With the release of the first Kantai Collection (“KanColle“) anime PV, I thought it might be useful to post some information for those interested in the anime, but not familiar with the franchise. (FYI – I am playing the game. KanColleViewer mod is awesome!)
Ship Class Abbreviations
Battleship (BB), Aviation Battleship (BBV), Armored/Regular/Fleet Aircraft Carrier (CV), Light Aircraft Carrier (CVL), Seaplane Tenders (AV), Amphibious Assault Ship (LHA), Escort Carrier (CVE), Heavy Cruiser (CA), Aviation Cruiser (CAV), Light Cruiser (CL), Torpedo Cruiser (CLT), Destroyer (DD), Repair Ship (AR), Submarine (SS), Submarine Aircraft Carrier (SSV), and Submarine Tender (AS).
From the KanColle English Wiki – “Kantai Collection, also known as KanColle, is an online browser game in which one assumes the role of an admiral, assembles a fleet of kanmusu (“ship girl” – girls based on World War II era Japanese ships and submarines) and battles against fleets of alien enemy warships.” The game is free to play, and gained popularity fast after launching on April 23, 2013. As of May 2014, there were over 2 million registered users. The hashtag #kancolle was the most popular hashtag for Twitter Japan in 2013. Google a WWII Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) ship name, and your likely to get a KanColle ship girl at the top of the list. In fact, you now have to enter a daily lottery in order to register and start playing. Also, as of this post date, you still need a Japanese IP address to play. 😦 So if you don’t have one, you’ll need to use a VPN or other method. For console gamers, a PS Vita version entitled KanColle Kai is in the works and set for release in Spring 2015, though whether it will be for the Japanese market only or not is unknown at this time.
As the Admiral (Teitoku), you start by picking one of five DDs – Fubuki, Inazuma, Murakumo, Samidare or Sazanami. OK, one DD does not a fleet make so off to do some easy “quests” (which do not always involve battles). As you complete quests, you stockpile resources/supplies, add/build ship girls and equipment, and of course battle the “Deep (or Abysmal) Fleet”. The game is not as simple as it may seem at first glance. There is a lot of management and planning involved – resources (key!), special item usage, fleet/roster composition (construction attempts along with which ships to level up, modernize, and ultimately keep on your roster), equipment (what to equip on what ships and construction attempts), etc. You also need to know the game mechanics to be successful. Just “playing the game” and going about things haphazardly does not work well for this… at all. RNG (random number goddess) plays a large role in the game, particularly for battles, drops from winning battles, and ship/equipment construction. However, fleet composition and equipment/weapons selection (including CV/CVL aircraft) prior to sortie, and fleet battle formation are under the player’s full control and all factor heavily into battle success or failure. Overall, the game reminds me of a “light” version of Hearts of Iron III (a complex and comprehensive WWII grand strategy game).
Then there are the ship girls themselves. 😀 They are similar to, but not the exactly the same as, the Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio mental models. It’s not entirely clear if the KanColle girls are ships in girl form, or “normal” girls once they take off their rigging. In either case, they are cute (some even sexy), and they have their own distinct personalities – typically based upon the RL ship’s history. For example, the IJN BB Kongou was designed and built in England during the interwar years. So KanColle Kongou uses English words at times, loves tea time with black tea, etc. She’s also very upbeat desu, and loves her teitoku. I like Kongou ❤ probably the most, but there are a lot of ship girls to choose from… and I mean a LOT. Last I checked, over 140 different ship girls(!) all of which are voiced by Yuka Ōtsubo, Ayane Sakura, Aya Suzaki, Risa Taneda, Nao Tōyama, Iori Nomizu, Rina Hidaka, Saki Fujita, Sarah Emi Bridcutt, and Wakana Miyakawa among others.
WWII IJN history is pervasive throughout the game. Examples: “Hotel Yamato” jokes; Mutsu worrying constantly about her 3rd turret; Sendai is a night battle freak because her RL IJN ship counterpart participated in many night battles during WWII; and Kaga doesn’t like Shokaku and Zuikaku because during the early part of WWII, the 1st Carrier Division’s crew (who were considered elite) looked down upon the 5th Division (Shoukaku and Zuikaku) “newcomers” (in the game, Kaga’s start of battle line is “Don’t put me together with 5th Carrier Division’s kids” LOL). The fact that Shoukaku and Zuikaku were absent from the Battle of Midway and ultimately inherited the 1st Carrier Division title after that battle probably factors into KanColle Kaga’s dislike of them as well.
There are numerous KanColle mangas, a good number of which are unofficial doujinshi (not including H-doujinshi though I’m sure there are plenty of those as well). You can read many of the currently scanned English translations (no hentai) here – Batoto Kancolle manga. Probably my favorite, and “official” (i.e. not doujinshi) , is Fubuki, Ganbarimasu!
It’s a 4-koma light-hearted comedy featuring chibi styled characters in which Fubuki (DD) sets off to school to train and become part of the admiral’s fleet. So it kind of mirrors how you start the game since Fubuki is one of the five DDs available at the start. That being said, Fubuki isn’t really the focus point after a while. A lot of the ship girls get substantial coverage. I think it gives readers a very good idea of the type of WWII based humor featured in the game, and what I expect to be in the anime as well to some degree. There are also a lot of “inside” jokes based on the game itself such as the “Bauxite Queen”, and I expect similar humor in the anime.
Some of the other manga versions, including doujinshi, are pretty good as well though definitely a “YMMV” situation. FYI – some non-hentai doujinshi are NSFW.
After speculation of airing this summer, then in the Fall 2014 season, the anime has finally confirmed it will air during the Winter 2015 season.
According to the MAL KanColle Anime page:
- Director: Kusakawa, Keizo (Akuma no Riddle, Asura Cryin’, Campione!, Dog Days, Genei wo Kakeru Taiyou, Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha A’s, Mondaiji-tachi ga Isekai kara Kuru Sou Desu yo?, Ro-Kyu-Bu!, and Sekirei).
- Series Composition: Hanada, Jukki (Steins;Gate, Robotics;Notes, Love Live! School Idol Project, No Game No Life, Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!, Kyoukai no Kanatam, Nichijou, Chrome Shelled Regios and Rozen Maiden among many more).
- Music Composer: Kameoka Natsumi (Inazuma Eleven Go vs Danball Senki W Movie and Inazuma Eleven Go: Chrono Stone).
- Production Studio: Diomedea.
I’ll leave it up to readers to decide whether those previous works lists bode well or not, though I do think that the background music for both PV 1 and PV 2 is very good.
Anticipation for the anime adaptation does indeed seem to be very high. In early August, the first KanColle anime PV along with other promotional material (see promo poster above) were released with the PV 1 YouTube listing reaching 1.3 million views in only two weeks. In early November, the KanColle anime PV 2 was released, and also proved to quite popular reaching 500,000 views in only 2-3 days. Mid-December presales for the anime BDs/DVDs have topped Amazon sales charts as well.
The anime’s total ship girl cast is rumored to number around 40 though currently there are 23 listed on the official anime website. Other Kanmusu can be seen in some of the promotional materials (e.g. PV #2, CM, and BD/DVD Vol. 01 TV ad) and are expected to take a more cameo type of role. On the official site’s character list are Kongou (BB), Hiei (BB), Nagato (BB), Mutsu (BB), Yamato (BB), Akagi (CV), Kaga (CV), Zuikaku (CV), Atago (CA), Sendai (CL), Jintsu (CL), Naka (CL), Kitakami (CLT), Ooi (CLT), Ooyodo (CL), Fubuki (DD), Shimakaze (DD), Akatsuki (DD), Hibiki (DD), Ikatsuchi (DD), Inazuma (DD), Yudachi (DD) and Mutsuki (DD). Akagi, Kongou and Fubuki appear in the first PV (in that order) along with the “Anchorage Princess” and a “Deep Fleet” destroyer.
Plot & Expectations
Together with the second PV, some details about the anime’s story outline were released. According to an AnimeNewsNetwork article, the anime setting is a world in which humanity has lost control of the seas to the “Deep Fleet”, and it’s up to the Kanmusu, ship-girls who “possess the spirit of naval vessels” from WWII, to battle the Deep Fleet on humanity’s behalf. One day at the Kanmusu main base, a destroyer named Fubuki arrivies… “Fubuki’s story — as well as the Kan-musume’s story — begins now.”
So pretty much as anticipated. Something similar to Strike Witches (a mix of “slice of life” moments akin to Fubuki, Ganbarimasu! manga (minus the chibi character designs) and battles/action) with a little Aoki Hagane No Arpeggio (background/setting) and Upotte!! (Kanmusu concept) thrown in for good measure. According to some comments I’ve read, a magazine ad for the anime stated that the ratio of “slice of life” moments to action/battle scenes will be 70/30. I’ve watched enough anime to understand there is always a risk with adaptations, but I must say I’m encouraged by both PVs.
A major question for me is whether the anime adaptation will appeal to anime fans who are neither familiar with IJN WWII history nor the game itself. Girls und Panzer managed to be a show that IMO any anime fan can enjoy. At this point, I’m uncertain whether KanColle anime can achieve the same level of success as GuP in that regard. Based upon the second PV, there certainly will be some “inside jokes” for those who play the game (e.g. Fubuki’s stuffed toy penguin). Another concern I have is about the growing list ship girls included in the anime, particularly for a one-cour show (nothing indicates this will be a 2-cour show). Girls und Panzer had a large list of characters, and in my opinion, for the most part handled its large cast well considering a one-cour (12 episode) run. However, one criticism of GuP is the overall lack of character depth and development which is a valid point on an absolute basis. With a reported total of 30-40 ship girls in the anime, KanColle has its work cut out for it in terms of character depth and development. IMO, the anime adaptation must carefully balance pleasing its core audience, while remaining sufficiently accessible to those not familiar with the game.
For those not familiar with the IJN during WWII and/or KanColle game or manga, I recommend you approach the anime with neutral expectations (always a safe thing to do anyway). I would not go in with expectations of another Girls und Panzer. Same is true for Arpeggio Ars Nova which has a much looser WWII connection, fewer characters, and less SOL moments/cute (ship)girls doing cute things. That being said, depending upon execution, I do think KanColle anime has the potential to appeal to fans beyond its core base and turn out to be a good, fun show to watch. I see no reason for anyone interested in the show not to give it the usual “3 Episode Rule” test. Given my interest in WWII (and cute girls 😛 ), I’m looking forward to KanColle anime with the usual adaptation caveats.