by Paul Jensen,
A day may come when KanColle stops shuffling its cast around, but it's not today. Another episode means another fresh batch of fleet girls, although some have made brief appearances before. This latest collection of characters deliberately includes a few clashing personalities, but things get off to a rockier start than the creators probably intended.
The ever-mysterious Admiral reorganizes the fleet this week, breaking up Fubuki's beloved torpedo squadron and teaming her up with a new group of ships. Much to her dismay, Fubuki quickly realizes that this new unit is a real hot mess. The aircraft carriers Kaga and Zuikaku want nothing to do with one another, and torpedo cruisers Ooi and Kitakami aren't exactly team players either. At least Kongou's around to lighten the mood.
Fans of sports anime can probably guess where this is going: surrounded by a group of talented but individualistic fleet girls, it's up to Fubuki to get them all to work together as a team. It's obvious early on that Fubuki will eventually step up as the team's leader. With the destination in sight, this episode's appeal rests almost entirely on how much fun the audience has in getting from A to B. The dysfunctional team runs through the usual comedy of errors as everyone takes a shot at being the flagship. The episode has its moments, but it's more gently amusing than outright funny.
The bad news is that the new girls leave a lot to be desired in the personality department. Kaga and Zuikaku are defined almost entirely by their rivalry, and they don't have an awful lot to say when they aren't exchanging snide remarks. That kind of hostility does have some comedic potential, but the writing lacks the subtle wit to pull it off. As a result, the two carriers just come across as nasty and stubborn. Ooi's jealous affection for Kitakami is occasionally funny, but Kitakami herself is too much of a blank slate. Most of her lines boil down to something like, “OK sure, whatever.” I understand that she's supposed to be a laid-back character, but there's a difference between “easygoing” and “practically comatose.”
On the positive side, Kongou does a lot to pick up the slack. This episode dials back her energy level from eleven to ten and a half, and that adjustment works wonders. With last week's showboating out of the way, Kongou gets a chance to have a semi-normal conversation with Fubuki when they find out that they'll be in the same unit. She still peppers her sentences with random English phrases and has all the subtlety of a wrecking ball, but we get a quick glimpse of the person under all that personality. In a group of one-note characters, she easily steals the spotlight.
Kongou's excess energy also helps to balance out Fubuki's absurdly earnest personality. A heroine who tends to overthink things needs a supporting character who can charge in and give her a shove in the right direction. The two of them also make a solid comedy duo, with Fubuki's flustered reactions adding impact to Kongou's antics.
After Fubuki finally manages to broker a truce between the aircraft carriers, there appears to be hope for this new group. KanColle does friendship and teamwork far better than it does dysfunctional rivalry, so a more united fleet should make for more enjoyable viewing. The writers just need to give Kaga and Zuikaku something to do besides bicker with one another, and maybe buy Kitakami a few shots of espresso while they're at it.
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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