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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Kantai Collection: KanColle – 10

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Now that Fubuki knows the reason she was recalled to the Naval District was to be remodeled, she starts training like Rocky, if Rocky was a female Japanese anthropomorphic WWII-era destroyer, hoping to start glowing so she can become taller and more powerful, like Yuudachi, whom she inspired.

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Mutsuki is worried that Fubuki is taking things too far, too fast. She doesn’t want Fubuki to end up in a position where she’s trying so hard she gets hurt, or even sunk. Not to mention I’m sure she harbors worry about being left behind as Fubuki and Yuudachi get remodeled, leaving her in the dust.

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When Nagato sends the reunited Torpedo Squad Three for a recon mission and they’re attacked by Abyssals, Fubuki, eager to prove herself, rushes ahead and very nearly gets herself sunk, which is exactly what Mutsuki feared. It’s one thing to come out of your shell and start believing in yourself; it’s quite another to break formation and rush at the enemy head-on without thinking.

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Fubuki is lucky, as the Abyssal’s kill shot barely misses her. But what’s telling is that Fubuki doesn’t realize how lucky she is. The incident really puts a scare into Mutsuki, who’s so happy Fubuki is okay she jumps into the bath to embrace her while still in her uniform. Even after such a close call, Fubuki isn’t throwing in the towel; but Mutsuki worries as we do that if she keeps going like this, she’s going to end up like Kisaragi. And Mutsuki doesn’t think she could bear to lose someone else.

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Fubuki tracks Mutsuki down on the moonlit cliff where heart-to-hearts were meant to take place, and explains how the Commander, whom we’ve never gotten a clear look at and whose voice we’ve never heard, told her he brought her to the Naval District to join the fleet because he saw her in a dream…

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…Here’s where things get a little weird, because that dream features Fubuki in a wedding gown, with a wedding ring, on a rooftop in modern Tokyo. She also starts to say she loves him, before saying she “trusts” him instead.

Considering Mutsuki seems to want a romantic friendship with Fubuki, like many other sister ships seem to have with one another, this sudden inclusion of a nebulous male-female romantic dream-story is a little confusing.

Anyway, Fubuki promises she’ll never leave Mutsuki, but for some reason it sounds like a death flag, if not for Fubuki, than for Mutsuki.

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After watching Fubuki train so hard, Akagi decides to ask her be her escort, but Kaga challenges her to a test of her AA skills first. Fubuki agrees, and takes a serious beating from both fleet carriers, but keeps getting back up until all the practice planes are shot down.

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After all this, Mutsuki peels her off the dock, and she starts glowing the same way Yuudachi did, and it’s off to the factory. Rather amusingly, while her armaments and outfit are slightly different, her body is exactly the same, much to her disappointment, and Mutsuki’s relief. And Akagi officially appoints Fubuki as her escort for the coming battle.

That battle will take place at “MI”, which I have to suspect stands for “Midway Island.” If the battle there goes anything like it did in real life (and considering it’s implied the Abyssals have broken the Fleet Girls’ codes), Fubuki and the rest of the fleet are in for a rough time.

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