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KanColle: Itsuka Ano Umi de – Review and Reflections At The Finale

“Holding on is believing that there’s a past; letting go is knowing that there’s a future.” –Daphne Rose Kingma

With the Abyssal offensive impending, the Kan-musume learn that Operation Kita was success; the convoy had managed to reach Taiwan from Syonan and will be bringing back critical supplies, including enough fuel to allow a counteroffensive with Yamato. Mogami’s been given upgrades to improve her combat effectiveness, and ahead of the operation, the Second Torpedo Squadron conduct night reconnaissance. The admiral decides to refrain from sending Shigure out on this assignment: he believes the time has come for Shigure to receive some upgrades of her own. After her upgrades, Shigure prepares to join the Second Torpedo Squadron on their final assignment, and promises to both conduct herself in a manner so their contributions and actions won’t be forgotten, as well as return from the operation in one piece. While the main fleet strikes at the heart of the Abyssal force, the Second Torpedo Squadron diverts to sink a fleet carrying supplies for the Abyssals. Shigure and the others are successful in sinking this fleet, but when they move to attack the Abyssal carriers, they are overwhelmed by their adversary’s numbers and begin sustaining damage. Before anyone comes to harm, American and British Kan-musume appear to provide support, and spurred on, Shigure finds the resolve to take on an Abyssal head-on, although she is sunk in the process. Some time later, the Kan-musume are seen in present-day Japan, and Shigure herself is reclining on a sailboat – the Kan-musume have evidently triumphed over the Abyssals, and the world has managed to rebuild following the war. This brings Itsuka Ano Umi de to an end, and here at the conclusion, it becomes clear that in the war between Kan-musume and the Abyssals, there is a victor. Through force of will and resolve, good prevails over evil, allowing the world to finally move on from the ravages of conflict. From an animated standpoint, Kantai Collection‘s story is resolved in full.

Unlike its predecessor, Itsuka Ano Umi de is significantly more focused, and with Shigure as the story’s focal point, Itsuka Ano Umi de strives to present the idea of carrying on and fighting for the future even in light of the loss one experiences, and the attendent despair this loss brings. Throughout Itsuka Ano Umi de, Shigure is shown as being deeply impacted by the fact that many of her fellow Kan-musume are no longer with her, and in downtime, Shigure tends to look back on things. However, despite this seemingly gloomy, brooding manner, Shigure also knows when to smile, and continues to make an effort to fight for those around her. Meeting Yukikaze reiterates this: Shigure gets along with Yukikaze without any issues, and when the pair sortie, Shigure’s past never slows her down; she simply does her best and contributes to her squadron’s successes. Shigure’s temperament is of someone who’s clearly experienced loss and despair, but remains resolute enough to remain focused on the present: she knows that, as important as it is to remember those that came before, it’s equally important to never lose sight of one’s long-term goals, and as a result, since her resolve never wavers in Itsuka Ano Umi de, Shigure comes across as being a stoic hero who takes adversity on the chin. Combined with the melancholy, yet determined tenour that is present throughout Itsuka Ano Umi de, it appears that this anime speaks to the sentiment that it is preferable to accept one’s feet on their feet, rather than give up on their knees. The outcome of Itsuka Ano Umi de is decidedly optimistic as a result, and seeing all of the Kan-musume making the most of their lives following the war shows that for their troubles, their efforts were worth it. In particular, seeing Shigure on a boat, at peace, speaks volumes to Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s intention at closing up Kantai Collection: Itsuka Ano Umi de was plagued with production issues and took nearly six months to finish, and the first season had aired eight years ago. To see the Kan-musume assured to peace and normalcy in their lives after all this time, then, was the surest sign that Kantai Collection‘s animated adaptation sought to decisively conclude things on a positive and reassuring note.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Itsuka Ano Umi de is probably 2022’s most unfairly treated series – after it ran into production issues, the remaining episodes were essentially squeezed in into any available slots, and this resulted in Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s remaining three episodes airing in 2023. Despite having only eight episodes and a condensed runtime compared to its predecessor, Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s delays meant that any momentum the series could have built up was swiftly stopped in its tracks, and as a result, excitement surrounding this Kantai Collection continuation was extremely limited.

  • This was extremely unfortunate because Itsuka Ano Umi de was everything its predecessor was not: all of the game-like elements Fubuki saw in Kantai Collection is replaced by a much more credible portrayal of things, and while slice-of-life aspects of what being a Kan-musume entails is still shown, it never overshadows the more dramatic elements to the point of diminishing them as Kantai Collection had done in its 2015 run. In particular, by focusing on the Kan-musume‘s eccentricities, the 2015 anime completely took away from the gravity of the fight against the Abyssals.

  • Kantai Collection: The Movie had rectified this, and also left a cautiously optimistic message about how the war against the Abyssals could only be won if one accepted their own inner darkness and learnt to manage it, as Fubuki had done. As a result of the film’s outcomes, strictly speaking, Itsuka Ano Umi de was not necessary because the film had left viewers on the note that prevailing over the Abyssals could be possible, leaving things open enough so that anyone who still played the game could continue their campaigns without the anime implying that the franchise could come to an end at some point. On the other hand, the outcome of Itsuka Ano Umi de is such that viewers are left with the impression that their efforts in the game will be met with a happy ending.

  • Here, Akebono passes through the frame as the Kan-musume prepare for a final offensive in the aftermath of a successful resupply operation. Akebono is a bit of an interesting character, being verbally abrasive and harsh. According to fans, this is a reflection of her namesake, a Fubuki-class that was said to be unfortunate. This side of Akebono is never seen in Itsuka Ano Umi de, nor is her appearance after sustaining some damage: the official art suggests that Akebono has a nice posterior, and as memory serves, Kantai Collection did show some of this during its original run. On the other hand, Itsuka Ano Umi de completely omits these elements – this was ultimately a wise move considering the anime’s runtime.

  • Although I don’t play Kantai Collection, I do have a few Kan-musume that I have a fondness for. Besides Akebono, I’d been quite fond of Shigure and Hamakaze prior to Itsuka Ano Umi de, so it was nice to see them given an animated appearance in this long-awaited continuation. As memory serves, Itsuka Ano Umi de had actually been announced immediately after Kantai Collection finished airing back in March 2015, a time when I’d been wrapping up my first year of graduate studies. After some initial hype, all news of the continuation faded as attention turned towards Kantai Collection: The Movie a year later.

  • In January 2021, some four years after the movie had released, a tweet from C2 Staff clarified that a sequel was indeed in the works, and that it would be scheduled for release sometime in 2022. This would be the only indicator that Itsuka Ano Umi de existed, and by January 2022, Itsuka Ano Umi de finally had a release date: November 2022. The timeframes meant that all but the most die-hard of fans would have moved on, and to no one’s surprise, when Itsuka Ano Umi de was announced, excitement was very limited.

  • This was unfortunate because, on the merits of its execution and presentation, Itsuka Ano Umi de is a cut above its predecessor in every way. The atmosphere fully conveys the gravity surrounding the war between the Abyssals and the Kan-musume, the context of the Kan-musume‘s actions is given to viewers, and the animation is gorgeous. However, between the fact that it’s been almost eight years since Kantai Collection aired, and the delays in Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s production, very few fans would’ve watched this one to completion, and if the goal of Itsuka Ano Umi de was to promote the series amongst prospective players, the anime’s excellence is unlikely to be sufficient as a form of encouragement.

  • Readers will have noticed that, although I generally try to see the best of everything, there are a few topics where even I struggle to remain positive. Kantai Collection is one of those rare topics: normally, I try to make sense of a given work and determine who it best appeals to. In the case of Kantai Collection, however, I was unable to figure this out. Although the game’s emphasis on World War Two-era naval vessels means folks interested in kawaii girls and military history would gravitate towards Kantai Collection, the game’s UX and mechanics are so poorly-implemented that, at least on paper, the game should never have been as successful as it was.

  • Besides Kantai Collection, I’ve never heard of a game’s developers going to such extraordinary means of locking players out of their system, and for those who are determined enough to get in, there is very little to speak of in terms of gameplay. Skill isn’t a component of Kantai Collection, since the best put-together fleets and prepared players can still find themselves frustrated by the random number generator. Studies have been done on why Japanese developers insist on an element of randomness in their games: it’s an element that’s ingrained into the gachapon culture, and players in Japan embrace this because since there’s only a certain chance one could get something, spending enough money to land on something one liked was a show of their dedication to a character or idea.

  • Having an explanation for this behaviour doesn’t make it any less puzzling, and while I am of the mind that people are free to spend their money however they’d like so long as their actions don’t harm others, the fact that enough people do this has led to the increasingly harmful industry practises of lootboxes. Games like Kantai Collection have set the trend, and this has influenced other games so that cosmetics become more important than creating an environment for having fun. As a result, I do not see any positives in games like Kantai Collection, whose entire game loop is based around chance and luck. Having said this, I am not denigrating the folks who do enjoy Kantai Collection: everyone is free to enjoy what they wish.

  • Towards the end of the penultimate episode, Shigure receives a request to undergo her second upgrade from the Admiral on account of her combat experience and exemplary conduct. Seeing this process in Itsuka Ano Umi de was the surest sign that this series was the culmination of learnings resulting from Kantai Collection: game elements here are woven seamlessly into the story, similarly to how Uma Musume Pretty Derby had done things, and this meant that the anime didn’t feel like a crude transposition of the game into the animated format.

  • When it comes to anime adapted from games, one of the challenges that must be overcome is presenting the game world in a manner that’s natural and fluid. Seeing the bauxite ore and repair buckets in the 2015 Kantai Collection was quite jarring because, as a non-player, I had no idea what anything was supposed to mean. On the other hand, Itsuka Ano Umi de dispenses with the premise that Kantai Collection‘s world is one built on game rules, and instead, chooses to run with the mechanics as aspects that are simply a part of the world.

  • Thus, when Shigure gets her upgrade, the rationale is simply that the sum of her experiences has become sufficient so that she’s able to gain access to a wider range of equipment, and the process is shown as one that involves effort to carry out. In Kantai Collection‘s 2015 anime, characters simply glowed and transformed into their upgraded forms: as memory serves, Fubuki was quite disappointed to learn that outside of improvements to her performance, she still more or less looks the same as she had prior to the upgrade.

  • On the other hand, the upgraded Shigure seems to have become a shade better endowed. As a protagonist, Shigure’s perspective on the Kantai Collection world gives viewers a far greater insight into what the stakes were, and what the Kan-musume were fighting to protect. This aspect of Itsuka Ano Umi de is one of the series largest improvements over its predecessor, as it gives weight to every engagement. Further to this, Shigure’s disposition means that she’s the sort of protagonist one can root for: she’s not a klutz or careless, and she’s not excessively dramatic, either.

  • Knowing that Shigure has seen her share of losses, but remains determined to get the job done nonetheless means that Itsuka Ano Umi de is grounded, and without the need to sort out interpersonal conflicts (right out of the gates, when Yamashiro inadvertently insults her previous teammates, besides an imperceptible tensing up, Shigure doesn’t lash out at her), Itsuka Ano Umi de is able to focus on other aspects of the universe to a much greater extent. It is fair to say that, had 2015’s Kantai Collection aired with the same style and focus as Itsuka Ano Umi de did, it would’ve been better received.

  • Shigure’s act of placing down some tangerines before setting off for her final battle was meant to symbolise the desire to return from this final defense, and it was simple gestures like these that really spoke to Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s ability to convey emotions in a manner that Kantai Collection originally could not. There are numerous small details throughout Itsuka Ano Umi de that demonstrate the writing team’s finesse in bringing Kantai Collection to life, and whenever I consider what Itsuka Ano Umi de does well, I experience a twinge of melancholy; outside of Japan, interest in Kantai Collection has waned almost entirely.

  • Thus, while Itsuka Ano Umi de is technically an excellent anime that delivers everything its predecessor had not, low interest and how the networks in Japan treated it meant this sequel is unlikely to have gotten the recognition it deserves. Further to storytelling elements, the combat sequences in Itsuka Ano Umi de are also a cut above its predecessor, and ENGI had gone above and beyond to bring battles to life, showing the ferocity, desperation and uncertainty surrounding every sortie. Abyssal air forces are presented as an overwhelming force that the Kan-musume have nearly no answer to.

  • The portrayal of air power in Itsuka Ano Umi de was a mirror of how towards the end of World War Two, aircraft carriers had largely displaced battleships as the new mainstay of navies. This largely stemmed from the fact that carriers had a superior range and could deliver ordnance as far as their ship-borne aircraft could fly, with a much higher degree of versatility: aircraft could be outfitted for anti-air defense, anti-ship warfare or even conduct support missions inland. In the present, aircraft carriers are seen as a symbol of power projection and unlikely to become obsolete any time soon, although increasingly powerful anti-ship missile systems do render carriers more vulnerable than they were previously.

  • For the final battle of Itsuka Ano Umi de, Shigure and the Second Torpedo Squadron participate in what would have been analogous to a final defense of the Japanese Home Islands. In reality, the need for such an invasion never materialised, as the Soviet invasion, coupled use of atomic weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, compelled the Imperial Japanese leadership to surrender. Experts agree that had a land invasion occurred, casualties would’ve been tremendous. In Kantai Collection, dialogue suggests that the Kan-musume have done a sufficient job of taking the fight to the Abyssals so that their numbers are whittled down to the point where they’ve also hedged their bets on one massive strike against Japan.

  • Given the overall tone of Itsuka Ano Umi de, it is fair to say that, regardless of who actually came out on top, a Pyrrhic victory would have been the outcome for either side. From the Kan-musume‘s perspective, they’d be able to save Japan if they won, even if they themselves were sunk in the process. On the other hand, the Abyssals would probably have left Japan in ruins if they managed to achieve their goals, but at the same time, lose enough of their forces so that they could never again pose a threat to humanity. One aspect that Itsuka Ano Umi de did leave untouched were the Abyssals’ motivations for destroying Japan and waging war.

  • Kantai Collection: The Movie had provided some answers to this question, suggesting that Abyssals and Kan-musume were two sides of the same coin: the former were grudges born of sunken ships and hopes, desiring to lash out and exact terrible vengeance against a world that wronged them, while the latter manifested as a desire to continue protecting what was dear to the world. One can also assuming this also holds true in Itsuka Ano Umi de, since after the final engagement, it would appear as though both Abyssals and Kan-musume are wiped out.

  • The final battle of Itsuka Ano Umi de is a night battle, which serves to enhance the tension and gravity that is befitting of the season finale. While such a composition makes sense to convey the mood, the main downside about doing so is that the combat becomes much more difficult to see on-screen. Shigure and her fellow Kan-musume put in everything they’ve got on this occasion, and the first half of their assignment is successful – they are able to sink the Abyssal transports, and subsequently set their sights on the Abyssal fleet. However, despite their determination, the Second Torpedo Squadron is unprepared for the Abyssal fleet’s size.

  • As they begin sustaining more damage, and hope for returning home begins fading, elements of the American and British navies appear to reinforce them. This marks the first time Kan-musume outside of Japan are seen, and the presence of ship-girls from different nations beyond Japan serves to send an important message for the series: some critics have claimed that Kantai Collection is “revisionist”, but with the inclusion of Kan-musume like Iowa indicates that all ships have spirits and stories to tell. In reality, the USS Iowa (BB-61) is the most iconic American battleship of the Second World War, and although smaller than the Yamato in terms of size and firepower, historians agree that superior fire control systems, damage control and crew meant that the Iowa was actually more effective as a battleship.

  • I’m not sure if there was any rivalry between British and American navies, especially since they primarily fought in different theatres, but when two allied Kan-musume begin having a go at one another, it added some much-needed levity to an otherwise serious moment. With this additional firepower, Shigure and Yukikaze are given some room to breathe. Even with the support, however, the Abyssal numbers are overwhelming, and it becomes clear that despite their efforts, this battle is not one the Kan-musume are going to win.

  • In previous Kantai Collection adaptations, viewers who were familiar with the game inevitably drew comparisons between the anime’s portrayal of things and how the game did things. Fans of the game had eagerly tried to spot every reference that made it into the anime back in 2015, but here in Itsuka Ano Umi de, the lack of viewers has meant discussions surrounding this series has been significantly quieter, to the point where it feels like I’m the only game in town for Itsuka Ano Umi de. This is a shame, since Itsuka Ano Umi de had surpassed its predecessor in every way: unlike Kantai Collection, Itsuka Ano Umi de is very focused and has a clear aim. Kantai Collection and Azur Lane had both suffered from trying to portray the serious side of war with themes of friendship and teamwork, with the result being that neither topic could be adequately covered.

  • I’d been skeptical that Kantai Collection would work with a more serious setup, but here at the ending, I found myself eating crow: a serious story can work so long as the characters don’t wallow in self-pity and pessimism, and Shigure herself ended up being the perfect protagonist for such a story precisely because, although the past does weigh heavily on her, she also doggedly presses forwards in the hopes of doing good. I’ve never been a fan of characters who create drama and act indecisively, so someone like Shigure taking charge and doing what she could with the hand she is dealt is what allowed Itsuka Ano Umi de to succeed with its chosen direction.

  • In the end, Shigure accepts her fate in this battle, and charges one of the Abyssals head-on for the kill. She’s sunk as a result, but the manner of this sinking feels far removed  from Kisaragi’s sinking – what’s shown in Itsuka Ano Umi de doesn’t appear to contradict what Kantai Collection: The Movie had established, and I’d hazard a guess that if a Kan-musume sinks while at peace with themselves, their spirits would simply move on. In Shigure’s case, she realises she’s done everything she could for those around her and has no regrets. If everyone here in Second Torpedo Squadron had been sunk while at peace, having done all they can, then it’s conceivable that the war with the Abyssals would come to an end.

  • The fact that familiar faces like Yamashiro, Fusō, Hamakaze, Mogami and the others appear in modern Japan leads credence towards this bit of speculation, and one can reasonably conclude that at Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s final battle, the Kan-musume had done enough damage to the Abyssals so that they simply ceased to be, and in the aftermath, their spirits finally found peace. Shigure herself is seen on a sailboat out in the blue of the ocean. The exaggerated water effects here are reminiscent of Crysis: Remastered‘s portrayal of water, and here, I remark that a few weeks ago, I ended up picking this game up for five dollars during the Spring sale purely to see if my machine could handle it.

  • For now, all readers need to know is that I’m averaging 75 FPS on the “Can it run Crysis” settings at 1080p, and that I’ll be writing about the game at some point during the summer. Back in Itsuka Ano Umi de, Shigure is seen with a pair of tangerines and is wearing a white dress. I’d imagine this white dress signifies rebirth and purity: this Shigure is freed from her past life’s shackles and is at peace with herself. The tangerines, on the other hand, I’ve already discussed at length in my first post for this series – in the context of Kantai Collection, they symbolise promise and certainty. With this being said, my own talk on Itsuka Ano Umi de draws to a close.

  • Overall, Itsuka Ano Umi de is what Kantai Collection should have been; I found this series highly enjoyable for how it portrayed the Kan-musume, their world and conflicts. The only drawback about Itsuka Ano Umi de was the fact that from a production and distribution standpoint, the series had struggled, and delays in its airing broke any momentum episodes had previously built up. This gave the impression that, in spite of the effort ENGI had put into producing Itsuka Ano Umi de, the series was regarded as little more than an afterthought in a time where Kantai Collection‘s relevance wanes, and this is a shame, since Itsuka Ano Umi de did address all of the shortcomings of its predecessor to create a compelling story.

Although a storytelling triumph and a satisfactory addition to Kantai Collection, Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s entry into the franchise comes as being too little, too late: an excellent and compelling story, with respectable characters would normally drive up interest in the source material, but unlike something like Uma Musume Pretty Derby, whose game is going very strong owing to its low barrier of entry and effortless onboarding process, Kantai Collection remains very cumbersome to get into. Further to this, the game’s aging mechanics, dependence on gatcha mechanics and limited, probability-driven gameplay means that the game was unlike to ever gain widespread popularity – players of Kantai Collection characterise the game as being more painful than work, and even after one gets past the ludicrous onboarding process (one needs a VPN to trick the servers into believing one is connecting from Japan, and then hopefuls who manage to circumvent the game’s Japan-only constraints are granted accounts based on the archaic lottery system). Even after getting in, playing the game is a chore, and there is no payoff for playing well, since one’s success in the game usually comes from being favoured by the game’s random number generator, and extensively planning out one’s every move on a spreadsheet. The appeal of such a time-consuming endeavour with no tangible returns remains foreign to me, and for this reason, even though Itsuka Ano Umi de was a strong series, it did very little to persuade viewers that the game is worthwhile to try: the extremely poor design decisions in Kantai Collection‘s browser game mean that the game is more frustration than fun, even after eight years’ worth of upgrades (one wonders why the developers are so determined to make such a convoluted onboarding process and sticking to an evidently-flawed random number generator approach), but on the other hand, Itsuka Ano Umi de was a meaningful watch that wholly conveys the nuances within the Kantai Collection world far more effectively than its predecessor did.

Girls und Panzer: Remarks on how Ooarai Celebrates Functional Diversity a Decade After The Finale’s Airing and Considerations Regarding Miho’s Future

“Diversity really means becoming complete as human beings – all of us. We learn from each other. If you’re missing on that stage, we learn less. We all need to be on that stage.” –Juan Felipe Herrera

Thanks to her allies’ determination and actions, which allows for Ooarai to draw away all of Black Forest’s tanks, Miho is able to face down against her older sister, Maho, in a final, titanic confrontation at the end of Girls und Panzer‘s original run. Here, the stakes had been high: Miho had transferred to Ooarai from Black Forest for a fresh start, but when Miho was forcibly drafted back into Panzerfahren, she reluctantly agreed and ends up discovering a newfound joy in a sport that had previously been unpleasant to her. However, the fun is punctuated with the revelation that, if Ooarai cannot win the championship, their school is to be shut down. Miho’s eventual victory is the culmination of Ooarai’s efforts in supporting one another, and following the championship, Miho reconciles with her sister. Ooarai’s successes come from a multitude of factors, and while immensely satisfying from a storytelling perspective, the choice of people and tanks composing Ooarai’s team ultimately speaks volumes to the idea of functional diversity. In organisational theory, functional diversity refers to the variety of cognitive resources available to an organisation and suggests that a team composed of individuals with a wide range of skills and expertise is more likely to be successful. In recent years, diversity has become a major talking point, and there has been considerable interest in hiring to create a diverse workforce. However, the definition of diversity is never quite as clear as it should be, and among some circles, diversity is poorly regarded as a result of misunderstandings – the phrase “forced diversity” is representative of such misconceptions and is often thrown around in online discussions, referring to the supposed situation where representation is put first at the expense of everything else, resulting in inferior performance or function. In reality, diversity remains a positive, and Girls und Panzer provides a solid argument for what diversity looks like, as well as what’s possible when it is organically, and properly implemented with functionality in mind. In Girls und Panzer, diversity is most visible with Ooarai’s team composition and their choice of tanks, which, ironically, come from the fact that Ooarai was working with limited resources.

In particular, the tanks are the strongest show of functional diversity: because Ooarai is said to have sold all of their tanks, the school left behind derelict tanks of all sorts, from a Panzer IV and Type 38(t), to a Porsche Tiger. The tanks that Miho and her friends find fulfil different roles: the Panzer IV and M3 are medium tanks with good all-around performance, while light tanks like the Type 89 and 38(t) excel at recon and harassing foes. On the other hand, the StuG III is purely designed to destroy enemy tanks. Later, the Type 89, Porsche Tiger and Char B1 join their ranks, giving Miho more options. Because Ooarai’s lineup is made up of a range of tanks with different properties, strengths and intended roles, Miho is able to assign her tanks to carry out specific functions during a match. Light tanks head out to recon enemy positions and create distractions, while heavier tanks are used in an offensive role. Against opponents fielding one type of tank, Ooarai has the advantage even when at first glance, they appear to be completely outgunned and seemingly lack any means of dealing damage. This was most apparent during the final battle against Black Forest, which had brought their entire heavy arsenal to the party. German tanks are known for their firepower and armour, and in a straight fight, Ooarai stands no chance. However, having a diverse range of tanks means being able to pull off sneaky tricks. When confronted with a Panzer VIII Maus, Miho uses Hetzer as a makeshift ramp and at the same time, sets the Type 89 to block the Maus’ turret from rotating. This buys Miho enough time to hit a weak spot on the Maus, taking it out of the fight. Had Ooarai been composed of medium and heavy tanks exclusively, this act would not have been possible. Functional diversity is ultimately what allows Ooarai to frustrate their opponents: although a lot of people value representation, representation alone isn’t a determinant of success. If Ooarai had found only heavy tanks, albeit tanks from all countries, this might not be especially helpful, since at the end of the day, her lineup would be limited to slow-moving tactics. Instead, by having a range of tanks that can perform different functions, the synergy between each team’s experience with their hardware and Miho’s ability to think on her feet is what allows Ooarai to succeed. The same holds true in reality: a functionally diverse team, one made of members with different skills and backgrounds, will find that it is possible to consider a wider range of solutions and incorporate different approaches towards problem-solving, resulting in innovative and creative solutions. Functional diversity is a force-multiplier, as people of different backgrounds and possessing different skills can each offer something unique. This, in turn, allows a team to perform far beyond what is possible in the absence of functional diversity and respect for everyone’s inputs and contributions.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Although ten years may have passed, I still recall the airing of Girls und Panzer‘s last two episodes with vivid clarity. When the penultimate episode released, I’d been days away from finishing my thesis paper: Girls und Panzer had originally begun during September 2012, but production delays pushed the final two episodes back to March 2013. This was unprecedented, but given that the series had taken viewers by surprise with its unusual premise, excellent characters, attention to detail and rich world-building, viewers were prepared to wait.

  • The wait proved to be worth it, since the final battle against Black Forest was of epic proportion and scale: the match against Pravda had foreshadowed how Miho could utilise her resources effectively even against heavier armour and stronger firepower to great effect, counting on the flag tank elimination rules to help them towards a swift and decisive victory. Because of Ooarai’s composition, they’d be at an increasing disadvantage the longer a match drew out, and to this end, Miho uses creative tactics to help her teammates along, such as using smoke and luring foes into close-quarters environments.

  • In today’s battlefield, the constant arms race between defensive tools and countermeasures means that regardless of the tools available, there is no substitution for patience and skill. Against smoke, thermal imaging were devised, and to counteract thermal optics, defenders employ IR smoke, which can scramble even thermal optics and laser designators. Watching Ooarai employing creative methods of frustrating and luring their foes was always a part of Girls und Panzer‘s charm. Here against the likes of Black Forest, whose reputation supposedly precedes them, Ooarai finds a team that is fearsome, but still human.

  • This was something that a lot of contemporary reviewers missed: because Girls und Panzer‘s themes had dealt with sportsmanship and friendship rather than heroics and courage, it followed that the opponents seen at the national competition, however skilled or formidable they appear, are just people at the end of the day. In composition, Girls und Panzer is a sports anime and not a war film, so the more serious approaches some took towards this series was unwarranted. On my end, I’ve written about this ad nauseum: while such a conclusion should be quite evident, it is quite surprising that a handful of people insist on taking Girls und Panzer seriously.

  • Previously, I’ve written about Girls und Panzer‘s final episode on three separate occasions. In 2013, I had impressions of the last two episodes as standalone posts (one for the eleventh and twelfth episodes). Prior to Das Finale‘s second act releasing on BD, I revisited the series again and touched on its core themes. Finally, a year ago, for the Jon Spencer Reviews’ #AniTwitWatches, I re-watched Girls und Panzer with parts of the community and wrote a series of posts to present counterarguments against some of the lingering misunderstandings surrounding the series. When the finale arrived, I focused on how Ooarai’s triumph over Black Forest was necessary to Girls und Panzer‘s themes, since some individuals insisted that this was unrealistic as an outcome.

  • To my great surprise, the folks who did participate in that particular #AniTwitWatches event universally agreed with my conclusions on all counts. In particular, Miho’s decision to save her teammate prior to the series’ start, and Ooarai’s success as being well-deserved were not found as being up for debate; Girls und Panzer‘s execution had been appropriate, and the outcomes were logical. The conclusion I reached after that exercise, then, was that there hadn’t been any major subjective leaps in my own interpretation of the series.

  • One of the big pluses about Girls und Panzer is that there’s so much happening that, every time I return to revisit the series, there’s always something new to talk about, and in doing so, this allows me to use screenshots that I did not otherwise feature in my previous posts. Except in very rare circumstances, I aim to make sure that no two frames are reused in different posts to keep everything fresh, so this latest Girls und Panzer revisit allowed me to showcase moments I’ve previously not written about, such as the commander of one of Black Forest’s Jagdpanther Sd.Kfz. 173s flailing her arms in frustration after Anzu blows her tracks off, rendering them immobilised.

  • The Student Council had received heavy flak during Girls und Panzer‘s earliest episodes for having coerced Miho back into Panzerfahren under the threat of suspension, but once the truth got out, they do apologise to her, worrying that if Miho had been given this burden off the bat, the pressure may have gotten to her. In retrospect, the Student Council’s actions were the result of desperate times, and although perhaps underhanded, they are also justified given the circumstances. By the championship match, the Student Council gain access to a Hetzer and use it to great effect: with Anzu as the gunner, Ooarai is able to use their mini-tank destroyer to frustrate enemies in creative ways.

  • For this discussion, I’ve chosen to focus on the concept of functional diversity as it applied to Girls und Panzer. Even thought it’s been a decade since Girls und Panzer concluded, I am surprised that there are no discussions out there on this topic, and I’ve long felt that Ooarai’s lineup is one of the best arguments in favour of diversity, made in a time prior to concepts like inclusion and representation being frontline news. While these principles are being promoted in the present, I’ve long felt that although the verbiage companies use to support diversity and inclusion is promising, there is actually no clear definition of what diversity entails in the context of their statements.

  • To put things in perspective, I come from a health sciences background and have studied ecology, as well. There, diversity refers to the variety of species within a given ecosystem that 1) fulfil specific niches and 2) occupy similar niches. By these metrics, an ecosystem is diverse if there are enough species for the different niches to work such that if the environment changes in a way to adversely impact a subset of these species, the ecosystem can still be sustained. In ecology, diversity is good because it both ensures all niches are filled, and that there is redundancy so if a group of species can no longer fulfil their roles, others can provide a similar function to ensure the ecosystem remains in good health (if enough species are eliminated, an ecosystem will suffer and ultimately, collapse).

  • Having a clear definition is important to any discussion, and applying this principle to social sciences finds that the same thing holds true. In my case, I define functional diversity as referring to what skills, knowledge and competencies people bring to the table. Then, any organisation or group that is inclusive is one that embraces utilising all of the human capital available to achieve a certain outcome without being hung up on the origins of a particular solution, and simultaneously, regarding all members of a team with respect. I’ll go on a brief tangent here and remark that, after Rabbit team’s tank stalls in the river, and Miho decides to help them in a moment that is, in Hana’s words, “Miho-like”, Yukari breaks out her Em 1m R36 rangefinder to keep an eye on Black Forest’s tanks and their distance.

  • If we use tanks as an analogy for people, then Ooarai’s advantage was that they have a varied arsenal, composed of light, medium and heavy tanks, as well as tank destroyers. Each tank type fulfils a different role, and in this area, Ooarai is said to have functional diversity because their lineup is varied and flexible enough to carry out reconnaissance, engage foes at range and when needed, stand their ground. Functional diversity is essential to Ooarai’s success, but further adding to things is the fact that Ooarai’s tanks have different origins. The Panzer IV, Porsche Tiger, StuG III hail from Germany, while the M3 Lee is American. The Type 89B and Type 3 Chi-Nu are from Japan, the Char B1 is French, and the 38 (t) is Czechoslovakian in origin.

  • Different nations built their tanks differently, which leads to minor variations in handling and performance. This is where representation comes in. A team could be composed of functionally diverse elements, but if everyone still has the same background, solutions will likely be quite similar. Small variations in each tank’s design alter their roles slightly: the Japanese tanks, for instance, were originally designed for anti-infantry combat. Both the Type 89 and Type 3 are designated as medium tanks, but the lighter Type 89 gives it more mobility, whereas the Type 3 and its 75mm cannon gave it more firepower.

  • In this way, it should be apparent that success results from both functional diversity, and representation. A team whose members have different skills, and whose backgrounds can inspire different problem-solving solutions, is one that is successful. Learning to make full use of every individual’s experience and input is the best means of realising this potential, and in this way, Girls und Panzer demonstrates this vividly. Beyond the tanks themselves, Ooarai’s team is also shown as a varied bunch, each with unique skills and reasons for being in Panzerfahren. Besides helping to humanise everyone and giving viewers incentive to root for Ooarai, giving each team a distinct background and identity also reinforces the idea that good ideas can come from anywhere.

  • This aspect of Girls und Panzer is especially important  because in today’s society, people place an uncommon amount of stock on who’s giving a message. When prejudice and bias kicks in, people will dismiss otherwise excellent ideas even when it is irrational to do so. In the workplace, this will ultimately be harmful, preventing things from getting done. Conversely, if one is open to ideas regardless of their origin (and giving credit where it is due to encourage people to step up and speak up), things will move along much more quickly. This is seen in Girls und Panzer, where Miho is open to accepting ideas from any of her teammates.

  • In this way, the Maus is eventually taken down, and when the first years suggest a diversion, Miho immediately accepts their decision. Here, it is worth noting that had Miho chosen to leave the first years and their M3 behind, they would’ve been taken out of the fight. Instead, by saving them, the first years would come to play a much bigger role in the battle, helping to draw a Jagdtiger and several of Black Forest’s other tanks off Miho’s tail. Although Ooarai’s win came down to the technical skill on Miho and her crew’s part (Miho’s directions, Saori’s communications, Mako’s skillful driving, Yukari’s quick loading and Hana’s sharpshooting all contribute), actions from the others facilitated this outcome.

  • The Maus had proven to be quite the surprise, but it was even more impressive to watch Ooarai work together to take it down using unorthodox techniques – after its introduction towards the end of the penultimate episode, my jaw dropped, and I had found myself wondering how Ooarai would respond. The week-long wait would’ve been excruciating, but at this point in March, I’d been up to my eyeballs with my undergraduate thesis paper. The deadline had been just days before the finale was set to air, and I remember the evening I submitted the paper very well. I’d edited and revised said paper to the point where I’d practically memorised it, and after an agonising few moments, I decided to submit it.

  • With that done, I took the weekend to begin my thesis presentation, and in this way, the time passed by swiftly. I ended up watching the finale after my Monday lectures ended, and for my part, I am glad to have been a university student; being in class all day meant I was insulated from the spoilers that had begun circulating online after the finale’s airing. Here, Noriko and Akebi retort to the Maus’ commander’s comments about the Type 89 being a light tank. I’ve long wanted to use this screenshot in a discussion for the longest time, but never got around to doing so until now.

  • Because I had no spoilers coming in, Girls und Panzer‘s finale became a superb experience, rivetting from start to finish. It took me a few days to settle my thoughts out and write out a post; in those days, I didn’t really use this blog for more than short thoughts. A post of that length is commonplace now, but it took me a bit of time to get things written because at the time, I was also attending the remaining classes of my term and polishing off the remaining assignments. In the end, I published my post, and although the post is a little rough by today’s standards, looking back, it did capture how I felt about the finale.

  • After Girls und Panzer ended, a vast majority of viewers were left with an overwhelmingly positive impression of a series that had been surprises at every turn. When Girls und Panzer was first announced, community interest in it was quite low, and most viewers had expected to drop it within the space of a few episodes, as they anticipated nothing more than a crude fanservice story with a superficial message and budget execution. I myself had looked to watch the series because the English-language premise had been vague, and I wondered if girls in tanks would be conducive to moments where viewers would get a good look at Miho’s pantsu and figure, similarly to how Strike Witches portrayed its Witches.

  • The gap between expectations and results translated to very strong sales, and since then, Girls und Panzer became a bit of a cultural phenomenon. In previous years, I’ve written about how Girls und Panzer‘s success results from the fact that it took an outlandish concept, ensured that attention was paid to detail and created a compelling (if familiar) story; when taken together, the sum of Girls und Panzer‘s elements gave it wide appeal. Military otaku loved the fact that tanks were faithfully portrayed, and since their real-world performance was factored into how they’d handle, one could on speculate how Ooarai might be able to take on numerically and technologically superior foes.

  • Similarly, folks familiar with sports anime would’ve found Miho and Ooarai’s Cinderella story gripping: seeing the large cast of characters and their unique points gave more reason to root for this motley and plucky group of Panzerfahren practitioners. Viewers could also be drawn into world-building aspects, since Girls und Panzer took the time to showcase the world beyond Panzerfahren. Because of its success, Girls und Panzer remained strong after its conclusion, and since then, a film, sequel series and tie-in projects like games and manga have joined the franchise.

  • While Girls und Panzer has definitely deserved recognition, the biggest and longest-standing gripe I have with the series is the decision to format the sequel as a series of films. Defenders of this approach argue that every instalment of Das Finale so far has been exceptionally well-animated. Moreover, the tank battles of Das Finale are superior to anything seen in the original series. However, the time-scale that the instalments of Das Finale are being released borders on unreasonable. While one understands the staff’s commitment to quality, the gap between theatrical premières and the home release for Das Finale is outrageous.

  • Das Finale had opened with a three month wait: the first act began screening in December 2017, and the home release came three months later. For the second act, a June 2019 screening was followed by the home release in February 2020, an eight month wait. Part three was released in March 2021, and the home released followed nine months later. The fourth act to Das Finale was announced to release “somewhere in 2023”, but at present, there’s no concrete date. At earliest, viewers can expect Das Finale‘s part four to come out this December at the earliest, although 2024 is more likely. If we had assumed a maximum of 21 months between two acts, then part four should have released back in December last year, but this didn’t happen.

  • While it was possible that the global health crisis pushed the gap between theatrical premières and screenings from three months to nine months, with things slowly returning to their pre-pandemic states, one can only hope that publishers will reduce the gap back down from nine months; at the current rate of progression, it’ll likely be 2026 before Das Finale concludes. When I had finished Girls und Panzer ten years earlier, things had wrapped up on a solid note (only one element was not covered), and even though I had hoped viewers would get a continuation, the story had concluded in a manner such that no sequel was technically needed.

  • The one-on-one between Miho and Maho was ultimately a show of growth on Miho’s end: boxed in, Miho and her friends have no choice but to square off against Maho head-on. By leaving Black Forest, Miho had been running away from her issue, so having her confront Maho in an environment where the only way out was winning or losing was to give viewers a chance to appreciate the fact that after her experiences, Miho is no longer one to run away from her problems. This is why when Miho and her crew land a winning shot against Maho’s Tiger I, Maho accepts her defeat graciously: she’s happy that Miho’s found her own way.

  • Had Girls und Panzer taken a twenty-four, or even sixteen, episode approach, there would’ve been more time to flesh things out. In the absence of more episodes in its original run, ACTAS was able to produce several OVAs. Although some of them are purely intended for fun, some OVAs extend the world-building further and explain the school ships, while others show how Miho managed to determine the location of Pravda’s tanks. The OVAs add a great deal to Girls und Panzer and should be counted as essential parts of the experience. Following Girls und Panzer‘s finale a decade earlier, I found myself continuing to derive enjoyment in this series through the OVAs, and a year later, the missing Anzio battle was presented to viewers in full.

  • Once Girls und Panzer ended back in 2013, I was free to focus all of my waking time towards the single most important exam I would partake in since the MCAT. Without the distraction of Girls und Panzer, I put in my fullest efforts towards preparing for the undergraduate thesis defense, which had been modelled after a graduate defense in structure but scaled back in duration. My semester was winding down at this point, and with all assignments and projects in my other course finished, this gave me all the time I needed to properly prepare. How this presentation turned out will be left as an exercise for the near future, but it should be no surprise that I did well enough to pass the exam and earn my honours degree.

  • It is doubtful that Girls und Panzer would have negatively impacted my studies had it been delayed further, but ultimately, I am glad that it concluded when it did: the ending gave me a bit of inspiration to do my best. The series retains all of its charm and quality in the present day, and here at the ten year mark, I remark that my enjoyment of the series has only deepened with the passage of time. The accruement of an additional bit of life experience has led me to see details in Girls und Panzer I previously missed, leading to a richer experience. With this bit of reminiscence in the books, we’re entering the final days of March. Viewers will have to bear with me as I reminisce a bit more about my honours thesis: this project was an integral milestone for me, shaping the path I would take, so I do wish to properly acknowledge what came out of my undergraduate program. Beyond this, I’ve got two more posts lined up for this month: Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s finale released today, coinciding with Girls und Panzer‘s finale a decade earlier, and I’ll be writing about this on short order. In addition, I’ve also been following Mō Ippon! and found myself sufficiently impressed that there is merit in sharing what I made of things.

Girls und Panzer was ahead of its time in illustrating the worth of functional diversity in a team environment, and in conjunction with a meaningful story, relatable, well-written characters, exceptional world-building and uncommon attention to detail, the series proved to be the single biggest surprise of its time. The series is a veritable masterpiece, telling a compelling tale that appealed to a wide range of viewers, and when it concluded a decade earlier, left viewers with a conclusive feeling of satisfaction and closure. Almost every detail had been addressed, and Ooarai’s victory would ensure Miho would be able to continue living out her days in happiness, knowing her school and time with her friends was secure. However, by Der Film, it became apparent that Girls und Panzer had left one critical element deliberately unresolved. Throughout Girls und Panzer, themes regarding the importance of family periodically appear. Yukari and her parents get along very well; the latter are very supportive of their daughter despite her eccentricities. Mako’s only family is her grandmother, and while her grandmother can come across as abrasive, she ultimately wants what’s best for Mako, who is well aware of this and loves her grandmother very much. Hana’s mother had initially disowned Hana for joining Panzerfahren, feeling it an insult that Hana would shun flower arrangement, but Hana stuck her course and vowed to one day reconcile with her mother. After seeing how Panzerfahren improved Hana’s flower arrangement, her mother becomes proud of her daughter. Saori’s family is never shown on screen, but she is implied to get along well with her parents. This leaves Miho, who’s on very rocky terms with her mother, Shiho, and even though Shiho applauds Miho’s success genuinely at the end of Girls und Panzer, Miho is still too intimidated to have a proper conversation with her mother. If Girls und Panzer had wanted to resolve this, a thirteenth episode would have sufficed. Such an episode would have Miho return home and speak with her mother in open terms, before returning to join her friends and classmates for a victory banquet. In the absence of such an outcome, and Der Film‘s portrayal of the remaining distance, Miho’s reconciliation with Shiho becomes a final metric for the former’s growth. This element allows Girls und Panzer to continue, but the gaps between Das Finale‘s releases and the potential of this remaining unaddressed is to Girls und Panzer‘s detriment. Looking back, I would have preferred that Girls und Panzer wrap this up, either in the series proper or in Der Film, as this would have allowed future continuations explore new directions without leaving old stories open. If Miho and Shiho could reconcile, future iterations of Girls und Panzer would be free to portray different schools, or different timelines (e.g. Shiho’s own rise as a Panzerfahren practitioner). For the present, viewers are therefore left wondering if Das Finale will wrap things up for Miho: while excellent tank battles are a given, it would be nice to bring Miho’s storyline to a proper close and begin showing off a universe that has nearly limitless potential. With this being said, one would hope that the timelines are significantly more reasonable: when Girls und Panzer‘s finale released, I was an undergraduate health sciences student who had submitted their thesis paper and was on the eve of graduation. A decade later, I’ve earned a graduate degree in computer science, accrued seven years of industry experience and became a homeowner. Although it’s been reassuring to have Girls und Panzer continue to accompany me throughout life (Das Finale is still going), it would be nice for Miho’s story to conclude decisively – it would not speak positively to ACTAS’ ability to deliver if I finish paying off my mortgage before Das Finale finishes!

Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match – A Review and Reflection, Über-Micro Meets Panzerfahren and Celebrating Ten Years of Girls und Panzer On The First Day of Spring

“Clear your mind of all things…focus on the micro.” –teh_masterer, Pure Pwnage

After Miho and Ooarai manage to beat the All-Stars University Team to save their school a second time, they invite Alice and All-Stars University Team’s commanders over to help recall the events of their match, so that Anzu and the Student Council can shoot a new promotional video that’s more current. To encourage the other school’s attendance, an Appreciation Festival is organised, allowing the students from the different schools to mingle and share their Panzerfahren strategies with one another. Miho opens the festival with a presentation on their first exhibition match, where Ooarai and Chi-Ha Tan had squared off against Pravda and St. Glorianna. When Miho reaches the larger match against the All-Stars University team, Alice arrives and helps Miho to walk through what had happened. The festival ends on a high note, and Alice thanks Miho for the invitation, promising that they’ll one day face off against one another in Panzerfahren. This is Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match (Dream Tank Match from here on out for brevity), a game that was originally released in 2018 for the PlayStation 4 and subsequently ported to the Nintendo Switch a year later, which featured all of the expansion content for Dream Tank Match. Dream Tank Match was the realisation of a chance to engage in Panzerfahren in a video game setting, and beyond the campaign that retells Der Film‘s events, the game also includes additional scenarios, a “Festival” mode which allows for players to participate in outrageous scenarios, and a five-on-five multiplayer mode. On paper, Dream Tank match is the perfect chance for fans of Girls und Panzer to finally try their hand at operating the same tanks Miho and her friends do – built as a dedicated Girls und Panzer game, Dream Tank Match allows players to re-live iconic moments from the film and see how their favourite tanks and crew perform, complete with voice lines from the series’ original voice actresses to create an unparalleled, authentic Panzerfahren experience that, until 2018, players could only faintly mimic via’s World of Tanks. In practise, although Dream Tank Match is a fun game, mechanics in the campaign interrupt the flow, resulting in a rather odd experience where players will drop into a match, and then the game yanks control from the player as the characters share dialogue. In other chapters where the goal is to survive a for certain duration, one cannot prematurely force the segment to conclude by hammering all opposing tanks into scrap metal. Beyond this, Dream Tank Match‘s campaigned proved to be a gentle return to Der Film‘s storyline and Girls und Panzer‘s not-so-subtle reminder to players that the series’ themes of sportsmanship are unshakable; even after the upset victory, Alice and her classmates regard Miho with respect rather than contempt, speaking to the spirit of Panzerfahren as a sport for discipline and respect.

Having finished Dream Tank Match‘s campaign, I’ve now finished something I didn’t think would be possible: at the time of writing, there is no port for PC, but fortunately, Dream Tank Match does have an English-translated version that can be purchased quite readily. Upon completion, it becomes clear that Dream Tank Match is the superior choice for folks looking to experience Girls und Panzer and drive the tanks for themselves – unlike World of Tanks, whose list of shortcomings is so extensive I’ll need a separate post to address all of them, Dream Tank Match provides players with all of the characters and tanks of Girls und Panzer for Panzerfahren. Losses do not punish players excessively (the only thing one takes is a slightly bruised ego), and players cannot pay to gain a massive advantage over their opponents. However, Dream Tank Match remains a lesser choice compared to Battlefield V, which still offers the most immersive and authentic World War Two armoured combat experience. The only challenge about Battlefield V is that the combined arms environment means players have more to worry about than other tanks – infantry have access to dynamite and Panzerfausts, allowing them to harass tanks, while pilots armed with bombs can take one out of a fight instantly. The gap in armoured warfare between Battlefield V and Dream Tank Match speaks to fundamental differences in how Japanese and Western studios approach games: Japanese games have a much larger emphasis on characters, requiring players to listen to the game and give thought to how they wish to approach a problem, while Western games favour individual skill. In the present day, games have blurred the boundary between the two philosophies, combining story-telling with high-skill mechanics to produce an experience that compels players to simultaneously to pay the story mind and master the mechanics. In the case of Dream Tank Match, armed with the skills from Battlefield, the campaign proved to be trivially easy to complete. It became clear that in the face of overwhelming über-micro, it matters little as to whether or not I was playing as the All-Star Team or as Ooarai: all foes were felled without effort.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Dream Tank Match is a love letter to fans of Girls und Panzer: it provides a nuanced retelling of Der Film and provides players a chance to experience different Panzerfahren scenarios. Returning to Ooarai Golf Course, where Miho and her allies have seemingly pinned down a number of St. Glorianna tanks, brought back vivid memories of the summer some seven years earlier, when I’d just about wrapped up my graduate thesis paper. Back then, I was dividing my time between looking after the lab’s new summer students and getting things off the ground at my first start-up.

  • Der Film had been a very enjoyable experience, even if from a narrative standpoint, it’d been quite unnecessary: from a practical standpoint, it wasn’t improbable that MEXT could go ahead with reneging on their promise and proceed with closing Ooarai anyways despite their winning the Panzerfahren championship if no signed documents ever existed, but Ooarai’s closure was simply a conflict to drive Miho forward. Girls und Panzer had wrapped up Miho’s story to a satisfactory extent, so from a narrative perspective, the film doesn’t add anything new to her growth as a person.

  • On the other hand, from an enjoyment perspective, Der Film absolutely delivered. Dream Tank Match allows players to now drive the tanks, and although the campaign does hold the players’ hands, as well as limits the scale and scope of each engagement, there is still enough freedom for players to approach a problem in their own manner of choosing. It becomes clear that, with the right mindset and skills, Panzerfahren is something that isn’t quite as dramatic or stressful as Girls und Panzer had presented it: any player with the right map and weapon knowledge, coupled with a modicum of decision-making prowess and reflexes, will be able to make short work of things in Dream Tank Match.

  • I colloquially refer to this combination of skills as “über-micro”. Urban Dictionary mistakenly defines über-micro as the ability to use a keyboard with “great speed and accuracy” in an RTS game to control multiple units at once, but Pure Pwnage describes über-micro as having enough mastery of skill, reflexes and discipline to excel such that one has an almost supernatural control of their equipment. In this 2004 mockumentary, Pure Pwnage follows the life of Jeremy, a pro-gamer as he navigates the real world for a project his younger brother, Kyle, is working on for school.

  • Pure Pwnage is responsible for several of the greatest jokes available on the internet, including FPS_Doug’s iconic BOOM, HEADSHOT! catchphrase, but in addition to creating a rich portrayal of classic gamer culture, Pure Pwnage also proved surprisingly meaningful, cleverly presenting life lessons through gaming metaphors. I myself was introduced to Pure Pwnage through friends, and a decade earlier, I found myself returning to Pure Pwnage as my thesis ramped up. In fact, on this day ten years ago, I was on the cusp of finishing my undergraduate thesis paper.

  • By this point in the semester, I had found myself doing reasonably well: besides my thesis project, I also was enrolled in databases, software engineering fundamentals and introductory statistics. Although this term was more difficult and involved than my first term, I managed to balance my time well. Since I had already finished most of my thesis project’s implementation by January, this left me with enough time to work on my paper, and in doing so, I had plenty of time left to ensure I could do well in my other courses. Databases came intuitively enough to me, and I managed to keep up with assignments and exams for statistics reasonably well.

  • Looking back, software engineering was probably the toughest course, but even then, recalling the models and practises was sufficient for me to score fairly well in that course. By late March, I’d felt that my undergraduate degree was practically in the bag, and having made an effort to ensure I was caught up in my coursework, I was able to finish my thesis paper with time to spare. It was with great satisfaction that I submitted my thesis paper ahead of the deadline; this represented the culmination of four year’s worth of discovery and learning.

  • After sending my paper in, I retired for the evening and awaited the release of Girls und Panzer‘s final episode, which would release a few days after the paper deadline. A decade earlier, the massive delay in Girls und Panzer‘s production had meant the final two episodes would release in March, three months after the tenth episode had concluded, and the combination of Girls und Panzer‘s excellent writing, coupled with where the tenth episode had stopped, resulted in some of the most tangible anticipation I’d seen in the anime community.

  • I myself ended up watching the finale after making a beeline home once the day’s lectures ended, and fortuitously, I’d put myself in a solid position, so one evening of not studying or tending to coursework wasn’t going to be too detrimental. The finale had been everything I’d hoped it would be, and I was left with an immensely satisfying conclusion to Girls und Panzer. In the present, however, I do feel that a few minor adjustments could be made to Girls und Panzer‘s original run to address an issue that became apparent as soon as Das Finale began airing.

  • This will be left as an exercise for the near future, and I’ll return my focus to Dream Tank Match: from a mechanical standpoint, Dream Tank Match is rudimentary and polished. Tank operation is simple, and players are given a few options to drift their tanks for more daring manoeuvres. Further to this, aiming and firing is intuitive and simple, entailing lining up one’s crosshairs with a target and then pulling the trigger to fire. Reloading entails a mini-game of sorts, similar to Gears of War‘s active reload system, where if one manages to reload at the right time, a speed reload is executed.

  • When one becomes familiar with the active reload system in Dream Tank Match, they can greatly increase their tank’s firing rate. There are some comparatively strange mechanics in Dream Tank Match, and here, during a survival round, I found that All-Stars University’s commander couldn’t be harmed: even after getting behind their tank and hitting what would be a weak spot, the game only registered a glancing hit. I ended up deciding that, if the round only required my survival, I could easily camp out of range and simply wait for the timer to run out.

  • I’ve found that Japanese games make much greater use of max-min optimisation elements in that, for best results, if one plays a certain way, the outcome with be guaranteed to go a certain way. In Dream Tank Match, for instance, I could have tried to engage All-Stars University and destroy all of their tanks. In any other game, the opposing team would be expected to retreat after some biting remarks about unexpected enemy strength, and the round would end. However, by preventing this outcome through use of unseen mechanics, Dream Tank Match forces players to last the whole five minutes.

  • This was most visible when Dream Tank Match returns to the open field, and I selected Darjeeling’s Churchchill VII. With nothing to do beyond hang outside of the All-Star University team’s Pershings and their effective firing range, I took my time in aiming down sights, blasted their treads to slow them down and methodically picked off each tank until only their commander was left. Since the commander wasn’t taking any damage, I simply kept firing to occupy myself until the timer expired. While this does make for some tedium, I also remark that the mechanic was likely deliberate: the campaign is a re-telling of Der Film‘s events, so each chapter has constraints to ensure the story still plays out in a manner that is faithful to the original movie’s outcomes.

  • One aspect of Dream Tank Match that I found distracting was the directional indicator, which is supposed to give players an idea of where their rounds are going. However, a part of the skill component in a given game, especially where projectile drop is simulated, is learning how to compensate for gravity; in early games, weapons were hit-scan, but as physics engines became more sophisticated, developers began treating projectiles as physics objects. This adds additional depth in the game, and landing a shot at range becomes a satisfying accomplishment.

  • On the other hand, Dream Tank Match does simulate limited tank damage: tanks are weaker at the sides and from the rear, and angling one’s armour allows for some shots to be shrugged off. Similarly, aiming for the treads brings about a partial mobility kill – until repairs are conducted, any tank hit in the treads is rendered immobile for a period of time. Thus, one viable strategy is to aim for the treads where possible, and then get into a position where one can hammer a foe into oblivion. During the segment where I played as Mika, her BT-42’s mobility allowed me to take out three All-Star University Tanks with relative ease.

  • Battlefield V‘s implementation of the Tiger I tank remains my favourite owing to the level detail, but in Dream Tank Match, it is the case that Girls und Panzer was not too far behind when it came to getting the details right. One element in Dream Tank Match that is completely absent is tank customisation: in Battlefield V, levelling up a tank gave access to specialisations that allowed the tank to perform in different ways, and while these specialisations were straight upgrades (as opposed to being side-grades with distinct pros and cons), they did push a tank to excel in specific roles. Battlefield 2042 sees the Tiger I and M4 Sherman return, but there’s no options for customisations at all.

  • I would very much have preferred to engage my foes at long ranges, but in Dream Tank Match, the game is such that most matches force players into close quarters. Here, careful aim goes out the window, and speed becomes king: a tank with high manoeuvrability and a quick turret traversal matters more than higher damage per shot. In my Battlefield V days, I remember making extensive use of the Valentine Archer, whose initial high ammunition capacity allowed me to fell thirty enemy before I was destroyed. While DICE would reduce the maximum amount of shells the Valentine Archer could carry, the tank remains one of my favourites to use.

  • Faster tanks allow for a more aggressive play-style, and this is what motivated my decision to prefer medium tanks in Battlefield V. In Dream Tank Match, tank damage models aren’t explicitly clear, and during the campaign, I found that both Ooarai and Chi-Ha Tan’s medium tanks were more than capable of dealing with heavy tanks. Observant readers will have noted that here, the M3 Lee Rabbit team is operating has two targetting lines, reflective of the fact that the tank had two main guns.

  • Aside from its M2/M3 75 mm cannon, the M3 Lee also sported a M5/M6 37 mm cannon: the former was a sponson-mounted gun intended for taking on fortified positions and artillery, while the latter was intended to deal with other tanks. Although Germans considered the M3 Lee to be more than a match for the Panzer IV Ausf D. variants, Americans were dissatisfied with the tank, and it was eventually phased out by the venerable M4 in the European theatre.

  • For my play-though of Dream Tank Match‘s campaign, since I played the M3 Lee in a segment whose objective was to reach an objective, I never got the chance to fire the weapons. These missions place a large number of tanks in one’s path, and while it can be fun to stop and engage, given the objective, it is more logical to press forwards to the goal: one can always return later and see if they can approach the same mission differently if they wish, and in most chapters, one can replay as different characters to see things from another side of the coin.

  • The Crusader is infamous in Dream Tank Match for having extremely loose handling, to the point where it’s almost impossible to control for novice players. Being the most similar to the Valentine Archer, I decided to go with this tank for kicks. This mission was unusual in that there are waypoints one must hit in order for enemy spawns to happen, and while I get that this was to simulate the events of Der Film and prevent players from being annihilated, it also takes away from the challenge – any gamer with über-micro will have no trouble soloing anything.

  • While Dream Tank Match has its limitations, and I certainly would’ve preferred more customisation options (like Battlefield V‘s specialisation), what the game does, it does well. On the topic of Battlefield, I’ve heard unverified rumours that Battlefield 2042 may be getting a second year of support and content. If true, this is exciting news, since it would represent a chance to really bring Battlefield 2042 up to standard with older games in terms of maps and weapons. While it’s been more than a year since the game launched, and no new Portal content has been added, I remain hopeful that more iconic maps, weapons and vehicles from Battlefield 3Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 1942 are added.

  • Here, Miho and Anzu engage the All-Star University Team amidst the narrow confines of a maze in a manner reminiscent of Namco’s 1980 top-down shooter, Tank Battalion, which pitted players against twenty enemy tanks, each of which sought to destroy the player’s base. The player’s goal was to eliminate the enemy tanks before this could happen, and the a top-down perspective made a maze layout appropriate. The game was praised the ability for players to destroy the bricks, allowing them to reach combat areas faster at the risk of giving enemy tanks a quicker route to their base.

  • Tank Battalion was later remade as Battle City for the GameBoy, which featured additional elements like power-ups and enemy tanks with different properties. Tank games have (largely) come a long way from humble origins, and I’m certainly glad to have played Dream Tank Match – ever since the game was announced back in 2017 and released in 2018, I’ve longed to play this game. Back in 2013, World of Tanks had been the only viable option for players wanting a Girls und Panzer experience, but I found the game to be asinine for its mechanics.

  • My criticisms of World of Tanks are based purely around the premium accounts and damage system, which have a profoundly negative impact on one’s experience. I’d previously noted that my grievances about World of Tanks would fill a small book, but that would be out-of-scope for this talk, and I’ll return in the future to share my thoughts on World of Tanks after ten years. It speaks poorly about that they’ve not manage to fix the game sufficiently to impress me despite having such a timeframe.

  • Of all the campaign missions, my favourite came when the game put me in Alice’s shoes, and I got behind the wheel of the Centurion. This British tank is widely considered to be the first Main Battle Tank, featuring the mobility of a light tank, the firepower and armour of a heavy tank and the profile of a medium tank. Chi-Ha Tan’s tanks stand no chance at all, and I slaughtered my foes in a matter of minutes. Experiences like these reinforce my belief that against undisciplined tankers, like members of AnimeSuki’s Mädchen und Panzer clan, I’d have no problem with taking them to school if I were permitted a MBT to even out the numbers.

  • To reflect on the outcome of the battle’s final stages, Dream Tank Match allows one to drive the M26 Pershing as the All-Star University team mounts a comeback. Designed as a counter to the Tiger I, the Pershing was counted as being more than a match for German armour, save the Tiger II, and some variants of the Pershing were equipped with the T15E1 74 caliber cannon, giving it comparable firepower to the Tiger II. In a direct confrontation, Miho’s forces stand absolutely no chance against the Pershing, and I allowed myself to enjoy the moment. The resulting battle had been even more entertaining than when I’d used Battlefield: Portal to create a hypothetical engagement between a single M1A2 and nine Tiger Is.

  • With my skill, any confrontation between myself and Mädchen und Panzer would result in what people call a roflstomp: if I have an appropriate tank, I’ll win after a thrilling match, and if I were given a tank with even the slightest advantage, it’ll turn into a one-sided slaughter. I remark here that because Girls und Panzer is a decade old, because general interest in World of Tanks has waned, and because Mädchen und Panzer similarly dissolved from lack of community, any engagement with one of World of Tanks‘ most notorious clans will permanently be a hypothetical one. I’ll therefore satisfy myself with the next best equivalent, which is something that Dream Tank Match offers.

  • In this way, ten years after Girls und Panzer, I’ve finally had the chance to experience something I certainly wouldn’t have thought possible: Dream Tank Match is the definitive interactive Girls und Panzer experience, and while it’s no Battlefield V, the game plays well enough to give one a satisfactory chance to see the world that Miho and her friends see. With this post in the books, I’ll be returning in a few days to write about Girls und Panzer after a decade: the series is still engaging in the present, and the animation still holds up very well.

  • I’ll wrap up with a screenshot of me engaging Alice in a two-on-one. Whereas Der Film had Miho using fire from Maho to accelerate her Panzer IV into a position where she could slide behind Alice’s Centurion for a killing shot, my attempt simply had me blasting Alice’s tracks off, leaving her immobilised, and then subsequently hammering the Centurion until health ran out. I’ve now completed the campaign mode and unlocked several tanks in a relatively short timeframe, but there is still a few more things to explore before I’ve had a complete Dream Tank Match experience. While I do have a tendency to procrastinate, here, I wager that I could play Dream Tank Match to completion before Das Finale‘s fourth part becomes available: by my original estimates, with a gap of 22 months, the fourth part was supposed to release back in January, and then a nine month gap between theatrical screenings and home release means overseas viewers like myself would get to see things by October. We’re now three months in 2023, and there’s still been no news of Das Finale‘s fourth act.

As enjoyable as Dream Tank Match is, the game is primarily intended for Girls und Panzer fans looking to further their enjoyment of the series: the art of Panzerfahren is admittedly less gripping than combined-arms warfare of the sort that Battlefield offers, and a focus on pure armoured combat means that the mind is not focused in other aspects that tankers must be mindful of. In addition, Dream Tank Match also highlights a limitation in current technologies for implementing a complete Panzerfahren experience. In Girls und Panzer, Miho is so successful against her foes because she has near limitless control over how she wishes for her teammates to operate. On the other hand, Dream Tank Match‘s AI will go off and act according to a decision tree of sorts, resulting in more limited behaviours. There is no way to issue orders, and no way to direct allied tanks to certain positions or act in certain ways. Similarly, while one does have human allies in the multiplayer, matches are limited to five-on-five, a fifth of the twenty-on-twenty action seen in Girls und Panzer‘s largest-scale battles. As a result, even with Dream Tank Match‘s release, there’s still no way to fully test the limitations of the Nishizumi Style (or the vaunted strategies that AnimeSuki’s Mädchen und Panzer clan claim as being infallible) against the might of flexible, fluid approaches styled after Sun Tzu’s Art of War and executed with the skill and precision of über-micro. With this being said, Dream Tank Match is unlikely to displace Battlefield V as the definitive World War Two armoured warfare experience: the latter completely outclasses it in terms of detail, immersion and skill. However, as a game that adds to one’s appreciation of Girls und Panzer, Dream Tank Match is still a worthwhile game to play for fans of the series, providing players with a chance to revisit Der Film‘s battles on their own terms and fight in a variety of scenarios to see how they might fare against various schools’ commanders and crew on the battlefield. The chance to step into the commander’s copula and participate in Panzerfahren to any extent is something that the me of a decade earlier certainly hadn’t been expecting to ever try out – when Girls und Panzer‘s finale released almost ten years ago, I’d been on the verge of finishing my undergraduate thesis paper, and with some time available to me, I suddenly found myself longing to play a game with tanks in it. No suitable candidate ever turned up, but Dream Tank Match winds up being the perfect way to see how the strategies and tactics I wrote of ultimately fared against what the anime community of the time posited, and to nobody’s surprise, irrespective of the chaotic and adaptive style Miho uses, the precision and skill Alice brings to the table or the brute force Black Forest employs, there is no foe that stands a chance against practitioners of über-micro.

KanColle: Itsuka Ano Umi de – Review and Reflection at the ¾ mark

“We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget.” –Joan Didion

After reviewing Yamashiro’s post-battle report, Yahagi determines that the Kan-musume are still combat-capable. The next day, Shigure shares a conversation with Isokaze and Hamakaze, learning in the process that to them, being sunk in combat isn’t quite as frightening as being forgotten, and Shigure promises to never forget their accomplishments. When the newly-formed Second Torpedo Squadron meet, Yahagi announces a BLUFOR/OPFOR training exercise to test everyone’s readiness. Shigure and Yukikaze end up assigned to the same team, and despite unexpected surprises appearing during the exercise, the pair manage to score hits on Yahagi herself. With confidence that the remaining Kan-musume can perform, the Second Torpedo Squadron is tasked with escort missions, defending convoys from Abyssal attack as they transport critical supplies. Shigure is happy to see an old friend, Ryūhō, and although Yukikaze develops stomach problems that end up requiring her to return to Kure for engine repairs, leaving their group down one defender, the escort mission continues. Shigure, Hamakaze and Isokaze manage to destroy the initial waves of Abyssal submarines, but things look grim after their store of depth charges is depleted. Fortunately, coastal defense Kan-musume are nearby, and they manage to repel the remaining Abyssal submarines, allowing Ryūhō and her escorts to safely reach their destination. With this, Itsuka Ano Umi de finally reaches its three-quarters mark; only two episodes remain, and Shigure’s nascent friendship with Yukikaze means that Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s theme is slowly starting to manifest in a series that has otherwise been quite melancholy, a consequence of a lengthy conflict that has been gradually eroding at the Kan-musume‘s numbers.

At first glance, Yukikaze appears to be better suited for Kantai Collection‘s first season rather than Itsuka Ano Umi de: she’s cheerful, easygoing and hardly anything appears to dampen her spirits. This stands in stark contrast with the reserved and stoic Shigure, who’s weighted down by the losses she’s experienced over the years, and Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s aesthetic appears to be in keeping with Shigure’s feelings; the use of lighting and music conveys her general feeling of melancholy and introspectiveness, but where Shigure experiences happiness, the music relaxes, and during battle, the soundtrack similarly becomes tense. After Yukikaze’s introduction, Shigure appears to be smiling more, and it is plain that she admires how Yukikaze is able to still find cheer even during more difficult times. Meeting Yukikaze, then, serves to drive change in Shigure: while this won’t change the fact she’s lost friends previously, being able to fight alongside someone so optimistic gives Shigure hope, and a reason to return after battle. The approach that Itsuka Ano Umi de is taking, in short, looks like it’s progressing exactly as I’d imagined it would. Anime generally seek to tell a story of growth and optimism; since Shigure had started her story burdened by losses and the prospect of fighting a war people would forget, it was logical that a new encounter would help change her perspective. On this reasoning, it appears that Itsuka Ano Umi de will likely wrap up with a difficult, but hard-won battle that shows Shigure that it is sufficient for her to always remember those she fought alongside, while at the same time, doing her best for the people in her present.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s production woes meant that, owing to scheduling conflicts, the sixth episode was only able to air in January after its episodes were delayed. Kantai Collection isn’t especially noteworthy, and even though Itsuka Ano Umi de has above-average production values, it’s difficult to say that the delays are worth it; Girls und Panzer had been an instance of an anime where it’d been worth the wait – the story and characters, coupled with the incredible attention paid to detail, had made it a series deserving of a proper conclusion.

  • Kantai Collection‘s second season is superior to its predecessor in tone and story, but it hasn’t given viewers quite the same opportunity to connect to the characters and root for them because delays in result in the unfortunate effect of making it easy to forget what’s happened, even though we’ve now reached Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s halfway point. While I have only good things to say about Itsuka Ano Umi de, it isn’t the case that this series is one where I’d say the wait for individual episodes are worth it.

  • While war is evidently a tragedy that leaves its mark on all involved, portrayal of its effects on individuals is something that requires a bit more time to capture – the decision in Itsuka Ano Umi de to go with with eight episodes rather than twelve, in conjunction with the delays, has meant that the Kantai Collection sequel hasn’t left quite as strong of an impression on me as I was originally anticipating. Elsewhere, I’ve noticed that reviews about Itsuka Ano Umi de has been similarly limited: a Google search finds that besides myself, there’s only one other site that’s actively writing about this series (excluding Reddit and MyAnimeList).

  • It’s fair to say that interest in Kantai Collection isn’t anywhere close to what it’d been seven years earlier, and while the franchise still has a dedicated following in Japan, that it’s been seven years since the original series aired means that this series was probably unlikely to have done well from the start owing to declining interest. This is lamentable, because Itsuka Ano Umi de is otherwise an overall improvement to Kantai Collection. Having a longer runtime, and a more consistent release pattern would’ve been to the series’ benefit, allowing the series to show the side of Kantai Collection that the first season had failed to convey.

  • Having said this, what Itsuka Ano Umi de does convey to viewers is well-done: the series has done a satisfactory job of striking a balance between the naval combat and slice-of-life pieces. I’ve long held that in any given series colloquially referred to as “cute girls doing cute things”, the ordinary moments spent away from said work’s main premise are equally as important as the moments portraying the characters advancing their craft. The reason for this is that it shows the characters as having more depth beyond their activity of choice, and because it also provides an opportunity to show how mundane experiences may unexpectedly provide a stroke of inspiration.

  • In the case of Itsuka Ano Umi de, showing the Kan-musume‘s lives outside of battle serves to humanise them and remind viewers that even the spirits of naval vessels share the same desires as people do, preferring peace and normalcy over warfare and destruction. The Kan-musume might be fighting a fierce war against a foe dead-set on humanity’s annihilation, but they’re doing so precisely because it gives humanity a chance to live on. By choosing to show what’s at stake in Itsuka Ano Umi de, there’s a stronger reason for the Kan-musume to sortie here in the second season, than there had been in the first.

  • Adding Yukikaze into things and having her pick up the mikan that Shigure are so fond of is to create a bond; while Yamashiro and Fusō have retired, and the number of active Kan-musume dwindles, the positive spirits that the remaining vessels to the newly-formed Second Torpedo Squadron gives viewers the sense that, even though it looks like the Kan-musume are on the backfoot, so long as everyone’s got one another, hope still remains.

  • To ensure that this disparate group of Kan-musume are able to work as a team, group leader Yahagi decides to organise a training exercise to see how everyone cooperates and respond to unexpected circumstances on the open seas. The admiral himself is present, and traditionally, shows like Itsuka Ano Umi de have always invited political discussions to some extent because of their historical associations, but so far, viewers are fortunate that those elements of the fanbase are absent. I’ve never been fond of those who shoehorn politics into everything, and on this note, I’ve got a brief update about one infamous military-moé fan, “Toukairin”. I had this individual banned from AnimeSuki some years earlier owing to their radical opinions about current events, and had hoped this ban would force him to re-evaluate his life decisions.

  • Unfortunately for me, Toukairin simply fell back on his old habits through Twitter, posting insults and hateful messages as “@AKDNManUtd2010”. I managed to find this account by pure luck, and have since been working towards getting him suspended from Twitter. There’s no place for people who believe that petty insults constitutes as intelligent political discourse, and just today, I managed to get the AKDNManUtd2010 account temporarily locked. Although this lock will expire in a week, Toukairin has already lost a number of followers since his account was temporarily locked. I doubt AKDNManUtd2010 will check his tone once his account’s reinstated, but I will continue to report him for as long as necessary until AKDNManUtd2010 is permanently banned: Toukairin may be entitled to an opinion, but owing to his attitudes and actions, he certainly isn’t entitled to an audience or agreement. Returning back to Itsuka Ano Umi de, the training exercise begins shortly after the objectives are outlined, and everyone becomes fired up.

  • With the Admiral having a tangible presence in Itsuka Ano Umi de, the world of Kantai Collection becomes a lot more plausible. One of my biggest grievances about Kantai Collection‘s first season had been that it was too game-like, which in turn diminished the world’s ability to immerse viewers. One example of a game-turned-anime with excellent world-building and immersion is Uma Musume: Pretty Derby – all game elements have been removed from the anime, and instead, compelling stories are told about the characters. At the same time, the characters’ experiences take place in a world with a lived-in feeling, giving things significantly more depth.

  • In taking this approach, Itsuka Ano Umi de shows that yes, it is possible to tell good stories so long as the world is properly fleshed out. On an unrelated note, after doing some digging around, I’ve found nothing about the music in Itsuka Ano Umi de, save the fact that the incidental pieces are composed by Kaori Ohkoshi, who had worked on the music to the game. This is a shame, since the music in Itsuka Ano Umi de is excellent, and similarly, the opening song exudes World War Two vibes. There’s been nothing on whether or not a soundtrack exists at all for Itsuka Ano Umi de, and I imagine that things could go the same way as they had for Luminous Witches, where the original soundtrack had remained unreleased long after the series had ended.

  • For some of my military moé posts, a large part of the joy comes from being able to look at the hardware and tactics, and using real-world specifications, try to speculate on how something might end up. This is one of the things that made Girls und Panzer so enjoyable, but in Kantai Collection, the Kan-musume themselves are only modelled after their real-world counterparts, and the foes they fight have unknown properties, so trying to guess at the outcome of a battle isn’t something that can be reliably done.

  • While Kantai Collection players would probably have a better idea of how the different Kan-musume would perform in battle, as well as against one another during mock battles, my lack of familiarity with the ships’ in-game statistics leaves me ill-equipped to ponder how battles turn out. As such, I am content to simply watch things unfold: for my part, I don’t recognise half of the Kan-musume that appear, and it’s times like these where I do wish that they’d do as Shirobako had and provide name tags for characters making their first appearance.

  • Unlike the frenzy of a night battle, doing a training exercise by day under calm seas allows for the animation team at ENGI to really show viewers what they’ve got. ENGI has previously worked on Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out! and its sequel; although Itsuka Ano Umi de is more detailed than Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out!, both series are characterised by extremely sharp lines and a more faded colour palette.

  • In the end, despite surprise attacks from aerial and sub-surface foes, Yukikaze and Shigure end up working together to reach Yahagi and “sink” her in the exercise, leaving Yahagi with a better measure of what the  Second Torpedo Squadron can do. Viewers have some reassurance that, despite the internal struggles Shigure faces, she’s still a team player and can cooperate with those around her.

  • Post-exercise, the Kan-musume maintain and clean their gear. Actions like these were absent in Kantai Collection‘s first season, so showing them here in Itsuka Ano Umi de serves to enhance the feeling of immersion. I get the sense that the first season had been rushed out as a means of promoting the game by fitting in the largest number of characters possible, and this had come at the expense of giving viewers a chance to connect with Kantai Collection‘s story and world. On the other hand, Itsuka Ano Umi de has made a more concerted effort towards giving viewers a chance to see why the Kan-musume are fighting, even as the tide of battle begins shifting against them.

  • Yukikaze’s cheerful, happy-go-lucky demeanour is prima facie better-suited for the likes of the original Kantai Collection, or perhaps Azur Lane: Slow Ahead!. However, on closer inspection, she’s precisely the sort of person that Shigure needs: since Shigure has seen many losses on the open oceans, she’s become quite reserved and jaded; having someone like Yukikaze in her corner would liven her world up and show that even though many of her allies and friends have retired from active service or were lost at sea, there’s still things worth fighting for.

  • Hence, when Yukikaze shows up and immediately helps herself to the onigiri and tangerines that Hamakaze’s brought, Shigure smiles while Hamakaze and Isokaze look on with surprised expressions. Small moments like these do much to remind viewers that even though Shigure is serious for the most part, there are things in the world that bring her joy, and as such, she still retains a reason for heading out into battle and returning alive. With characters that are written to have little left to live for, they often push themselves in battle and fight with little regard for their own safety.

  • In series like those, writers often have said characters developing a friendship or discovering something worth living for, which alters their mindset. Itsuka Ano Umi de doesn’t portray Shigure in this light and instead, has taken a more incremental route. Shigure may be rendered grim and taciturn from what she’s seen, but at the same time, she also understands there’s value in her commitment. In battle, Shigure fights with determination and caution. Outside of battle, there are still things she enjoys, and here, seeing Shigure interacting with the sprites maintaining one of Ryūhō’s aircraft show that Shigure’s able to value the smaller moments in life. It helps that Ryūhō is on excellent terms with Shigure: the pair have fought alongside one another previously.

  • When Yukikaze unexpectedly experiences stomach problems and is brought to her knees by the intensity of the pain, I was left wondering if Itsuka Ano Umi de was going to take a darker route to things, but these concerns were quite unnecessary: as a result of having eaten too many tangerines, Yukikaze is rendered unable to participate in the next assignment, to escort Ryūhō, and instead, requires repair work to be done. This leaves the escort ships down to three: Shigure, Isokaze and Hamakaze must carry out their task without Yukikaze.

  • The smaller team sizes and relative absence of secondary characters in Itsuka Ano Umi de makes things a little easier to follow, and most of the introduced characters do have a more substantial role, whereas in Kantai Collection, it could become difficult to keep track of everyone. Anime with a large number of characters will always have this challenge, and while some series will provide labels identifying the characters, I’ve always found that my preferred approach for handling this is to remember the names of the central characters and focus on their experiences.

  • In a briefing with Yahagi, the assignment is defined – the Second Torpedo Squadron is to follow a course that will see them escort Ryūhō over to the island of Taiwan to resupply forces there. The observant reader will note that the route the Kan-musume are taking hugs the coast of China, with red markers presumably denoting areas of Abyssal activity. I am glad that Ituska Ano Umi de returns things to Japan, since it gives the Kan-musume‘s fight greater weight – when Kantai Collection had set things in a generic location that was plainly not tropical (deciduous trees are visible), it felt as though the Kan-musume were fighting in a vacuum.

  • Separating the characters from the homeland they’re fighting for took away from the impact of their actions, and as such, while I felt that Fubuki and her goals were noble, Kantai Collection never quite succeeded in conveying this to viewers. Kantai Collection: The Movie was when the series began utilising setting more seriously – the Kan-musume were based out of the Solomon Islands, and the mystique of a tropical jungle in the remote reaches of the Pacific contributed to the feeling of unease the film had sought to convey.

  • Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s sixth episode spends quite a bit of time showcasing the launch of the Second Torpedo Squadron. Moments like these accentuate the fact that the Kan-musume are naval vessels – in contrast with the original Kantai Collection, where the Kan-musume‘s launches felt more like the deployment of Iron Man suits, things happen much more slowly, suggesting at the mass and power of each vessel.

  • A quick look at Ryūhō finds that the original had been a light aircraft carrier that was primarily used as an aircraft transport and training carrier owing to her small size, poor speed and weaker construction. As the Pacific War turned against Japan, the Ryūhō would see increasing combat assignments, and in December of 1944, the Ryūhō was assigned on a run to Taiwan with Shigure, Isokaze and Hamakaze. History has Ryūhō reaching her destination and surviving American airstrikes before successfully returning home to Kure.

  • Assuming that Itsuka Ano Umi de uses this assignment as the final assignment, one can readily predict what will happen in the series: Ryūhō will reach Taiwan with Hamakaze, Isokaze and Shigure, where they will get hammered by Abyssal forces. A combination of teamwork and luck will allow them to survive and return home. Of course, if Itsuka Ano Umi de goes for the historical route, Ryūhō was attacked while in harbour in March of 1945 and mission-killed. Hamakaze was sunk outside of Nagasaki, and Isokaze would be scuttled after sustaining heavy damage while escorting the Yamato a month later.  Seeing everyone sunk or decommissioned would likely go against the themes Itsuka Ano Umi de is seeking to convey, and ending the story on an optimistic note seems more likely.

  • Here, after running out of depth charges, Shigure pulls out a box and throws two reserves into the water, successfully sinking another Abyssal submarine in the process. By this point in time, the fierce enemy counteroffensive means that everyone’s running out of anti-submarine options, but fortunately, they’re close enough to their destination so that coastal patrol Kan-musume can help them deal with the remaining enemies.

  • I’ve never seen Kan-musume of this sort previously, and I’d expect that had they been in Kantai Collection, the episode would’ve likely had a more slice-of-life focus. Speaking to the gravity of the situation in Itsuka Ano Umi de, the newly-arrived coastal patrol team is all-serious as they dump their depth charges to take out the remaining Abyssal submarines giving Shigure and her team trouble.

  • The dark weather and rainy seas means another battle set under moody conditions, where the combat isn’t quite as visible to viewers as something that occurs during the light of day, but once the friendly patrols arrive, breaks in the cloud signify the end of a difficult stage of Shigure and her compatriots’ journey, giving viewers a chance to breathe again as the threat posed by the Abyssals are eradicated for the time being. It was lucky that this episode ends on a positive note, since there’s now a bit of a wait before the seventh episode. Without a cliffhanger, the wait will be significantly more manageable.

  • While the breaks mean that Itsuka Ano Umi de will have a tough time maintaining its momentum, one of the big positives is that this actually makes my blogging schedule a little more manageable. Had Itsuka Ano Umi de aired with more regularity, I would’ve found difficulty in getting Mō Ippon! and Bofuri into my schedule. These are the next two anime-related posts I’ve got planned for January, and I’m also eyeing a post on Kaginado!‘s second season; this had aired back during the spring, but owing to timing, I never did get around to watching it back then.

Itsuka Ano Umi de continues to demonstrate that it is the Kantai Collection viewers deserved back in 2015: character progression is meaningful, and the aesthetic is authentic. Coupled with world-building that hints at a much richer world, Itsuka Ano Umi de has proven to be enjoyable on all front save one: owing to production delays, the entire airing schedule for Itsuka Ano Umi de has been thrown off. Scuttlebutt has it that the delays meant that broadcasters were left trying to fit the remaining episodes in with currently airing shows, and because slots are limited, the anime continues to be pushed back. The delays between episodes is understandable, but it does give the feeling that Itsuka Ano Umi de has been given the shaft. I imagine that at the height of its popularity, broadcasters would’ve ensured that Kantai Collection got a reasonable time slot to ensure viewers were happy, but given that it’s been over seven years since Kantai Collection was a popular topic, it is fair to suppose that diminished interest in the series means that the consequences of pushing Itsuka Ano Umi de back are minimal. This is a little disappointing, since the long gaps between episodes breaks the momentum within the story; a consistent schedule helps to maintain engagement, and if a story is too broken up, it does require a bit more effort to recall the previous episode’s events, and excitement is diminished as other things come up. While I expect Itsuka Ano Umi de to deliver a good experience to viewers, the next episode’s release date is February 12, and this suggests that Kantai Collection isn’t something that people are especially interested in. In spite of this, I am looking forwards to seeing Itsuka Ano Umi de send off the franchise in a respectful manner.

KanColle: Itsuka Ano Umi de – Review and Reflections at the Halfway Point

“A ship does not sail with yesterday’s wind.” –Louis L’Amour

After the third section enters Surigao Strait, Mogami’s spotter aircraft identify Abyssal patrol boats, signifying an ambush. Moments later, Abyssal forces strike the third section from the skies, but Shigure and the others are able to repel this attack and press forward deeper into the strait. Upon nightfall, Mogami, Yamagumo, Asagumo, and Michishio break off to engage Abyssal patrol boats. However, this leaves Shigure, Yamashiro and Fusō to come under fire from additional Abyssal forces. Mogami and the destroyers return just in time to provide covering fire, while the second fleet begin to advance towards the Abyssal fleet. During the combat, Fusō sustains damage from an Abyssal torpedo and is damaged, but Yamashiro orders the remainder of the third section to continue advancing. They reach the heart of the Abyssal fleet, where a pair of Night Strait Princesses await them. Although their firepower is inadequate to deal with this threat, the first fleet arrive and begin bombarding one of the Princesses, leaving Yamashiro to dispatch their remaining foe. In the aftermath, Fusō and Yamashiro are decommissioned, having sustained too much damage to remain sea-worthy. Shigure and Mogami both managed to survive with minor injuries, and although Shigure is saddened to see Fusō and Yamashiro retire, she promises to keep fighting for everyone’s sake. Shigure is reassigned to the Second Torpedo Squadron, learns that their contributions have delayed the Abyssal invasion of the Japanese mainland, and given orders to take some time off. She visits a ryokan and meets Yukikaze. The pair share time together, and Shigure hardly believes that even amidst a war, she is still able to rest up and enjoy something as luxurious as an onsen. The next day, she returns to base and meets the remainder of the Second Torpedo Squadron, which is placed under Yahagi’s command. Itsuka Ano Umi de was supposed to reach this point three weeks earlier, but unexpected challenges in production ultimate lead the fourth episode, the series’ halfway point, to be delayed until today.

Now that half of Itsuka Ano Umi de is in the books, it is evident that this is the Kantai Collection anime fans were waiting for. Between the grim gravity of the Kan-musume‘s situation, vividly-rendered battle sequences and significantly improved world-building, Itsuka Ano Umi de captures the emotional tenour of every moment more effectively than its predecessors did. The stakes are plainly laid out for viewers: the Abyssal’s objective is the attrition and destruction of Japan, and to this end, are preparing for an invasion. Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s version of Operation Shō-Gō, then, was to cripple the Abyssal fleet’s fighting capability, and thanks to the contributions of each fleet, including Shigure and the third section, enough damage was done so that the Abyssals won’t be directly attacking Japan any time soon. This in turn allows for the Kan-musume and their Admiral to repair their forces, rearm and reorganise for the difficult path ahead. After two full episodes of continuous combat, the fourth episode is deliberately paced to give viewers insight into the Shōwa era. Civilians are seen browsing through their local shopping district, and peaceful ryokan exist in rural areas, giving Shigure a chance to unwind and meet a peer, Yukikaze. Watching ordinary people live out their lives is a subtle reminder to viewers of what the Kan-musume are fighting for; they’re here to protect their homeland and its people. Seeing these elements coming together in Itsuka Ano Umi de makes this second season of Kantai Collection a dramatic improvement over its predecessor – there’s a clear reason why the Kan-musume must fight the Abyssals. This time around, Shigure and the others aren’t fighting to define the purpose of their existence, but rather, they’re fighting to protect what is dear to them. However, just because the Abyssals have taken a loss doesn’t mean the war is over yet, and at present, despite having sustained heavy damage to their own fleet, the Abyssals still have a largely-intact submarine force, which necessitates additional action in the name of protecting Japan and its people.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Having now seen the combat sequences, it is plain that the visuals in Itsuka Ano Umi de are a step above from those of its predecessors with respect to small details like the anti-air guns on each Kan-musume and the færies, which are more prominent than they’d been in earlier instalments. Similarly, Abyssals attack in larger groups, which, in conjunction with improved visuals and cinematography, means that battles tend to feel more dynamic and chaotic.

  • One aspect that Itsuka Ano Umi de will need to address is how the Abyssals fit into things in light of what Kantai Collection: The Movie had revealed; Kantai Collection had left the Abyssals purely as a foe to fight against, but the film clarified that they’re the negative manifestations of a given vessel’s spirits, and showed that Fubuki was the first to understand that rather than fighting those feelings, she should accept them because they were a part of her. In Itsuka Ano Umi de, Fubuki is absent, and the anime’s portrayal of the Battle of Leyte Gulf doesn’t have much context.

  • All that was shown thus far, is that command is launching a major offensive with the remaining assets that were available to them in a bid to wipe out the Abyssals. However, from the dialogue and overall mood in Itsuka Ano Umi de, things aren’t going well for the Kan-musume, standing in stark contrast with the cautious optimism that was seen at the film’s end. Because the film had portrayed the events of the Guadalcanal campaign in 1943, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf took place in 1944, it stands to reason that following the movie’s events, the Kan-musume continued to sustain losses even with the newfound hope gained from Fubuki’s experiences.

  • Because the Pacific War ended with Imperial Japan’s defeat, if Itsuka Ano Umi de were to maintain a historically accurate portrayal of things, it would ultimately end with every Kan-musume in the First Strike Force’s Third Section except for Shigure being sunk. Because Shigure had already been shown as having seen the loss of her fellow Kan-musume earlier, taking the historically accurate route would mean that Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s outcomes would be quite grim, leaving viewers to contemplate on the futility of war.

  • Such a theme would stand contrary to the messages the film left behind, and also suggest that the browser game itself is ultimately meaningless: if the fleets players have painstakingly worked to build and maintain are to be offered up as sacrifices, it would demotivate players from continuing to invest time and effort into the game. Assuming that this isn’t the case, Itsuka Ano Umi de needs to have things turn out differently for the the First Strike Force’s Third Section, and it wouldn’t be the first time Kantai Collection altered the outcome of a historical battle to better fit the story.

  • The first season of Kantai Collection had Fubuki and her friends come out on top at the Battle of Midway, whereas in reality, Japan suffered the loss of key assets that irrevocably altered the course of the Pacific War and tipped it in the Allies’ favour. I have heard that some folks consider Kantai Collection to be “revisionist” for this reason, but because Kantai Collection is simply a conflict involving the spirits of World War Two era vessels against a manifestation of their darker selves, the story can, and should be allowed to progress in a way that ensures the themes can be consistent.

  • This is why Jonathan Gad’s VICE article decrying the presence of miltary moé anime is invalid: Gad claims that series like Kantai Collection and Strike Witches are increasingly painting military forces as “cute” and harmless in an attempt to bury what’s happened historically. In the same article, Gad is also suggesting that the Japanese government is encouraging the production of such anime and games in an attempt to push this narrative. However, this conclusion is only reached if one hasn’t made an attempt to understand a given work. Kantai Collection‘s original run had strove to do two things: portray Fubuki’s journey to improve as a Kan-musume, and suggest that people have the agency to do good even in the face of overwhelming odds.

  • From a numbers perspective, one anime, about one online game, is not an attempt at whitewashing history, and together with the themes that were present in Kantai Collection, I can say with confidence that criticisms about Kantai Collection‘s first season being a weaker series because it couldn’t pin down its intended direction are more valid than suggestions that things like military moé is inherently harmful. Itsuka Ano Umi de appears to have stepped away from its predecessor’s approach entirely; insofar, the series has been a lot more focused and compelling.

  • In previous Kantai Collection posts, I tended to steer clear of night battle shots simply because they’re hard to take screenshots for. Night battles are excellent for conveying a sense of urgency because most operations in the Kantai Collection anime usually begin by day, and having conflict stretch into the night shows the Kan-musume‘s determination. Similarly, the darkness night confers corresponds to decreased visibility, and this increases the danger that Kan-musume face. As the Third Section’s battle wears on, Fusō sustains damage as the Abyssals relentlessly hammer them.

  • There’s the faintest hint of resignation in Fusō’s character here in Itsuka Ano Umi de: although she’s kinder than Yamashiro and does her best to reassure everyone, the way she sounds in speech suggests that she’s aware of her impending demise and is at peace with things. Mogami and the Asashio-class destroyers act more similarly to military moé characters, and this creates a bit of a contrast, even during battle.

  • As the night wears on, the Abyssals begin sending heavier forces: the patrol boats that Shigure have been fending off are soon replaced by destroyers and cruisers. Having already been pushed to their limits, and with Fusō damaged, the Third Section appears to be completely overwhelmed, especially when what appears to be the Abyssal versions of Fusō and Yamashiro appear. The spider lilies make a return, blooming at the feet of the Kan-musume‘s foe, but they take on an unearthly blue hue. In reality, blue spider lilies do not appear with such a deep shade of blue. The Lycoris sprengeri (Electric Blue Spider Lily) is the closest equivalent, but it has more of a lilac colour, and their flowers have a different shape.

  • The timely arrival of other vessels allow the Third Section to live to fight another day: they provide covering fire thin out the number of guns firing at Fusō and Yamashiro. Because of the sheer number of characters in Kantai Collection, I have no objections to admitting that I’m not going to be able to recognise most of the vessels in the series beyond my personal favourites and central characters. As new vessels show up to pick up the slack, the Abyssal flagship, controlled by the doppelgänger Fusō and Yamashiro, increase the ferocity of their assault in turn.

  • I rarely provide any screenshots of the Abyssals because of their grotesque appearance, and because for the most part, their appearance on screen is usually limited to them exploding after being fired upon. I believe that the Abyssal specters of Fusō and Yamashiro here would be what’s known as event bosses, which are uncommonly tough and require careful preparation and special tactics to beat. I remember a time when the English-speaking Kantai Collection community griped about how difficult these events could be, requiring a combination of luck and time investment to overcome, but in the present, I’m not sure if large numbers of English-speakers still play Kantai Collection.

  • The game and franchise remain popular in Japan: the main reason why Kantai Collection never gained widespread popularity was simply because Kadokawa only intended for the game to be played by a domestic audience. However, this approach does mean that there is little incentive to adopt improved technologies: Kantai Collection didn’t make the jump over to HTML5 from Flash until 2018, and by then, longtime overseas players had grown bored of the fact that beyond the events, Kantai Collection hadn’t been offering them with anything new.

  • Kongō and Haruna subsequently appear, and I am immediately reminded of Kiniro Mosaic‘s Karen Kujō whenever Kongō speaks: both are voiced by Nao Tōyama, a renowned voice actress that I know best as Yuru Camp△‘s very own Shimarin. Unlike Rin, Karen and Kongō are energetic, spirited and lively – I’ve heard that Tōyama’s personality is more similar to Karen and Kongō’s than she is Rin, while Yumuri Hanamori, who voices Nadeshiko, is actually more similar to Rin. It was nice to see familiar faces returning in Itsuka Ano Umi de, and I welcome hearing Kongō returning to the party.

  • Another old friend, Yamato, returns: the presence of the IJN’s most powerful battleship here suggests to me that the original operation must’ve been successful, since everyone’s now being redirected to save the Third Section from certain death. While writing for this post, I learnt that Yamato is voiced by none other than Ayana Taketatsu, another star voice actress known for her roles as K-On!‘s Azu-nyan, Fū Sawatari of TamayruaOreImo‘s very own Kirino Kōsaka, The Quintessential Quintuplets‘ Nino Nakano and even Sword Art Online‘s Suguha Kirigaya.

  • Encouraged by the show of support from her fellow Kan-musume, Yamashiro prepares for one final attack on the Abyssal’s flagship, firing on its weak spot in a show of acrobatics as Shigure provides covering fire. In the ensuing explosion, Yamashiro’s fate is not shown, but the resulting shot does take out the flagship moments before sunrise. Here, I will remark that the music in Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s soundtrack and opening song are both excellent, but I’ve not found anything on either. By this point in the season, most anime will have already released the opening song.

  • When I reached this point in Itsuka Ano Umi de four weeks earlier, I had been hoping that viewers would have the chance to see the aftermath, but instead, the Kantai Collection anime’s official Twitter announced that owing to production issues, the anime would take a four-week hiatus before continuing. While it is true that Itsuka Ano Umi de is a cut above its predecessor, especially with respect to its character development and world-building, the fact that there’s only eight episodes meant that at least in theory, production would be a little more manageable than that of a twelve episode series.

  • Admittedly, the delay has allowed me to write about other things, and in this way, I was able to finish a more difficult post on Top Gun: Maverick before November drew to a close. Back in Itsuka Ano Umi de, Fusō and Yamashiro prepare to take their final leave: although they’d survived the battle, they’re no longer combat-worthy. They bid Shigure and the admiral farewell. The admiral had remained a nameless and faceless in the original Kantai Collection, so bringing him to the party as a character with speaking roles serves to remove the game-like nature the first season had.

  • The slower pacing throughout Itsuka Ano Umi de is to the series’ advantage, forcing viewers to consider the costs of warfare and its all-consuming nature. Rather than driving home this point with the subtlety of a thrown brick, Itsuka Ano Umi de has instead opted for a more open-ended approach: a melancholy permeates every aspect of this series, even during more light-hearted moments, and this stands in stark contrast to how the first season had presented things. The melancholy throughout Itsuka Ano Umi de also is, inadvertently, a reflection of how Kantai Collection is no longer as big as it’d been seven years earlier.

  • Seven years ago, one could hardly go anywhere online without encountering people discussing how to get into Kantai Collection‘s browser game if they were overseas, and those who did figure it out played obsessively, sometimes to the detriment of their careers and real-world obligations. I do remember one player expressing the belief that a GTX 980 Ti was needed to get optimal frame rates in this browser game at Reddit, and in today’s terms, it’d be equivalent to stating as fact that, if one didn’t have an RTX 4090, they wouldn’t be able to play Kantai Collection.

  • In reality, if a browser game was so demanding that one needed an i9 13900k and RTX 4090 to run, then Kadokawa’s developers are clearly sub-par: at its core, Kantai Collection is merely a random number generator that pulls information from a hash table and rendering the results as 2D graphics. With this in mind, I have heard that Kantai Collection is poorly optimised and can cause memory leaks can slow down any machine with less than 32 GB of RAM, and given that Kadokawa thought acquiring Anime News Network was a good idea, I wouldn’t be surprised if their Kantai Collection team consisted of third-rate developers who can’t tell the difference between a method override and a method overload.

  • Outside of her combat roles, Shigure dresses in a more conservative outfit that is styled after women’s clothing from the Shōwa era. The intersection of the fantastical elements of Kantai Collection intersect with a more authentic portrayal of Japan here in Itsuka Ano Umi de, and it was seeing Shigure’s journey from the naval base in Sasebo (incidentally, where Brave Witches‘ Hikari and Takami were from) to the rural ryokan that helped provide an answer to why Itsuka Ano Umi de has proven to be more compelling than its predecessor.

  • The reason is simple enough: by showing the world as being inhabited, and that the war against the Abyssals does have material consequences should the Kan-musume lose, it gives viewers a better idea of why the Kan-musume are fighting to begin with. The original Kantai Collection had been lacking this, placing the Kan-musume in a vacuum and omitting their battle’s significance. This made it difficult to root for the characters and their struggles: beyond sinking, it felt that their fight was inconsequential, being set in a remote part of the South Pacific.

  • One aspect of Itsuka Ano Umi de that really drives home the gravity of this situation was how, even though Shigure is allowed a chance to unwind and recuperate following her contributions to the latest operation, these scenes have a more muted tone to them. The cost of the ongoing war with the Abyssals is constantly weighing on her mind, and now, with both Fusō and Yamashiro retired, it does feel as though Shigure is continuing to lose the people around her. As such, whereas Kantai Collection would have originally taken this chance to show Shigure off a little, Itsuka Ano Umi de dispenses with this entirely.

  • I imagine that the dramatic shift in tone was probably in response to both the precedence that Kantai Collection: The Movie had set, as well as how Azur Lane came to prominence in the years afterward. Azur Lane had also tried to mix the introspective and melancholy elements with slice-of-life comedy moments and similarly struggled to deliver a cohesive story, so when they released the Slow Ahead! spin-off and found that there was much that could be done to lighten things up, it seemed natural that Itsuka Ano Umi de would need to go in the opposite direction to differentiate itself from its competitor.

  • Halfway through Itsuka Ano Umi de, it should be clear that this approach is working, and insofar, has succeeded in giving viewers a reason to watch Shigure’s journey. For anime like Kantai Collection, I imagine the aim was originally to drive interest in the game, but considering how long it’s been, I cannot help but get the feeling that Itsuka Ano Umi de was produced so Kadokawa could fulfil their original promise of delivering a second Kantai Collection season (albeit seven years later). Had something like Itsuka Ano Umi de been made back in 2015, it may have succeeded in promoting the game, but in the present, this second season, as enjoyable as it’s been, feels more like a Hail Mary.

  • In any other anime, moments like Shigure and Yukikaze spending time to know one another, before swapping ghost stories and clutching one another when the lights flicker, would be portrayed in greater detail to show viewers the bonding. The decision to truncate it is deliberate, meant to mirror how this is a war, and during wartime, the things that are normally taken for granted become scarcer. While these moments are short, however, they do much to show how even despite the losses she’s experienced already, Shigure still makes an effort to open up to those around her.

  • As a result, although the third section is no more, the Second Torpedo Squadron, Shigure’s new teammates, will almost certainly have a much bigger role to play, both in repelling the Abyssal attempts at an invasion, and in helping Shigure to accept the losses in her past and make the most of the present. After she returns to base with Yukikaze, viewers have a chance to see the newly-formed Second Torpedo Squadron, and here, I will note that Hamakaze is visible. It is good to see her with the potential of getting more screen time, along with Hibiki, a familiar face returning from the first season. I suppose that hoping Fubuki would return in some form was too much to ask for here in Itsuka Ano Umi de, but beyond this, the series has held my attention in a way the original Kantai Collection did not.

  • Having now reached the second season’s halfway point, I am hoping that the release schedule for Itsuka Ano Umi de will be a little more consistent from here on out; there’s only four episodes left, and I do plan on returning at the three-quarters mark to offer some thoughts on where things have headed. In the meantime, my work year has come to a close. Owing to the fact I had thirteen-and-a-half vacation days unused, I determined it would be a good idea to use this time and catch up on some rest of my own as the winter holidays draw near. This rest can come later: later tonight, I’ve got a Christmas party with the office, and we’re set to return to the Italian restaurant we went to last year. Their food’s amazing, and this year, I now know to pace myself and not become full before the entrée shows up.

Itsuka Ano Umi de is what Kantai Collection‘s 2015 run should have been: rather than attempting to treat the animated adaptation as a video game, complete with mechanics and no apparent objective to mimic the game’s endless gameplay, Itsuka Ano Umi de instead gives the antagonists’ actions and intentions significantly more weight, which in turn provides a stronger, more tangible motivation for Shigure and the other Kan-musume. Moreover, each battle is presented as being a matter of life and death; even the small Abyssal Patrol boats are presented as threats that must be taken seriously, and every successful sortie comes with a cost, even if no one is outright sunk. Similarly, every single Kan-musume that comes home from battle is celebrated. The overall presentation of warfare in Itsuka Ano Umi de is vastly more mature than that of its predecessor, and presents a story that better represents the Kantai Collection universe in animated format. Itsuka Ano Umi de does not hold the viewer’s hand or explain its mechanics, and instead, chooses to focus purely on its story. While assuming that viewers are somewhat familiar with Kantai Collection and how things work in game means leaving out some aspects, Itsuka Ano Umi de is able to trade exposition for telling a more compelling story about Shigure and the other Kan-musume that are still around to fight the Abyssals. Despite what is likely to be an extremely difficult journey up ahead, the halfway point shows that despite the odds remaining firmly against the Kan-musume, everyone is willing to stand up and fight to protect the most precious things in their world. Following a three-week delay, one hopes that Itsuka Ano Umi de will continue maintaining a smarter pacing: there are only four episodes left, and the setup in Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s first half creates a compelling reason to watch the second half to see what outcomes result, as well as what learnings can be derived from Shigure’s experiences.