Recently, we heard from our SNS followers saying "Garupan" triggered their interests toward Finland and Kantele. Garupan is an abbreviation for "Girls und Panzer", Japanese animation depicting a competition between girls' high schools practicing tank warfare as a sport. Following the popular TV version, the movie was released in theaters on November, 2015 in which the fictional high school in the motif of Finland left a strong impression. We asked the director Tsutomu Mizushima and Bandai Visual Co.Ltd. about their stories behind the movie and thoughts on Finland.
Director Tsutomu Mizushima: Japanese animation director, known for “Crayon Shin-Chan”, “Ookiku furikabutte”, “Squid Girl!”, “Shirobako” and “Another”. He composes some of the music in his movies. He started playing Kantele after this movie.
"Girls und Panzer" is a Japanese TV animation series which aired late of night from the year 2012. In the series there are many activities high school girls can participate in, one of the most popular one being "sensha-dō" ( the way of the tank), the art of operating tanks, which is depicted as a traditional martial art such as flower arrangement and tea ceremony. Although girls are on the tanks, they are secure enough; the main themes are competing with rivals and friendship with teammates. According to Bandai Visual, the main target for the TV series was originally men around 40's who used to play with the plastic tank models in their childhood. Animation makers wanted people who are tired from their work to be healed by seeing it. These TV series became surprisingly a mega hit and the movie was produced. Many anime male fans in the 20’s also went to theaters to see it. The cumulative attendance of the movie was 1.43 million and the box office income also exceeded 2.4 billion yen. A six-part theatrical anime series will be made, with the first premiering in December 2017.
- Where did the story of tanks and high school girls come from?
Director Mizushima: From the beginning when I received the offer there were already two key words "tank" and "high school girls". I found the combination of extremes and very interesting! Then a scenario writer and I joined the planning and presented ideas for the story.
I think it depends on the generation, but in my childhood we were in the middle of plastic model boom and each of us had our own favorite series such as sports cars, boats, tanks, etc. I suppose that everyone had similar experience but my favorite was cars and tanks.
- Was it the movie version when the high school “Keizoku” in the motif of Finland appeared for the first time?
Director Mizushima: Actually the debut was in TV series and I put the school name in the tournament at random. The school name “Keizoku” (literary meaning continuation) comes from “Keizoku war” (continuation war). I was familiar with the Winter and Continuation wars that are well known battles of World War 2. Fans immediately responded to the school name as soon as the tournament chart appeared.
I am sure that the team staff had their own opinion on the story when the time came to make the movie, but personally I wanted to make the Keizoku high school as the leading role behind the scenes. I gave Mika of the high school to speak the first and the last lines of the movie, although they are playing the supporting roles. I’ve never been to Finland and don’t have so deep a knowledge about the country. The unique, mysterious and sudden change “from stillness to motion” are the image of Finland I have. I described my rough image in the movie with longing tone.
- Why did you name the girls of Keizoku high school as Mika, Aki and Mikko?
Director Mizushima: I knew that they are men’s names in Finland, but they sounded Japanese as well. Thus I named them so. I’m familiar with Finnish names as I love motor sports since Ari Vatanen was very active. Oh, Ari can be also used as a girl’s name.
- In the movie the music ”Säkkijärven polkka” played by the Finnish high school girl with Kantele leaves strong impression. Why did you choose Kantele and the music?
Director Mizushima: I wanted to use Kantele from the beginning as I knew it is Finnish traditional instrument. But it took time to decide which music to be played. After listening to various music, I chose Säkkijärven polka in the end and asked Japanese Kantele player Hiroko Ara to play it. The blocking of the scene and flow are made in time to the music so that the movement of the animation fit to the high point of the music. Kantele is beautiful and stylish instrument. I like the simple design a lot.
After the movie release, its surprising effects have been seen in many places. The plastic model of the Finnish tank BT-42 was quickly sold out and young Japanese men showed up to Kantele lessons. Japanese tourists have been visiting the Parola tank museum (officially Armoured vehicle museum) near Hämeenlinna to see real BT-42. Last year, the museum raised funds through cloud-funding to build a roof to protect exposed tanks. As a result approximately 3 million yen were donated by Japanese. Finnish media also reported about the hidden boom triggered by Garupan in Japan.
- What do you think about the fans visiting Finland after seeing Garupan and articles written by Finnish media about the boom?
Director Mizushima: In fact I was worried how Finns see Garupan. I hope they don’t find it unscrupulous because the movie addresses weapon. Anyway I'm happy that some people get interested in BT-42. The back drop of the animation series is Oarai in Ibaraki prefecture and many fans have been visiting there. I heard that about 30 people even moved to the place. Animation is just a catalyst. I hope this motivates more people to visit Finland and more people come to Japan from Finland.
Director Tsutomu Mizushima
Japanese animation director, known for “Crayon Shin-Chan”, “Ookiku furikabutte”, “Squid Girl!”, “Shirobako” and “Another”. He composes some of the music in his movies. He started playing Kantele after this movie.