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Azur Lane – 01

OP Sequence

OP: 「graphite/diamond」by May’n

「【起動】海を駆ける少女たち」 ([Kidou] Umi o Kakeru Shoujo-tachi)
“[Launch] The Girls Who Run on the Sea”

We’ve come full circle. On first blush the stubbornly misspelt Azur Lane seems like a thoroughly Japanese game — familiar art style, solely Japanese voice work, and making the big bucks in Japan. But it’s actually made by a Chinese company, and is now coming all the way around and getting an anime adaptation. Perhaps this says something about post-Cultural Revolution China, or something about Japanese soft power. I don’t know what. What I do know is that it says something about business savvy. Even a passing observer will note that Azur Lane looks awfully like Kantai Collection. One has War War II warships as cute anime girls, the other has cute anime girls as World War II warships. You see it, right? But rather than a story of Chinese plagiarism, this is a story of missed opportunities. As you may know, KanColle was wildly popular in Japan, and still is (as a quick perusal of Pixiv will tell you). But it remained a Nippon-centric game (in many ways) and never globalised, so into that neglected market stepped Azur Lane, which in flavour is Kantai collection but with even more ships and somehow even more anime. Surely, this is what capitalism is for.

So, what about this adaptation? For those of you who are just checking out this anime to sample the Azur Lane franchise, be warned that this adaptation seems very much to be a fanservice adaptation. It will dutifully try to get new viewers up to speed with hefty info dumps, but there’s no mistaking whom it’s aimed towards. Even outsiders will be able to tell which scenes and lines are specifically designed to make fans squee (or make more self-conscious ones cringe). I have mixed feelings about fanservice shows like these and we’ll get to talking about that, but before I get all negative about Azur Lane let’s be positive, because there’s a deal to like about this pilot and far be it for me to make people feel bad about liking a show. Again, Azur Lane is a very anime anime, so if you like anime (a good bet if you’re reading RandomC) you’ll probably find something good in there. There’s the staples: cute girls in short skirts, gratuitous action shots, giant monsters firing particle effects, and, of course, wanton destruction. Sure, you have to sit through 10 minutes of exposition, but Azur Lane has decent animation (though maybe derpy art here and there if look for it) and big set-pieces that are bound to appeal. If you want your anime Fast and Furious, prefer your action turned up to ridiculous (behold, an aircraft carrier riding an aircraft) and are the type who can turn your brain off and just bathe in the endorphins, then you can stop reading right here.

The pedants among us will have to soldier on.

Let’s turn back to KanColle for a moment. Comparisons between it and Azur Lane are inevitable, and you’ll recall that it also had an animation adaptation. The TV series was also a fanservice show, but even fans will tell you that it was bad. To be fair, while KanColle was bad it was also terrible, and I posit that much of that comes from its fanservice nature. It had both production values and a passionate staff behind it. It had very obvious ambition. But the problem is, fanservice runs counter to ambition, because fanservice wastes a lot of time. KanColle is one of those character-collector games, so it had this huge cast that all needed some screen time because fans will riot if their waifu was not represented. And in its quest to please everybody KanColle ended up pleasing nobody and ironically sank under its own weight (though the movie apparently salvaged some of it).

Azur Lane is also one of those character-collector games and with not just one but four fleets in play its cast may even be bigger than KanColle‘s. You can’t really tell from the screencaps (because we cut down to 36 shots on RandomC) but a significant amount of episode time in this pilot is devoted to simply panning over characters without speaking parts, for no purpose other than to show that they exist. And to be perfectly honest, from a storytelling point of view there is no reason to care about them. But storytelling is about parsimony, about conserving details for the actual important stuff to make them pop, so all this cast baggage is at best a distraction. Combined with the occasional panty flashes and throwaway catchphrases that must be tossed in regularly, a lot of viewer attention, let alone the precious 20 minutes per episode, are consumed.

And Azur Lane seems no less ambitious than KanColle. Now, Japanese censorship boards are awfully touchy about talking about WWII, so like KanColle it instead settles for a metaphorical WWII (though it seems to be following the Allies equivalent rather than the Japanese, and starring Star Trek 2B). At the same time, though, it already has this B plot about, er, the power of friendship, I guess. There are many things Azur Lane wants to do, but only 12 episodes in which to do it, so something will likely need to be sacrificed. My guess? It’s going to be the world building. Here I’ll raise Hai-Furi, yet another show about anime girls and warships (even if Azur Lane seems stylistically closer to Arpeggio). Hai-Furi, like KanColle and Azur Lane, also had too large a cast but what it had was full knowledge of its scope. Within that scope it had a defined world, slotted its WWII elements into it, and made sure flaunting old naval hardware to please the military nerds made sense in context. Azur Lane, though? The moment a little girl rode into battle on a flying unicorn plushie to do battle with Player 2 Amaterasu you just knew that Azur Lane does not have a damn left to give about world building. Hard sci-fi this is not. Everything is run on shiny space magic, the historical elements are brief nods at most, and all the humans are presumed dead. Whatever.

But hey, it’s only the first episode. I’m only pointing out structural weaknesses, and those can be potentially overcome. And even if Azur Lane implodes, as long as it does so gloriously, we’ll all be entertained.

Full-length images: ED 01.

 

ED Sequence

ED: 「光の道標」 (Hikari no Michishirube) by 鹿乃 (Kano)

October 4, 2019 at 9:13 am
39 comments »
  • October 4, 2019 at 9:31 amHenrietta Brix

    https://randomc.net/image/Azur%20Lane/Azur%20Lane%20-%20OP%20-%20Large%2004.jpg

    “From the mist, a shape, a ship, is taking form
    And the silence of the sea is about to drift into a storm
    Sign of power, show of force
    Raise the anchor, battleship’s plotting its course”

    Koln is megane bae
    Z23 is a delicious busty loli sensei
    Hipster is a flat tsundere
    Zi is a DFC tomboy

    OK… As an AL player I like this anime albeit there are times where the animation is janky and the lines are cringy… There are still ships that are not my top picks in the game and in the show thus far but I’ll still watch it. Looks more promising than KC.

    I must say the colour tone for it is just bad. Still watchable

    https://randomc.net/image/Azur%20Lane/Azur%20Lane%20-%2001%20-%20Large%2007.jpg
    Watching this episode, makes me just want to gacha out Javelin (left). I have Unicorn (left) but I’ve never leveled her up or kit her out.

    Anyway, now I know what my ships are up to when I’m away. Its cool to see how they kit up before sortieing.

    • October 4, 2019 at 1:11 pmWanderer

      Unicorn and Javelin are both on the left? Then who’s on the right?

      • October 4, 2019 at 3:28 pmHenrietta Brix

        I mean right side is Unicorn

  • October 4, 2019 at 9:49 amEnan84

    Hmm, the action is entertaining enough, that I don’t have to care about the story and the villains are cute:

    https://randomc.net/image/Azur%20Lane/Azur%20Lane%20-%2001%20-%20Large%2011.jpg

    So I’m in.

  • October 4, 2019 at 10:27 amewok40k

    As a feverish AL player this is must see one for me this season…

    • October 4, 2019 at 8:29 pmHalfDemonInuyasha

      Been watching it played while Japanese and started playing as soon as it hit English and was so hyped to hear of this coming out.

      Images of Belfast and Illustrious got me looking into it initially, lol.

  • October 4, 2019 at 1:47 pmworldwidedepp

    https://randomc.net/image/Azur%20Lane/Azur%20Lane%20-%2001%20-%20Large%2011.jpg
    With this crest on her Chest… and their Nine Tails

    Are these Two perhaps Yamato and Musashi?

    • October 4, 2019 at 3:30 pmHenrietta Brix

      Blue oni – Kaga
      Red oni – Akagi

      • October 5, 2019 at 1:16 amworldwidedepp

        Oh their “favorite” Aircraft carrier. Thanks

        But then i wonder how the visual appearing of these two Super-Battleships would be done

    • October 4, 2019 at 8:32 pmHalfDemonInuyasha

      Unfortunately, Yamato and Musashi have yet to appear, but they are mentioned sometimes, so maybe an event in the not-too-distant future…which will mean a while before it hits English…

      • October 5, 2019 at 9:29 amqwert

        Actually as long as they’re added in a standard event they’d come out simultaneously. They’ve essentially synced up all the servers by now as far as events go with the only troublesome part being fitting in all of the old stuff that hasn’t hit the EN servers yet in between all of the new stuff. All the EN servers are missing out on are a few reruns of old events, some unreleased story chapters and a mix of promotional events/features.

    • October 5, 2019 at 1:23 amworldwidedepp

      forgot to add.

      i wonder if their “Amagi” Sisters would have the nearly same Visual style here.

      Well Amagi “died” even before she saw Water only Akagi made it trough. Takao and Atago was original also their Sisters, but then other Ships got their names (that we know)

      (It’s Wikipedia wisdom)
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amagi-class_battlecruiser

  • October 4, 2019 at 2:36 pmMistic

    Now, Japanese censorship boards are awfully touchy about talking about WWII, so like KanColle it instead settles for a metaphorical WWII (though it seems to be following the Allies equivalent rather than the Japanese, and starring Star Trek 2B).

    You know, even if it’s metaphorical, it’s not every day you see anime depicting a (fantasy) battle of Pearl Harbor with Imperial Japan as the bad guys and Americans and British as the good guys. Shows that the source material isn’t Japanese.

    Only for that, it was worth checking this first episode. “Imperial nostalgia” is a problematic trope in much of Japanese media, so this is surprisingly refreshing.

    (Of course, we know it will end with the usual “let’s fight our common enemy!” development)

    It was obviously an exercise in fanservice, yes, with all those ships referenced that only a fan would get. And yet, I don’t mind too much. It pleases my inner history buff to recognize so many names from WWII books. So, even if I don’t know the game, I kind of now the characters?

    • October 4, 2019 at 5:12 pmPasserby

      The source material being Chinese comes with its own interesting issues. Apparently, on the Chinese servers the game isn’t allowed to refer to the Japanese ships directly by name. The code names they use in this anime episode are actually the names the Chinese server uses instead.

      • October 5, 2019 at 4:13 amMistic

        Oh? So that’s where the code names came from! Very interesting.

        Nevertheless, you were right: “this is what capitalism is for”. Even if they had to twist things to be acceptable, the Chinese developers still managed to include Japanese ships as playable characters (nevermind glorifying Americans as heroes), because money is money. Which still is more that can be said of certain Japanese creators that tend to cater just to the Japanese market.

  • October 4, 2019 at 5:10 pmqwert

    I think one failure of the Kancolle anime adaptation was that the antagonists just sucked. All I can remember of that show, and there’s not much, is the slice of life. There was no real conflict with the bad guys, they’d just occasionally fight some monster or silent humanoid enemy and the results of the fight would affect how the slice of life episodes progressed.

    Azur Lane on the other hand has both the Red Axis and the Sirens as likely antagonists over the course of the series, both sides of which have characters with actual personalities and motivations rather than just being monsters that occasionally have to be put down.

    • October 4, 2019 at 5:17 pmPasserby

      That’s true. KanColle didn’t really have time to develop its antagonists. I would argue that a lot of the time it didn’t even remember it had antagonists because it was busy with the waifu-service. One advantage Azur Lane then has is that it makes some of the waifu the antagonists so it’ll be easier to multitask.

    • October 5, 2019 at 1:14 amworldwidedepp

      “The weekly Enemy Attack and destruction?” Yes this was a big break in Kancolle

  • October 4, 2019 at 7:52 pmArche

    As someone who has done nothing involving Azure Lane this was dumb as hell

    But it’s exactly the type of dumb as hell that makes me watch anime

  • October 4, 2019 at 8:32 pmHalfDemonInuyasha

    https://randomc.net/image/Azur%20Lane/Azur%20Lane%20-%2001%20-%20Large%2015.jpg

    They even use the same kind of firing animations that each respective character has in the game, lol.

  • October 5, 2019 at 1:59 amzztop

    Interview with Azur Lane CEO and staff.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksoApSQRWZs

  • October 5, 2019 at 6:22 amNamaewoinai

    Somehow these innocent carriers are now become more…sedusive. so they become from
    this…

    To this!

  • October 5, 2019 at 7:40 amSMinstrel

    Literally burst out laughing at the “war never change” phrase.

  • October 5, 2019 at 8:25 amLordip

    This anime intrigued me so much about the game that I installed and played it. The story in the game is nonexistent .. but it is quite fun.

    • October 5, 2019 at 9:35 amqwert

      The meatier story sections come from the events which help build the backgrounds for the characters and factions. If you’re playing the EN version there’s a few reruns of old events still unreleased and an archives system they’re slowly rolling out that lets you play through retired events for the story.

    • October 8, 2019 at 8:19 ammegalith

      The lack of story mode was brought up in the 2nd Anniversary event in JP. The staff said that the lack of story mode is due to “Adult” reasons. The implication is either they’re too busy with implementing content in all regions at the same time or JP or the topic is a little too sensitive for particular audiences. I think the anime might be used as a base for the actual story mode.

  • October 5, 2019 at 10:01 amtsirrus

    A bit of a letdown. Arpeggio was my favourite of the genre. Dropped it from a watching standpoint, but might browse through the RC posts about it.

    The comments make me want to play the game though…

  • October 5, 2019 at 10:37 amIncognito

    (Will be dividing my commentary in two: One covering the gist of this episode and the other talking more about its ongoing competition with KanColle.)

    https://randomc.net/image/Azur%20Lane/Azur%20Lane%20-%2001%20-%20Large%2008.jpg
    Whenever Laffey speaks, I still hear the voice of dragon loli Kanna Kamui. (Dangit, Maria Naganawa’s voice is diabetically cute.) Also, Laffey‘s dangerously close to getting a nip-slip in that situation… Considering her loli appearance, that’s more dangerous than the usual ecchi fanservice I’m used to.

    https://randomc.net/image/Azur%20Lane/Azur%20Lane%20-%2001%20-%20Large%2011.jpg
    Man, Akagi and Kaga‘s interactions are reminiscent of KanColle‘s Kitakami and Ooi…except more touchy-feely. (Get a freaking room, you two!)

    https://randomc.net/image/Azur%20Lane/Azur%20Lane%20-%2001%20-%20Large%2012.jpg
    These Siren ships remind me of Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio‘s Fleet of Fog. Or the Neuroi from Strike Witches/Brave Witches. Also, any chance that the Red Axis ships are falling under the influence of the Siren tech they’re using? I read some character profiles of the Sakura Empire and Iron Blood “Kansen” on the usual wikis and some of them are downright yandere and/or ax-crazy (more so if the player improves their “bond” with them).

    Other thoughts:
    - So Azur Lane decided not to include a player-insert Admiral/Commander character as well (or off-hand mentions of him/her being there, for that matter). More screentime for the ship waifus, I suppose.
    - May’n (the singing voice of Macross Frontier‘s Sheryl Nome) is performing the opening song? Talk about getting some big guns…
    - Other than appearances in the opening and ending credits, still no sign of Belfast… :( Ditto the “Other Other Takao”* and Atago. Looking forward to seeing those three and a few other Kansen in future episodes.
    - OT1: On a lighter note, I watched the episode along with my Nendoroids of Arpeggio!Takao (#503) and KanColle!Yamato (#520). Would have loved to hear their thoughts on the show, hehe…
    - OT2: Thanks for that mention of Hai-Furi, Passerby. It’s a shame that the only thing that instantly comes to my mind from that show nowadays is Wilhelmina. orz

    (* note: Nickname for Azur Lane!Takao, after watching Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio and KanColle.)

    • October 6, 2019 at 12:35 pmworldwidedepp

      Yes. I also get the feeling they want to hit: Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio‘s (Sexiness), Strike Witches (Enemy) and Kancolle buttons

      Perhaps they do it right. it all depends on the Story.

  • October 5, 2019 at 12:04 pmtheirs

    That was a rather strange take on WWII ships. Seems more Arpeggio than KanColle when it comes to the relation with the historical counterparts. Unlike both, this seems like a totally alternate universe. Can’t figure out why the WWII ships are there and it seems like WWII never happened as nobody felt deja vu.

    Already seen about 80% of the Azur Lane characters I know, so that’s good. Would be nice to know what I’m clicking on when visiting image boards and art sites. The main plot also seem quite intriguing especially with what truly divides the factions. Won’t expect it to be too deep, but would like to see where they are taking it.

    Major gripes are:
    -nobody died
    -The supposed main character hardly said anything significant. What I know of her is still based on what I know of the historical carrier. Ironically, I get the feeling that that history never actually happened in this world.
    -Needs more dakka. Anti air weapons didn’t look so flashy. Enterprise’s single arrow couldn’t even knock out Kaga at point blank range. She needs a lot more of those arrows.:P

    Will watch a few more episodes. At least until everyone in the opening says something. Story expectation clearly went down a few notches.

    • October 6, 2019 at 7:14 amDorian S.

      Actually, the history of world still sort of plays out the same. That’s how come Enterprise is the most decorated Union ship.

      As for why ship girls, there’s an explanation for that, but that would be a spoiler so time for the spoiler tags!

      Only read this if you don’t mind spoiling yourself as an anime only person.
      Show Spoiler ▼

      Though, I am sad that they took out the Commander character. I wanted to see what our Commander looked like. Also so that Enterprise had someone to lean on for support. I wonder who will fill in that role for her.

      Also, I’m like you. I’m disappointed/surprised that Kaga didn’t die. It would be a good way to show off a story beat in Azur Lane (from the game) that I think is important to see.

      • October 6, 2019 at 12:03 pmtheirs

        My impression for an alternate history was from that lack of deja vu by the Allied characters. Especially since history tend to repeat itself. Also hard to imagine anyone would raise Akagi and Kaga from the abyss, even with magic.

        Hopefully they do explain that in the near future. That way, I don’t have to click on that spoiler tag! XD

  • October 5, 2019 at 1:51 pmJason D Isenberg

    As an Azur Lane player and being excited for this show, so far, I’m so happy how cool Enterprise was in this. Also my first oath’d ship is Hood so seeing her in the opening and how pretty she looks I’m super super happy. But then I see San Diego being an idol as she is going “NUMBA WAN” just gives me so much joy. But yes other than that there’s still a lot more work to do with it, even though everything is so exaggerated and so anime, it’s still a fun time, and the action scenes with Enterprise was so satisfying. I just can’t wait to see Atago and Takao eventually <3

  • October 7, 2019 at 3:32 amHoHo

    • October 8, 2019 at 9:23 amIncognito

      Considering the source cited in that meme pic… Eh, take it with a grain of salt. Doesn’t help that said source can be full of racist d-bags and f-wads of every stripe. Also, their image loading can be absolute s**t at times–especially when they dump multiple images in their posts.

      I also can’t help but feel that talking about the KanColle-Azur Lane rivalry is also like opening two cans of worms–one about Japan’s ultranationalism and the other about China’s multi-faceted expansionist ambitions. Which is why I might wait until episode 3 before talking about it.

  • October 8, 2019 at 7:25 amYanDaMan

    Im just here for Enterprise’s thighs.

  • October 8, 2019 at 8:16 ammegalith

    In general, I have high hopes for this anime to be fun. The fact that they treated the ship girl idea as mahou shoujou like made it open to a lot of room for creativity.

  • October 10, 2019 at 12:47 pmworldwidedepp

    Well, what i saw so far of this Anime, it was enough to raise my curiosity. Because they are not “repeating” History so far… Seems like it is worth have an eye on this

    • October 10, 2019 at 1:24 pmworldwidedepp

      I will watch this because of the Story. Let’s see

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