And thus, our little carnival ends. And it ends not with a whisper, but with gunfire and explosions.
Maya has been absorbed into the mega-fortress that is Kongou, alongside the Nagara-class cruisers that had accompanied them. Initiating a firing sequence with her mega-heavy graviton cannon, she destroys the American Fleet of Fog ships before her. Seeing an awesome display of power, Iona goes to see what Kongou wants.
All of the mental models confront Kongou, and a back and forth between them ensues. Kongou finally admitting to her deviation from the Fog, stating that she ‘sacrificed’ the American Fog ships from falling into the same broken state they were all in, and after locking out Iona and the others from the JTN, opens fire with her cannon yet again. Unable to escape, they fire at the incoming beam and raise the Klein field, managing to at least survive within the beam and beat a hasty retreat in the turmoil. In spite of Kongou’s aggression, Iona still wants to talk her down, and comes up with an ambitious plan.
The crew have already known that their voyage may entail death, and their main purpose is to deliver the vibration warhead torpedo. No doubt like the fight with Takao, to go and do that would have Kongou follow them, Iona instead asks for everyone’s help in trying to reach out to Kongou.
I-401 heads for the maw of the beast, and as the crew attempt to defend themselves from Kongou’s attacks, Iona is launched in a torpedo capsule, and manages to make it onto Kongou’s deck. Dodging her physical attacks, Iona tries to open up Kongou, before Kongou gains the upper hand and tosses her into the barrel of the gravity cannon. Following her, she intends to commit a murder suicide, before I-401 comes to the rescue, and Iona unleashes the power of her own free will to break through Kongou’s shell in the JTN.
Inside the shell, we see Kongou, huddled alone, crying. She is a broken doll, her only friend a lie, her cause abandoned. Iona answers Kongou’s question on why they should understand each other. And that is so they would be friends.
The mega-fortress breaking apart, Iona and Kongou appear, holding hands on Kongou’s deck. Asking her what drives her forward, Iona merely tells Kongou that it is her own will that does. Declining to join Iona, at least, not just yet, Kongou thanks Iona, no doubt for filling the void in her being.
The ending montage shows Iona and company living peacefully on Iwoto after delivering the warhead to San Diego to much fanfare, with Iona and Gunzou continuing to ply the waters to see where their next growth awaits them.
In between spoon-fulls of garlic-sauce beef and sips of Arizona iced tea, I type what I reckon is my last blog post on anime. At least for the time being.
Episode 12 is choc full of action. A pity the American Fleet of Fog was used like the cannon fodder many people thought they would be, but they are nothing but a delivery vehicle for our look into how broken Kongou has become.
On this episode, Kongou’s attempts to shield herself from Iona and her unregulated and unknown free will was a killer. Literally. Destroying the entirety of the American Fleet of Fog, nearly sinking I-401, and beating Iona to near-death in both her quantum communications form and her physical form, it was only due to Iona’s sheer force of will did she prevail. The fact Maya’s pianos are seen throughout the battle is a reminder to the viewer that Kongou is broken. Her friend and constant companion, what had kept Kongou ‘sane’ in a sense, was gone.
Iona breaking through her barriers, filling in maybe for the long absent Maya, was a touch saddening for me and brought out a portion of the feels. There is a sense that Maya was never really a program to begin with, and was terminated not because she outlived her usefulness, but maybe because she was becoming self-aware.
Dreaming of electric sheep and stuff like that. In the end, Kongou’s attempts to bottle herself up, even to the point of nearly killing Iona, is no doubt the grief she has for always being alone. The realization since episode 10 that she has been betrayed. And her lashing out in trying to stick with whatever she knew. It’s sad, and it’s depressing. It made for some pretty excellent screenshots, no doubt some of the more risque ones I’ve taken, but nonetheless Kongou comes full circle here. From the mindless automaton, to a caged bird finally let free. Symbolized by the disappearance of the ornate columns of the JTN in lieu of a more idyllic landscape of rolling hills and flowers.
Speaking of the columns, when Iona creates them, it is full of life and colour. But Kongou’s fall from grace and into madness took her clean, white JTN background and covered it in vines. Much like a disused gazebo at an abandoned manor. Scary and shows that she is in need of repair.
That’s what it was this episode. It was less Iona, Gunzou, or Takao. Or Hyuuga and the others. It was of Kongou. The latter half of the series is focused on Kongou to be honest. Haruna and Kirishima and Makie made for a nice subplot. Iona’s growth made for a ncie subplot. But the star of the show, at least after the Makie arc, was Kongou. She is a character that has seen the most change, and the one where we can see that caged birds and lifeless dolls do have souls.
So yeah. I would definitely re-watch this series. If only to see and further cheer Kongou on as she transforms.
Overall? I loved this adaptation. It isn’t the manga. The manga is its own different monster, and I pretty much prefer the manga. But the anime is a guilty pleasure in a way that Harry Turtledove’s books are. An alternate universe with the same actors. A different outcome and simplifying the themes. That did mean many roles were melded, marginalized, made composite (Kita and Kamikage comes to mind) or otherwise absent (Hakugei III, Gunzou’s father), but that didn’t detract from a pleasurable ride. Iona and Kongou are completely different from where the manga is at this point of time.
Iona has already ‘grown’ to be past a doll at the start of the manga (Hi-sonic!!!. Hell, she is a friggin Otaku aboard) while Kongou is in more control with her free will and less rigid, allowing her to continue the Admiralty Code’s mandate without breaking down. I’ve used the words ‘doll’ and ‘caged bird’ often, but it’s how I saw them. Both were pretty much emotionless at the beginning, both became free at the end. It was how they got there that was great. Iona’s ascendance through love and friendship was lightening and touching; but Kongou’s descent to madness, loneliness, and depression was more tragic. And it made for great story-telling.
The series was one of those few adaptations where everything is changed so profoundly that it at times doesn’t resemble the series it is derived from. There are some things in life that can be labelled as ‘in name only’ like the World War Z film. The film put off so many fans of the original book that some, like myself, would go to great lenghts to keep away from it. Some things though, like this anime, take the ‘in name only’ title and go about a completely different path. And that path is awesome.
So yeah, the anime isn’t the manga. But it can stand on its own with head up high and on equal terms with it.