December 22, 2013

Girls und Panzer -- leadership

I was rewatching the last two episodes of Girls und Panzer this morning, and had some thoughts. Obviously they're spoilers.


It occurs to me that the crew of a tank has to come to think of themselves, in a sense, as part of the tank. The tank is a single individual, a fighting machine, and it's operated by people, but it works best when each crew member does her job and tries to merge with the others into a kind of super-organism.

This is hierarchical, because the tanks in turn become part of the team, in the same way. But it can be taken too far, and Black Forest does take it too far.

For ten years Black Forest has been unbeatable. They lost the previous year but it was a fluke, and everyone knows it. Going into this year's tournament, Black Forest was again the team to beat, and no one had any idea how to do it.

Miho went out and showed them how it was done. Outnumbered 20:8 and with poorer quality tanks, her team nonetheless beat Black Forest. Only just barely, but with the advantages that Black Forest began with, any victory approached miraculous.

So what was it that she did? One thing is that her team's morale was better IMHO. A lot of that is due to the difference in personality between Miho and Maho. Maho is cold; Miho is warm and loveable.

But another thing was that Ooarai's individual tanks were better at improvisation than Black Forest's. Black Forest's doctrine was, stay in formation and follow orders. Miho's girls could do that, and did very well at it, but she could also cut them loose, and they did that very well, too.

And when she started throwing curve balls at Black Forest (for instance, on the mountain) they panicked and we saw half their battle line collapse. They didn't know how to cope, and the situation was too chaotic for Maho to reestablish command immediately.

But when I was watching the interplay between the five girls in Miho's tank specifically, I could see the way all of them had become a very tight team, each with a job to do and everyone trusting all the others to do their jobs.

I wonder how it feels to be part of a team which that kind of cohesiveness, to feel like you're an essential part of something larger? I've been in product development teams, of course, but it isn't the same. I spent a lot of time working alone, developing my part of the product, and time with the others integrating it all, but I never felt like a component.

It occurs to me that for something like the crew of a tank, it could be a really comfortable feeling when it all clicks. I suspect it's the same way with, for instance, the SEALs. Their squads train together and operate together and have to have that same kind of cohesiveness in order to get in, and get out again, on whatever job they are on.

But in a tank, it's even more so. The individual crewmen are fitting into places in a machine, providing capability which can't reasonably be automated, and the machine isn't complete unless the crew are all installed in it.

In the case of Anko team, part of why the other four girls are willing and able to do that is because they trust Miho and believe in her. (And, from the evidence, their confidence is fully justified.)

The whole Ooarai senshadou team has that same feeling about her. I think that at the end, if the team had voted for an MVP, Miho would have won it unanimously.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in General Anime at 04:20 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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1 That group dynamic is supposed to be very important for crew served weapons. Or in fiction, super sentai.

IIRC, On Killing says that this is why machine guns have such a more effective track record; the importance of protecting the other members of one's tightly machine gun team is a more compelling reason than protecting oneself.

I recall hearing that one of the few fairly effective mixed gender tank crews was two soviet married couples who were political fanatics.

Does the anime have an answer to how the girls are supposed to conduct field maintenance on the tracks?

Posted by: PatBuckman at December 22, 2013 11:14 PM (+LcKg)

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