Back when the first trailer for this dropped, many had hoped for a singular, reasonable wish for this series adaptation to fulfill.
Don’t be like Kancolle’s anime.
Unfortunately, it seems as though that the same mistakes that plagued Kantai Collection repeated themselves with Azur Lane. Was this really a surprise to anyone though?
The first trailer didn’t exactly do much from the get-go aside from give us a wide breadth of expectations as well as fears. We got our four major factions and a surprise shot of Saint Louis, who represents the French Fleet. Not much else was really there aside from more scenic shots and then Hood getting equipped with her rigging. Then another proper trailer showed up after months of silence and seeing Enterprise riding her planes and having some decent looking action shots got people excited for more. Then the rest is history.
Ever since the production staff’s names were released, things weren’t entirely shaping up to be stable. Not only did we get an incredibly action oriented staff, the plot from the original source was functionally non-existent outside of events and sure enough, a big chunk of the storyline involves the Code G appearance from Fallen Wings and the Amagi plotline from Crimson Echoes. At least for me, Kancolle’s anime suffered from awkward 3DCG fight sequences, Fubuki being in incredibly mundane lead, and drama and mood whiplash following a character death being that was immediately succeeded with a curry making contest. Azur Lane’s first two episodes seem to have alleviated some of the initial fears of the action suffering from quality and left the story potential open for something interesting but the plot threads introduced in Episode 1 are carried through the entire way without evolving.
Enterprise’s plot-line is melodramatic at worst, and boring at best. It’s one of those situations where a bullheaded character has to be consoled by a person so unlike them to see a greener side to life. That person of course is Belfast and I can’t decide at the moment whether or not no one else in the Eagle Union side is trying to console Enterprise about her attitude over Yorktown is a good thing or not. For one, this drives home the point further that Enterprise has shut everyone else out of her decision making while in another perspective, it feels lazy that she refuses to communicate to literally everyone. Vestal is probably the only person to have extended communication with her while Hornet, her other sister, BARELY shares any sort of dialogue with her own sister. Belfast herself hardly does anything aside from being the endless font of optimism to counter-balance Enterprise’s negativity. I’m not sure how the entirety of this existential crisis element present in both Kancolle and Azur Lane can ever be made into something serious when their primary foundation was just ships turned into cute girls for our amusement. Personally though, Enterprise does make for a character arc that’s wholly separated from the shenanigans of the other plot threads so I can at least say I took it a bit more seriously than Fubuki from KC since those went to another group of girls.
Speaking of Fubuki and the main character roles, the starters got their own small plot involving Ayanami which is more or less your average “we should all be friends” shtick that could have honestly resolved itself way earlier but that would meant the series would end way too soon. I didn’t find this plot to be annoying or too melodramatic because Ayanami’s worries do make sense and the ones at fault are to blame for entirely. If nothing else, this plotline allowed for some cute scenes around the base which is honestly the highlight of this adaptation.
No other Royal Navy girls have that much prominence aside from Unicorn being a de-facto member of the starter squad, Prince of Wales and Illustrious filling in for Queen Elizabeth, Warspite, and Hood who mostly drink tea, and Sheffield and Edinburgh who surprisingly got more screentime than I thought they would. On the American side, Vestal, Hornet, and Cleveland had the most amount of presence. It would be damn near impossible to ever make so many filler characters be reasonably integrated into the story so I at least commend the studio for trying to cram as many characters as possible but what I don’t like is the laziness in just copy-pasting base art as their silhouettes in the final episode that just felt insultingly cheap. There’s no real middle-ground for this though so it’s to be expected. Was surprised to see Pola and Zara of all girls to make cameos but I guess their popularity speaks for itself.
The final episode’s events really didn’t need to take this long to happen honestly. It’s an end anyone could have seen coming but the lead-up to it was neither exciting nor all that entertaining between stalemate fights padding in between. Bismarck’s appearance in the OP warranted her around 10 seconds of time in the series proper and the Ironblood presence in the series was pretty irrelevant as they were mostly playing second fiddle to Akagi and Kaga.I had predicted Bismarck showing up to assist in the last leg of the fight against the Sirens but nope, she just says 3 sentences worth of cryptic dialogue before we just see more casual base activities. I’m still under the heavy belief that that they should have brought the plot to an end early and focus entirely on fun stuff for the 2nd half instead of putting resources into lackluster battles that never got better than the first two episodes. It’s those cute moments in between the messy fights that make the series somewhat worth watching but I can’t even say that there was a particular episode of leisure that was really worth keeping because of the production values absolutely tanking by the half-way point. Bad fanservice is worse off than bad looking fights and Episode 6 not only being censored as well as looking poor didn’t do any favors for it.
I really have to ask if there’s a market for people who actually WANT to see boat girls fighting. I’ll give credit to AL’s staff in making some fights a bit more creative than KC’s with all the close-combat action scenes, riding planes, summoning freaking wolves, and all. But is there really a specific demographic in the fanbase that they wanted to target to aim an entire anime production for? I’m sure some people like the idea but probably not as much as the people who just want to see their favorites doing mundane things with some light fighting on the side. If SoL anime can exist and stuff like Emiya-san Chi no Gohan are around, I fail to see the reasoning as to why these things always need to be action oriented. It may be for the purposes of drawing in new audiences to play the source but I think the same effect can be achieved with less strenuous cute stuff over trying too hard and missing the mark with action scenes instead.
So unsurprisingly, the anime was a mess in both story telling and visuals that focused way more on fights than cute girls, which only ended up harming the quality of both as it went on. While some things were fundamentally a bit more nuanced than Kancolle’s glaring flaws, both suffer from the same issues. I don’t have much to say about music aside from one particular scene in Episode 3 actually impressing me during Enterprise’s scene looking at the sunset. The judgment of KC’s anime was simple, the only thing it was good for was for taking screencaps of Takako’s thighs and AL’s anime at least gave me a lot more to screencap but not too much of it is really worth keeping.
Thankfully, there was confirmation that an adaptation of the significantly more light-hearted 4koma manga will be receiving an adaptation too, which is what this series should have been so this isn’t a total loss. I only hope its production values aren’t too poor.