Kantai Collection: KanColle – 11

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I’ll preface this review by stating I knew the result of the real Battle of Midway, and which ships were lost in it. Suffice it to say, it was a devastating defeat for Japan, one from which they would never truly recover. So I entered this episode wondering: how would KanColle play this?

They’ve been more-or-less faithful to history thus far, a few details aside. The ships may have pretty faces and cute outfits, and the creators may have a game to sell, but I hoped that wouldn’t lead to any major revision of that battle. It made sense in the context of the story so far, after all, that things should go very badly for the Fleet Girls.

What’s interesting is that KanColle seemed well aware of my foreknowledge and anxiety, and seemed to play off of them in the tense build-up to the battle.

Take the super-dark cold open, in which the battle unfolds just as it did in real life: Akagi’s task force is decimated and she is so badly damanged she has to be scuttled. The show even takes the unprecedented step of portraying Akagi as an actual listing ship.

It’s only Akagi’s (recurring) dream, but the episode immediately grabs our attention, announcing it knows what we’re expecting. What it doesn’t answer yet at that point is, how close will it stick to history? Is Akagi’s dream only one possibility?

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As the episode settles into Naval District life as usual, but Akagi’s nightmare, along with the imminent battle, casts a pall on the bright and cheerful surroundings with girls drinking milk to prepare.

The episode is also punctuated by titles indicating how many hours remain until the battle, accompanied by percussive booms that reminded me of Akira’s iconic, chilling opening. This isn’t just Life As Usual…for many, it’s most likely the last of it.

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Not one to shrug off such disturbing dreams, Akagi considers them a warning and an omen of what is to come should things unfold as planned. She takes her intuitive concerns to Nagato and recommends slight alterations in the order of battle, which Nagato approves.

Both elite Fleet Girls get the strange feeling like they’re drifting down a river fate, perhaps one they’ve even been down before. Akagi has seen her doom in dream after dream, but she intends to break that destiny. She wants that more than ever after her escort Fubuki thanks her simply for being so awesome and inspiring her to achieve greatness.

But while Akagi’s mods to the battle plan are meant to change their course in that river of fate, the fact remains she was fated to make those mods, which will lead her exactly the fate she aimed to avoid.

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The battle begins, and things take a turn for the worse almost immediately as the main assault force led by Battleship Yamato fails to rendezvous with Akagi’s four-carrier task force, sitting in dreadful weather. Aware that they could be spotted by the Abyssals at any moment, Akagi decides to proceed to MI without the main force, leaving an initially protesting Fubuki and Kongou to stay behind and wait for them.

Akagi’s force detects an “airfield princess” on MI, and they launch sorties that do her considerable damage at the loss of only a few planes. Things are going okay, but the force fails to detect the other Abyssal forces who sneak up from behind and throw everything they’ve got at them. Just like that, the ambushers become the ambushed.

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Just like the real-life battle, carriers Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, and Kiryu all take damage. Akagi’s bow breaks early on, so she can’t launch any planes to defend herself or her fellow ships. The girls’ eyes are full of bewilderment, fear, and panic as the explosions around them multiply.

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And for once, there’s no rescue in the nick of time by reinforcements. There’s no cavalry in sight, or even on the way, as far as we know. Last time we saw Fubuki and Kongou, they were still waiting to no avail.

Things look very very bad for Akagi in particular, who has a torpedo/bomb flying straight at her when the episode goes to black. Her nightmare, or rather vision, is coming true. She wasn’t able to escape the river of fate.

While this is awful on an emotional level, it’s also precisely the kind of episode I was hoping for: one that wouldn’t hold back on history just because it didn’t deliver a happy ending to the show’s good guys.

But the battle is only halfway through. The challenge that faces KanColle next week is: Will it maintain this faithfulness to its terrible but ultimately dramatically satisfying conclusion…or will it chicken out at the last second and let the Fleet Girls snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat?

I’m not saying I’ll automatically be put off by the latter possibility. But it will be a lot tougher to achieve, because the pull of that river is awfully strong, and this episode contributed mightily to that.

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Author: braverade

Hannah Brave is a staff writer for RABUJOI.

8 thoughts on “Kantai Collection: KanColle – 11”

  1. They could turn this whole series into “Higurashi no Naku KanColle ni”. Sink the whole fleet,lose the battle…and then season 2 time loops back and starts all over again from the day Keiichi/Fubuki comes to Hinamizawa/the Naval Base, this time following events from Akagi’s or someone else’s POV and their efforts to try to break the loop.

    Or how about: Akagi sinks, the Admiral rage quits, and the show ends with everyone suddenly back at the base and alive again, wondering how they got there.

  2. Well, I have feeling that in the show they will turn the battle from a defeat to a pyrrhic victory. Unless they do an ass pull and Fubuki with Yamato and the rest of the fleet in tow just magically turns up to save everyone.
    One interesting observation I made was both the Admiral and Nagato insisted that Fubuki should be on this mission as a key player, and with her new form she is a lot better at AA warfare than previously. However Akaki sidelined Fubiki together with Kongo to wait for the rest of the fleet, so Akagi went against orders and may actually have doomed her group with this decision.

    1. According to the real-life Midway order of battle, Fubuki was in the First Fleet Main Force, Screening Force, 3rd Destroyer Squadron, 11th Destroyer Division. In other words, she was in Yamato’s group, not Akagi’s. Kongo and Yuudachi were in the Second Fleet (Midway Invasion Force).

      I do find it interesting that Akagi chose Fubuki and Kongo to wait for Yamato. Did she do it to protect Fubuki from what she knew was coming? Would Fubuki and Kongo’s presence really have made a difference in the abyssal ambush that followed? I’m not so sure.

      Whatever changes Akagi made either to real-life history or the Admiral and Nagato’s plans, I feel like the Fleet Girls were going to be doomed either way for three main reasons:

      1.) The failure of Yamato and Akagi’s groups to rendezvous;
      2.) The sidelining of Shokaku and Zuikaku, and the resulting loss of vital air support;
      3.) The Abyssals knew they were coming and planned their own ambush. They must have broken the Fleet Girls’ codes.

  3. If Kancolle continues runs to its formula, and I think it will, Fubuki will arrive in the nick of time and protect everyone’s smiles…..lol.

    1. As the episode ends, things are in a very very bad way, and very much on route to the same terrible outcome Akagi dreamed of. There’s at least the potential for the sinking of Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Kiryu.

      That potential, and the fact the show decided to isolate this episode from some kind of twist or turnaround in the girls’ favor, is a big reason why I rated it so highly.

      Basically, this week the show didn’t blink or wuss out. Next week, it might.

      I’ll reserve judgment until I see how they decide to end this battle.

      On the one hand, letting everyone who is supposed to die live will likely be a dramatic disappointment, not to mention crass revisionism.

      On the other hand, if we separate this show from history, I’d rather Fubuki, a character I care about, not have to bear the loss of Akagi, another character I care about.

      Though as we saw with Mitsuki and Kisaragi, even that wouldn’t be the End Of Everything. Mitsuki learned she couldn’t define her existence through one person alone. Fubuki would learn the same thing, adapt, and live on.

  4. Of course the real reason Akagi won’t die is that Kancolle only really exists to promote the game and hook in new players. All over the web this morning there are fans disturbed that their waifu is dying and swearing that they will never watch the show again if Akagi dies. Happy fans means more potential players for the game and that means more $$$ (or Yen) for the game’s producers…

  5. Indeed. I’ve watched Kancolle from the start and find it enjoyable on a level. I also find it one of the most contrived and exploitative animes I’ve watched also. Kancolle has been carefully aimed at a particular viewing/gaming demographic from the start and its characters are specifically designed to appeal to that demographic.Mecha Musume animes aren’t that uncommon but this one with its game provenance lacks the organic dynamism of those arising from manga etc. I always get the impression that the action, the story doesn’t matter much, as long as the stable of waifus displaying their lovable character tropes get enough exposure every week, reinforcing accessing the game for its fans.

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