「【激戦】鼓動の波、鋼鉄の翼」 ([Gekisen] Kodou no Nami, Koutetsu no Tsubasa)
“[Fierce Battle] Beating Waves, Steel Wings”
Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, Azur Lane was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the naval and air forces of the Sakura Empire. But fortunately we’ve got an army of sentient chicken nuggets who will clean up the mess for us.
So last week we opened with what was as close to the Pearl Harbour attacks as publicly broadcast anime will ever get. As Roosevelt predicted, history remembers that day as a traumatic one for the United States, one that shocked an isolationist nation into total war. While the loss was great, from the ashes of tragedy shall rise a united spirit that shall galvanise all of America’s people to accomplish an entire generation of great deeds! Or at least that was Roosevelt’s version. This is Azur Lane‘s.
This was supposed to be a low point for our protagonists. It was a time to survey the wreckage and reflect upon the losses, and narratively it will serve as the drive for the next parts of the story. And part of Azur Lane does seem to understand that this was supposed to be a sombre moment. They cut off the dialogue for a while. They put on serious music. But the dramatic score lacked dramatic weight. How could it? We’ve got marshmallow peeps running around literally fishing survivors out of the water. Nobody is going to even attempt to explain what they are. They don’t give a damn and apparently neither should we. And here we get to the foundational problem of Azur Lane.
Azur Lane is stupid.
Stupidity is not always a bad thing. In a pure comedy I’d even encourage it. But if actually want drama you need authenticity, and if you want authenticity the audience needs to be able to cognitively engage with your story without getting a stroke. But for Azur Lane, no thought at all has been put into making sure that it was actually making sense. Take the opening exposition dump, where Enterprise once again tells us that war never changes — right after describing the ways war has changed. Is she actually being philosophical here? Or did one of the writers just finish binge-playing Fallout and thought the line was cool? Can we blame the director here? Tanaka Motoki? I don’t know if it’s his fault, but I get the impression from his production that he doesn’t actually care about consistency, or logic, or storytelling. He just wants his scene, and cares not at all if it contributes to the story or makes a lick of sense. You want to end the episode on a big damn hero moment where the deus ex machina swoops in and blocks a sword with her arms? Even if it was supposed to be a super aircraft powered fire sword of utter nonsense? Even if it’ll make her finishing move of unnecessary aerial jumping (wait, why can’t she fly?) look weaker than a normal slash? Sure. Cool scene! Don’t worry about the rest of the storyboard, we’ve already forgotten what’s in it.
The problem with an anime being stupid is that it undercuts the tension. I’m guessing this episode was supposed to be something like Midway except different. Midway was one of the big climactic naval battles of WWII. So you’d think the tension gauge would be stretched to maximum. But I didn’t really feel it because it’s already been established that nobody can really die. This isn’t something Azur Lane established deliberately, but is a by-product of it not really thinking about its storytelling. Look, I’m a straight guy. I like the ladies. But I’m going to say that the fanservice doesn’t really help. Somehow Azur Lane has turned its entire cast, save Enterprise and whatever antagonist she’s matched up with, into cheesecakes or comic relief or both. So they’re not going to die. And Enterprise is the USS Mary Sue so she’s not going to die. So who’s actually in any real danger here? Even the casualties aren’t there to give any sense of mortality. They’re just there to make funny noises while waiting to respawn. So no matter how cool the action may be, there just isn’t any edge.
It’s unlikely that I’ll continue coverage of Azur Lane. Unfortunately, I’m not the type who can turn their brain off while watching. But if you’re the kind who really enjoy, say, the Transformers movies, then you’ll likely enjoy Michael Bay’s version of anime, too.