by Paul Jensen,
As many stories about time travel will attest, knowing the future can be a real downer. Few things are quite as frustrating as being aware that things are going to end badly for you and not being able to do anything about it. For instance, if you're a fleet girl named Akagi, you might have a few reservations about joining a mission that bears a striking resemblance to the Battle of Midway.
Up to this point, KanColle has been relatively vague when it comes to the fleet girls' connection to their historical namesakes. The references have certainly been there, but the show hasn't really made a point of calling them out until now. That changes within the first few minutes of this episode, as Akagi wakes up from a nightmarish premonition of the upcoming battle. Convinced that she can escape her fate, she asks Nagato to revise the plan of attack as much as possible. With a few minor changes to which fleet girls are in what group, the operation goes ahead as planned. Needless to say, it doesn't go well.
For anyone with an interest in military history, there's some compelling stuff going on here. The four carrier girls on the mission are named after the four carriers that were sunk at the Battle of Midway, but their escorts have been switched around a bit. The question becomes whether or not Akagi has done enough to shift the odds in her favor (or if she can even affect the outcome in the first place). For extra nerd points, it's also worth noting that the one-eyed Abyssal carrier seems to be standing in for the American carrier USS Yorktown. The ship was damaged before Midway, but ended up playing a major role in the battle. In that context, it'll be interesting to see how this all plays out.
In political terms, however, this episode is a minefield, full of the hard questions that have haunted this franchise for a while now. Is KanColle a militarized piece of nationalist fiction that takes a one-sided approach to alternate history? Is it simply using a well-known conflict to generate characters and storylines? From a critic's point of view, all I'll say is that this final battle may end up being a complicated experience for anyone with a personal or family connection to the Pacific Theatre of World War II. It'll take another episode or two before we get a clear picture of where the series stands.
Within the context of the show's own world, the story is headed into some pretty serious territory. KanColle appears to be setting up an old-fashioned tragedy with Akagi at the center of it all. Giving her the knowledge of her future without the ability to change it is a rough call to make, but it makes her a much more compelling heroine. The show is also keen to remind us that it's willing to kill off characters, with Mutsuki's visit to Kisaragi's grave acting as a pretty obvious moment of foreshadowing. On one hand, I'd hate to see a character as likable as Akagi get the axe. On the other hand, death is usually what makes tragedy work. No matter what happens, I'll just be happy to see KanColle stop throwing new ideas at the wall and commit to what it's already put in place.
KanColle is trying to juggle an awful lot of ideas here, and it'll take a deft hand to wrap everything up cleanly. Getting any one thing wrong could rob the final battle of its impact. Still, if the series can keep it together, it stands to finish on a high note. An awful lot will depend on what happens when Fubuki finally arrives on the scene.
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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