So after mostly SoL in the last few episodes we get a battle centric episode and another reference to an actual WWII battle. Instead of the Curry Sea we have the Coral Islands and Operation MO, corresponding to the battle of the Coral Sea and the attempted invasion of Port Moresby. They do make an attempt to recreate a number of events from the actual battle such as Shoukaku being badly damaged, and the Abyssals losing one carrier and having one damaged (Lexington and Yorktown respectively in the actual battle). We’re left hanging about the fate of Shouhou, which sunk in the actual battle. A number of other ships that were in the actual battle are also mentioned in the anime (see references below). I’m still quite pleased with the accuracy of some of the equipment that we see, such as the planes. Even the Val dive bombers show the bomb on the fuselage being launched by a trapeze apparatus as was done on the actual plane. Some things I find curious though. Why do Shoukaku and Zuikaku have their flight decks mounted on different arms? Both had their islands on the starboard side in RL but are shown on opposite sides here. A minor quibble, but a surprising inconsistency though it’s consistent with their game design. I also have to give the animators some credit for just adding extra details such as Kaga’s bow being different from Zuikaku’s. It would have be easy just to draw a “generic” bow for both.
I think the personality quirks of the various kanmusu were more subdued and I mean that in a positive sense. Even Ooi wasn’t annoying. She even praised Fubuki (sort of). And no Naka, so this was sort of a “two-fer” for me. 🙂
Now let’s get to the real elephant in the room: Fubuki as flagship. The idea was ludicrous IMO from the first, and even though it’s not addressed, she has minimal control over her subordinates. Not exactly a commanding presence in the first place, they’re basically making up their own minds as to whether to obey her orders or not (when she even bothers to give any). Also not a tactical genius either. She lets Zuikaku and Kaga fight with each other and then allows them to get ahead of the others with only ineffectual admonishments not to do it. And it costs her Kaga. Not that Kaga is any better than Zuikaku in terms of obeying orders. She launches her planes without orders either. Then in the Coral Island battle Fubuki splits her forces and leaves her carriers unprotected?!! Of course neither of the carrier girls thought to put up a CAP (Combat Air Patrol) and so were caught flat footed (flattopped?). Given that they gave Fubuki an escort seems rather inconsistent. Finally, it dawns on Fubuki that maybe the Abyssals might have set a trap? Definitely shows her lack of experience. Not that the senior officers are much better. Three groups are launched: Two from Nagato’s district and at least one from another. Each of them wind up at the Coral Islands separately. Again, it’s not the best way to deploy your forces.
Overall a good episode that’s diminished by forcing Fubuki to be the flagship.
And so “Operation FS” begins. Target the Abyssal base of “MO” (see below) by sortieing a “carrier battle group” and support fleet. OK, time to clear World 5-2 (Hmm… KC wiki says I need to defeat the boss 4 times, but the boss health gauge doesn’t regenerate…). Ep. 07 is clearly based upon another game reference (and WWII reference – see below), yet this episode most likely had the smallest number of game references overall. The focus returns to “Assault Force 5” (formerly “Mobile Unit 5” I guess – “Force 5” hereinafter), CarDiv 5 (Shōkaku and Zuikaku), and Fubuki’s trials and tribulations as flagship.
I’ll be honest here. I’m still having trouble buying into Fubuki as flagship. Again, I think it’s just too soon for that given her character at this point in the story. In Ep. 07’s opening battle sequence, Force 5 lacked discipline plain and simple. Kaga and Zuikaku are still having their little spat, and still fail to follow proper procedure (i.e. CVs in the back of the fleet). As a result Kaga is heavily damaged when saving Zuikaku from being sunk by an Abyssal torpedo. Fubuki got lucky there. Very lucky. We also have Kitakami and Ooi performing some ballet routine, spinning around while attacking for… “reasons”. Fubuki may have the “book smarts”, but she doesn’t have a firm grip on the reins. I have to LOL a bit when she says “but lately I thought it seemed to finally be going well”. No, not really. Not with that lax discipline and playing around in battle. My impression is that Force 5 has been going up against fairly weak opponents which they can easily handle. Even then, it almost cost them dearly. While clearly Zuikaku bears a great deal of responsibility for Kaga being heavily damaged, Fubuki, in my opinion, is also partially to blame.
So despite the anime’s admiral seemingly happy with Fubuki’s performance and a later “feel good moment” where Force 5 members tell Shōkaku “Fubuki knows what’s she’s doing” which is why “we made her the flagship”, Fubuki as flagship still feels like a forced plot line. It doesn’t help when right after Force 5 confirms Fubuki is their flagship, what does Zuikaku do? She turns to Shōkaku, not Fubuki, and says “Let’s launch more recon planes”. Then Shōkaku tells Zuikaku to calm down to which Zuikaku complies. Who’s in command here? Thankfully such incidents don’t occur all the time, but to me they happen too frequently. Long story short, I thought it was too early in the story back in Ep 05 for Fubuki to become a flagship and Ep. 07 just reinforced that impression. She has improved (she should), but I still think the story would be better had the anime waited until towards the end of the season for Fubuki as flagship.
On to the main battle. The anime sticks to the Battle of the Coral Seas script with Shouhou hit by multiple bombs and burning. Here’s where Kisaragi’s death has effect. In the actual battle (see below), Shouhou was sunk, but in the anime Shouhou’s fate could go either way (i.e. “just” heavily damaged or she did sink). Since Kisagari did sink/die the latter is possible. I’m curious as to whether the anime will definitely answer that question or leave it up to viewers’ interpretation. Personally, I’m fine with the presentation as given. Combined with Kisaragi’s death, it makes the battles “serious” or “real” enough, yet it doesn’t make the overall tone of the show overly-grim dark. Besides, we had a few more plane “fairies” lost in the line of duty again.
As with some earlier battles, “Phase I” of the battle was too perfunctory. Launch some planes. Stand around. Wo-Class CV damaged. “Yay! Let’s go clean up the riff-raff”. There’s no tension at all. “Phase II” continues borrowing from the Battle of the Coral Sea script while adding a wrinkle centered around Fubuki as flagship. I guess Fubuki didn’t study hard enough because sending two CVs unescorted towards an enemy base is nothing short of stupid. It doesn’t matter if the support fleet is “nearby” because you might encounter the enemy unexpectedly before you meet up with them. In fact, as we saw, there was a second Abyssal Wo-class carrier fleet around which damages Shōkaku. Dubious command decisions aside, this time the flow of the battle and overall tension was significantly better. I also liked the fact that Zuikaku used the rain squall to her advantage. However, I do have to wonder: (1) why they left the protection of the rain squall and headed directly at the enemy fleet; and (2) why Zuikaku felt the need to maintain radio silence. Now she obeys orders unquestionably!? The enemy fleet already discovered them so… what’s left to be kept secret? The answer, of course, is “so Fubuki can realize her mistake and rescue Zuikaku at the last moment.” *sigh* I get it KanColle anime. Fubuki is the main character, but do you have to push that mantra so hard? Well, at least the rest of Force 5 showed up to help out.
Overall, I thought Ep. 07 was pretty good, but again, certain issues prevent an episode from elevating to a higher level. Next episode should be another SoL one with the introduction of a certain “hotel”. Looking forward to some good comedy moments from that.
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).
Partial List of Game References
- KanColle game World 5-2 – The Coral Islands: Instructions read: “We are executing Operation MO. Form a carrier battle group and crush the enemy task force!” Clearly the Ep. 07 is based upon game World 5-2 which in turn is based upon WWII IJN Operation MO (see below).
- Though not required, you can run both “normal node” and “boss node” support expeditions for World 5 maps.
- Unit 5’s composition mimics the games preferred branching fleet composition for World 5-2 by including 2xCV.
- Though not the World 5-2 “boss”, Abyssal Fleet (Standard) aircraft carrier Wo-class are common foes in World 5-2.
- Instant Repair Buckets: Demonstrated in EP 02, instant repair buckets do just what they name says – instantly repair damaged ships.
- With potential repair times (in real time) taking as long as 24 hours, 30 hours or more, players constantly run expeditions and do daily quests to stockpile these important items. It’s not unusual for high level players to have over 1000 instant repair buckets (the game caps you at 3000).
- Along with stockpiling resources in general, is critical to have a large stockpile of instant repair buckets for limited time events such as the current Winter 2015 event. It’s very easy to through over 100 repair buckets when clearing event maps. Between clearing the event and subsequent farming for rare ships, I used over 600 instant repair buckets during the KanColle Winter 2015 event.
Partial List of WWII References
- IJN Operation MO:
- Operation “MO” or the Port Moresby Operation was a WWII Japanese plan to take control of the Australian Territory of New Guinea as well as other locations in the South Pacific with the goal of isolating Australia and New Zealand.
- The operation began on May 3, 1942 and was aborted following the Battle of the Coral Sea (May 4-8th, 1942)
- The anime was quite accurate in terms of the ships taking part (but not entirely inclusive). Taking place in the operation were the following ships:
- The Port Moresby occupation force composed of Yūbari (CL), destroyers Mutsuki, Yayoi and Uzuki, and WWI era Kamikaze-class DDs Asanagi, Oite and Yūnagi.
- Support fleet was Shōhō (CVL), heavy cruisers (CA) Aoba, Kinugasa, Kako and Furutaka, light cruisers Tenryū, Tatsuta, and Sazanami
- During the course of the operation, a heavy support fleet was sent comprising of fleet carriers Shōkaku and Zuikaku, heavy cruisers Myōkō and Haguro, and destroyers Asashio, Arashio, Arare, Kagerō, Shiranui and Kasumi.
- The Allies (US and British) had indeed at broken the IJN code (about 15% by March 1942). Starting in March 1942, coded messages were deciphered containing comments about “Operation MO”. By piecing together other partially decrypted messaged, by late April, 1942, US Admiral Chester Nimitz and staff concluded that “Operation MO” was most likely to be the invasion of Port Moresby. Nimitz decided to send all four of his fleet aircraft carriers to foil Japanese plans: Task Force (TF) 17 centered around the USS Yorktown (CV) and TF 11 centered around USS Lexington (CV). TF 16 containing both USS Enterprise & Hornet were also ordered into the area, however, TF 16 had just returned to Pearl Harbor from the “Doolittle Raid”. Thus it would not be able to reach the South Pacific in time for the Battle of the Coral Sea.
- It should be noted that KanColle anime took some liberties here
- The admiral suspecting that his fleet’s transmission code “might have been broken” is a bit of historical hindsight.
- However, the IJN did know that Allied CV(s) were in the area as TF 17 (which by then had absorbed TF 11) was spotted by an IJN reconnaissance aircraft late morning on May 6th.
- The Battle of the Coral Sea (May 4-8th, 1942):
- The heart of the battle took place over two days – May 7th & 8th, 1942. It was the first time in naval history in which aircraft carriers engaged each other, as well as the first time in which neither side’s ships sighted or fired directly upon the other.
- Nice touch by the anime to use the inclement weather (i.e. rain squalls). Rain squalls were fairly frequent during the actual battle and played a role in the outcome.
- The details are too long to list, but I do think it’s well worth reading the linked Wiki article as it clearly demonstrates the limitations of the technology at the time and the “fog of war” that was so routinely encountered by both sides.
- The USN lost the USS Lexington (CV) and the Yorktown (CV) was heavily damaged. Also lost was the oiler Neosho and a destroyer.
- The IJN lost Shōhō (CVL), and Shōkaku (CVL) was heavily damaged. Zuikaku’s escaped undamaged though both IJN carrier air groups suffered heavy losses.
- Tactically speaking, the Battle of the Coral Sea was a victory for the IJN. The light aircraft carrier was exchanged for the USN fleet aircraft carrier Lexington – 25% of the US Pacific Fleet’s fleet carrier strength at the time.
- Strategically speaking, the Battle of the Coral Sea was a USN victory.
- Operation MO was aborted.
- While losing the Lexington hurt, ultimately the US could replace a lost CV much more easily than the Japanese. As it was, the USN was able to repair Yorktown, almost miraculously, in time for the upcoming Battle of Midway.
- Damage to Shōkaku removed that CV from the upcoming Battle of Midway. The same goes for Zuikaku whose air group was decimated and IJN doctrine did not provide for transferring CV air groups between carriers. Thus 2 of the planned 6 CVs for the Midway Operation were removed which ultimately would have severe repercussions on that battle.
- The tactical victory furthered Japanese “victory disease”, “confirming” their low opinion of US fighting ability. Any future operation was “destined” to be successful.
- The IJN mistakenly believed that they had sunk two US aircraft carriers – Lexington and Yorktown.
- Translation/Dialog Issues:
- I have to wonder if the admiral leaving the decision to Fubuki as to whether to use Kaga or Shōkaku for the next day’s mission was a dialog or translation mistake. Didn’t they just make a big deal about not having any instant repair buckets which meant that “Kaga’s got no chance of making it in time”? The way the scene plays out, it seems (I could be wrong) that the question is whether Force 5 is up to the task with Shōkaku suddenly replacing Kaga along with Nagato’s perceptive question about Zuikaku’s mental state. Fubuki replies “yes”, evidently based upon Zuikaku learning to make “towel rabbits”. O.o I’m not sure how that’s dispositive. Now if Kaga had remained healthy enough to fight and the question was “Can Kaga and Zuikaku work together?”, then OK.
- A certain error was Ooyodo telling Mutsu “… the main assault force for Operation MO includes light carriers [plural] Shouhou, Aoba, Furutaka, Kako, Kinugasa, and Tenryuu Tatsuta as a support fleet.” Shouhou is a CVL, Aoba, Furutaka, Kako and Kinugasa are CA while Tenryuu AND Tatsuta (two separate ships) are CL (light cruisers).
- Aichi D3A “Val” Dive Bomber Armament Issues: The anime got the Val dive bomber armaments wrong. For anti-ship, they should carry only one bomb (no wing bombs). Perhaps minor quibble, but for a series known for its WWII details, it comes across as sloppy.