January 17, 2015

Kantai Collection Ep02

After having been hiding from the weather for the past couple of weeks, I ventured forth into the frozen wastes of Northern Illinois this evening for a lovely dinner with The Librarian.  I mention this for no other reason than to make an interesting bit of filler for this, the top paragraph of the Second Episode writeup for Kantai CollectionIn the first episode, we met half of the entire Imperial Japanese Navy and none of you, my readers, seemed to notice that I used the opening monologue from the movie Pacific Rim to describe the background the anime presented us with.  That made me sad.  I only had to change two words, to boot.  Perhaps I'm not as clever as I thought I was.  In any case, that was then.  This is now, and I'm probably even less clever just from the ongoing march of time killing off brain cells.  Hopefully not measurably so, but how would I know?  I leave that as an exercise for the reader.  Maybe one of you will tell me, but I can understand if you don't... after all, it might be more entertaining that way!  "Hurr durr... stupid hair girl stabs dead guy with pointed stick."  And I've just gotten distracted fixing a youtube link at that episodic recap and now I've got the soundtrack of Les Miserables going through my head and I'm going to give up for now and pick this up later.  Okay, it's later now, let's get this show on the road!  Raise anchor, all ahead flank speed.  Damn the torpedoes!

It is not late, it is very early.  The sun is not up.  Nary a shipgirl is stirring.  But yet, here is Our Heroine, Fubuki, out doing physical training.  You've gotta put in the effort if you wanna be the best around.  Nothing's gonna ever keep you down.

Except for having all the agility of a giraffe wearing ice skates, that is.  That and not being able to hit the broad side of a barn from the inside might have something to say about it.  Which would make for an interesting show, I've gotta say.  Everybody else goes to war, while Our Heroine stays behind.  She has to deal with being useless, particularly when the other ships come back damaged... or don't come back at all.  She'd feel completely worthless.  Then, as the Abyssals make one final push to smash the fleet, she'd be sent out, along with whatever shipgirls were left in desperation.  Finally, she'd have her chance to make a difference... to be a hero!  And then she falls over, takes a few crippling blows, and is forced to watch helplessly as her friends, her home, and her hopes are destroyed in front of her eyes.

The end.


Ah, but it's not going to be that type of show, don't worry.  At least, I can't imagine it will be.  I'll be shocked if we see any shipgirls sunk, to be honest.  Even though that's what warships do: they fight, they die or get turned into razor blades, and a lucky few are kept as museums.  Oh, that's a creepy thought: what happens to retired shipgirls?  Do they end up going to the old ships' home, where they spend their last days in dementia, spilling oil into a bedpan and randomly firing off rounds from their main gun battery?

Some rare shipgirls are preserved in old but good condition and used as museum exhibits, all the while wondering if they'll get to visit the ocean one last time.  Every so often the new shipgirls drop by to say hello and have some tea and cakes with them.  Then they'll listen to the stories of the old days as the sun sets and the night sky fills with stars, each one the lights of a different fallen shipgirl.  And if they listen carefully, perhaps they too will end up in a museum as well...

Wow, that got maudlin fast.  Where were we?

It's classtime for all lil' destroyers, and an instructional class it is because we actually get a lesson on the Type 93 oxygen-powered torpedo.  They mention everything from its long range and high speed to how the exhaust is mostly CO2, leaving almost no wake behind.  None of this was anything new to me, of course, because let's face it, I'm a IJN nerd, but I was frickin' gobsmacked that the show went into what detail it did.  Or, more correctly, Fubuki went into the detail, because she's not dumb, just clumsy. 

Under the watchful eye of the cruisers Tone and Chikuma, she's going through extra training on her balance, but neither are particularly hopeful.  She's topheavy, and I pat myself on the back for mentioning last episode that the early Fubuki-class ships had stability problems.  I'll also point out that it's the battleships that are topheavy, not Fubuki, but that's neither here nor there.

The extra training... well, lets just say that it's not going so well and leave it at that.  Sadly for Our Heroine, her instructors, her squadron-mates and, ohbytheway, us aren't the only people noticing her impressive levels of ineptitude...

...speaking of top-heavy, it's probably not a good thing when the Fleet Secretary, she who passes on the orders of The Admiral, is watching your extra training and is not impressed in the least.  There's some ominous words bandied about, suggesting the possibility of Very Bad Things ahead for Fubuki and we cut to...

...Merry and Pippin trying to console Frodo.  Pep talks aren't working all that well, nor is the reveal that Fubuki's being talked about in the Fleet.  There's never been a shipgirl with such a stench of fail about her, and there is much looking askance in her direction.  Perhaps a quiet "tut tut" or "tch" is faintly audible as well.  She definitely needs additional training, and from someone who'd know best the travails that face a destroyer... let's ask Akagi-san!  Sure, because  a 42000 ton fleet carrier will easily understand what it means to be a 2000 ton destroyer!  Makes perfect sense to me!  She's reportedly to be down at the docks.

I suspect "docks" may not be the best translation; Akagi is up for repairs.  Perhaps "shipyard" might be better.  Technically the entire base should be called a "Naval Arsenal", since that's what the Japanese called them.  There were four primary Naval Arsenals, each tasked with defense of part of the waters around the Home Islands: Yokosuka, Kure, Sasebo and Maizuru, in order of size.  Maizuru could build destroyer-sized ships and Sasebo up to light cruiser or smaller heavy cruisers.  Kure is where they built Akagi, Yamato and Nagato.  Yokosuka was the primary base, though, able to construct ships of any size: Shinano, for example.  One thing I'm sure it shouldn't be called is a drydock, for reasons that'll become obvious soon enough.  But first...

...Atago rolls a natural "5", resulting in Fubuki being disabled for the rest of the round.  It appears that repairs in this world are carried out in a bath house.  Well, sure, why not?  I always feel better after a hottub or even a steamy shower.  As Pippin and Merry go home, Fubuki gets into one of the baths...

...I don't feel that good.  I'll have what she's having.  Then Akagi, says what we're all thinking: "you look like you're having fun."  I'll say.

She'll be in the "docks" for 15 hours, 30 minutes repairing from a single torpedo hit.  Fortunately for all involved, she has a sheet of the greatest invention ever created: bubble wrap!  *pop* *pop* *pop* *pop* until the Admiral sends along a bucket of Magic Repair Fluid and voila, Akagi is healed!  Which means it's time for lunch.

I... uh... um...  fleet carriers need a lot of resources.  In-game, Akagi is known as a glutton, so this is simply a nod to that, but if you didn't know that... wow.  After an uneventful rest of the day, Fubuki prepares for bed but she's waylaid by the light cruiser girl Sendai.  It's extra training time!

She has Our Heroine practice her balance by standing on baseballs.  This is a royal pain in the asterisk if you've ever tried it, and it's no surprise that it's being used to improve her leg strength.  All night.  By the end of the night, Frodo is battered and bruised from falling down so often, Sendai is amazed at her lack of talent but impressed by her sticktoitiveness, saying she's got the "soul of a torpedo girl."  Well.  That's special, I guess.  Just as she gets back to her dorm room...

...she's cornered by Jintsu for extra training time!  This time it's gunnery practice, which involves improving her aim via improving her balance.  Can you see where this is going?  No?  Okay, we'll keep going.  Jintsu lets Frodo go in time to get to class...

...where at lunch, Naka grabs her for extra training time!  Ohfertheluvvapete... this time around, the training is in becoming an Idol.  There's a lot of talk about becoming a star and standing out in a crowd, but really all she's trying to teach Our Heroine is poise.  Poise.  Balance.  Right.  Lots of that.

By the end of the day, Fubuki is completely worn out.  Well, yeah, a full day, a night, and another full day with no breaks and no sleep'll do that to you.  I once did around 60 hours straight getting ready for a play, and by the end of it I was standing on top of a 30' tall lighting scaffold and preparing to walk down to the stage via the walkway.  Except there was no walkway.  I saw one though.  That was the summer I got sunburned from the brand new stage deck: fresh blonde 3/4" plywood sheets that needed to be painted black.  On the hottest day of the year, as it turned out.  The inside of my thighs were burned.  The inside of my nose was burned.  Dear merciful god, my armpits were burned.  It was just slightly better than standing on a mirror for the day, but not much.  Oh.  Um.  Back to Frodo.  She's just about to fall asleep when...

...oh god she's back!  It's extra training time!  Except this time, Merry Mutsuki stands up, says "oh no you dint" and takes Sendai to the light cruiser dorm room where she gives all three of them what for. 

Which is all well and good, but they tell her about what Nagato said about Very Bad Things.  There's another assault coming up, but if Frodo isn't ready in time, she'll be dropped from the roster.  Well, crepe.  Ain't nobody wantin' that, except maybe me because it'd give us a chance of getting the scenario I laid out at the top of the writeup.  Just as they're starting to feel depressed, Yudachi Pippin comes running in, gasping something about Our Heroine.

It appears the Admiral ran out of patience.  "Put your hands behind your head," he says grimly.  Ever the dutiful shipgirl, Fubuki complies, kneeling at the same time.  She barely has time to hear the sound of the Nambu's slide clicking before everything goes black.  Next week, the fleetgirls rebel, burn the Naval District to the ground, and dodging Abyssals as they go, retreat to the base at Truk.  There, they hunker down and await whatever will happen.  Meanwhile, behind them, Japan burns as the Abyssals attack the unprotected coastlines.  No, wait, that's not what happens.  Fubuki is actually performing extra training time on her own!  Everybody is so impressed with her Heart of a Torpedo Girl that they vow to help her however they can.

Torpedo Squadron Three, fighto!  Cue training montage!  Frodo's balance improves over time, her accuracy improves to the point where she can at least hit the target occasionally, she doesn't seem to be falling over all that much, and...

...the fleet experts on torpedo warfare, Kitakami and Oi, give her personal lessons.  In real life, these two Kuma-class light cruisers were converted to special torpedo cruisers and given 40 tubes loaded with Type 93 torpedoes.  Seeing how these torps actually outrange battleship main guns, that's a helluva punch on a 6000 ton hull!  Here, though, Oi is a jealous, possessive lover who can't stand to have anybody even so much as look at Kitakami.  Fubuki is awestruck.  Finally it's time for the final tests.

To be blunt, she's still not ready.  She falls over.  She's not a great shot.  But she's trying very hard, and improving every day.  She has the soul of a Torpedo Girl.  Somehow that's enough for Nagato.

Frodo is to stay in Torpedo Squadron Three.  But the upcoming mission will depend on the six of them!  Fade to black, roll credits.

Much to my surprise, this episode may have been even better than Ep01; worldbuilding is always fun, and I've long said I enjoy the episodes where the new characters are trained in the ways of the group... I'm thinking of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS here, which arguably spent nine episodes on training... and that's all this was: building the team.  Sure, it was trite and has been done to death, but it was fun nevertheless.  Next episode looks like we're back to combat, and we'll see how that goes, but so far so good!

Next Episode: more zombies!

Finally, one thing I want to chat about that isn't exactly part of the episode.  Kantai Collection got an official OP this episode, and it's about what you'd expect, all rockin' guitars and dramatic singing.  But there's one image that we see very briefly that I want to investigate closely.  Namely, this one:

click for larger
Well, that's awfully disturbing, isn't it?  An aircraft carrier clearly in extremis, listing heavily, clearly smoking badly.  It's a grim scene to say the least... and it has no basis in reality!  "Wonderduck," I hear you saying, and really, please stop doing that, it creeps me out, "what are you talking about?"  Well, let's take a look.

This is clearly the Akagi.  There are only two carriers in history that had their Islands on the port side, the Hiryu being the other.  That ship was much finer-lined, essentially being built on an enlarged cruiser-style design; the one in the picture isn't that.  That leaves us with the Akagi.  At the Battle of Midway, the Akagi took a single bomb hit, nearly smack-dab in the center of her amidships elevator.  We see no sign of that damage here.  Instead, there's smoke rising from the forward and after lifts and from one of her AA gun positions.  Further, there's the substantial list; in real life, the Akagi was in no immediate danger of sinking from her damage.  The fires caused by the 1000lb bomb were out of control and she was destined to be burnt out, but it took torpedoes from her escorting destroyers to actually affect her hull integrity.

So what are we looking at here?  A poor imaging of what really happened?  A look at the future?  Or just something dramatic to suggest the history of the Imperial Japanese Navy, which our shipgirls are based on?  Or something else entirely? 

It is a puzzlement.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 01:14 AM | Comments (13) | Add Comment
Post contains 2540 words, total size 19 kb.

1 Actually, I DID catch the whole Pacific Rim riff.  But what can I say about it?

I didn't get any groans posted about the "Ferry Godmother" pun, and you don't see me complaining about it.

Oh, wait.

Well, until now anyway.

Um, was that old lady in the show, or did you just whip that up?  And what you would say to someone like that?  Call her "Your Ladyship"?

Posted by: Mauser at January 17, 2015 03:51 AM (TJ7ih)

2 I didn't get any groans posted about the "Ferry Godmother" pun, and you don't see me complaining about it.

I came very close to permabanning you for that.  I'm not joking. 

Posted by: Wonderduck at January 17, 2015 11:26 AM (jGQR+)

3 Um, was that old lady in the show, or did you just whip that up? 

Heh.  Someone needs to watch the ARIA franchise.

Posted by: Wonderduck at January 17, 2015 11:27 AM (jGQR+)

4 I would go with "something dramatic that loosely ties the real-world ships to their fantasy counterpart."  Which would also explain some of my other (very minor) concerns with the show.

I have to admit I went the other direction from you in how I felt about the show:  considering it's not particularly deep, I expected frequent action to make up for the lack of mental meat.  Plus, I've always had a beef with the Japanese theme of gumption/intention/desire (not that it's unique to Japan) trumping reality.  I can *almost* stretch my imagination to map strength exercises/stronger legs to upgrading the longitudinal strength and the balance exercises to adding ballast; but the imagery doesn't really jive with the fact that the actual fleet girl "equipment" is, at least to some extent, actual hardware.  Of course, it's *magic* hardware...

Also, if they have instant healing bath gel, that stuff better be so rare that's what the aliens are here for.

...

I guess it's time I finally watched Pacific Rim.

Posted by: Ben at January 17, 2015 11:30 AM (DRaH+)

5 I would go with "something dramatic that loosely ties the real-world ships to their fantasy counterpart." 

After I wrote this entry, I found  someone suggesting the concept that shipgirls are like the Servants in the Fate/Stay Night universe, the spirits of heroic ships summoned and given form.  I kinda like that.   

Posted by: Wonderduck at January 17, 2015 12:46 PM (jGQR+)

6 For the pun, or the comment above (which was totally meant to be taken humorously, not as an actual complaint)?

Posted by: Mauser at January 17, 2015 03:31 PM (TJ7ih)

7 The pun. 

Posted by: Wonderduck at January 17, 2015 03:41 PM (jGQR+)

8 That stuff -is- rare. You have to summon it with real yen, IIRC...

Episode was better than the first one, in the sense that it showed that the writers know they need to characterize the girls and not just have them show up and spit out their one line from the game before blowing something up. (To the point that they were willing to have someone get upset at the constant "poi", though -I- couldn't get away with threatening to pound her into poi with my eight-inchers...)

In the game, there's definitely the concept of "getting dismantled", though there it's "dismantle the copy of the card you found and get resources" rather than "get rid of the girl permanently", so they may or may not include the concept in the show. At least one of the official mangas (I gather there are a few) has, at one point, an admiral directly threaten to do just that to a couple of the ships that won't stop fighting and screwing things up. It's a much more sinister concept if each of the girls is actually, y'know, a unique person...

Presumably there simply aren't any "old" ship girls simply because they didn't have any at all before the Abyssals showed up.

Will they end up sinking anyone, especially any one on screen? Damned good question. There's a lot of speculation about exactly what the Abyssal's ship girls are - are they just "we created them because the ship girl thing was working for the enemy", kind of Arpeggio-style though hopefully with less derp? Or are they, well... salvage, which opens up all kind of deliciously grim plot possibilities? (An even grimmer alternative is that they could be... the traditional enemy force of the IJN, which has remained completely un-referenced despite the frickin' Bismark showing up in the game?)

Posted by: Avatar at January 17, 2015 03:47 PM (ZeBdf)

9 Presumably there simply aren't any "old" ship girls simply because they didn't have any at all before the Abyssals showed up.

You just hush.  I like the image of the Mikasa being an elderly shipgranny.

Posted by: Wonderduck at January 17, 2015 04:21 PM (jGQR+)

10 I didn't comment on the Pacific Rim riff because I thought it was too obvious to warrant mention.

Also, I need to re-watch Pacific Rim. It's been a few months.

The show: It does get tiring, the whole "well they're useless but at least they've got HEART" routine. Here, though, our erstwhile heroine has heart AND a near-Wonderduck-level knowledge of arms and armament. She's not useless, just clumsy... which is still an exhausting trope but slightly more tolerable (to me) than the reverse, which is the "great physical prowess but dumb as a post" version.

The Admiral's-POV bit was a bit odd. Supposed to be the 'player' insert/avatar, I guess? Still jarring in an anime adaptation.

Ah well. I'm still on board. (As it were.) It's fluffy fun and hasn't broken my brain. Yet.

Posted by: GreyDuck at January 17, 2015 05:15 PM (AQ0bN)

11

My take: remember that this is a culture where the dominant religion is animist. The ships have souls, and get reincarnated (as girls) when they are sunk. Since most of the Japanese Navy was destroyed in a short interval (just 4 years) and the ones we're watching were nearly all early war casualties, then they were all reborn in a period of about 2 years, which is why all of them are nearly the same age now, with "now" being read as 1958, which makes them all teenagers.

The idea of ships having souls is not unique here; there was an episode of Kamichu! about the soul of Yamato.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at January 17, 2015 05:18 PM (+rSRq)

12 I'm not sure I agree with your age/date plan, Steven.  For example, the sink dates are split quite evenly between 1942 and 1944-1945 for the most important characters.

Also the ages... if you're making their birthday when they were commissioned,  the Akagi was commissioned in 1927.  Wouldn't that make her 31 in your scheme?  Nagato would be 38.  And Kongo would be 45, with her commissioning date of 1913.  Oi and Kitakami would be 37.  And Frodo, our lead character, would be 31.

If you're saying their clock starts when they were sunk, that would make Frodo four years older than Nagato, 16 to 12.  I don't think that flies either.

If you're saying that they're like racehorses and all have the same birthday sometime in 1941, that would work, but then you'd have ships aging before they were put in the water for the first time (Shimakaze).

I'm fine with the idea of ships having souls being reincarnated, though I'm liking the "Heroic Spirits" concept more and more.

Posted by: Wonderduck at January 17, 2015 11:45 PM (jGQR+)

13 I think the girls' ages are derived from their personalities, and the personalities are derived from the ship type, design peculiarities, and maybe battle record.  There seems to be a dose of classism thrown in as well; "more important" ships will *obviously* be older and experienced, or just naturally talented.  On the other hand, some of the destroyers are actually depicted as younger girls.  Although I'm pretty sure in the game these fleet girls were later additions, I thought I saw a few of them in the anime.
I second The Admiral's nodding being a bit jarring.  I don't like it when a game or show tells me what I said or did.  Maybe that's why I can't get into visual novels.

Posted by: Ben at January 18, 2015 09:37 AM (ksPsw)

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