by Paul Jensen,
KanColle dropped some pretty major bombshells last week, though not without some collateral damage. The Abyssal attack took the plot in an exciting direction, but it also undid much of the buildup that the series went through earlier in the season. With the island base apparently abandoned, there's a whole new battle plan for everyone to sort through. Much as the fleet girls have to repair their shipyard, the show now has to set the stage for a slightly altered final showdown.
This episode has an unenviable amount of heavy lifting to do. Before the fleet girls can blow things up and save the day, there's a whole mess of details to sort out. The base needs to be rebuilt, the Abyssals' hideout needs to be found, and Fubuki has to go through her big remodel. That final task ends up being the focal point of this episode; Fubuki's obsession with preparing for the upgrade leads her to take some questionable risks during the search for the baddies.
KanColle does a respectable job with the remodeling storyline, but there's no feasible way to disguise what's going on here: Fubuki's stuck on the old experience point grind. The need for characters to level up before they can fight the final boss has long been the bane of game adaptations. It can be fun if you've got a controller in your hands, but it's often painfully dull to sit through when all you can do is watch. More so than any other plot device, it serves to remind the audience that they could just go play the game instead.
The good news is that the folks behind KanColle at least seem aware of these issues and are trying to compensate by throwing some emotional weight behind the level farming. When Fubuki nearly gets herself sunk on a scouting mission, it hits a little too close to home for Mutsuki. Afraid of losing Fubuki in the same way she lost Kisaragi, she lashes out in one of the most emotionally charged exchanges that KanColle has ever delivered. It's an interesting departure from the show's usual gung-ho attitude, and brings Fubuki back down to Earth in a believable fashion. When she decides to keep pushing herself, it's obvious that the decision is taken less lightly than before.
Unfortunately, this episode also brings back a problem that KanColle seemed to have done away with earlier in the season. The perpetually silent and off-screen Admiral is a constant topic of conversation this week, and the issues with his status as a non-character come screaming back into the spotlight. If the writers don't want to include a male character in the show, then they should just do away with the Admiral entirely and have Nagato and Mutsu run the fleet. If keeping the Admiral around is a must, then we really need to see and hear the guy. As it stands, he's a bizarre ghost of a plot device, too poorly defined to play as significant a role as he does. There are points in this episode where Fubuki's description of her conversation with the Admiral sound more like a religious experience than an interaction between two human beings. By the same token, Nagato might as well be trying to interpret ancient scripture instead of the Admiral's coded orders. It's weird, it doesn't work, and there are an embarrassing number of ways it could be handled better.
I like where KanColle is going, and it gets some important things right this episode. It's because of that obvious potential that the show's missteps are so frustrating. Watching this series feels like watching someone try to push a door open when the sign clearly says “pull.” It's putting in an admirable effort, but a little more forethought would make the job a lot easier.
KanColle is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Paul Jensen is a freelance writer and editor. You can follow more of his anime-related ramblings on Twitter.
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