Does the Azur Lane anime have any interest in its own warships?

The battered USS Laffey (DD-724) after combat near Okinawa. Image: NavSource.org

[As I hope the title makes clear, I am writing specifically about the anime adaptation. I do not doubt that the game source material has a much stronger story and detailing on its ships]

In April, 1945 the destroyer USS Laffey sailed north of Okinawa for radar picket duty to assist in the detection of Japanese kamikaze aircraft during the American invasion of the island. And boy did the Laffey find the planes alright — in just 80 minutes, she sustained damage from 22 air attacks, including four bomb hits and five to six kamikaze strikes (sources sometimes disagree), resulting in severe damage to the ship and over 100 casualties to her crew. But when asked if he would give the order to abandon ship, Laffey’s captain, Commander Frederick Becton, supposedly said “I’ll never abandon ship as long as a single gun will fire.” Except nearby crewmen wondered if the Laffey still had anyone left to man the guns…

If you wanted to anthropomorphize warships, I think you could make a strong case to turn the Laffey into a stern, unyielding madman with suicidal determination to match the kamikaze she shot down.

By contrast how does Azur Lane, a new fall 2019 anime premised on warships transforming into cute anime girls to do battle against a mysterious “siren” threat, depict the Laffey? By turning the destroyer into a sleepy slob who likes to drink cola to stay awake. Huh. What?

But why?
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Africa no Salaryman Impression: I hate it

Okay.

Ok, ok, maybe I don’t *hate* it. That was my initial impression for the first hour or so after watching the episode. But I haven’t encountered an anime series that has provoked such a rapid descent towards mere dislike for a while now.

Blown expectations played a role in my disappointment. Having just returned from a job in Japan, I went into the first episode hoping for a relatable, adult look at working life in the country to balance out all of the copy-paste high school and isekai comedies flooding the season — some satirical knocking on the plight of the stereotypical salaryman as Japan’s “Lost Decade” of economic recession rounds out its third decade. Just, you know, with a bunch of animal jokes thrown in.

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Details in Girls’ Last Tour: Kanazawa’s view of life and maturity

[content warning: attempted suicide in fiction]

‘like a puff ‘a smoke

[As a heads up, I am assuming some familiarity with the material. Also, I wrote this between a Japanese print edition of the manga, an English Kindle edition, and the relevant episode from the anime so I’ve mixed up the sourcing on the quotes — some come from the English manga, some from the anime subtitles, and some from my own translation of the Japanese. Sorry to any source sticklers, but they should be interchangeable!]

In chapter 7 of the manga Girls’ Last Tour (Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou, also episode 3 of the anime) the map-maker Kanazawa gives one of the series’ few outside, adult observations of the two lead girls. While Chii and Yuu work to fill up the gas tanks for their Kettenkrad vehicle, along with an extra barrel to take them farther through the ruined city, Kanazawa glances up from his maps and notices how unexpectedly clever the girls are at surviving the apocalypse:

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Hensuki prediction thread, plus a defense of *my boy* Keiki

How far can you push one man – nay! – just a poor boy…

[Um, this is a joke, by the way. Manic, satiri-nomi-comical. I do not endorse my own opinions, except for the one where I call Hensuki terrible. Sometimes I think that these harem “comedies” don’t know when they cross the line into unfunny abuse or, at the very least, I don’t know why stuff like this still gets made in such an oversaturated market]

Hensuki is terrible. Terrible terrible terrible terrible terrible terrible terrible. I mean, just look at the title: Kawaikereba hentai demo suki ni natte kuremasu ka? or Would you fall in love with a pervert if she’s cute? (Hensuki for short). I thought we hit peak harem with Kono naka ni hitori, imouto ga iru! — My Little Sister is among them! but Hensuki comes pretty close. Oh, and a little sister is among them here too. And oh, it’s terrible.

But. BUT. Buuuut.

The series has attracted some derision for its weak male protagonist Keiki (a real piece of cake). I vehemently disagree and must defend Hensuki on this point.

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Genocidal Organ makes no sense

[Another old post that I want to put up before it gets too old… I wrote this before I got into the habit of taking screenshots, so no pictures. I think the writing also feels strained and unclear, but I’m glad to observe my own improvement over time there]

Or at least, it makes very little sense…

Spoiler-Free Impressions

Let’s start with the good: Genocidal Organ, the 2017 animated movie based on a 2007 novel by the pseudonymed science fiction writer “Project Itoh”, demonstrates a marvelous imagination with excellent visuals to match. Though the prevailing grey and brown color palette isn’t exactly pretty to look at, it expertly contributes to the bleak tone of its distopian science fiction future.

But overall? Don’t bother.

Genocidal Organ is too ambitious. The narrative is convoluted and its points vague. Even the basic plot felt incomprehensible as it jolted around between long dialogues with no apparent relevance to previous events before jumping straight into the next topic with little transition. Meanwhile, apart from the villain John Paul, none of the characters have any meat to them — primarily because half of the cast are super soldiers with emotional suppression nanobot conditioning (what a mouthful, technobabble strikes again). At two hours, Genocidal Organ is too long to hold interest but also too short to sufficiently explore its excessive multitude of themes. Basically it — well, it makes no sense.

Spoiler Discussion Below:

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So, how about that banned Pokemon episode with guns?

What’s wrong with you? They are literal 10 year olds!

I found the episode like I do so many anime —  through a meme:

Yikes! I watched Pokemon growing up, but I don’t remember this scene… Drop the meme text and just think about the image: Ash is 10 years old. They’ve set a firing squad around a child in a television show for children! Did this actually air in America?

It turns out, yes. Episode 12, “Here Comes the Squirtle Squad” reached American audiences in 1998 with only minor localization edits from the English dubbing company 4Kidz Entertainment. Ah, but for the sake of childhood, the issue required further investigation. What other Poke-nonsense have I forgotten since wearing out my old original series VHS tapes every night before bed-time?

Instead, with a cursory google for “pokemon gun episode,” I found something much more interesting, something I hadn’t seen as a child: “Season 1, Episode 35 – The Legend Of Dratini (Banned Episode),” an illicit upload of the Japanese original with uncredited subtitles hosted on Facebook of all places. Facebook has the worst video player, but that “Banned” promised me a novel experience better than anything forgotten memories could conceal — no longer for the sake of childhood, but for completion. This wasn’t on the VHS!

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Machikado Mazoku has at least one good joke.

秒 means second if you don’t understand the joke.

[No, I’m kidding, the show has plenty of funny jokes. This just might be my favorite one. Otherwise, lazy content — this is just me trying to make a gif for the first time]

How about Machikado Mazoku (English: The Demon Girl Next Door), the latest inoffensive cute-girls-doing-cute-things comedy to put me to sleep in the same style as Gabriel DropOut, Tonari no Kyuuketsuki-san, or As Miss Beelzebub Likes? Though of a much lower quality than Beelzebub and maybe even Gabriel DropOut, it’s a solid example of the “demon girl” comedy which has somehow cohered into a recognizable subgenre in the past few years.

This time, it crosses the demon premise with a parody of magical girls by introducing the “retired” high school heroine Momo, whose deadpan anti-humor manages to drain all of the magic from her archetype. In the above scene, Momo transforms in 1/100th of a second flat to save the hapless demon girl “Shamiko” from a oncoming truck before trapping the would-be mistress of darkness in an irrepayable* debt of 500 yen (~5 dollars) to prevent her from doing any real harm. Though… not that Shamiko could anyway; she’s so incompetent that she can’t even say her own evil name without tripping on the English syllables.

The pair become arch-nemeses (but really, best friends) and I just realized — why am I summarizing this show? If you want another generic cute-girl comedy anime, go for it. I won’t bother recommending or disrecommending** it. It’s pretty good.

*not a word, but why not?

**not a word, but why not?

Alita: Battle Angel (2019): Good enough for a 12 hour flight, but what else?

Source: 20th Century Fox Film Corp, gotta keep the branding and socials because the movie felt like little more than an advertisement for potential sequels — and on that too, blue and orange? Even the poster feels uninspired. I love Christoph Waltz in that silly hat and Mahershala Ali in those kickin’ glasses though!

[Ohhh… slow on publishing this… jet-lagged and not really coping. I don’t have anything to say in this post that professional writers haven’t already argued months ago but again, I want to remain in the practice of saying anything at all. So, some edited notes I took on the plane.]

I want to start with a question: to anyone who has watched the live-action adaptation of Alita: Battle Angel, did it have a plot? Reviewing these notes now, I’m trying to remember what happened in the movie and can only come up with a few establishing vignettes strung along by a character thread — the amnesiac cyborg heroine Alita — instead of a narrative one.

Of course, I’m already being too harsh; a plot can be as simple as what a character does. Going to the corner store to buy a soda like I just did tonight could count as a plot and Alita certainly does… things. She falls in love and fights a bunch of underworld thugs and uncovers a conspiracy and discovers her true self and becomes roller-derby champion and whatever else.

But what I more mean is that the movie lacks the sort of recognizable narrative you might expect from a blockbuster cinematic experience — rising and falling action moving towards a climactic goal. Because — to spoil something that doesn’t happen  — Alita: Battle Angel doesn’t end. Or rather, like with the distinction between plot and narrative, it doesn’t conclude. When the movie finally seems ready to move into its climax — Alita will confront the true puppet-master antagonist lurking in the floating city above! — it abruptly stops. Having spent two hours establishing the universe and character motivations, a hype song plays, Alita looks up to the sky determined to face the ‘final boss,’ and the credits roll.

I blinked in disbelief. Ending? Now? Um, alright, 8 hours left in the flight, let’s try The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then Bigfoot. Ugh, well that was terrible. Let’s take a nap instead.

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Some contextless quotes from the first episode of Lord El-Melloi II World Case Files: Rail Zeppelin Grace Note; or, in which I abuse an anime premiere for the crime of making me laugh

[I’m preparing for an international move so real-life concerns have me down to something low effort this week, but the premiere episode of Lord El-Melloi II World Case Files: Rail Zeppelin Grace Note made me laugh hard enough that I thought I would puke up blood, like that one character from Lord El-Melloi II World Case Files: Rail Zeppelin Grace Note that pukes up blood because uh, a character in Lord El-Melloi II World Case Files: Rail Zeppelin Grace Note pukes up blood (the theme today is *dan-da-da-dannn* senseless repetition!). And yes, I know that I am being unfair, but I had fun just like… hmmm… trying and failing to comprehend the apparent vastness of the Fate franchise despite knowing nothing about it. I wouldn’t have written this post if I didn’t enjoy the episode]

Have you ever jumped into a long, ongoing fictional franchise with which you have had no previous engagement, like starting with the Marvel movies by watching Endgame (does the title spoil a key plot point, that the movie will indeed end? How dare they.) or catching the last half hour of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and asking about that jumpy little green fella that talks funny? Where’d he come from? Dunno …I don’t.

Maybe I have a point here about franchises that become so bloated that they fail to make themselves accessible to newcomers or about the contexless, fanservice-y namedrops that those franchises use to refer to previous installments despite adding no value to the present installment. Or, I dunno, maybe I’m just repeating a generic complaint about the avalanche of meaningless jargon that spills out of so many fantasy and science fiction anime. Or meh, maybe I don’t have a point at all except to offer some loving mockery of stupid, stilted dialogue in translation (…or just stupid, stilted dialogue in any language…).

Buuut nahhh, no lazy, passive-aggressive media criticism tonight, the title says “contextless quotes,” including the most contextless of them all: the title: Lord El-Melloi II World Case Files: Rail Zeppelin Grace Note: an excuse to use another colon. Ohhh so many words, so little understanding. So, I slapped that crap in a search engine and found some more nonsense words like Fate / stay night / TYPE-MOON / hollow ataraxia / Zero Unlimited Blade Works / Apocrypha / kaleid liner PRISMA☆ILLYA / The Absolute Demon Battlefront Babylonia / a bunch more forward slashes, yawned who cares (it’s well past midnight), and brought up the first episode. Holy hats, it made me laugh.

So, some contextless quotes:

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