A mysterious fleet known as "Abyssals" appeared from the depths of the ocean, driving humanity from the seas. The only thing which can stand against them are girls possessing souls of warships from years past: the Fleet Girls, using weapons called "outfits".
The war to take back the seas is about to begin.
Kantai Collection (shortened to Kancolle) is a web browser based strategy RPG type game, where WWII warships are personified as girls. The goal is to fight the "Abyssals" but there isn't any real story, leaving the anime to make up its own. Kancolle is an intersection of things I like and dislike in anime. Even though I figured I'd grow to hate it, I never did - nearly the opposite actually. As dumb as the concept seems at first, the way it's done has a weird charm to it.
There's plenty of day to day slice of life stuff I really hated. This isn't to say all the non combat sections are slice of life, but I'd say "any" is too much for me and there's a fair amount of lame content. It's easily skippable if it's not your thing. While the bathhouse is a regular feature of this anime, it's explained to be an attachment of the "repair dock" and not nearly as leering as I would have guessed.
What makes this anime different isn't so much girls personified as warships (been there done that), but how it's done. The girls have all the stats and "abilities" but on the open seas they're still girls with their armaments attached to their arms/legs/hips. Weirder still is how they skate around on water. I expected that feature to wear me down, but it grew on me. The way the navel combat plays out, along with good WWII styled action sequences, mixes together in a way I enjoyed.
There are over 50 ships (girls) in the game, and while the anime doesn't attempt to jam all of them into the show, it can still be overwhelming. I can name a few Japanese WWII era ships (who says video games aren't educational) so I found their girl incarnations interesting (at least Tone and Kaga). I'll assume that's not appealing for 99% of the U.S. audience, but it's there for those who truly want to geek out over it.
The story takes the perspective of a relatively minor destroyer Fubuki. It's strange that the Yamato, best known of all Japanese warships; has relatively little airtime. (OVA of the Bismarck and Yamato doing "training exercises" in the hot springs? Yes please.) Fubuki's is the klutzy girl trying to do her best and finding her place in the fleet. I wasn't wild about her story at first, but I think this works well compared to attempting to foist a complicated plot involving the Abyssals, something which probably would have ended up a disaster.
Unfortunately the anime falls down with game references poorly explained. Much of it is ignorable (bauxite), and some of it you can figure out yourself (large appetite correlates to ship fuel consumption). But at the end of 12 episodes the main plot is just kinda... nonsense without knowing what it's eluding to (the battle of Midway - waay out of context). I don't think I can excuse Kancolle for this, as it had plenty of time to do a proper setup.
I'm not sure how to rate Kancolle. It can be a show loved or hated, but for what reasons would be on an individual basis. It's the kind of "anime weird" which is hard to explain and probably why you wouldn't watch this in front of other people, but I liked it for that weird aspect. I enjoyed Kancolle, and I'm looking forward to more (2nd season) but I'm not sure I'd recommend it due to the nature of how much of the content can go over the head of the viewer with game references - making much of the "plot" incoherent. Still worth giving a shot in my opinion.
Yuudachi: I feel fine, but it looks like I've got a fever.
Mitsuki: What's wrong with her? Could it be.. Love?
Ikazuchi: Or maybe bad fuel?
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