I’ve been complaining that Kancolle lacked the weight of consequences needed to make the conflict it portrayed compelling. During the third episode death flags flew around like confetti and sure enough, one of the destroyers met her end. This has left me conflicted. Although this may be changing, something is just not quite right with the tone of the series. Moralists could make a case that middle school girls shouldn’t be fighting wars, and they would be right. This isn’t the first show, however, to have youngsters taking on the consequences of combat. It didn’t offend me in Madoka Magica, which was was a much more violent look at warfare. Something here is bugging me, and I don’t know why. One of the girls being sunk has somehow increased my disquiet about this series when I thought that the opposite would be true.
That being said, this episode has saved Kancolle from being dropped. I am interested in seeing how the girls cope with the loss of a comrade, and I hope the show explores some darker themes like survivor’s guilt and the realization that all of them are vulnerable. Fubuki’s rescue of Mutsuki was the kind of reckless act that is a lot less likely once the full weight of the risk involved is felt by the fighters. The difference between courage and stupidity is how well you understand the potential consequences of your actions.
Something else of interest is the historical refrences made in the episode. Island W bore an uncanny resemblence to Wake Island, and Wake Island is where the original Kisaragi was sunk in December 1941 (her entire crew of 152 perished). This could be ominous. None of the destroyers in the 3rd Torpedo Squadron survived 1942. The 3 Light Cruisers (the girls in the orange uniforms) also meet their end violently, with only the fleet’s idol, Naka-chan, making it into 1944. In fact about 3/4s of the destroyers in the Japanese Combined Fleet were sunk during WW2. Destroyers were the grunts of the Japanese navy, and they bore the brunt of the losses. Most likely the historical refrences won’t go that far, but it will be interesting to see what other historical events make it into the anime. This brings me back to my overall issue with the series. If we were to watch a ship-girl recreation of the War in the Pacific, 134 middle school girls (destroyers) would die, with the rest either executed after capture (scrapped) or forced to fight for other nations (reparations). Kancolle has to keep walking a tight rope in order to balance all of these factors. That in and of itself is worth watching the series for, at least for now.