The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

Azur Lane: Review and Reflection After Three

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” -Steve Jobs

In the aftermath of the battle, the Azur Lane begin repairs on their facility. Meanwhile Kaga and Akagi meet with Prinz Eugen, an Iron Blood ship girl, before sending Zuikaku and Shoukaku to ambush a seaborne Azur Lane fleet. Z23 and Ayanami are also deployed in this engagement, and while they have the upper hand initially, a partially repaired Enterprise appears to engage Zuikaku and Shoukaku, but failing equipment prevents her from landing a decisive blow. While Cleveland escorts the damaged vessels, the Royal Navy’s fleet, led by Queen Elizabeth, arrives. Belfast prevents Enterprise from taking a fatal hit, and the Red Axis forces retreat. While the others return to the base and relax, Unicorn shares a word with Enterprise, learning that she sees no joy in the oceans. While Belfast confronts Enterprise about her nihilistic beliefs, a distress signal is sent out. A small fleet is deployed, and Enterprise finds a pair of damaged Dragon Empery cruisers. She begins engaging a Siren, but Belfast ultimately saves her and upon realising that Enterprise fights for those around her, resolves to make a proper lady out of her yet. This is Azur Lane after three episodes, which slowly begins to establish that Enterprise is the silent protagonist whose seeming lack of emotion and unerring combat prowess conceals a more fragile, human personality. While she may be the top-performing ship in Azur Lane, her tendency to take on battle independently even when she is not at full condition constitutes a personality flaw, and it appears that the anime will be setting out to show how Enterprise begins to place more trust in her companions, rather like how contemporary carrier groups operate with an escort fleet to provide support for the aircraft carrier.

Three episodes in, Azur Lane‘s main challenge lies in its juxtaposition of themes surrounding warfare and the necessity of conflict with messages of friendship and trust. This manifests as a sharp contrast the other ship girls’ exuberant, easy-go-lucky mannerisms and Enterprise’s cold, emotionless approach towards her duty. Said contrast creates a disconnect in what Azur Lane aims to do with its story, and thus, this can seem quite disconcerting. However, determining what Azur Lane‘s intended atmosphere should be is not a particularly difficult task: given that it is only Enterprise with the cold, detached outlook, and each of Laffey, Unicorn and the others are friendly ships who express little concerns about the horror and desolation of war, it becomes clear that the light-hearted antics of the latter group, of the ship girls and their unique idiosyncrasies and colourful personalities, are what characterise Azur Lane. As such, it would be grossly unfair to dismiss Azur Lane simply because of the series’ contrasting atmosphere and lack of adherence to historical authenticity: after three episodes, Enterprise’s development as a ship girl looks to be Azur Lane‘s priority. As she spends more time with the other vessels, Belfast in particular, she’ll come to discover a new reason for fighting and help the Azur Lane properly hold back the Red Axis’ machinations. Having established this, Azur Lane sets the expectations for the episodes upcoming, and I anticipate that the series will likely take on Kantai Collection‘s slice-of-life focus as it follows Enterprise learning more about her teammates, and through the course of both the ordinary and combat, she may come to appreciate what she means to everyone beyond being the Eagle Union’s top aircraft carrier.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In the aftermath of the Red Axis attack, the Azur Lane forces are left to clean up and repair their base. At least one reviewer stated that this was intended to have parallels with Pearl Harbour, before mentioning Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Date that will live in infamy” speech and how the light mood in Azur Lane precluded anything meaningful from happening. Given the initial setup of Azur Lane, such a comparison is inappropriate, and such expectations are unreasonable.

  • The reviewer in question claims that there are too many unanswered questions in the anime, and while this is true, we are still early on in the season. Ultimately, their post goes on to label Azur Lane as “stupid”, dismissing it as something one should “turn their brain off while watching”. I’ve not seen this poor of a review from the blog Random Curiosity in a very long time, and while I have no qualms about negative reviews, this reviewer later argues in their comments that enjoying the show equates to letting one’s “feelings block analysis”.

  • In this case, the original post is not what analysis looks like, and it is a positive sign that Random Curiosity’s readers are pushing back on the reviewer’s approach. Had the individual taken the time to understand the contrast between Enterprise and the other ships, it would have become clear that Azur Lane is not meant to be serious despite Enterprise’s mannerisms. With that bit of foreword done, I return to discussion to Azur Lane proper, and deliberately choose to feature the same moment of Javelin accidentally being stripped after Laffey pulls down her shirt upon falling asleep.

  • Traces of Siren technology can be seen amongst the Iron Blood ship girls: alien-looking appendages can be seen on Prinz Eugen, who arrives to meet a recovering Kaga and Akagi. The interactions between the Iron Blood and Sakura Empire ship girls seems unnecessarily stiff and formal, perhaps indicating at their dislike for one another despite being allies. By comparison, the Eagle Union and Royal Navy ship girls get along much more naturally.

  • Enterprise is voiced by Yui Ishikawa, who I know best as Violet Evergarden‘s Violet Evergarden and Eromanga Sensei‘s Tomoe Takasago, as well as China Kousaka from Gundam Build Fighters. Laffey is played by Maria Naganawa: there are no surprises here, as Laffey sounds very similar to Kanna from Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid and Slow Start‘s Kamuri Sengoku. Seeing familiar voices return into new series is one of the joys of having been around the block for a while.

  • I yield that moments like these would be what makes writing about Azur Lane interesting, and I’m certain that readers would concur. With this being said, posts consisting purely of T & A cannot be very conducive towards interesting discussion: moments such as this fine view from behind the USS Helena naturally do not invite conversation about more noteworthy topics, such as performance and tactics.

  • Enterprise’s promptness to deploy into the battle does initially suggest a disregard for her own safety, but as I’ve mentioned in my anniversary post, I don’t assess characters for their personalities, decisions and actions at the start of a series. Instead, it is the sum of their growth throughout the series that counts. As such, while Enterprise’s serious personality very much puts her in sharp contrast with the other characters, I do not feel that this is a flaw that will continue to remain with her as Azur Lane continues.

  • Hornet of Azur Lane is modelled after the USS Hornet (CV-8), considered to be the younger sister of the Enterprise. Both are Yorktown-class carriers, and in particular, the Hornet was best known for its involvement in the Doolittle Raid during 1942, which marked the first time anyone had reached the Japanese islands and struck them. While the damage caused was minimal, it showed that the United States was capable of retaliating. The Hornet would later participate in the Battle of Midway and Solomon Islands campaign, where she would be sunk by Japanese destroyers after sustaining damage from dive bombers.

  • In combat with Zuikaku, Enterprise finds herself evenly matched only because her equipment begins to fail. Her desire to immediately enter a situation with the aim of doing good is an admirable one, but this haste to deploy means that while she might always be ready, her gear isn’t and thus, fails at inopportune times. While I share Enterprise’s sense of urgency when asked to do something, I always make certain that the outcome of whatever I am engaged in does not fall down to whether or not my equipment was ready. For example, in most games, I always make it a point to enter new missions with the best possible gear and fully-stocked consumables, and similarly, in real life, I do not typically approach something until I am satisfied that I can do what my assignments are.

  • While the Red Axis forces prove to be formidable, the arrival of the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth and her escorts prompts the Red Axis to retreat. Queen Elizabeth is modelled after the 1913 dreadnought battleship, which was commissioned in 1914 and served in the European theatre early in World War Two, before joining the Pacific theatre in 1943. The ship was given major upgrades in between the two world wars: her armour was increased, and additional guns were added along with new safety measures.

  • Even from a distance, the damage on Enterprise is visible: cracks appear on the large carrier deck-like shield. Unlike Kantai Collection, there does not yet appear to be any sort of consistency with respect to how the different costume pieces work out, and for my sanity, it would probably be easier to suppose that the ship girls of Azur Lane work more similarly to magical girls rather than mecha musume.

  • The page quote for this discussion is from Apple’s co-founder and former CEO, Steve Jobs: it mirrors my belief that trying to make sense of something only works when one is afforded with the big picture, or at least, hindsight. This is why I feel that Random Curiosity’s reviewer reached a conclusion with faulty reasoning that was based on emotion rather than analysis: two episodes in is too early to be dismissing the entire series on a few observations. I further note that the more mature, analytical approach would’ve simply be to say that the series was not to their liking, provide an example of another series that does it in a style they agree with, and then abstain from using historical references as the precedence for what Azur Lane should be.

  • In short, it is sufficient to say one didn’t like something, but it is not necessary to count those who did like something as having “tweet-length attention spans and don’t care about storytelling”. Broadly categorising those whose opinions are contrary to one’s own is a sign of weakness, and I’ve long argued that those looking for intellectual and philosophical discussion in anime featuring moé anthropomorphism are either being elitist or else lead a dreary existence where their intellect is not sufficiently challenged. Here, Belfast appears to save Enterprise from sustaining fatal damage, prompting Zuikaku to retreat.

  • For me, Azur Lane provides a fun experience, and while I do not particularly have many thoughts on the series’ events to the point where I can consistently write about it, I nonetheless do intend to continue watching Azur Lane. Outside of combat, the ship girls behave as ordinary youth might, preferring to lounge around and relax. One aspect of Azur Lane I’m enjoying is a subtle one: almost all of the screenshots feature incredibly azure skies, giving the anime a very warm, summer feeling. I’m particularly fond of Hornet’s expression here, and note that while I’m a newcomer to Azur Lane, I’m increasingly becoming fond of Hornet.

  • Such an atmospheric is especially welcome, now that the milder days of autumn are past and the nights have become increasingly long. The girls’ day at the beach is more typical with the atmosphere that Azur Lane projects. While some of the ship girls play beach volleyball, their match is disrupted when San Diego is attacked by a shark, leading to much hilarity as the others immediately transform and intervene with shells. The entire commotion is a noisy, turbulent and fun affair that shows what Azur Lane is about.

  • Funny facial expressions are typically absent in whole from serious anime, and moments like San Diego attempting to escape the maw of a shark mirror Hornet’s remarks, that the ship girls are more than combat units. On the topic of sharks, I’m reminded of the presence of the megaladon in the Battlefield series, an Easter egg I’ve never bothered spending the time to find. The last time I went hunting for an Easter Egg was for the Escalation skin in Battlefield 1.

  • Unicorn thanks Enterprise for having saved her, and expresses a love for the ocean that Enterprise does not share. Her cold presentation of the ocean prompts Unicorn to ask her if she fears the ocean, but she does not get a proper response. Enterprise’s bleak outlook stands in contrast with Hornet, but when asked what my favourite ships of the Second World War are, I would probably have to go with the USS Enterprise CV-6 or the USS Missouri BB-63 for their instrumental role in the Pacific Theatre.

  • A rainstorm blows in and ruins what was otherwise a flawless day at the beach, forcing everyone to take cover and dry off. Laffey shakes the water out of her hair in a hilarious manner, similar to that of a dog. However, while dogs can remove up to seventy percent of the water in their fur with one shake thanks to their having looser skin (and many mammals can excise water from themselves on a short order), humans don’t have this ability owing to the fact that our skin is relatively tight. Instead, our ingenuity allows us the luxury of towels, hair driers and other implements for removing water.

  • Belfast confronts Enterprise and informs her that the latter’s way of life is ultimately self-destructive. Enterprise has no response for Belfast, either, but a sudden distress call forces her to sortie along with a handful of available ship girls. When Enterprise arrives, she finds two damaged Dragon Empery cruisers. After making sure they are out of harm’s way, she makes to engage the damaged Siren battleship on her own, but when her gear fails yet again, Belfast arrives to bail her out.

  • Having seen why Enterprise fights, Belfast decides that Enterprise is worth keeping a closer eye on, and this brings the third episode to an end. After three episodes, I am having fun watching Azur Lane, but as I’ve stated on a few occasions, the route this series is likely to take means that there isn’t much that I can do in the way of writing about it every few episodes. Instead, I will be returning to write about Azur Lane as a whole once the finale airs in December. Similarly, having seen Rifle is Beautiful, I do not feel that there is much to write for there despite the series’ warm and easygoing mood. I will cover my thoughts on Rifle is Beautiful once the third episode airs and then do a whole-series talk on it come December. This leaves Kandagawa Jet Girls as the anime that has won extended coverage from me this season: I will be writing about the series at its halfway and three-quarters point once those milestones have been reached.

While Azur Lane looks exciting as a series to follow, the nature of the story also means that progression will have to take place incrementally: Enterprise will need to spend time both on and off the battlefield with her allies in order to learn things like trust and companionship. In conjunction with Azur Lane‘s deviation from historical events and authenticity in favour of a highly colourful cast and wacky antics, this means that Azur Lane looks to be a series that will be difficult to consistently write for: with realism and authenticity not figuring prominently, there is no reason to bring in historical details surrounding the ships themselves, or the battles that they fight in, and there is an upper limit to what I can do with everyday life at the Azur Lane base and smaller-scale battles that bear no resemblance to their real-world counterparts. As such, I will be returning once Azur Lane has concluded to look at the series in greater detail and see whether or not it succeeded in delivering a meaningful story over the course of its run. The verdict that I reach on this series will primarily be motivated by whether or not character growth and world-building occur to a satisfactory extent. My decision to not do a more extensive set of discussions for this series is not related to my enjoyment of the anime: so far, Azur Lane has proven to be quite entertaining because of the dynamics amongst the ship girls, and furthermore, the Red Axis’ presence and motivations are intriguing. I am looking forwards to seeing what their relationship with the Siren are, as well as whether or not Azur Lane will delve into more details surrounding their universe.

2 responses to “Azur Lane: Review and Reflection After Three

  1. ernietheracefan October 23, 2019 at 10:41

    Thanks to the anime, now I started to play the game, and it’s quite entertaining.. (Side-scrolling shoot’em all)

    My favorite kansens (AL’s ship girl designations) would be Cleveland, Hood, Crane sisters (Zuikaku received the major update), Ayanami, Z23, & Prinz Eugen. (I’d like to add the Renown sisters, but so far, they’re on the background when Javelin & Laffey were eating)

    Saratoga being a prankster (ketchup on fish & chips and apparently blew the shark), while San Diego being the butt monkey. And I’m surprised that you didn’t mentioned Yorktown’s appearance in ep3.

    FYI, I know this sounds spoilery, but Kongo, Mikasa, & Essex are voiced by Chiwa Saito, Sayaka Ohara, & Kaori Mizunashi, respectively.. (3rd gen Three Water Fairies are essentially the aircraft carriers)

    Like

    • infinitezenith October 26, 2019 at 19:47

      I gave the Azur Lane mobile game a whirl, and while it’s fun, I’ve never really been into the mobile gaming scene. From the quarter-hour I put in, I did see that the game is rather more skill-based than Kantai Collection.

      The characters certainly do have their own unique traits, and I found the fish and chips scene hilarious, although with the pacing in the series, these traits aren’t really shown in more detail.

      On the voice actors, my remarks about the series’ pacing continues to hold true: I’ll probably have a bit more to say once everyone’s had more screentime.

      Like

Were we helpful? Did you see something we can improve on? Please provide your feedback today!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: