Kantai Collection: KanColle – 07

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KanColle got back to what it does best; the big brash naval battles and the smaller exploration of Fubuki’s struggles as a fleet girl. One of those stuggles is attempting to balance the stoic Kaga and fiery Zuikaku continue to clash, culminating in the former having to save the latter from a surprsie torpedo.

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Kaga is okay, but is out of action for the upcoming operation, like Akagi; Zuikaku’s sister Shokaku takes her place, but the incident causes Fubuki’s confidence in her ability as a flagship wavers. But hey, that’s what friends are for: Mutsuki and Yuudachi manage to cheer her up. After all, if she was really that bad, her motley group would have fractured entirely. She simply has to have faith in her fleetmates’ literal vote of confidence.

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Fubuki sets out with Mobile Unit Five and takes charge, ordering waves of recon planes long before they reach their primary target. That’s because the Admiral and Nagato warned her that the Abyssals probably have their codes. That puts Fubuki in a new situation: leading and attack while preparing for the worst case scenario.

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When an Abyssal battle group is spotted, the carrier sisters manage to damage an enemy carrier right out of the gate, and Fubuki has them stay back while the rest of the group moves in for the assault. Zuikaku, for all her protestations to the contrary, betrays her growing affection for Kaga when she tells her sister how she wishes Kaga could be there to see them kick ass.

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Here, away from port and any silly curry contests, KanColle is able to excel, but only to a point. The silly novelty of the equipped girls and the overall animation and energy level remains high, but there’s only so much enthusiasm I can muster in a battle against the painfully lame Abyssals. Yeah, they’re kinda cool-looking, and certainly a contrast to the Fleet Girls, but they have ZERO personality. They don’t even say anything; they just float there, scowling. There’s just nothing there.

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They don’t even put up much of a fight. Zuikaku, playing off of Kaga’s educated dice-rolling strategy in saving her earlier, decides to take a chance of her own when Shokaku is damaged in an ambush. Zuikaku tows her sis into a squall where neither force can launch planes, evening the odds.

She launches planes when the squall ends, but doesn’t quite get the timing right. At this point, I thought the sisters were toast, a la Akatsuki, but Fubuki and the others return in the nick of time to protect them.

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I’m glad the sisters ended up okay, but wouldn’t have minded if the show had turned down a darker path. After all, there’s plenty of characters where that came from, and losing two key parts of her fleet would be a fresh tragedy for Fubuki to have to deal with.

As for Kaga, her decision to take a hit for Zuikaku meant she got to hang out with Akagi in the docks, where she could sit in the hot bath, confident that her comrades would get the job done and make her proud, even in her absence.

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Kantai Collection: KanColle – 06

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This week KanColle ditches most of its action, all of its drama, and focuses on an entirely new group of young destroyers, the Akatsuki-class of Group Six. The only battle they fight is against their fellow fleet girls, and it’s not a naval battle…but a curry battle.

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After proving it could do good character work, along with the aforementioned action and drama, this episode came off as a bit of a disappointment, if an inoffensive one. Really, it reminded me of Girl Friend BETA, a show in which the number of characters kept multiplying and changing. But it’s also a show that even Zane dropped, because while its stories were never all that bad, they weren’t really hefty or novel enough to.

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It’s also worth noting that both GFB and KanColle are based upon games, and part of the role of their anime versions is to promote the characters. One commenter pointed out that the popularity of the characters in Fubuki’s new fleet jumped after last week’s episode, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens with these new girls.

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But while both last week and this can be un-cynically be regarded as glorified commercials, last week was more tolerable because it focused on the protagonist Fubuki and had an actual battle. The Iron (or rather Steel) Chef-style battle is mostly just messing round, and the underdogs predictably win when most of their competitors self-destruct.

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The fact that they did win over the only other contestant left standing because Secretary Ship Nagato is sick of eating spicy curry, and Group Six’s was mild, was actually kind of cute, because it shows us another side of her, but the cold open teased her going into something more substantial than a curry judging, and didn’t deliver quite the way I’d hoped.

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Kantai Collection: KanColle – 05

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I’d thought that Fubuki, Mutsuki and Yuudachi would remain roomies for some time, but the Admiral decides to shuffle the fleets in preparation for a wider southeast offensive. Fubuki would prefer if the new fleet she’s in has Mutsuki, but she’d prefer it even more if Akagi was in it. Everyone needs a big sis!

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There was a nice bittersweet vibe to their last night in their present bunks, with Fubuki and Mutsuki sneaking out for a walk and finding the rest of Torpedo Squad Three, who all promise to do their best no matter where they end up. Change is scary, but it can also lead to growth.

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And growth seems to be what everyone in Fubuki’s new fleet is in need of. Whether it’s the need to stop messing around and being so airheaded like Kongou, or the need for torpedo cruisers Kitakami and Ooi to think about someone besides Kitakami, or for Fleet Carrier Kaga and the slightly lesser carrier Zuikaku to get over themselves, Mobile Unit Five is the very definition of dysfunctional.

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One could also call it a damned mess. But Fubuki’s presence in it seems to be a calculation on the part of the Admiral, because Fubuki is in need of a different kind of growth: the kind in which she is able to put aside her insecurities and perceived inferiority with everyone, stand tall, grab this misfit fleet by the scruff of its neck and make it work, because nobody else is going to do it!

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The other five ships are bigger and stronger than her, but each time one of them tries to be the flagship, their training exercises end in unmitigated failure. But Fubuki has a torpedo girl’s soul, and while she does despair for a brief time, that soul (and Akagi’s encouragement) won’t allow her to give up and ask the Admiral to reconsider, which is what Zuikaku wants to do.

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She tells Zuikaku as much, and Zuikaku, who sees that fire in Fubuki’s eyes, doesn’t have the time to respond, because they’re sent out into battle right then and there. This time, Fubuki tells everyone to cool their jets and follow her commands. She is the decoy who charges forward while everyone else attacks the enemy, and after five straight failures in training, Mobile Unit Five’s first real battle is a convincing victory. And there’s nothing like a shared victory to break the ice between them.

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In the end, the others choose Fubuki as their flagship, which is the right (and if we’re honest, quite obvious) choice, and Fubuki accepts, trusting in her new comrades’ judgement. Turns out she was the one to bring them together; someone who could neutralize their clashing personalities; someone they could all agree on and rally around. Fubuki immediately asserts her authority by insisting Zuikoku and Kaga get along, because at the end of the day, all three of them think towel rabbits are cute. As was this episode.

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Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse – 01

Mankind makes first contact with a hostile extra-terrestrial race classified as “BETA” in 1967. Thirty years later, Earth has been invaded, and Japan is one of the last countries not directly under siege. Still, the enemy is coming, and shogun vasssal Takamura Yui and her classmates are being quickly trained for battle. One year later, in 1998, the capital Kyoto is under siege, and Yui’s trainee squad is one of the last lines of defense.

Aliens invade Earth and girls in skintight bodysuits have to fight them! Sound familiar? Well, with Total Eclipse, it’s all in the execution, and despite some flaws (more on them later), it does a very effective job selling the very real peril Yui, her comrades, and all humanity faces. This is a seemingly hopeless fight, and all the humans can seem to do is fall back and die before the implacable, merciless BETA. This encroaching darkness builds slowly as the episode progreses, culminating in Yui & Co. charging into their first battle. Once engaged with the BETA, the average soldier lasts eight minutes. Harsh stuff indeed – and not the environment you’d want high school girls in.

While this first episode successfully drew out the right emotions, it did stumble on a couple of technical points. The production values are uneven, and the CGI is not very well integrated with the conventional animation. Some vehicles – like the Mecha – are detailed CG models, but ordinary cars and trucks are hand-drawn and choppy. The character designs are somewhat plain and uninspired, and the mecha themselves, more often than not, just look like huge lumbering targets that can barely get out of their own way. After the eye candy smorgasbord that was Aquarion Evol, this is definitely a step down in quality, but as long as we’re emotionally invested – and we are so far – we can see ourselves getting used to it.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)