Revisiting Katyusha

Posted by DiGiKerot in Random Stuff at October 24, 2016 on 6:23 pm

I saw a festival screening of the Girls und Panzer movie at the Scotland Loves Anime event in Edinburgh yesterday. This isn’t the first screening on the movie outside of Japan – it played at a convention in the US a couple of weeks back following Sentais licensing announcement for it, at least, but it may well be the second, and certainly is of the official English subtitled version.

Way back when the TV show aired, you may well remember there was a bit of a something over the shows eighth episode. To recap, in the version that aired on Japanese TV (and subsequently in the home releases in Japan), there’s a scene in which the Russian team, Pravda, deploy in formation whilst singing the old Russian song Katyusha. When the episode was then made available on Crunchyroll shortly afterwards, the entire sequence was removed.

The presumption is that there is something of a clearance issue here, and that whatever copyright clearances they’d swung for Japan for the use of the song, had not also been secured for International versions of the show (assuming they even had to clear it for Japan, variance in law and all). This was further compounded when the home release came out in the English speaking territories, and the scene was somewhat reinstated, only recomposited and timed to an instrumental version of Korobeinkiki.

The somewhat unfortunate thing there is that the scene in question is kind of important – aside from it being unspeakably cool to hear a bunch of Japanese voice actresses singing in Russian, it’s a scene intended to put across both the thunderous might of Pravda, the teams sense of unity, and the cult of personality the team has built around their diminutive despot (also called Katyusha, presumably after the song even in-universe) – at a time when our heroes at Ourai are in disarray through overconfidence and willfully overriding their captains plans as a result. It’s a sharp focus on the contradicting statuses of the team and the impending doom bearing down on our heroes.

Whilst there is probably a way to make an edited version of the scene work, it’s probably not the version of it that’s on the foreign releases of the TV show. Even aside from the fact that Korobeiniki is essentially forever tied mentally with the Gameboy version of a certain block puzzle video game in many folks minds, the particular arrangement of it used within the international version of the show is almost hilariously tonally dissonant to what is actually going on at the time it’s played. It’s arguably worse than having the scene removed entirely, honestly.

As for where the movie comes into this, well, whilst there’s no vocal renditions of the song in the movie, it is the piece of music which is mostly widely associated with Pravda at this point. The show is big on using actual music, particularly military tunes, that are nationally appropriate to the regionally themed teams within the show. It’s the worryingly frequent viewings of the Anzio OAV that’s got Funiculì Funicula semi-permantantly wedged in my head these day, for example. They’re generally pretty consistent about having renditions of particular songs playing at least when certain teams make their first appearance.

As such, when it’s rather suddenly revealed during the opening tank battle of the Girls und Panzer movie that Pravda are the ones who’ve teamed with with St. Gloriana, the first indication of it is a thunderous instrumental reprisal of the opening bars of Katyusha a half second before a Russian tank storms into frame.

Except, as you could probably have seen coming, not in the version of the movie that’s playing outside Japan. Yeah, it turns out they’ve replaced even the instrumental versions of the track used in the movie. To be fair in this case, whilst I don’t think the replacement works as well, it’s nowhere as frustrating as it was in the TV show – if I hadn’t seen the movie multiple times already, it’s entirely possible I may not have noticed. Whilst I can’t say I’ve got a good enough ear to have picked out exactly what they’ve used for the replacement (I’m not sure if it’s something from elsewhere on the OST or something new – it turns out that, seen in a theatre, those bass-y, low, rumbling tank noises are loud enough to drown some things out), it’s at least not a terrible version of Korobeiniki. It was musically consistent with the rest of the soundtrack, and even the medley of team anthems that plays about half-way through the movie was pretty much seamlessly altered.

The biggest problem, I guess, aside from the music just not being quite as fitting, is the lack of consistency or coherance here. Unlike every other team, throughout the internationally available version of Girls und Panzer, Pravda are essentially left without an identifiable leitmotif. I don’t particularly want to sound like I’m making an argument for more Korobeinikim but it is kind of a bummer.

That being said, it’s a super-minor thing, honestly.

The Girls und Panzer movie is wildly entertaining, by the way. You probably know that already, though. I’ve probably seen it six times at this point, and was worryingly close to accidentally watching it a seventh on the train home this morning when I opened it up to check a few things.

What is I presume Sentai Filmworks final presentation version of it looks largely OK – it’s consistent with what they’ve put out on BD for the TV show, anyway, the sport being referred to as Sensha-do and all. The Finnish school is left untranslated as Jatkosota. They are using their normal bright yellow subtitles, though, and the Russian dialogue spoken between Nonna and Clara is all subtitled in this thin, white, crooked subtitle font that I’m sure someone thought was cute and matched the treatment in the Japanese print, but actually just ends up looking less legible than it probably should.

The biggest actual problem with the Sentai release of Girls und Panzer der Film is that there doesn’t look to be a legit way of actually see the Anzio OAV by the time the movie does it’s limited run in the US, unless they seriously put a hurry on that, and you kind of want to see that before hand.

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