“We are going to die. You’re going to die, I’m going to die, we’re all going to die…just not today.” —Alex Hopper, Battleship
Charging forwards to engage the Musashi, Akeno and the Harekaze succeed in creating a distraction, preventing the Musashi from opening fire on civilian installations. However, they bear the full brunt of the Musashi’s assault, suffering damage to their systems in the process. As they begin to retreat, other vessels from Yokosuka Girls’ Marine High School, the Admiral Graf Spee and even instructor Furushou arrive, providing covering fire to hold off the Musashi long enough for the Harekaze to close the distance and board it. Akeno shares a tearful reunion with Moeka, and their return to port is welcomed. Having gone through a gruelling battle, the Harekaze succumbs to its damages and sinks while moored, leaving Akeno and the others to bid their vessel farewell. That the finale concluded in the manner that it did was ultimately no surprise: having lent her time and resources to help out the other vessels once the truth was known, Akeno’s humanitarian spirit and resolve to help people at sea is reciprocated in full, allowing the deadliest of the Yokosuka Girls’ Marine High School vessels to be stopped without casualties or property damage. It’s a fitting finale for a series that is essentially the naval equivalent of Strike Witches and Girls und Panzer, and with Hai-Furi now over, it’s time to consider the series as a whole.
With its theme revolving decisively around friendship, compassion and its necessity to combat the challenges the sea presents, Hai-Furi returns to this point time and time again, whether it’s Akeno’s desire to save her own crew from trouble, rescuing Wilhelmina of the Admiral Graf Spee, participating in the rescue of a civilian vessel, and when a treatment for the virus is presented, does her utmost in leading the Harekaze to ensure a safe rescue each and every time. Through these actions, even the Mashiro and Kuro, initially doubtful of Akeno’s ability as a captain, are swayed. Akeno’s kindness to those around her is reciprocated in leading her crew to completely accept her as their captain. In turn, the crew’s combined unity and resolve allow them to help both the Hiei and Admiral Graf Spee, who return in the finale to return the favour and assist the Harekaze’s mission. Friendship and camaraderie lie at the heart of Hai-Furi, and although this was not always clear when Hai-Furi first aired, Akeno and the Harekaze’s adventures, coupled with the lack of an antagonist faction, both serve to highlight that on the open seas, challenges and setbacks are overcome when the crew is unified, sharing a common goal and trust in their leadership.
“I don’t mind that. It’s totally fine to me that they have hundreds of weapons in Battlefield 4 that are completely out of place and inaccurate to the specific factions and battles that may have them…if we applied [the mindset that a game should be realistic] to Battlefield 4…there’d be a lot less variety, and it would be a less interesting and fun game.” —LevelCapGaming on realism in Battlefield 1
Notions of teamwork and unity as a satisfactory theme notwithstanding, one of the largest detractors critics have levelled against Hai-Furi is the realism and credibility factor. Individuals with a background in naval combat have mentioned that Akeno and the Harekaze disregard all known protocols and procedures, and similarly, individuals with strong interests in science fiction have suggested that the virus’ effects, its inactivation mechanism and vector push the bounds for what can be considered credible in a fictional setting. Both assertions are true: I fully agree that physics and biological sciences are not realistically rendered in Hai-Furi (or even close to that). Nonetheless, I will not hold this against Hai-Furi: anime such as Hai-Furi, Girls und Panzer and Strike Witches succeed because they emphasise fun and character growth over real-world accuracy. The same definitely holds true in video games: recent criticisms of the new Battlefield 1 is that the inclusion of such a diverse array of automatic weapons is unfaithful to the era, since most WWI battles were fought with bolt-action rifles. However, a game with only bolt action rifles would not likely be fun for most players. Battlefield 1 is “realistic” the same way Battlefield 4 is “realistic” — neither are, and that’s acceptable because the games aim to make a fun experience for the players rather than reproduce the details that would take away from a player’s experience. Similarly, Hai-Furi discards military and scientific accuracy in favour of crafting various scenarios for the characters that drive them closer together during the course their adventures.
Screenshots and Commentary
- As the post to Hai-Furi‘s finale, this discussion will have thirty images rather than the usual twenty. It’s a little surprising to (again) remark how quickly time has flown by; it only seems like yesterday that I was writing up the first of the Hai-Furi reviews and saying that I would wait to see whether or not this was a series that would merit episodic blogging.
- Each of the Hai-Furi posts I’ve published features at least one screenshot of the bridge, so I’d figure this would be no exception. As I had speculated in earlier discussions, now that the Harekaze’s crew is unified, working together as one, their battle performance against the Musashi is not negatively impacted by weak cooperation amongst the crew or the extent of their trust in Akeno.
- Instead, to no one’s surprise, the Harekaze’s biggest limitation is that it does not possess any weapons capable of even slowing down the Musashi. Thus, Akeno decides to draw their fire away from the populated areas and attempt to disable its armaments to reduce the chance that any unnecessary casualties arise. Mount Fuji can be seen in the backdrop here, and with a maximum height of 3776 meters, it is one of the most iconic geographical features of Japan.
- Despite having all of its torpedoes and several cannon rounds striking the Musashi, the heavy armour of the Musashi allows it to shrug off the damage completely. Having drawn its attention, the Musashi trains its 18 inch batteries on the Harekaze and begins firing. Most of the shots miss, but a handful land near the Harekaze, enough to knock out some systems and start fires on board.
- A second salvo causes further damage amongst the Harekaze’s systems and compromises its hull, allowing water to seep in to the ship’s bowels. Akeno orders the Harekaze to retreat from the combat area as per their orders. The page quote comes from Battleship, where Alex expresses his confidence in being able to best the aliens, and the second is from LevelCap of YouTube, explaining why it’s okay even if some things in Battlefield are inaccurate relative to history.
- The crew brace themselves for yet another impact. In last week’s episode discussion, I remarked that confidence and scheduling would determine whether or not I would be able to get a talk out for the finale on time. On Wednesday, I delivered the second of my rehearsal defense presentations and had a mock exam to simulate the questions and discussions that would follow the presentation itself.
- When the last of the slides were done and I had answered questions from the audience during the rehearsal, the only feedback I received was that one of my image citations were around four pixels too high. This probably means that my talk and slides are in reasonable shape, and as such, all that’s left now is to wait for Tuesday morning, which is when the defense is set to take place. Hence, I was able to push this review out today on schedule.
- Back in Hai-Furi, just when it appears that the Harekaze’s luck has finally run out, a flotilla of vessels appears. Their combined firepower is sufficient to draw the Musashi’s attention, giving Akeno another opportunity to close the distance and board it. The return of the other ships is exactly as predicted, and in the previous discussion, I remark that to deviate from this would be unfaithful to Hai-Furi‘s thematic elements.
- Voiced by Shiina Natsukawa (Sora no Method‘s Nonoka and Aldnoah.Zero‘s Lemrina Vers Envers), Akeno’s voice shares some acoustic properties as that of Girls und Panzer‘s Miporin. Squeaky anime voices are common in Hai-Furi and other anime: it’s done supposedly to emphasise immaturity or cuteness, and I’ve got no quarrel with these voices, but the main disadvantage about these voices are that they carry very well in a building.
- Right on schedule, Wilhemina makes a return on board the Admiral Graf Spee, and this time, with the pocket battleship’s firepower firmly in their corner, the Admiral Graf Spee fights alongside the Harekaze in a final mission to secure the Musashi. It was welcoming to see her return: her actions contribute to the bridge crew’s maturation as sailors, and she waves to Kouko here.
- Unverified sources state that Kouko is getting her own spin-off of some sort, and while that sounds exciting, I’ll wait for more information before I present a more substantial reaction. I’ve noticed that the character designs in Hai-Furi seem close to the designs seen in Kyoto Animation’s K-On! adaptation: anime such as Sora no Woto, Tamako Market and Kokoro Connect have been criticised for sharing too strong a similarity with K-On!, although these criticisms have had no impact on present trends in character design.
- Operating under her own free will, Captain Thea Kreutzer of the Admiral Graf Spee expresses anticipation of joining the battle to return the favour for the Harekaze for having helped them out in treating the virus. One must wonder what happened to the submarine crews that the Harekaze was attacked by back during the third episode: if they were acting aberrantly, it stands to reason they were also infected by the virus.
- While none of the vessels that have joined the fight possess a main battery powerful enough to stop the Musashi cold in its tracks, the presence of a large number of ships with large calibre naval cannons is sufficient to keep the Musashi’s main guns busy. During the course of the battle, I could not help but notice that the firing sequences in some of the frames are recycled. This is only one episode, so it’s a minor gripe compared to the likes of something such as Gundam SEED, where entire launch and combat sequences are recycled.
- Powerless to stop her crew from firing upon blue forces, Moeka can only stand by and watch as her own battleship returns fire whilst taking fire. The real Musashi was destroyed during the Battle of Leyte Gulf: sustained bombing runs carried out by dive bombers from the USS Intrepid, Franklin Essex and Lexington damaged the ship’s infrastructure. Hit by nineteen torpedoes and seventeen bombs, the Musashi capsized and sank on October 24, 1944.
- Compared to when she was first introduced, Rin is now less likely to break into tears in combat, although her dialogue still reaches frequencies that are at the upper limit for what can be perceived by the human ear. Rin’s steerage plays an essential role in bringing the Harekaze closer to the Musashi, and she’s now confident to follow Akeno’s orders, positioning the Harekaze in dangerous positions.
- After the other vessels arrive, the Harekaze’s crew are emboldened and Akeno decides to wrap things up in a clean manner. While their smoke launchers were disabled earlier by the Musashi, Kouko recalls that they were given a Type 4 Rocket, a 203 mm rocket mortar deployed in the late stages of the Second World War. The weapon could be fired without a tube, and was considered for widespread use against Allied forces in a potential land invasion owing to its ease of construction.
- After Rin maneuvers the Harekaze directly in front of the Musashi, Tama and Mei fire the rocket, blanketting the area in smoke. Under its cover, the aim is to use this time to close the distance between the Harekaze and the Musashi. While wildly different than the now oft-mentioned film Battleship in terms of plot, both works feature battleships predominantly and are similar in providing solid escapism.
- While their steering was damaged by the Musashi earlier, Akeno employs a similar trick to what was used in Battleship: here, a parachute is used to drag the Harekaze in a specified direction, while in Battleship, Alex uses the USS Missouri’s anchor to stop the ship from being hit with alien weapons. Hai-Furi and Battleship showcase the power of a battleship’s main batteries: in the former, grazing hits from the Musashi’s 18-inch guns nonetheless cause the Harekaze non-trivial damage. and in the latter, the USS Missouri shreds the alien mothership with its 16-inch batteries.
- Slamming into the Musashi’s flanks, the toughest part of the battle is now over as the Musashi comes to a halt. While not leaving quite the same impact as Girls und Panzer‘s TV series, Hai-Furi was something that became worth writing about each week. I’ve heard some folks bemoan aspects such as the adherence to naval protocol and Moeka’s non-existent role repeatedly throughout the anime, and I’m wondering why they would continue following Hai-Furi even if the anime was not up to their standards.
- On the other hand, I fall into the camp of people who enjoyed Hai-Furi for what it succeeded in doing. Today’s review comes out a little later than usual owing to its larger size and on account of my stepping out to enjoy A & W’s Spicy Habanero Chicken Burger (an interesting sandwich where the tomato and lettuce balance out the heavier flavours of the peppers and fried chicken) with a side of yam fries. Already, I’m thinking about what I’ll be doing once I finish this post and mash the publish button: I’ll definitely need to rehearse one of the conference presentations, but after that, I might relax and continue playing through Alien: Isolation.
- For now, however, my eyes are on the prize of finishing this post. Akeno’s boarding party prepares to board the Musashi and sort out the crew. Having swept and cleared two ships already, their prowess are not shown for a third time aside from Kaede knocking down several of the Musashi’s crew with her wooden naginata. Minami can also be seen here carrying Isuroku, a wise decision considering that any remaining rats onboard could still be virulent.
- Back on the Harekaze, Mashiro clears Akeno to board the Musashi herself and reunite with Moeka. This single moment shows how far Mashiro’s come since boarding the Harekaze and working with Akeno as her Deputy Captain: she’s much more ready to help Akeno and provide feedback where necessary, and never remarks on her luck once in this finale. Through its run, Hai-Furi suceeds in dispelling notions of #TeamAkeno vs #TeamMashiro disappear entirely, and it was quite welcoming to see that after twelve episodes, Hai-Furi reaches the point where it’s just #TeamHarekaze.
- Moeka’s character is perhaps the most vociferously-complainde about element in Hai-Furi, with critics claiming that her role was “short-changed” and that her role was “under-used”. This is hardly the case; Moeka is a MacGuffin whose presence is a plot device meant to drive Akeno towards overcoming her own doubts as captain. MacGuffins are admittedly frowned upon by some writers, as they offer a shortcut in explaining away narrative-critical elements, but in Hai-Furi, this is perfectly acceptable, given that the anime makes it clear that it’s about the Harekaze and its crew as they mature over the course of the misadventures they experience.
- The combined efforts of everyone on board the Harekaze and assistance from the other vessels allow Akeno to finally reunite with Moeka, bringing Hai-Furi into its falling action phase. After hearing Moeka’s distress signal back in the second episode, Akeno finally finishes her mission and saves Moeka, in the process earning her crew’s trust and in turn, places more faith in her subordinate’s ability to get the job done.
- I source this translation from Jusuchin of Right Wing Otaku, one of the blogs I follow, that explains why Hai-Furi feels disjointed here and there. It appears that an unexpected change in requirements from management resulted in a fair portion of a full-on naval anime being discarded and recycled for use with high school girls and their naval academy. The line reads as follows:
“The writing team wanted to have real naval battles and the Aniplex producer vetoed that idea. They didn’t have the time or the chance to scrap what they had and start from the ground up under the new conditions, so they just salvaged what they could off the story and came up with bullshit to fill the gaps.”
- If this is true, Hai-Furi would be quite similar to Blizzard’s Overwatch, which salvaged assets from a scrapped MMORPG after the team felt no passion in continuing the MMORPG further. In Overwatch‘s case, the game proved to be an overwhelming success, with the combination of character balance incorporating nicely into the gameplay, art style and narrative to create a sophisticated, yet fun shooter. Hai-Furi does not quite succeed to the same extent as Overwatch did.
- With this in mind, I wrote this review’s main paragraphs before I filled out the figure captions: to learn that the anime resulting from this magnitude of challenges during its production manage to remain entertaining was quite the surprised, and I’m honestly quite impressed that it turned out the way it did in spite of all this. There’s a discernible theme, standing in contrast to the abomination that was Glasslip.
- The Harekaze’s crew are relieved to set foot on terra firma once more, but the end of their mission yields one more surprise: the amount of damage the Harekaze sustained during its battle causes it to sink while moored. Strictly speaking, this addition was completely unnecessary and adds very little to the anime: the shallow waters of a harbour and the Harekaze’s overall state means that it is possible to repair the vessel and make it seaworthy again.
- We’re now very nearly at the end of this extended review, and it is appropriate to consider whether or not Hai-Furi will receive a continuation. Given that the entire series appeared to be born from poor management decisions and the resulting inconsistencies reducing the emotional impact of the series, I imagine that sales for this series will be average or below average. Coupled with the fact that Hai-Furi deviates greatly from its source manga, it is unlikely that there will be a continuation: if there is a continuation, it would be interesting to see how that turns out.
- Thus ends the second series I’ve done episodic reviews for (the first was Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka?? of fall 2015). Looking back, Hai-Furi was certainly interesting enough for me to return weekly to write about it, and while some of the episodes were trickier to write about, like GochiUsa, I’ve alluded to other works (Tom Clancy novels, Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy and more recently, Battleship) throughout these posts. While fun, each episodic post is also somewhat tiring to write about; moving on to the summer anime season, I do not think I will pursue any episodic blogging and spend my weekends kicking back.
From a personal standpoint, I certainly enjoyed Hai-Furi for what it is: while Hai-Furi lacks the same magic that made Girls und Panzer or Strike Witches memorable, it was quite rewarding to see Akeno and her crew become closer together as a result of their adventures and mishaps together, the aptly-named “pinches” that drove most of the episodes. Hai-Furi started out shrouded in mystery, and gradually transitioned to a more familiar progression once the virus’ origin and mechanism were explored. However, in closing off with the Harekaze sinking from damage in port, Hai-Furi shows that it still holds surprises for the audiences in its final moments. It’s intended to be a bittersweet ending: everyone’s safe and back on land now, but Akeno and the others lose the ship that was their home. With this in mind, it is quite possible to return the Harekaze to service later down the line provided the damage was not too severe. Overall, Hai-Furi presents a satisfying conclusion to one of this season’s more unorthodox anime. I would give Hai-Furi a weak recommendation for fans of the military-moé genre; while some narrative elements appear rushed into place to fit the story at the expense of plausibility, for what Hai-Furi succeeds in doing, it does reasonably well, showcasing naval implements in modest detail and telling a familiar story about the importance of friendship on the high seas.