by Paul Jensen,
Taking a break from a show's usual tone can be a good thing. Slowing down an action series offers a chance to let the characters be themselves without having to mow down an endless supply of bad guys. A more mundane episode can do wonders for character development or provide a welcome comedic interlude. Or, as KanColle proves this week, it can just be kind of dull.
Akatsuki and her fellow destroyer girls star in this episode as they take on the fiercest battle they've ever experienced: a cooking contest. They face off against some of the show's recurring characters in a bid to make the best curry in the district. There are no torpedoes to dodge, no Abyssals to sink, just a reasonably average anime culinary showdown.
The episode has its moments, but most of them assume at least a passing familiarity with the game. The destroyer girls' attempt at speeding up the cooking process by using an instant construction blowtorch is admittedly pretty funny, as is the appearance of the expedition failure graphic. Nagato's hatred of spicy curry combines nicely with her grim sense of duty to bookend the episode, as we initially assume that she's preparing to take on a suicide mission instead of getting ready to act as the contest judge. Kongou's habit of inflicting nicknames on the other fleet girls remains entertaining, but the “Ashigara can't find a guy” routine ran its course a while ago.
On the whole, however, I'm disappointed that this episode didn't make better use of the show's premise. With a cast of characters who are also warships, I expected to see a much more original take on the idea of a cooking contest. Shouldn't the aircraft carrier girls be using dive bombers to drop ingredients into the pot or something? At the very least, there ought to be a handful of explosions before the contest comes to an end. Any half-baked comedy can have characters mess up a dish because of their personality quirks. If you're going to start with a premise as outlandish as KanColle's, you'd darn well better put it to good use.
It also worries me that the show's animation quality seems to be slipping. The characters are staying on model for the most part, but this episode leans heavily on some pretty old shortcuts. Characters spend an awful lot of time standing still and talking to one another, and there are more establishing shots of the background than I'd expect to see in a setting as familiar as the naval base. I'm hoping this is just a case of the studio phoning it in on an unimportant episode and not a sign that the series is starting to hit time and budget constraints. It'll be tough to say for sure until the next big battle scene, but it'd be a shame if KanColle lost its visual edge after starting off strong.
If the series is simply running on autopilot this week, then so be it. As filler episodes go, this one is passable. It doesn't do anything horribly wrong and provides a few laughs here and there. Much like the curry that Akatsuki and company make, it's sort of bland but still palatable. You get to phone it in on this level once a season at most though, KanColle.
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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