KanColle: Itsuka Ano Umi de KanColle: Someday in that Sea, KanColle 2nd Season, Fleet Girls Collection 艦これ いつかあの海で
KanColle Season 2 in the dawn of a decisive battle nears in Leyte Gulf against the Abyssal Fleet, the mysterious enemies that occupy the sea. As the only ones capable of fighting them, Kanmusu—young girls possessing the souls of warships—reorganize in preparation. The Shiratsuyu-class destroyer Shigure is assigned to the First Striking Force, Third Section—also known as 1YB3H.
Unfortunately for Shigure, 1YB3H consists of the remaining few Kanmusu and serves as a diversionary fleet. Needing to confront the Abyssal Fleet head-on, it may well be their first and final mission together. Even so, Shigure refuses to let the enemy take another comrade from her. As they advance toward Leyte Gulf during this suicidal mission, the members of 1YB3H must support each other and persevere to prove their worth as competent ships.
After the third section enters Surigao Strait, Mogami’s spotter aircraft identify Abyssal patrol boats, signifying an ambush. Moments later, Abyssal forces strike the third section from the skies, but Shigure and the others are able to repel this attack and press forward deeper into the strait. Upon nightfall, Mogami, Yamagumo, Asagumo, and Michishio break off to engage Abyssal patrol boats. However, this leaves Shigure, Yamashiro and Fusō to come under fire from additional Abyssal forces. Mogami and the destroyers return just in time to provide covering fire, while the second fleet begin to advance towards the Abyssal fleet. During the combat, Fusō sustains damage from an Abyssal torpedo and is damaged, but Yamashiro orders the remainder of the third section to continue advancing. They reach the heart of the Abyssal fleet, where a pair of Night Strait Princesses await them. Although their firepower is inadequate to deal with this threat, the first fleet arrive and begin bombarding one of the Princesses, leaving Yamashiro to dispatch their remaining foe. In the aftermath, Fusō and Yamashiro are decommissioned, having sustained too much damage to remain sea-worthy. Shigure and Mogami both managed to survive with minor injuries, and although Shigure is saddened to see Fusō and Yamashiro retire, she promises to keep fighting for everyone’s sake. Shigure is reassigned to the Second Torpedo Squadron, learns that their contributions have delayed the Abyssal invasion of the Japanese mainland, and given orders to take some time off. She visits a ryokan and meets Yukikaze. The pair share time together, and Shigure hardly believes that even amidst a war, she is still able to rest up and enjoy something as luxurious as an onsen. The next day, she returns to base and meets the remainder of the Second Torpedo Squadron, which is placed under Yahagi’s command. Itsuka Ano Umi de was supposed to reach this point three weeks earlier, but unexpected challenges in production ultimate lead the fourth episode, the series’ halfway point, to be delayed until today.
Now that half of Itsuka Ano Umi de is in the books, it is evident that this is the Kantai Collection anime fans were waiting for. Between the grim gravity of the Kan-musume‘s situation, vividly-rendered battle sequences and significantly improved world-building, Itsuka Ano Umi de captures the emotional tenour of every moment more effectively than its predecessors did. The stakes are plainly laid out for viewers: the Abyssal’s objective is the attrition and destruction of Japan, and to this end, are preparing for an invasion. Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s version of Operation Shō-Gō, then, was to cripple the Abyssal fleet’s fighting capability, and thanks to the contributions of each fleet, including Shigure and the third section, enough damage was done so that the Abyssals won’t be directly attacking Japan any time soon. This in turn allows for the Kan-musume and their Admiral to repair their forces, rearm and reorganise for the difficult path ahead. After two full episodes of continuous combat, the fourth episode is deliberately paced to give viewers insight into the Shōwa era. Civilians are seen browsing through their local shopping district, and peaceful ryokan exist in rural areas, giving Shigure a chance to unwind and meet a peer, Yukikaze. Watching ordinary people live out their lives is a subtle reminder to viewers of what the Kan-musume are fighting for; they’re here to protect their homeland and its people. Seeing these elements coming together in Itsuka Ano Umi de makes this second season of Kantai Collection a dramatic improvement over its predecessor – there’s a clear reason why the Kan-musume must fight the Abyssals. This time around, Shigure and the others aren’t fighting to define the purpose of their existence, but rather, they’re fighting to protect what is dear to them. However, just because the Abyssals have taken a loss doesn’t mean the war is over yet, and at present, despite having sustained heavy damage to their own fleet, the Abyssals still have a largely-intact submarine force, which necessitates additional action in the name of protecting Japan and its people.
Screenshots and Commentary
Having now seen the combat sequences, it is plain that the visuals in Itsuka Ano Umi de are a step above from those of its predecessors with respect to small details like the anti-air guns on each Kan-musume and the færies, which are more prominent than they’d been in earlier instalments. Similarly, Abyssals attack in larger groups, which, in conjunction with improved visuals and cinematography, means that battles tend to feel more dynamic and chaotic.
One aspect that Itsuka Ano Umi de will need to address is how the Abyssals fit into things in light of what Kantai Collection: The Movie had revealed; Kantai Collection had left the Abyssals purely as a foe to fight against, but the film clarified that they’re the negative manifestations of a given vessel’s spirits, and showed that Fubuki was the first to understand that rather than fighting those feelings, she should accept them because they were a part of her. In Itsuka Ano Umi de, Fubuki is absent, and the anime’s portrayal of the Battle of Leyte Gulf doesn’t have much context.
All that was shown thus far, is that command is launching a major offensive with the remaining assets that were available to them in a bid to wipe out the Abyssals. However, from the dialogue and overall mood in Itsuka Ano Umi de, things aren’t going well for the Kan-musume, standing in stark contrast with the cautious optimism that was seen at the film’s end. Because the film had portrayed the events of the Guadalcanal campaign in 1943, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf took place in 1944, it stands to reason that following the movie’s events, the Kan-musume continued to sustain losses even with the newfound hope gained from Fubuki’s experiences.
Because the Pacific War ended with Imperial Japan’s defeat, if Itsuka Ano Umi de were to maintain a historically accurate portrayal of things, it would ultimately end with every Kan-musume in the First Strike Force’s Third Section except for Shigure being sunk. Because Shigure had already been shown as having seen the loss of her fellow Kan-musume earlier, taking the historically accurate route would mean that Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s outcomes would be quite grim, leaving viewers to contemplate on the futility of war.
Such a theme would stand contrary to the messages the film left behind, and also suggest that the browser game itself is ultimately meaningless: if the fleets players have painstakingly worked to build and maintain are to be offered up as sacrifices, it would demotivate players from continuing to invest time and effort into the game. Assuming that this isn’t the case, Itsuka Ano Umi de needs to have things turn out differently for the the First Strike Force’s Third Section, and it wouldn’t be the first time Kantai Collection altered the outcome of a historical battle to better fit the story.
The first season of Kantai Collection had Fubuki and her friends come out on top at the Battle of Midway, whereas in reality, Japan suffered the loss of key assets that irrevocably altered the course of the Pacific War and tipped it in the Allies’ favour. I have heard that some folks consider Kantai Collection to be “revisionist” for this reason, but because Kantai Collection is simply a conflict involving the spirits of World War Two era vessels against a manifestation of their darker selves, the story can, and should be allowed to progress in a way that ensures the themes can be consistent.
This is why Jonathan Gad’s VICE article decrying the presence of miltary moé anime is invalid: Gad claims that series like Kantai Collection and Strike Witches are increasingly painting military forces as “cute” and harmless in an attempt to bury what’s happened historically. In the same article, Gad is also suggesting that the Japanese government is encouraging the production of such anime and games in an attempt to push this narrative. However, this conclusion is only reached if one hasn’t made an attempt to understand a given work. Kantai Collection‘s original run had strove to do two things: portray Fubuki’s journey to improve as a Kan-musume, and suggest that people have the agency to do good even in the face of overwhelming odds.
From a numbers perspective, one anime, about one online game, is not an attempt at whitewashing history, and together with the themes that were present in Kantai Collection, I can say with confidence that criticisms about Kantai Collection‘s first season being a weaker series because it couldn’t pin down its intended direction are more valid than suggestions that things like military moé is inherently harmful. Itsuka Ano Umi de appears to have stepped away from its predecessor’s approach entirely; insofar, the series has been a lot more focused and compelling.
In previous Kantai Collection posts, I tended to steer clear of night battle shots simply because they’re hard to take screenshots for. Night battles are excellent for conveying a sense of urgency because most operations in the Kantai Collection anime usually begin by day, and having conflict stretch into the night shows the Kan-musume‘s determination. Similarly, the darkness night confers corresponds to decreased visibility, and this increases the danger that Kan-musume face. As the Third Section’s battle wears on, Fusō sustains damage as the Abyssals relentlessly hammer them.
There’s the faintest hint of resignation in Fusō’s character here in Itsuka Ano Umi de: although she’s kinder than Yamashiro and does her best to reassure everyone, the way she sounds in speech suggests that she’s aware of her impending demise and is at peace with things. Mogami and the Asashio-class destroyers act more similarly to military moé characters, and this creates a bit of a contrast, even during battle.
As the night wears on, the Abyssals begin sending heavier forces: the patrol boats that Shigure have been fending off are soon replaced by destroyers and cruisers. Having already been pushed to their limits, and with Fusō damaged, the Third Section appears to be completely overwhelmed, especially when what appears to be the Abyssal versions of Fusō and Yamashiro appear. The spider lilies make a return, blooming at the feet of the Kan-musume‘s foe, but they take on an unearthly blue hue. In reality, blue spider lilies do not appear with such a deep shade of blue. The Lycoris sprengeri (Electric Blue Spider Lily) is the closest equivalent, but it has more of a lilac colour, and their flowers have a different shape.
The timely arrival of other vessels allow the Third Section to live to fight another day: they provide covering fire thin out the number of guns firing at Fusō and Yamashiro. Because of the sheer number of characters in Kantai Collection, I have no objections to admitting that I’m not going to be able to recognise most of the vessels in the series beyond my personal favourites and central characters. As new vessels show up to pick up the slack, the Abyssal flagship, controlled by the doppelgänger Fusō and Yamashiro, increase the ferocity of their assault in turn.
I rarely provide any screenshots of the Abyssals because of their grotesque appearance, and because for the most part, their appearance on screen is usually limited to them exploding after being fired upon. I believe that the Abyssal specters of Fusō and Yamashiro here would be what’s known as event bosses, which are uncommonly tough and require careful preparation and special tactics to beat. I remember a time when the English-speaking Kantai Collection community griped about how difficult these events could be, requiring a combination of luck and time investment to overcome, but in the present, I’m not sure if large numbers of English-speakers still play Kantai Collection.
The game and franchise remain popular in Japan: the main reason why Kantai Collection never gained widespread popularity was simply because Kadokawa only intended for the game to be played by a domestic audience. However, this approach does mean that there is little incentive to adopt improved technologies: Kantai Collection didn’t make the jump over to HTML5 from Flash until 2018, and by then, longtime overseas players had grown bored of the fact that beyond the events, Kantai Collection hadn’t been offering them with anything new.
Kongō and Haruna subsequently appear, and I am immediately reminded of Kiniro Mosaic‘s Karen Kujō whenever Kongō speaks: both are voiced by Nao Tōyama, a renowned voice actress that I know best as Yuru Camp△‘s very own Shimarin. Unlike Rin, Karen and Kongō are energetic, spirited and lively – I’ve heard that Tōyama’s personality is more similar to Karen and Kongō’s than she is Rin, while Yumuri Hanamori, who voices Nadeshiko, is actually more similar to Rin. It was nice to see familiar faces returning in Itsuka Ano Umi de, and I welcome hearing Kongō returning to the party.
Another old friend, Yamato, returns: the presence of the IJN’s most powerful battleship here suggests to me that the original operation must’ve been successful, since everyone’s now being redirected to save the Third Section from certain death. While writing for this post, I learnt that Yamato is voiced by none other than Ayana Taketatsu, another star voice actress known for her roles as K-On!‘s Azu-nyan, Fū Sawatari of Tamayrua, OreImo‘s very own Kirino Kōsaka, The Quintessential Quintuplets‘ Nino Nakano and even Sword Art Online‘s Suguha Kirigaya.
Encouraged by the show of support from her fellow Kan-musume, Yamashiro prepares for one final attack on the Abyssal’s flagship, firing on its weak spot in a show of acrobatics as Shigure provides covering fire. In the ensuing explosion, Yamashiro’s fate is not shown, but the resulting shot does take out the flagship moments before sunrise. Here, I will remark that the music in Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s soundtrack and opening song are both excellent, but I’ve not found anything on either. By this point in the season, most anime will have already released the opening song.
When I reached this point in Itsuka Ano Umi de four weeks earlier, I had been hoping that viewers would have the chance to see the aftermath, but instead, the Kantai Collection anime’s official Twitter announced that owing to production issues, the anime would take a four-week hiatus before continuing. While it is true that Itsuka Ano Umi de is a cut above its predecessor, especially with respect to its character development and world-building, the fact that there’s only eight episodes meant that at least in theory, production would be a little more manageable than that of a twelve episode series.
Admittedly, the delay has allowed me to write about other things, and in this way, I was able to finish a more difficult post on Top Gun: Maverick before November drew to a close. Back in Itsuka Ano Umi de, Fusō and Yamashiro prepare to take their final leave: although they’d survived the battle, they’re no longer combat-worthy. They bid Shigure and the admiral farewell. The admiral had remained a nameless and faceless in the original Kantai Collection, so bringing him to the party as a character with speaking roles serves to remove the game-like nature the first season had.
The slower pacing throughout Itsuka Ano Umi de is to the series’ advantage, forcing viewers to consider the costs of warfare and its all-consuming nature. Rather than driving home this point with the subtlety of a thrown brick, Itsuka Ano Umi de has instead opted for a more open-ended approach: a melancholy permeates every aspect of this series, even during more light-hearted moments, and this stands in stark contrast to how the first season had presented things. The melancholy throughout Itsuka Ano Umi de also is, inadvertently, a reflection of how Kantai Collection is no longer as big as it’d been seven years earlier.
Seven years ago, one could hardly go anywhere online without encountering people discussing how to get into Kantai Collection‘s browser game if they were overseas, and those who did figure it out played obsessively, sometimes to the detriment of their careers and real-world obligations. I do remember one player expressing the belief that a GTX 980 Ti was needed to get optimal frame rates in this browser game at Reddit, and in today’s terms, it’d be equivalent to stating as fact that, if one didn’t have an RTX 4090, they wouldn’t be able to play Kantai Collection.
In reality, if a browser game was so demanding that one needed an i9 13900k and RTX 4090 to run, then Kadokawa’s developers are clearly sub-par: at its core, Kantai Collection is merely a random number generator that pulls information from a hash table and rendering the results as 2D graphics. With this in mind, I have heard that Kantai Collection is poorly optimised and can cause memory leaks can slow down any machine with less than 32 GB of RAM, and given that Kadokawa thought acquiring Anime News Network was a good idea, I wouldn’t be surprised if their Kantai Collection team consisted of third-rate developers who can’t tell the difference between a method override and a method overload.
Outside of her combat roles, Shigure dresses in a more conservative outfit that is styled after women’s clothing from the Shōwa era. The intersection of the fantastical elements of Kantai Collection intersect with a more authentic portrayal of Japan here in Itsuka Ano Umi de, and it was seeing Shigure’s journey from the naval base in Sasebo (incidentally, where Brave Witches‘ Hikari and Takami were from) to the rural ryokan that helped provide an answer to why Itsuka Ano Umi de has proven to be more compelling than its predecessor.
The reason is simple enough: by showing the world as being inhabited, and that the war against the Abyssals does have material consequences should the Kan-musume lose, it gives viewers a better idea of why the Kan-musume are fighting to begin with. The original Kantai Collection had been lacking this, placing the Kan-musume in a vacuum and omitting their battle’s significance. This made it difficult to root for the characters and their struggles: beyond sinking, it felt that their fight was inconsequential, being set in a remote part of the South Pacific.
One aspect of Itsuka Ano Umi de that really drives home the gravity of this situation was how, even though Shigure is allowed a chance to unwind and recuperate following her contributions to the latest operation, these scenes have a more muted tone to them. The cost of the ongoing war with the Abyssals is constantly weighing on her mind, and now, with both Fusō and Yamashiro retired, it does feel as though Shigure is continuing to lose the people around her. As such, whereas Kantai Collection would have originally taken this chance to show Shigure off a little, Itsuka Ano Umi de dispenses with this entirely.
I imagine that the dramatic shift in tone was probably in response to both the precedence that Kantai Collection: The Movie had set, as well as how Azur Lane came to prominence in the years afterward. Azur Lane had also tried to mix the introspective and melancholy elements with slice-of-life comedy moments and similarly struggled to deliver a cohesive story, so when they released the Slow Ahead! spin-off and found that there was much that could be done to lighten things up, it seemed natural that Itsuka Ano Umi de would need to go in the opposite direction to differentiate itself from its competitor.
Halfway through Itsuka Ano Umi de, it should be clear that this approach is working, and insofar, has succeeded in giving viewers a reason to watch Shigure’s journey. For anime like Kantai Collection, I imagine the aim was originally to drive interest in the game, but considering how long it’s been, I cannot help but get the feeling that Itsuka Ano Umi de was produced so Kadokawa could fulfil their original promise of delivering a second Kantai Collection season (albeit seven years later). Had something like Itsuka Ano Umi de been made back in 2015, it may have succeeded in promoting the game, but in the present, this second season, as enjoyable as it’s been, feels more like a Hail Mary.
In any other anime, moments like Shigure and Yukikaze spending time to know one another, before swapping ghost stories and clutching one another when the lights flicker, would be portrayed in greater detail to show viewers the bonding. The decision to truncate it is deliberate, meant to mirror how this is a war, and during wartime, the things that are normally taken for granted become scarcer. While these moments are short, however, they do much to show how even despite the losses she’s experienced already, Shigure still makes an effort to open up to those around her.
As a result, although the third section is no more, the Second Torpedo Squadron, Shigure’s new teammates, will almost certainly have a much bigger role to play, both in repelling the Abyssal attempts at an invasion, and in helping Shigure to accept the losses in her past and make the most of the present. After she returns to base with Yukikaze, viewers have a chance to see the newly-formed Second Torpedo Squadron, and here, I will note that Hamakaze is visible. It is good to see her with the potential of getting more screen time, along with Hibiki, a familiar face returning from the first season. I suppose that hoping Fubuki would return in some form was too much to ask for here in Itsuka Ano Umi de, but beyond this, the series has held my attention in a way the original Kantai Collection did not.
Having now reached the second season’s halfway point, I am hoping that the release schedule for Itsuka Ano Umi de will be a little more consistent from here on out; there’s only four episodes left, and I do plan on returning at the three-quarters mark to offer some thoughts on where things have headed. In the meantime, my work year has come to a close. Owing to the fact I had thirteen-and-a-half vacation days unused, I determined it would be a good idea to use this time and catch up on some rest of my own as the winter holidays draw near. This rest can come later: later tonight, I’ve got a Christmas party with the office, and we’re set to return to the Italian restaurant we went to last year. Their food’s amazing, and this year, I now know to pace myself and not become full before the entrée shows up.
Itsuka Ano Umi de is what Kantai Collection‘s 2015 run should have been: rather than attempting to treat the animated adaptation as a video game, complete with mechanics and no apparent objective to mimic the game’s endless gameplay, Itsuka Ano Umi de instead gives the antagonists’ actions and intentions significantly more weight, which in turn provides a stronger, more tangible motivation for Shigure and the other Kan-musume. Moreover, each battle is presented as being a matter of life and death; even the small Abyssal Patrol boats are presented as threats that must be taken seriously, and every successful sortie comes with a cost, even if no one is outright sunk. Similarly, every single Kan-musume that comes home from battle is celebrated. The overall presentation of warfare in Itsuka Ano Umi de is vastly more mature than that of its predecessor, and presents a story that better represents the Kantai Collection universe in animated format. Itsuka Ano Umi de does not hold the viewer’s hand or explain its mechanics, and instead, chooses to focus purely on its story. While assuming that viewers are somewhat familiar with Kantai Collection and how things work in game means leaving out some aspects, Itsuka Ano Umi de is able to trade exposition for telling a more compelling story about Shigure and the other Kan-musume that are still around to fight the Abyssals. Despite what is likely to be an extremely difficult journey up ahead, the halfway point shows that despite the odds remaining firmly against the Kan-musume, everyone is willing to stand up and fight to protect the most precious things in their world. Following a three-week delay, one hopes that Itsuka Ano Umi de will continue maintaining a smarter pacing: there are only four episodes left, and the setup in Itsuka Ano Umi de‘s first half creates a compelling reason to watch the second half to see what outcomes result, as well as what learnings can be derived from Shigure’s experiences.