Kantai Collection: KanColle – 01 (First Impressions)

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So far the Winter has given us magical guys, bears in human form, and now, some bizarre hybrid of high school girls, traditional warriors, and naval vessels. It’s as if someone pulled three random things from a hat and just went with it. There’s an underlying sincerity and pluckiness to the whole operation that kept me watching.

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But there isn’t much else underlying this show’s very slick and snappy skin. It falls victim to a common plague among intro episodes: trying to do and show too much. If you blink you’ll miss the introductions of half a dozen technicolor characters. The only ones who made any impression at all were the underdog protagonist Fubuki and the perfect senpai Akagi, but both are pretty dull achetypes.

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Still, the premiere gets by compensating for its narrative depth (good vs. evil; new girl wants to get stronger…that’s about it) with some really nifty action, though I won’t deny I chortled a little bit at the first sight of girls wearing bits of the ships they represent like clothing accessories. They could easily come off as goofy halloween costumes, but the sequence of Fubuki getting equipped was a nice bit of WTF spectacle.

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I may still prefer the heft of the full-size ships the avatar characters in Arpeggio of Blue Steel ‘rode’ into battle…even if they looked like reanimated corpses. In KanColle, characters are usually animated normally, while their CGI versions are very close in appearance; only a little stiff.

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Fubuki is thrown right into the deep end, as her comrades assume she’s been in more battles than they have, since she came highly recommended by the fleet commander. But she’s woefully unready for real battle, and must be rescued by the ‘First Carrier Fleet’ led by Akagi and Kaga. Like the Fubuki-equipping scene prior, the show exhibits some cleverness by having Akagi’s arrows turn into warplanes – the arrows being a symbol of the catapults carriers use to launch planes at sea.

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As for the baddies, called ‘Abyssals’, they kinda just stand around and let themselves get whooped. They don’t even say anything. Considering all the dark clouds and badass get-ups, I was expecting more. That being said, the more beast-like Abyssals are a effectively stark aesthetic contrast to Fubuki’s bright, shiny, civilized world. I just don’t really care about them in any way.

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This intro, dizzying as it often was, at least kept most of the focus on Fukubi, and in a way, everything it threw at us was a parallel to her own newbie experience. After Bahamut, I’m no longer one to laugh off adaptations online card games. KanColle never embarrassed itself, looked great, and had some clever details, it suffered from a glut of bland characters and a dearth of emotional depth.

Then again, it’s better than Gundam G. Faint praise, but better than scorn.

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One-Minute Research: KanColle is directed by Kusakawa Keizo (Akuma no Riddle) with series composition by Hanada Jukki (Chu2Koi, Kyoutai no Kanata, Steins;Gate). Fukubi is voiced by Uesaka Sumire (Dekomori Sanae, Chu2Koi).

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Author: braverade

Hannah Brave is a staff writer for RABUJOI.

8 thoughts on “Kantai Collection: KanColle – 01 (First Impressions)”

  1. I swear this is part of an existing brand — I’ve seen art for that evil pink girl battle ship thing for more than a year…

    Anyway, I usually cringe and grind my teeth at this genre. silly visuals aside, it as often devolves into Japanese revisionist historic nationalism as not. While this episode didn’t get there yet, it showed plenty of promise that it would.

    ugh :P

  2. Kantai Collection is an adaptation of an immensely popular online card game (about anthromorphizing Japanese battleships), which has a fan following comparable to the Touhou fandom. It was only a matter of time before it would spawn an anime.

    (It’s kind of traumatic really; some of these girls are at the bottom of the ocean rusting away)

    1. Other than Arpeggio of Blue Steel, I’m apt to compare KanColle to is Girls und Panzer, what with the mechanical designs drawn from history. The fact that rather than ordinary girls operating ordinary tanks, these girls are the human manifestations of thes naval vessels. I also appreciate details like Akagi (meaning “Red Castle”) donning traditional garb with red trim, though Fubuki (meaning “blizzard”) and Mutsuki (“January”) don’t seem to have quite the same aesthetic symbolism in their wardrobe.

      Importantly, in Girls und Panzer there was never an enemy on the level of the Abyssals; Panzer schools simply fought each other in (usually) non-life-threatening battles and the main conflict was one between the protagonist and her stick-in-the-mud family. The stakes are higher in KanColle, but the first battle was still pretty easy for the good guys, with only a couple girls getting their uniforms torn (fanservice was subdued, though).

      I’m curious to see if KanColle takes the same lightweight and bloodless route as Girls und Panzer, or if it takes things down a more serious road. Will this be an episodic military procedural, or a serial coming-of-age story in which Fubuki continues to face conflicts, lose friends, grows and hardens. The former direction would simply be a vehicle for the fancy action; the latter would be more interesting from my perspective.

    2. I watched the first episode only knowing the original material is really popular. I would say Rabujoi hits the mark giving this first episode a 7 while giving absolute duo and shinmai maou no testament a 6. KanColle gave a decent first episode with potential to be pretty good while the other 2 series felt lackluster.

      1. we lucked out then :) since all four reviewers are out of the office this week reviewing their shows in a vacuum. I think Yuri Kuma is the only one with cross over. Certainly the only one we’ve all talked about over the phone. I was on the fence with those 6s too… almost caved and gave them 7s or 5s ;)

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