“This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we’ll be lucky to live through it.” —Admiral Josh Painter, The Hunt for Red October
Back at headquarters, Principal Munetani decides to recall all vessels back to their school and determines what’s behind the rash of unusual incidences. Back out at seas, Akeno learns that that the Musashi has also been implicated in an alleged mutiny and worries about Moeka. Shortly after turning in, she finds the Harekaze under torpedo attack from an I-201 submarine. Now awakened, the German girl they’d rescued earlier assists Akeno in fending off the I-201, and introduces herself as Wilhelmina Braunschweig Ingelner Friedeburg. Principal Munetani relays her orders for each vessel to return to their school, and Wilhelmina becomes roommates with Mashiro, much to the latter’s mortification. Much of the episode is dedicated towards depicting the exchange between the unidentified I-201 and the Harekaze, although limited world building is present to establish that males are submariners in this world. After three episodes, Hai-Furi has fallen into a familiar pattern where Akeno and the Harekaze engage an unknown enemy en route to a destination, and despite the vessel’s limited resources, nonetheless manage to escape narrowly. Harrowing and entertaining this is, one can imagine that Hai-Furi will likely lose its audience if this pattern persists. At present, there are no previews, so what the following episode entails will remain to be seen. However, given that this episode does not end on a cliffhanger, it’s reasonable to suppose that the Harekaze and possibly Musahi will safely return to their school, where more about their situation will be presented.
While this third episode skates over Moeka and the Musashi’s status, the dialogues between Principal Munetani and other officers aid in clearing up some of the situation: there is not a large-scale conspiracy against Harekaze specifically. Similarly, Wilhelmina shares with Akeno the fact that the electronics suite on the Admiral Graf Spee malfunctioned in conjunction with the others refusing orders. These two elements suggest that a hitherto unknown faction has placed a large number of sleeper agents on board the different ships to sabotage the Blue Mermaids programme. Sleeper agents, or deep cover agents, are individuals who have successfully infiltrated and integrated with their target and do not communicate with their handlers. However, fiction is fond of depicting sleeper agents as being individuals who’ve been programmed to carry out reconnaissance or sabotage on behalf of another actor and moreover, are “activated” by stimuli such as a specific image or number string. The usage in Hai-Furi would probably imply the latter, since Wilhelmina says that something altered the crew. Wilhelmina herself remains unaffected, and given the close-quarters on a ship, it should be apparent that whatever this something was, it most certainly was not biological in nature (otherwise, she would have been affected, as well). Brainwashing or mental programming, similar to what is seen in Call of Duty: Black Ops, appears to be a more realistic option; it is possible that numerous individuals have infiltrated the different student and instructor vessels, then were activated by a radio transmission or a numbers station. Given the number of fictional works I’ve seen using this mechanism, it’s likely that an organisation is intending to destroy the Blue Mermaids training program, and while their motivations are not known yet, I imagine that what has been seen so far is merely the tip of the iceberg.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Another week means another discussion with twenty images and the works. Opening with Principal Munetani speaking to other officers, this short meeting clarifies that not everyone is against the Harekaze, in turn implying that there’s probably another faction behind-the-scenes. On the massive display behind her, the vessels in green appear to be in communications range, while the red ones are out of range. Because identifying each ship adds nothing to the discussion whatsoever, I’ll skip that.
- The confrontation with the Admiral Graf Spee led to damage throughout the ship, and some of the crew have begun to repair one of the main guns on the Harekaze, pausing to enjoy a short dinner under sunset. Akeno resolves to return to the nearest port as quickly as possible to figure out how to extricate themselves from their current situation. I’m noticing that discussions elsewhere have been very lively, with some individuals even forgoing sleep to add their two cents into things; this shows that Hai-Furi provides plenty of material to talk about, but it could also suggest that some individuals have a markedly different set of priorities if they’re willing to be up at 3 AM for an anime 😛
- Back on the bridge, Kouko reports that besides their guns, one of the engines requires repairs. Until then, the Harekaze can only travel at cruising speed. The previous episode portrayed the engine room crew as being quite unfriendly towards Akeno, but this largely stems from the fact that Akeno’s been pushing the Harekaze’s engines to their limits and risking damage to them (in turn, resulting in more work for the engine room crew).
- As night falls, the bridge crew read an update that throws their original plans out the window: ports are now closed to any student vessels, and further to this, vessels are to be sunk if they display any sort of resistance. This whole situation reminds me of Tom Clancy’s Locked On, where John Clark goes on the run after the Keatly administration mark him as a wanted man to damage Jack Ryan Senior’s chances in the presidential election. Ryan eventually wins the election and orders the manhunt to be called off, but not before Clark has his right hand shattered by a rogue SVR element.
- If something similar happened in Hai-Furi, it would not be difficult to imagine the community going up in arms over the unexpected twist. Some have expressed a belief that casualties and even death could result in Hai-Furi, and while the third episode suggests that for all of the perils the Harekaze’s crew finds themselves in, any serious injuries or death could be unlikely. However, such a mindset could double the surprise factor should something really happen, so rather than speculate further, I’ll simply watch the episodes and take events in stride as they occur.
- Mashiro’s Shizuka Hattori tendencies come out full force — she reprimands Akeno for not sleeping and sends her off to rest. Still quite worried about Moeka, Akeno finds it difficult to sleep and eventually nods off, only to be awakened by a warning that a submarine has been detected in their vicinity. Apparently, male students are submarine crews, and one of the girls remark that the cramped spaces of a submarine are uncomfortable.
- Awakened by the news, Mashiro climbs to the deck with one of her stuffed animals in hand (IKEA’s BLÅHAJ, for anyone interested, which retails for 20 CAD), before coming to the realisation that she had done so and growing quite embarrassed in the process. Mashiro’s characterisation as a stern figure with a penchant for cute things is not a novel one: Azumanga Daioh‘s Sakaki is one of the most notable examples where, despite her cold appearance, her actual interests are in all things cute.
- After three episodes, I’m still struggling to remember all of the characters’ names. Here, Mei demonstrates an uncommon enthusiasm for opening fire first and asking questions later, but strictly speaking, this would be a violation of the Rules of Engagement (ROE). Some nations have their own ROE, but NATO nations follow the NATO ROE Manual MC 362-1, and during operations, ROE cards are issued to all operatives. A sample ROE gives the following, that “…forces will protect themselves from threats of death or serious bodily harm. Deadly force may be used to defend your life, the life of another US soldier, or the life of persons in areas under US control. You are authorized to use deadly force in self-defense when…you are fired upon.” (ROE for Operation Restore Hope, Section 2.1.1). Under their circumstances, the Harekaze cannot fire first.
- With incoming torpedoes from the I-201, Akeno orders the Harekaze to take evasive maneuvers to avoid the torpedoes. I-201 class submarines could reach a maximum underwater speed of 19 knots (35 km/h) when submerged, and their real-world incarnations were the fastest WWII-era submarines: they were theoretically capable of the 20 knots seen in Hai-Furi, although this would have placed severe stress on the engines. Armed with ten Type 95 torpedoes, the I-201 would have been quite formidable in combat, but the situation in WWII for Japan meant that only three submarines were completed, and none of these saw actual combat operations.
- Wilhelmina’s reaction to the near-misses from enemy torpedo fire is quite different than that of Bender’s “Hey! Keep it down, you kids! I’m trying to take a nap!” from Futurama: she promptly gives instructions to the bridge crew and then states her specialisation in anti-submarine warfare, but also is befuddled at the lack of common sense from the Harekaze, who’s been running under normal lighting conditions the entire time.
- With the basics rectified, Wilhelmina orders the crew to mount a counterattack, but is frustrated to tears upon learning that the Harekaze is depleted on anti-submarine weapons. Akeno decides to use the paravane: these devices were originally designed to destroy mines, but later, were fitted with explosives for anti-submarine combat. The one on the Harekaze is inert, but Akeno uses it to tangle up the I-201 and hold it in place so a depth charge can be utilised.
- Akeno gives the order to fire as more torpedoes close in, and although the frame isn’t exactly clear, it appears that this broadside succeeds in stopping the torpedoes in their tracks. Lacking anti-torpedo measures (such as the torpedo belt, which is intended to absorb the explosive energy and lessen damage), the Harekaze is forced to get creative in evading torpedoes. Modern-era vessels have a variety of guidance-jamming measures to interfere with torpedo electronics, and the US Navy has experimented with anti-torpedo torpedoes as defensive mechanisms.
- The biggest point of contention for the third episode is whether or not a depth charge exploding that close to the submarine would be sufficient to sink it. Because the kill radius of an average depth charge is roughly three to four meters, and a bit of computation using this image found the detonation was roughly 9.81 meters away from the submarine (well within range of disabling it and forcing it to surface), it’s easy to conclude that nothing unreasonable has occurred here. With this problem solved, one might then wonder how Akeno was able to time the detonation that precisely to prevent any fatalities on board the submarine, and this can be chalked up to luck for the present.
- Having forced the submarine to surface, Mashiro orders the Harekaze to leave the combat zone. After three episodes, it should be quite clear that anything resembling a love story or cats simply won’t come to fruition in Hai-Furi. This is an anime that has defied expectations and convention, so even those armed with an extensive knowledge of Japanese literature and language will probably not be able to effectively predict how the characters’ names will drive the narrative.
- Back in the communications room, a member of the radio team picks up transmissions that a ship has been dispatched to recover the I-201. The page quote is taken from The Hunt for Red October, and mirrors my predictions on where Hai-Furi will go next. I’ve caught wind that Hai-Furi was inspired somewhat by the film, which was critically acclaimed.
- Throughout the night combat sequences, the surface of the ocean is aglow. This is not an error in animation, as the lights are caused by the bioluminescent phytoplankton known as dinoflagellates: these organisms produce light becuase they have special protein channels in their membranes that only allow for protons to move across; movement in the surrounding water sends electrical impulses that open the voltage-sensitive channels, allows for chemical reactions to occur that activate the protein luciferase, producing light.
- Apparently, salted cocoa is a Blue Mermaid specialty, and Akeno reacts to the unusual combination after Minami Kaburagi, the ship’s medical officer, offers her a mug. Directly salting a drink in this manner is more than unusual-tasting; drinking extensive amounts of salty beverages would cause the renal system to try and remove the excess salt via urination, resulting in dehydration. I therefore imagine that the salted cocoa is either only drunk on some occasions, or else, Minami is merely teasing Akeno.
- Akeno’s conversation with Wilhelmina offers a bit more insight into what’s been going on in Hai-Furi, and together with Principal Munetani’s words, suggests that a very well-organised effort is probably present to sabotage the girls’ schooling. If this holds true, it beats undead activity any day of the week. Wilhelmina is a deputy captain, and was instructed to care for the Admiral Graf Spee’s captain’s hat. Akeno resolves to help her out to the best of her ability, and this could form the basis for one of the sub-plots. Conversely, if it were a core component, it would presumably feel like Half Life 2 Episode Two‘s “Little Rocketman” challenge and add a bit of complexity to things.
- It’s not often that Mashiro smiles, but here, she does just (the frame resembles one of Chino smiling in GochiUsa) that after learning that their orders are now to return to their school so things can be sorted out. Quite honestly, I’m hoping this will be a smooth voyage, since the Harekaze is dangerously low on munitions. Because the episode does not end on a cliffhanger, I’m hoping it is here that Hai-Furi will break out of its pattern so far and advance the narrative further.
- Mashiro is utterly embarrassed that everyone now knows about her vast stuffed animal collection, but Wilhelmina does not seem to mind, and the episode closes off here. Having passed the three-episode mark, Hai-Furi survives the three-episode test: the sum of its parts is an anime that stands head-and-shoulders above Kantai Collection, and I imagine that if there was a naval anime to get people fired up about World of Warships, this would be it. So, I definitely will continue watching this one.
The possibility of a moé anime with a Tom Clancy-style narrative is admittedly an exciting one, but might also be a double-edged sword. The advantages of taking Hai-Furi to this level is that it provides a unique combination of rigour and relaxation — between the battles that draw inspiration from real-world strategy and depictions of everyday life on board a destroyer for high school girls, Hai-Furi adds the moé charm to naval warfare that would be absent were the work to be penned by a North American author. Anime has always excelled at incorporating moé with decidedly more serious constructs, and is perhaps one of the few medium where such a combination could be viable. However, one would then wonder whether or not it’s the moé or the military aspects that is carrying Hai-Furi. Similarly, if this anime were not moé and featured characters resembling those of the Universal Century, would it still capture people’s interests? From a personal perspective, Hai-Furi caught my eye for the moé but continues to hold my interest for the execution, so it’s quite possible that without moé, while Hai-Furi could stand on its own merits, it might have not pulled in and surprised the audience as effectively as it did. So, after three episodes, it would appear that there remains much to explore and discuss about Hai-Furi, and so far, with things looking quite interesting, I am inclined to continue with the episodic posting pattern, since it’s likely that each episode could bring something new to the table for consideration. I’ll make the final decision as to whether or not I’ll move forward with an episodic review pattern next week.