The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Enterprise

Azur Lane: Reflections and Review at the Finale

“If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future.” –Winston Churchill

Purifier makes off with the black Mental Cube and returns it to Observer, who activates Orochi. Akagi is resurrected, but Kaga senses that something is off: it turns out Orochi is possessing Akagi, and launches a missile that obliterates an island to test the vessel’s might. The Azur Lane and Crimson Axis realise that Orochi poses a clear and present danger to the world and independently head off to engage it. Upon arrival, the two factions are outmatched by the Orochi’s defenses, and begin working together to destroy it, along with the Siren escorting it. The Orochi launches another missile, and when Enterprise moves to intercept it, Purifier engages her in a duel. Ultimately, Enterprise is able to fend off Purifier and disables the missile, causing it to detonate prematurely. Kaga, upon learning that she was repaired using parts from Amagi and therefore, was never really loved by Akagi, falls into despair, but Zuikaku manages to snap her out of it. With both Azur Lane and Crimson Axis fighting as one, they create enough of an opening for Enterprise to destroy Orochi: a single shot from Enterprise puts the Orochi out of commission, and she saves Akagi as Amagi’s spirit dissipates. Their trump card defeated, the Siren retreat from the battlefield. In the aftermath, the leaders of Crimson Axis and Azur Lane agree to cooperate, having seen first-hand the threat posed by the Siren, and Enterprise remarks that even if war in unchanging, as the embodiment of hope and the people’s will, the ship girls themselves can change. This is Azur Lane, whose conclusion comes three months after production issues pushed its final two episodes back, and with the entire series now in the books, the elephant in the room is whether or not this anime captures the spirit of the game and is worth watching on its own merits.

When Azur Lane had left off last, my main remark was that the series had three concurrent themes within its narrative, which obfuscated the story and left the anime feeling quite unfocused. In the final two episodes, however, the themes converge onto a single point: whether it be Enterprise’s originally stubborn attitude with respect to opening up to the other Ship Girls, or the gradual friendship that develops between Ayanami, Javelin and Laffey, Azur Lane suggests to viewers the importance of unity. While the ship girls for each faction outwardly appear different in beliefs and custom, at their core, everyone shares the same fundamentals, greatly valuing their friendships and everyday life with one another, and being strong in their conviction of fighting to preserve what is right. Although these differences initially send the Azur Lane and Crimson Axis into conflict with one another early on, their skirmishes lead both to realise their “enemy” is not so different than they are. Akagi’s obsession with Orochi comes as an offshoot of the theme: having lost someone important to her, she turns towards the use of forbidden knowledge to regain what was lost, and this action extracted a heavy toll. However, at Azur Lane‘s end, she comes to appreciate what she does have, rather than pining for what cannot be recovered. Altogether, Azur Lane is very busy as a series, but despite this, and the fact that the series does wander into more contemplative turf with Enterprise and Akagi’s stories, overall, Azur Lane‘s anime promotes the importance of unity and how people are, for all their differences, still share more in common at the end of the day; it is therefore vital not to let differences get between different groups, especially when faced with adversity, and in Azur Lane‘s conclusion, the titanic battle to stop Orochi and the Sirens as a joint effort between Azur Lane and Crimson Axis makes this message especially visceral.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Enterprise’s response to Purifier’s escape brings to mind the Legend of Arthur’s fist, which originates from Marc Brown’s Arthur. The backstory is that in “Arthur’s Big Hit”, Arthur clenches his fist in a moment that became synonymous with frustration and anger. The moment itself is now iconic, and subject to numerous jokes, but now is not the time for Arthur jokes. From here on out, I will be focusing on the remainder of Azur Lane‘s final two episodes.

  • In their debriefing, the Azur Lane learn that the island Sheffield and Edinburgh had taken refuge on a few episodes had been annihilated by an unknown weapon. This weapon is a nuclear warhead in all but name, having the same destructive capabilities and associated fear. Knowing that Orochi is capable of unprecedented destruction spurs both parties into action, and this appears to be the payoff that Azur Lane had been building up towards after all this time.

  • While Azur Lane does cover decidedly serious territory, the inclusion of characters whose very existence lightens up the atmosphere is a firm and consistent reminder that the series cannot be approached from a purely serious mindset: watching Enterprise wax philosophical about the meaning of warfare moments after the more junior ship girls throw a tantrum gives the sense that when everything is said and done, the ship girls are still human in their nature, and as such,

  • To Kaga’s surprise, Akagi is seemingly resurrected from the dead, and moreover, Amagi has reappeared. Historically, the Amagi was a battle-cruiser and slated for conversion into an aircraft carrier, but was damaged before she could be converted. Her sister ship, Akagi, also began life as a battle-cruiser and was converted into an aircraft carrier that played a pivotal role in the Pacific campaign until American planes sunk her at Midway. Kaga, on the other hand, was built as a Tosa-class battleship and served as a replacement for the Amagi.

  • Some historical knowledge serves to enhance one’s appreciation of Azur Lane, similarly with Kantai Collection: here, it explains Kaga’s devotion to Akagi and the dynamic that the two shared throughout the series. One could say that the grudges of the ship’s spirits endure in their ship girl incarnation, and therefore result in the interactions the anime choose to show. Azur Lane suggests that the original Amagi was a peaceful ship girl who encouraged cooperation, foreshadowing messages that would come to pass during the final battle.

  • Gratuitous pantsu doesn’t appear to be a major part of Azur Lane, and one really has to have an eye for this sort of thing to notice them – in the case of Azur Lane, these are not distractions to the flow of events, although I’ll admit that I would’ve preferred to see more of St. Louis in such moments. In fact, one of my biggest gripes about Azur Lane outside of the thematic presentation would have to be the lack of St. Louis.

  • Ironblood only nominally cooperates with the Sakura Empire: throughout most of their joint operations, Ironblood ships appear haughty and unconcerned with their Sakura Empire counterparts, but when they witness the power Orochi possesses, they resolve to support the Sakura Empire’s efforts to stop this monster with a genuine effort. It is in the final two episodes where viewers really have the chance to see the Ironblood ships fighting for the first time, and their use of Siren-derived technology is apparent. Rather than being pure Siren technology, I imagine that the Ironblood reverse-engineered capture Siren hardware instead, which makes it safer to manage.

  • Of the characters in Azur Lane, Prince of Wales and Cleveland seem to strongly resemble their nation’s representatives in Girls und Panzer: Prince of Wales bears a very similar appearance and manner to Darjeeling, being composed and chivalrous, while Cleveland and Kay are both exuberant and energetic. Having two familiar characters helped to ground me in Azur Lane, and even though Enterprise is the anime’s protagonist, having Cleveland, Prince of Wales, Laffey, Javelin and Ayanami helped me to focus on events without getting lost.

  • Kaga, driven to despair begins attacking Sakura Empire forces. Zuikaku and Shoukaku resolve to put an end to the madness, pushing through to reach Kaga, who has adopted a nihilist stance on the world. In general, nihilism is the belief that nothing in life has meaning, although the original philosophy of nihilism has mutated to the idea that because life has no meaning, it justifies poor and immoral decisions that people make in the moment. For me, whether or not life has meaning is irrelevant: doing good by those around us is our duty and obligation, and is a rather more appropriate way to approach the world.

  • Enterprise’s powers are never fully explored, but the anime presents her to be the ultimate ship girl, with no weaknesses: when the Orochi launches a second missile, Enterprise heads off to stop it. These missiles appear to be cruise missiles, as they remain in the atmosphere for its flight duration, and are presumably supersonic: Enterprise is able to keep them in visual range as she pursues them, and as she readies a shot to take it down, Purifier approaches.

  • Despite the Siren being able to seemingly shrug off direct hits from the ship girls, Purifier seems little more than a distraction to Enterprise, who fends her off and defeats her in battle before returning her attention to the cruise missile: it becomes clear that this missile is headed for the Azur Lane’s base, and everything comes down to a critical, well-placed shot Enterprise must take. In the end, Enterprise disables the missile, which explodes prematurely and reinforces to the parties below the importance of taking down Orochi.

  • The Siren have uncommon durability: Purifier’s body is destroyed in the fight with Enterprise, but her head remains intact, and she remains flippant even in defeat, frightening Edinburgh. To be sure, this moment is meant to be light-hearted, judging from the stylistic portrayal of Edinburg’s reaction. I’m guessing this means that Siren have the ability to regenerate when out of battle.

  • Sustained fire from the combined ship girls fleet is not enough to get through Orochi’s shields: I can’t begin to calculate just what kind of firepower is needed to punch through its shields, on the basis that I’ve not yet found any official specifications to help with quantifying everything. Because numbers don’t figure so strongly in Azur Lane, Orochi thus acts as a large-scale opponent that brings everyone together, being a plot device to drive a specific theme forwards.

  • Just as Akagi faced Orochi, who manifested as Amagi, Enterprise’s interpretation of Orochi is an alternate form of herself. It seems that Orochi, being Azur Lane‘s interpretation of a mythical eight-headed drake, represents the fear and doubt in humanity. In Akagi’s case, she sorely misses Amagi and questions existence without her, whereas Enterprise’s own dæmons are internal: she fears the inevitability of conflict and the attendant loss, but ultimately decides to continue fighting to protect those important to her.

  • Zuikaku’s confrontation with Kaga ends with Zuikaku physically beating sense into Kaga. With this wrapped up, all that is left is to stop the Orochi and bring Akagi back from the brink. Kaga and Zuikaku being at odds with one another in Azur Lane pales in comparison to their rivalry in Kantai Collection, and historically, I do not believe that the rivalry as as intense, since the crews of the different carriers did not serve side-by-side for extended periods of time. However, it is the case that the crews of the First Carrier Division viewed the Fifth as being less experienced: the Zuikaku and Shoukaku were added to the Kidou Butai later on.

  • By this point in time, Laffey, Javelin and Ayanami’s friendship shows that the ship girls, irrespective of faction, are more similar than they are different, and this forms the basis for Azur Lane‘s theme. When I finished off the tenth episode, I had an inkling that Azur Lane would ultimately use this as the theme to tie everything together, and the final two episodes of Azur Lane show that this was definitely the case.

  • Ayanami’s friends from the Sakura Empire had promised to beat the living daylights out of Laffey and Javelin when they’d met, but when they do come face-to-face, Ayanami lets her friends know it’s cool. With everyone now coming to the table to stave off destruction from a threat of hitherto unseen proportion, all past dislike evaporates as both Azur Lane and Crimson Axis come together to concentrate their efforts towards stopping the Orochi.

  • To drive things home for viewers, scenes such as one where South Dakota fights alongside Yamashiro exemplifies the sort of cooperation that is possible in Azur Lane. My impressions of Azur Lane notwithstanding, other viewers found that while the wait to the final two episodes may not have been worth it, Azur Lane remained a decently entertaining watch for them in spite of its flaws.

  • Having fought previously, there’s a bit of an awkward silence when Enterprise and Zuikaku meet on the battlefield, but present circumstances trump past rivalries, and Zuikaku implores Enterprise to help Akagi out. Having now found meaning to her fight, and understanding why she fears the ocean, Enterprise understands what Zuikaku is seeking and agrees to save Akagi. This sort of empathy highlights the progress Enterprise has made throughout the series; she begins to fight for those around her and finds new meaning in her existence.

  • As the ship girls begin turning the tide against the Sirens, the Sirens summon additional reinforcements. The number of things happening on screen at a given time in the finale’s ultimate battle is what lends credence to the idea that delays in the final two episodes were indeed a consequence of the additional effort it took to animate these scenes properly. It’s been a while since I’ve seen scenes that were this busy in an anime, and the fact that quality in these moments remains consistent shows that Azur Lane did indeed benefit from the extra time in production.

  • The last time something similar to Azur Lane‘s situation occurred, it was 2012, and Girls und Panzer had announced its plans to delay the penultimate episode and finale to March 2013. By the time the final two episodes aired, I was staring down my undergraduate thesis. Then, the wait had been well worth it, to see a smooth and satisfying close to a series that had unexpectedly taken the community by storm with its story and direction. Azur Lane‘s wait, on the other hand, seems more underwhelming by comparison: while the final two episodes are fun, they don’t carry quite the same delivery as did Girls und Panzer.

  • Even with the combined might of the ship girls, the Siren continue posing a challenge to them by summoning a large number of reinforcements. However, the ship girls are not alone in their fight: Belfast had arranged for additional reinforcements, and soon after, Queen Elizabeth arrives. In-game, her presence increases the performance of all Royal Navy forces. The anime presents Queen Elizabeth as being a bit childish and haughty, but also devoted those around her.

  • One of the biggest praises I have for Azur Lane‘s anime adaptation is its soundtrack: like Kantai Collection, the soundtrack is exceptional, featuring a combination of incidental songs that capture the joys of the Azur Lane universe, more emotional and introspective moments, the intensity of a battle, and my personal favourite, the pieces that establish a setting’s atmosphere. Both soundtracks are now available, and while having a different style than that of Kantai Collection‘s, I enjoyed Azur Lane‘s all the same. I find that both Azur Lane and Kantai Collection‘s music to be equivalent in quality, succeeding in enhancing their respective series.

  • Enterprise subsequently does something that is both expected and unexpected: she manages to disable the Orochi in one shot, punching through its shields and cracking its superstructure. The damage takes Orochi and its missile payload offline, allowing Enterprise to finish her fight and fulfill a promise to Zuikaku. The Enterprise confronts one final dæmon within her; having long dreamt about a confrontation with Akagi amidst a sea of flames, this moment is Enterprise’s final test.

  • Salvation, rather than destruction, is the path Enterprise chooses to take: she takes Akagi’s hand, and Akagi suddenly recalls a moment in her past: shortly after meeting Kaga, the two found themselves at odds with one another, but the two gradually came to accept one another with a bit of help from Amagi. Thus, when Enterprise grasps Akagi’s hand, her old memories return, and she comes to weep for the loss of innocence and everything Orochi had cost.

  • With Akagi back to her old self, the spectre of Orochi, in Amagi’s form, vanishes. The Siren understand that the battle is lost and begin pulling back, feeling that humanity has lived to fight another day. Azur Lane made extensive use of vivid imagery in conjunction with repetition to drive some of its ideas home, but despite having a large number of moving parts in its themes, Azur Lane does manage to tie things all together.

  • There remains one inevitable question: is Azur Lane or Kantai Collection‘s anime incarnation superior to the other? The resulting answer should not be surprising: no, neither Azur Lane or Kantai Collection holds the edge over the other, and in fact, both series are more similar than different in what they do well, as well as what they do poorly. Both anime have a top-tier soundtrack and solid visuals, plus likeable characters, but both suffer from trying to venture into more serious topics and striking a balance between the philosophical aspects of warfare as well as the more light-hearted and easygoing portrayal of everyday life as a ship girl. As it stands, I enjoyed both Azur Lane and Kantai Collection equally.

  • With the battle over, Azur Lane and Crimson Axis form an alliance to help improve relations and help to understand one another better. The ship girls aggregate at the Azur Lane’s base and settle into a new life with one another, while Enterprise is made to be the fleet commander. Meanwhile, Z23, who had been hinted as being interested in a friendship with Ayanami and the others, is invited to a picnic and hastens to join them.

  • With Azur Lane concluding in a decisive manner, one wonders if there will be a continuation. Azur Lane‘s current season has resolved the rift between the Azur Lane and Crimson Axis, while setting the groundwork for the Sirens returning as a credible threat, and many of the ship girls (especially St. Louis) could stand to be given more screen-time, so depending on sales, I could see a second season or movie in the future.

  • For me, Azur Lane scores a B- (2.7 of 4.0), or a 7.0 of ten: it had enough going to hold my interest, even with its delay, and from a technical standpoint, was fun to watch. I enjoyed the large cast of characters, and found the story to be a little less coherent than I would’ve liked: the series could have focused purely on Enterprise’s growth alongside Orochi, with the Laffey-Javelin-Ayanami story being resolved in one episode to motivate Enterprise’s own development. In spite of these flaws, and the fact that Azur Lane isn’t going to be for everyone, I still had fun watching the series, and ultimately, this is what counts for me.

The lingering question that remains in Azur Lane is whether or not the series succeeds in its intended goals. From a story perspective, Azur Lane is satisfactory, neither being remarkably good or uncommonly poor. From a marketting standpoint, the anime has not compelled me to give the mobile game a go, so the anime has failed here. While being unremarkable overall and doing little to distinguish itself from its counterpart, Kantai Collection, Azur Lane‘s anime does have its moments: the cause of the delays are evident in the scope and scale of the final battle, which features more characters on screen than anywhere else in the series’ earlier episodes. Overall, the visual quality in the final battle are of a passable standard, an impressive feat considering the number of ship girls on screen at a given time, and ultimately, if ensuring the animation and artwork were of a decent quality was the reason behind the delay in Azur Lane, this is completely understandable. Azur Lane also possesses a very strong soundtrack that captures the full spectrum of emotions and atmospherics throughout the anime. The incidental music does much to augment each moment, and similar to Kantai Collection, this is one of the areas where both anime genuinely excel. Overall, Azur Lane is a curiosity, and while it may not particularly excel in compelling individuals to try the game out, nor does it fully stand on its own as an anime, the series does not strike out entirely: enjoyment value is found in the combat sequences and the soundtrack. It’s tricky to recommend Azur Lane to most viewers, unless one were very fond of the military moé genre (especially ship girls). Consequently, for most folks, Azur Lane isn’t one that is an essential watch, but the series can still be fun for those who do decide to give it a go.

Azur Lane – An unexpected intermission and future directions

“If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn’t thinking.” –General George S. Patton

The two vessels, Ping Hai and Ning Hai, report encountering a high-ranking Siren during a patrol assignment. The Azur Lane deploy Sheffield and Edinburg to the Sakura Empire to investigate. They learn that Akagi is collaborating with the Observer to build Project Orochi, but are compromised, escaping to a remote island. In the ensuring conflict, Javelin and Laffey encounter Ayanami again but refuses to engage her. Sheffield and Edinburg return to the others with a black Mental Cube. Meanwhile, Belfast steadily pushes Enterprise to spend more time with the others, reminding her that the Ship Girls are human. Acquisition of the Mental Cube prompts the Azur Lane to intervene in a naval battle to prevent the Sakura Empire’s plans from reaching fruition. During the engagement, Enterprise single-handedly destroys Akagi and cripples Kaga. She realises her fears of the ocean here and disappears shortly after. The Observer reveals that Project Orochi is ready, leading others in the Sakura Empire to wonder what Akagi and Kaga had concealed. When Enterprise reappears, she wipes Zuikaku and Shoukaku, but is stopped when Ayanami intervenes. Laffey and Javelin manage to save Ayanami, who is subsequently taken prisoner. The two look after Ayanami, who begins to realise that her enemy is not so different than her friends in the Sakura Empire. With the higher-ups in the Sakura Empire doubting the necessity of Project Oricihi, the Observer compels Kaga to continue. In a flashback, Akagi’s interest in the program had been motivated by a desire to resurrect Amagi. Kaga realises that while she will never be by Akagi’s side, and makes off with the Oricihi. Enterprise’s visions are worsening, and she begins to understand that Orochi was born from an instinctive desire for conflict. Things worsen when another Siren, Purifier, arrives at the Azur Lane’s base and makes off with the Mental Cube. This is where Azur Lane closes off: after the tenth episode, production issues caused the remaining Azur Lane episodes to be deferred until March, and viewers are decidedly left with more questions than answers after ten episodes have elapsed.

The main challenge in Azur Lane lies with the fact that the anime has elected to run with three concurrent themes simultaneously within the space of a twelve-episode series. Enterprise’s weariness of the unending nature of warfare, and her own internal conflict between wanting to lead a normal life and serving her duty is the first of these themes. Concurrently, Laffey and Javelin’s insistence in befriending Ayanami shows that the factions of a war notwithstanding, at the end of the day, everyone on both sides of a conflict shares more commonalities that lead to understanding and peace, than they do the differences that prompt warfare. Finally, Akagi and Kaga’s interest in a proverbial deal with the Devil in Project Orochi speaks to the intrinsic dangers of forbidden knowledge, and the price that an obsession with personal desires can command when one uses these as the guideposts for their actions without understanding the consequences of their actions. Any one of these themes alone would have stood alone in a twelve episode series, and in integrating all three into Azur Lane, the anime comes across as being incredibly turbulent, tricky to follow and inconsistent: one moment, we have Laffey and Javelin sharing a lighthearted moment with Ayanami, and in the next, Enterprise is brooding over her state of being and doing her utmost to distance herself from the others owing to her fearing what could be. This creates a dissonance in atmosphere and gives the sense that Azur Lane is aiming to condense an entire game’s worth of ideas into a single anime, with the inevitable end result being that none of the three themes are adequately explored.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Presented as being stoic and reserved, Enterprise represents the silent soldier archetype, akin to DOOM‘s Doom Slayer and Halo‘s Master Chief. Belfast, having seen that Enterprise is capable of more human traits, attempts to draw out this side of Enterprise by personally seeing to it that Enterprise is sleeping and waking up at a decent hour, eating well, and spending time with the other Ship Girls.

  • The two Taiwanese ships Enterprise had rescued during the third episode have sobering information: the Sirens have begun moving their more powerful vessels about, and an upcoming conflict seems inevitable. The fighting between the Azur Land and Crimson Axis seems in part motivated by the want to show that when the players are not fighting the Siren, they have the choice to square off against other Ship Girls, as well.

  • Ayanami returns home to the Sakura Empire, a small island with architecture and atmospherics looking like it came straight out of a Japanese high-fantasy setting. The setting is beautiful, and like the Azur Lane’s main base, is home to sakura trees perceptually in blossom. The anime’s decision to show what life is like for Ayanami back home is meant to be a deliberate show that despite their differences, both the Azur Lane and Crimson Axis’s Ship Girls are people at the end of the day.

  • As such, while Ayanami might be able to separate her duties from her personal feelings and can be seen as striving to be a good soldier, her portrayal is also intended to illustrate that this mindset, at least in the context of Azur Lane, is one where the sight of the bigger picture is lost. Javelin and Laffey act as the foils to Ayanami, refusing to fight because they see what lies beyond the war, and while this makes them lesser soldiers, it makes them more plausible as people.

  • Nowhere in Azur Lane is the inconsistent animation quality more apparent than in late in the fourth episode, when the Edinburgh and Sheffield attempt to evade pursuing Sakura Empire forces: while the backgrounds retain the quality of its artwork, the Ship Girls are rendered much more poorly, feeling distinctly flatter, possessing unnatural facial expressions and are generally clunkier in their movements.

  • The fifth episode was probably the dullest for me: most of the episode is spent with Sheffield and Edinburgh hiding in the ruins of an abandoned town while the Crimson Axis forces recon the area, looking for them. After acquiring the Black Mental Cube, Sheffield and Edinburgh take Akashi with the; Akashi had inadverdently caught wind of what Akagi’s plans were and found herself in mortal peril, and after making an escape, she would come to join the Azur Lane.

  • The beleaguered Sheffield, Edinburgh and Akashi are rescued when the Azur Lane arrive to reinforce. In the aftermath of the battle, the Azur Lane wonder what the Black Mental Cube is about. Mental Cubes are supposedly constructs that give the Ship Girls the power to wield control over their ships, although the Black Mental Cube’s behaviour is erratic, similar to the One Ring that Sauron had forged in the hands of anyone other than Sauron himself.

  • Whereas Enterprise needs a bit of a push to eat properly, I definitely appreciate the worth of good food, and make it a point to enjoy everything I eat. While this seems to be a superfluous thing to do, enjoying sitting down to a proper meal has numerous psychological and physiological benefits, especially with regard to being able to help one create breaks to their schedule and create a routine that increases one’s sense of security and contentment. This is why I am particular about eating at set times of day, and whenever I have a chance to eat out, I greatly enjoy it. Yesterday I enjoyed taco salad, fried chicken with Southwestern gravy and fries for dinner even as a blizzard blew into the area, and dinner tonight was Steelhead trout with a homemade tomato-cucumber salsa.

  • While there are similarities between Azur Lane‘s intermission and that of Girls und Panzer‘s, unlike Girls und PanzerAzur Lane‘s delay is speculated to have been the result of some conspiracy where owing to the series’ success over Kantai Collection for having easier accessibility (Kantai Collection actively controls who gets to register for the game by using an antiquated and obsolete lottery system, while anyone can sign up for Azur Lane, and Kantai Collection has a premium setup, while everything in Azur Lane can be unlocked with enough time and patience), the animation studios deliberately reduced the number of staff who were working on the project, hence the delays.

  • This is, of course, entirely speculation and should be taken with a grain of salt. My own thoughts are that owing to the fact that the final episodes are going to be more intensive from an animation standpoint, the staff required more time to ensure that each and every moment is of a high standard, leading me to believe that the two remaining episodes will be focused on combat. This was the case in Girls und Panzer, and imagine that, rather than any fanciful notions of a conspiracy to bring down Azur Lane, it is probably something much simpler.

  • From what I have seen in Azur Lane, the animation has been of a consistent quality as far as combat sequences go: fight scenes are dynamic and engaging to watch. Unlike Kantai Collection, where the kan-musume had loadouts consistent with their original ship, the Ship Girls of Azur Lane have some uncommon weapons in their arsenals for their fight against the Crimson Axis and Siren. Between this and the fact that Azur Lane makes no mention of any real-world locations (much less real world battles), I’ve decided to approach Azur Lane purely from a fiction perspective, focusing on the story and what the series is attempting to say through the characters’ experiences.

  • This is why I’ve held it to be inappropriate, and foolish, to attempt hauling major battles of World War Two’s Pacific Theatre into discussions of Azur Lane: the world that Enterprise and the others live in is completely distinct from our own reality, and so, parallels cannot be made simply because the causes and consequences of major events in World War Two have no reliable equivalences to events happening within Azur Lane.

  • Azur Lane portrays the deep breath before the plunge, those quiet moments on the edge of a battle, as a contemplative time. Some of the Ship Girls are understandably nervous about seeing enemy combatants, while others are merely resolved to accomplish their goals. Here, Takao stands on the deck of her ship, resolute in completing her assignment. Azur Lane‘s portrayal of Takao and Atago differ greatly from their Kantai Collection counterparts, and having now seen both sides of the coin, I conclude that there are some characters who are more likeable in Kantai Collection, and some whose Azur Lane incarnation are more appealing.

  • The soundtrack in Azur Lane has proven to be one of its most enjoyable components. Like Kantai Collection, the music is of an excellent quality, capturing everything from the urgency and terror of battle, to calm, everyday moments in life. Of note are Enterprise’s motifs and the music surrounding the Sakura Empire; the latter are particularly well done, creating a distinct atmosphere that feels authentic and paints a very vivid image of the Sakura Empire, which is presented as a highly romanticised vision of what ancient Japan might have looked like within Azur Lane.

  • The combat pieces in Azur Lane possess a similar emotional tenour to those of Kantai Collection: both anime make use of incredibly well-done music in its battle sequences. At present, while Kantai Collection‘s anime adaptation has fallen to the annals of anime I’ve watched and cannot recall well, the music remains highly memorable and remains one of the best anime soundtracks I’ve listened to. Azur Lane appears to be headed down the same path, with a series that might not be easily remembered, but a soundtrack that stands out.

  • Akagi summons to her an array of anti-air cannons through portals in a scene reminiscent of Avengers: Endgame, with the goal of eliminating Enterprise once and for all. While Akagi is portrayed as being powerful, even she cannot stand against the might of Enterprise. Mid-battle, Enterprise begins emitting an unholy glow, and falls into something of a trance as she begins attacking the enemy forces with an unprecedented ferocity.

  • I cannot particularly say that Azur Lane‘s anime adaptation has given me the incentive to check out the game: while I am aware that the game is solid from a technical standpoint, from how easy it is to get started, to the fact that it runs on iOS and Android and has more involved gameplay, the anime would have me believe that the game is also mechanically complex and possesses a steeper learning curve.

  • From an unexplained mechanism, the entire area of operations is plunged into frigid cold as portals open throughout, impacting all of the combatants. Azur Lane has not yet explored what the scope and limitation of every Ship Girl’s powers are. Up until now, the Ship Girls are portrayed as similar to the kan-musume in performance, with some ships being able to summon familiars mid-combat. Area-denial powers and overcharging have not been brought to the table, leading to the question of where Enterprise’s power comes from.

  • Kaga herself was previously injured when Enterprise struck: having seen losses to their forces, the remainder of the Sakura Empire Ship Girls decide to retreat. Zuikaku and Shoukaku decide to stay and sacrifice themselves in order to ensure the others’ escape, but Enterprise effortlessly annihilates both in battle. As Enterprise prepares to deal the killing strike, Ayanami intervenes and destroys the plane that Enterprise had meant to take out the two. This shocks Enterprise back to her usual self, but the destroyed plane also sends Ayanami on a course for one of the portals.

  • I don’t expect that Enterprise would have the same capabilities in the game while under the player’s control: the ability to trivially defeat enemies would rather defeat the purpose of the game. In general, visually impressive and overpowered effects are either toned down or outright absent from games; the point of a game is to accomplish something, within the parameters specified by a system.

  • At the last second, Javelin and Laffey manage to save Ayanami before she falls into a portal. It is this act that convinces that Laffey and Javelin’s gesture of friendship is authentic, and that their feelings are genuine. With a longstanding conflict resolved, Azur Lane shows here that friendships born of extraordinary conditions can be quite strong, and this sets in motion the idea that Azur Lane or Crimson Axis notwithstanding, the Ship Girls can befriend one another irrespective of their faction.

  • Aynami is initially surprised to learn that the Azur Lane Ship Girls are not so different to her own friends back home, but finds that in spite of her technically being a prisoner of war, everyone at the Azur Lane base is treating her well, just as her allies do. Having now seen that the Azur Lane and Crimson Axis are not so different, Ayanami begins to understand why Javelin and Laffey were so persistent in trying to befriend her.

  • The page quote was taken from General Patton, one of the most well-known American figures of World War Two, and chosen to mirror the thoughts I have about Azur Lane: I’m not quite so immature as to say that the series’ main shortcoming is the lack of historical accuracy, but Azur Lane has not exactly delivered a gripping narrative that compels me to pick up the game, either. While moderately enjoyable, I admit that Azur Lane is rather difficult series to write for: since I am unable to directly compare and contrast real-world events and hardware, it becomes difficult to draw comparisons and speculate on hardware aspects.

  • If and when I’m asked, I’d say that my favourite storyline of Azur Lane would be the friendship between Laffey, Javelin and Ayanami: while also the most conventional with respect to how it plays out, it speaks volumes to the nature of warfare and directly contradicts what Enterprise believes in, showing that conflicts can be finite, and that new things can be born from them. The new friendship between two opposing sides of the conflict would therefore be indicative that warfare can change, that destruction is not always an inevitability.

  • As punishment for disobeying a direct order during combat, Laffey and Javelin are made to look after their prisoner of war, but in practise, this equates to the girls taking Ayanami to some of their favourite spots on the base. At one point, Laffey downs her pancake in one shot, then makes to steal Ayanami’s, leading the two into a spirited (but still friendly) duel. These antics suggest a fast friendship was reached, and I would be curious to see how the three play a role in the conflicts ahead.

  • At the opposite end of the spectrum is Enterprise: despite Belfast’s best efforts to restructure her life, Enterprise remains distant and cold. This isn’t a consequence of an aloof attitude stemming from her combat prowess, but rather, because she’s not particularly good with sharing her honest feelings with others. Dark have been her dreams of late: Enterprise encounters a shadowy version of herself which leads her to doubt her place in the world. While Enterprise and the others state that she has a fear of the ocean, it seems more appropriate to say that Enterprise fears herself, and fears that she possesses an unquenchable thirst for conquest and destruction.

  • With Akagi presumed dead and Kaga still despondent, the mood in the Sakura Empire has shifted considerably, with the other Ship Girls wondering if this war is worth pursuing given their current situation. Ten episodes in, I would say that my favourite Ship Girl of the Sakura Empire would probably be Shoukaku, and I have no equivalent in the Iron Blood, since they’ve made limited appearances throughout the series. As Takao and Shoukaku continue their discussion, they pass by some buildings typical of the architecture in the Sakura Empire: I absolutely love the way the Sakura Empire island is structured, and it is here that some of Azur Lane‘s best artwork is seen.

  • Whereas the Ship Girls all field World War Two era equipment, the Sirens run with contemporary and futuristic arms: their aircraft resemble the YF-23, an experimental next-generation fighter that began tests in the 1990s but was eventually counted as inferior to the aircraft that would become the F-22 Raptor. The Siren also field beam weaponry. However, the gap in technology does not appear to extend to defense; the Ship Girls are capable of damaging the Siren all the same. I believe that in the game, Sirens only appear in event missions, and Purifier, a Siren that attacks the Azur Lane base, is a battleship-type.

  • The Azur Lane forces make pursuit but find themselves face-to-face with a Siren armada. It’s a bit of a cliffhanger to end Azur Lane on; with the eleventh and twelfth episodes coming on March 20 and 27, respectively, there is a bit of a wait, even now, for the story to wrap up. When the time comes, I’ll end up doing a single post to wrap up my thoughts on Azur Lane – in retrospect, I felt it to be a good decision not to make this the series I was going to blog about in greater detail. Between the amount of territory Azur Lane covers, and the delays it’s encountered, writing about this one would’ve proven very tricky.

  • Azur Lane‘s tenth episode, leading into the intermission, ends with Kaga seizing the Orochi and sailing for unknown waters. We are now into February, and as I am hosting this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase, it will be a balancing act to ensure I keep on that: I am intending to have four more scheduled posts for this month (two for Koisuru Asteroid, one special post for Girls und Panzer, and a talk on The Division 2 now that I’ve hit World Tier One). Depending on my availability and scheduling, I might have other posts written out, but these posts will be the ones I aim to put out for sure, besides the Jon’s Creator Showcase for the end of this month.

While Azur Lane does have discernible messages that are superficially explored owing to the constraints of the twelve-episode format, Azur Lane primarily succeeds in conveying to viewers the complexity in its universe. This may not necessarily be to the franchise’s advantage: an anime adaptation of a game universe is typically intended to drive viewers to pick up the game and presumably, buy in-app purchases. This is accomplished by creating a coherent story and create a sense of familiarity so that the viewer is inspired to pick up the game itself and delve further to learn more about the characters the anime adaptation portrayed. Azur Lane‘s anime adaptation, then, can be seen as promoting Enterprise and Belfast, Akagi and Kaga, Ayanami, Javelin and Laffey. However, owing to how the series has chosen to present its themes, each group’s stories are only presented at a basic level, creating none of the connection needed here. Azur Lane‘s anime, in short, does not compel me to play the game, much less go for any of its in-app purchases. The delay in productions, then, is doubly disappointing: with a story that is loosely held together, I had at least looked forwards to seeing how the fight with Kaga and Oricihi would close things up, but the series also suffers from a technical perspective, with inconsistent animations and artwork being quite evident. The net result is that there is now a wait to see how Azur Lane concludes, and the lingering sense that this wait might not have been worthwhile. Whether this is the case remains to be seen, and it will be in March when the final two episodes of Azur Lane will be released.

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.

Azur Lane: The Girls of the Sea and First Episode Impressions

“I have never advocated war except as means of peace, so seek peace, but prepare for war, because war never changes. War is like winter and winter is coming.” –Ulysses S. Grant

When the mysterious Siren overwhelmed humanity and conquered the oceans, the world’s major navies, the Eagle Union, Royal Navy, Sakura Empire and Iron Blood, formed an alliance and developed the Ship Girls to combat them. The Siren were driven back, and ultimately defeated, but a schism formed between the former allies. In the present, Cleveland and Prince of Wales meet with Illustrious and Unicorn in a base near the Sakura Empire, but the facility is infiltrated. Unicorn, Javelin and Laffey befriend Ayanami while searching for Unicorn’s familiar. However, the peace is shattered when Kaga and Akagi arrive, launching a surprise attack. Cleveland enters the fray with the remaining allied ships to drive off the attackers, but find themselves slowly overwhelmed until Enterprise arrives. Severely damaging Kaga, Enterprise forces the Sakura Empire forces to withdraw, but not before Akagi remarks that their intial objective has been accomplished. This is the opening to Azur Lane, the Chinese counterpart to Kantai Collection, which has its origins in a side-scrolling shooter that was originally released for mobile and gained massive popularity in China. Azur Lane is built around a similar premise of female moe anthropomorphic warships from the World War Two era duking it out with an unknown force, but differs chiefly in its gameplay mechanics and platform. Similarly, the anime adaptations of Kantai Collection and Azur Lane differ in their presentation as well, despite similarities in many of their elements.

In contrast with Kantai Collection, whose Abyssal simply present foes for the protagonists to square off against, and whose focus was surrounding the unremarkable Fubuki, Azur Lane opens with a war amongst the Ship Girls, who disagree on what means must be employed against the Sirens. This creates the conflict that Azur Lane opens to, and out of the gates, creates a more tangible reason for Azur Lane‘s ships to be fighting, whereas in Kantai Collection, the reason for fighting was not presented until the movie itself, which revealed that the spirit of a Kan-musume and Abyssal cycle between two phases, and that the war was to save the Kan-musume forms of the different spirits. This came across as being far more abstract than the concrete reason for fighting in Azur Lane, which insofar, could bring about a more interesting discussion of whether or not the use of alien technology justified in a war, when said technology’s capabilities and effects are unknown. The division between the old alliances into a fictional equivalent of the Allied and Axis powers, with England and United States on one side, and Imperial Japan and The Third Reich on the other, also marks the first time that an anime has presented Imperial Japan as the antagonists: Kaga lacks the same composure of her Kantai Collection counterpart, and is rather more bloodthirsty in nature. The prospective possibilities in Azur Lane are intriguing, and could bring about a more engaging story overall, but after one episode, audiences are also indunated with a large number of Ship Girls. Kantai Collection kept the story to Fubuki’s perspective, and while counted as being an unremarkable character, the advantage of this approach give the story grounding, so viewers were not overwhelmed. By comparison, Azur Lane drops viewers into the midst of things, and after one episode, no clear protagonist has yet been identified, with the lead contender being Enterprise.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • My current plans for Azur Lane are to write about it again after three episodes have passed, and then decide from there as to which series this season will be getting quarterly posts. The other two candidates for this season are Rifle is Beautiful and Kandagawa Jet Girls, both of which look fairly exciting in their own right. I will likely be doing something similar where I look at the first episodes, determining which series will be given additional discussions once I have a stronger idea of what the series is about.

  • Cleveland and Prince of Wales exhibit the same tendencies as Girls und Panzer‘s Kay and Darjeeling, respectively: Cleveland is easygoing and boisterious, while Prince of Wales possess the regal manner and stiff upper-lip that is associated with the British. They encounter a cloaked Ship Girl that turns out to be Ayanami while walking on the island. The large number of characters out of the gates made it tricky to tell which characters Azur Lane would be centred around.

  • The Cleveland of Azur Lane is the 1942 light cruiser CL-55, which saw combat in North Africa before sailing to the Pacific, where she participated in the invasion of the Palau Islands and Okinawa. The Prince of Wales is the HMS Prince of Wales (53), a King George-class which fought the Bismark and was destroyed by the Japanese aircraft in 1941. Cleveland and Prince of Wales meets with Illustrious and Unicorn here; both are aircraft carriers belonging to the British Navy.

  • The main facilities in Azur Lane are stunningly rendered: the cherry blossoms and the metal anchor installation stand in contrast with the vividly blue sky that is evocative of a summer’s day. The weather today was actually reminiscent of the weather from a year ago, when I went on a short trip to the province over to check out the salmon run. Like last year, the mild weather created an incredibly comfortable setting to be out and about, and I’m hoping things will hold steady as we enter the Thanksgiving Long Weekend.

  • After a September whose weather proved rather more hospitable than the weather of last year, October is off to a solid start as well: aside from colder mornings, the weather’s been most pleasant. Entering this weekend, we had a mostly sunny day that was prefect for visiting the local zoo. Two panda cubs born here are set to go to Chengdu in China now that they’ve reached gestation age, and I spent the early afternoon watching the younger pandas eat and fight over the best sleeping spot in their space, as well as an older panda who chilled on a log.

  • It’s been many years since I visited the zoo proper: in the past several years, I attended the Illuminasia Festival and saw lanterns of the animals, but these events were set during the night, so the rest of the zoo was closed. Today, however, I visited by day and therefore was able to see the animals, from giraffes and Bactrian camels to musk ox and Chilean flamingos. The weather remained quite pleasant, and we left closer to the end of the day, which ended off with a family dinner whose centrepiece was a crab fried rice (蟹飯, jyutping haai5 faan6).

  • Folk who’ve played Azur Lane to a greater extent than I did will have to explain what the Unicorn familiar is about. It appears that some of the Ship Girls of Azur Lane exhibit animal-like traits, similar to the Witches of Strike Witches. Here, Unicorn, Javelin and Laffey share a conversation with Ayanami: they are unaware of her affiliation and immediately take to her, but Ayanami suddenly vanishes having been whisked away by aircraft to a secure location. Here, she apologises for what is to come next and signals that the time has come to begin combat operations.

  • Whereas Kantai Collection presented Kaga and Akagi as refined, calm carriers, their Azur Lane counterparts are more villainous in nature, relishing the idea of combat and dealing damage to their opponents. At this point in time, I much prefer the Kantai Collection incarnations of Kaga and Akagi. Azur Lane‘s versions both sport fox tails here and share an unusually close bond with one another.

  • When enemy aircraft resembling the YF-23 appear in the skies, Cleveland suits up and begins to return fire. The equipment configurations and setup are nearly identical to those seen in Kantai Collection, although the transformation process is distinct in that the girls transmute the material properties of their respective ships into infantry-sized gear pieces that they wear into combat. The precise mechanics of both Kantai Collection and Azur Lane don’t make much sense when scrutinised, so I’ve resolved to simply enjoy them as they are.

  • My perspective on Azur Lane is that of a beginner: I have no intrinsic familiarity with the game beyond the quarter-hour I spent playing it on my iPhone. With this being said, I would count myself as being sufficiently well-read as to understand why the analogues of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany are the antagonists in Azur Lane. Contrary to the supposition that the show was written with political implications in mind, I counter-argue that the choice to have the Sakura Empire and Iron Blood oppose the Eagle Union and Royal Navy is simply intended to both provide a setup where Ship Girls fight one another purely for fanservice’s sake.

  • From a story perspective, having other Ship Girls as enemies simply allows Azur Lane to explore whether or not the risks of forbidden knowledge (the Siren technology) is an acceptable tradeoff for a more powerful and effective weapon against an enemy whose intentions and full capabilities remain unknown. Sino-Japanese relationships did not figure in the design of Azur Lane, and I’d wish that folks lacking the requisite background in this area would cease their emotionally-driven prating on how the contrary is true. Such discussions are wearisome and inane, accomplishing little except showing just how uninformed the participants are.

  • Similarly, the absence of ordinary civilians and an equivalent of Kantai Collection‘s admiral are not relevant to the discussion. This becomes apparent when Unicorn summons a familiar that allows her to soar through the battlefield – Azur Lane dispenses realism and waltzes into the realm of magic with its use of familiars, so it is reasonable to suppose that this series is supposed to be about visually exciting things happening in battle over everything else. Watching with the intent of having fun is how I’m going to roll, and I’m going to be dismissive of any “serious” discussions, since the original goal of Azur Lane‘s mobile game is fun, first and foremost.

  • If I do decide to push forwards with Azur Lane in the quarterly review format, I will be making a more conscious effort to include more pantsu purely for the sake of my own amusement as well as the reader’s. I typically focus on scenery screenshots, since I have little to offer in the way of discussion when the frame is focused on someone’s pantsu at close range, but I think that it wouldn’t be such a mad idea to mix things up every so often. I invite the reader to provide feedback here as to whether or not this is something you might tolerate from this blog.

  • The first battle the Eagle Union and Royal Navy fight against the Sakura Empire’s Kaga and Akagi implies that a Ship Girls’ combat performance is impacted by game mechanics like level and specialisations. While Cleveland is able to intercept the fighters sent against them, she and the other Ship Girls are slowly overwhelmed once Kaga gets serious and summons a wolf familiar similar to Fenris from Thor Ragnarok.

  • The combat sequences of Azur Lane seem to be flashier and more dynamic than those of Kantai Collection, featuring a much greater range of motion from the Ship Girls themselves. Javelin reluctantly engages Ayanami in combat, forcing the former to do a flip into the air that, in Kantai Collection, would be counted as impossible. While Azur Lane is off to a good start, I admit one of the things I will need to master is my own constant inclination to spell Azur as “azure”. With this in mind, there are plenty of azure skies in Azur Lane.

  • Enterprise is a higher-tier Ship Girl modelled after the USS Enterprise (CV-6): a Yorktown-class, the CV-6 Enterprise was commissioned in 1937 and was absent from Pearl Harbour in 1941. The ship would participate at the Battle of Midway, the Guadalcanal Campaign, the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf, becoming the most decorated ship in the navy at the time. In Azur Lane, Enterprise is a highly skilled and powerful aircraft carrier, capable of fighting Kaga to a standstill without any apparent effort.

  • Because it’s so early in the game, the full scope of the Sakura Empire and Iron Blood Ship Girls remains unseen and therefore, something the series could potentially explore as time wears on. For now, the first episode has suggested to me that use of Siren technology allows the Sakura Empire and Iron Blood ships to possess more brute strength than their Eagle Union and Royal Navy equivalents, but in exchange, the veteran ships on the Allied side will likely possess better combat experience and/or tactics, playing on the Axis ships’ arrogance and faith in Siren technology.

  • This is, of course, speculation, since I am not at all familiar with Azur Lane. Here, Enterprise launches a point-blank shot at Kaga after closing the distance, surprising Kaga. The results of a close-range shot damages Kaga, and she reluctantly complies with Akagi’s request to retreat. I remark here that the phrase “point-blank” is often abused: it means “the range where the trajectory of a projectile is sufficiently flat so it experiences no drop, so that aiming directly at a target without adjusting for gravity will allow one to hit the target”. For instance, some rifles have a point blank range that extends out to 300 metres. The media and film take the phrase to mean “at close ranges, often just short of being a contact shot” – while technically correct, since there is no bullet drop at this range, it’s also a bit of a misnomer, since it excludes the idea that a pistol shot that hits its mark at 15 metres is also in point-blank range.

  • Ayanami retreats from the battle, wondering what will happen next. I’m certainly intrigued by the series’ setup, although Azur Lane will have to work hard in the episodes upcoming to newcomers such as myself on the characters and their objectives. For folks who’ve felt I’ve not adequately discussed the series, I present fellow blogger Jusuchin’s reflections of Azur Lane‘s first episode. Despite his modesty about such matters, Jusuchin is markedly more knowledgeable than myself on all things military and also has extensive background in things like Kantai Collection, so those looking for more information will find his perspectives to be valuable.

  • With Azur Lane‘s first episode in the books, I am going to experiment with a slightly different approach this season and write about the first episodes to the series I will be writing about in some capacity, and then pick one series to follow in greater length. Kandagawa Jet Girls and Rifle is Beautiful vie with Azure Lane for more writing time. In the meantime, my focus turns to writing about Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?? ~Sing For You~ and Star Wars Battlefront II‘s campaign. The latter, I beat last month, and the former, I’ve been waiting to write about since last September. I expect that, for Sing For You, I remain on target to have the internet’s first and most useful review of.

Overall, with its uncommonly sharp visuals and animation, Azur Lane is off to a solid start, presenting a far livelier world than the one that was presented in Kantai Collection‘s anime. The character count and lack of a central perspective so far has been the main shortcomings of the first episode, but with a strong premise and engaging battles, Azur Lane could prove to be a reasonably enjoyable series as time wears on. One additional aspect that makes Azur Lane worthwhile are its incidental pieces; like Kantai Collection, orchestral pieces are employed, and in the case of Kantai Collection, the music was masterfully performed to really convey the might of the navy, the gentle and frivolous days the Kan-musume spend together, and the enmity of the Abyssals. From the soundtrack that’s been heard in Azur Lane so far, it appears this series will be following suit in its use of music to create a very specific atmosphere. Taken together, I am curious to see how Azur Lane plays out: I had downloaded the game for iOS and gave it a whirl prior to the anime starting, and while it is unsophisticated compared to the titles I am accustomed to, Azur Lane‘s increased accessibility and substantial gameplay component means that between it and Kantai Collection, I would prefer to play Azur Lane over Kantai Collection‘s luck-based approach. With this being said, for the time being, I am much more familiar with and prefer the style of Kantai Collection‘s characters, so Azur Lane‘s anime adaptation is going to need to put in some effort in order to sell me its story and encourage me to follow the Ship Girls’ adventures and experiences.