Decontextualized Free-to-Play Game Adaptations

I read this and I feel it is a good summary of the IDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls anime in general. I’m sure it’s not context-free, enough dropped about card art and the unrepresented mass of CG idols. Enough is dropped about 765pro brand of IM@S. But Mikunyan’s position? Otou drops the ball there, even if it’s not all his fault.

[Recall episode one when Uzuki was waiting on P to get started? Imagine that but way worse for Miku and company. Then the newcomers who has been here for way shorter time than you debut before you. I didn’t even watch AKB0048!]

I want to talk about Kancolle. It’s pretty solid as far as what it is. It faces the same problem Deremas does, except when you run with a bunch of shipgirls there’s no cohesive mesh naturally to rope everybody together. In the mix you have the para-military context, a school context, and the cohabiting dorm stuff. Then they let the character development happen “naturally.”

I put that word in quotes because there’s nothing natural about Kancolle, for crying out loud. For someone who has not bought into the conceit it’s rather difficult to put myself into the same place with the same point of view. How do I empathize with Fubuki? Okay, you can establish her character and drop her in a somewhat less harmonious environment and let her (and the rest of us) sink or swim. But is that really enjoyable? If my twitter was not full of people tweeting Kancolle every wednesday I probably would not have enough motivation to summon enough willpower to watch each week. So Ts, good job tweeting spoilers.

It’s kind of like the type of viewers who are in Derem@s anime for Shiburin. Or Kongou. I’m okay with this, but that alone is not enough. I think in Deremas’s case there is a lot to be said that the system, as in the new content provided by the anime, can be interesting to watch. It’s a bit like the transformation sequence of girls to shipgirls, which has been doled out to we viewers in small doses. In Deremas, it’s a production agency, the way the idol biz works in that setting, and how that mirrors real life. My personal issue with Kancolle is that there’s nothing real life about Kancolle, for better or worse.

At the same time I think those two are good prima facie examples of the the series from a character point of view. Kongou is fun and off the wall, but totally a character and not really someone who has strong attachment to human realism. She’s a classic post-modern otaku character, a certifiable descendant of Dejiko. Shibuya Rin, on the other hand, is a much more traditional with typical character development behind her. It’s part of Derem@s anime’s mission to reconstruct these archetypes into well-constituted characters, after all, even if in Kancolle that is also what they want.

But in that sense both anime are very stereotypical of the Madoka-era pretty-girl anime paradigm. It’s about the girls’ feelings. That’s the one truth in Kancolle. That is the appealing point in Cinderella Girls. But that alone is not enough if you don’t have all the context. And if you don’t have the context, you are just functioning on animal instincts, motivations and impulses. In Kancolle’s case I don’t even think a lot of people want to get the context, IYKWIM.

German Engineering


5 Responses to “Decontextualized Free-to-Play Game Adaptations”

  • Cytrus

    I think the problem/challenge runs much deeper for Kancolle than it does for the idols.

    I haven’t played anything idol, but the context for that universe is like, duh. Girls want to be idols. Company wants money. They have every reason to cooperate. And viewers all have some image (accurate or not, doesn’t matter) of how an idol company might work.

    In comparison, the Kancolle concept is quite outlandish, like you note, and thus requires a lot more context to swallow. The thing is, the game avoids setting context like the plague, leaving everything for the players to imagine. I mean, before the first PV aired, nobody knew how the girls would even fight. The anime goes with water-skiing, my mind-setting has them materialize the ships, and all players have their own take on how it all works.

    The issue is, you can’t dig deep into the characters without making some daring calls about the setting. The anime keeps quiet about what the girls even are: humans with unusual talents? spiritual beings? weapons that were made? It does imply the girls remember their past “lives”, but even that is apparently shaky ground and “implying” is all we get. Is Fubuki a girl who sucks at this “war” thing, but tries to overcome her weakness for the sake of others? Or is she a ship who suddenly finds herself unable to do the stuff she was meant to do and could once accomplish easily? The former means a mostly external conflict, the latter an internal one. So you have to make choices, but any choice will alienate some of your viewers.

    Not making any choices will alienate all viewers, though, so there is that.

    As for people not wanting to get the context, players probably do pick their waifus based on pictures/voices/stats and the like, but learning the context seems to me like a natural “getting to know them better” stage of the relationship. Ro-chan in your picture seems much more interesting when you know that the satsuki flower in her hair symbolizes German-Japanese friendship and the like. The details help you imagine what makes the girls tick, who they hang out with and whatnot.

    • omo

      How do I unpack this… I think you are generally right. But context is more than just, say, the symbolism on Ro-chan’s brooch.

      OK, maybe it’s more like the perils of “canonization” versus selective reading of the context. If you take everybody in the world above age of 10, I’m sure there’s a group of people who would be outright offended by the fact that Kancolle exists, because of their WWII context associated with the Axis (literally) war machines depicted in the game. And I’m pretty sure when far most people slurp up Kancolle fanart or talk about their in-game waifus they aren’t thinking about the atrocities committed by anybody in WWII. Along that line of thought, the Kancolle anime actually presents a packaged subset of context that you can take along with all the other personally-selected contexts you enjoy about Kancolle to go with your consumption of the material. This set of contexts presented by the anime is the prix fixe supplement to Kancolle fandom.

      What you have stated about the very tricky issues about digging into the setting is part of why I really want to write about and think about Kancolle. it’s quite interesting and unique for all those reasons. Plus the way how the presentation of these German and Japanese ships almost forces the issue that most military otaku can turn a blind eye against as far as these storied military hardware’s actual historic past. In that sense as you stated, that fans learn about more context of Kancolle is kind of a strange exercise only possible in 21st century Japan.

      IYKWIM, let’s just say selective reading is a necessity to be able to enjoy Kancolle, so this is why I think most people actually don’t want to learn all the context, or why the anime want to avoid a lot of it for the same reasons.

  • DiGiKerot

    I had a random thought about Cinderella Girls being able to reap the benefit of the sheer number of idol related anime in the last year to provide a sense of grounding, whilst KanColle has people stretching to make Strike Witches comparisons which don’t quite work, but don’t really have time to flesh it out. Just pretend I said something clever about (the English-language audience at least) being able to ground what the show is about in terms of other cartoons they’ve seen in recent years, KanColle not so much.

    Also, possibly just the point of view of somewhat who is more inside on one of these properties than the other, but KanColle relies way, way more on inside humour to make the show entertaining that dereM@S does. I think it’s just a fundamental difference in approach – I mean, they could make a show out of exactly the same content without any of that nonsense, but it’s probably not what the shows core audience would want. I’m kind of surprised that folks who don’t follow the game are still watching it at all, honestly, because I’m not really sure what a lot of the appeal of it is otherwise, particularly if you then strip-out any desire to actually know the background of any of the shipgirls presented.

    • omo

      Also, possibly just the point of view of somewhat who is more inside on one of these properties than the other, but KanColle relies way, way more on inside humour to make the show entertaining that dereM@S does. I think it’s just a fundamental difference in approach – I mean, they could make a show out of exactly the same content without any of that nonsense, but it’s probably not what the shows core audience would want. I’m kind of surprised that folks who don’t follow the game are still watching it at all, honestly, because I’m not really sure what a lot of the appeal of it is otherwise, particularly if you then strip-out any desire to actually know the background of any of the shipgirls presented.

      And we get to the elephant in the room. I originally wanted to orient my thoughts around this, it’s an observation we all can agree on and it is front and center. I thought Cytrus’s comment right above however put it in the correct light–in a lot of ways an enriching of the context for Kancolle is dangerous, not just because it can alienate existing fans. It can be even politically problematic.

      In that sense the choice is preordained. The focus on characters and feelings and RAIDEN is good and all and I think the appeal of quirky girls in quirky situations will automatically entertain at least some portion of the audience, plus it is going to be a gateway of sorts for people to understand what Kancolle is, if they are not playing the game.

      Some praise should go to the production too, it’s a nice look and decent pacing (if devoid of a lot of what makes an anime good).

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