and on the sides of some of the tanks?

OK, if edgy is what one is shooting for, the use of the German language and modified Wehrmacht symbology is edgy. But do the inter-titles of the promotional videos really have to replicate the graphical elements, shakes and flickers of pre-1950s movie reels? (Check out the second video here)

Whilst we are on the subject of appropriateness, at least one blogger maintains that the Type 10 tank famously used as a campaign prop by Prime Minister Abe Shinzo was at the Nico Nico Douga event as a part of the GSDF's collaboration with the Girls und Panzer Projekt (yes, that is what it calls itself). I do not know whether this is true or not. However, Girls und Panzer certainly has increased interest -- though possibly not the kind of interest one needs when facing appropriations committees or recruitment quotas -- in battle tanks.

I encourage the readers to go back to the Yomiuri's story and reread Professor Masubuchi's end comment. Honestly, one cannot pay folks to come up with lines like it.

[For those wanting to know more about Girls und Panzer, the website is here]

Later - If you are planning a trip to Oarai this summer, you might want to put your Girls und Panzer knowledge to the test. Those scoring 80% or more on the 20 question "Japan Federation of the Way of the Tank Mock Test" (Nihon senshado renmei mogi shiken) turned in to the information counter at Oarai Station receive a special certificate from the Oarai Tourism Board. (Link)

Think of how good this certificate would look on your wall...


Joel Rheuben said...

Lest we forget that Aso himself, when prime minister, wanted manga and anime to be Japan's face to the world, and to use it to build bridges with other countries.

Hitokiri1989 said...

On a related note, Nazi imagery is becoming more prevalent in the popular anime Gundam where, the antagonists, Zeon, are pretty much the Space Nazis, with the Nazi war flag and German sounding names. It also doesn't help that this Zeon is a pretty popular faction amongst fans.