Humanity has been expelled from the seas by the powerful Abyssal Fleet. The only hope of defeating this capable enemy comes in the form of girls who bear the spirits of Japanese naval ships. They use these extraordinary powers in concert with specialized equipment to fight the enemies of humanity in the open ocean. Fubuki is a struggling new Fleet Girl who will have to improve quickly to have an impact on the battles to come.
KanColle spends most of the time as a slice-of-life anime, featuring how the girls of the fleet get along and support one another. However, these ordinary moments are broken up when they go out to fight members of the Abyssal Fleet. It’s a nice mix of action added to the serenity of their daily lives, and it’s a good shake-up to the proceedings.
The naval skirmishes present throughout the series are a lot of fun to watch. There is a frenetic energy to all the movements the girls and their enemies pull off. The bombastic soundtrack entwines itself with the on-screen visuals to great effect, really pulling viewers into the fight. A missed opportunity are the transformation sequences for the girls, which are a treat to watch but don’t happen often enough.
It’s not all happy-go-lucky in this world, and things definitely get dark. These girls end up having tight bonds that are forged in war, and they don’t all get to come back. This leads to trauma for some of them, and they must work out how to deal with their feelings. It’s easy to forget about the peril their lives are in when they have such chipper personalities, but these heavier moments bring that reality into focus.
The characters are varied and have solid chemistry, although they don’t have much development save for Fubuki. While she grows from a timid recruit to someone who is capable of being a flagship most everyone else around her remains static. There is also no effort to delve into any of their pasts and explain the path they took to becoming Fleet Girls. It makes it difficult to put any weight into the dangerous situations they’re sailing into.
Meanwhile, the formidable Abyssal Fleet that prevent humans from openly sailing the ocean don’t have any character at all. They do have some gnarly designs that lend them a menacing aura, but that’s all they have. It’s puzzling to have such a clear enemy in sight and feel almost nothing towards them.
Another oddity is how the Admiral is portrayed, who is basically a blank slate that the viewer is supposed to envision themselves as. There’s a scene where one of the higher-ranking ships is speaking directly into the camera, addressing the Admiral, or in this case the viewer. It’s a bit jarring to have that happen as it’s trying to bring something from the video game world into this medium.
However, that’s not the only time video games are used an inspiration. When the girls are out on a mission the animation gets a bit wonky and seemingly transitions from 2D to 3D. It’s difficult to tell if it’s actual 3D animation or some kind of visual trickery they tried pulling in 2D. Regardless, it doesn’t look good and it stands out in comparison to how well everything else is animated.
KanColle Kantai Collection is presented in 1080p with a variable bit rate. It bounces around from about 15Mbps to 25Mbps depending on what’s happening on screen. It’s a solid release with the only negative being a little bit of color banding present.
There is a Japanese audio track in Dolby TrueHD 2.0 while the English audio track comes in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. The best option of the two is the English track. That’s because the Japanese voice actors all try to out moe one another, leading to the characters all sounding alike. Meanwhile, the English voice actors do a great job of giving them all distinct voices and personalities.
While this release has a few more extras than typical, they aren’t especially great. There is the requisite clean opening and clean closing, promotional videos, a collection of Japanese commercials and warnings, and trailers for other Funimation properties.
KanColle Kantai Collection is a bit of a surprise. It could have been a quick cash grab that capitalizes on the popularity of the source material, but it’s obvious that care was taken with the property to produce something that wasn’t terrible. If you can buy into the world then it’s an enjoyable ride to partake in. Pick up the Blu-ray here.