One of the problems animation studios face is never having enough time to do their work. Just about everyone knows this feeling in their respective areas of activity, including anime bloggers trying to finish their Saturday 12 Days of Anime post while it’s still Saturday somewhere in the world. Some people will froth at the mouth if a series misses it’s weekly broadcast or a movie that should have come out years ago keeps getting pushed back but, I try to cut these overworked studios as much slack as possible.
Even so, this perpetual rush-rush negatively impacts the general quality of anime series with the studios that best handle it being the ones that generally make the best anime. Most of the time it’s the animation that obviously wasn’t given sufficient time. More rarely, it’s the writing of the series that has been impacted. These series will often feel like they’re almost great or maybe they start great then slowly lose it or were a mess before miraculously finishing really strong.
Often, there is a moment where the viewer realizes that the anime they are watching genuinely had the chance at being a great series but needing a little more something, probably time and maybe a bit more talent. Today’s moment is the moment in 2015 where I most strongly felt that.
And it occurred during episode 12 of the anime Kantai Collection way back during the Winter 2015 season.
Kantai Collection, for those that don’t know, is an internet game where the ships of the Japanese navy from WWII have been turned into cute and attractive girls and you, as admiral, collect them and form fleets and try to win battles. The anime for this should have outright stunk but it didn’t. In fact, it was pretty decent and a great de-stressor after watching Death Parade or Parasyte.
Early in episode 12, as the Fleet Girls (because that’s what they’re called) slowly realize that fate has ordained they were going to lose, the Battleship Yamato gives a speech about somehow feeling like she’s being waiting for the chance to fight along side her fleetmates for a very long time, and at that moment, something clicks inside me and I realize how very close this show got to greatness.
It was only in the last episode where the show finally frames itself as an effort by the admiral and the Fleet Girls to overcome fate and find an ending different then the one pre-ordained. Studying the series it feels almost like they’re writing the final episode when it dawns on them what the theme of the series should be. I’m not sure if that’s what happened but it strongly feels like that. Either way, if the series had had more time to revise the earlier episodes to work this theme in and applied another coat of polish I am confident that I’d be putting Kantai Collection somewhere in my yearly top 10 list.
The series wouldn’t have had to been all that different, it could have still focused of Fubuki’s growth but slipped in bits were the admiral was explicitly trying to change things so as not to repeat history and events occurred that worked to undo what the admiral was trying to do.
So, in that moment I could see that superior series and in some alternate universe there is a version of this show that will be accumulating accolades and awards but it’s not this universe. I can’t really complain, though, we got a watchable version of KanColle – I like it enough that I might rewatch it someday – and if there’s a better version out there then there’s also a worse version (and the worse versions probably outnumber the good versions, just saying).