If you took 100 ordinary people and screened KanColle for them, you’ll find that it’s objectively kind of a nothing show. But I’m going to have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. All this probably boils down to how susceptible to moe I am – KanColle is about moe anthropomorphisms of Japanese WWII-era warships roughly reenacting the Pacific War. If that summary sounds appealing for you, congratulations! You’re part of KanColle‘s surprisingly large target audience.
So here’s the rundown of everything wrong with KanColle. There is no plot development that isn’t basically a genre trope. You want training montages? Characters having trouble getting over the loss of a comrade? The protagonist facing adversity only to overcome it through sheer willpower? Check all those boxes! The cast isn’t composed of characters so much as it is made of personality traits. There’s basically no logic to anything, to the point where I don’t even know what the KanMusu are. Are they human girls? Are they actual ships? Do they live on a school campus or military base? Finally, the battles aren’t so much about strategy as they are about who can spam the most torpedoes. Maybe that’s how real naval battles are won – I’m not an expert – but I think there’s more to it than torpedo spam.
KanColle is light moeblob entertainment at its core, but there are lots of these kinds of shows and I don’t go out of my way to watch those. What it does, though, is fit the Strike Witches formula almost to a T. There are weaponized young girls, World War II references (it’s the entire conceit of the franchise), and it mixes action with light slice-of-life comedy (actually the one thing this show genuinely does well is visual humor). The only difference is that Strike Witches has a lot more nudity.
The historical element isn’t leveraged for much, but it does represent an intersection of interests to me. I think that’s why I go for shows like this and Strike Witches. They help me go down the Wikipedia rabbit hole, finding references and rough historical parallels to the action going on. I’ve always been interested in naval battles, but KanColle had me reading through Wikipedia accounts of the Pacific theater and all the various Japanese warships. It’s like one of those brain slugs from Star Trek, slowly taking control of my mind as it grows ever more powerful. “Hey,” it whispers into my ear, “don’t you want to find out what happened to the real battleship Nagato? Nah you don’t need to get ready for work… come on, open that wiki…”
There’s a little snob in me who expects high art in every anime I encounter. KanColle is the antithesis to that – a vapid attempt to promote a browser game (of all things!) and lure otaku into the maws of a merchandising juggernaut. I know I should hate it, but hating it takes an amount of willpower I don’t have. It’s fun. I like the ship girls too much. I love the yuri subtext. For some reason I even enjoy how the show isn’t so much committed to its central premise as it is committed to being a weird animated facsimile of an RNG-based computer game. I like KanColle. You probably won’t, though.