by Paul Jensen,
With an exclusively female cast and a story that takes place on and around a variety of Pacific islands, it was almost inevitable that KanColle would put together a swimsuit episode. It's an ancient cliché, but I always find it interesting to see how different shows handle it. Some revel in the chance to have their characters run around in bikinis, while others try to keep the plot going with varying degrees of success. KanColle falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum; it doesn't go overboard with its fanservice, nor does it try to cram major plot points into a half-hour side story.
The episode's island paradise is explained away as a frontline outpost for the fleet girls. The supply base is run by Yamato, a battleship girl who's armed to the teeth but stuck on land because of a fuel shortage. Never one to mind her own business, Fubuki decides to find a way to get Yamato out into the ocean. In between Fubuki's attempted jailbreaks, the rest of the girls frolic on the beach and freak out over the lavish accommodations.
Apparently, the joke here is that the battleship Yamato is named after saw very little combat in World War II, despite being big and powerful and whatnot. The ship was known for having unusually comfortable living space for its crew, hence Yamato's annoyance at Kongou's constant hotel jokes. The story makes more sense with that historical context, but it also works reasonably well without it. Yamato's frustration over not having a chance to do her real job comes through either way, and the conflict is simple enough to resolve over the course of one episode.
There are a few standard-issue swimsuit jokes, but KanColle ultimately doesn't spend much time on its bikini-clad battleships. It runs through a quick checklist of seaside antics, then moves right along. The episode is at its best during Fubuki's increasingly elaborate attempts to get Yamato into the water. Since Yamato's combat gear burns through too much of the fleet's resources, Fubuki cobbles together the world's least impressive raft and tows her around the island. There's something delightfully inspired about a ship girl building a ship for another ship girl, and it's a good example of how this series can use its odd premise to craft some unique jokes.
Apart from Yamato's introduction, most of the show's plot is put on the back burner here. The Abyssals only appear long enough for Yamato to show off her ability to blow stuff up, and most of the fleet girls just lounge around and fire off basic character humor. The one development of note is a brief exchange between Kaga and Zuikaku that finally closes the book on their rivalry. It's a nice little moment that plays up their stubbornly awkward personalities to good effect. Hardly a major plot twist, but at least that's one less storyline for the series to juggle.
I'm tempted to be harder on KanColle for taking things so slow this late in the season, but it could've done far worse. It's as though the creators were told that they had to make a swimsuit episode, then grudgingly decided that they'd at least make a good one. The finished product has some entertaining moments and avoids doing anything stupid, which counts as a win in my book.
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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