The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Kantai Collection: Review and Impressions After Three

This is the greatest sinking of all time.

We’re now three episodes into Kantai Collection, which sees Fubuki train tirelessly to improve her effiacy as a Kan-musume and sortie for another battle against the Abyssal fleet. While the second episode retains a typically light-hearted mood, the third episode introduces the audience to one of the more infamous mechanics in the Kantai Collection game: that the destruction of any vessel in a fleet is permanent. In this case, Kisaragi is sunk by the Abyssal’s equivalent of a 1000-pount bomb, and although the others are well aware that this has happened, they choose to withhold it from Mutsuki. This marks the first major death in the series, and anime veterans have already hinted that something like this was going to occur; a planned love confession is what they refer to as the so-called “death flags”, which are actions that almost always preceed death in a given story. While this is typically done to strengthen the impact of a character’s passing for the audience by (hastily) building a connection to them, the end result is remarkably easy to predict. The consequences of Kisaragi’s death will doubtlessly weight heavily upon Mutsuki in future episodes and also impact Fubuki’s capacity to wage war against the Abyssals.

Through setting up a death at the three-episode mark, Kantai Collection has differentiated itself from Strike Witches; injuries to the major characters are as severe as things get. In a series that was prima facie light-hearted, it is quite possible that Kantai Collection might be stepping towards a slightly more serious story about the nature of warfare with an unknown enemy. In particular, Kisaragi’s death could very well be a catalyst that forces each of the Kan-musume to re-evaluate their roles in the navy against the Abyssal threat, in turn driving character growth and unit cohension amongst each of the different battle groups. The end result of such a direction in the story would probably result in something like Sora no Woto, which struck a fine balance between the more serious implications of war and the more friendly depictions of everyday life as a Clocktower Maiden when there is no state of war. This is the preferred direction for Kantai Collection: the disjointness in the visual elements (namely the Kan-musume themselves) mean that any themes and messages about the nature of warfare would be quite difficult to convey in this setting to the same extent as something like Saving Private Ryan, for instance.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • If I do not have a meaningful quote, I will typically take a leaf from Cr1t1kal and say “this is the greatest (something) of all time”, since I’m not accustomed to a post without a quote of some sort now. I’m changing up the format of posts from here on out to improve on search engine visibility: “review” is a more widely searched for term than “reflection”. Here, the Kan-musume learn about their warship’s combat characteristics in a classroom setting, and Fubuki surprises all with her studious nature.

  • Nagato shares a voice actor with Sendai, Jintsuu and Naka, which could lead to some rather humourous implications. Nagato oversees operations and works in the command center, away from the front lines. Upon hearing Nagato for the first time, I was wondering if she shared the same voice actor as Infinite Stratos‘ Chifuyu, but it turns out that Ayane Sakura, Nagato’s voice actor, voiced Chloe Chronicle and Haganai‘s Yozora.

  • Fubuki’s main weakness is her low physical ability, and as such she does not perform all that well initially. She’s well aware of this limitation and trains constantly to improve. Fubuki’s voice actor, Sumire Uesaka, previously supplied the voices for Girls und Panzer‘s Nonna and Piyotan.

  • When one walks, one should walk with an upright posture and straighten their back, eliminating slouching and any possibility of this happening. Fubuki encounters Atago while searching for Akagi, and Atago is under the assumption that Fubuki sustained damage in their last battle. Apparently their campus’ hot springs are the “dry” docks for repair, which implies that the only times the Kan-musume would come here is if they took damage in battle and would probably go elsewhere to relax.

  • I’ve no familiarity with the game, but in the anime, damaged vessels take hours to regen fully. They can be insta-healed with some magical photoluminescent liquid, which is probably a special resource, and it is moment like these that necessitate a good pair of headphones or some peace: both Fubuki and Akagi rather take a great deal of pleasure to the restorative powers conferred by the hot springs.

  • Akagi’s plate of curry rice surpasses what is realistic even for a Man v. Food challenge. Now, I could go do a Fermi approximation on the mass of the food, and then assess whether or not it is feasible for Adam Richman to finish it within an hour, accounting for the effects of cooling on the palpability of the curry rice and jaw endurance, but that’d require a little more work than I’m willing to undertake just for a figure caption.

  • A second communications error leads Sendai, Jintsuu and Naka to simultaneously offer help for Fubuki, who goes through a vigourous training regiment that includes balance, target practise and curiously enough, confidence building through being an idol. Despite seeing failure after failure, Fubuki’s tenacity never wavers and she catches Nagato’s attention, who decides that, as Fubuki carries the spirit of a proper Kan-musume, she is ready to join their next operation.

  • Fubuki’s energy is sapped as a result of her training, leaving her sleepy for the remainder of the day. Thanks to Mutsuki and Yuudachi, they are able to settle things out with Sendai, Jintsuu and Naka. While I did not notice in the first episode, after three episodes, Yuudachi’s propensity to append “poi~” (っぽい) to the end of her sentences has caught on, and her dialogue sounds quite endearing as a result. Apparently, it’s supposed to denote resemblance, (directly translating to “-ish”).

  • This is the sort of attitude one must apply towards life itself: that determination to continue learning new things is a hugely useful mentality, and one of my biggest bete noirestars are people who purport to be experts about something and express a degree of arrogance in their knowledge, but when the time comes, they prove incompetent or inadequate for the job. I’m reasonably easy to get along with, and as such, I wouldn’t mind working with arrogant people if they were worth their salt, but the people who can’t walk the walk after talking the talk really draw my ire.

  • One has to wonder if a specialised combat armour like the Mjolnir Mk. VI equipped with specialised repulsors for gliding over the water would be more practical against the Abyssal Fleet. Similarly, the weapons the Kan-musume equip are of even lower calibre than pistols, and the torpedoes appear to deal damage consistent with man-portable weapons. If the Abyssals are so easily defeated by these weapons, one wonders why they are able to survive larger calibre and heavier weaponry.

  • Attempting to rationalise Kantai Collection‘s universe leaves me with a minor bit of lethargy, and although I do have several thoughts on Kantai Collection‘s implications, I’ll keep those to myself for the present. There might come a point, far out there, when I explain what my thoughts are, but for the present, these talks will strictly be about the anime. I’m happier talking about happy things, and my background in the Second World War’s history notwithstanding, I do think that the anime should be taken talis qualis.

  • Blueberries, touted to be an excellent anti-oxidant, are said to be excellent for eye health, preventing diseases of the eye when consumed with a moderate frequency. I prefer my blueberries on their own, although blueberry coffeecake is something I can’t say no to. Here, some of the other Kan-musume offer Fubuki some blueberries, parfaits and good luck charms for their first major mission.

  • Love confessions dominate a small portion of the third episode, after Fubuki and Akagi share a conversation about effort. Effort is something that TV Tropes’ writers don’t appear to possess: I’ve taken a glance at their page for Kantai Collection, and despite one of its contributors supposedly working on a Master’s in Creative Writing, the page is incoherent, incomprehensible. I don’t even have a Bachelor’s in writing, but at the minimum, can at least convey my ideas in a passable fashion: for a lack of a better term, this is disappointing.

  • This is the scene that triggered all sorts of death flags for veteran viewers. There are some elements that are so common in anime that for viewers, the element of surprise is lost because they’re able to pick up on patterns in the dialogue. In this case, Mutsuki’s comment that she’ll express her feelings properly after the battle has ended is a hint that something might just happen before the battle fully ends.

  • The water effects in Kantai Collection look quite nice: the lighter aqua colours of shallow water result from sunlight is reflecting off of the sand and reefs near the surface, and deeper water absorbs more light, giving it a darker colour. Here, the third torpedo squadron camp behind some rocks while trying to get a bearing on the enemy fleet. Jintsuu launches a reconaissance seaplane piloted by a faerie, and I remark that if I worked in a department with that sort of stuff, I’d probably be dusting off my resume and writing a cover letter.

  • The element of surprise is soon lost, and the third torpedo squadron finds itself under fire from Abyssal forces. Despite being out-numbered and lacking effective anti-air defenses, the girls manage to put up a reasonable fight overall.

  • One of the things I do hope to see in Kantai Collection is a little bit of exposition about the Abyssals: they’re the enemy in the game so players have opponents to fight if they desire not to challenge other players. It makes sense for a card game, but for an anime, it’s more meaningful to give the antagonists some background and motive, which could contribute to increasing the weight of the protagonists’ cause.

  • With her resolve and determination, Fubuki saves Mutsuki from certain death after an Abyssal decides to rush the latter, and also contributes to the destruction of one the Abyssal’s equivalents of an aircraft carrier.

  • Kisaragi is sunk at the battle’s end, similar her real-world counterpart at the Battle of Wake Island, and Mutsuki remains unaware of her fate. If Kantai Collection decides to go for historical accuracy, then death will be the norm in this anime, especially when recalling the fate of most of these vessels during the Second World War; the Battle of Midway would see Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu put at the bottom of the ocean in June 1942, and if this were to happen in the anime, all I can say is that predicting Fubuki’s reaction is beyond my capacity.

  • Coming up next will be a talk on Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata‘s opening “fanservice” episode and after three episodes. In addition, I’ll do a talk on Shirobako‘s halfway point before Valentine’s day (assuming my paper on cooperation concepts in a multi-agent system is making good progress), and there will be a special talk on Valentine’s Day itself. Depending on what happens, I may also pick up The IdolM@ster: Cinderella Girls, but time will tell as to whether or not I blog it.

If I had been under the impression that Kantai Collection was going to be the sea-faring counterpart to Strike Witches, those impressions have since been displaced. With the death of a named character and its anticipated impact on Mutsuki, Kantai Collection has kicked things up a notch. If this is well-handled, Kantai Collection will be able to differentiate itself from the game and stand on its own: individuals grow attached to the game for the amount of time they spend cultivating their fleets, but since the anime does not require anywhere near that level of time investment, developing the characters and immersing viewers into their world is key in keeping the audience engaged. That is to say, besides seeing the characters of the third torpedo squad grow into capable combat units, I would also hope to see a greater degree of world building, especially where the Abyssal fleet is concerned. Sora no Woto explored their world’s history in small steps, while Strike Witches just outright stated that the Neuroi were of an unknown origin and presented a threat to humanity. The Alone in Vividred Operation challenged humanity’s right to make use of the Manifestation Engine (a clean energy source) and acted as antagonists to determine if the world was worthy of wielding such a system. However, in Kantai Collection, the Abyssal fleet’s relevance beyond an antagonist is still unknown and have even less development than the Neuroi of Strike Witches. Thus, I predict that the Abyssal fleet’s are a non-trivial antagonist. Their origins and history might either be presented in the end, as with Vividred Operation, or else be incrementally explored as it was in Sora no Woto, although Kantai Collection could go do something completely unexpected, and that would be quite acceptable, too.

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