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.

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.