Please let me know if this format makes any sense at all. It’s not often that I find myself so conflicted over a show.
#1 Girls und Schiffe
The good: In a world where tectonic movements have caused rampant flooding, Japan is now a maritime nation where people reside on large boats. Many girls in this new world aspire to one day join the peacekeeping force known as the Blue Mermaids, which includes the childhood friends Akeno Misaki and Moeka China. At the start of the show they just joined up and are assigned to roles on different training vessels.
The show takes a lot of inspiration from Girls und Panzer and follows Akeno as she becomes the captain of the Harakaze. The show shares a lot of strengths with its inspiration too, having cute girls man giant machines of war and fight other vessels with it. The show is all about working together and all these different people coming together to form a strong team to overcome hardships with.
The bad: There are about two dozen characters on the Harakaze, many more than 4-6 people that manned a tank in Girls und Panzer. Now, in that show the individual characters also didn’t matter as much, but an effort was still made to make characters with memorable designs and personalities that are easy to keep up with. High School Fleet lacks that, and just has a huge cast of random characters that have a few eccentricities, but are otherwise bland and forgettable. I honestly can’t say I’ll remember any of their names and personalities a month down the line.
#2 A mystery like a shooting star
The good: As the Harakaze leaves port for a training mission strange events begin to unfold, as they soon come under attack by a friendly vessel and end up having to retaliate. In doing so they are accused of treachery and all other navy vessels are given the command to fire at will. Left at sea with sparse resources and and no way to communicate, the girls of the Harakaze face steep odds in their mission to find redemption.
The early episodes left me really interested in how the story would develop. Are there traitors aboard the Harakaze? Why were they attacked to begin with? Do they have any allies at all?
The bad: The actual answers to the mystery are a real let-down. All the questions are answered, it’s just that the answers end up being the least interesting twists they could have gone with and it’s all resolved surprisingly early on, leaving a lot of episodes without the benefit of having any mystery at all.
To compensate for this the show has a really long final battle that is actually really climactic, yet I can’t say the show benefits from resolving everything so early on.
#3 Fun times at sea
The good: With the young crew of trainees manning the Harakaze, this show likes to indulge in a lot of slice-of-life story-lines where the girls just have some fun. One of my favorite episodes has the crew taking in a German trainee from another vessel and trying to make her feel at home. Like with Sound of the Sky last time around, it’s a testament to good writing that the show can so skillfully switch between lighthearted anime fun-times like throwing a festival, to really serious stories like the crew having to save lives aboard a sinking civilian ship.
High School Fleet does a fantastic job at setting up the stakes when it needs to, with each battle feeling like a desperate struggle where the crew is at genuine risk. The fights are also animated well, which is an interesting feat in itself. When you think about anime fight scenes, it’s only natural to think about powerful characters going at it one-on-one in a fast-paced battle with flashy moves, yet here an equally-engaging battle is waged between two machines that are slow, cumbersome and weighty.
The bad: While the animation shines during the more action-packed moments, during the slice-of-life portions there is a lot less to look at. The show utilizes a very bland animation style with character design that isn’t particularly inspired. This applies to a lot of comedy-oriented shows, but I also found myself skipping over parts when I was getting the sense that the jokes would fall flat, and at other times it was just slightly uninteresting when the downtime dragged on. Reiko Yoshida shows are generally well-written, so I can only assume this was already an issue in the manga the show was based on.