Thoughts From Outside: Historical Revisionism in KanColle

There is an inherent issue with Kantai Collection: the setting in general, and the anime in particular. It is unavoidable given the lore, and yet how it is handled can be approached in a variety of different ways. Specifically, I am talking about the tendency towards historical revisionism built into it. This was originally part of my review, but has been transplanted here for brevity.

Spoiler Warning in effect.

KanColle is a Japanese game. That's stating the pretty obvious, but as such, I would consider it natural for the focus to be on Japanese factors: in this case Japanese naval vessels, with World War 2 being the last great naval conflict entirely aside from how profoundly it affected the Japanese nation. That the girls are personifications of IJN ships is not something to have much of a problem with; had a US or UK company created the game instead, they would have featured USN or RN ships, certainly to start. And then promptly watched the game fail to be successful, but that's another story... And currently we do have four ships that have no Japanese connection, indeed no connection to the Pacific Theatre at all; Bismarck, Prinz Eugen, Z1 and Z3 (U-511 was gifted to the Japanese and thus doesn't really count.) Bismarck is certainly one of the most famous ships of WW2 and including her and her consort is not something that should be particularly surprising, although we are getting a little more awkward with the Axis connotations of the game now.


Moving further into the game mechanics, given that many of the events are sourced or inspired from actions which occurred in WW2, the fact you are controlling Japanese ships obviously raises the question of who the opposing side is: the "true identity" of the Abyssals. That Abyssal equipment is listed using Allied terminology could be taken as a significant clue, yet at the same time Abyssals use ship types the Allies did not. Similarly, Abyssal bosses, such as the Midway Princess, using planes directly named for US aircraft: Helldivers, Hellcats and Avengers, is countered by the first two of those not being used in Midway. Meanwhile some of the lines said by certain Abyssal characters are very suggestive of the KanMusu themselves. There simply is not any evidence conclusive enough for a solid position to be drawn. Though if Kadokawa want to specifically avoid accusations of trying to revise history to give the IJN a Pacific victory, whilst portraying the Allies as eldritch horrors (which could be taken as a bit of an insult), including some Allied shipgirls sometime soon might be an idea. The remaining five of the Big Seven, HMS Hood (who was the most famous battleship in the world before her sinking via Bismarck) or the USN carriers would be obvious choices requiring a minimal amount of justification whilst providing amusing opportunities to interact with the current characters.

And this may have become far more a concern now, after the anime, for whilst the game gave circumstantial evidence to both possibilities (Abyssals as Allies or Abyssals as all nations), the anime clearly posits the Abyssal fleet as the United States Navy. It becomes clear very early on that the anime is going to follow the events of the Pacific War, the hitherto obedience to the mechanics of the game being discarded to have Kisaragi sink in a historically accurate manner marking the point that "inspiration" becomes not so applicable a word as "reproduction." Immediately, that Midway was going to be the climactic arc became obvious, along with the associate issues of many of the KanMusu, especially the carriers, sharing Kisaragi's fate if events are played entirely straight. Even then, however, the Abyssals could merely serve the same role as the USN did, as adversaries, with the shipgirls reliving the past events of their lives independent of who their opponents might be.

That possibility is obliterated halfway through the run, courtesy of Black Wo Shooter. In the Battle of the Coral Sea, preceding Midway, Shouhou is sunk and Shoukaku is damaged (which would lead to her absence from the later action), and on the US side the Lexington is sunk and the Yorktown damaged. These are the events of episode seven; Fubuki and her group sink one carrier (the Lexington) whilst Shokaku and Zuikaku come under attack, only to be rescued by Fubuki who damages the other Wo-class in the process ([cough] Yorktown[cough]). Oh, and we hear of Shouhou being attacked and in flames.


These are not inspirations, these are unmistakable historical parallels. And as the anime continues onward and we finally get to Midway itself, the new plot element of "fighting against destiny" is brought out from fucking nowhere and we get a very... particular interpretation of how the battle went down. For a start, the historical escort fleet is swapped out for our main cast members instead, fair enough, but we are then shown the shipgirls fighting desperately against incredible odds, dealing with their attacks failing to have any effect again and again whilst more and more Abyssals appear. In fact, Midway was a pretty balanced affair to start with, the Japanese numerical superiority balanced by the American foreknowledge of their intent. Initial US airstrikes upon the Japanese carriers were actually very ineffective, failing to inflict damage, although they did prevent the Japanese from gaining the initiative and made the less well-disciplined Japanese CAP pilots concentrate on them, with the result that further incoming attacks were able to be decisive. Ultimately though, that victory went to the USN at Midway was due to chance. At the time, the biggest difficulty in attacking your enemy was knowing where he was, and due to determination and luck on the part of American pilots who remained in the air and searching past reasonable considerations (some of whom ended up running out of fuel and having to ditch as a consequence), three separate attack squadrons managed to locate the Japanese carrier group at almost exactly the same time while the defensive fighter complement was off chasing US torpedo bombers. These three squadrons would heavily damage Kaga, Akagi and Souryuu, leaving only Hiryuu still operational.


By contrast, the anime has the girls struggling against overwhelming forces that they feel they cannot match, rescued first by Fubuki and Kongou (who manage to arrive in episode twelve before the end of episode eleven, given that ep 11 ends with bombs already falling towards Akagi, whereas ep 12 has Fubuki appear in time to shoot those aircraft down before they release), then by Yamato and her battlegroup (flagship of the combined fleet, despite taking orders from Akagi in the anime, but who was too far away to take part in the battle, though they were a factor in making the US forces consider pursuing the retreating Japanese unwise), then Nagato (who also was present historically but did not participate in combat), Mutsu (who never saw combat throughout the entire war), and Shoukaku and Zuikaku, having been given Instant Repair buckets direct from someone's anus (in reality Shoukaku was still in dry dock after the Coral Sea, and whilst Zuikaku was undamaged she lacked her aircraft complement; Japanese carrier doctrine at the time stressing carriers and aircrews train together as a single unit, rather than the US approach of squadrons being the maintained unit element, which could then be transferred between carriers to replenish losses. Hey, what does Shoukaku hand over to Akagi and Kaga on behalf of Zuikaku again?), along with almost every other character that's had more than two spoken lines showing up for one last cameo (the assault on the Aleutian Islands being a False Flag operation in this case), and then later still by Taihou, also from fucking nowhere (and who would not even be launched until almost one year after Midway) who informs the girls that, in order to win this fight and Stand Against Their Fate, the three Wo-class must be sunk before the Airfield/Midway Princess (Henderson-chan) can be destroyed. Have I mentioned that there were three US carriers at Midway: the Enterprise, the Hornet and the damaged Yorktown. Meanwhile, Fubuki's informed specialness is revealed as being able to not succumb to historical fact, and after being given a full fleet to deal with the second Wo-class, she is then assigned to go deal with the poor surviving Wo-town in turn with only Kongou to assist her, and succeeds admirably in dispatching what has been built into a nemesis figure... entirely offscreen. Cue the KanMusu being overjoyed that they have triumphed over the evils of the US Navy brought into the war by way of a surprise attack the Abyssal Fleet attacking them from nowhere and threatening the entire world.

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