Synopsis: Grotesque, strong enemy called Siren has suddenly appeared from the sea. In order to fight against them, a group of army Azur Lane has formed. They were successful in stopping the attack from Siren for a moment using warships, the different ideals from the people who formed it has shown. The story is about girls fight the strong enemies that they never face while dealing with the trouble in each camp.
When I first read the synopsis for Azur Lane, I thought to myself “Is this the long-waited second season of KanColle?” The answer: it’s not, but Azur Lane is so similar to KanColle that is might as well be. Like KanColle, Azur Lane is based on a game about anthropomorphic WWII ship girls, and it’s also similar in how those ship girls fight evil sea-faring ship girls (KanColle has Abyssals while Azur Lane has Sirens). Long story short, if you’re familiar with KanColle, you should be at least a little familiar with what to expect here.
Probably the biggest difference between AL and KC is how Azur Lane consists of four camps (Eagle Union, Royal Navy, Sakura Empire, and Iron Blood), with those four camps forming two factions: Azur Lane (Eagle Union and Royal Navy) and Red Axis (Sakura Empire and Iron Blood). Differences in philosophy is what caused the rift between the two factions, so while Azur Lane only fights using human weaponry, Red Axis utilizes Siren technology to their benefit. Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s talk about how mediocre the story is.
Despite the presence of a piece of Siren technology called a “mental cube” that threatens to make the story interesting at times, the battles between the two factions play out pretty much like you’d expect them to, and it doesn’t help that you can see the ending coming from a mile away. For most of the season, the Sirens don’t play as big a role as you may think, and almost all of their real contributions to the story are made in the final three episodes, so don’t expect very much from them.
Something interesting to note is that compared to KanColle, Azur Lane is more playful and cutesy and less serious. Slapstick comedy is found throughout the series, this show has its fair share of fanservice, and it’s just overall a far more fluffy experience. In addition, no ship girls from either faction are killed/sunk, so this whole anime felt strangely hollow to me. I’ll leave it to you to determine whether this shift in tone is enjoyable to you or not, but for me, I just prefer how KanColle handled itself.
All in all, it seems like the purpose of this anime all along was simply to showcase as many waifus as possible, with not that much effort being taken to create a thoughtful or unique story. It’s likely not the worst story you’ve experienced or anything, but I think it’s just very basic and mostly an afterthought.
I read somewhere that the Azur Lane game—which I’ve never played and have no interest in playing—has over 250 ship girls, and with numbers like that, you know we were due to meet a lot of them. I didn’t keep count or anything, but I know there were at least several dozen girls introduced, though, for many of these ship girls, these super brief introductions were all we saw of them.
In KanColle, I wasn’t a fan of Fubuki, that show’s protagonist. Focus on Fubuki instead of characters like Kongou, Akaga, and Nagato? Not a wise decision, if you ask me. Anyway, I mention Fubuki because the closest thing Azur Lane has to a protagonist is Enterprise, and I just like her a whole lot more than Fubuki. She reminded me of Nagato from KanColle, and despite being the show’s biggest badass, there were some attempts to add a little depth to her character (which I’m not sure actually succeeded). I think it’s just a lot more entertaining to watch a cool character like that over someone like Fubuki, and I think one of the biggest advantages Enterprise has is thanks to the girl often right behind her, Belfast.
If Enterprise is like Nagato, then Belfast is like Mutsu. Belfast is a maid in Azur Lane, and from the beginning, she’s always trying to protect Enterprise from herself. Of course, this leads to Enterprise x Belfast being one of the premier ships in this anime, and personally, they were my favorite. In some ways, Belfast is an even bigger badass than Enterprise, and given how she takes control and takes care of Enterprise, you have to like her (being a busty maid doesn’t hurt in this regard). Yeah, it’s a one-sided relationship, and Enterprise is like the most stoic character in the anime, but you can’t deny their chemistry.
Let’s stay on the yuri topic and mention Akagi and Kaga. Simply put, these two can’t compare to KanColle‘s version of Akaga. To me, these two characters just aren’t that enjoyable, and they lack the subtle charisma and charm of KanColle‘s version. The first episode got me thinking Akagi and Kaga were going to be a pretty in-your-face pairing, and while they were more touchy-feely than the other Akaga, I just didn’t care as much as I thought I would. And it probably didn’t help that Amagi eventually becomes the main object of Akagi’s affection.
Of course, with this many ship girls, you’re going to naturally pair some girls up and ship them, even if there isn’t much yuri subtext going on between them. In addition to the two I’ve already mentioned, Ayanami x Laffey and Zuikaku x Shoukaku come to mind. I may actually prefer Zuikaku x Shoukaku over Akaga, and Laffey is one of the best characters in the show, so these other pairings aren’t so bad. There appeared to be a couple of yuri characters (Atago for the Sakura Empire and Ark Royal for the Royal Navy), but each has very small roles, so don’t expect much from them. And the same goes for this girl, whose name I can’t remember. 😛
There are way too many supporting characters to list, but an overwhelming majority of them are easily forgettable, so for every interesting character like Prinz Eugen, there are several bland ones like Nagato. The lolis seemed to be more numerous than I remember in KanColle, and I don’t know why so many Red Axis girls had cat/animal ears, but there’s no shortage of cute characters from either side.
Overall, this is a classic case of quantity over quality. By throwing so many characters at you, you’re bound to like (and ship) at least a couple of them, so while I’d still rank the KanColle girls over the Azur Lane girls, there are least some entertaining characters to be found here.
Moving on to the production values, it’s a VERY mixed bag. On one hand, there are times when the animation is just terribad. So bad in fact that it’s widely thought to be the reason why Bibury Animation Studios halted production and delayed the final two episodes three whole months. It was very evident when these hiccups would arise, but while they were bad, I don’t know if they were bad/frequent enough to warrant taking so much time off. This was Bibury’s first anime production, and it definitely looked like they did struggle mightily.
On the other hand, from a design standpoint, I think the Azur Lane ship girls stand out a little bit more than their KanColle counterparts, so it wasn’t all bad. The Sirens looked pretty similar to the Abyssals from KanColle, but they were visually interesting as well.
Given how mediocre the story is and how inconsistent the animation is, probably the best thing about this anime was the music. There was quite a bit of fighting in this anime, and the music did its part to make those fights feel as epic as possible. Nothing too grand or anything, but the music/sound was definitely a bright spot in this anime. That includes the OP from May’n, who never ceases to deliver an awesome song~
So at the end of the day, Azur Lane is a KanColle clone that I think struggles a bit to escape the shadow of its seemingly more popular brethren. They share a lot of the same strengths and weaknesses, yet those weaknesses of Azur Lane seem magnified, and it lacks that sense of freshness that was present with KanColle.
The unflattering comparisons to KanColle could’ve probably been overlooked if Azur Lane delivered a consistently entertaining viewing experience, but I don’t think it that. The animation problems hurt, the generic story hurt, and the so-so yuri content hurt, so it’s kind of a “been there, done that” situation that arguably was done better elsewhere.
+ Huge variety of ship girls
+ More over-the-top than KanColle
+ The action isn’t always bad
– The animation gets embarrassingly bad at times
– Too often feels like an inferior version of KanColle
– So many utterly forgettable ship girls