What’s it about? Long ago, humanity was driven from exploring the seas by creatures called sirens. To defeat this invading force, they created a battle fleet of girls and young women imbued with the “power of battle ships.” However, an ideological split has divided the four nations of the world: should humanity use the power of Sirens or not?
Content Warning: NSFW screenshots.
Here is what I knew about Azur Lane prior to watching this episode: every so often, as I am pouring another ill-advised hour into the Revue Starlight mobile game, an ad will pop up and try to sell me on what appeared to be a wife-collecting game with prodigious jiggle physics and beach hijinks that involved photographing characters with a debatable amount of consent.
Here is what I know after twenty-two minutes of the anime: there is also military hardware porn in addition to the garden variety titties.
To be just a tiny bit fair to Azur Lane, the climactic fight looks pretty impressive once legendary battleship Enterprise gets involved. There’s also something interesting about the fact that Germany and Japan (sorry, “Iron Blood” and “Sakura Nation”) are portrayed as the invading antagonists of the episode while three of the four young protagonists we meet are from “Royal Navy” and “Eagle Nation.”
I’m not confident a show that named all its characters after real-life battleships and is clearly in love with its BANG ZOOM COOL combat scenes will be able to pull off the “War Bad” narrative it’s tentatively proposing (not without thoroughly undercutting itself, at least). But being able to portray one’s own nation as in the wrong—moreover, as a systemic issue rather than a few bad apples—is a higher bar than military fiction manages to regularly hit in just about any country.
Granted, Azur Lane is based on a Chinese mobile game, so its willingness to depict “Sakura Nation” as a villain likely has a lot to do with that. Still, the anime is being produced and aired in Japan by a Japanese animation studio and staff. So I’m willing to tip my hat ever so slightly for that, especially after the confused muddle that was Girly Air Force.
But that halfhearted praise is washed promptly out to sea by the show’s seedy camera. It would be one thing if this was about big ships waging war on one another, buoyed safely by chesticular flotation devices. Annoying, yes, but not really outside the genre this series is so clearly comfortable in. Except its protagonists are, like… eight. And the show treats them like this:
The bait Azur Lane was putting out to attract a certain kind of viewer tuned me out of any meager charms it might’ve had to offer, long before it doubled down with carefully rendered shots of the eight-year-old’s wet shirt clinging to her skin. Can’t wait for the deliberately obtuse argument about how consent laws don’t apply to battleships.
Even Funimation seemed to sense my seething ambivalence, as its player popped an “Are you still watching?” screen literally as the video was playing.
There are things we can’t take back, Funimation, however much we might want to. Like your Crunchyroll divorce. So I’ll just have to learn to live with your subpar video player and the underage panty shots it shoved into my eyeballs.
There are other minor problems, like the usual gacha adaptation sin of way, way too many characters; clunkily delivered exposition, and an embarrassingly stiff subtitle script. But they’re basically also-rans in this conversation.
Either you’re jazzed enough about the well-shot dogfighting that the other stuff is an acceptable payoff, or there’s not much to offer you here. The sweet release of the ocean deep cannot swallow me fast enough.