I’d imagine the following post isn’t going to be news to most people reading this, at least at first blush, but since I still seem to be getting an unusual (for me) amount of traffic for that post about Katyusha being missing from the Crunchy stream of Girls und Panzer, despite there being a number of better-written posts on the subject elsewhere, I figured I may as well make another post now that the US disk is in retail channels.
I actually got my copy a couple of days ago – one thing worth mentioning is that it’s encoded both Region A and B. This is because it’s been authored by Sentai in conjunction with Hanabee, the shows Australian licensor. Infact, stick it in a European BD player (like my shiny new, game-deprived PS4), and there’s not a Sentai logo in clear sight, the disk displaying Hanabee iconography. The point here is, aside from it being a futile hope expecting this stuff to be dealt any differently in other territories, that you don’t need special BD playing equipment to play this in the UK. Now, MVM do have the license for the show over here, but with co-pressing with Hanabee out the window with this release already being out there with their branding, it’ll probably be DVD only in these parts.
Anyway, Katyusha – if you’ll cast your mind back, you’ll perhaps remember that, in the eighth episode of Girls und Panzer, there was a whole sequence, in which the Russian-themed school Pravda sing Russian folk-song Katyusha, which was removed from the Crunchyroll broadcast of the episode. Speculation at the time is that this was down the licensing issues surrounding the song, and was probably done in Japan, given the credit was missing even from the ending credits.
As far as the BD release goes, well, the song is still missing, but not the entire scene. Well, kind of. With Katyusha off the table, the music accompanying the scene was replaced with a version of another classic Russian folk song, Korobeiniki.
Or, as it’s probably better known, that song from Tetris.
To be honest, I’m still scratching my head over this a little – It’s easy to point at Sentai and complain about a lack of effort in trying to clear the license, but I also wonder if they were actually given any choice in the matter. The interesting thing about the scene, as it’s presented on the US disks, is that the whole thing looks like it’s been recomposited at source – I mean, going from a vocal track to an instrumental meant that they had to remove all those pesky lip-flaps, and it’s been done in a fashion that’s way too clean looking to have been done post-fact, particularly when you add in the complication of the falling snow crossing over peoples faces. Infact, it’s not even just the lip-flaps that’s been tweaked – there’s one cut where the vocal changes from Nonna to Katyusha (character, not song) mid-cut, accompanied by a pan up at the point of switch over. In the US version, the pan starts way earlier, no longer having the vocal timing to worry about, and is far slower, yet the falling snowflakes are still moving at both the same speed and in exactly the same pattern. It’s a genuine change in the cinematography to accommodate the change in music.
Which is to say, at least some of the work which has gone into this has been done in Japan. This leaves me to question who actually made the choice in terms of what piece of music was used in the, shall we say, international version of the show. Honestly, that the piece of music used is mostly known in the West as being from a version of Tetris that is likely older than most of the audience of the show isn’t really my problem with it, more the specific arrangement of it and what it does to the tone of the scene, and it kind of leaves me concerned if it was the choice of the original creative team.
The specific placement of the scene in question is kind of important to the flow of the two-episode battle with Pravda. The scene immediately prior to the ad-break is the one in which Miho, our heroine, in browbeat into making some really poor tactical choices by her team mates, who have allowed themselves to get aggressively complacent and over-confident following a string of successes. Up until this point, our only real encounters with Pravda, outside of hearsay, have been somewhat comedic – Katyusha in particular is cast in a pretty goofy light. The importance of the entire scene immediately following the ad-break, starting with Pravda rolling towards the battle field up until the end of Katyusha, is that it casts the team in a different light. Pravda actually have their stuff together, and they’re a pretty freaking proud and tight-knit team. It sets up the impending sense of peril, that this team who seemed previously a little doofy are going to completely screw-over and punish our heroines for their overconfidence, and probably deservingly so. They’re kind of intimidating.
Replace the sing-along with the Korobeiniki instrumental, or at least the specific arrangement used here? It kind of renders the whole scene farcical to the point where I somewhat wonder if the version shown on Crunchyroll, which excised it entirely, was actually the superior bowdlerized rendition. I mean, it’s not quite as bad as it would have been if they’d used Yakety Sax, but it’s not necessarily far off.
But, hey, is it really worth getting that bothered over such a small scene? Maybe not – it’s still cheaper than picking up the Japanese disks (which, I admit, I have anyway), and as a lazy way to marathon the show without worrying about internet connectivity or swapping disks (or doing anything legally questionable), it does it’s job, but it is kind of a shame that the effected scene is kinda one of the standouts of the entire series. I’m starting to think that the situation was unavoidable, regardless of how much effort Sentai wanted to put in, if there was ever to be an English-language release. How much this stuff bothers you comes down to individual sensibilities, I guess – don’t worry, I’m not going to judge you either way ^^;