“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.