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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