Azur Lane is, basically, Ship Girl Tohou. World War II Warships from various navies are personified as cute girls, and they generally hang out at the bases of their respective factions and do cute things until the plot decides that they have to do combat in battles along the lines of shoot-em-up video games. It’s not quite at a danmaku level – but only because the game series is designed to be played on a cell phone, and you don’t have that level of control with a touchscreen.
And, like Tohou, the combat is never really too serious, because the game, unlike Kantai Collection, is not designed with permadeath – because the developers value your time and money, at least a little, and don’t want you to lose your SSR drop.
Thus, when Azur Lane was announced, I expected something probably closer to a Strike Witches – a Cute Girls Doing Cute Things anime interspersed with sakuga heavy action sequences. The show has enough money behind it to pay for that, and enough of a fan base that the animators would be interested in making that. For the first half of the series, that’s also what we got. There were bits of the show that went a little beyond that, like Enterprise being basically a traumatized veteran, or Laffey (the Azur Lane faction’s Orange Cassidy) trying to restore bonds of trust between her faction and the Sakura Empire faction through her friendship with the Sakura Empire Destroyer Ayanami.
It’s just that after those first few episodes, the animation quality started to slack, to the point that the show took a several month hiatus before returning this season for its final two episodes. Even then, when the show came back, it still had considerably reduced animation from the start of the series, which caused the finale to not have the impact that it merited. It was if all the enthusiasm from the people making the series was gone.
I toughed it out because I had a degree of sunk cost fallacy going on. That said, looking back, I think the show would have worked better as a feature film.
If you’re interested in watching it, the show is available for streaming on Funimation.
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