I was looking forward to Episode 04 for two reasons. The first is obvious – how would the show address Kisaragi’s death? The second is that Kongou ❤ is one of my very favorite Kanmusus. *sigh* So much for that. Episode 04 was a disappointment on several levels. To be fair, the anime did some things right, but on the whole, for the first time I thought a KanColle anime episode probably did more things wrong. I found the overall presentation almost schizophrenic, with jarring transition from serious moments to wacky comedy hijinks. Honestly, it was like I was watching two different episodes cut and pasted together. Not only that, but I swear they crammed in more game references that any previous episode! Think about that. At least the “poi” count was manageable.
I’ll start with my usual disclaimer that humor is subjective. That being said, while I did find a few comedy moments funny, the majority of the time I thought the “comedy” was not funny, but instead ill-timed and misplaced given how Ep 03 ended – frequently forced simply to include Yet Another Game Reference™. I had wrongly anticipated that the anime would use appropriately tempered SoL moments in conjunction with addressing Kisaragi’s death. For example, Kongou organizes a tea party to cheer up Mutsuki, Fubuki, et.al. Kongou, as the wise veteran “onee-sama”, then offers comforting advice on how to deal with such traumatic events. Nope. Instead we got some cringe worthy, nonsensical band skit (complete with game references) along with a tea party used as bait for Shimakaze. Huh?
As for the Kongou sisters themselves, while other game players may disagree, personally, for the first time the anime characters did not match my impressions of them from the game. I don’t recall ever sortieing the “4 Stoogies” when playing the game, and I use the Kongou-class BBs far more than any other BBs. In my opinion, while the anime did get the base personalities right, it exacerbated their idiosyncrasies far too much. It’s a matter of degree. The difference between someone being sad versus suffering from severe clinical depression. More caricature than character. Some Ep. 04 comments I’ve read suggested it was all an act to lighten the mood for Fubuki’s benefit. Possibly, but if that’s the case, the presentation was too ambiguous. For what it’s worth, I thought “anime Hiei” came closest to her game personality. She is a big siscon for Kongou.
Sadly the Kongou sisters’ characters were not the only sacrifice upon the altar of “comedy”. Time which would have been better spent sufficiently addressing the aftermath of Kisaragi’s death was used for the plot line of “Where is Shimakaze?” O.O… Seriously!? That, THAT, is the best they could come up with for a plot line!? What’s worse is that they didn’t even give Shimakaze a decent character introduction. As for the Rensouhou-chans (Shimakaze’s turret familiars/pets), I can only wonder what anime-only viewers thought of them. They are too entrenched in the game/part of Shimakaze’s character to omit, but I do think they needed a couple lines of explanation (see notes below). Lastly, like the Kongou sisters, “anime Shimakaze” doesn’t match up with my impression of her in the game. The whole speed/going fast thing is part of her character (see notes below), but I never thought she was that air-headed wacky. More exaggerated character traits and yet another sacrifice in the name of “comedy”.
So how did the show handle the aftermath of Kisaragi’s death? In my opinion, not very well. I’ll give the anime credit for not skirting the issue entirely, but what was shown wasn’t quite sufficient (not to mention all the misplaced comedy, jarring transitions, and improper overall tone). I’m glad that the show didn’t turn all “grim-dark” and melodramatic, but there is such a thing as a “happy medium”. I was a little surprised at the apparent lack of any real sense of loss felt by the other Kanmusu – particularly Kisaragi’s classmates/friends. The anime did convey their concern about Mutsuki, but what about Kisaragi herself? She did die you know. I do not need or want overly melodramatic wailing and pulling of hair type despair, but something more than just a quick glance at an empty desk or sentence or two from Ashigara. They needed to convincingly show that Kisaragi was missed by others besides Mutsuki (and to a small extent Nagato & Yuubari). As it was, I thought Ep. 04’s presentation unduly cheapened Kisaragi’s death. Kisaragi didn’t get much screen time, but I think she deserved better than what Ep 04 gave us.
Ep. 04’s battle had its good moments, but also lacked sufficient tension and dynamics. On the whole, it was too perfunctory with too much forced game dialog (again). At one point I was mentally yelling “Move!” at the Ru-class Abyssal battleships. Nope. They just stood there firing away until Kongou destroyed them. The best part of the battle for me was Fubuki freezing up, thinking she was the next Kanmusu to slip beneath the waves. That was good (including the use of her game sinking line). Kongou coming to Fubuki’s rescue and punching away the incoming shell was pretty cool if a bit in-universe inconsistent. I guess those force fields are supposed to represent a ship’s armor.
The best part of Ep. 04 in my opinion revolved around Mutsuki’s denial that Kisaragi was gone. Denial can be a coping mechanism so that worked just fine for me. Still, I’m not sure the show spent enough time on that. Another couple of minutes focusing on Mutsuki’s grief would have made an appreciable difference. Fubuki and Mutsuki hugging each other and crying at the end was a good resolution if a bit cliché. Oh, supposedly some English subtitles have a wrong translation – Mutsuki says her “heart” or “chest”, not her “arm”, hurts during that scene.
To sum it up, Episode 04 for me was a frustrating, disappointing episode, and represents an important, wasted opportunity for KanColle anime to step up to a higher level. Instead, it leaves me feeling a little apprehensive. Not about the overabundance of game references – I’ve given up on that, but now how the anime will present future characters and handle more serious matters such as Kanmusu death. Speculation on my part, but I don’t think Kisaragi’s death will be the last. If that’s correct, I hope that the anime does a better job the next time around.
Frankly, I don’t know how to even start this review. I don’t want to just start ranting, but I’m that upset about the direction this episode took. I’ll try to remain coherent. If they had not included Naka as an “idol wannabe” I would swear that a different director had taken over the show. How could the same team that gave us the last episode produce one that starts out this embarrassing? Not being a KanColle gamer I can’t comment on whether the Kongou sisters are like that in the game (I’ll leave that to daikama to comment on), but the way they are portrayed in the anime is terrible. Basically, the first part of the episode with the Kongou sisters is a complete waste of time. Not funny, not interesting and certainly not in keeping with the previous episodes. Am I expecting the show to be grimdark all the time? No, but I don’t expect major characters to be turned into jokes. Hey director! Why not put Nagato in a clown suit next? Won’t that be hilarious?
We’ve got a rather sad opening with Mutsuki waiting at the pier hoping that somehow Kasaragi might return. Now that ties us to the ending of the last episode. I would think that this would mean that the emotional situation of the last episode would carry over into this one. Nagato and Mutsu’s discussion about Yuubari being upset about losing one of the members of her squadron would also be an indication that that was the way the story was going. Even Nagato is having a hard time dealing with the loss. Hell, the whole class is having a hard time and Mutsuki is in obvious denial. Well, you’d think this was going to be a sad episode. You’d be wrong, or at least mostly wrong about the tone of the episode.
Next we have Fubuki and Shimakaze being assigned to a special mission. This should have been my first warning that this was going off the rails. Shimakaze is the wackiest kanmusu that I’m aware of, at least in the way she looks. Within a few seconds of the scene in the admirals office it’s obvious that she’s an airhead too. Then Kongou arrives (oh, the horror). The leader of the fleet that saved TS3 and 4 bounds in like a total idiot. She’s a fast battleship for god’s sake! How about treating the original ship with some respect! At least they introductions aren’t quite as bad. We at least learn that Kongou was built in England (which explains her using English words) and get to see silhouettes of the original ships, but I feel for Fubuki when we see her image of Kongou shatter behind her. At this point, my jaws dropped too. Notice too that Shimakaze is in the background playing with one of her guns totally oblivious to the mission briefing. That I expected given how she was acting. Now the mission, at least, isn’t some farce but makes some sense (not enough destroyers IMO, but oh well). And they explained why no carriers. It even has some vibes of WWII given the desire for southeast Asian resources. Then they destroy the mood by the sisters acting like doofuses, except for Kirishima, (who is smarter than the rest in the same sense that Moe from the Three Stooges is smarter than Larry and Curly).
We get a short scene again showing how much Mutsuki is in denial and, and then… right back to the insanity. Ok, I get it. Shimakaze is an airhead. But this?!! The Kongou sisters best plan is to put on a musical show??!!! Words fail me. Of course we also get Naka starting a battle of the idols… Lucky us. Sigh. Gah, they even drag Ooi and Kitakami into this mess. I won’t even comment any farther except to say that a Mad Hatter’s tea party seems appropriate to the insanity.
Now, here is where we finally get something worth watching. The battle. Shimakaze racing ahead is based on her real world counterpart, which was one of the fastest destroyers of the time. Now we almost stray into grimdark with Fubuki getting ahead of the fleet and almost getting herself sunk, only to be saved by Kongou. This is what I expect to see in the show. Not the stupid humor that lead up to this. how do you interpret the images that flash before Fubuki’s eyes. Is she thinking of how Mutsuki will react when she finds out Fubuki has been sunk? Is she afraid she will never see Mutsuki again? Both I would say. I did think Kongou just brushing the Abyssal shell away was not how I would have done it as a director. She should have taken the damage from the exploding shell. Just would seem more reasonable than what was shown. Also makes it more of a sacrifice on her part to protect her “kouhai”.
Now the end scene with Fubuki and Mutsuki would have been a perfect finale to the episode. If I could get the crap that preceded the battle out of my head! So disappointing that they had to do that. Mixing funny with serious is ok, but you’ve got to maintain some balance. I want to reedit this episode and just take out the stupid and leave the good. I hope that this is an aberration and we’re not going to be subject to this again.
Notes and Additional Information
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).
(Very) Partial List of Game References
- Episode Title – Now it’s our turn! Follow me!: Kongou’s game dialog when joining a fleet.
- Kongou saying English Words:
- Because Kongou was built in England, in the game she has some English traits such as saying a few words in English and preferring black tea at tea time.
- Yes, she actually said “shit” in the anime. That’s taken from Kongou’s moderate/heavy damage game line – “Shit! The precious equipment I got from the admiral!”. Kongou really appreciates all the Admiral does for her.
- Kongou “not understanding” Nagato’s orders: Anime-only “comedy”. Kongou is the oldest ship in the game, and one of the, if not the, most widely used IJN BB during WWII (something noted in her game dialog). Such a seasoned veteran would have absolutely no difficulty understanding Nagato’s orders.
- Kongou calling Fubuki “Bucky”: I assume that’s Fubuki’s name shortened to “buki” which in English would be phonetically spelled like “Buukey” or “Buuky” rather than “Bucky” (as in “buck” or “bucket”). Not the best translation IMO.
- Kongou calling Shimakaze “Zekamashi”: Zekamashi = Shimakaze’s name read backward in traditional Japanese characters. It’s found on one of the Rensouhou-chan’s life preservers.
- Rensouhou-chan: Part of Shimakaze’s game character design, these familiar/pet-like turrets represent Shimakaze’s three twin 12.7 cm/50 naval gun turrets. Since Shimakaze is the only ship of her class, she often plays with the Rensouhou-chan’s when she feels lonely or bored (there is game dialog to that effect).
- Fubuki’s saying “No…I hate/don’t like this…!”: Said around 19:00 min (English subtitles get lazy here with the translation = “no…no…”), this is Fubuki’s sinking line in the game. Guessing it was meant as a bit of a troll for game players by the anime staff.
- Kirishima song lyrics of “compass fairies”: In the game, each world map has nodes (spots) your can sortie to. However, normally there are different routes or “branches”. When there is more than one direction your fleet can travel, a chibi character (aka compass fairy) pops up and spins a compass wheel to determine the route (or branch) you take. Some times it’s completely random, while other times the route depends upon fleet composition (known as “branching rules”).
- Honestly, the episode had a LOT of game dialog from by pretty much every character, especially all four Kongou sisters, along with other game references.
Partial List of WWII References
- Kongou Class Fast Battleships
- Built in England by Vickers and launched in 1913 as a battle-cruiser (BC), Kongou was the last Japanese capital ship to be constructed outside Japan.
- The other three ships of the Kongou class, Hiei, Haruna and Kirashima were all built in Japan.
- Prior to WWII all four Kongou class ships received various upgrades including more powerful engines. With a post upgrade top speed of 30knots, the ships were reclassified as “fast battleships”.
- IJN DD Shimakaze: Launched in 1942, Shimakaze (Island Wind) was the only ship of her class.
- A “super-destroyer”, she was armed with six 127 mm (5.0 in) dual purpose guns, and the only Japanese destroyer to be armed with 15 torpedo tubes each capable of firing the deadly Type 93 “Long Lance” torpedo.
- The ship was a testbed for an enormously-powerful, high-temperature, high-pressure steam engine, making her the second fasted destroyer in the world at the time, reaching a top speed of 40.9 kn (75.7 km/h; 47.1 mph).
- Because of the IJN Shimakaze’s speed, KanColle Shimakaze is obsessed with being the fastest ship, and a lot of her game lines revolve around that concept. One example, she has a funny line whenever a ship you construct is finished: “It looks like another ship slower than me has been completed.” LOL