Review/discussion about: High School Fleet
I’ve taken a cruise in the past. A couple of them.
The second time I was fine, but the first time I did get nauseous. I remember my family bringing with them those placebo accessories. A wristband that claimed to set my pulse or brain or some such nonsense at ease, thereby eliminating any feeling of sickness.
What helped instead was taking my mind off where I was: going to the pool, grabbing something quick from the food court, walking around the halls.
Of course, a cruise is nowhere near the same as a battleship. The former has fireworks at night and dance parties. The latter has missiles stockpiled and crew ready for warfare. Although, in High School Fleet, a blend of the two is certainly not out of the question.
Fleet (as it will be called from here on out) begins with the happy Akeno Misaki, a girl who has managed to join the path of the so-called Blue Mermaids, a group of women who (as they would put it) live on the sea, protect the sea, and sail the sea. However, Misaki and her crew quickly find themselves in perilous waters.
But such peril was not immediate. Indeed, the anime somewhat tricked its audience into thinking it would be “just another cute girls doing cute things” show. It was partly that, but it also had this ever-so-slightly darker edge which took many people by surprise.
And it helped, for it’s nice having contrasting qualities. Meaning, one episode may involve the cast running around in their swimsuits for fun, and the next will have them evading mines entrenched in the ocean floor. By having both sides, the show grants a bit of back and forth. Happiness and suspense crash over one another like waves in the ocean.
Those waves were smooth sailing thanks to the narrative purposefully withholding information, such as the history leading up to reliance on ships, the establishment of the Blue Mermaids, and so on. Fleet doesn’t waste time in explaining these more extraneous points, leaving the audience to fill in the gaps and thus increase engagement in the show overall.
Granted, some details that are skipped lead the narrative astray. For instance, the cure for the mind-altering, interconnected virus essentially gets made and used everywhere without much of a problem. The lack of world-building – an inherent byproduct since almost everything takes place at sea and away from populated areas – also makes the plight at hand and even the Blue Mermaids themselves feel irrelevant.
Regardless, Fleet does its best to spice up its action through differing naval conflicts. Using a paravane as a fishing hook, forcing another ship to run aground, and boarding another one to engage in close-quarters combat made each battle slightly different, preventing each fight from becoming a repetitive outing of ships firing at one another.
If the anime turned its rudder the wrong way anywhere, it would be in the lead up to the finale and the finale itself.
For starters, the altercation between the Blue Mermaids and Moka’s ship, the Musashi, comes off as silly. Mostly because the Blue Mermaids are touted as these stalwart protectors. So, when four of their ships are unable to take out just one other, it raises one’s eyebrow.
Now, to be fair, the Musashi is a formidable opponent, and it makes narrative sense to have Misaki and the Harakaze defeat the ship and save Moka (meaning it was inevitable that the Blue Mermaids would lose). But it still doesn’t align with the show’s constant praise and admiration for the Blue Mermaids who, apparently, cannot perform their duty.
Worse still, saving Moka does not have the required emotion since the relationship shared between her and Misaki is not exactly fleshed out. In fact, the last scene is rather lame. Despite fully succeeding, it is not shown where the crew goes, they lose their ship they’ve been with the entire time, and it all simply misses the satisfaction mark.
It’s a lackluster finale to say the least.
This investigation is the extent of Fleet. There may be a grander message of never giving up even when the whole world seems against them, but it is not explored. And it doesn’t have to be. Because, overall, the show set a course to be a bunch of cute girls dealing with sea battles and a serious subplot – something it executed well enough from port to starboard.
Perhaps expectedly, the show has many different character designs to help differentiate the myriad of girls aboard the Harukaze. Mii wears a red-and-black-and-yellow outfit that accentuates her braided, blond hair, blue eyes, and high attractiveness. Mei sticks to her orange sweater-jacket. And Momo’s beret and glasses makes her easy to spot.
Almost all the girls wear the same set of clothes: a blue skirt, a white shirt, and a red bow-scarf. And they each have detailed eyes to boot. It also helps that the anime will regularly give them different expressions or comedic reactions, helping the show’s slice-of-life side.
Fleet also uses a lot of CG segments for its ships and their battles. Not only does the CG work, but this decision makes sense. The ships are bulky, moving masses, housing missile launchers, cannon guns, smaller boats, giant pillars, and other miscellaneous mechanical gear. Meaning animating them in the traditional sense would be too much of a burden.
The rest of the artistry, though, is not the best. While the bridge is filled with bells, knobs, and doodads, the rest of the ship is not as detailed. Plus, the open ocean does not always create the best scenery around. Certain shots, like a setting sun, a high-rise depiction of one of the islands, or even a nighttime, glowing reflection, can prove otherwise. But these more interesting depictions are not the norm.
Actual animation anchors somewhere slightly above average in quality. Once again, the show decides to use a mixture of pure hand-drawn animation and pure CG animation. The former is set aside for the girls and their actions: running around, hugging, flowing hair. The latter is reserved for those ship battles: torpedoes, a rotating gun, a skipper on the water. While not gorgeous, the animation remains both consistent and pleasing to the eye.
Fleet is yet another anime where its cast is gargantuan.
According to available sources, the show contains seven or so main characters and thirty-seven or so side characters. That’s a lot of cast members. Naturally, this amount means that many, many of the cast members will not be receiving much time at all.
And that’s what happens, for the show cannot possibly give equal attention to all the girls. As such, the girls become, for the most part, their singular trait. Satoko adds “zona” to most of her sentences. Mimi’s role model is Machiko. Mikan and the Kinesaki sisters are the cooks.
Unfortunately, some girls get even less. Characters like Hikari, Megumi, and Hideko (as well as a slew of others) feel more like placeholders than actual people.
An argument exists for why this direction is okay. On a ship (of any kind), people have a role to fill. Some work in the engine room. Some man the deck. Some act as the lookout. In a similar fashion, the girls of Fleet likewise have their own “roles.” Mei loves to shoot the guns and use the torpedoes. Shima doesn’t speak much, and she shows what happens when someone gets infected by the new virus. Kaede really knows how to wield a sword.
Obviously, these “roles” are, in reality, their personality and character quirks. But it goes along with the idea that these girls not only help the ship in their own way but also act individually, too.
Still, these side characters simply do not do enough. They will maybe have one scene centered on them, but, beyond that, they exist to be little more than cute characters. This statement is not just aimed at the side cast; the main characters also fail to have much of an impact.
Take Mii, the German girl that the group saves. Her time on the ship consists of having the girls envious of her bosom, being grossed out by natto (a type of Japanese food), and escaping a collapsing, shipwrecked boat. Worse still, once her original ship is saved, she leaves uneventfully, making the audience wonder what her purpose even was. To be fair, she did provide some guidance early on, but having one instance over several episodes is certainly underwhelming.
Kouko can be seen in the same light. She is there for comedic relief, but, arguably, so is every other side character.
Rin controls the wheel and only the wheel, but she at least ends up better than both Mii and Kouko. Rin grows as a person, learning to overcome her fears and trepidation, using her newfound courage not only to pilot the ship but also to push forward in times of duress.
That leaves Mashiro and Misaki.
Mashiro comes from a long line of Blue Mermaids. More specifically, her mother and her other sisters have taken up the seaside mantle, so she was almost destined to do the same. However, she has horrible luck, netting her a splash in the water and a spot (due to an exam mistake) among the lowest-scoring students’ ship: the Harakaze.
Much of her character revolves around Misaki. The relationship they share as well as the actions that need taking. Simply put, Mashiro feels that Misaki’s way of captaining is flat out wrong, a detriment to herself, to the crew, and to the Blue Mermaids.
Misaki (obviously) sees it differently. Growing up with her best friend Moka, she has always wanted to be a Blue Mermaid. But, even more than that, she values her friends first. When her crew needs help around the ship, when someone is stranded at sea, or when she sees those close to her in danger, she prioritizes them over both her position and herself.
Thus, they butt heads. A lot. Misaki is quite cheerful, so she does not let the friction between them get to her initially. However, after Mashiro constantly laments about Misaki’s disregard for her own welfare, the two find themselves at odds with one another, eventually waning their friendship (as heard by Misaki using the formal “deputy-captain” title for Mashiro).
Yet it is not for long since the two learn from one another. Misaki comes to understand that being the captain is more than just taking on the whole burden alone. As for Mashiro, she comes to understand that risking one’s life for others takes a lot more strength than she originally believed. All the while, the two share small moments together, such as Mashiro taking her sister’s “guts infusion” in Misaki’s place or when Mashiro declares that she’ll be Misaki’s “mayonnaise.”
It’s their bond and the rest of the crew’s roles that tie Fleet’s whole character message together.
As it is with ships of the regular and relation variety, it takes more than one person to make it work. The girls perform their duties separately and together to keep their ship afloat, and they respond to and learn from one another to keep their relationships afloat, too.
Granted, Misaki and Mashiro’s relationship is the only one that has any actual exploration during the season, but it was nice to see something from the cast beyond being there for cutesy purposes.
The opening track for Fleet starts off almost ominous but quickly shifts into more of a rock piece. While the vocalists do well in tandem, and it sounds hearty enough, the OP is particularly unassuming, doing nothing noteworthy. The ending track is similar. Prominent trumpets, a floaty feel, and a couple of fast lyrics give the ED some strength as a standalone offering, but it’s not enough to make the piece anything more than passable.
The rest of the original soundtrack performs (once again) similarly. Given the maritime setting, many of the tracks are filled with rolling drums, woodwind instruments, and cymbals to simulate a navy environment. Other tracks, like dainty slice-of-life tunes, foreboding, atmospheric pieces, and tense trumpet-and-violin compositions make up the rest of the music. Like the OP and the ED, however, the OST is by no means subpar. It’s just acceptable for what it is.
Finally, voice acting within Fleet does not see any notable performances, but some characters do deserve a small shout-out. Namely, Yurika Kubo as Rin for her always-worried voice and Natsumi Takamori as Maron for her loud, energetic way of speaking.
I would not say that I was fully entertained by this one, but I did like the bouts of cuteness.
Misaki was perhaps a bit too carefree and overly kind at times (stopping to help a child who got knocked over while she and the others were running away is just one example), but I liked seeing someone on the ship simply looking out for the others.
Mashiro getting embarrassed or miffed, through people discovering her stuff-animal-filled room or getting too many responses at once, made her a fun character (when she was not being mean to Misaki). Her getting her own tiny cat – despite her apprehension on bringing cats aboard – was a nice touch.
Rin’s worrying, Kouko’s reenactments, and Maron’s energy also had me smiling here and there.
Again, though, much of the show didn’t. The action involving the ships was not anything special. The drama did not have much weight. And many of the characters were either too boring or too forgettable. Even the moe moments, at times, were not cute enough to get much of a reaction out of me.
But if I had to choose my biggest gripe, it would be how underused Mii was. I liked her design, her difference in origin, and how she can take a kick to the head without flinching. Sadly, however, the anime did not have her interacting with many of the other cast members (Kouko was the only other one), so she never had enough screen time to my liking. And while reasonable, I was not a big fan of her leaving her new friends behind in favor of her original ship, for it reinforced how disconnected she felt from the rest.
High School Fleet encounters choppy waters. A serious side to its story and a character theme on working together are hindered by a weak ending, a lame side cast, and a handful of other issues. To be fair, the art and the music can be strong at times, but they are not exactly exceptional. Altogether, it was not a nauseating experience but it was also far from cruising.
Story: Fine, cute girls engage in differing naval warfare, using avoidance of detail to its advantage yet botching its ending
Animation: Good, okay artistic direction, nice CG usage, okay character designs, slightly above average actual animation
Characters: Bad, low-impact side characters and mishandled main characters get in the way of Misaki, Mashiro, and the relationship they share
Sound: Fine, okay OP, okay ED, okay OST, and okay VA performances
Enjoyment: Bad, while the cuteness was there, not much else was, and it needed more Mii
Final Score: 4/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3