Wednesday, April 30, 2014

From Touhou Project to Kantai Collection

There has been a lot of talk of Kantai Collection, with noticeable jump to the series from hardcore and true blue Touhou fans (present company included), that I feel the time is ripe to talk about this phenomena, in the midst of all the bad ship puns being cranked out now and then (by yours truly, who else?!).

Like so

It is not uncommon to find people who’re then very much into Touhou suddenly jumping ships (pun totally intended, as are the rest to follow...) to KanColle: doujin artist, music arrange circles, cosplayers, your Facebook friends, anon on message boards…

This all perhaps beg the question of ‘who else haven’t played KanColle?’ to those who played it, much to the chagrin of those who have not picked it, or the ones who have no intention on picking up the game at all. 

[hetza @ hellshock, combining his love for military, gar and awesomeness with KanColle – a match in heaven!] 
(also, imizu and kemonomichi have been picking them up as well!)

Not everyone is too eager to jump the ship though.

I know I was one of them, when I found the whole lottery process to enter the game – as well as the full Japanese text of the game – somewhat off putting. I was also under the impression that it’s a passing fad, wondering if I’ll ever end up picking it and joining the craze… while at the same time, I harboured [cue imaginary pun counter somewhere] the desire to join the game, if only so as I could get my hand on commandeering Akagi-chan…

And while it might not be a critical factor, I know some might associate… erm, sexiness with KanColle, with most Admirals and doujin artists embracing and even outright playing around with these elements. I'm immediately reminded of where someone once wondered if some would associate the more... sexy stuff of Touhou: would that outlook hold the same for KanColle, I wonder?  

…but back to the game itself. Once I do manage to get in, it was like eating chipsmore: before you know it, a lot of times end up being spent on the game, lost like those very chocolate chips biscuits they are.

Playing KanColle is like eating these guys: before you know it, you've finished hat one packet by your own!

I’ve pondered on why there seem to be a lot of jump to the series from Touhou fans, and I can think of a few reasons why this is so:

Without a doubt, exposure/jumping into bandwagon/peer pressure plays a big role in influencing one to pick up the series. With the series being mentioned practically everywhere in social media, you would have come across the many game screenshot, products, doujin, or simply mentioning of the series at one point or another. The more curious cats would have taken the bait – or they went fishing – and it would be a matter of time before they are hooked…

It is also perhaps not uncommon for people to jump aboard because, frankly, they have outgrown the Touhou fandom,  be it completely or temporarily… as this one rather provokingly titled Touhou Sucks goes at great length to attack.

…which is perhaps something of a paradox, since if you look at it closely, these two series share two big factor that drew their audiences in: moefied object/character/concept, and lots and lots of girl characters. You could put in a large doujin works there as well, but I’m still fiddling over whether you could compare KanColle doujin to Touhou ones in term of variety (music arrangement, fangames, yeah?)

(as one comment cheekily pointed out, “Oh gee, I can’t wait for vol 2 titled: Kantai collection sucks too!”… now you guys are even, Touhou and KanColle die-harders)

Go home guys, you're all drunk!

But for all the points the author in the article above bashed, you could immediately say the same would apply to KanColle… so lets try and see the two series in a much clearer (and sober) light, shall we.

Beside the moefied ships factor, I think it’s important to mention the gameplay itself, which at least one guy had pointed out as one reason the game won him over (well, nevermind it's from the same guy just now...). Now, as opposed to Touhou Project game, which is when you come down to it, a bullet hell game that is by nature heavily scripted and requires you to memorize patterns – with different difficulties level for you to choose from – Kantai Collection puts the players at an even field, where as well as normal RPG stats, you are at the mercy of the Random Number Generator (RNG) goddess, which influence pretty much everything in the game, from the odds of you getting certain type of ship girls, to which direction on a map you will end up, and right down to even the combat itself. Also, there’s even a ‘luck’ stat for the ships, which speaks volume on just how important luck is in the game. 

My God, what an old meme

This is both a good and bad thing: bad in that all your hard work might be swept away by case of extremely bad luck, but the good news is that if you played your cards right you can clear through the game without excessive grinding. This is perhaps hardly surprising, since KanColle is pretty much a click-and-wait browser game, which is very much similar to all those other free apps browser game you would care to name.

Some would even go so far as to suggest the reward in KanColle are more, well, rewarding, and you have a much stronger attachment to your ship girls, as opposed to be a gangsta shrine maiden whooping everyone else’s asses. With the relatively recent marriage (!) system being implemented for KanColle, as well as the addition of German warships, it really seems the developers are out to hook newcomers and ones who've been in the game for a while...

...not yet for me, unfortunately.

With that bit of game mechanic done, lets touch on the fandom of the two series.  

Series with moe-fied military theme in them are not that uncommon, with Strike Witches, Girls und Panzer, and Hetalia among the notable ones (all with what I would view as being relatively successful). So the concept behind KanColle is not extremely new – it so happened that it became -that- series which managed to pique a lot of audience, and in this case, without them expecting it (or maybe they do?), they have managed to win over a number of Touhou fans.  

Initially I was scratching my head over how KanColle manage to rise up so fast among the other series (last Comiket I checked, it’s the second largest series among the attendance, beating even Vocaloid), but as a few people have noted, the series – along with Touhou – enjoy the ‘moe boom’ of 2000, drawing in a lot of fans to loads-of-cute-girls-doing-stuff premise.

With that in mind, it’s not surprising – inevitable, perhaps – for people to come up with the remark that KanColle is the new Touhou. It even led some to wonder whether it would someday even overtake Touhou, at the rate it’s going right now, but personally I do not think so - if we were to talk of a long term.  

I know very soon someone will point out that Touhou is very much the brainchild of one man, one beer, one computer, whereas KanColle is a very much a commercial product: and I believe this is the main point which made some of the Touhou fans feel that the former is superior than the latter, where they feel that anyone who jumped into the second one are out to ride the bandwagon, succumbed to pier (heh) pressure, or they are just fickle people who have no loyalty to a... not just a series, but something that might very well be called a cult.

How’s that counter ticking, man?

Now, supposing if I were to imagine myself being a hardheaded, no-nonsense, mouth-foaming Touhou fan, I would defend the series to death for its free market policy, citing how ZUN gives almost full control over how the fans produce derivative work, in essence promoting creativity. Having made that point, I would point out how KanColle does not really leave much room for expanding the series world and how it’s most of the series product are out in fuelling consumer mentality, from all those official merchandise, the hype generated – intentionally or not – right down to the pay-to-win system that game of similar caliber have.

Don’t be a sourface like Kongou, be more like Kongou… desu!

And I’m suspecting those with those exact ideas would take offense at my association of the word immersion with KanColle, implying those who’re into KanColle are out there to pressure everyone to sail with them. I don’t know if they haven’t been there when other series are being hyped, because isn’t that the norm for pretty much any other popular series? Fandom come and go, and along with it the fans and proponents..

As of now, I don’t have that much of points to properly give a rebuke to the points shot out by the hypothetical die-hard Touhou fans (which I'll admit I exaggerate here and there in this writing - but hey), but I would like to remind them that not everyone who’re into the series are mere bandwagon jumpers. The similarity of the two series are striking, that it offer a breathe of air for some – where the core of the fandom is rather the same. If I were to offer a positive (but perhaps entirely folly and childish) scenario, you could think of KanColle as being a parallel evolution of moefied girl characters, alongside the scene created by Touhou. And that is perhaps why we’re getting a lot of influx from Touhou fans – it’s not that they have abandoned the series in entirety, but they’re running through a parallel path!

I would even go as far as to suggest the world of KanColle to represent a sea version of Gensokyo, seeing as the latter have been touted to have no ocean. But hey, if you're unhappy at how I'm grouping these two series, take comfort in knowing that series come and series go (take that however you want it). 

OK no more bad puns after this, I promise

As for expanding the surface, what I really like about the two series is how they have just that bit of dark undertone to them which you could really address if you want to (Gensokyo with its youkai-human relationship, KanColle with history of military ships battles and the very nature of the ship girls themselves). I’ve seen a fair share of dark take on Gensokyo, and am seeing similar development among KanColle doujin as well. It’s good, my morbid self like that.

And as with Touhou, it is only a matter of time before we start getting the whole secondaries discrimination. With news of kanColle anime being released by this summer, naysayer and pessimist are perhaps left counting the days while practicing their best frownface when the moments come and we have a shipload of people who jump into the series without proper immersion… but I’ve been guilty of making the same assumption with TouhouProject back then, and look at how mistaken I was.

I’m really looking if the series could have that magic that Touhou Project has (and the same one which I’m sure My Little Pony possess as well, which I acknowledge despite not being in the fandom). As much as there’s the whole limitation and pessimism that the series will run aground by the time everything is milked out, I’m just gonna sit back and see how the fanbase would steer the series.

Also, a bit of discussion between the two series, just to show how comparison between them are pretty inevitable.

Yeah, well… you know this will come from me sooner or later, but I’m certainly curious to see how much affinity to crossplaying the series will have, ehehehe.

Probably not as much as that other series, I'm guessing. There hasn't been a lot of other series which attract - not only tolerating, but somewhat promoting - that phenomena. But who knows?

I’ll just end with these


  1. It'll be interesting to see if Kancolle manages to stick around as long as Touhou has. I haven't gotten into it myself but then again I haven't gotten into the last few Touhou games either.

  2. I noticed a lot of KanColle haters seem to be Touhou fans lately :-/

  3. As a Touhou fan, I'm somewhat interested in Kantai. I've heard of it, seen the artworks. I can't get attached to any series until I play the game, of course, so I can't really call myself a Kantai fan as of yet.

    As a Seihou fan, I am positively mortified. My poor, poor Seihou! Kantai is taking from it the only thing it has over Touhou--- girls with guns! Ships! IN SPAAAACE!!!


    In any case, I don't think Kantai will really get to Touhou levels. Touhou is much more fertile ground as far as derivative works go, for one, and it has much more Fanfic/Doujin-Manga potential than Kantai. The characters are also more complex, and their backstories are at the same time extensive, yet vague.

    Kantai, on the other hand... well, we know about the stories of their real world equivalents, ja?

    Also, Touhou's music is much more intimate, and if you do a bit of meditation on them, you'd see the character of the person or the aura of the locale the song is attached to.

    Kantai, on the other hand, is situational. Calm lady? Nah. We're in the middle of battle, so we can't have calm music playing.

    Kantai's beat on the story (and music!) department. It might match Touhou in the art department though.

    Touhou beats Kantai for me, but that don't mean I will be adverse to giving Kantai a try.

    The girls are cute!