“Hmm…upgrades.” —Neo, The Matrix Reloaded
We’re now three-quarters of the way into Kantai Collection, which has seen Fubuki take command of the fifth mobile carrier group and lead them to another successful mission even in Kaga’s absence, who had been damaged by enemy fire. The IJN Yamato also makes an appearance, with Fubuki befriending the pride of the IJN and trying to giver her an opportunity to sail the open waters, having known for herself what it’s like to remain idle. This quarter concludes with Fubuki being slated for upgrades after Yuudachi received some and was moved to the First Carrier Fleet. As the Kantai Collection‘s main protagonist, Fubuki has seen many major transformations, becoming a capable leader for her peers and also taking the initiative to help others out. This aspect forms the core of Kantai Collection, and although the series has retained its relaxed, Strike Witches-like atmosphere, Fubuki’s maturation as a Kan-musume (and her proposed upgrades) suggest that something big is likely to happen in the future episodes. Build-up elsewhere, especially pertaining to Nagato’s dialogues about Operation MO, also foreshadow what audiences can reasonably expect as Kantai Collection draws to an end.
Fubuki’s development drives the entirety of Kantai Collection, and from what I’ve heard, Fubuki is a starter vessel who is promptly abandoned in favour of more powerful and capable vessels once one progresses in the game. This was something that the anime needed to address, and while their chosen means of doing so is familiar, the impact is non-trivial: Fubuki is presented with a greater depth in the anime. Aside from her skill as a flagship, and friendly personality, she also serves as inspiration for some of the other vessels. Yuudachi imbibes Fubuki’s earnest attitude and constant strive for improvement, training continuously and is eventually chosen for upgrades. After this occurs, Fubuki’s character leads her to wonder about her own contributions as a Kan-musume. Even for the audience members who’ve not played the game, it’s relatively easy to empathise with Fubuki; she feels that she’s not working hard enough after Yuudachi manages to achieve the former’s dream of escorting Akagi. However, a conversation with Kongou and Fubuki’s own positive attitude allow her to strive to better her contributions as a Kan-musume, and in representing the significance of maintaining said attitude, Fubuki winds up being a well-written protagonist for Kantai Collection that allows the anime to explore avenues that the game’s players may not typically choose.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Kantai Collection has proven to be quite disciplined with respect to traditional fanservice, preferring to offer subtle callbacks to the game itself for the initiated. However, even though I’m not initiated, this series has been very enjoyable to watch. The seventh episode sees Kaga rendered combat ineffectual after she takes a torpedo for Zuikaku, and for the duration of the episode, Shoukaku is fielded in her stead.
- Fubuki reminds me of Futsuu no Joshikousei ga Locodol Yatte Mita‘s Nanako, who occasionally finds herself overwhelmed by her circumstances. Like Nanako, Fubuki’s friends are there to offer support and allow her to continue moving forwards. Concerning the page quote, I wager that I am probably the only person to make a reference to The Matrix: Reloaded in a talk about Kantai Collection, although beyond providing a quote about upgrades, there’s actually very little relationship between The Matrix and Kantai Collection.
- Compared to Kaga, Zuikaku has lower health and a smaller aircraft complement. Because this anime is designed with the expectation that the viewers are familiar with the game, many of the different mechanics are simply just things to be accepted. Kantai Collection is not something that will work for everyone, but more open-minded viewers will definitely find the merits of watching said anime.
- Of course, this leads one to wonder who my favourite Kan-musume is within the anime. The answer is quite simple: it’s going to be Fubuki. Granted, the whole notion of “transfer girl who’s a little clumsy and has a lot of latent skill, befriends someone and takes time to warm up to everyone else” is so commonly presented in anime (Girls und Panzer, Strike Witches) that it’s often seen as a stock characterisation. Anime such as Kantai Collection demonstrate that this type of stock character is remarkably flexible and remains credible in a variety of settings. If Fubuki isn’t a satisfactory answer, then I’ll go with Kongou, since she reminds me of Kiniro Mosaic‘s Karen Kujo.
- I knew this because of my background in history, while I imagine that Kantai Collection fans will know this because of the game and then looked up the historical context. The IJN Yamato was often referred to as a “hotel” for its (comparatively) luxurious accommodations and mess hall, as well as the fact it never saw a proper combat mission until 1944; in the anime, Yamato dislikes this moniker, as she feels that it outlines her lack of combat experience.
- Yamato is stationed at Chuuk Lagoon of the Federated States of Micronesia; this island was heavily fortified by Japanese forces during the Second World War, with the island garrison staffed by 27,856 IJN men and 16,737 IJA men. Said to be Japan’s equivalent of Pearl Harbour, the Americans initiated Operation Hailstone in 1944 and sunk twelve smaller Japanese warships over the course of three days (larger warships were withdrawn to Palau).
- Episode eight is more relaxed in nature, and as such, features the series’ quota of beach episode content. However, this isn’t actually the main focus, and Fubuki’s concern for Yamato forms the basis for the episode’s story. As with the Yamato, Yamato of Kantai Collection is depicted as being immensely resource-intensive to operate despite her powers, and is kept as secret in-anime to prevent the Abyssals from learning of her existence.
- The Yamato had the largest caliber main guns of any battleship in history; the 45 Caliber Type 94 guns could put rounds 42 kilometres (26 mi) downrange, although the lack of a good fire control system meant that the guns would not have been as accurate as those found on the Iowa-class. Simulations project that superior fire control and damage countermeasures would’ve allowed the USS Iowa to triumph over the IJN Yamato in a showdown, although historically, the Yamato was sunk by aircraft, outlining how the age of the battleship had ended with the advent of the aircraft carrier.
- Fubuki is punished for taking Yamato on a night excursion and is sent digging for clams. Yamato decides to accompany her, and it is here that Fubuki learns of Yamato’s yearning to sortie, as well as her reasons for disliking being called a hotel.
- Here’s a moment no one was expecting: apparently, Nagato has a love of small mammals and cuddles them when she thinks no-one is around. Of course, to further the comedic effect of this scene, Mutsu is present and observes this display, prompting Nagato to say that no one saw anything, ever.
- After Abyssals are spotted, Yamato makes use of her vast arsenal to quickly shoot them down. The Yamato holds the record for the being able to 13141 kilograms worth of ordinance 42.0 kilometers down range with a single broadside salvo, while the next largest value comes from the USS Iowa-class, which could fire 11022 kilograms worth of ordinance 38.7 kilometers down range. With that being said, dem 18-inch shells ain’t so hot when they don’t hit nothing: as mentioned somewhere else, the Iowa-class vessels have better fire control and are more likely to hit their targets.
- No discussion of Yamato would be complete without any screenshots of some of the dishes that are served (here, roast beef, rack of lamb and a light salad). Episode eight had a particular emphasis on food, show-casing what appears to be curry rice, omelette rice and plenty of deserts: like everything else in Kantai Collection, the artwork is solid.
- Yuudachi takes on an angelic glow in episode nine’s opening, leading the others to wonder if she’s going to explode. Fortunately, this is not the case: an expert will have to step in and help clarify, but the glow signifies that a character has reached a sufficient level to be upgraded (or remodeled, going by in-game terminology). The upgrading process requires resources, and sometimes blueprints.
- When completed, the upgrades boost a ship’s base stats and improve performance: some vessels can even be upgraded a second time. The process also alters a ship’s appearance, and as Fbuki and Mutsuki discover, the changes can be quite dramatic. Yuudachi’s upgrades are actually of the second tier: her first round of upgrades merely boost her stats.
- Yuudachi quickly finds herself being admired by the other Kan-musume, although her tendency to append ~poi to the end of her sentences hasn’t changed at all. Some are trying (fruitlessly) to turn this into a meme of sorts, although the only effect it has is render what once poorly written into something unreadable. Hence, if one is looking for comprehensible talks on Kantai Collection for those who’ve not played the game, this is the place to be.
- Fubuki goes into a euphoric state after Akagi compliments her and pats her. With her spirits in high order, she decides to go for a run, but is summoned by Nagato, who informs her that she is to be transferred back to the Naval District.
- Since Kisaragi’s death and Mutsuki’s subsequent learning thereof, there hasn’t quite been an emotional moment in Kantai Collection, up until now. While Fubuki’s been giving her heart and soul into every battle, seeing Yuudachi with her upgrades does take a tool upon her, suggesting that the Kan-musume are very much human, even if they are spirits of naval vessels.
- Kongou’s “No! Bucky!” is hilarious, but does little to diffuse the tensions in this moment. It seems that Kongou’s anime incarnation gets along exceptionally well with Fubuki and comforts her on more than several occasions. While Kongou is generally cheerful, her relationship with Fubuki appears to be that of a senior, helping Fubuki get through difficult times.
- Upon seeing Yuudachi testing her new equipment, Fubuki recalls the sort of spirit that she strives to maintain as a Kan-musume and gets past her feelings of under-appreciation. Kantai Collection has thus far minimised the drama amongst the characters: rather than stretching them out for many episodes, they’re resolved fairly quickly, which contributes to the series’ consistent pacing.
- Upon learning that the Naval District has been bombed by Abyssal forces, and with the Admiral MIA, the Kan-musume do their best to restore the base’s functionality. Fubuki is also set for upgrades now, and I’m quite excited to see how this affects her combat performance. Like Yuudachi, Fubuki can be upgraded twice, and presumably, the anime will depict the two upgrades. Like every other anime before it (most notably, Gundam 00, Gundam Unicorn and Girls und Panzer), the upgrades hint at the increased ferocity of battle that occur in the final few episodes.
We’re now moving into the final quarter for Kantai Collection, and with Fubuki set for remodelling, the pressure to destroy the Abyssal forces and retake territory will form the basis for what’s left of this series. The Kan-musume will likely face a far fiercer opponent, and the atmosphere in Kantai Collection could very well darken. Up until the present, though, Kantai Collection has emphasised the dynamics between the Kan-musume themselves, rather than the implications of warfare (while there’s always an element of danger, no one ever stops to wonder about the Abyssal’s origins and objectives). By design, the Abyssals have served as cold, impersonal threat in-game to make it explicit that they’re the villains with no humanity within. While scuttlebutt has it that the Abyssals might be given backgrounds to challenge the viewer’s concept of warfare for the game, it’s still possible that the Abyssals will have their origins explored in the anime. Regardless of whether or not this occurs, attention will probably directed towards illustrating the importance of friendship and trust. These are traditional themes in such anime, as the Kan-musume work together to overcome challenges far tougher than any they’ve faced up until this point. Regardless of what the ending holds, though, I’m confident that it will be a solid conclusion to the series, which has been quite accessible even for those who’ve not played the game itself.