Well, I should've seen that coming. After setting the stage for a compelling final episode, KanColle takes the easy way out this week. From the ominous foreshadowing to the clever historical connections, this conclusion takes most of what made the show interesting and waters it all down in pursuit of a happy ending. It's a bit of a stretch to call it a surprise, but it's certainly disappointing.
With Akagi's carrier group on the verge of defeat, Fubuki charges in at the last minute with Yamato and company in tow. It's still not enough to take down the Abyssal fleet, and the girls once again worry that they won't be able to change their fate. At the last-last minute, a second group of supporting characters rolls in to help finish the fight. Even their help isn't enough, and there's another moment of doubt and despair. Luckily, a new character arrives at the last-last-last minute to help defeat the baddies. By the end, it starts to feel like the writers are trying to set a record for the most “here comes the cavalry” moments in a single half-hour episode.
The timely arrival of reinforcements may be used two times too many, but it's hardly the biggest problem with this episode. What really robs the ending of its emotional impact is the lack of any credible danger to the characters. Once Fubuki saves Akagi from the Abyssal bombers, there possibility of any fleet girls being sunk quickly fades away. No one else is in serious danger for more than a few seconds before another character appears to save the day. The show doesn't need to kill off any more characters to make the ending work, but it does need to convince the audience that it could if it wanted to. As it stands, the characters' moments of despair are more about not being able to drain the boss's health bar than they are about being in mortal danger.
While it lacks any real emotional punch, this episode does at least have enough entertaining moments to partially redeem itself. Most of the key characters get one final turn in the spotlight, a last opportunity to fire off a catchphrase and blow something up. Ooi easily outshines the rest of the cast here, ignoring her weapons in favor of drop-kicking an enemy in what I assume is its face. For a series that often wallows in naval tactics and technical jargon, it's a refreshingly simple way to get the job done. In abandoning its more dramatic ambitions, the show does at least make an effort to keep its core audience happy. It doesn't make for great fiction, but it's at least par for the course as far as game tie-ins go.
The decision to play it safe with the ending is at least understandable in light of the show's reason for existing. The half-hearted way in which the series wraps up its most compelling subplots is much harder to forgive. After building up the one-eyed Abyssal carrier as a serious villain, KanColle is inexplicably casual about sinking it. A quick cannon volley is all it takes for Fubuki and Kongou to kill the thing, making the carrier no more of a threat than any other nameless enemy in the series. What happened to Kaga and Zuikaku putting their rivalry aside in order to face the carrier that gave them so much trouble earlier in the season? The Admiral's return comes with a similar problem; he just sort of shows up with no explanation of where he's been for the past few weeks. It's a shame that the series didn't have another episode to work with, as it simply doesn't have enough time to finish everything that it started.
So, yes, this last episode is something of a letdown. After giving itself an opportunity to be more than just a competent adaptation, KanColle abandons ship too early. Even so, I've been pleasantly surprised by what this series has managed to do. I came in expecting a cynical cash grab, something just decent enough to sell an extra wave of merchandise. Instead, KanColle managed to take a game with virtually no story to speak of and turn in into something that fans of the franchise could actually enjoy. It's not something I would recommend to anyone who hasn't already played the game, but it's far better than it had any right to be.