“A long time ago, I was in Burma. My friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with tangerines. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a tangerine. So, we went looking for the tangerines. But in six months, we never met anybody who traded with him. One day, I saw a child playing with a tangerine the size of a tangerine. The tangerine had been the tangerine.” –Michael Caine, The Tangerine Knight
While Shigure contemplates the loss of her allies in recent battles and recalls old memories with her sister ship, especially Kawakaze, Hamakaze appears and asks her to go take a look at the new assignments following a fleet reorganisation. As it turns out, Shigure’s been assigned to the First Strike Force, Section Three (1YB3H) ahead of a massive operation. This reorganisation speaks to how poorly the war’s been going for the Kan-musume: the fleet here is the remainder of all allied forces. She meets the heavy cruiser, Mogami, and the pair set off to meet her fellow compatriots, Shigure is surprised when Yamashiro immediately berates her for being late. While it appears that Yamashiro has crossed the line with her insults, the Asashio-class destroyers, Michishio, Asagumo and Yamagumo show up, demanding to know what beef Yamashiro has with destroyers. Shigure decides to bring out her tangerines and share them. Fusō thanks Shigure for having defused the tension, and mentions that their current assignment will be their only one: they’re to act as the diversionary force in a massive operation. However, despite the prospect of being sent out on a suicide mission, the destroyers begin singing, and everyone resolves to make it out of their assignment together. On the day of the operation, Shigure’s group prepare to sortie. Yamashiro passes some scout aircraft to Mogami, believing that she could make use of them, and Fusō asks Shigure to look after Yamashiro. She gives Shigure a special hairpin, and the group await orders to set sail. When the order is given, Shigure and the others take off, with Shigure remarking to herself that no rainfall lasts forever. Seven years after Kantai Collection‘s second season was announced, Itsuka Ano Umi de has finally aired, and right out of the gates, it is plain that this series is going to be a serious one. A feeling of melancholy and grim determination permeates every scene; even though the Asashio-class destroyers bring a bit of light-hearted humour into things, the overall assignment and atmospherics surrounding Itsuka Ano Umi de is unlike anything that Kantai Collection‘s first season had conveyed.
While such a setup prima facie sets the stage for tragedy and loss, Itsuka Ano Umi de also suggests that history will not repeat itself. Having lost Kawakaze in an earlier engagement, Shigure continues to eat her tangerine oranges. These tangerines are smaller than oranges, easier to peel and have a sweeter taste than oranges. They are high in vitamin C and anti-oxidants, which improves the immune system, heart health and even provides some resilience against cancer. In Japan, tangerines are known as mikan and are a common fruit seen during the winter, as quintessential as the venerable kotatsu. As in Chinese culture, where tangerine are eaten during the Lunar New Year, tangerine are a symbol of prosperity and happiness. In a series that opens the gate with a very muted colour palette, and a subdued tenour, the presence of tangerine in Itsuka Ano Umi de is significant. These fruits are juxtaposed sharply with the aesthetic in Itsuka Ano Umi de, being a splash of vibrant colour in an otherwise grey, washed-out environment. In conjunction with the fact that flashbacks suggest that Kawakaze was fond of tangerines, and shared them often with Shigure, Shigure sees tangerines as a source of comfort and camaraderie. Despite being insulted by Yamashiro, Shigure still shares her tangerines with her new battle group to break the water, feeling it to be an appropriate gesture of friendship. In this way, while Itsuka Ano Umi de lacks the same light-heartedness as its predecessor, tangerines have been utilised to show that even when the war has reached dire straits for the Kan-musume, there remains some hope yet. In the context of Itsuka Ano Umi de, tangerines come to represent fortitude and hope: traditionally, tangerines come in very large boxes in Japan, and are therefore eaten over time. To share tangerines with companions, then, is to symbolise that everyone will have the opportunity to continue spending time together as they fight hard to protect one another, and the values they stand for.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Shigure is voiced by Yumi Tanibe, who is better known for her role as Yūdachi. Unlike Kantai Collection, however, Itsuka Ano Umi de is all business. Yūdachi and her trademark ~poi is completely absent here, and the overall aesthetic is more similar to Kantai Collection: The Movie, being more focused on the warfare elements than the slice-of-life piece. As far as characters go, Shigure and her background are more suited for a war drama type story; mirroring her real-world counterpart, which emerged from numerous battles as the sole survivor.
- Right out of the gates, it’s clear that in seven years, animation techniques have improved greatly, and the Kan-musume now have access to anti-air guns in addition to their primary armaments. Battle scenes are rendered in greater detail, and the animation is crisper than before. Overall, the visuals in Itsuka Ano Umi de are significant improvement over Kantai Collection‘s, and even Kantai Collection: The Movie, which had improved artwork and animation over the 2015 anime, feels dated in comparison. Both story and artwork come together to give Itsuka Ano Umi de merit.
- However, one aspect of Itsuka Ano Umi de that weighs on my mind is the fact that it comes seven years too late; a second season to Kantai Collection was announced as early as March 2015, and while excitement surrounding what a potential continuation would entail was high when Kantai Collection was still fresh on viewer’s minds, excitement tapered off after the series ended, and no new news of a second season materialised. In fact, after Kantai Collection: The Movie, it wasn’t until January 2021 where news of a continuation appeared, and even then, it was only a vague comment that Itsuka Ano Umi de was being worked on.
- By 2021, even viewers who’d found Kantai Collection somewhat enjoyable were skeptical that a second season would happen at all. In the past five years, despite losing almost all interest amongst the international community, Kantai Collection retains a healthy, if slowly declining, player base amongst people in Japan. The dōjin scene is still strong, and fanart of Kantai Collection is still being produced at a regular rate. Kantai Collection was always intended to be produced for a domestic market, and in this area, the franchise has done very well.
- Kantai Collection was never intended to be played outside of Japan: anyone overseas attempting to register will not be successful unless they use a VPN. Back in the day, some folks determined that there was a way of using Kantai Collection‘s API to bypass the web client’s registration limitations and were able to play the game. These early adopters also popularised the term “API link” in the process, using the term in their guides. Back in the day, I never understood what these guides was referring to, but as it turns out, an “API link” refers to the endpoints that Kantai Collection‘s developers had exposed for their web clients to consume.
- In computing, an API is an “Abstract Programming Interface”, which exposes parts of a system for other applications to use or consume. For instance, if I were writing a server for hosting and viewing images, my API would include method calls for retrieving and storing images. These method calls would be accessed by providing a URL that points to a RESTful request, and these are known as the endpoints. Quite simply, it was possible to forge a registration for a Kantai Collection account by making use of API endpoints that were not otherwise exposed to users in the web client’s UI and pass in the requisite parameters. In this way, players were able to get into the game; although I now understand what the guides refer to, I nonetheless contend that the phrase “API link” is nonsensical.
- At present, I’m still deciding whether or not I’d like to blog about Itsuka Ano Umi de episodically, since Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s direction has proven quite promising so far. While Kantai Collection‘s second season required a seven year wait and English-speaking fans of the series lost interest in it, I imagine that in Japan, folks who enjoyed the anime wouldn’t find this series’ arrival in 2022 to be unexpected in any way, being merely a long-awaited continuation to the series.
- I have a fondness for Shigure already – unlike the stock military moé character, Shigure’s significantly more reserved and is haunted by her past losses. Further to this, Shigure feels like a competent Kan-musume, having more combat experience than Fubuki had. This allows the story to advance more quickly than Kantai Collection‘s did; there’s no need for Shigure to familiarise herself with Kan-musume or how things work, and moreover, Shigure’s losses means that she has a concrete reason to fight.
- I am surprised that in the aftermath of the first episode’s airing, discussions haven’t turned towards the tangerines. Folks have been wondering why they featured so prominently in the trailers, and while they don’t have any specific meaning on their own, Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s first episode does hint at the fact that they’re a representation of camaraderie. I personally see tangerines as a symbol of consistency; when I was a student, my parents would buy them and ask that I eat one every day to keep my fruit intake up. This practise has persisted after I graduated (I used to eat them during my mid-morning break, and this moved into the afternoon after I began working from home), and in the present, I buy tangerines every time I go grocery shopping.
- Although starting a new posting would be exciting in any other anime, Itsuka Ano Umi de establishes immediately that things here are going to be more grim in nature: after getting an earful from Yamashiro, Shigure only just manages to maintain her composure, and ends up learning that their group is to act as a diversionary force for what feels like a desperate, all-out attack on the Abyssals. I did find this to be a little strange, since Kantai Collection: The Movie‘s outcome had implied the Kan-musume gained the upper hand following Fubuki’s discovery that Kan-musume and Abyssals were two sides of the same coin.
- A quick glance at the remaining roster in Itsuka Ano Umi de suggests that even Fubuki has been sunk, and the carriers are noticeably absent. It is possible that they’re being kept in reserve, but the overall atmosphere in Itsuka Ano Umi de is gloomier than it’d been, even in the film. This does eliminate any hopes I had about Itsuka Ano Umi de presenting a slice-of-life story as Azur Lane: Slow Ahead! did, but on the flipside, a more focused story here in Itsuka Ano Umi de would demonstrate that the genre is indeed capable of making the more serious aesthetic work.
- Besides Itsuka Ano Umi de, this season’s other military moé offering is Arknights, an animated adaptation of the Chinese free-to-play game. I ended up giving the first episode a go, but the story drops viewers right into things without any context, leaving me totally lost. Consequently, I have no plans to actively watch, or write about Arknights; it seems more prudent for me to wait for a few more episodes to come out before giving this series a go. Of course, folks who’ve played the game find the series to be more enjoyable.
- I find that anime adaptations of games need to make an effort to ensure that the game world can fit neatly into a standalone story if the anime is to succeed. Uma Musume Pretty Derby is probably the best example of a game whose animated adaptation does this well: even though I’ve never played the game before, the anime was fantastic and actually gave me a desire to play the game. Back in Itsuka Ano Ume de, once Shigure helps their team to settle down, everyone resolves to carry out their assignment successfully and come back to one another.
- The visuals in Itsuka Ano Umi de are of such a high standard that this series feels more like a film. The Kan-musume‘s forward operating base is located in the South Pacific’s Melanesia region, and while the Kan-musume live in simple huts constructed from reeds, the base facilities appear quite sophisticated. The war may be turning against the Kan-musume, but it appears that from a resource standpoint, they’ve not completely been depleted yet, so there’s still a glimmer of hope left. Subtle cues like these can be used to estimate where a story is.
- So far, I’ve not seen any faces from the original Kantai Collection returning to Itsuka Ano Umi de, but despite the (presumably) significant losses the Kan-musume have faced, Kantai Collection‘s second season still offers plenty of ships to portray. I’ve taken a liking to Hamakaze, and Akebono is still on the active roster, so I’m hoping she’ll have speaking lines in Itsuka Ano Umi de. The preparation scenes in Itsuka Ano Umi de are more detailed than those of their predecessor, and together with the improved combat sequences, I am rather excited to see how naval battles unfold here.
- Ahead of the operation, Yamashiro hands support aircraft to Mogami, who accepts them with joy. Her real-world counterpart was originally classified as light cruiser that conformed with the London Naval Treaty, but were designed to accept 8-inch guns. Despite suffering from construction problems, the Mogami-class would become some of the best cruisers Japan had available to them in World War Two. Originally capable of carrying three Aichi E13A seaplanes, the upgraded Mogami would have a capacity for eleven, allowing them to carry out reconnaissance, as well.
- Prior to leaving port, Shigure receives her trademark hair ornament from Fusō. For now, the significance of this hair ornament is not mentioned, but fielding an educated guess (and my guesses tend to be reasonably accurate most of the time), I’d suggest that the ornament is a physical reminder of the promise she’s making to Fusō about looking after Yamashiro: it’s the case that despite her blunt manner and tough-talking attitude, Yamashiro is perhaps the most vulnerable of the Kan-musume in this group. In history, the Yamashiro were sunk during the Battle of Leyte Gulf trying to cover for the Shigure.
- Knowing what’s happened in history, and the fact that Isuka Ano Umi de seems to be focusing on this particular battle, gives the anime a strong sense of melancholy: if Isuka Ano Umi de is going to be true to historical events, the themes here would be decidedly more pessimistic. In reality, the destruction of the IJN marked a major turning point in World War Two and provided the Allied forces with open seas, setting the stage for the final campaigns that brought the Pacific War to a close. However, the Abyssals in Kantai Collection aren’t analogs of the Allied forces and instead, represent the Kan-musume‘s own inner darkness, so if the Abyssals are allowed to triumph, Kantai Collection‘s anime would imply that Nihilism and pessimism prevails over optimism and effort (something I vehemently disagree with).
- Assuming that themes from Kantai Collection: The Movie are still relevant here in Itsuka Ano Umi de, there is a possibility that Shigure will have to find another way to make peace with what she’s experienced. At this point in time, however, no one knows how Itsuka Ano Umi de will unfold, and as such, a part of my curiosity in Kantai Collection‘s second season lies in seeing what lies ahead for viewers. In this way, Itsuka Ano Umi de represents a chance for Kantai Collection‘s anime adaptation to show viewers that the series is capable of telling an impactful story about the nature of warfare in a mature, measured manner.
- We are now into November, and with Itsuka Ano Umi de finally starting, it means that all of the anime I’m intending to follow are now airing. I’ve hit my stride for this season: Yama no Susume: Next Summit, Bocchi The Rock, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury, Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out and Kancolle: Itsuka Ano Ume de are the shows I’m going to be actively watching. The year is beginning to entire its final months, and today, I decided to step out and grab a burger for lunch. Since it’d snowed this week, things were a bit slippery outside, but the burger was quite hearty (I’m always game for a burger with Applewood smoked bacon and onion rings). Looking ahead, I’ll be focused on writing about Next Summit and Itsuka Ano Ume de this month, although I’ll also have a few special topics posts here and there; the Yuru Camp△ movie is now out on Amazon Prime Japan, and I’m making fair progress through Modern Warfare II.
With the first episode of Itsuka Ano Umi de now in the books, it is clear that writers have decided to take Kantai Collection in a different direction than Azur Lane had. When Azur Lane‘s original run was plagued by an inconsistent tone that compromised the story’s coherence and left viewers with mixed feelings, Azur Lane ended up pivoting to a slice-of-life setup with Slow Ahead!. This comedy proved to be well-received, conveying Azur Lane‘s themes as effectively as the original series did, but without adding in elements that would detract from the ordinary, everyday antics their ship-girls experienced. Kantai Collection‘s 2015 run suffered from the same flaws, and while 2016’s Kantai Collection: The Movie, attempted to rectify this, viewers remain quite dissatisfied with things. In response to the reception, Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s writers have taken things in the opposite direction, stripping out the comedic aspects of being a Kan-musume entirely in favour of showing a story of loss, acceptance and using these experiences as a source of strength. Shigure has suffered loss in her past and as a result, is more taciturn than the other Kan-musume. However, she’s still resolute and determined, and where the moment is appropriate, shows a happier side to her, as well. As such, Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s direction is clear: as a result of her experiences with Mogami, Yamashiro, Fusō, Michishio, Asagumo and Yamagumo, Shigure will contribute towards giving the Kan-musume newfound hope in their seemingly unending battle against the Abyssal, and in time, will come to find that her closest friends will continue sharing tangerines with her. If Itsuka Ano Umi de can stick the course and portray Shigure’s journey in a convincing manner, focusing on her growth over light-hearted slice-of-life antics, Kantai Collection‘s second season will demonstrate that anime of this sort can indeed be written to tell a meaningful story.