RogerBW's Blog

Kantai Collection 19 April 2015

2015, 12 episodes: AniDB

Schoolgirls with the spirit of WWII Japanese fighting ships take on an alien navy.

Kantai Collection is a popular Flash game in Japan, basically a combination of lightweight naval wargame with Pokemon-style choosing and upgrading of combatants.

The premise fundamentally makes no sense, and is never explained. Do the girls take on the spirits of the ships, or are they the spirits of the ships now given human form? We don't know, and it doesn't matter, because this is basically a war story; life begins at the naval base, which is a combination of school and base of operations. The personalities of the various girls are loosely inspired by the ships they represent; the notoriously fuel-hungry Akagi is shown as a glutton, Hibiki (historically turned over to the Russians after WWII) mostly just says "хорошо", Kongō (built at Barrow-in-Furness) throws English words into her speech, Yamato is kept out of the fighting until the desperate final battle, and so on. The enemy is even less explored: they're drawn as some sort of organic tech, all hard shells and teeth, but some of them seem to incorporate human or human-like components. Does that mean anything? Who knows?

Of course there are some people who like to think that this show heralds a right-wing shift in Japanese politics and a return to militarism. Yeah, right. They said the same things about Space Battleship Yamato.

The show mixes school and off-duty life (Fubuki, a new destroyer, is the viewpoint character) with battle sequences, when the girls wear ship-like accessories (smoke stacks, bridge wings, turrets and so on) and skate across the surface of the sea. Because, well, why not? The carriers' decks are arm-guards, and they're dressed as traditional Japanese archers; they launch aircraft by firing arrows which turn into planes in the air. (It's episode seven before we see a plane returning to a carrier.) The Admiral, the player's avatar in the game, is never seen.

If you've seen war-story anime before there's nothing particularly new in the plot (though the final episode does perhaps have rather too many instances of reinforcements turning up to save the day), but the equipment designs are lovingly researched, and everything's competently done. For my taste there are rather too many characters, but the game has more than a hundred, and there was probably pressure to include as many as possible.

A second season is being made, probably for broadcast in the Autumn 2015 slot.

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