– Episode 12
After an uneven season and a general downtrend the past three episodes or so, KanColle anime needed a strong finish. It didn’t have one. Not even close. In my opinion, Ep. 12 was the worst episode of the entire season despite strong competition from Ep. 04. Not only did it manage to include almost all of my complaints with the adaptation thus far, but it also added new ones. “Good job”, show. >_>
A lot of what transpired matched what I mentioned last episode – Fubuki to the rescue ala Ep. 07, Nachi’s secret orders for the AL force to head to MI, Yamato and her not so secret companions, Shokaku & Zuikaku, showing up, and Taihou thrown in as well. In addition (Ep. 12 was one busy episode), the admiral reappeared (for whatever that’s worth), and even Nagato & Mutsu sortied. Pretty much the entire naval district showed up except for Mutsuki and an oddly MIA Shimakaze. While I anticipated a lot (but not all) of this, watching so many “cavalries to the rescue” came across as a bit much with one group showing up after another. Frankly, Taihou should have been left out for next season. Nagato & Mutsu were in fact part of Yamamoto’s “Main Force” fleet during the Battle of Midway. I suppose it makes sense historically for them to be there, but they just show up as if teleporting from the naval base. The anime needed to do better job with that.
I could have dealt with the above, but Ep. 12 had more severe issues. By far the most irritating thing was “ship-fu”. W…T…F…!? Should I now expect a “melee cut-in” game mechanic introduced during the next event? The moment Ooi flying kicked the Abyssal DD was the moment Ep. 12 “jumped the shark” for me. How the hell am I supposed to take the battle seriously after that!? Such antics work fine for Fubuki Ganbarimasu! manga, but the anime isn’t an adaptation of that. KanColle tried and failed to blend silly comedy and serious scenes back in Ep. 04, and it tried and failed to do the same again in Ep. 12. Worse, that scene segues into another damn Kitakami x Ooi moment, in the middle of the freaking battle no less, because God forbid an episode not have one of those. Head, meet desk. But why stop there? It gets even worse when a whole “pod” of Abyssal DD surround the yuri duo… and then sit there, patiently waiting for the two to finish their yuri moment and dispatch all the Abyssal DD in a completely boring, mundane fashion. If it was supposed to be “comedy”, I’m laughing at you show, not with you. The overabundance of forced game dialog, excessive posing, “ship-fu” and ill-placed yuri moments killed the flow of the battle along with any tension. Far too much standing around and talking. When actual fighting did occur, Abyssal ships & planes were dispatched in a surprisingly perfunctory (and boring) manner. A supposedly climactic finale battle turned into a disappointing and cliché one.
I didn’t mind that the show deviated from the actual Battle of Midway. Again, I think following the “WWII script” to the letter would be detrimental, and the “changing fate” plot line works well in that regard. However, once again poor execution and over-the-top presentation hurt storytelling. For one thing, introducing a fairly major plot line in the second to last episode is bad form. Introducing it early would have been much better. In fact, it could have been connected to Kisaragi’s death. Still, a late introduction might have been okay if they didn’t drag it out with the repeated cycling of “Yay! We won! No! Not yet!” in the form of “multiple boss kills” (see below). Rather than add tension, it had the opposite effect for me, especially given the lackluster nature of the battle overall. To put it another way, it made the fight and “change fate” plot line seem padded. One final complaint is the ass-pull repair team/goddess fairy used to repair Kaga’s bow. Yeah, it’s in the game, but again KanColle anime, you do not need to cram in every game reference possible.
For me, by far the most interesting part of EP. 12 was at the end of the battle when we hear “Give it back…” and then shortly thereafter, Kisaragi’s hair pin floats to the surface, presumably where Fubuki sunk “Black Wo Shooter” Abyssal CV (off-screen and in a totally anti-climactic manner I might add). The origin of the Abyssal Fleet has never been fully addressed by the franchise (official material). Fubuki Ganbarimasu! manga hinted that Abyssal ships are related to Kanmusu – “souls of warships from the past” but instead are filled with anger and malice. Still, given the nature of that 4-Koma comedy manga, it wasn’t taken as conclusive “canon”, and the origin of Abyssal ships remained a topic of debate among KanColle fans. What the anime showed sure does seem to back up Fubuki Ganbarimasu! manga though. If sunk Kanmusu can (or do) become Abyssal ships, then so much for the theory that Abyssal ships = USN WWII ships.
To be fair, Ep. 12 did have its moments. For example, as Bear notes, the fleet returning to port was a nice scene. I wish I could be more positive, but Ep. 12 left me little choice.
– Final Impressions
I never expected greatness from KanColle, but I did hope for something on the level of Strike Witches (SW) which I consider to be quite similar. KanColle anime is similar to SW with its twin main (in theory) plot lines of rookie Fubuki entering the fleet and developing her skills (i.e. Yoshika in SW) and the girls battling the Abyssal Fleet (i.e. Neuroi in SW). Unfortunately, KanColle fell short of SW’s mark overall for a number of reasons.
If you think about it, it’s no surprise that Kadokawa decided to focus on the core fan base. With over 2,500,000 game players alone, if just 3% buy the BDs, that’s 75,000 in BD sales. That’s not to say the show should ignore anime-only viewers, but focusing primarily on the core fan base is understandable. Even then, Kadokawa had the herculean task of trying to satisfy a large percentage of the core fan base. I think it’s evident they attempted to do just that. And that’s the problem. They tried too hard. They tried to please everybody, and ended up pleasing relatively few. As a result, the anime suffered from an overabundance of characters and game references along with a marked lack of focus and frequently poor execution. This show needs to learn the concept of moderation.
Game reference (dialog and other) spamming was a major issue. Certainly game players want game references/lore and I did enjoy some of that, but at times it simply got ridiculous and hurt storytelling. Along with a significant amount of game dialog, there were easily a few game references that either could, or should, have been omitted. Ep.12’s repair team/goddess fairy and Ep. 08’s marriage/”waifu ship” are just two examples. With an already arguably too large cast, the last thing the show needed was the last minute, out of nowhere addition of another one (i.e. Taihou). Plenty of “cavalries” already available for a last minute, “dramatic” rescue.
The anime tried to be both “serious” and “light-hearted”, but frequently failed to properly integrate the two. Combining comedy with more serious elements requires firm direction, good/consistent execution, and proper focus. KanColle lacked those. Proper scene transition between the two was often poor and on occasion jarring as was the case with Ep. 04. Frankly, I think they squandered Kisaragi’s death – due to both Ep 03’s death flag ‘o rama, and Ep. 04’s too frequent and excessively over-the-top “wacky comedy hijinks”. Again, moderation would do wonders here. To be fair, Kisaragi’s death still provided some uncertainty (in theory) as to whether other Kanmusu would sink. Overall, I got a strong sense of the staff never fully deciding how just “serious” or “light-hearted” they wanted the show to be. Rather, they tried to be both at the same time in order to please as many fans as possible.
Execution was another problem. Once again, some moderation would reap substantial benefits along with proper attention to detail as Bear notes. Fubuki isn’t just a rookie, she’s a super clumsy, can’t even “sail” rookie. Her character development was needlessly drawn out and uneven. One too many moments of angst/self-doubt, and she actually seemed to regress later in the story. First she (too) quickly ramps up to become the flagship of a veteran fleet, and then for some reason becomes practically suicidal in her drive to get a remodel. Frankly, I would ditch both plot lines, but for sure the latter one needs to go (suicidal part, not remodel in general). All this excess resulted in a noticeable lack of focus. A single episode 100% SOL comedy “break” is fine, but the presentation of the overall story was a bit chaotic and needed better continuity. Forced scenes such as the requisite Kitakami x Ooi moment didn’t help either. Half of those would have been more than sufficient. They even screwed up the episode order – Ep. 06 should have aired ahead of Ep. 05.
I have no problem with an off-screen admiral (all for it since it ensures focus properly remains on the girls), but the anime erred badly with both his/her disappearance and the “wedding” dream (i.e. Fubuki as the admiral’s “waifu”) plot lines. The first added nothing, at best existing as an excuse for Taihou to show up. Scrap the whole thing. The “waifu” scene was another bad and unnecessary game reference. Omit that as well. The game together with the anime’s Midway based finale provide a perfectly valid reason for the importance of Fubuki’s remodeling and inclusion in the MI fleet. Fubuki Kai-ni’s main stats are all above average, including the 3rd highest AA stat (1 pt. away from tying 2nd), and her Kai-ni remodel comes with good, rare AA equipment. She’s easily the best AA DD in the show, and a highly capable AA DD escorting Akagi makes perfect sense.
KanColle did, however, have its merits. The music was great (BGM, OP and ED), and the voice acting consistently solid. Impressive considering some seiyuu voiced several characters. A couple episodes were plain good (Ep. 05 & 06), and even when episodes did have issues, there were good moments to go with the bad. The anime had some nice action scenes, and while hit or miss, I often found the comedy quite funny. Execution/plot woes issues aside, Fubuki did have significant character development. A few other characters received a bit of development as well (e.g. Kaga, Zukaku & Mutsuki), or at least sufficient character introduction. Kongou, for one, seems to be quite popular among anime-only viewers. Personally, I ended up liking Mutsuki and even Kisaragi (short screen time be damned) more than I did from playing the game alone. At times visual quality was quite good, but to be fair, too often visual quality dropped considerably. They need to work on both CGI and quality control. In terms of WWII references, I thought the show did a good job with that, and I’m glad it didn’t follow the “WWII script” to the letter. As it was, almost every episode contained a few “WWII Easter egg” references.
Overall, I rate KanColle anime a 6/10 due in no small part to a bad finish. Most episodes were “meh” to pretty good, a couple good, and a couple… not so good. I’m in for Season Two (with much tempered expectations), but I sincerely hope the staff makes a concerted effort to note and address Season One′s shortcomings.
– Episode 12
So we finally reached the ultimate episode and, unfortunately, my guesses were pretty close to what was going to happen. Just about everyone shows up for the big finale except Mutsuki and Shimakaze (as far as I can tell) of the ships we’ve met (and one we haven’t met except in silhouette). What I missed was that I assumed that the scene in the OP on the pier with Fubuki looking forlorn and Kongou trying to comfort her was the result of something that happened in this episode (like Akagi sinking). How wrong I was. Fubuki, of course, is that “Special” ship. The Admiral told us, Akagi tells us, and sure enough, she saves Akagi and just about acts as if she outranks the capital ships.
If you’re going to base an episode on history repeating itself, then how about following some of the events of the original? The American planes from Midway managed to attack the IJN carriers but did no damage of any worth, yet most of the attacks here came from the Airfield Princess and did a lot of damage. And where are all the Abyssal carrier aircraft? Why not follow the historical events at least as the battle started? Akagi is afraid of history repeating itself. Then why not show things repeating? Here we get surface ships attacking also, but except for subs, there was no contact between the two fleets in the WWII battle except through their aircraft. Now the intent was to show how they’re going to manage to avoid repeating history. Having Yamato’s Main Force and the Aleutian fleet show up makes sense in that regard. The split of the forces by Yamato has been hotly debated as being a bad move (as is the lack of Zukaku and Shoukaku), so I don’t have a problem with everyone showing up, though they could have made more of a point that the original plan was a ruse to mislead the Abyssals (false radio transmissions?). Just too many “oh, we got instant repair buckets” (not to mention the Admiral showing up with no explanation). Also, Taiho showing up was like a western where the bad guy is shot and goes “but you fired all six shots!” and the hero responds “unfortunately for you this is a seven shooter!” Though we saw her in silhouette at the end of the last episode, her arrival is just too much of an ass pull. How about some explanations director? Oh, and I can’t leave out the cryptic “Give it back” and Kisaragi’s hairpin at the end. Some portent of things to come in the next series?
Now I don’t expect a show of this type to adhere to realism (even GuP does impossible things with tanks for excitement’s sake), but I would have liked them to at least have a battle that seemed as if their opponents were more than objects for target practice. Half the time the Abyssals stand around waiting to be taken down. When Kitakami and Ooi were hugging I was thinking that one of the Abyssals should have cleared their throat and said “excuse us could you hurry up and sink us?” Not only does Fubuki arrive in the nick of time to save Akagi (where did that bomb get to? :P), but Ooi gets there just in time to save Kitakami with a flying dropkick to a shark. Oh, and cool calm and collected Kitakami turns into a scared ‘littul’ baby. Awww. How moe. At least if she had actually sunk, or Ooi had sacrificed herself to save her, there would have been some drama. I guess they blew off the idea of any drama when they retconned the ending of the last episode by taking away the bomb headed towards Akagi. Nagato using “ship-fu” (great term daikama) before taking an Abyssal out with her guns was another facepalm. Excuse me Nagato, but the whole point of your guns is to take the enemy out at long range. You’re not an 18th century man-of-war firing broadsides!
Did they do anything right? Well, from a military otaku standpoint, we did get to see Taihou launch Aichi B7A Ryuseis and there was the eyecatch of her has her with a cartridge labeled A7M which was the successor to the A6M Zero. At least those are some other WWII references. We also see Aichi E13A Jake though a reconnaissance aircraft was also capable of bombing. Some things that they did were things that corrected for mistakes that military historians criticized the IJN for. One is obviously bringing the entire attack force together instead of having Yamamoto and his battle group hundreds of miles behind the carriers. Another is something that only occurred to me later. Yamato was used for shore bombardment which didn’t occur in RL. If the RL carriers had not been used to attack Midway, but only used for air superiority and to attack the US carriers, they would not have been as vulnerable to the US carrier aircraft, plus the combined fleet would have had plenty of AA to fend off the American attacks. Yamato, Nagato and Mutsu alone would have been able to pulverize Midway and make the rubble bounce. Basically, what the US wound up doing with their battleships during WWII for the most part.
The best scene in the whole episode was the ships steaming back into the Naval District. I just thought it was really visually cool.
– Final Impressions
Obviously, for me, the WWII ship references were a positive though I thought the battles could have had more context to the historical ones. Another issue was the lack of tactics for most of them. It just seemed to be random melees. Now “no plan survives contact with the enemy”, but you need to start out with one and deal with the problems as they arise. I just don’t see that in most of the battles.
Now from a story standpoint, I have a lot of issues. The primary one is Fubuki. Since I’m a not a gamer, her position in the game as the starter ship doesn’t affect my take on her being the POV character. What I object to is how she’s portrayed in the anime. Her lack of experience and abilities at the start of the show just doesn’t jibe with her as the named ship of a major destroyer class of the IJN. If she’s “special” than so is every other DD of her class! Why is she a klutz when the rest of her “juniors” aren’t? To me it shows a lack of attention to detail or a disdain for the intelligence and knowledge of the viewers. Making her a flagship was another event that caused damage to my forehead as it hit the desk. Ok, she’s got book knowledge, so what? The Admiral creating a group that was totally incompatible to be lead by a junior? Demote him! Inconsistencies, such as the launch sequence to equip them, when they later appear to be able to equip and unequip at will show’s another lack of care for creating a cohesive story. I guess we’re just supposed to look at the cute girls and not notice things like that. Just laziness on the directors part, at best, and incompetence at the very least.
The constant ramming of a Kitakami/Ooi scene into each episode was a shear waste of resources. They were neither funny nor romantic. Ooi just came across as a yandere bitch and Kitakami seemed as dense as any male harem lead. At least they backed off on Naka’s idol shtick. Towards the end, it was mostly just her using her catchphrase and it stopped bothering me. If you’re going to have a yuri paring I’ve got to go with Mutsu/Nagato. That was both cute and funny (especially, the bath scene with the squirrel). The overuse of Naka as a wanabe idol was another waste of screen time and one that I didn’t think was funny and didn’t do anything to advance the plot. Yuudachi was a combination of too much “poi” and her being treated like a third wheel. The reasons behind her upgrade weren’t shown and it seemed to come out of nowhere too.
Speaking of funny (not), Episode 4 was my least favorite. Kongou and her sisters didn’t deserve to be turned into idiot clowns the way the writers did. It was especially annoying given the previous episodes dark ending and the continuation of that storyline at the end of the episode. Generally, that is one of my biggest criticisms of the show from a story standpoint: the poor integration of the SoL, humor, and drama. The director seemed to be more concerned with pandering to the gamers than actually developing a good story. Sad part is, from what people are saying, the gamers are pretty mad about how the show turned out. You’re not going to please everyone who has a preconception of what they expect from the show, but this really failed in that regard. Of course, as daikama has pointed out, even only 3% of 2.5 million players buy the BD’s that’s a lot of sales. Kisaragi’s sinking was well done, but would have been even more effective if they had given her more screen time so we could have become more invested in something happening to her. She gets so little screen time she’s almost a “Redshirt”.
Since I’m criticizing the story you might ask how would I have liked to have seen it go? One way would have been to show Fubuki as reasonably competent but the outsider being integrated into the Naval District. They could have had her rotate through various groups, which would have given them the chance to show off multitudes of kanmusu. If they wanted to show her improving over time they could have had her realize that the newer ships were better than her and had her strive to upgrade herself instead of starting out as a klutz.
Kanmusu I wish we’d seen more of: Shimakaze, DesDiv 6, Yuudachi (to explain her remodel), Kisaragi
Kanmusu I wish we’d seen less of : Ooi (basically none at all), Naka (at the beginning)
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
- Midway Princess: In the Summer 2015 Event which was based upon the Battle of Midway, “Midway Princess” was one of the major ‘bosses” in the event. Not sure why the anime chose to have Airfield Princess “upgrade” into Midway Princess rather than just stick with Midway Princess from the start. Possibly related to the next point.
- “Boss” Revival/Multiple “Kills”:
- Certain game maps (e.g. World 5 & World 6) require that you defeat/”kill” the boss node flagship multiple times to clear a map. This is very common during events and there is a “boss health gauge” for the map.
- In one earlier event, Fall 2013, the “boss health gauge” actually regenerated which potentially made clearing the event maps much more difficult.
- For “final kills” (one more when the health gauge is reduced to zero”), often bosses will get a ‘power-up”/stronger form (called “final form”).
- Point here is that (again) the anime incorporated game references when the Kanmusu had to “kill” Airfield Princess multiple times, her turning into Midway Princess (i.e. “final form”), and the regeneration a nod to the Fall 2013 event.
- Repair Team/Goddess: These are one-time use/consumable items in the game. When equipped, if a ship sinks during battle, it is instantly revived and thus not really sunk (but it can sink later on if damaged again). A “repair team”: brings back 20% of a ships health which is still considered “heavy damage”, while a “repair goddess” not only full restores HP, but also ammo and fuel. The anime didn’t stick with the game mechanics, but the fairy clearly indicated the game reference.
- Game Dialog: A lot and not worth mentioning.
Partial List of WWII References
- The Battle of Midway: For a change, the anime kicked WWII history to the curb in “changing fate” when it came to the Battle of Midway.
- In the actual battle, Akagi, Kaga, Souryuu and Hiryuu sank.
- Yamamoto’s main fleet trailing the carrier fleet: Yamamoto’s “main fleet” (including IJN BB Yamato, Nagato and Mutsu) did not participate in the Battle of Midway, staying far behind Admiral Nagumo’s main strike force.
- Operation AL: Unlike the anime, Operation AL was completed with the IJN capturing the US islands of Attu and Kiska.
- The leading and only ship of the Taihou class aircraft carriers, Taihou featured heavy belt armor and featuring an armored flight deck (a first for any Japanese carrier).
- She was also the first Japanese CV to feature a “hurricane bow” (a bow sealed up to the flight deck).
- Taihou represented a major departure in Japanese carrier design and was expected to not only survive multiple bomb, torpedo or shell hits but also continue fighting effectively.
- However, the ship had some significant design flaws. Taihou ’s aviation fuel tanks were only partially protected with armor, as naval designers opted earlier to devote greater protection to their carriers’ bomb and torpedo magazines. The empty air spaces around the aviation fuel tanks together with poor damage control turned out to be the ship’s downfall.
- Aichi B7A Ryuusei (Shooting Star) Torpedo Bomber
- Mitsubishi A7M Reppuu (Strong Gale): Carrier based fighter – the successor to the A6M Zero.
- Aichi E13A Reconnaissance Seaplane. Given the code name “Jake” by the Allies, this reconnaissance aircraft was also capable of bombing.