January 10, 2015

Kantai Collection Ep01

Wow, here's a shock, I'll be doing episodic writeups for Kantai Collection!  Sure, I've said I'd be doing them, but I'm really, really doing it!  As has been previously stated, it's not like this show is perfect for me or anything... the spirits of Japanese naval vessels from World War II reborn into the bodies of young women.  Throw in a rubber duck and a F1 car and we'll effectively have all of my serious hobbies all in one place.  And then The Pond will collapse in upon itself, forming a black hole of blog; all writing therein will be self-referential... nothing from the outside will intrude, nothing from the inside will interest.  So, kinda like MySpace, then.  Of course, that almost certainly won't happen... why would a F1 car show up in this show?  I've said it many times before, however: if an episode of anime contains both a rubber duck and a F1 car, The Pond will shut down.  If the duck is driving the car, I'll close it right then and there.  If they're in the same episode, I'll finish the series.  Somewhere, one of my readers is on the phone to SHAFT, trying to make this happen.   And I don't blame them, really.  I'm actually a little excited about the possibility: it's not like most blogs have a defined and announced endpoint.  Brickmuppet isn't going to close his when he graduates from college.  Ben's not going to close his when the Texas Rangers win something.  Steven isn't going to close his when the ducks invade.  But if one animator out there that was on the production staff of Rio Rainbow Gate! is still holding a grudge, he has the power to end me.  That's kinda fun to think about.  Know what else is fun to think about?  Kantai Collection!  Let's have me stop bloviating and get right to the recappin'!

When I was a kid, whenever I'd feel small or lonely, I'd look up at the stars... wondered if there was life up there.  Turns out I was looking in the wrong direction.  When alien life entered our world, it was from deep beneath the Pacific ocean. 

A fissure between two tectonic plates.  A portal between dimensions.  The Breach.  I was 15 when the first Abyssals made land in San Francisco.  By the time ships, jets and tanks took it down six days and thirty-five miles later, three cities were destroyed.  

Tens of thousands of lives were lost.  We mourned our dead, memorialized the attack, and moved on.  And then, only six months later, the second attack hit Manila.  And then the third one hit Cabo.  And then the fourth, and then we learned that this was not going to stop.  This was just the beginning. 

We needed a new weapon.  The world came together, pooling its resources, throwing aside old rivalries for the sake of the greater good.  To fight monsters, we created monsters of our own.  The Fleetgirls program was born.

Oh boy.

Show of hands: who doesn't know what Kantai Collection is?  Okay, quick recap.  Originally, Kantai Collection (Kancolle) was a free-to-play browser game about WWII naval ships fighting alien invaders.  With vague Pokemon overtones (gotta catch 'em all, upgrading the ships, etc etc etc), each "ship girl" had an individual personality and a  number of different upgrade/damage states, and is professionally voiced.  For whatever reason, probably because the shipgirls are uniformly cute as a button, the game completely blew up.  Getting an account to play these days is roughly as easy as winning the lottery.  Certainly the most popular franchise in Japan at the moment, even outstripping Touhou for "peak value" (though that franchise still has history on its side), the game has even caused a boom for Windows-based tablets in Japan because you can't play it on Android.  That's certainly seems like a phenomenon to me.  Anywhoodles, multiple manga titles, a collectable card game, numerous figurines and statues, and a flat-out insane number of Pixiv artworks later, we now get Kancolle: The Anime

This first episode is going to be nigh on impossible to really cover, because it's pretty much just an introduction show.  Fortunately, the first person introduced is...

...our POV character, named Fubuki, the first of her class of destroyers.  She's new to the whole Fleetgirls thing, just assigned to this location.  After meeting the Admiral in charge, she seems a little agitated about something but hey, first day at the new job and all, right?  She's assigned to Torpedo Squadron 3, a group of ships in charge of scouting, being fast, and torpedoing the hell out of anything that comes along.  Of course, Fubuki has no idea where she's supposed to go, but no worries!

She's met by Mutsuki, another member of Torpedo 3.  Aha, the first friend, aces!  She'll be showing Fubuki around, but first stop has gotta be the bunkroom, right?  There, we find...

Yudachi, another destroyer and the last of the roommates.  She has a... habit... of working the sound "poi" into almost every sentence.  The Kancolle Wiki indicates that it's kinda like adding "-ish" to things: "fullish," "greatish," "hardish," and so forth, in which case I'll need to work very hard to not pull out a 2 x 4 and start a-whackin'.  Violentish.

All the commotion draws in two of the final members of the Fellowship Squadron, Jintsu over there in the door, and her sister Sendai is the one molesting Fubuki.  Along with their other sister, Naka (not appearing in this shot), they're light cruisers.  Meanwhile...

...scout planes from the Fourth Fleet have found an Abyssal base.  And by "scout planes", I mean something that looks like an airplane, but is spawned from an arrow and piloted by fairies.  Yes, fairies.

One of these days, you're going to learn that even my sense of the ridiculous can't possibly compete with some of the things anime throws at us.  The Emperor's Eagles, the scourge of the Pacific, are now adorably cute.  Somewhere, Tetsuzo Iwamoto is whirling dervishly in his grave.  Meanwhile, back at the naval base...

...Frodo, Merry and Pippin our three destroyers have done some sneaking around and are observing the Prides of the Fleet, Akagi and Kaga, the bestest carriers around.  They're honing their skills privately and undisturbed... until Kaga notices the hobbits destroyers hiding in the shrubs, and there's another one of those sentences I never thought I'd type.  After a very gentle chiding, Akagi recognizes Fubuki...

...and tells her that she hopes they'll be in the same fleet someday.  Cue blushing, stammering, walking on air, et cetera.  Eventually the others tie a string to her foot before she floats away and they head for the local cafe....

...where Fubuki's still got the whole hero warship (see what I did there?) thing going on.  The other two are somewhat less than pleased by this, for whatever reason... jealousy, I suppose.  "First day on the job, and you've got Akagi praising you?  I've been here for months and..." would probably be the correct tone.  But just as she starts to come out of her fog, the base siren sounds.

Flagshipgirl of the Fleet Nagato is calling for an attack.  The plan is simple: Torpedo Squadron Three will move ahead of the main fleet, perform recon and in the way of all light warships everywhere, hope to survive.  "Recon by being blown out of the water" is effective, but not the safest way of doing things.  Support Fleet Two, containing the big guns, will perform the direct-fire role, while Carrier Task Force One, with a whoppin' four carriers (Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu and Soryu), will be doing most of the heavy lifting.  Immediately upon announcement of these dispositions, the order is given for Torpedo Squadron Three to sortie.

Cherenkov radiation glows blue, doesn't it?  Wouldn't that be a lousy thing?  All these shipgirls trying to save the world, and they're being given ridiculously high doses of radiation.  Fubuki is in quite a state.  You'd think she'd be excited or anticipatory, but in fact she's having serious morale problems.   

Everybody else is launched smoothly and sails off to get their rigs installed, but Fubuki is about as graceful as a hippopotamus on ice skates.  How very odd.  You'd think that as the name ship of one of the most important classes of destroyers ever, she'd be at home on the water.

Her technomagical rig is slapped onto her, and she's no longer Fubuki the shipgirl, but Fubuki, the embodiment of the WWII destroyer, designed for combat and destruction.  Quickly after Torpedo Squadron Three sails, the other two groups take to the water, and the whole fleet begins to make its way to its date with destiny.

It quickly becomes apparent that Fubuki is having serious problems.  No, it's nothing technical.  Yes, everything is working fine.  It's only that she's never been on a mission before, basically because she takes to water the same way bricks fly.  For those who aren't sure what I mean, the correct answer is "poorly."  I wonder if this is all a subtle reference on the instability the first Fubuki-class ships had?  If so, good job Production Staff!  Very clever!  She's gonna have to fix that pretty darn quickly though, because...

...it's at this point the Abyssals attack!  A pitched battle ensues, both sides dealing and taking damage.  Two of the light cruisers are damaged, but Fubuki is managing to keep up with everybody, though perhaps not fighting at anything approaching peak ability.  Still, it could be worse.  The squadron approaches the Abyssal base, and everybody is starting to feel a little tense, when...

...I'M A SHAAAAAARRRRRRK!  Oh.  This is the end of Our Heroine, nommed like a california roll as a warmup to the real meal... mmmm, destroyer sushi with a good dollop of wasabi in the soy sauce; that's good eatin' right there!  However, just as the Abyssal is about to bite her head clean off...

...a lone Zero swoops down out of the sky, guns a-blazin', and blows the critter to smithereens.  Using its guns.  Hm.  So these Abyssals... they aren't very tough, are they?  Two 20mm cannon and two 7.7mm machineguns are enough to kill one?  Not very tough at all.  My guess is that the thing would have broken its nose when it bumped against Fubuki.  But hey, it's dramatic, right?  That's not enough firepower to kill a Wildcat reliably, for heavens sake, but it kills an alien attacker?  Good lord.  Well, it explains what happens in a few moments, anyway.

It's the carriers!  Here they come to save the daaaaaaaaaay!  They tell the Torpedo Squadron to pull back, and... commence the arsekicking!

Within a few seconds, most of the Abyssal fleet is going kaboom under a deluge of bombs and torpedoes, leading one to wonder just why they needed to risk Torpedo Squadron Three in direct combat in the first place... but I'm silly that way, I guess. 

The Abyssal commander is still unharmed, but that doesn't last long.  A barrage from the battleships of Support Fleet Two and some torpedoes from Akagi's bombers drop her shields, then a dive bomber puts one right between her eyes.

 That must be jam, 'cause jelly don't shake like that.  I ain't sayin' nuthin', but that ain't right.  Cool as the other side of the pillow.  I like the way you work it, no diggity.  Booyah.

Back at base, Fubuki is having the stereotypical crisis of faith when the Admiral approaches her.  We don't get to hear the conversation, but she scurries back to the dorm, charges into the room and announces that she'll become stronger and eventually be Akagi's escort!  Fade to black, roll credits.

Well, I dunno about you, but I'm giddy.  It was a really fun first episode, if a bit formulaic.  Most of the shipgirls don't have much in the way of characterization yet, but it was just the first episode... there's time.  The questions now are can they keep up the "fun level", and how will they take the plot?  Will it be an "Abyssal of the week"?  Will it be a slice-of-life show with torpedoes?  Or will it be a sneaky look at the dark side of war as shipgirl after shipgirl is lost?  While that last one would be fascinating, I don't think it'll head that way.  We will see, though, won't we?

Next week: more torpedoes zombies!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 03:55 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
Post contains 2070 words, total size 16 kb.

1 Seeing those girls cruising along, my first thought: "My, they're very fleet of foot."

Abyssal Commander, kinda hot, in an evil alien kind of way.

I'm sure Fubuki will get over her problems, maybe with the help of a Ferry Godmother.

Posted by: Mauser at January 10, 2015 11:17 PM (TJ7ih)

2 Bonus points for "whirling dervishly." Possible demerits for "hero warship."

Aw, who am I kidding? I could only dream of claiming I came up with a great pun like "hero warship."

Well done, sir. Keep 'em coming.

Posted by: GreyDuck at January 11, 2015 12:41 AM (AQ0bN)

3 " Somewhere, Tetsuzo Iwamoto is whirling dervishly in his grave."

You mean "dervish-poi", no?

I don't know. The whole thing is hard to fathom. It may be out of my league.

Posted by: topmaker at January 11, 2015 01:03 PM (2yZsg)

4 I thought your writeup was 10 times better than the actual episode. I was going to keep it up for another episode or two (on the off chance it improved) but if you're blogging I might well stick with it.

Posted by: Riktol at January 13, 2015 01:55 PM (zDlKl)

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