The Infinite Zenith

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A Party at the Grand Base- Azur Lane: Slow Ahead! OVA Review and Reflection

“Take it easy, because if you start taking things seriously, it is the end of you.” –Jack Kerouac

With a party scheduled for the following day, Javelin decides to head on over to the gymnasium and show Laffey, Ayanami and Z23 her dance moves. Here, they find Sirius still attempting to practise for her waitress duties so she may impress the Commander during the party, and despite their best efforts, Sirius succumbs to various accidents during training; she becomes visibly flustered at the thought of serving the commander. Later, South Dakota and Massachusetts show up, hoping to practise ahead of the party. It turns out they’re slated to play a piano duet here. When they begin playing, Javelin, Laffey, Ayanami and Z23 appreciate the performance. On the evening of the party, South Dakota and Massachusetts perform while festivities are under way. Laffey enjoys herself with the food, while Sirius appears to have overcome her clumsiness and is able to serve. Javelin lets loose on the dance floor and ends up colliding with Sirius, resulting in some laughs from the other party-goers. This is about the gist of what happens in the special that was bundled with Azur Lane: Slow Ahead!. Airing last year, Slow Ahead! had been a slice-of-life spinoff that portrayed Javelin’s life on base after the main series’ events had concluded. At this time, Ayanami has joined Javelin and Laffey in their everyday misadventures, and even Z23 becomes close with the three: in the absence of conflict, Slow Ahead! shows how the ship girls are more similar than different, and it is ultimately this that allows everyone to befriend one another. This special inherits the aesthetic and tone from Slow Ahead!, as well as the smoother animation and improved artwork: originally, Azur Lane had run into challenges during production and overall, did not possess the same depth or engagement as the game the anime had been adapted from. However, Slow Ahead! reverses this, showing how, even in the absence of an overarching conflict and longer term objective, anime series derived from mobile games can still be remarkably fun to watch. While Slow Ahead! never had any of the severity or conflict that Azur Lane sought to portray, it remained entertaining because it allows the characters to simply bounce off one another, and the special accompanying Slow Ahead!, while nothing innovative, succeeds in this area.

Having now seen Azur Lane and Uma Musume Pretty Derby as examples of how anime adaptations of mobile games can find success, attention turns towards the upcoming Kantai Collection: Itsuka Ano Umi de. Kantai Collection had originally received an animated adaptation back in 2015, which had proven to be quite similar to Azur Lane in several ways. Both series attempted to delve into the more philosophical aspects of endless cycles of warfare while maintaining a balance with everyday life on base, and both series were ultimately at their most enjoyable when dealing with slice-of-life moments, being weaker with their more serious moments. Kantai Collection and Azur Lane both have impressive soundtracks. After its original run, Kantai Collection ended up expanding on their universe with a movie that dealt with the cycle between Abyssals and Kan-musume, while Azur Lane decided to pivot towards a more comedic and gentle portrayal of their ship girls when not in combat scenarios. It is unsurprising that Azur Lane‘s spinoff has proven to be more enjoyable: neither series had quite been able to reconcile the horrors and desolation of warfare with comedic antics that belong in other genres, and Kantai Collection: The Movie had insistently ploughed on with this story and ultimately ended up leaving the universe open. However, with over seven years having elapsed since Kantai Collection last aired, I imagine that, most English-speaking views would not remember the anime. As such, Itsuka Ano Umi de now faces a unique challenge. Presenting the Kantai Collection universe from a slice-of-life or comedic perspective would provide viewers with a conventional, if enjoyable experience, but Itsuka Ano Umi de appears to be taking a riskier route: promotional materials suggest that this series, centred around Shigure, could be a grim one. The original Shigure had fought at the Battle of Surigao Strait, which saw near-total casulties. There is the possibility that Itsuka Ano Umi de would be about Shigure dealing with the outcome of an equivalent in Kantai Collection and finding happiness anew in the aftermath, although save a handful of these promotional trailers, not much more is known. It is equally possible that the series could go in a different direction and continue on with where the film had left off. With this in mind, Japanese viewers do appear excited for the series, and I imagine that the key here is not to expect too much out of Itsuka Ano Umi de: for me, if it does go down a route where Shigure must come to terms with past losses and rediscover her reason for being, that’ll be satisfactory.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Until quite recently, I hadn’t even known that Slow Ahead! would receive an OVA with its home release: despite having greatly enjoyed Slow Ahead! during its run more than a year ago, Slow Ahead! isn’t a series that I would count as being so riveting and compelling that I’d keep up with related news. As such, that there was an OVA had completely slipped from my mind. Having said this, I am glad to have gone through and taken the time to watch this OVA, which became available in July of last year and follows the ship girls as they prepare for a party on base.

  • Slow Ahead!‘s greatest strength had been the fact that it was entirely comedy-driven: in series like Azur LaneKantai Collection and virtually every other online game, characters form the bulk of the appeal, so an anime that is able to take these characters and let them bounce off one another in a slice-of-life setting can result in an entertaining anime that expands the world further without overlapping with the topics the game seeks to cover. This is, in part, why both Kantai Collection and Azur Lane‘s original anime series were a little less effective; the aspects that drive the game may not be quite as consistent or coherent from a narrative standpoint..

  • Uma Musume Pretty Derby is the exception to this: because the horse girls have unique goals and aspirations, in conjunction with the fact that every horse girl’s experiences is rooted by their namesake’s history, an engaging story can be written for the anime format, all the while expanding on their world in a way the game might not. It is therefore unsurprising that Uma Musume Pretty Derby is receiving yet another continuation.

  • With this in mind, I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing more Slow Ahead!, either: Javelin and her friends end up involved in a variety of experiences on base, and these moments do fit the short format quite nicely, offering viewers with a few laughs here and there. Despite my never having played Azur Lane in any detail, Slow Ahead!‘s portrayal of the characters is accessible and simple, allowing this series of shorts to be one more addition to my collection of shows to watch when I’m looking for something simple.

  • In this OVA, Slow Ahead! shows Javelin as being quite excited to take to the dance floor for their party, in hopes of impressing the commander with her fresh moves. Eager to show Z23, Ayanami and Laffey what she’s got, the group head over to the gymnasium, where they find Sirius already there, practising for her waitress duties during the party. The real HMS Sirius was a Dido-class light cruiser that was launched in 1940 and assigned to assignments around the Mediterranean Sea from 1942 onwards. In Azur Lane, Sirius is portrayed as a well-endowed maid who struggles with her practise.

  • All thought of dancing is forgotten as Javelin and the others decide to help Sirius with her practise out: it turns out that Sirius is also hoping to impress the commander. This is a recurring theme in Slow Ahead! as the ship girls vie for the unseen commander’s attention: with Azur Lane‘s original series, the higher-ranking ship girls made their own calls as to what assignments they would take on and what tasks they would carry out, so in this regard, Slow Ahead! does bring back an element that was present in the game.

  • As a bit of an aside, this post has actually been sitting in my “drafts” folder since the last week of April; I had originally been looking to get this post done before May had arrived, but things became quite busy towards the month’s end. While I’m now settled in and have a consistent schedule, the end of April saw me working on pushing through posts for Project Wingman and wrapping up talks on anime that I’d been meaning to write about, as well as begin preparing special topics talks surrounding my trip to Japan five years ago, and the preparations for the MCAT a decade earlier.

  • The largest of these tasks was revisiting Go! Go! Nippon! so that I can do a full scale post for a lengthier recollection about both my travels, and thoughts of the game. With those done, I’ve had a chance to make a dent in my backlog of shows (as Akebi’s Sailor Uniform demonstrates), and this comes just in time as the Calgary Flames make it to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs; entering this week, I stayed up much later than I normally would to watch the heart-stopping game seven, which took place at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

  • Although the Flames had fallen into a 1-0 hole after the first period ended, Tyler Toffoli tied things up during the second period. Moments later, Dallas would score again, but before the second period expired, Matthew Tkachuk tied the game 2-2. The third period was scoreless, and so, the Flames went to overtime. For fifteen minutes, Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom, and Dallas goaltender Jake Oettinger duelled to keep their respective teams alive. Finally, Johnny Gaudreau would put one behind Oettinger at a bad angle, taking the Flames to a second-round showdown with the Edmonton Oilers.

  • I’ve not seen the Flames in a round two series since the 2004 playoffs, when Martin Gelinas scored in overtime to help defeat the Vancouver Canucks, and on this first match in the iconic Battle of Alberta, the Flames exploded out to a 9-6 victory over the Oilers at the ‘Dome. This victory saw Tkachuk with a hat trick, and while winning the first match feels amazing, Edmonton is an excellent team, so the next game is going to be tough. One thing’s for certain: the Battle of Alberta will be intense and emotional. Back in Slow Ahead!, with Sirius struggling with various tasks, the other ship girls do their best to reassure her that despite nerves, she’ll be fine once the party arrives: Sirius has taken several spills, including one moment where she gets cake on herself, causing Laffey to try and help Sirius to “clean up”.

  • Although Sirius’ misfortunes persist, South Dakota and Massachusetts soon appear: it turns out they’re going to perform on the evening of the party, and have also shown up to practise their piano piece. To give Sirius a chance to catch her breath, Javelin and the others decide to hear South Dakota and Massachusetts practise: a grand piano’s already been placed on the main stage, and the gymnasium is soon filled with a warm piano as the pair practise.

  • South Dakota and Massachusetts did not figure prominently in Slow Ahead‘s original run. Both South Dakota and Massachusetts are classified as battleships in Azur Lane: in-game, battleships bring massive firepower to the table, and a quick look around finds that the most iconic World War Two battleship, the USS Missouri, do exist in the Azur Lane universe as ultra-rare vessels, although to the best of my knowledge, I’ve never seen them in combat or on base previously. However, reflecting on her role in World War Two, Missouri is portrayed as being highly efficient with paperwork (the USS Missouri was the site where the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed).

  • The previously-empty gymnasium is a completely different place on the night of the party and is aglow with warmth. This party, although only portrayed for a few moments in Slow Ahead‘s OVA, speaks volumes to how far things have come since the events of Azur Lane proper: Kaga and Enterprise are no longer at one another’s throats, for instance. Seeing slice-of-life moments in Azur Lane had proven surprisingly enjoyable; longtime readers will know that I am very fond of quiet, ordinary moments. This is because life is already busy and hectic as it is, so moments I have to myself are appreciated, and enjoyment of quieter moments extends to my entertainment, as well.

  • Just this past weekend, I ended up having a few hours of Sunday afternoon to myself: having gone grocery shopping and mopped down the floors, I had enough time in my afternoon to walk over to the neighbouring bookstore, where I spent an hour blissfully browsing through the latest novels and reference books. On the way back home, it suddenly hit me that I’ve not felt this relaxed for quite some time. Back in Slow Ahead!‘s OVA, Sirius has managed to overcome her doubts and becomes comfortable with serving just in time for the party.

  • To reiterate the fact that this party is a magical moment for all those participating, the entire scene is filled with a warm, golden glitter: all of the preparations appear to have been successful, and the event itself is further given a dream-like character by depicting the various scenes as stills. Although this technique was previously used to offset the fact that some moments are too intricate to animate, slice-of-life series utilise it as a visual metaphor and emphasise the idea of living in the moment. This is the reason I’ve given as why Akebi’s Sailor Uniform‘s final performance uses stills rather than animation; for both Erika and Komichi, they’re completely immersed in what they’re doing, and the anime intended to convey this, rather than CloverWorks’ prowess, hence the outcome.

  • Laffey lives up to her promise of eating to her heart’s content at the party. While reception foods are quite tasty, I’ve never really been one to over-do it: eating too much at a party, especially when one’s in formal wear, can create for some challenges. The key here is that at parties, dinner is often served buffet style, and the best approach I’ve found is to sample everything, then “fill up the corners” with one’s favourite dishes once everyone’s had a chance to eat and settle down. This familiarity comes from a lifetime of eating dinner Chinese style: everything is communal, rather than served in individual portions, so it’s considered good etiquette to let everyone at the table try something, and then slowly pick away at the dishes over conversation.

  • Javelin, on the other hand, dances her heart out during the party. After a series of watching the ship girls struggle in a life-and-death battle with the Orochi Project, Slow Ahead! gave viewers a chance to see the girls enjoying everyday life. Slow Ahead!‘s OVA continues in the vein of its predecessor, bringing back memories as to why Slow Ahead! had been so enjoyable. The look of joy on Javelin’s face is priceless, although in the moment, Javelin loses track of her surroundings and collides with Sirius, who’d otherwise been having a fine evening, as well.

  • While perhaps a little embarrassing, no lasting damage is done to either Sirius or Javelin. The moment does leave me with another screenshot of note: fanservice in Azur Lane is comparatively disciplined, and this was something I found a little surprising, since series of this sort traditionally capitalised on the moment to show pantsu and make mammary jokes like both were going out of style. Having said this, while such moments are not a bother for me, I do feel that in a series where the characters can stand of their own merits, such moments could be stripped out entirely, and the work would still stand.

  • Slow Ahead! is one of these series: the characters and their misadventures carry the show, so even in the absence of things like pantsu, the anime would still be quite charming to watch. However, the presence of such fanservice is not unwelcome, simply serving to add yet another layer of comedy to things. With this post in the books, I believe I’m as caught up as can be for Azur Lane at present. This means I’m going to focus my attention on wrapping up My Dress-Up Darling, and then make my way through Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands, which I picked up for 10 dollars during the past weekend. I’ve been wanting to return to Bolivia and start my fight with the Santa Blanca cartel: the last time I played Wildlands was during the 2017 beta, and I’ve been wishing to return and finish the fight since then.

While this may come across as a bit pessimistic, I will note that Japanese viewers are more open towards another Kantai Collection adaptation. Folks who’ve seen the trailer and promotional artwork are looking forwards to seeing more of their favourite Kan-musume brought to life in the animated format, as well as seeing what sorts of things await viewers. This is the more mature perspective to take: Azur Lane‘s appeal had similarly been with its characters. Javelin, Laffey, Ayanami and Z23 had made Slow Ahead! remarkably entertaining even though the series had no combat whatsoever, and while the writing is largely dependent on familiarity with the characters’ in-game incarnation, the fact that the spin-off had given viewers a chance to know the characters better meant that I’d left Slow Ahead! with a better measure of each character, despite never seeing anyone fight against the Siren. The prevailing sentiment amongst Japanese viewers is that the characters make Kantai Collection worth watching, and these thoughts are valid: my hopes are that Itsuka Ano Umi present viewers with a central cast that are every bit as likeable and charming as Javelin, Laffey, Ayanami and Z23. For the time being, there’s a full half-year between the present and when Itsuka Ano Umi is set to air, and having just finished Slow Ahead!‘s special, I am glad to have taken the time to check this one out: despite its short runtime, it brought back everything that had made Slow Ahead! enjoyable and condensed it out into a short format to give the series a swan song of sorts. It’s unlikely that Slow Ahead! will receive another continuation, but in the event that such a continuation does occur, I would have no qualms about watching it. While Slow Ahead! might not be a thriller or a philosophical masterpiece, it does succeed in its function of giving viewers a few laughs, which is something that everyone could do with more of.

Azur Lane: Slow Ahead!- Whole-Series Review and Reflection

“If it’s strictly comedy, I like to bring some darkness to it. If it’s strictly drama, I always like to lighten it up as well. I like to find some kind of dimension and make my characters human, so that it doesn’t feel like a sketch and feels more like a slice of life.” –Nestor Carbonell

In the aftermath of a new arrangement to help the Iron Blood and Sakura Empire better understand the Eagle Union and Royal Navy, the ship girls live and attend school together at the Azur Lane’s main base. Javelin, Laffey and Ayanami have become close friends since, and enjoy their everyday lives together, befriending Z23 in the process. Their daily activities include helping Baltimore with various club activities, manage to have a solid barbeque despite Rodney blowing up their ingredients, make chocolates with Prinz Eugen and even help Bismark work up the courage to ask Tirpitz to a dance. In these peaceful days, Javelin, Laffey and Ayanami attend a school festival, learn that Belfast is training a smaller version of herself to be a proper maid, set up an onsen with Shoukaku and Zuikaku, visit an amusement park with Yukikaze, Mutsu, and Nagato, and spend a full day trying to help a sleepy Laffey find her ideal pillow. Azur Lane: Slow Ahead! lives up to its name, being focused on the ship girls’ lives outside of their duties in combating the Siren. Similarly to Strike Witches: Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! and World Witches: Take Off!, Azur Lane: Slow Ahead! dispenses almost entirely with the questions that Azur Lane raises, and instead, capitalises on the fact that there are so many ship girls to show the sorts of misadventures everyone has in pursuit of their studies, while they partake in events around their school and even contemplate chasing the elusive commander’s heart. Such a series is invariably light-hearted, and while perhaps not offering much in the way of narrative progression, still serves an important purpose in demonstrating to viewers that military-moé series, by virtue of their characters, are about personal growth and an appreciation of time spent with others first and foremost.

By Azur Lane: Slow Ahead!, what’s become clear is that the different factions have all acclimatised to life with one another. Ayanami is now very much a part of Javelin and Laffey’s lives, and with this familiarity comes the sort of comedy that can result when people get to bounce off one another. Laffey’s lethargy befuddles Ayanami, and Ayanami’s love for video games often gets in the way of things. However, in spite of these character traits, it’s clear that without labels and factions impeding them, Javelin, Laffey and Ayanami are now best of friends. This is something that the original Azur Lane sought to convey, and indeed, this was probably one of the strongest themes in the series. To see an extension of that message in Azur Lane: Slow Ahead! reiterates that this is what Azur Lane had originally aimed to convey. Some events in Azur Lane: Slow Ahead! really drives this point home: in the original TV series, Zuikaku had been utterly determined to defeat Enterprise in combat, pushing herself even in the knowledge that she might be sunk in the process. By Azur Lane: Slow Ahead!, Zuikaku’s latest project is the installation of an outdoor bath, and she accepts Javelin, Laffey and Ayanami’s help in getting things set up, even promising the three first dibs on using the bath once they’re done. This is a dramatic departure from what was shown in the original series, and shows that beyond any doubt, the ship girls can indeed be friends where old grudges and alliances are no longer observed. In focusing on these elements of Azur Lane, Azur Lane: Slow Ahead! is able to act as a comedy, showing that despite the challenges imposed by warfare and the stresses this has on the ship girls, there are also equivalent moments of joy and idle relaxation. Azur Lane succeeds in using its spin-off to help viewers settle down after last year’s anime, creating an easygoing and comedy-filled series to remind viewers that at the end of the day, while Azur Lane might be about naval combat, the ship girls are very much human and experience the same emotions, of joy, sorrow, amusement and jealousy, as we would.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I believe it’s been a shade more than a year since I last wrote about Azur Lane: if memory serves, I found the series to be serviceable, with likeable characters and a solid soundtrack at the heart of its appeal. The production had been troubled, and like Girls und Panzer, the last two episodes were delayed for a few months. Enterprise had been at the heart of Azur Lane, but here in Azur Lane: Slow Ahead!, Javelin is the main character: the series opens with her showering, and every episode is centred around her, Laffey and Ayanami’s adventures.

  • Z23 soon joins their group; while she’s initially set to lead the class as an instructor of sorts, Javelin, Ayanami and Laffey end up see her more as a peer than a senior, but a role model nonetheless. Z23 is originally a part of the Iron Blood faction. The resulting group of friends is representative of each faction. Javelin is from the Royal Navy, Laffey is from the Eagle Union, Ayanami hails from the Sakura Empire, and Z23 represents the Iron Blood. It’s a clever setup that really lets Slow Ahead! to demonstrate its themes.

  • I’ve found that a lot of slice-of-life anime series, while seemingly trite and simple, are a lot more meaningful than they initially appear. Beyond their kawaii art style and focus on the frivolous, the characters’ experiences speak to various life lessons that are often worth reiterating; while anime that deal with philosophy or social issues create the most interesting discussion, said conversations can also get quite heated, especially when people of different backgrounds come to the table.

  • Understanding how to get along with people is something that folks occasionally seem to forget, and this is something that slice-of-life anime excel in speaking to. Even more so than its predecessor, Slow Ahead! has a particular emphasis on fanservice. Four episodes into the season is the beach episode, which features Rodney partaking in the Japanese tradition of watermelon-splitting using her arsenal. Ayanami’s description for the activity speaks to her reverence of Japanese culture, but she forgets to mention the most critical rule; splitting the watermelon can only be done with a stick.

  • In the end, Rodney manages to undo the damage by using her main cannons and blasting enough fish out of water for the barbeque’s main course. Slow Ahead! aired during the winter season, but because I’d been swamped (by episodic Yuru Camp△ 2 posts, and regular posts on Non Non Biyori: Nonstop), I decided to set this series aside with plans to watch and write about it shortly after the winter season concluded. However, my usual tendencies for procrastination kicked in, and this pushed Slow Ahead! back. We’re now about two thirds of the way through the spring season, and I’ve finally had the chance to give this series a go.

  • Fortunately, Slow Ahead! episodes are only eight minutes long, and that means I could finish the entire series on short order. This made it much easier to catch up and wrap things up in an efficient manner. Here, Ayanami befriends Graf Spee after their shared interests. Individual episodes of Slow Ahead! don’t do anything too dramatic or meaningful from a narrative standpoint, but they represent fun moments into the world of Azur Lane.

  • When a formal dance is held one evening, the girls help Bismarck ask Tirpitz for a dance after getting her decked out in suitable attire for the evening. Javelin feels a little out of place at these events, feeling them to be a little too stuffy for her tastes, it turns out she’s not the only one. Formidable has snuck off to a side room and finds cupcakes. Her evening suddenly takes a turn for the unfortunate when it turns out these cupcakes had been prepared for a food roulette game later, and she’d taken the one spiked with hot peppers.

  • Formidable suggests that such parties aren’t her jam, despite her possessing the manner and air of a lady herself. However, when she sits down on some boxes to rest, the boxes collapse immediately. I suppose that this would be a joke on Formidable’s mass, since Formidable displaces 23000 tonnes standard (for comparison, the Enterprise displaces 21000 tonnes at standard) – like Kantai Collection, the writers have incorporated several jokes relevant to the original ships’ properties as a bit of a callback to the real world, which navel enthusiasts would find enjoyable. Azur Lane‘s ships seem to be quite far removed from their real-world counterparts and fight more like magical girls than navel vessels, so during the original TV series, I never did focus too much on these details.

  • In my original talks on Azur Lane, I stated that St. Louis would probably be my favourite ship on account of style alone, but Formidable is a contender – aircraft carriers are the navel vessels I respect the most on account of their power and versatility. More so than battleships, aircraft carriers shaped the outcome of World War Two and greatly impact doctrine today, but as detection and anti-ship ballistic missiles become more potent, navel combat may change once again. Since Azur Lane: Slow Ahead! isn’t about the navy, I’ll probably not make too much mention of any real world equivalents here.

  • Javelin later asks Formidable to learn how to dance and fails in even the basics: Formidable notes that learning to be elegant isn’t an easy thing, and that it’s something one must commit themselves into being. The contrast between her usual self and when she gets flustered is night and day, and for the time being, Javelin’s got a long way to go. Conversely, Ayanami and Laffey are content to enjoy the fancy food being served during this ball. What Formidable says is true – she subtly hints that Javelin should strive to be herself.

  • One episode has Javelin, Ayanami and Laffey join Mikasa in cleaning the commander’s room, with Taihou attempting to leverage the situation and learn whatever she can about the commander in a bid to get closer to him. All of the ship girls in Azur Lane have a crush of sorts on the ever-absent commander, although some (Javelin and Honolulu) are more subtle about their feelings than others. Taihou’s efforts are especially brazen, and one can imagine the challenges of being the commander in such a world, if one’s charges are constantly coveting his heart where he has a job to do.

  • During the school festival, while changing into costumes for the day’s events, Ayanami, Laffey and Z23 run into Honolulu, who is reluctant to change into a yukata that St. Louis had given her on account of it being too revealing. Characters who never had substantial screen-time during Azur Lane are given a chance to for some shine time here in Azur Lane: Slow Ahead!, but with some 450 ships altogether, practical constraints mean that some players’ own favourite ships won’t see time in the animated adaptation.

  • While Honolulu initially feels embarrassed about her outfit, she ends up following Laffey’s lead and has fun along with the others, even scoring a prize to go on one date with the commander in a darts game, rendering the other ship girls jealous in the process. Throughout the course of Azur Lane: Slow Ahead!, seeing Javelin’s character helped to elevate my fondness for her: in the game, Javelin is an elite destroyer, making her classified as roughly the same as Kantai Collection‘s Fubuki. I’ve heard that Fubuki’s character was never particularly well-received in Kantai Collection‘s anime, but I myself didn’t have issue with her.

  • While out and about one day, Ayanami, Laffey and Javelin encounter a mini-Belfast, whom the regular Belfast is training to be a maid. The mini-Belfast is effective and motivated, even helping keep Ayanami company in her gaming adventures. When Azur Lane first aired, I was constantly getting Ayanami and Laffey mixed up, to the point of being surprised whenever Ayanami didn’t sound like Maria Naganawa. Ayanami is voiced by Yō Taichi (Princess Principal’s Dorothy). Having watched Azur Lane all the way through, this is no longer a problem for me.

  • Azur Lane had Zuikaku determined to defeat Enterprise in combat, but here in Azur Lane: Slow Ahead!, she’s more easygoing. When the base’s hot water supply is taken offline for repairs, she suggests setting up their own onsen and invites Laffey, Z23, Javelin and Ayanami to soak with her and Shoukaku, even enjoying tempura in the process. Having seen both Azur Lane and Kantai Collection, I prefer Azur Lane‘s Zuikaku and Kantai Collection‘s Akagi and Kaga. Curiously enough, both incarnations of Shoukaku are agreeable to me as far as aesthetics and personalities go.

  • While Kantai Collection had been strictly set in the World War Two era had limited the kan-musume to what was available during the time, the girls in Azur Lane have access to game consoles, tablets and the internet, along with modern amenities and conveniences. Here, Javelin enjoys lunch with Yukikaze, Mutsu, and Nagato at the Manjuu Land amusement park. It’s a fun-filled day for everyone, even Javelin, Mutsu and Nagato, who are blown away by the ferocity of the amusement park’s première attraction, a massive roller coaster.

  • The finale to Azur Lane: Slow Ahead! is a fanservice filled romp, during which a sleepwalking Laffey attempts to reunite with her pillow after being found in a treasure chest. Misunderstanding her, Javelin, Z23 and Ayanami spend the day trying to find her pillow, assuming that Laffey had lost her memory and would be restored if she found a stacked ship girl to hang with. Thus begins an episode of brazen fanservice, amplified by the fact that nothing seems to be working.

  • Because Laffey’s referring to an actual pillow, the ensuring chaos winds up being hilarious to watch. Admittedly, this is more along the lines of what I’d expected Azur Lane: Slow Ahead! to be about when I first heard of the series, and while the series doesn’t disappoint in this area, it becomes clear that in addition to comedy, this spin-off’s focus really is about how the different ship girls get along with one another despite their different factions. For this reason, Azur Lane: Slow Ahead! exceeded my initial expectations coming in, and I had a great deal of fun watching it.

  • With this post in the books, I’ve wrapped up my list of things to knock out before June arrived. May begin slowly, since I spent the first week getting my desktop back online after finally upgrading to Windows 10, and since then, I’ve been trying to catch up on posts: with news that Higurashi: SOTSU is happening in July and the fact I’ve begun going through Black Ops: Cold War, I figured it would be wise to clear up as many posts as I could before things get hectic. This did mean that the end of May was a bit crazy with respect to getting posts done (there’s been a post every two days for the last eleven days), but on the flipside, it means that I now have a bit more wiggle room in June: the only posts I’ve got scheduled are for Higurashi: GOU, Black Ops: Cold WarSuper CubYakunara Mug Cup mo and Higehiro.

  • Before I wrap this post up, I’ll note that the spin-off’s name is a reference to the engine order, which is issued to engineers operating a ship’s engines. “Slow ahead” is precisely what it means, reflecting on how Azur Lane‘s spin-off is meant to depict things more slowly than the usual series did. In this, Azur Lane: Slow Ahead! does live up to expectations and provides a satisfactory experience. The short format of this series, however, means that not very many discussions of the series exist, and having now seen it, it becomes clear that Azur Lane: Slow Ahead! is really meant for the folks who did enjoy the TV series and are looking for more ship girls while awaiting Kantai Collection‘s second season. Beyond the fact that it will feature Shigure as the protagonist and air somewhere in 2022, not much else is known about this series.

The events of Slow Ahead! serve to act as a precedent for what more military-moé series should seek to do in between more serious stories; this helps to dispel any misconceptions about the characters’ beliefs, desires and intents. By showing characters outside of their duties, this serves to humanise them. When the chips are down and the defecation hits the oscillation, viewers are not left scrambling over one another to draw conclusions about characters or their motivations (in the past, this has resulted in flame wars). Instead, seeing characters and how they typically are helps viewers to appreciate that their actions have at least some basis in rationality. As such, series like Girls und Panzer and High School Fleet could each do with a slice-of-life spin-off: discussions surrounding these series have oftentimes become far more heated than necessary, since some viewers are convinced that such anime are all-serious works akin to the likes of Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down, Patton or Apocalypse Now, works that speak to the horrors of warfare and how individual merit and bravery in conjunction with teamwork is necessary to survive times that otherwise bring out humanity’s evil. The reality is that, were an anime intending to cover such themes, they would utilise a completely different set of characters and aesthetics. Seeing Javelin, Laffey and Ayanami doing the sorts of things that are expected of ordinary students serves to reinforce that at the end of the day, military-moé are more akin to the cute-girls-doing-cute-things genre, about discovery and exploration above all else. Here in Azur Lane: Slow Ahead!, seeing Ayanami getting along swimmingly with Javelin and Laffey, or Zuikaku and Shoukaku treating them cordially with an onsen experience for having helped them to set up, serves to illustrate that beyond factional differences and occasionally dissimilar combat objectives, the ship girls are more similar than unlike. This helps to put a smile on the viewers’ faces and reinforce the notion that we needn’t worry about things like the ship girls shouldering responsibilities alone or the consequences of accessing forbidden technologies, because at the end of the day, the series is more about the elements that make slice-of-life enjoyable: world-building and the ability for viewers to immerse themselves in a world that is simultaneously different from and similar to our own.