What was originally planned as a Fall 2019 G-View ended up becoming a Winter 2020 one due to near season long delay to improve animation similar to what happened to Marchen Madchen. We are here now about to review the other boat girls anime and see how it differs from the previous one. Join me as we take a look at Azur Lane.
Alternate Title: Azur Lane – The Animation
Genres: Action, Sci-Fi
Themes: Milimoe (moe and military), Battleships, War
Number of Episodes: 12
Plot Summary: “War never changes”. What was once an united global alliance joining together for the greater good and facing the unknown threat known as The Sirens devolved into a war between two factions with their own ideals. Said factions were Azur Lane and Red Axis. The two sides waged a seemingly never-ending war to find out whose ideals were superior and had the right to lead the world. However, unbeknownst to most something sinister brewed in the shadows…
The warring factions were the titular Azur Lane consisting of Eagle Union (USA) and Royal Navy (Britain) vs Red Axis consisting of Sakura Empire (Japan) and Iron Blood (Germany). For newcomers Azur Lane is a series whose setup follows the long (usually) profitable tradition of “turn people, historical figures, objects, vehicles, soda cans etc. into cute and sexy girls“. In this case it is World War II battleships, cruisers and submarines. How popular such series is with weapons aficionados I cannot say. Anyway the closest duo to being the lead boats of the anime are Enterprise and Belfast. I say closest because the show switches perspectives between factions with the big Azur Lane boats of course getting the most and Iron Blood serving as the backup stepping in when they feel like it while the Sakura Empire are the more prominent antagonists. The higher intellect Sirens are around but spend most of the time scheming in the shadows only revealing themselves for game changing scenes and climactic battles.
Initially we were led to believe the above smol boats would be the main characters but they are secondary. On the bright side they have an important storyline of their own.
Said story is centered around their fellow smol boat from the Sakura Empire, Ayanami. One thing worth keeping in mind. They may be smol but do not underestimate their “firepower”.
As mentioned above the closest boats to filling the “main protagonist” roles are Enterprise and Belfast. The latter does not debut till the end of the first quarter. I consider them the “Nagato X Mutsu” of Azur Lane. Enterprise is a war torn veteran who has seen a lot of “bleep” and hardened her heart because of it. Her being Azur Lane’s ace Belfast was assigned the duty of helping Enterprise “chill out” so to speak. More on that later.
The Sakura Empire are the closest the more prevalent antagonists of the show. For the longest time their boats go to war with Azur Lane with Akagi and Kaga leading the charge. Having said that this is a story where no one is truly evil (except Iron Blood but they are a special case).
The show revolves around two recurring themes:
1: Conflicting ideals. Each faction is fighting to prove their way is the right one to better their lives and humanity. Despite the ever present threat of the Sirens the boats insist on having a tiddies measuring contest, especially the Sakura Empire.
2: Existentialism. The boats have various discussion about their purpose and right to exist as more than weapons of destruction. Is there more to these cuties than blowing enemies or each other to Kingdom Come? Do they deserve to live lives as they see fit or potentially live among humans?
Several boats have their own character arcs like the aforementioned smol boats or Enterprise’s very important personal struggle but the above two are the main plot points.
As mentioned there is no definitive protagonist despite saying Enterprise and Belfast are the closest duo fitting the description. That is because three of the four factions give viewers time to get to know them better. Although Sakura Empire are the more prevalent antagonists they are not evil. They too yearn for peaceful lives but the higher ranked boats struggle to find the right answer, hence Akagi and Kaga taking matters to their own hands…though there is more to it than that but I will leave that to readers see for themselves.
Like other series with massive cast of characters (The other boat series being a prime example) there are many boats relegated to background cameos in this show. Sadly neither Honolulu or St Louis were chosen as important boats for example. Best viewers can do is keep an eye out for their favorite boats if they are not part of the important ones.
Like the other boat girls show the action is fast paced, possibly faster than its predecessor at times. It can be a bit difficult to follow once in a while. Not Kotobuki Episode 1 hard but the action gets quite hectic at times. It is a lot of fun to watch though with some very cool battles. This leads us to the reason the review took a while to write. The last two episodes were delayed because of drop in animation quality. I am not familiar with the studio in charge of the show or what happened behind the scenes but the animation started getting noticeably subpar as the show progressed. Personally it did not affect my overall viewing experience but readers who choose to watch the original 10 episodes instead of the improved Blu-Ray episodes will start noticing the dip around the second quarter or so. Other than that I really like the boat girl designs. So much color and easy to identify which boats are on which side. The soundtrack fit the show with some nice tunes here and there. The OP and ED are excellent.
On to the yuri. The two main couples are Akagi X Kaga and Belfast X Enterprise. Akagi is quite open with Kaga and while the latter seems uncomfortable it is evident she enjoys her Nee-Sama’s affection.
As for BelTerprise one is a serious chick with a lot on her plate and the other starts off trying to calm her down as part of her job to growing quite fond of the ice princess, rarely apart from her unless given an important mission.
There are other boats who enjoy the company or seeking other boats regardless of size. Speaking of size even the smol boats get in on some fluffy yuri action.
The show ended in a way that left it open for a second season (or sequel movie based on the recent trend). I would very much welcome it myself.
Before concluding the review there is one last important detail worth mentioning. When I started covering the show I had one small (but personally huge) request. I hoped that unlike its predecessor the show would not feature an Admiral/Commander/Captain or whatever the invisible avatar was called in the game, mainly because said avatar was confirmed to be male. I am pleased to say that outside of a few mentions there are no humans in sight. No invisible off-screen avatars in sight. Only boat girls. This one little detail made the show much easier to enjoy personally.
Overall Azur Lane has the same premise as the other boat show but its advantage (for yuri fans specifically) is there not being an off-screen avatar. I enjoyed this boat girls show a bit more than the prior one for that reason. Enjoyment of the show strongly depends on whether viewers are fine with the concept (Weapon and history buffs may have difficulty getting into it), are fine with cute boats girls doing cute things when not fighting or questioning their existence, are fine with the smol boats not being the main focus, are fine with the story being told. If any of these things upset readers this show may not be for you.
PS: Viewers who pay very close attention to animation quality may want to wait for the complete Blu-Ray release.