“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 neet, 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.