Episode 9

by Paul Jensen,

Up to now, KanColle has always adhered to a “do your best” mantra that could've come right out of almost any sports anime. As long as the characters work together and train hard, things will work out the way they hope. However, Fubuki discovers a shocking truth this week: some people get to reap the rewards of their hard work before others. It's a hard lesson that forces the show to unpack some long overdue emotional baggage.

Yuudachi goes through a major remodel, which is essentially the fleet girl equivalent of a Pokémon evolution. She comes out of it a little taller, a little more mature, and with a fancier outfit and a bigger set of guns. Along with the upgrade, Yuudachi also lands a spot in Akagi's famous carrier group. Meanwhile, Fubuki gets zilch for her recent efforts, her unit is disbanded, and she's sent back to the fleet's home base. That's a lot for a destroyer girl to take in at once, and poor Fubuki doesn't react well to the news.

It's been a while since KanColle tackled any complex emotions, but it does a respectable job of presenting Fubuki's mixed feelings. While she's happy for her friend, she's also confused and angry that her own unit's being broken up. There's some genuine soul-searching going on in this episode, and Fubuki's inevitable breakdown packs an unexpected punch. It's a relatable moment of frustration that adds some welcome depth to her character. By hitting an emotional low point, the show also earns its upbeat moment of reconciliation that comes later in the episode. That rise and fall is what this series has been missing on many occasions, and getting it right makes a big difference.

Not content to take it easy after that story arc, KanColle also brings back the Abyssal carrier that Fubuki's unit fought a few weeks ago. She's got a blue flame where one of her eyes used to be, and she's apparently pretty ticked off about losing the last battle. She bombs the living daylights out of the naval district just before Fubuki arrives, reducing most of the buildings to rubble and potentially killing the Admiral. It's possibly the biggest plot development in KanColle so far, and serves as a signal that the stakes have been raised. With the season approaching its end, the show appears to be setting the stage for one final battle.

More than anything else, this episode shows what KanColle can do when it stops parroting its source material and tells its own story. Do ships get jealous of one another in the game? No. Can the Abyssals attack the player's base in the game? No, and that's the point. If you're going to adapt a fairly simple game into an anime series, you have to be willing to develop the characters and narrative beyond what's already there. It makes the series less predictable for existing fans and more worthwhile for everyone else.

I wish KanColle would show this kind of initiative more often, because it can be a darn good show when it really tries. This episode offers solid character development, moves the plot along, finds time for some humorous moments, and still throws in a few inside jokes for the series' core fanbase. A few more episodes like this one would go a long way towards helping KanColle end the season on a high note.

Rating: B+

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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