The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Kantai Collection

Title: Kantai Collection
Genre: Action/Comedy
Company: Diomedea
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 8 Jan 2015 – 26 Mar 2015

Synopsis: A group of teenage girls who are are moe anthropomorphisms of World War II-era naval vessels, need to band together under the leadership of the inexperienced Fubuki to defeat the Abyssal Fleet. The enemy has taken the oceans of the world hostage and these temperamental girls must summon their courage if they are to stand against them.

The Highlights
Plot: Hardly noticeable.
Characters: Either forgettable or annoying.
Is it like the game?: If this anime is anything like the game, no one would play the game.

Kantai Collection is an anime adaptation of the wildly popular browser game of the same name. Anime like this occasionally give critics trouble. As a multimedia adaptation, unfamiliarity with the franchise may cause reviewers to not fully understand the anime. On the other hand, critique by someone familiar with the game and universe may result in “fan boy” bias. The debate is tiresome and irreconcilable, but Kantai Collection suffers no such conundrum – it a failure in both aspects. As an anime in its own right, it is a nearly unwatchable mess that gives unfamiliar viewers a poor first experience with the franchise. As an adaptation, it’s clear that little effort was put into narrative, world-building, or anything that could enrich the Kantai Collection universe as a whole. By any standard, Kantai Collection is a poor adaptation of its source material that contributes nothing of value to its franchise.

At best, the characters in Kantai Collection are underwhelming clichés. It is understandable that the opportunities for character-focused exposition are limited in the format of a browser game, but the anime makes a feeble attempt at exploring its cast beyond the source material. Fubuki, the mascot of the game and lead character in the anime, goes through the song and dance of overcoming failure and gaining confidence in herself, but the whole routine is so formulaic it’s a wonder why Kantai Collection even bothered. The cast is also huge; upwards of 30 different characters make an appearance in the anime. This is presumably to satiate fans that are eager to see their favorite ship appear in the show, but it exacerbates the criminal lack of characterization. As if out of thin air, new characters appear with no other introduction than the already-present characters exclaiming their names out of surprise. Their surprise, however, is dwarfed by the surprise (and confusion) of the viewer.

Complete inaccessibility to those outside the fanbase aside, the plot Kantai Collection shovels out is underwhelming.  Evil-looking ship girls called the Abyssal Fleet attack, and our motley crew has to save the day and lead a counterattack. The show doesn’t bother establishing what the Abyssal Fleet want, or what they even are; the viewers are left to conclude that they exist to give the characters something to do. Of course, there is the whole gamut of bathing scenes, beach scenes, and other sitcom staples to give fans all the service they need. The actual combat scenes, when they do show up, are pretty entertaining. The way the girls “sail” on water by zipping around on their feet looks utterly silly, is well animated and evokes a good sense of speed. There is some light usage of CGI, but it doesn’t look bad at all.

Kantai Collection fails to establish its characters in a way that viewers can connect with at even a basic level. This eliminates any possibility that the plot can create any kind of pathos, not that the bare-bones, deus-ex-machina-laden storyline would have done so anyway. But beside the narrative itself, Kantai Collection’s neglect of character exposition broadcasts a message that new fans are not welcome. A message that you would understand what’s happening and get all these jokes if you were a true fan that have played the browser games. After my experience with the Kantai Collection anime, I can’t say I have any interest in doing that.

The Rating: 3

Reviewed by: kevo

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