After meeting up with the mysterious admiral, Fubuki is sent to the Chinjufu base to train and help the other girls against the mysterious Abyssal fleet that threaten Japan. (Presumably.)
There, she meets her big idol, Akagi, and dreams of becoming her escort vessel at some point in the future. She's got a whole lot of training ahead of her, though, because as she is now, she can barely even travel by water, much less fight in it.
There seems to be some measure of success in dressing up historical events in the guise of pretty girls, if you'll excuse the Captain Obvious cape hanging at my back here. Kantai Collection, or KanColle, as I'm going to refer to it from now on, is hardly the first and will also not be the last to do this.
When I first heard about this show, it reminded me very much about Strike Witches insofar that it mirrors actual wars that happened here on Earth, but where the latter took place in the appropriate time era in an alternative timeline and with alternative enemies, I'm not entirely sure where KanColle takes place, other than that it is the real world, and the girls are very much aware that they're reenacting something that happened a so-far unspecified time ago.
The girls are, as described, girls who inherited the spirits of ships past, meaning they basically look like girls equipped with ship hardware -- be that cannons, hangar ship decks or torpedo bays -- and special footwear that allow them to travel on the water surface. And while the Striker Units from the Strike Witches could look a bit silly, the girls in KanColle come in a large variety of weird, and that's not even getting into the application of said hardware. Light destroyers like Fubuki basically mount ship cannons on their arms, and many of the girls come with ornaments on their heads, often anntennas or radar discs. Needless to say, some of you out there, like me, are going to need some time getting used to this.
The second, and understandably bigger, hurdle is the whole moeification aspect. The show isn't really rife with fanservice, though there certainly is some, but the girls are often shoehorned into long-favored otaku bait personalities. One of Fubuki's bunkmates tend to end her sentences with "-poi", and the show even has its own idol group, apparently. The girls "uniforms" also come in a large variety of styles, from the regular school girl uniforms to shrine maiden getups for the carriers, complete with bows that shoot arrows that turn into fighter planes.
The battles can look a bit... bizarre... at first. You will probably get used to it eventually. I hope.
More than that, the show subscribes to the school of "ganbatte". Fubuki is a huge clutz, as the show is quick to remind us, and will only prevail with lots of hard work and a solid side order of ganbatte, plus, as the Beatles put it, "a little help from my friends". This only makes it all the more surprising -- and jarring -- when KanColle proves itself more than able (and willing) to sacrifice a key member for the sake of drama. Those of you who paid attention in history class will probably realize who is about to be sunk before it happens in the episode itself, and it sets a precedent for the remainder, particularly when this season ends on a rather major historical battle event. (And also leads to a somewhat predictable denial-to-grieving reaction from one of the other girls.) The rest of us will have to make do with the almost hilariously obvious death flags.
And the show has plenty to sacrifice, because the cast is enormous. Much like in Girls und Panzer, KanColle pretty much had no choice but to split the girls into groups, and only a few really get to rise above the horizon (so to speak.) Outside of Fubuki and her two closest friends, there is Kongou, a dreadnought who peppers her speech with random English and refers to Fubuki as "Bucky". There's Akagi and Kaga, two aircraft carriers, one of which serves as Fubuki's idol and is a hilariously heavy eater. (A comment on her real-life equivalent's fuel consumption.) Blonde heavy cruiser Atago is usually nearby when breast size jokes are about to enter the scene, and she becomes a nice asset to the beach episode later on. There's also a quartet of very young destroyer girls in Inazuma, Ikazuchi, Akatsuki and Hibiki, who'll show up from time to time to lighten the mood and be the main players in an episode centered around curry. And there's Kitakami, a deadpan girl, and Ooi, the girl who's crushing on her and acts all jealous about anyone approaching her. There is also the Admiral, but while he certainly has a presence in this show, you never see him OR hear him, so he is a rather odd presence at that.
Their enemies, the mysterious and somewhat sinister-looking Abyssal fleet, actually lead off the show with a menacing confrontational speech. Unlike the Neuroi from Strike Witches and their somewhat CGish alien space ship designs, the Abyssals look more like something Giger would come up with; oily, black bodies and a nasty set of teeth line up most of the regular craft, while the higher-ups actually looks like girls too, though more in the way of ghostly apparitions. Pale skin and shadow-y highlights and skintight, fanservicelicious outfits, which have earned the "enemy" a fanbase of its own, at least among the doujinshi creators.
KanColle actually does drama pretty well. The shipgirl loss early in the show aside, the same earnestness that served Strike Witches so well also works for this show. For all its seriousness, it's easy to get ina good mood while watching KanColle, and I'm certainly not going to blame anyone for getting into it. It also helps that the fanservice, while certainly there, never feels as voyeuristic and intrusive as the one in Strike Witches, so you don't have to feel as guilty for watching it.
Unfortunately, KanColle doesn't do comedy as well. There's the chance that not being familiar with the game will have you feel rather lost at times, but Ooi's fits of jealousy can get rather tiring too, mostly because it makes her come across as a bully and an asshole towards the others merely for trying to speak to Kitakami. There is also an episode almost solely centered around the youngest foursome and making curry, which serves as an example of KanColle at its most asinine, though in all fairness, that episode was more an attempt at getting us to smile rather than laugh, and I can appreciate the sentiment, at least. It's a balancing act that KanColle just manages to get out of intact when everything is said and done.
It also helps that the art and animation is pretty sweet most of the time. The first couple of battles looks really awkward, but once the show steers the girls movement from statically standing there into more of a speed and figure skating style of approach, the battles improve immensely. Unfortunately, the show shifts over to some pretty obvious CG for a lot of the battles, and the character models during these scenes aren't always the best. Not because they look bad, but because they don't really mesh with the more traditional cel art, particularly during closeups. (Strike Witches mostly used CG in shots where the girls are further away from the camera, hence it was much less jarring there.)
There is already a second season lined up, so the ridiculousness of the final episode in this season does become bearable. As I'm sure you all know, KanColle is a reenactment of several historical sea battles, and the first season sees the girl trying to break free from forces of destiny that seems to steer them. (To give you a hint: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me four times? Well... that's just not gonna happen.) But the show does have a sense of niceties about it, whether that be the scene where Yamato looks longingly towards the sea, wanting to go there, but knowing her resource needs prevent it from happening unless the situation demands it or just giving someone a hug instead of going into long monologues about the importance of dealing with loss. It's cheesy and genki and cute, and sometimes, when you just want to unwind, that's all you really need.
A bit simplistic, but earnest enough to be enjoyable. Serious enough to earn a three star, but not courageous enough to earn more. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: The show isn't overtly violent despite all the guns, but it's serious enough to treat a shipgirl sinking in a way that might be a bit unpleasantly close to what it must be like to drown. Also, enemies they may be, it can still be pretty unpleasant to see an Abyssal girl literally burn to death in the fire from an explosive bombing run.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Kantai Collection © 2015 Diomedea, Kadokawa Corporation, Kan Colle Production Committee
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