Azur Lane Anime Review #azurlane_anime

Azur Lane Anime Review
アズールレーン

I’ve known about the whole ship-girl thing for quite some time. After all, I do follow a number of manga-ka and artists in Japan on Twitter. When Kantai Collection received an anime adaptation, I put it on my watch list. And I do plan to watch it in the future. But for some reason, when Azur Lane received an anime adaptation, I decided to go ahead and watch it right away. And it turned out to be better than I expected.

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* * * * SPOILERS * * * *

The Story, in Brief

The story of Azur Lane sees an Earth that has been nearly wiped out due to an alien invasion from a group known as Sirens. As such, the major powers of Earth (Eagle Union–United States; Royal Navy–Great Britan; Iron Blood–Germany; Sakura Empire–Japan) begin using new technology to fight the Sirens. This results in the creation of artificial human females, known as ship-girls. These ship-girls are crafted to be the persona of World War II naval ships of war, though why is not explained

Iron Blood and Sakura Empire differ with Eagle Union and Royal Navy on how to defeat the Sirens, who have been silent of late. As such, Iron Blood and Sakura Empire break their alliance with the other factions of the world. They use Siren technology to create mass produced warships in addition to using ship-girls. Further, the newly formed Red Axis alliance of Iron Blood and Sakura Empire decide to attack Azur Lane.

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As the war progresses, the aircraft carrier ship-girl Enterprise begins to have visions of a horrific future and must deal with her own fears. On the Sakura Empire part, the aircraft carrier ship-girl Akagi convinces her faction to build a massive weapon to give them an advantage over Azur Lane and Sirens. However, Akagi also has her own personal issues to deal with. And the Sirens wait in the wings to take advantage of the situation.

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Personal Journeys

One thing that helps make Azur Lane more interesting is that there are three character stories. The first one dealing with Enterprise was a bit more interesting. That’s because Enterprise saw herself merely as a weapon of war. But because her fellow ship-girls in Eagle Union and Royal Navy see potential problems with her mental state, the Royal Navy, light cruiser, Belfast (HORIE Yui) is assigned to Enterprise as her maid. As such, Belfast helps Enterprise on her journey to accept her humanity.

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Enterprise has a second story element in the series. This revolves around her visions of the war-torn future and talking with her future self. This does tie in with her journey to discover her humanity. But it also goes somewhat with the plot. However, it is the plot tie-in that’s the weakest element of Enterprise’s story. The writers are not clear on how the Black Cube created these visions, to say nothing of why the Sirens needed Enterprise (and Azur Lane) to be in contact with said cube.

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Akagi is another ship-girl with a personal story. Her story is rooted in tragedy and loss. While this makes her somewhat of a cliched villain character, I felt her loss made her actions understandable. And in that same light, Kaga’s blind adoration of her sister ship was also understandable to me. So I didn’t have a problem with the cliched aspects.

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Finally, the Sakura Empire destroyer ship-girl Ayanami gets a personal journey as well. For her, it becomes about realizing that the ship-girls of Eagle Union and Royal Navy aren’t much different than herself.

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So the combination of these character arcs put Azur Lane into a higher category than I expected.

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Balancing the Light and the Dark

One thing I noticed about Azur Lane is that the series had the potential to become a very dark one. There were a number of times where characters could have been brutally slaughtered. Were this series created by TYPE-MOON, no doubt there would have been plenty of that, to say nothing of having loli abuse.

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Thankfully, Bibury Animation Studios didn’t allow things to get too dark. At the same time, I felt that the writers did a good job keeping the viewers in an uncertain state. For example, the Royal Navy light cruiser ship-girls Edinburgh and Sheffield have to go on a secret mission. And they end up rescuing an enemy. But when it seems like they’ve escaped, we discover that they didn’t get home and are in dire straits.

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On the light side, Azur Lane finds moments of levity. I wouldn’t describe the series as overly funny. However, much as with the darkness, Bibury avoids just being a comedy series with no consequences. As such, the I think the humor and darkness are balanced fairly well. I appreciated that.

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Game Knowledge Required?

One of my complaints about Fate/Grand Order Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia is that anime adaptation of Fate/Grand Order wasn’t as impactful if one hadn’t played the game and read its story. However, for Azur Lane, while there were things I wasn’t clear on in terms of the world it is set in, I didn’t feel I should have been playing the game. Indeed, I’m told that the anime’s story is  only based off the concept of the game, not an actual game story.

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I will say that having watched the anime adaptation, I was tempted to play the game. Having watched Western Otaku stream it on Twitch, it does look like a lot of fun. But FGO already sucks up too much of my time. 😅

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Anime Production

I felt that Bibury did a pretty good job with Azur Lane, especially considering they apparently did most of the work themselves. However, it became clear by episode 10 from the Fall 2019 anime season that they were falling behind in production values. As such, some scenes do look pretty bad, but I’m told these will be fixed for BD/DVD release.

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When the final two episodes aired in the Winter 2020 cour, the production values were really crisp. I enjoyed the battles, music, and other aspects of the series.

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On the Western side of things, the FUNimation subtitles were pretty much what one would expect. As such, the subtitles do not use Japanese honorifics. Indeed, while it is apparently lazy to say “Enterprise-sama”, it is a brilliantly brilliant, and not at all lazy, to ignore the “sama” and just go on our merry way. And yes, I realize that Belfast is supposed to be British and Enterprise is supposed to be American. However, lets face it. The characters are pretty much all Japanese in most aspects, except they aren’t called that. But whatever.

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Final Thoughts and Conclusion

In the end, Azur Lane was an anime adaptation of a mobile game that I ended up enjoying way more than I ever thought. I enjoyed the three character stories, the mild humor, and the intriguing story quite a lot.

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