First Look: Azur Lane

Game Adaptation by Bibury Animation
Streaming on Funimation

Premise

After joining forces to repel an alien invasion, the nations of not-United States and not-England find themselves resuming conflict with not-Germany and not-Japan. These former members of the “Azur Lane” alliance battle using technology that imbues young girls with the power of naval warships.

Jel’s verdict: War… War Never Changes

If you’re deep enough into the internet to read an obscure anime website review a popular mobile game like Azur Lane, chances are you’ve already heard of it and already have an opinion. The anime adapation does a great job amplifying everything you may love or hate about the game: The characters are well represented, the action is solid, and there’s a lot of it. For example, they fight a wolf aircraft carrier and there’s a sequence where one of the girls shoots an energy bow and arrow at point blank range into another girls chest. Sounds fun, right?

On the flip side, the art direction and shot composition blatantly sexualizes very young looking girls to an uncomfortable degree. The half of the episode that isn’t action is basically dull fan service and an contrivance to make scantily clad little girls fight each other. Again, this should all be within expectations if you are familiar with the game.

For those of you who may “not” be familiar with Azur Lane, there’s a whole world of context to dive into as far as it’s comparisons to Kantai Collection, an earlier franchise with an extremely similar premise. That’s before we even get to the fact that the characters and battles are loosely based on the Pacific battles of World War II, a potentially sensitive topic among the nations involved.

If this sounds more interesting than the series itself (it is), I recommend checking out Aqua’s article about the unfortunate implications of Kantai Collection and note the key differences with Azur Lane: the game is very popular in Japan but it is made by a Chinese developer and often presents the American and British ships as the heroes and the German and Japanese ships as the villains. I don’t feel like this is the time or place to dive into THOSE implications, but it’s an interesting change in perspective.

Perhaps it isn’t fair to bring up all that context when reviewing the anime, but as we always say nothing exists in a vaccum and I think it’s important to mention. That out of the way, I’ll go back to my original statement and say you probably already have an opinion on Azur Lane and the anime will only reinforce it. Personally I was ready to duck out as soon as we started ogling little girls. You should too.

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