Girls Und Panzer Das Final Part 1 - Thoughts on a 10 second Maho & Erika scene

I was going to write a dev update post today and went looking for a Maho picture to use and remembered this scene from Girls Und Panzer Das Final part 1 where Maho and Erika are on a video call. I wanted a nice screenshot of Maho using a computer or something as it was a technical post, but I got distracted by this scene and it really made me think how much is hidden in this scene. Just two screenshots are required.

Maho_das_final_1_Screenshot_20220517_041548.pngErika_das_final_1_Screenshot_20220517_043239.png

On the surface, we have Erika asking "Is it really ok for me to be the new commander?" and Maho replying with "Don't fret over the results. You should find your own Senshado." Ok, pretty simple right? Erika has a bit of self doubt, Maho is reassuring her, lets get on with the Tankery?

But no. I don't wanna.
I am a huge fan of Maho, and her lack of presence in Das Final really saddens me (this is literally her entire appearance in part 1 - but don't skip Das final, its still great to watch). I know I'm an idiot, but I actually got some tears in my eye when I saw her finally here, and it made me think how much I miss her in the show, and that made me think about Erika, and then the second screenshot. And I kept staring at these two images, and as I said I am an idiot, but I see so much meaning in these two screenshots.

Let me explain, firstly, I have them in order of appearance as per the episode, they follow on from each other with a jump cut. The first, we see Maho, look how big she is in the scene, yea yea it is a video call so it would be like that, but stay with me here, it makes the room look smaller, Maho's presence appears to more fill the room. Look how bright and light the room is, yes she is in Germany which would be day time and Erika is in Japan so it would be at night and dark, but I think it has more meaning.

Maho is big versus a small room, this places Maho as more important and her presence fills the room, the room is brightly lit with sun light, it makes it feel warm, cosy, bright, and happy - all the feelings I and Erika, would think of with Maho. Now look at Erika, she is in a dark room, the light is off, she is small, it is a big room. The curtains are drawn, there is slight misting on the windows suggesting it is cold, and it is snowing outside. The stove behind her is clearly off, no fire, no warm glow, the kettle on top is clearly cold, no steam. But there is more, notice the incredible detail in Erika's scene compared to Maho's, you can see the wood grain and all the shadow details. In contrast Maho's is much lower detail, almost a bit fuzzy, almost as if she was already becoming a memory. And then there is the empty chair. Maho's chair? No, I think the empty chair is actually Erika's usual sitting place, and Maho would be sitting at the desk. Why does it matter? Because Erika is out of place, she is the commander now, literally sitting in Maho's chair, feeling small and uncomfortable, completely, totally, alone in the dark and cold, missing Maho in complete sadness. Now that, brings tears to my eyes.

Ok, so I lied about the stove and the kettle, there is visible steam coming out of the kettle, but I genuinely didn't notice that until after I wrote all that and I can't just delete it, its too good. Does that change the meaning of the entire scene then? Maybe. Maybe it is more proof it is cold, needing the stove and kettle to keep warm? Maybe I'm just depressed my beloved Maho isn't in it much? (well, yes) Or maybe there is another twist? Maybe I'm seeing something that isn't there? Probably, but hell we have come this far so why not go all out - behold the madness! What if, the stove was lit, and has gone out, it is the fading warmth of the missing Maho? Now I'm reaching? I got more! What if, that is Maho's perspective? Huh? - ok hold on I need more screenshots.

Erika_0_das_final_1_Screenshot_20220517_060524.png
This screenshot was taken right before the two above, this is what Maho would likely be seeing on the video call, notice how here Erika is big in the frame and room, not as big as Maho, and she is just a little off centre, the kettle is boiling, we can see the steam. Ok, so? Maybe, all of this is deliberate, we and Maho see a slightly doubtful Erika, but things don't look that bad, mostly normal, we don't notice the light being off, we can't see the snow, we can't see the empty chair, the big room doesn't look so big after all. This is what Maho sees. Now go back to the the above two screenshots, as the scene progresses, the frame moves out. Maho can't see what we see, sure she likely knows the room like the back of her hand, she has likely lived there longer than Erika, but what if this is just showing the hidden truth behind Erika's situation? What if the point of all of this is that Maho sees things as normal Erika with a little self doubt, and we get to see how really alone she feels? I don't know. Maybe.

Erika_4_das_final_1_Screenshot_20220517_070421.png

And here we have the final frame, with Erika's single word response "Yes".

Maybe I'm looking way too close and seeing things which are not there, but that was fun.

That level of scene composition is the stuff awards are made of, and all of that is in less than 10 seconds of anime, I bet most don't even notice, and probably never even thought about going to the depth I went into with it. What's my point? Girls und Panzer is not just about high school girls driving around in tanks, it has got feeling, it tugs at the heartstrings, it can make you cry, make you laugh out loud and spit out your tea. The tank battles are amazing, and they just seem to get more elaborate and longer with every battle, it kept me on the edge of my seat throughout.

Serious work went into this, and it really shows, I love every single episode, from the original TV series right up to Das Final part 3. I also love the little details, the homage to Kelly's Heros and the Great Escape. My only wish is for more Maho. My favourite? It has to be Der Film, not just because way more Maho, but the battle and story too.
 
Maiku Ando

Maiku Ando

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