“If you take out the ‘team’ in teamwork, it’s just work. Now, who wants that?” –Matthew Woodring Stover
While Emily Orange and Jennifer Peach take an early lead in the race, Rin and Misa begin catching up, taking advantage of the Orcano’s handling to put Misa in a spot where she can snipe the Cuisine 2 at a critical juncture. Depriving Emily and Jennifer of their speed, Misa and Rin manage to win, and honouring the terms of their competition, Jennifer yields the yellow dolphin keychain to Misa, thanking them for an exhilarating race. Later, Rin and Misa begin training on their simulator, but the simulator malfunctions. Kiriko decides it’s time to pick up new parts, and heads into town with Misa and Rin. Misa and Rin explore around, stopping at an idol café along the way. The next day, Misa struggles to ask for Rin’s phone number, and Rin accompanies Emily and Jennifer to a concert. After making a reservation for a slot to practise, Rin and Misa learn that they are to forfeit their slot to Hell’s Kitchen, a team from CS Production School known for their involvement in idol activities. Tsui and Tina Pan, of Hell’s Kitchen, anger Rin with their casual remarks about Misa’s skills, prompting her to challenge the pair to a showdown. However, Rin and Misa are soundly beaten. Later, Misa decides to take Rin to a different part of Asukasa, since their previous outing had been disrupted, and here, they run into Shinjuku Takadanobaba Girls School’s Manatsu Shiraishi and Yuzu Midorikawa. After the two mention Rin and Misa’s spanking at Hell’s Kitchen’s hands, Misa takes up a variety of challenges where they both get defeated. Emily and Jennifer appear later in the day and, after watching the final challenge, point out that Rin and Misa’s weakness is their lack of communication. Realising this, Misa and Rin finally exchange phone numbers and spend the remainder of an evening marveling in being able to text one another effortlessly.
Kandagawa Jet Girls might prima facie be counted as frivolous, an excuse to shamelessly promote the upcoming game of the same name and offer an unparalleled opportunity to show some skin, but beyond this is an unexpectedly coherent story. After Rin and Misa’s win over Unkai establishes the implicit strength of their friendship, the story turns towards showing that an implicit understanding and trust of one another won’t get them very far. This is hinted at in Misa’s inability to summon up the courage to ask for Rin’s number. While seemingly a trivial detail for comedy’s sake, this actually serves to show that even as far as fundamentals go, Misa is still too shy to speak with Rin. The race with Hell’s Kitchen establishes that the successful team is coordinated and synchronised with one another, able to act as a cohesive unit while on the water. While Rin demonstrates an innate talent for racing, and Misa has experience in shooting, their individual skills aren’t enough to win races. The introduction of Manatsu and Yuzu then reinforces that this lack of communication is what is holding Rin and Misa back as racers; even in trivial activities involving teams, Misa and Rin struggle because of the absence of teamwork. Jennifer and Emily note that the first step to establishing teamwork is communication of intent. Misa does end up realising this, and symbolically, takes the first step towards improvement by asking Rin for her number. It’s a subtle gesture, but by resolving this issue at the halfway point shows viewers that Rin and Misa are ready to move into their next steps as a racing team.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Six episodes into Kandagawa Jet Girls, I am finding this series far more enjoyable than initially anticipated. Its game-like setting becomes very apparent, and this is probably one of the reasons I find no shortage of things to talk about. Having dabbled in game design and development for my Master’s thesis, I am mindful of things like collision physics, mechanics, balance and interactivity: while Kandagawa Jet Girls is heavy on the T & A, my interest in games means I’m able to keep the conversation going.
- My predictions turned out to be accurate: Emily’s preference for a shoulder-fired rocket favours destruction and area effects over precision. Emily and Jennifer are very much about style and flash, and their choice of area-of-effect munitions weapon coupled with a fast jet ski means they’re able to deal damage to unsuspecting teams very quickly. The tradeoff is that the Cuisine 2 seems less agile, and a heavy weapon means Emily has fewer shots to work with.
- Rin’s apprehension soon turns to excitement once the race kicks in, and while she mistakenly activates her boost on a turn, costing them precious moments, Misa reassures Rin not to worry and focus. Misa’s ability to communicate with Rin during a race is rudimentary, to a much lesser extent than more experienced teams, but early on, it is enough to get Rin focused back on the race.
- Tsui and Tina are seen watching the Kandagawa Jet Girls with interest during a break between their work as idols and sit rather closely together. I’ve heard that yuri elements are supposed to be a factor in Kandagawa Jet Girls, although insofar, I’ve felt that focusing on yuri itself in the series is secondary to understanding how that elements impacts the teams and their ability to work together. In other words, yuri is going to be solidly present, rather than being a “will they?” question – meaningful discussion thus assumes this to be a given and then focuses on the “so what?”.
- In Kandagawa Jet Girls, the “so what?” of why yuri is present is simply how it impacts each team’s ability to perform. As the race between Unkai and the Kandagawa Jet Girls progresses, the former begin increasing their lead with skillful piloting and well-placed shots from their rocket. Jennifer and Emily had earlier requested a tunnel segment in their race to make things more fun, and while they have little trouble negotiating the turns of the tunnel, Rin is able to keep up with a combination of the Orcano’s manoeuvrability and her own talent.
- Yuzu’s innuendo manages to embarrass Manatsu, as the two discuss the race between the Kandagawa Jet Girls and Unkai. While I’ve been focusing on character development and the relevance of game mechanics in driving the story, other writers have chosen to superciliously focus on (nonexistent) philosophical matters surrounding Kandagawa Jet Girls. Choya of Random Curiosity argues that Lacanian psychoanalysis is required to “get” Kandagawa Jet Girls, specifically, positing that the lack of males in the series, coupled with yuri relationships and various camera angles representing Lacan’s “gaze” means that the show’s values are rooted in psychology rather than story, pertaining to how the series should differ itself from other works of its genre.
- This is quite untrue: Lacan’s style was to present his theories in a way as to make them unfalsifiable, and contemporaries regarded him as a “amusing and perfectly self-conscious charlatan” whose work amounted to nothing more than an “incoherent system of pseudo-scientific gibberish”. In the case of Kandagawa Jet Girls, Choya does readers no favours by referencing Lacan, and adds little to the discussion besides perhaps demonstrating a lack of understanding of psychology. The yuri elements are not the core focus of either the game or the anime, but instead, serve to reinforce the idea that the pilot and gunner work closely as a team to the point where they can be seen as a romantic couple.
- In the realm of shows like Kandagawa Jet Girls, it is quite unnecessary to claim that one is watching it to see if it “[provides] some valuable enough content to fuel this conversation deeper to explore what about [this series] makes it both transformative and derivative of its contemporaries in the ecchi genre”. Shows of this sort do not invite discussions on philosophy or psychology, least of all those from methods that have been decisively demonstrated to be false. This is why I choose to focus on the characters’ growth and interactions within their setting; applying discredited philosophical theories does little to help others understand the characters’ beliefs, desires and intents.
- Of late, the quality Random Curiosity’s articles surrounding the series that I end up writing about have declined, and I occasionally wonder if some of their writers’ hearts are really in the game to be writing about anything with a substantial slice-of-life or ecchi component in it. Back in Kandagawa Jet Girls, Rin collapses in exhaustion after the race concludes. A well-placed shot from Misa while the Cuisine 2 is airborne impacts it, dealing enough damage to cause it to power down. This leaves Rin and Misa free to win their race. This outcome was visible from a klick away; while Rin and Misa are still novices as a team, they had to win this race simply to show that victory is possible and allow Misa to win the yellow dolphin keychain that evidently signifies her commitment to Rin.
- In the aftermath, Emily and Jennifer accept their loss and the other keychains Rin had gotten them. Despite losing, they are thrilled to have had fun racing Rin and Misa; good sportsmanship is an integral part of any anime featuring sports, and one aspect of Kandagawa Jet Girls that I will be keeping an eye on is how Rin and Misa deal with other racers in the aftermath of a given race. Such series typically emphasise sportsmanship and the development of friendships amongst rivals, which are more professional than personal in nature. This was actually what made Girls und Panzer and Harukana Receive worth watching, and this season’s Rifle is Beautiful is also doing a solid job of incorporating sportsmanship into things.
- Kandagawa Jet Girls‘ fifth episode was actually delayed in production. On the first Tuesday of November, when my area was hit with a major snowstorm that tangled up traffic, I slogged through six inches of snow while hoofing it back home after work. Upon arriving home, I learnt that there was no Kandagawa Jet Girls episode to watch. This ended up being a blessing, as used the extra time to work on my post for Battlefield V‘s Pacific Theatre. Kandagawa Jet Girls is now a week later, and while this will push back my finale post into 2020, the impact on my schedule is otherwise minimal. I think Azur Lane suffered from a similar delay and is a week behind, as well.
- Rin’s enjoyment of the arts is apparent, and she is quick to design a new logo for the Orcano, sharing it with the other club members during a meeting. For Fumika and Hina, as well as Yamada, the drawing is tantamount to a kokuhaku, although for me, this is a bit of a stretch: Rin’s drawing is merely of her and Misa as the logo. Try as I might, I can’t find any symbols in the drawing itself that might imply a declaration of love.
- When the training rig breaks down, Kiriko notes that the age of the hardware means that a trip to town is needed in order to secure the replacement parts. Kiriko reminds me somewhat of Girls und Panzer‘s Alisa in appearance, and while seemingly cold and distant, Kiriko is at her best when working on mechanical projects. Anything involving repairs puts a smile on her face, and on the whole, having Kiriko in their corner means that audiences can be assured that Misa and Rin’s vehicle will always be in excellent shape, leaving the outcome of a race purely to them.
- While Kiriko searches for the appropriate components, she suggests that Misa and Rin take some time to relax. One recurring joke is that each and every one of Misa’s attempts to spend time alone with Rin is inexplicably ruined whenever others show up to the party. Jennifer and Emily appear shortly after when Rin stops to check out a café with idols, much to Misa’s annoyance. Misa is not particularly vocal about this, but expresses her irritation by playing with her hair.
- I’ve heard that some folks express different tics when whenever faced with stress, anger, annoyance or boredom. Mine is picking at loose skin on my fingers whenever I’m nervous. It is here that Rin and Misa learn of Hell’s Kitchen, a team of two idols whose appearances belie uncommon skill at jet ski racing. With Rin clearly interested in checking out idols more closely, Jennifer and Emily invite her out to a concert the next day.
- Misa wonders why it’s so hard for her to talk to Rin about getting her phone number, and when Rin leaves for said concert, she retreats to the balcony and sulks about here. Most viewers appear to have marked Misa’s hesitation as a relatively minor point with seemingly no significance beyond comedy, but the persistence of this particular topic and how it ties into the sixth episode shows that there’s actually a bit more depth than people give Kandagawa Jet Girls credit for.
- I think every episode of Kandagawa Jet Girls features at least one such moment, and therefore, in the spirit of the anime, I will make it a point to feature at least a handful of these screenshots purely for the sake of consistency. I know readers don’t come here for that sort of thing, but it’s still fun to mix things up a little from time to time. Considering just how limited the discussion out there for Kandagawa Jet Girls is owing to folks dismissing the anime as being little more than fanservice with a weak narrative, this leaves the floor open for me to talk about whatever I choose with the series and perhaps even set the precedence for how one might go about talking about anime with a nontrivial fanservice component without resorting to psychoanalysis to keep their discussions engaging.
- Prior to their first scheduled practise on the river, Rin remarks that she’s still going to push for a new logo on the Orcano, which currently is adjourned with Rin’s face as decoration. However, their discussion is interrupted when Misa’s phone rings; despite having a reservation, it turns out the two have been removed from their allocated time.
- Having seen Tina and Tsui in the passing, having them interact with Misa and Rin for the first time does not leave viewers with a positive first impression of the pair: haughty and arrogant, they are quick to put down Misa and Rin as having won by sheer luck earlier against Unkai. The pair, known as Hell’s Kitchen, are probably Chinese in origin: the surname Pan (Poon in Cantonese) is rendered as 潘 and is the 37th most common family name in China. Tsui and Tina are mentioned to be strong racers who use their influence to gain the upper hand for training, and they manage to override Rin and Misa’s booking of the course.
- While Rin is typically cheerful and easygoing, it seems that making fun of those around Rin is a quick way to get on her bad side, and Rin immediately challenges the two to a race with the intent of settling things. It marks the first time we’ve seen Rin angry, and this adds a more human side to her character: in fiction, individuals might be defined by their usual mannerisms, but watching them act in ways contrary to their typical personality and potentially learn from the resulting mistakes serves to make everyone more plausible.
- Tsui and Tina’s preferred uniforms for racing have a distinctly Chinese style, further reinforcing their possible origins as being Chinese. Their craft, Les Soeurs SL, is a highly lightweight craft with superior manoeuvrability and acceleration compared to the Orcano. In exchange, it lacks the engine power for sustaining a high maximum speed. Tsui is the pilot, and Tina is the gunner: the latter wields a pair of pistols as her preferred weapon.
- Dual pistols are impractical in a real setting, since they prevent one from aiming down sights and also slows down the reload time. In fiction, however, the approach is favoured for the cool factor, and dual weapons are typically used in martial arts: sai, tonfa and kama are weapons I’ve trained with in pairs. Typically, the choice to dual wield shows an inclination towards speed and agility over precision: dual pistols effectively double one’s rate of fire at the expense of accuracy, showing that Hell’s Kitchen is about picking up speed. I’m noticing a stylistic trend in Kandagawa Jet Girls where the pilots race with their mouths open in a smile. This has no impact on the narrative, but now that I’ve seen it, I doubt I’ll be able to un-see it.
- While normally composed and emotionless, CS Production’s Shōko expresses warmth and admiration when describing Hell’s Kitchen: she and Aqua Manjō are the commentators who provide viewers with a running commentary of every race. Aqua is normally the bubbly and bright speaker, explaining the different techniques racers use, while Shōko is more of a quiet speaker and fills the audience in on the mechanical aspects of the race. Together, they act as a narrator to help viewers follow along during races.
- Unlike previous races, Tsui and Tina offer no quarter – Rin and Misa are decimated during their race without much effort; the sixth episode deals almost entirely with what the Kandagawa Jet Girls lack compared to more experienced teams, with notions of synchronisation and team play being at the forefront of all discussion. Kandagawa Jet Girls thus pushes the idea that until Rin and Misa work out how to work together, they’ve got no chance of winning races whatsoever.
- While Kandagawa Jet Girls places a great deal of emphasis on team work for its theme (hence the page quote), I wager that the game, once it’s launched, will have players controlling both the piloting and shooting aspects of the race, rather like how in almost all games, players can simultaneously drive a tank and fire its ordinance. In the game, then, teamwork goes out the window as players would be able to dominate races on sheer virtue of über-micro.
- To take Rin’s mind off the race, Misa proposes that they visit Asakusa again. When they pass a spot where Rin had taken photos with others, she recalls the moment and decides to take a self-shot with Misa. Before they can complete the shot, the same girls who’d shown up in the first episode return, ruining Misa’s photo. It turns out they’re Manatsu and Yuzu of MKHU, Shinjuku Takadanobaba Girls School’s racing team. Misa takes offense to their presence, more irate that yet another chance to spend time with Rin was interrupted, and challenges them off to a showdown.
- However, Manatsu and Yuzu have other ideas in mind: their idea of competition is various activities at a local water park. Their decision to not race is indicative of their personalities – despite their outward appearance, like Emily and Jennifer, Yuzu and Manatsu are friendly and quick to get along with others. From a narrative perspective, watching Rin and Misa be defeated in random trivial activities further reinforces that the two are most certainly not ready to race yet – if they cannot cooperate on even minor tasks to succeed, their odds of winning a race would be quite poor indeed.
- Halfway into the season, Kandagawa Jet Girls has done a fine job of establishing jet ski racing, the major players and what the anime’s objectives are. However, Rin and Misa are nowhere near ready to take on Kaguya and Kuromaru yet, and with six episodes remaining, I imagine that now that Rin and Misa’s weaknesses have been defined, the series must show the two training together to master the fundamentals, and in the process, take on another team or two. Kandagawa Jet Girls‘ outcomes can come across as predictable, but overall, I’ve found this not to be a problem – the journey matters rather more than the destination.
- Jennifer and Emily point out what has been increasingly apparent: without cooperation and communication, even something like a simple ball game sees the two falling. After the day comes to a close and the two leave the water park, Misa comforts Rin and then manages to ask for her phone number, signifying a first step towards improvement in communications. I expect that given the timing, the progress Rin and Misa make will probably be off-screen, implicit: with only six episodes left, including MKHU, there are three more teams to race against.
- I have no qualms about saying that I am enjoying Kandagawa Jet Girls, and I’m interested in seeing where this series goes. I understand that this month, I’ve been much slower about blog posts: the next post I have lined up is Yuru Yuri Ten, a special OVA commemorating the series’ tenth anniversary, and then the remainder of my time this month will be split between making sure I do a passable job for hosting Jon’s Creator Showcase, as well as experiencing Battlefield V‘s Pacific Theatre content. Conversely, December does look like a month where I’ll have more blog posts lined up: besides doing posts for Kandagawa Jet Girls, Azur Lane and Rifle is Beautiful, I also have plans to write about Aobuta: The Movie, plus publish two special posts.
Like Harukana Receive, Kandagawa Jet Girls‘ focus on a sport driven by teams of two means that there is plenty of space to delve into teams at their most fundamental unit, and while Harukana Receive was rather more direct about the idea of pairs being synonymous with lovers, Kandagawa Jet Girls seems to be aiming for a similar setup through the other teams. In particular, Tsui and Tina are portrayed as being intimately close. Manatsu and Yuzu likewise regard one another as lovers might, with Yuzu’s innuendo-laden commentary embarassing even Manatsu at one point. Like any good relationship, communication is the first hurdle that Rin and Misa must overcome. By the series’ halfway point, issues affecting Rin and Misa are openly being addressed, and moreover, resolved at a smart pace to keep things engaging. Rin and Misa have the beginnings of a friendship, but there is still a distance that separates them despite Misa’s desire to be closer. Watching this distance close over time, and seeing the changes reflected in the pair’s racing as they encounter more teams en route to the goal of facing off against Kaguya and Kuromaru on the waters of the Kandagawa. Kandagawa Jet Girls‘ fanservice component has, surprisingly, not detracted from the overarching narrative, and this is a rather impressive feat considering that most stories of this nature appear to be held together by little more than duct tape and spirit: with incentive to root for Rin and Misa as they improve, I look forwards to seeing where the next quarter goes.