A Video Game About Dating Military Tanks? Sure, Why Not
“Panzermadels” is an odd amalgamation of cute nods to military history and Japanese dating sim tropes.
It is illegal to have sex with a sentient military-owned tank in Japan. According to obscenity lawyer Myles Jackman, fraternization, mechanophilia and property laws make it illegal. A private tank is fair, but a military tank can't consent and it's considered defamation of military property.
Even if she's super flirty and very much interested in you.
Panzermadels is a video game about dating tanks. As revenge for America nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II, Japan developed the technology to fit the era's tanks into teenage anime girl bodies. The plan is for the tank-girls to seduce US Army students into compromising situations.
Yes, it really is as bizarre a premise as it sounds.
So, here's the deal with Panzermadels—you play a military recruit named Erwin Lemmor who has, for some reason, ended up at a Japanese school where all the other students are tanks. He thought he was there to learn about tanks, but no, it's a school for educating sentient tanks.
They look like Japanese teenagers, but fire projectiles, visit mechanics for repairs, have brakes that can lock up and have personalities tied to the cultural attitudes of their respective countries during World War II.
Panzer IV is still obsessed with the idea of blitzkrieg. IS-2 is highly patriotic, possessive and lacks subtlety. Tiger I is wealthy but prone to mechanical failures and Bob Semple, being a sheet metal-covered tractor, is terribly aware of how she doesn't really fit in with the other tanks. It's an odd amalgamation of cute nods to military history and Japanese dating sim tropes.
Realizing the protagonist's name—Lemmor—is "Rommel" spelled backwards puts a lot of the dialogue in a very different light. Particularly when you start inferring that specific tanks might turn Lemmor on. When you're staring down the barrel of a drunk IS-2 and you offer to buy the next round rather than running, that says a lot about your feelings toward tanks.
I suppose it's easier to drop in a joke about operations manuals and rising turrets than to slot in an intelligent commentary about the military tactics of the Soviet Union.
The game is very much a visual novel, meaning the player spends most of their time looking at still images and reading text while making occasional decisions to steer the narrative forward. There are numerous tanks to date, each of which leads to a more in-depth discovery of the personality of that tank-girl.
While the writing is, at times, inconsistent in quality, it's hard to deny that it's clearly written with the passion of someone who knows their military history. From French tank-girls referencing their slower combat style and lessened need for radios to accurately written jokes about penetration depth, the humor is full of nods that might well pass over the head of someone unaware of the history of the war.
It's also clearly written by Americans who have a superficial knowledge of the rest of the world, and make ham-fisted attempts at accurately representing different cultures. In particular, the game's understanding of Japan is mixed, torn between tasteful depictions of rural towns and awkwardly inserted beliefs about the prevalence of nerd culture within the country.
Much of the moment to moment dialogue is low brow. Lots of references to sizes of ammo racks, queries about if you've ever "been …… INSIDE a tank" and jabs about wanting you to help "fill her up" bulk out the otherwise plain text.
It's crude, but generally carried off in an amusing manner. It's a shame discussions of war and politics are few and far between. I suppose it's easier to drop in a joke about operations manuals and rising turrets than to slot in an intelligent commentary about the military tactics of the Soviet Union.
Most of the endings are unexpected, either in their brevity, or in their premise. One relationship led to me having to admit to fucking a military-owned tank as my alibi for desertion from the Army, which lead to some interesting Google searches once I finished.
Another ending had me dead at the hands of a tank who really did not want to see me "defect" to a relationship with another nation.
Overall, if you're a historical machines buff then there's plenty of amusing nods to military hardware here, so long as you can go along with the ridiculous initial premise.
You're unfortunately not going to be looking down a highly detailed barrel, but you will get to enjoy the weird personification of tanks as teenage girls fighting over a single guy. Also, Panzermadels features an amazingly written angry sergeant who always steals the show.
While I have never been in the army, I imagine that having a sergeant scream "WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING RIGHT NOW MAGGOT" with relative frequency is a decent approximation of the experience.
Lastly, never agree to let a tank girl hold your hand on a romantic night. Getting your hand held "with the full force of a medium size tank" will not end well for anyone involved.
Same goes for trying to carry an M4 Sherman.
Or picking a fight with a T-34.
Or abandoning an IS-2 to defect for a Panzer IV. You don't want an international incident on your hands.