High School Fleet

High School Fleet

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Living by the sea, protecting the sea, and journeying across the sea – That’s what being a Blue Mermaid is all about. Because of a shift in tectonic plates around 100 years ago, Japan lost much of its area to submergence. To preserve Japan’s territories Coastal Cities sprung up, one after the other. Eventually, they became Marine Cities, and along with the expansion of sea-lanes to connect them, the need arose for a sizable staff to protect the seas. At the same time, maritime jobs were becoming more popular among women. Hence getting into the Blue Mermaids has become every female student’s dream job – and this is no different for Akeno and Moka.

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When I first looked at High School Fleet, I was expecting some sort of combination of KanColle and Bodacious Space Pirates: an anime that had cute girls fighting on the sea with perhaps some technical stuff thrown in about working with a team to captain a ship. Turns out things actually leant a little more to the latter, but this wasn’t a bad thing. I was ready to see if this one could hold my attention by balancing the technical info-dumps that may come my way with a bit of action and drama.

High School Fleet did keep my interest – it had some great core characters and it really took pains to avoid all the technical ship jargon with threatened to distance a lot of viewers. What I continued watching it for, however, was the sense of intrigue it maintained. At the beginning of the series, the ship that Akeno is captaining, the Harekaze, is accused of mutiny during her maiden voyage. After being attacked by a teacher’s ship, Akeno believed that the scenario was some sort of test and decided to fire back. As a result, the crew of the Harekaze quickly found themselves under fire as they try desperately to rectify what has quickly become a very confusing and dangerous situation. What started out originally as a comedy quickly became rather serious action. But yet the initial question remains – what made the instructor’s ship attack the Harekaze in the first place? What is going on within the Blue Mermaids underneath the surface?

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There’s quite a large cast at the beginning, with more characters introduced later on, all with their relevant roles on the ship. I just can’t keep up, so I focus on the ones that are having more than just the stereotypical anime cute-but-shallow personalities often seen within animes with the need for a large supporting cast. At the very least, Akeno is a decent main character – a little ditzy (as is supposed to be her charm, I guess), but she is quite capable of being a captain and leading the crew when the pressure starts to mount.

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Overall the show does a good job of ramping up the tension and maintaining it during the battle scenes – making them all slightly different by introducing attacks by submarines, ships asking for support and Akeno having to make some tough decisions about being a good friend or being a good captain. Of course, not all time on the Harekaze is battles, so we see the crew relaxing, discussing tactics and the situation they’re in as well as a few shots of them in their roles upon the ship. They also do nighttime scenes very well, not using the darkness to cut corners on the animation as well as not making everything too black to see anything (I’m looking at you, The Lost Village).

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Wilhelmina, Mashiro and Akeno are good, strong characters that each have characteristics that merit responsibility on a large ship – confident, knowledgeable and the other crew members look up to them. But when three people feel like they are the best fit to be in charge, you know there are going to be problems. The show does a good job of showcasing the different personalities of the main heroines through their mannerisms and interactions, with distinctive detailing physically to help the overwhelmed viewer more easily familiarise themselves with as many crew members on site as possible.

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Even as it focuses on establishing the cast and delivering big action scenes, the show continues to move the plot forward. With every episode we learn a little more about why the Harekaze might have been attacked in the first place. These serious threats don’t seem like they should play well with the show’s more lighthearted moments but, as I mentioned before, this show does make an effort to balance it all out nicely.

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Whilst it’s not clear yet where High School Fleet may be headed with its storyline, it’s refreshing for a show of this genre to not spill its guts with hopeful info-dumps early on in the hope that it can offer more complex story lines in its future. It’s successfully kept an air of mystery to everything without using the usual plot devices. I’m happy to sit back and see where the crew of the Harekaze take me, and hope that it’s worth the wait.