by Paul Jensen,
KanColle didn't do itself any favors last week. Its low-rent comedy episode put anything resembling a plot on hold in favor of mediocre humor and uninspired animation. There are plenty of ways to rebuild a show's momentum after a dud like that, and KanColle goes with the simple approach this week: it gets right back to work as if the filler episode never even happened.
The story takes us back to Fubuki's troubles as the flagship of her new unit. She's finally got Kongou and the torpedo cruisers under control, but there's seemingly no cure for the feud between the carrier girls. Zuikaku and Kaga still butt heads constantly and put themselves in danger while trying to one-up each other. The result of their rivalry is inevitable: Zuikaku strays out of formation in an attempt to show off, and Kaga ends up diving on a torpedo to keep her from sinking. Kaga finds herself stuck in the repair dock/bath while Zuikaku goes on a self-induced guilt trip, but the fleet's off on its next mission before the two of them get a chance to talk it out.
The carrier feud was my least favorite of the new character dynamics introduced a few weeks ago, as it initially lacked the depth it needed to be interesting. Kaga and Zuikaku both came across as hardheaded and unpleasant, which didn't make either of them likable. This episode adds a bit of nuance to their relationship, and that small change makes a big difference. Kaga's painted as the more pragmatic of the two, and is more concerned with doing her job than with making friends. That attitude comes across as arrogant to Zuikaku, who already has a chip on her shoulder because of Kaga's celebrity status amongst the other girls. These subtleties may have been in place before, but they're far easier for the audience to grasp in this episode. Both characters end up feeling a little more human, and it's easier to care about what happens to them as a result.
Both the opening torpedo scene and the battle that takes up the episode's second half carry some genuine dramatic tension thanks to KanColle's previous big story arc. By killing off poor Kisaragi early in the season, the show established a precedent of sinking fleet girls if the story calls for it. Whether or not the series ever decides to play hardball again, the possibility of character death will remain in the back of the viewer's mind any time an Abyssal ship gets a clear shot at a minor character. That extra sense of risk helps add to the intensity of battle scenes, making for more compelling viewing.
This episode also does something that KanColle hasn't really attempted before: introduce a potential recurring villain. Up until now, the fleet girls have more or less annihilated every Abyssal group they've come across, and a lack of surviving baddies means that nobody gets to come back for revenge later on. Not only does this episode deviate from the usual pattern, it all but promises that we'll see that damaged Abyssal carrier again. None of the enemies have had any spoken lines thus far, but that one-eyed glare practically screams, “I'll be back.” The prospect of Kaga and Zuikaku having to work together to defeat her/it is certainly an intriguing one.
While it remains more competent than exceptional, it's nice to see KanColle back on form this week. When its action scenes are firing on all cylinders and the writers put some work into developing the characters, this can be a very entertaining series. What it needs to do now is find a way to maintain that level of quality for more than one or two weeks at a time.
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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