Good day people, it is me again. I’m not here with the usual Shriobako review though, instead I will be discussing, what is arguably one of the most anticipated anime of the winter season, Kantai Collection. I’m sure that this much is somewhat considered common knowledge at this point but for those unaware Kantai Collection or Kancolle is a Japanese browser game themed around moe versions of World War Two warships and, whilst at its core simply a resource management game it is a lot of fun (addictively so, as I can vouch for) immensely popular to the extent that it rival the likes of Touhou.
So the anime adaptation has quite a bit to live up to and I have certainly bitten of quite the chunk deciding to write coverage of it. Best get chewing:
From the off set, we can see rather alarming degrees of similarity to other series themed on moe versions of Second World War hardware, as an off-screen narrator outlines the general premise of the world in which our story takes place, greatly emphasizing the severity of the threat posed to humanity by the Abyssal ships whilst showing us just how nefarious and cold they look (bonus points for the use of the grainy, period filter used). Evil such as theirs is not unchecked though as we see waves of Type 97 torpedo planes and Type 99 dive bombers descend upon the Abyssal Fleet. Followed by a barrage of gun fire from the fleet of shipgirls that have just arrived on scene. The ensuing battle proceeds to intensify but we cut away, narration continuing, to observe events from the command center as Nagato loudly directs the battle (apparently to locate the enemy stronghold).
The noise and excitement of the battlefield does not last for long though and we leave Shoukaku and company to finish of the enemy. Calm in the ocean in the next scene where we first meet our protagonist, Fubuki, who as is traditional in this kind of show, is new. It is also at this point we are introduced to the Admiral (well not really introduced per say but …. yeah) who is a mute character with no screen time and yet he is already better than an embarrassingly large number of harem anime protagonists (apply water to burnt area). The fact that they have chosen to portray the admiral this way is quite interesting and is perhaps, at least in my opinion, a very sensible one. The romantic elements that are present in both the game and the various fan portrayals are notably potent and in the eyes of many an indicative part of the series but the decision to cut this from the anime (Cannon yuri parings withstanding) is a necessary one for the type of anime they are going for here. Things will already be fairly busy with both the slice of life side and the action side so adding in large numbers or romantic subplots, essentially making it a Harem anime, would just overcrowd things.
We continue observing Fubuki’s first day happenings as she encounters her first fellow shipgirl, Mutsuki, who is both her roommate and fellow member of torpedo squadron three. They exchange greetings in the hallway, the clumsy Fubuki manages to spill her baggage, and both of them express relief that the other is not scary. After this short exchange that would not seem out-of-place in the likes of K-On!, Fubuki is taken on a whistle-stop tour of the naval base eventually leading us to their room where Fubuki meets her other room-mate, Yuudachi (speaking of scary ships…). There room is soon invaded by two Sendai-class cruisers -also members of the third torpedo squadron- who are curious about their new comrade. Introductions go about as well as can be expected with Sendai deciding that she likes Fubuki and Jintsuu feeling the need to apologize. The third in the Sendai-class is noticeably missing but her location does not take much skill to determine as her loud shouts are audible enough to be heard from the window.
The liveliness of the base, momentarily gives way to a different type of liveliness as we rejoin Shoukaku’s group as they continue on with their expedition to locate the enemy stronghold. All is going well it seems and with the help of a scout plane said stronghold is located and its position reported back to Sectary ship Nagato.
The decision for the fleet to fall back is made and preparations are made for the launching of a larger fleet that will carry out the destruction of the stronghold. Here we encounter the flip-side of what is gained by the usage of an off-screen with all the shots being called by Nagato rather than the Admiral. Though reference to conforming with the admirals intentions is made, one can not help but feel that the Admiral comes across as more than a bit redundant thanks to this scene and also poses the questions; Why is Nagato, the most powerful ship that we have seen thus far not doing any of the fighting? What is Mutsu, who posses the same degree of power as Nagato just standing around in the command center? What happened to the power of the big seven?
Such questions will have to wait though (In the long run it’s probably best not to question these kinds of things) as we rejoin events around the base, watching Tone leading a group of destroyers in their training before we rejoin Mutski and Yuudachi who are still showing Fubuki around the base. Touring the base gives Fubuki the chance to ask her new comrades about their combat experience, which whilst not extensive seems to be more than Fubuki has. The question is returned to her but perhaps out of embarrassment or because she is a bit of a scatter brain, Fubuki is unable to communicate the fact that she has no combat experience. Somehow managing to make it seem like she has participated in twenty full-scale battles.
Fubuki is not given a chance to clear this up though as the sound of an aeroplane engines pulls the attention of the destroyers towards the window. Said planes are identified as those belonging to the first carrier division (Akagi and Kaga) and we are informed of the legendary status surrounding the division. Such status is deserved of the two carriers who represented much of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s striking power until the battle of midway but doing this much also serves to create a plot device that we will see more on later on in this episode.
Having been introduced to the legend we are then quickly introduced to the shipgirls and watch as we see Akagi partaking in some “archery” practice under the close watch of Kaga. The practice is carried out using a special type of target, designed to be shot at by the machine guns of a fighter plane. Akagi’s shot is suitably impressive in the eyes of Kaga and especially so in the eyes of the three destroyers who are stealing glances at the carrier’s practicing. The trespassing destroyers are soon spotted though, most likely thanks to their vocal appreciation of Akagi’s skills, and try to make a hasty escape. Such an escape does not go smoothly though and thanks to a collision between Fubuki’s head and a low tree branch they are caught. As a result of being caught, it looks as if they are in for a scolding from Kaga but the more cheerful Akagi does not seem to mind their intrusion and instead proceeds to acquaint herself with Fubuki. Seeing her off with the words “I hope that we can fight in the same fleet someday”.
Taking a break from their tour, we stay with the three destroyers as they prepare to enjoy some rather impressive ice-cream. Akagi’s words seem to have had quite the effect on Fubuki though as she is now very spaced out, repeating her new-found Onee-sama’s words over and over whist grinning to herself. Their trespassing antics seem to have had less of an effect on Mutsuki and Yuudachi who, if anything, are now a little annoyed with Fubuki’s new obsession. With the subject of the scene looking towards yuri we are granted sight of Kitakami and Ooi, who are also partaking in some ice-cream. Ooi is just as obsessed with her sister-ship as she is game and Yuudachi’s advice of not bothering them when they are together very much seems to solid. The serenity of the base is shattered before Fubuki can manage to somehow upset Ooi though, as sirens sound though out the base signaling a call to action stations.
As we move into the second part of the episode we see the last of the calm before the storm for Fubuki and company as they stand in an area that looks much more fitting to be part of a naval base. Nagato delivers the mission briefing to the three fleets worth of ships taking part in the operation over the intercom, prompting responses and retorts from the ship girls. Special note to the response the fan favorite from Kongou here who, rather than responding with one of her in-game lines or the expected Engrish, responds with incorrect Japanese that doesn’t make any sense which I though was a nice touch, particularly as much of the dialogue we hear feels a bit too heavily based of in-game lines.
From here we then move on to the transformation sequence which, despite Fubuki and her lack of experience messing it up slightly, is nicely choreographed very well done in my opinion. An anime adaptation of Kancolle or a similar property inevitably requires the characters to be shown both with and without their equipment (I mean, I don’t think that it is actually possible to sleep with a giant chimney strapped to your back) so some form of transformation sequence was inevitable if for no other reason than having the shipgirls put on their equipment without it would just be really anticlimactic. Though with that much said the transformation could be a lot worse and the manner in which they have done it nicely expresses the transition between them being land based to them floating.
With this as a launching off point we next see a short series of shots showing the fleets, now underway, in their respective formations before we return our focus to Fubuki and Torpedo Squadron 3. If it had not been made obvious during the transformation sequence, Fubuki’s lack of experience is made incredibly apparent now, as she is barely able to stay upright during the voyage. Her comrades are naturally concerned by this and finally the fact that this is indeed Fubuki’s first sortie. The Admiral had apparently ordered her into action regardless and there was little that they could do at this stage as their unit was nearing the enemy fleet.
Combat ranges are soon reached and opening salvos of gunfire and torpedoes are fired from the light cruiser contingent of the squadron and some initial hits are scored. The combatants close in and return fire from the abyssal destroyers land damaging hits on both Sendai and Naka. Moral does not suffer as badly though and the ferocity of the fighting does not let off but this only serves to further highlight Fubuki’s lack of combat experience as she comes very close to taking a direct hit. Nagato provides us with an update to how the operation is proceeding and with thanks to supporting fire from Kongou’s group the fleets are able to make it to the enemy boss, Anchorage Hime.
This is as far as the third torpedo squadron gets though as an attack from the flank sends Fubuki off-balance causing her to fall. She barely has time to recover though as the destroyer comes back around again for a second attack and despite her managing to lay her guns on the oncoming ship and supporting fire from her comrades she simply doesn’t have the firepower to repel the attack, it looks like it is all over. But when it comes to fire power there is little that can rival that of an aircraft carrier and Fubuki’s salvation arrives in the nick of time in the form of a strafing run from a Type 0 Model 21 fighter plane that sees off the enemy. The sky fills with aeroplanes and the first carrier division takes the stage (I wonder if Souryuu and Hiryuu are annoyed by this? Historically they were never in the first division and instead made up the second carrier division).
The combined firepower of four carriers is too much for Anchorage Hime’s escort ships and they are swiftly blown away. Anchorage Hime herself resists this much fire though and her shields are able to shrug off the blows. The combined fleet is not done though and the initiative is once again seized by a barrage of armor-piercing shells fired by Hiei and Kongou, presenting sufficient stopping power to crack the boss’s shield leaving her open for a final wave of torpedo and bomb attacks.
Unable to defend herself Anchorage Hime goes to the bottom leaving Fubuki awe inspired by to power of the attacks that defeated her. The ending credits begin to appear on-screen as we momentarily turn our focus to the command center to see Nagato and Mutsu’s reactions to the news of victory. We then seamlessly transition ahead to a time later that day and watch as Fubuki, disheartened by the vast gap in capabilities between her and Akagi, is comforted by off-screen Admiral and subsequently charges back to her room where she boldly proclaims her goal of becoming Akagi’s escort ship and in doing so the scales fall from our eyes and the main plot of the anime is laid out before us! (If there is a section of the story where Fubuki has to gain the aproval of Kaga you heard it hear first!)
And there you have it, the first episode of the Kantai collection anime. All things considered I very much enjoyed it. I realize that for a fair few people the type of anime that they have decided to go for is considered a let down but when one thinks about it rationally, the anime was never going to be a massively dramatic masterpiece of storytelling for kantai collection is not a story it is a brower game. The anime adaptation of it was always going to be for the purpose of publicizing the game rather than the game publicizing an anime that completely rewrites the canon of the game so expecting it to be that is a little bit unreasonable. For what it is though it is not bad at all the combat is well done, the slice of life elements are sufficiently cute and I wasn’t actually all that annoyed with the fact that Fubuki is the protagonist as she has something of a personality in this (As opposed to her portrayal in the Fubuki, Ganbarimasu! manga where she simply serves as essentially a portable camera stand while we look at more interesting characters).
So in summation: “where is episode two?”
As Nagato is essentially the acting admiral I couldn’t stop myself from using this one for a bonus pic:
Sadly there is no link for this one as the artist seems to have deleted their Pixiv account