艦隊これくしょん -艦これ- 第1話 「初めまして！司令官！」
Kantai Collection -KanColle- #01. 「Hello! Commander!」
Source Material: Online card game by Kadokawa Games
Director(s): Kusakawa Keizo (草川 啓造)
Series Composition: Hanada Jukki (花田 十輝)
Music: Kameoka Natsumi (亀岡 夏海)
Kantai Collection, also known by its short-form KanColle, is originally a free-to-play online card game developed by Kadokawa Games first launched in April 2013. After its huge viral success online, the game expanded into a much larger media franchise, inclusive of more than eight manga series of various formats, multiple light novel projects, a short story adaptation, a tabletop role-playing game, a video game for the Playstation Vita console, an original game soundtrack, a drama CD, and the currently ongoing anime series by animation studio Diomedéa.
In a world where humanity faces an imminent threat in the form of Abyssals, supernatural beings of a mysterious fleet that appeared from the depths of the ocean, the only ones capable of fending off against these abnormalities are of a counteractive fleet of girls who possess the souls of warships from the past. On a beautifully sunny day, Destoyer Fubuki transfers into Torpedo Squadron Three of the Chinjufu naval base as a new recruit. Fubuki’s preceding reputation as a special type of destroyer ship and her soft-spoken self mislead the rest of her squadron into believing that she is a battle-honed warship, when she actually has never even been in a real battle before. On campus, Fubuki accompanies two of her new teammates, Destroyer Mutsuki and Destroyer Yuudachi, to observe Fleet Carrier Akagi, the pride of the First Carrier Fleet, practicing her archery. The three girls are spotted after Fubuki clumsily runs into a tree branch and are reprimanded by Akagi’s second-in-command, Fleet Carrier Kaga. Before the two groups of girls go their separate ways, Akagi expresses towards Fubuki that she has had high hopes for Fubuki since hearing about her from their admiral and hopes that they may fight in the same fleet someday, a prospect that Fubuki swoons over the thought of afterwards when the three girls of Torpedo Squadron Three are subsequently having desserts at a café. Suddenly, a global alert system calls all fleets into formation to begin an operation to attack a newly discovered Abyssal naval base. The main force is to consist of Akagi’s fleet, Fubuki’s squadron, and a third support fleet. Fubuki is apprehensive about the mission as the recruits prepare for launch and equip their weapons, and it is finally revealed to her team that she has zero battle experience when she can hardly maintain her balance on the water. While the rest of the fleet girls do well in exhibiting their capacity for combat in the heat of battle, things take a turn for the worse when Torpedo Squadron Three closes-in on the enemy base and Fubuki is caught off-guard by an ambushing Abyssal. Fubuki misses a point-blank shot due to her eyes being closed in fear, but Akagi and the rest of the fleet arrive in time to save her and finish decimating the remains of the enemy base. Standing in front of the sunset in reminiscence of the battle and (figuratively) blown away by Akagi’s strength, Fubuki is initially dejected about her own ineptitude; but after a sudden encounter with her commander, she (figuratively and literally) makes an about-face and retreats to Torpedo Squadron Three’s dormitory to express to her teammates how she has resolved to do her very best and become stronger.
First off, shout-out to KanColle for what is perhaps the most convincing and vaguely (un)intentional reenactment of Nasu no Yoichi at the Battle of Yashima. It’s a bit hard to tell if it is or is not a forthright tribute because while some elements match-up to the tale sufficiently so, i.e. the war setting and the ship-less mount in the ocean (though I suppose in this case, the girl is the very ship itself); at the same time, the tone of the scene is different enough in that both are triumphant displays of a certain individual’s astounding strength, but one is the signal of the real beginning of a great battle while the other (this one) is the signal of the definitive end of the battle. Either way, if I were to imagine the historical moment in animated form, it would look very much look like the mise en scène presented this week, so bravo, Diomedéa. Kantai Collection -KanColle- is the second of four shows apart of studio Diomedéa‘s relatively big presence in this not so big season of anime. Some may or may not know that it is based upon an online card game that is currently still experiencing a tremendously successful reception in Japan, a popularity that more than strongly derives from the series’s idol-licious cast of characters. The need to appeal to the very same fans who brought the original game its prosperity by having this anime adaptation follow suit in depicting the same beloved aspects is fully understandable; but unlike the idolized (by in-narrative characters and fans alike) bow-wielding maiden character in the show itself, KanColle may have missed a vital mark in its approach to story-telling by continuing to focus heavily on the thin story elements of the game and putting into the limelight a re-worked character who, for all intents and purposes, serves as an over-shadowed inferiority of a character whose lens we see through to reveal, quite literally, the real stars of the show. There’s not much that is particularly captivating as we settle for this over-told account of a new recruit initially emotionally stifled by her inability to match her peers until she finds a source of motivation in the form of a shining role model figure. When we hear Fubuki recite the nearly customary line (for a story of this sort), “So this is a real battle…”, it’s hard to not think it out of context because, frankly, we’re still trying to digest just what the hell high school girls incarnated with the spirits of World War II vessels jet-skiing into black whale-like creatures with ejectable cannons in their mouths is before we can even begin to constitute it as some kind of battle at all. Seeing as how it spawns from a franchise with a cast of more than two-hundred characters under its belt, it’s no surprise that as an anime adaptation KanColle has no need to design its own original characters to procure the spotlight like many other anime adaptations do. However, the original game having never strictly defined a universal framework has allowed for its huge network of media spin-offs to engage in creating various settings with secondary canons, so it’s that very same source material that makes it plentifully difficult to predict anything about the equally-important-to-characters (if not more so) constituent of narrative for this show. It’s a complication but nothing the anime art-form isn’t used to, especially with this sub-genre of mecha musume. Of course, my watch history tells me nothing other than to have no expectations going in, but that’s not to say that no such show has ever exceeded expectations. What we can take at face-value from this premiere is Diomedéa‘s (already commended) art and direction; disregarding the shot of Battleship Nagato and Battleship Mutsu in the war room being conspicuously re-used four times and the considerable fraction of the episode consisting of 3DCGI (nearly every shot that isn’t a close-up portrait of a character, really―but for that particularly gripe I may just have to tell the disparagers to get with the times), it’s a clean presentation that the studio is delivering to us. And so, it all boils down to what kind of form of entertainment can be made from the aforementioned, unusual resources the show has inherited as a derivative work. For a closing statement, I do have to share that it’s a rather eye-opening moment when you visit the Kancolle wikia page and take the terminology as it is until you click on a tab entitled “ship list” and get re-directed to a rather surprising page of more than two-hundred, not ships, but, pubescent anime girls. Or maybe it’s a moment that makes you want to close your eyes (you could even interpret the title of the series itself as an ironically truthful expression of disturbingly wanting to round-up each and every kind of girl there is into one complete collection); whichever way, KanColle now resides at the forefront of a still-continuing trend of young female sensationalism in pop culture media with only signs of clear sailing for it ahead. I believe the phrase “if you can’t beat them, join them” can apply to a sea-faring life-style pretty well, can’t it?