March 29, 2015

Kantai Collection Ep12

So here we are.  The culmination of three months worth of Wednesdays, all coming down to this.  It's been a long and surprisingly entertaining run, going all the way back to January 7th.  Along the way, there's been a Cthulhu summoning, incontinent shipgrannies, a deep and kinda disturbing love for Mutsu has grown, and more comments than any two Series Writeups combined.  Seems Kantai Collection struck a chord with some folks, good, bad, or otherwise.  I've had long discussions about the series offline, seen more than the show's share of bullhockey get spouted in online forums... cheeseandrice, the historical misconceptions I've seen about what actually occurred during the real Pacific War have been enough to make me loathe the American education system.  Despite all that, the series itself has been consistently entertaining, if somewhat pointlessly fluffy at times.  Well, we're not making Haibane Renmei here after all.  Hell, we're not even making K-On!

Which is a good thing.  The show always knew what it was, though maybe not always what it wanted to be.  Historic melodrama?  Comedy?  Lightweight fanservice vehicle?  Tragedy?  All of the above at the same time?  Or just Kantai Collection?  Let's go with that.  That's good enough, I believe.  And if it isn't going to win any "Best of 2015" awards, well, that's okay too.  So the end is nigh, how will it all go down?  So to speak, of course... "going down" isn't a phrase you want to use when it involves warships.  Or maybe it is, if you're the type of person who thinks of anime "that way".  If you are... um... ew.

We pick up pretty much exactly where we left off at the end of Episode 11: the Battle of Midway has begun, and history is doing Bad Things to our Shipgirls, which is what you'd expect.  Three of the four carriers have been hit, only Hiryu seems to be able to fire arrows, there's an Abyssal surface warfare fleet closing in, and Akagi is in dispair as an anti-shipping bomb is headed right 'twixt her eyes.  One can rail against fate, but it seems one cannot defeat it.  And then... ...I keep getting distracted.  The past two hours have been spent watching WarThunder Fail videos, random AMVs, and falling asleep at my desk.  So I'm going to take a nap and pick this up when I'm done. 

I'm back.  Six hours of nap later, I'm back.  If you're wondering why this writeup has taken as long as it has, there you go.  Where were we?  Oh yes... bombs fall, everybody dies.

Except not!

From out of nowhere, the Abyssal fighters attacking Akagi are wiped from the skies as surely as a windshield wiper cleans water spots from your windshield.  Assuming you have a fluid squirter, that is.  The one on the driver-side of the DuckMobile disappeared this winter; I can only assume it got removed with ice and snow accidentally.  I now carry a squirt bottle with me, however... not the most elegant solution.  So who is Akagi's squirt-bottle?

Well, yeah, of course it's Fubuki.  You were expecting maybe Yamato to appear out of nowhere to shoot down all the bad guys?  The situation, however, has gone from "bad bad BAD bad bad" to merely "bad bad BAD bad."  Without air cover, the badly beaten carrier group won't be going very far... and Akagi has no bow.  Welp, they're screwed.

Or... Kaga can give Akagi her bow.  Problem solved!  Except I can't figure out how this is supposed to work in real life, except for one carrier handing over its catapults to the other, but the Japanese carriers didn't have catapults, and "if you're wondering how he eats and breathes and other science facts (la la la!), repeat to yourself it's just a show, I should really just relax."  The air cover situation is resolved, but when Fubuki suggests that everybody should run away, the general attitude is "what?  In our moment of triumph?  You overestimate their chances."  Somewhere in the background, Chief Bast boards a shuttlecraft.  However, just as I manage to say "you're being stupid" to the screen...

...the cavalry arrives.  Shokaku and Zuikaku got Magic Buckets out of nowhere, and managed to sail with Yamato, who was joined by Oi and the rest of the Kongo sisters.  Four battleships, two carriers and a torpedo cruiser were just added to the Midway force... well, we aren't going to have history repeat, that's for sure.

Yamato, after giving a quiet speech about how she feels like she's been waiting for this moment for a very very long time indeed, we get it: fate, declares it open season on the Island Princess.  Unfortunately it appears the two earlier airstrikes didn't do as much damage as we thought, as not only does the target survive, it's trash-talking the Shipgirls: "Sink.  Sink again and again and again."  Okay Production Staff, we get it: fate.  Foobie Force isn't just facing Abyssals, Foobie Force furiously faces fate for finality.  While the carriers take on the enemy air cover, Yamato's job is to kill the Island while everybody else takes on the Abyssal surface fleet.

One great moment during all this is that my favorite of the Kongo sisters, Kirishima, gets a bad-ass moment.  Bad guys bearing down on her from behind, she 'hmph's, removes her glasses, and shoots three of 'em in the face.  Y'know, if it wasn't for Mutsu... did I just publicly declare my favorite shipgirl?  Ahem.  Back in the rest of the battle...

...Kitakami wasn't sunk in Ep11, but it's not looking good for her now.  Battered by torpedoes, beaten up by two destroyers and nigh-on constant attacks by fighters, she's outmaneuvered and the end is nigh.  Not knowing that her sister ship has actually arrived... she's been too busy getting kicked in the shins while the bigger ships stand around and discuss strategery... all she can do is scream for Oi.

...some of you may be saying to yourself that it's stupid to have a light cruiser drop-kick an alien naval vessel in the face, and even dumber to have it then throw the Abyssal ship hundreds of feet in the air and shoot it down like skeet.

To which I reply, well, yeah, but it's worth it just to hear Kitakami's "Eh?" reaction.  Besides, if this is what finally makes you think Kantai Collection has broken with acceptable forms of reality, I can't help you.  "Can't, Wonderduck?"  Can't, won't... some say tomato...

The first of the enemy carriers takes a boomheadshot.  Please note, this isn't Yorkie but another one of them... for history's sake, let's call it Hornety.  Hornety goes down under fire from Chikuma and Tone.  I'm going to take a second to address some complaints I've read at various online fora, namely that these Abyssal carriers sank too quickly.  To this, I can only reply bullhockey.  Carriers aren't built to take damage of any sort, but semi-armor-piercing rounds like what would be used here would be particularly deadly.  For one, there's a lot of 'em coming in.  For another, they're guaranteed to be hitting deep inside... magazines, engine rooms, all of 'em are hittable from gunfire.  Meanwhile, most aerial bombs didn't have the guts to through that much armor.  So what happens when an aircraft carrier undergoes direct gunfire?  Ask HMS Glorious.

As the Hornety goes under, Island Princess makes a truly disgusting noise and begins vomiting Buffaloes by the dozens.  At least, that's what I assume the noise meant.  Sure sounded like it.  Maybe some bad sushi?  We may never know.  Whatever, she's sure coughing up a bunch of 'em.  I remember the time I had some bad buffalo... not an experience I care to repeat.  Actually, it was probably beefalo, but the difference is really only obvious to another buffalo.

We get an amusing moment when Zuikaku gives Kaga a new bow, and Shokaku resupplies Akagi with arrows, then we're back to pummeling the Island runways.  Success!  The dive bombers render them ineffective which is probably asking way too much of the D3A to accomplish, but what the hell, just roll with it, eh?

Another volley from Yamato, and the Island Princess is dead.  D-E-A-D, dead.  Doornail.  Corpsetacular.  Pushin' up the daisies.  That's it, the good guys have won, and her final "Sink again and again and again," while invoking fate once more, seems to have no teeth to it.

So why don't these shipgirls look happy that they've broken the string they've all felt tying them to events that may (or may not) have happened before?  Well, there's three reasons for that.  Well, reason number one is that another Abyssal carrier ('Prissy!) has just popped up.  Reason number two is that Yamato is feeling the force of fate working against all of them; it's why she was late, for example, and if they retreat and regroup now, nothing will stop it from growing stronger still.  And then, finally...

...dead Island Princess is now alive Midway Princess.  This is what is known in the business as A Bad Thing.  A Very Bad Thing Indeed.  As Abyssal surface ships appear en masse, a sense of doom pervades the shipgirls... even Akagi, the first of them to face fate, feels fraught with frustration and, perhaps, a little fear.

It falls to the smallest to lead them.  Fubuki explains that the Admiral himself told her (waaaaaay back in Ep01) that everything would lead to this, and that everybody would be counting on them.  Retreating is no option, nor is losing.  So why not just go out there and win, huh?  Whaddya say?

"Good call."  Oh great, the Boss is here, everybody back on your heads.  For once, almost everybody is happy to see She Who Must Be Obeyed, because... well, hell, 16" guns are nothing to sneer at.  Yamato looks a bit put out, though.  Oh, did I mention that Nagato brought some friends along?

MUTSU!!!  Oh, and Nagato pretty much emptied the Naval District as well, bringing in almost everybody who could fight.  Some few were left behind... Merry, for example.  However, even the fleet that went up to AL shows up; this time around, they were always supposed to be a feint.  At least, that's what Nagato deduced from the Admiral's notebook.  Speaking of the Secretary Ship...

...a right cross followed by a standing side head kick with the combination finished by 8 x 16" guns at short range?  #justbattleshipthings.  Nagato has some frustration to work out, I think... being trapped behind a desk and all.  Finally, all the surface Abyssals are dead, Zeros rule the air, and EVERY fleetgirl shoots at Midway Princess.

Which kills her dead.  D-E-A-D, dead.  Doornail.  Corpsetacular.  Pushin' up the daisies.  That's it, the good guys have won, and her final "Sink again and again and again," while invoking fate once more, seems to have no teeth to it.  Oh wait, does that sound familiar?  It should, because Midway Princess regenerates before their very eyes.  It falls to Foobie to figger it out... again.

They're doing things wrong.  The Admiral left specific instructions to "destroy the enemy carrier fleet and base MI.  Also walk the dog twice daily and don't forget to pick up the mail."  They've been trying to kill the base, THEN the carriers.  To be fair, the dog and mail can wait.  With renewed purpose, they make short work of Prissy, then beat Midway Princess into the dirt... again.  Except this time, it doesn't even bother falling over.  Doubt pervades the fleet... can they really NOT beat fate?  The carriers are short on arrows, too, making things even more sketchy.  Until...

...armored carrier Taiho arrives on the scene.  Now, I'm not going to say anything about how in real life, Taiho wasn't commissioned until almost a YEAR after Midway because c'mon, I gave up on realism in this show a long time ago.  I'll admit to being curious as to why they gave her a crossbow (and a repeating one at that!) when everybody else has bows, but I'm not going to get into it, really, because there's more news.

The Admiral has returned to the Naval District.

Everybody perks up at this, but his orders are to destroy the enemy carriers.  Well, yeah, we've been doing that, but now they're all dead and Midway Princess is still laughing at us so...

...oh yeah, forgot about Yorkie.  Right on cue.  A short, one-sided skirmish rages, Yorkie's escorts are turned into chum, and...

...Foobie faces fate.  Allow me to refer back to something I said during the Ep09 writeup: "However, I think I see what's going to happen.  From what I gather, the upgraded Foobie has a very very high anti-aircraft rating, higher than some battleships, in fact.  She'll be assigned to CarDiv1 when they head off to the Final Battle, and it'll be her stalwart defense that clears the field of Abyssal fighters, allowing Kido Butai to sink all the enemy save for Yorkie, who'll be crippled.  Foobie will track her down and scuttle Yorkie with a brace of torpedoes, and the nightmare of Midway will be avoided."

Foobie fires fish force, floundering Fate frankly fscked.  Finally.  Fleet turns its guns on Midway Princess one last time, and this time ain't none of that regeneration crepe happenin'.

Foom.  Finale!


As the clouds part and the victorious fleet, bloodied but unbowed, makes their way back to the Naval District and their beloved Admiral, one can't help but think that all is wrapped up in a pretty little ribbon or bow or...

...hairpin.  Fade to black, roll credits.  Well, actually, fade to black, roll montage of stuff under credits, but the thought remains the same.

"Big Damn Heroes, Sir."  The montage ends with a black title card stating that a sequel is forthcoming.

So what do we make of Kantai Collection, when all is said and done?  In the end, I'm forced to say that it was both better than I could have hoped for, and worse than it should have been.  The Production Staff could have made a show unwatchable for anybody who doesn't play the game, and they avoided that trap.  They made believable characters out of what little information was provided them by the source material, took a ready-made story and executed it well.  Much of the art was good to very good; the 3D was... let's be charitable and say it could have been better.

However, there was a load of untapped potential here as well.  Clearly this was a Production Staff that could have seen that without opening a history book.  They threw away the opportunity to put some drama or darkness into the show after Kisaragi's sinking.  Even in the end, no shipgirls were lost in the fight at Midway.  I can only imagine that wasn't their choice, but that of the money behind the production team.  To be fair, it's hard to see how they could have sunk a few ships without the fanbase screaming bloody murder.  I just wish they had tried.

So a mixed bag.  On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being Eiken and 10 being Eiken buried in a concrete block that's set on fire and then shot into the sun, I'd give Kantai Collection a solid 6.  Having said that, I loved every minute of this series except for the curry episode and even that was acceptable fluff when I didn't have to do a writeup for it.

I'm happy to hear they gave it a second season... I suspect that it was always going to be 24 episodes, they just wanted to be sure it didn't completely bomb first... and hope that the Production Staff gets to operate with a few less restraints this next time around.

Next episode?  Who knows, but there's likely to be zombies.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 12:34 AM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
Post contains 2667 words, total size 20 kb.

1 Excellent write-up!  100% agree with your conclusions, although I suspect I enjoyed the filler episodes more.  I had forgotten that you predicted the Fubuki/Yorkie faceoff.  I have a hard time thinking of the Abyssal carrier as Yorkie now, though...the Abyssals seem more to be some manifestation of WAR or somesuch.  Of course, even in that context that carrier, which is clearly a persistent being, is occupying the historical space of Yorktown.

Posted by: Ben at March 29, 2015 08:54 AM (KUNWw)

2 I suspect I enjoyed the filler episodes more.

In retrospect, there was really only one TRUE filler episode: curry cookoff.  Eps like "Lets go to Truk" or "The Kongos" are redeemed by either being silly, having lots of Mutsu, or both... and rarely, Mutsu being silly.

But only Curry Cookoff could have been excised from the show's run without important stuff being lost.  Yes, I count Mutsu's glorious smile as being important.

Posted by: Wonderduck at March 29, 2015 09:49 AM (jGQR+)

3 Thank you for blogging Wonderduck, I've enjoyed your posts as much as the series itself. Now to go listen to Kongou Desu again...

Posted by: Riktol at March 29, 2015 04:23 PM (MQZN9)

4 Sorry, I got distracted by the link to the War Thunder Fail Montage.

Montages, really, because that was the 16th and there are a bunch more and wow, watching aerial collisions really doesn't get old, does it?

Anyway. KanColle. Better than it could've been, not as good as it should've been, yet still one of the few watchable series out of the entire season, which... says a lot about the current state of anime, doesn't it?

Posted by: GreyDuck at March 29, 2015 09:46 PM (AQ0bN)

5 Montages, really, because that was the 16th and there are a bunch more...

...and I've watched 'em all, plus pretty much everything else on BTG's channel, over the past few months.  Plus many of the videos on his friends lists, too. 

Nothing but time to kill.  Nothing but time.

Posted by: Wonderduck at March 29, 2015 09:50 PM (jGQR+)

6 1. Thanks for these writeups! I'm not the target audience, but you have helped me keep up with an anime series that is clearly iconic.

2. Maybe you should write a futuristic vehicle racing novel. Guys on the teams, personalities of the drivers, life of the news guys covering it, political stuff happening in the places they visit....

What if they had to travel to different planets within a solar system, or farther? They'd pretty much be giving up normal life for racing, even if their transports went pretty fast. But if they only had a few races per planet, every race being entertaining would be more important.

Posted by: Suburbanbanshee at March 30, 2015 12:00 PM (ZJVQ5)

7 I'm not the target audience...

Banshee, ain't nobody 'round these parts the target audience for Kantai Collection. anime series that is clearly iconic.

"Iconic" is such a polite word for it, much the way Heinlein used "individualistic" for his characters.

Posted by: Wonderduck at March 30, 2015 02:37 PM (jGQR+)

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