The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

High School Fleet: The Movie- An Anime Film Review, Reflection and Full Recommendation

“This is the captain. It seems we sank that target. This was an all-hands job. Well done.” –Captain Krause, Greyhound

Yokosuka Girls’ Marine High School hosts a competition event amongst the different schools, and Akeno’s class ends up putting on a variety of exhibits. While checking in on her classmates, Akeno and Mashiro run into Susan “Sue” Reyes, a mysterious girl with a keen interest in naval warfare. Mashiro is later recalled and given the option of becoming the captain for a different vessel, leaving her feeling conflicted: on one hand, she wants to make use of her considerable skills and lead her own crew, but on the other, she’s become fond of working alongside Akeno. Mayuki notes that Mashiro needn’t rush her decision, and while deciding whether to accept this promotion, she and Akeno run into Sue again, who’s set up camp. They spend the evening with her, and the next day, competition begins in earnest, although Akeno’s class fares poorly during the events. Later, Akeno and Mashiro compete in a simulated battle tournament; the two are evenly matched, although the finals is cut short when it is revealed that Sue had commandeered a barge and pulled one of the artificial islands to the harbour’s entrance, blocking it off. Miyuki and Mashimo, meanwhile, discuss a concerning development: pirates have seized control of both a Plant Ship and have occupied the Sea Fort, a mobile ocean-borne fortress. If the pirates were to successfully return to the Sea Fort with the Plant Ship and its manufacturing facilities, it would confer them a massive advantage. It turns out that Sue, in search of her father, had been offered a deal: the pirates intended for her to block off Yokosuka Harbour and prevent the Blue Mermaids from deploying in order to carry out their plans. Because of her unique knowledge of the Sea Fort, Sue is asked to accompany Moeka and the Musashi on an operation to stop the pirates. Akeno and Mashiro receive permission to sortie, as well, after convincing Mayuki that they would be able to help. Along with the other schools, the Harukaze sets off. The Blue Mermaids successfully recapture the Plant Ship and secure the hostages, neutralising the lead pirate on board. However, the pirates on board the Sea Fort demand the return of the Plant Ship to them, otherwise, they will sail into Tokyo harbour and inflict damage on the city using the Sea Fort’s weaponry. Despite concentrated fire from the Yamato class vessels from the combined high school fleets, the White Dolphins fail to stop the Sea Fort: the opening punched into the Sea Fort’s hull is too small for their vessels to enter. Akeno volunteers the Harekaze, and coordinate with Moeka’s Musashi to reach the Sea Fort’s hull. Sue boards the Harekaze to help navigate, as she is familiar with the Sea Fort’s internal layout. The crew use their ingenuity to defeat the Sea Fort’s internal defenses, and Rin ends up piloting a remote control bomb into the Sea Fort’s main generator, successfully immobilising the ocean-borne fortress. Their escape route is blocked by debris, but Mashiro’s actions allow for the route to be cleared. The Harukaze successfully returns to the others, and in the aftermath, Mashiro decides that, while captaincy is something that she would like to do, she would prefer to work with Akeno and continue learning as to be a more capable captain when she feels ready take up such a role.

As Hai-Furi progressed during its 2016 broadcast, the turbulent and chaotic storyline remained unified by messages of camaraderie and friendship, of placing trust in one another to overcome difficult situations. By the events of High School Fleet: The Movie (Hai-Furi: The Movie in this post for consistency with how I’ve been referring to the series), Hai-Furi has retains these messages: as a military-moé series, Hai-Furi‘s themes remain in the realm of teamwork and companionship, rather than the horrors and desolation of warfare. Hai-Furi: The Movie extends on the messages that the original TV series had presented, and this is nowhere more apparent than with Sue, a newly-introduced character whose quest to find her father had led her to a chance meeting with Akeno and Mashiro. They treat Sue kindly and look out for her: even when it turns out Sue had been employed by pirates to carry out an operation, Akeno and Mashiro retain their faith in Sue as a good person, convincing Blue Mermaid that Sue had been entangled in something beyond her comprehension. This act of kindness, and the compassion that Yokosuka’s students regard her with, means that when the time comes, Sue is more than willing to help out, having now seen for herself that her belief, pertaining to how families look after one another, holds true. While it may have been a leap of faith to place trust in someone they barely knew, Yokosuka and the Blue Mermaids end up finding success because of their kindness: Sue’s knowledge is instrumental in helping them to stop a considerable threat from transforming into a full-scale disaster, and during the process, Mashiro herself begins to see how far she still has to go before she feels ready to accept the role as a captain. Akeno’s unconditional trust of others, developed from her previous experiences, allows her to openly accept Sue; Mashiro herself had been a bit hesitant, and ultimately, understands that besides technical and leadership skills, she also must be able to read people and assess correctly whether she’s dealing with friend or foe. The realm of captaincy is a complex one; while Mashiro is conflicted between following her own ambitions and continuing on with someone she’s come to greatly respect and cherish, Hai-Furi: The Movie‘s events convince Mashiro that working alongside Akeno will allow her to grow and learn in ways that she will genuinely come to appreciate.

Hai-Furi: The Movie is a worthy successor to the TV series, and demonstrates what is possible when a well-built world is given a cohesive, coherent and well-thought story to present. Hai-Furi had been plagued with troubles during production, and the end result had been inconsistent in places. In spite of this, the series’ potential was apparent, and despite the rough production being visible in the story, Hai-Furi nonetheless told a satisfactory (if outlandish) story. By Hai-Furi: The Movie, the writing is visibly improved; this time around, defeating pirates and stopping them from seizing an old ocean-borne fortress is the premise, being a much more plausible motivator that allows Akeno and Mashiro to contribute towards defeating. Because the premise is not particularly eccentric, this allows Hai-Furi: The Movie to really focus on world-building. The original series had emphasised that methane clathrate mining resulted in an uncontrollable rise in sea levels globally, and with humanity adapting by means of improving their sea-faring technologies, the increased focus on an ocean-based society resulted in the creation of organisations like Blue Mermaid. This divergence allows for alternate social norms and lifestyle details, as well as historical events, to be created, and so, Hai-Furi was a rich environment for painting a compelling world that differs considerably from our own. However, the Totalitarian Virus and its mechanisms proved to be a difficult one to utilise effectively: viewers were distracted from the possibilities that could be explored in the Hai-Furi world, and writers were prevented from exploring further, as they needed to make the Totalitarian Virus convincing. Conversely, the idea of stopping pirates in Hai-Furi: The Movie offers no similar impediment, and viewers are therefore able to kick back and enjoy the film’s characters and events. Through the movie, it becomes apparent that the Hai-Furi universe is conducive towards exploration, and that there can potentially be new directions to explore. Hai-Furi: The Movie thus represents a positive step for the series, indicating that this is a world worth exploring, and that with the right storyline, the viewers’ curiosity can be piqued, setting Hai-Furi apart from counterparts like Girls und Panzer and Strike Witches, both of which are highly unique and stand-out in their own regard.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It’s been a while since I last wrote about Hai-Furi: the last time Akeno and her classmates graced this blog, it was mid-2017, and I’d just gotten back from a vacation in Japan and Hong Kong, just in time to watch the second OVA: Kouko was worried about the future of her classmates after overhearing rumours that the Harekaze was going to be decommissioned. Hai-Furi: The Movie brings back familiar faces in a familiar setting, with an all-new story. News of the film was first announced in April 2018, a full two years after Hai-Furi aired during the Spring 2016 anime season, and even then, it was not until last April that the first key visual and trailers were shown.

  • The film opens up in a grim manner: the Yokosuka ships are idly floating in the harbour and unoccupied, while three Yamato-class battleships stream into the harbour. At the time, it was completely unknown what role these battleships would play in Hai-Furi: The Movie, and conversation at the time turned to why this alternate world required such a large number of Yamato-class. The answer to this is found in the film: it turns out my speculation that the additional vessels being utilised in an educational capacity was correct, and as this fleet passes into Yokosuka’s harbour, Akeno and the others unveil a massive banner welcoming their visitors.

  • Hai-Furi: The Movie thus opens innocuously enough – the fleets coming together are students gathering to attend an inter-school event that Yokosuka Girls’ Marine High School is hosting to bolster friendship and trust amongst the different schools. All of the students have aspirations to join the Blue Mermaids some day, and events such as these are intended to foster a sense of unity and cooperation amongst the different students. Unlike the TV series and OVA, Hai-Furi: The Movie is animated by A-1 Pictures – Production IMS had produced Hai-Furi and its OVAs, but filed for bankruptcy in 2018. Production IMS’ work on Hai-Furi had been above-average, as memory serves, but in Hai-Furi: The Movie‘s opening moments, it is clear that A-1 Pictures’ craftsmanship surpasses anything seen in the TV series and OVA.

  • While Hai-Furi: The Movie might be produced by a different studio, character designs and the artistic style were preserved. A quick glance at Kouko, Akeno and Mashiro find that their appearance is identical to what it was during the TV series. It turns out that that the character designers and animators from the original Hai-Furi project reprised their roles, and so, the film retains the aesthetic seen in the TV series. In A-1 Pictures’ capable hands, Hai-Furi: The Movie shines from a visual standpoint, and to this end, I’ve actually gone with a slightly different style for this post. There are a total of sixty screenshots and their attendant figure captions, but for some images, I’ve opted to feature a four-in-one because of how much there is going on in this movie.

  • After Mayuki gives her welcoming speech, Akeno and Mashiro head off to look after their classmates, who’ve gone to great lengths of putting on stalls and exhibits to impress their visitors. Akeno briefly meets up with her childhood friend and captain of the Musashi, Moeka, before joining Mashiro, who wonders about whether or not their classmates will be okay on account of having done so much. They stop by to help a katsu restaurant out during the lunch rush, where Akeno displays uncommon skill with plate-catching. Once the lunch rush is over, Akeno and Mashiro continue to keep an eye on their classmates’ exhibits.

  • With a runtime of 100 minutes, Hai-Furi: The Movie has plenty of space to showcase the slice-of-life aspects of the Hai-Furi universe: the TV series had dropped viewers straight into a mystery and combat, and while the large cast of characters had their traits developed as they got to know one another during tricky times, it is the case that we’ve not seen everyone relax until the events of the OVA. Hai-Furi: The Movie thus opens on the equivalent of a culture festival and sports competition rolled into one, and helps to ease viewers back into things after three years.

  • Along the way, Mashiro comes across their classmates’ doujin stand, and when offered one of their best works, Mashiro finds herself mortified when she sees a portrayal of herself engaged in scandalous acts. Her embarrassment only grows when Akeno begins to wonder what Mashiro is reading. The slice-of-life piece in Hai-Furi: The Movie was a suitable means of welcoming viewers back to the Hai-Furi universe –  small details in the movie serve to remind viewers of the characters and their traits, and it is only outside of combat where viewers really appreciate that the main characters are not trained soldiers like fully-qualified Blue Mermaid members.

  • After running Maron, who’s gotten the original Harekaze’s boiler back online to power a hot bath, Akeno and Mashiro decide to step in and relax a little. Their actions are synchronised down to the second, to the point where other bathers begin to wonder what the deal between Akeno and Mashiro are. For viewers, this acts as a visual indicator of how close the two have become following their adventures in leading the Harekaze’s crew during the events of the TV series: despite differences in their world-views and ways of doing things, Akeno and Mashiro are more similar than they are different.

  • While strolling about, Akeno and Mashiro run into Susan Reyes (shortened to Sue for brevity), who’s camped outside a takoyaki stand and lamenting that she didn’t bring enough funds to buy some. Mashiro covers for her, and moments later, Sue is biting into one of the best and most iconic of Japanese snacks, in which octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger, and green onion is dipped in a batter, deep-fried, and topped with a special sauce, Mayonaise and dried bonito. It is absolutely delicious, and one cannot fault Sue for wishing to try some. Sue is voiced by Naomi Ōzora (Gabriel Dropout‘s Satania, Fukuda from Girls und Panzer and Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out!‘s very own Uzaki Hana), and in Hai-Furi: The Movie, is a mysterious character of an unknown origin. Despite this, she is very friendly and perceptive, immediately feeling that Akeno and Mashiro must be very close to one another. She explains to the pair that she’s here in Japan to look for her father.

  • Akeno and Mashiro are unexpectedly recalled for an important notice: the captain of the Hiei is stepping down, and the post is now available. Owing to her skill and records, Mayuki offers Mashiro the position. While this represents a great chance for her to prove herself, Mashiro has also become close to Akeno, comfortable with working beside a captain she’s come to greatly respect. While Mayuki assures Mashiro that she needn’t rush the choice, this decision weighs heavily on Mashiro, who is pulled between her own ambitions and her experiences. This forms the bulk of the conflict for the movie, whose events therefore serve to remind Mashiro of what is important to her, and in doing so, help her to make her decision.

  • Because Hai-Furi: The Movie is set in a school setting, the choice to recruit Mashiro for the post makes sense – Mashiro’s said to be even more capable than Akeno on paper, and has excellent grades on top of a strong service record. In school, this is how leadership positions are typically offered: on merits of suitability and availability rather than a well-established protocol rooted in military tradition. While Hai-Furi may use naval implements and deal with naval command structures, the series is ultimately a high school series, where the emphasis and themes are on things that the average high school student might deal with. As a result, Hai-Furi may not do things as effectively as a given nation’s navy would, but this shouldn’t be an issue because viewers are supposed to approach it as a “high school girls doing military things”, rather than “military setting that happens to have high school-aged girls in it”.

  • The mood is heavier as Mashiro struggles to decide on her course of action; Akeno is happy for Mashiro, but also saddened by the prospect of no longer being able to work with someone dear to her. However, their thoughts are interrupted when they encounter Sue on the promenade preparing fish over an open fire; while Sue’s a bright individual and capable of using Les Stroud-level survival techniques, she cannot read kanji. A nearby sign prohibits open fires. Magically summoning water buckets, Akeno and Mashiro swiftly extinguish her fire before the latter goes on a rampage about following rules.

  • Sue notices that the joyful dynamics between Mashiro and Akeno is somewhat lessened of late. Before Mashiro can explain what’s going on, Sue’s already fallen asleep. Akeno and Mashiro awaken early to prepare for the day’s activities, and Sue heads off. As it turns out, an unscrupulous third party had contacted her and promised that in exchange for a favour, they would help her to locate her father. Sue is capable of speaking English: Naomi Ōzora’s pronunciation is accented but passable, resembling Nao Tōyama’s portrayal of Karen in Kiniro Mosaic. These exchanges establish the idea that the film’s antagonists are another faction. I had earlier suspected that such a faction might be responsible for the theft of the Yamato-class vessels seen during the trailer, but with all of the vessels under allied control, it became clear that the film would present conflict from a different source.

  • The next morning, Akeno participates in an obstacle course that pits the bridge crews from different schools against one another: the goal is to complete the course as quickly as possible while incurring the fewest number of penalties for impacting mines and torpedoes. While Akeno’s team takes the lead and opts for manoeuvres that aim to reduce the number of collisions, Mashiro is distracted when the torpedoes are launched, slowing their team down while another team decides to push forwards at full speed, accepting a few hits owing to the relatively low penalties incurred by a hit in order to win the race. Had Mashiro been paying attention to the threats, Akeno’s team would’ve fared better in this race.

  • I note here that competition conditions differ greatly from real-world conditions, and while naval crews are expected to avoid torpedoes in an actual combat scenario, during a competition, with defined rules, a skilled crew will understand that there are certain limitations that can be exploited to secure victory. I vaguely recall reading somewhere that this could promote poor habits among the competitors, and I counter-argue that to make such a claim is to do so in bad faith; this requires the assumption that the girls are unable to differentiate between different contexts and act the same way across a range of scenarios, which is quite frankly, insulting to the characters and writers. On my end, I suppose that in a live-fire environment, the different crews would naturally be more serious, whereas they can be more reckless in a competition, which is set in a controlled environment – rather than assuming the worst of everyone, I enter trusting that characters are competent enough to know the difference between the two and therefore, will not develop any bad habits as a result of how competitions are structured.

  • This is where my remarks in my Greyhound post come from: folks who hold unreasonable standards and take military-moé too seriously have historically not been exactly the most fun to talk to about the genre with, and I’ve long wondered why is is necessary to take the genre so seriously to begin with. The fact that Hai-Furi: The Movie follows up with a swimsuit foam-sword battle should be an indication that the competitions are as much as a test of skill as they are a chance to loosen up. While the Harekaze’s crew dominate, they eventually get backed into a corner and fall into the ocean, instantly losing. Earlier during the fight, a small accident results when one of the girls loses her bikini top after a stray sword removes it, attesting to the merits of a one-piece swimsuit. From this point on, the fan-service in Hai-Furi: The Movie begins to taper off as the real star of the show, naval combat, kicks in.

  • While the Harekaze’s crew might’ve been thrashed during the team competition, everyone’s still in good spirits by the time lunch hour comes around, allowing the girls to enjoy a good meal with their friends and take it easy. I’ve been saying this since the whole global health crisis really starting hitting hard, and my stance hasn’t changed since then: it’s really being able to appreciate and enjoy the simple things that provide the biggest morale boost during difficult times, and something like sharing a special meal with immediate family is high on my list of things that I’ve come to look forwards to each month.

  • I get that times are tough, and that fatigue from protocol and guideline is setting in, but the alternative for flouting these is extending the period during which restrictions will be active and potentially causing harm to those around oneself. Back in Hai-Furi: The Movie, while Sue’s presence is a warming one, thoughts of her decision still weighs heavily on Mashiro’s mind. Her smile here vanishes quickly, and she leaves the proceedings. Akeno decides not to follow her, explaining to Sue that this is because she has faith in Mashiro to make her own decisions.

  • When Sue finds Mashiro, she conveys to her that Akeno’s desire is for Mashiro to find her own path before commenting that their friendship is like family and hinting that she may be reunited with her father very soon. Meanwhile, Hiromi wonders what she can do for Mashiro; during the TV series, she held Mashiro in very high regard and was jealous of how close Akeno was to her. By Hai-Furi: The Movie, it appears she’s not gotten over her shyness. Further compounding things, Mashimo receives a message during lunch warning of something about to go down.

  • During the afternoon, simulated battles amongst the captains begin. These games are supposed to be an indicator of an individual’s skill, and wishing to test the extent of her own strategic skills, Mashiro asks Akeno for permission to participate, intending to challenge her, much to their classmate’s surprise. Moeka declines to participate and invites one of her subordinates to do so; at this point in Hai-Furi: The Movie, Moeka is only implied to be a capable captain, and as viewers have not yet seen her in combat (during the TV series, she was trapped in the bridge after her crew came into contact with the Totalitarian Virus), her skill is based only on word-of-mouth up until now.

  • Despite luck initially not favouring her, Mashiro stages a remarkable comeback using a combination of skill and adaptive thinking, defeating the Yamato’s captain in her first round to general surprise. While luck can be a deciding factor in things beyond naval combat simulations, skill is a larger factor. I define luck as things that are left up to probability, and skill is deterministic, something in the individual’s control. In Mashiro’s case, her skill overcomes any bad luck she suffers, and she gets her wish of facing off against Akeno, who has a natural intuition for commanding fleets and luck to match. This match is a close one, but before anyone can decisively win, an announcement is made: it turns out the old structure used earlier in the races has now collapsed and is blocking the Yokosuka Harbour’s opening.

  • It turns out that Sue had quietly boarded a barge and pulled the structure into position before explosives detonate, bringing the structure down and forming a debris field. In conjunction with reports of an old ocean-borne installation known as the Sea Fortress (Sea Fort for brevity) being captured by pirates and put back in operation despite its supposedly being decommissioned earlier. Further complicating things, the same pirates have commandeered a manufacturing ship. With the ability to produce a near-limitless amount of provisions and in possession of a powerful weapon, the Blue Mermaids realise they have a problem on their hands, and suddenly, Sue becomes a person of interest.

  • After being pulled from the water, Sue is found to have escaped relatively unscathed. She is placed under guard, and the Harekaze’s instructor, Kaoru Furushou, is tasked with looking after her. Akeno and Mashiro vouch for her character: it would appear that Sue’s age and innocence made it easy to manipulate her. Kaoru convinces Mayuki that Sue could be helpful in stopping the pirates from reactivating the Sea Fort: when Sue was asked earlier, she mentioned that she knew the internal structure and workings of the Sea Fort quite well. From what viewers can gather, Sue is the daughter of a mid-to-high level staff member on the Sea Fort and became separated from her father during the decommissioning process. Since then, she has been doing her best to reunite with him.

  • Because of the threat posed by the Sea Fort should the pirates successfully repair it, Mayuki has orders to deliver Sue to the White Dolphin teams. Mashiro and Akeno ask for permission to sortie in the Harekaze to ensure Sue’s safety, and Mayuki initially declines: while impressed that Mashiro has matured enough to be truthful about how she feels, orders are orders. It isn’t until she receives a phone call with a request for her students to deploy that she approves of Mashiro, Akeno and Moeka’s request: just as the pirates predicted, the blockage in the harbour is preventing most of the Blue Dolphin ships from deploying. Moeka’s prowess as a captain becomes apparent here, and although Hai-Furi: The Movie leaves most of her skills as being implied, Moeka’s actions throughout the film’s second half indicate that she is highly competent in her own right.

  • The pirates certainly weren’t expecting that the students would be sent out to help out. The choice to send out inexperienced students might initially appear questionable, but in the circumstances, the Blue Mermaid and White Dolphin forces are willing to accept all the help they can get; from a narrative perspective, this is both to emphasise the sort of threat the pirates pose, as well as give Akeno and the others a chance to shine. While one might make the case that bureaucratic inefficiencies resulted in this decision, we recall that Sue’s role in things had been precisely to create this diversion: had she not succeeded in blocking the harbour off, the Blue Mermaids would’ve sortied and handled things themselves, leaving the film disappointingly short. Stories unfold to accommodate their theme, and in a good story, the events only need to be as logical as needed to clearly convey the theme. While Mashiro is still worried about her own future, the mission at hand demands her full attention. She turns her focus back to the present, proud to serve under Akeno and complete the task given to them.

  • To ensure her safety, Sue’s been assigned to the Musashi under Moeka’s protection. However, it is written all over Sue’s face that she’d much rather be with Akeno and Mashiro. Moeka’s kindness, however, is instrumental in helping Sue to trust the other students, as well: when the Harekaze signals over that everyone should share a meal once the mission’s complete, and Moeka translates for her, Sue is immediately reassured, waving to the others as their ships pass by one another.

  • It seems that the Graf Spee and Wilhelmina is also present at the proceedings, and Akeno authorises Kouko to communicate with Wilhelmina. The film’s events appear to be set over the course of two days, and as the Harekaze sails towards its assignment alongside the Musashi and other ships, the last rays of light begin fading as night sets in. In retrospect, the events of Hai-Furi: The Movie are fairly condensed, and as a result, once the film enters the action phase, it’s non-stop combat.

  • Precisely half of Hai-Furi: The Movie is set on the high seas, with combat as its main focus. The pirates’ objectives are deduced to be producing a self-sustaining mobile fortress of sorts to carry out their activities with impunity and also wield the fortress as a weapon that can hold entire cities hostage for leverage. Once this is in the clear, the film’s goals are simple enough: the combined student, Blue Mermaid and White Dolphin fleets are to conduct a joint operation to firstly, prevent the manufacturing vessel from reaching the Sea Fort, and then second, destroy the Sea Fort.

  • Because there are hostages on board the manufacturing ship, the Blue Mermaids decide on a boarding operation to secure said hostages. Mafuyu relishes the idea of being able to fight hand-to-hand, and understands that while the hostages’ safety is their priority, she’s itching to get out into the field and cause some real damage. Unlike Mashimo, Mafuyu is bold, and her taste for beating up bad guys intimidates her allies, who are doubtlessly grateful that she’s in their corner.

  • Mafuyu commands the Benten, a customised Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship named after the goddess Benzaiten, the deity for wonderful sounds. Hai-Furi presented the Independence Class as a general-purpose seafaring vessel that fulfills a similar role to contemporary destroyers, whereas in reality, LCS are intended for defending the coastal regions of continental America. The original four Independence-class ships were commissioned in 2010, but in September 2016, three months after Hai-Furi‘s televised run ended, it was announced that these vessels were being reassigned as test ships, and by March 2021, these vessels would be decommissioned, to be placed in inactive reserve.

  • While Mayuki has a distinguished career and experience to know what her students are getting into, I imagine that it can be frustrating to know that some circumstances end up in such a way that she cannot deploy professional, fully-qualified forces to deal with them and instead, are forced to send students out. Given the existence of organisations like Blue Mermaid and their male counterpart, the White Dolphins, I imagine that crises on the high seas are more common in this world than ours, and their professional teams are usually sent to handle threats such as what’s seen in the movie. Then, the movie represents the (comparatively) rarer moments where it is necessary to send the high school fleets out to deal with something, which gives us a film to watch. I’ve never been one to assume that the individuals in a given story are incompetent – to do so would be to undermine the themes of said work.

  • Captain Sango Sugimoto of the repair ship Akashi provides the Harekaze with a massive 36-inch torpedo, stating that the highly specialised, experimental device generally proved impractical for most applications, but owing to the special circumstances, expects Akeno to find a use for it. In reality, the largest torpedo ever deployed is the Russian Type 65, which has a diameter of 25.6 inches and is capable of carrying a 557 kilogram warhead. It was intended for sinking aircraft carriers and large merchant ships. By comparison, the American Mark 48 has a 21 inch diameter and carries a 290 kilogram warhead. A bit of interpolation suggests that this 36-inch torpedo might be able to carry a thousand-kilogram warhead on account of its size.

  • After Mafuyu and her boarding team gains access to the manufacturing ship (designated as a “Plant Ship” in the film), they make short work of the poorly-trained pirates. Mafuyu personally knocks out the lead pirate, the same man who had convinced Sue to help with their operation. The pirates are armed with the Avtomat Kalashnikova Model 47, better known as the AK-47. This gas-operated 7.62 mm assault rifle is the most widely used rifle in the world, and is a weapon that fighters love for its legendary durability: it is able to fire whether it is covered in mud, filled with sand or water-logged. Despite this, the pirates seem to lack any formal training, and against the coordinated Blue Mermaid forces, are quickly defeated, allowing for the hostages to be rescued. The size of the manufacturing ship can be seen in this image; the Independence-class is only 127 metres in length and has a beam of 32 metres, suggesting that the plant ship is roughly six times longer and three times as wide.

  • With the Blue Mermaids successful in their part of the operation, the time has come for the high school students to step up and assist in the next phase of the operation: forcing the Sea Fort to stop with concerted fire. Mei is particularly excited to watch as the Yamato-class ships get to work, wishing they were closer to the killbox so they could see the fireworks for themselves. While lacking the more modern armaments and fire control systems of the Blue Mermaids’ Independence-class ships, the older-era battleships nonetheless possess a powerful advantage; each of the Yamato-class ships are equipped with nine 18.1-inch Type 94 guns, capable of delivering either a 1.46 metric ton AP shell or 1.36 metric ton HE shell out to a range of 42 kilometres. Moeka summarily orders the ships to stagger firing the guns in order to deliver a continuous barrage of accurate fire on their target without the air wake from each shot perturbing the trajectory of adjacent shots. This is a legitimate method to maximise accuracy. Because battleship guns could be fire independently, captains could get creative with how they chose to fire them, from full broadsides to alternating fire between the guns to sustain a continuous barrage: there are few sights more impressive than a battleship firing a full broadside.

  • Despite only firing for effect on their first salvo, Moeka’s firing solutions end up missing the Sea Fort by a small margin. Once the proper corrects are made, several shells from the second barrage find their target and impact the Sea Fort’s super-structure. In reality, the Yamato-class’ Type 94 guns were capable of reaching out 42 kilometres, but hitting distant targets from that range with any precision is difficulty: without a good firing solution, the massive 18.1 inch shells wouldn’t have done any good at all. It speaks to the importance of solid ballistics calculations and reconnaissance required for making these shots, as the Yamato-class ships make use of information relayed from an allied submarine to gauge the Sea Fort’s position. During the bombardment, the iconic Hai-Furi motif comes out swinging – Hai-Furi: The Movie might not do anything too novel with its soundtrack, but it remains a reasonably enjoyable listen, consisting of a total of nineteen tracks and one radio drama in a special features CD bundled with the home release.

  • While the Yamato-class battleships begin bombarding the Sea Fort with the aim of creating an opening in the hull for boarding teams to enter through, Akeno’s communication team picks up a faint radio signal. Before passing out, the pirate leader managed to alert the Sea Fort’s occupants about an attacking force, and so, the pirates on board the Sea Fort have a chance to prepare a counterattack. Moments later, the Sea Fort’s defense batteries begin firing on the White Dolphin vessels that have begun to get close. It turns out that in the Hai-Furi universe, there are indeed male naval forces as well.

  • As the White Dolphin teams begin reaching the Sea Fort’s superstructure in spite of the heavy fire, they discover that the opening created is tiny, a mere 14 metres across. The White Dolphin ships therefore have no way to safely enter. They are forced to stand down, and Mayuki realises that it now comes down to her high school students in order to make an attempt. With the Harekaze having a beam of 10.8 metres, it would fit into the opening, and there’s no time to decide on any alternative courses of action: the Sea Fort is now only six hours away from Japan, and it is imperative that it be stopped as soon as possible.

  • Moeka receives a daring proposal from the Harekaze’s crew: they’re to break through and breach the interior of the Sea Fort while the Mashiro and other Yamato-class are to provide supporting fire. Mashimo allows this course of action; besides seeing the determination the students exhibit, she acknowledges that hedging their bets on a daring operation from a crew with a known history of getting things done is a risk worth taking, since it would also minimise the potential casualties. While the internal layout of the Sea Fort is unknown, Sue volunteers to help out: she’s familiar with its workings. Time is running out for the joint fleet: the pirates demand the manufacturing ship be returned to them and their forces be withdrawn, or they will proceed to a populated area.

  • To swiftly transfer Sue from the Mashiro to the Harekaze, she takes a zip-line and is welcomed warmly with a croquette. With the board set, the pieces finally begin to move: the Yamato-class battleships begin shelling the Sea Fort anew to cover the White Dolphin’s retreat, and Moeka orders the Musashi to use special shells loaded with dye to help the Harekaze navigate: Akeno has no idea where the opening in the Sea Fort’s hull is, but since Moeka does, she is able to plot a trajectory that brings the Harekaze to its destination by relaying the coordinates to her gunners. Upon realising how the Musashi, Akeno directs the Harekaze through the path Moeka has indicated.

  • The Harekaze is just able to squeak through the opening, although one of its observation masts are totalled during the entry. Hiromi barely escapes its destruction, but the rest of the Harekaze is in operational shape, even the rice cooker. This is a callback to the TV series, where during bombardment, the rice cooker sustained heavy damage to its body, and while it might seem laughable to viewers, sailors on both civilian and military vessels alike consider the galley to be the heart of the ship. Crews interviewed for Mighty Ships, for instance, all comment on the importance of a good meal as being something crews look forwards to after a hard days’ work, and in Greyhound, Captain Krause’s attendant does his best to ensure Krause is topped off so he can carry out his duties effectively.

  • Inside the Sea Fort’s cavernous tunnels, the narrow passageway renders the Harekaze vulnerable to enemy fire. To defend the interior against enemies, the tunnels are lined with anti-ship guns, and when the Harekaze reaches an open area, the pirates open fire using batteries mounted high above the surface. The Harekaze’s weapons are not suited for engaging such a foe, and while having a few rockets or missiles would have made this trivially easy, the reality is that the Hai-Furi universe has completely dispensed with heavier-than-air flight. Instead, demonstrating her talents for quick thinking, Akeno orders a depth charge prepared. She has the crew lob a charge into the air, and subsequently uses an anti-air round from a Type 96 25 mm AT/AA Gun to push the depth charge towards the battery.

  • The girls are successful in neutralising the battery, and while one could make the case that an AA round could puncture and detonate a depth charge, the moment was intended to showcase Akeno’s ingenuity rather than the characteristics of a 25 mm round. By this point in time, improvising is second nature to her, and it is moments like these that demonstrate why she’s a capable captain. As such, whether or not something in Hai-Furi is “realistic” is a moot point: the aim here is to accommodate a story (i.e. by showing how creative Akeno is in her role as a captain). In Greyhound, Captain Krause was similarly forced to get creative when the Keeling runs low on depth charges, and while this film is considerably more realistic than Hai-Furi: The Movie, I find that both succeed in conveying their themes despite their dramatically different approaches.

  • Because they’re up against an unconventional foe, Mei becomes frustrated that she’s not able to use torpedoes in such an environment, while Rin reverts to her old propensity of crying mid-battle. The latter comes across as being incredibly adorable, and hearing Rin’s squeaky noises during the final battle put a smile on my face. Such moments stand in stark contrast with something like Greyhound, where a more serious atmosphere is not only expected, but appropriate. In my Greyhound post, I remarked that certain approaches towards the military-moé do not always serve one well, as they may set unreasonable expectations. However, whether or not I’ll get to learn more about the other side of the coin remains to be seen – discussions of Hai-Furi: The Movie are extremely limited at present, to the point where aside from a single forum post (which is where I read about gripes surrounding the obstacle course earlier in the movie), this post remains the only review and discussion about the film anywhere on the internet.

  • During the original Hai-Furi‘s run, I remember spending a nontrivial amount of time trying to convince people that it was highly improbable the unusual phenomenon was mind control and speculated that it was, instead, a virus (albeit with very unusual properties). However, I was met with considerable resistance from most viewers until the series outright confirmed that it was a viral infection. It was not until episode eight where I began seeing where Hai-Furi was going and therefore, began enjoying it to a greater extent. This time around, I had a much more peaceable experience with Hai-Furi: The Movie – the combination of having more tempered expectations going in, avoidance of spoilers and the nonexistent discussion surrounding the movie resulted in a particularly enjoyable watch, allowing me the breathing room to consider various parts of the movie at my own pace, as well as be surprised at events of the movie.

  • This was very relaxing, and admittedly, how I prefer to watch military-moé series – while I have no qualms with spirited discussions surrounding details in anime, it always bothers me that people always seem to get the most worked up about military-moé, to the point where they adamantly refuse to accept other perspectives, as well as failing to recall the fact that at the end of the day, anime is meant to entertain. As the Harekaze pushes through the Sea Fort’s tunnels, smaller guns begin firing on them, but the crew decide to listen for the report of the guns and inconsistencies in the sounds to determine their position in the tunnel, allowing the Harekaze’s 15 cm SK C/28 to make short work of them.

  • In Hai-Furi: The Movie, the Harekaze Akeno and her crew operate is not the same Harekaze from the TV series – the original sank after the finale ended, and the girls received a new vessel that Akeno dubs the Harekaze II during a pair of OVAs that released in 2017. I’ve opted to simply refer to the Harekaze II as the Harekaze for brevity’s sake in this post. Akeno is grateful for her crew’s ingenuity and creative thinking – together, they successfully push past the pirates’ defenses in the tunnel and eventually reach a large chamber. Sue notes that the Sea Fort’s main engines are located just beyond the chamber walls, and so, the time has come for the Harekaze to use the specialised 36-inch torpedo that the resupply team had provided them with. While Sango had envisioned Akeno making use of it in a creative way, the torpedo is ultimately used for a rather more mundane purpose in destroying a massive wall between the Harekaze and the main engines.

  • Too large to be deployed from a conventional launcher, the special torpedo is primed and launched from the Harekaze’s deck after Rin positions the ship so it faces the adjacent wall properly. Moments later, the torpedo is launched and streaks towards its target, its payload primed to do some serious damage: the resulting explosion is gargantuan, but even then, it only punches a moderately-sized hole in the walls. The Sea Fort is portrayed as being uncommonly tough: direct hits from the Yamato-class’ 18.1 inch shells deal little damage to the exterior, and even a torpedo with a thousand-kilogram warhead only manages to knock a hole in its armour. I imagine that, were it the case that Mayuki and the others had access to the proper tools, with the aim of outright flattening the Sea Fort, they would need at least a handful of Charon-class frigates and their Mark II MACs, which accelerate a 600-tonne ferric-titanium slug to 30 km/s, each capable of imparting upwards of 65 kilotons of energy per shot.

  • Of course, MACs might be overkill, and back in Hai-Furi: The Movie, once the smoke from the torpedo clears, the Sea Fort’s main reactor is visible. This frame gives a sense of the scale inside the Sea Fort, and Akeno initially attempts to use the Harekaze’s 5-inch battery to hit the target, but is unsuccessful on account of the reactor being blocked by support columns. The Harekaze lacks the weaponry to reliably hit their target: a shot from the main battery misses and impacts the surface, and the large columns block follow-up shots. Even Sue is unaware of the layout here, accentuating the mysterious origins and constructions of the Sea Fort.

  • It becomes clear that the girls will need some other means of delivering their ordinance to its target. In such a tight environment, stand-off weapons are not viable, and typically, special forces or combat engineers would be recommended to get close enough to carry out demolitions. However, the Harekaze does not have the time to deploy a team. After Kouko and Mashiro share an exchange that feels as though they came straight from the former’s favourite films, when Mashiro snaps from the seeming, Akeno devises a means to complete their assignment after Rin wishes they had something like a wire-guided torpedo.

  • Witha plan in mind, Akeno asks Kouko to summon Minami to the bridge. After requisitioning Minami’s hoverboard in a rather forceful manner, Minami is initially reluctant to give up a device that has been very dear to her, but upon hearing Akeno’s plan, she comes around and converts it into a makeshift remote vehicle for delivering explosives to the target. The hoverboard is wired to a steering mechanism that allows a controller to remotely move the vehicle with a high degree of precision and detonate the explosives.

  • Closeups of the improvised delivery vehicle brings to mind the sort of builds that were seen in the Mythbusters day: in order to test certain myths, very specific devices needed to be constructed. The original Mythbusters finished airing in 2016, and a part of the myths they tested included iconic scenes from movies, including James Bond, Star Wars, the Jason Borne series and various others – while some things can be reliably reproduced in reality, others were relegated to the realm of fiction. Events from something like Hai-Furi would be worth trying out, although I note that since anime typically abandon physics for spectacle, I imagine a great many things seen in Hai-Furi, and even Girls und Panzer, would be busted.

  • On the topic of myth-busting, I might return at some point to revisit the different assertions about Hai-Furi and see if some claims (especially those of Myssa Rei’s) hold any water at all. Such a post could be quite fun to write, and I’ll see if I am able to do so in the future. Back in Hai-Furi: The Movie, Rin is chosen to operate the vehicle, and she is initially confident about operating it, since she’s in no physical danger. However, getting the vehicle to go precisely where she wants it to proves tricky, and it takes her a few tries in order to line the device up with the reactor entrance access.

  • Akeno’s asked the engine room to remain on standby: as soon as detonation occurs, the reactor hall collapses, and it’s time to beat a hasty exit. On the outside, the Musashi and other ships confirm that the Sea Fort has been immobilised, so the only thing left on the table now is for the Harekaze to escape before the Sea Fort collapses. Debris from the facility blocks the exit, and with the delay in the Yamato-classes’ main batteries leaving the Harekaze little choice, Mashiro decides to attempt and clear the blockage out herself. The official Hai-Furi Twitter channel showcased these final moments of the film shortly after the BD’s release, and I am glad to have held back on watching them, since it would have spoiled the final moments of Hai-Furi: The Movie, even if I did not have any context as to what as going on.

  • Mashiro’s decision to handle things herself probably stem from Akeno’s influence on her, while Akeno remaining calm under pressure and continuing to command the Harekaze shows she’s matured, as well. Using the personal jet skis, Mashiro manoeuvres a depth charge towards the rubble blocking the exit, and bails out before leaving the jet ski-depth charge to detonate, clearing a path for the Harekaze. Mashiro uses a personal safety device to keep herself from harm and is recovered by the deck crews. With the blockage cleared, the Harekaze sails triumphantly back into the morning skies to rejoin their compatriots, having successfully stopped the Sea Fort and coming back in one piece.

  • The ending to Hai-Furi: The Movie was immensely satisfying, and was well-worth the ten month wait for it – this film brings back the things that Hai-Furi did well during its televised run in 2016 (specifically, creating gripping combat sequences and having a fun cast of characters), adding a plausible narrative and appropriate stakes in conjunction with satisfactory world-building to create a superb experience that indicates that, in the presence of good writing, the Hai-Furi universe is like Strike Witches in that it can sustain an excellent set of stories that are worth exploring.  Hai-Furi might not be as iconic as Girls und Panzer or Strike Witches, but through its film, the series has demonstrated that it is a very strong military-moé series that can stand beside giants in terms of enjoyability and impact.

  • Here, I also remark that I was most relieved to learn that Anime News Network did not end up writing about Hai-Furi: The Movie during its theatrical run back in January and early February. I’ve found most of their previous reviews on slice-of-life and military-moé genres to be misleading and unfair representations of the work they are about. Because a majority of Anime News Network’s writers lack understanding of fundamental life lessons that most anime have as their themes, their focus seems to be on nitpicking inconsequential minutiae or griping about how a work does not deal enough with current trends in identity politics. There was a very real possibility that any review Anime News Network had on Hai-Furi: The Movie would’ve been intended to discourage viewers from checking it out, as well as push the narrative that a functional background in sociology and a specific stance on identity politics would be required to get the most of this movie (which is, of course, untrue).

  • Fortunately, that never materialised – ten months after its theatrical première, Anime News Network does not have any sort of talk about Hai-Furi: The Movie. This leaves me to have the internet’s first review of the film out, and that means that I get to open the discussion by saying that this movie was a fun ride, worthwhile for fans of Hai-Furi – the film improves upon everything seen within the televised series without deviating from the core premises. Consequently, I have no trouble with issuing this film with a well-deserved A grade (4.0 of 4.0, or 9.0 of 10); there are a lot of positives about Hai-Furi: The Movie. Besides keeping me engaged during its runtime, none of the issues allegedly affecting the theatrical version were visible: A-1 Pictures did an excellent job with the visuals, producing a detailed and well-animated work.

  • Under a swift sunrise, surrounded by smiling classmates, Mashiro realises that her choice is obvious: becoming a captain would be to realise a long-standing dream and walk the path to becoming a Blue Mermaid, but with the experiences in Hai-Furi: The Movie, Mashiro realises that there’s still more she has to learn. Akeno’s ability to listen to her subordinates’ suggestions, craft innovative solutions for problems outside of what her toolset allows her to do and a willingness to do what it takes to get the job done are unique talents that Mashiro hopes to also pick up. Consequently, seeing Akeno leading the Harekaze convinces Mashiro that while she could theoretically be a good captain, continuing to work alongside Akeno will allow her to be confident in becoming a good captain down the line.

  • This brings my talk on Hai-Furi: The Movie to a close: it’s one of the larger posts I’ve written in a while, but despite its length, I certainly had fun writing about (and watching) this movie. Now that Hai-Furi: The Movie is in the books, I will be returning to scheduled programming around these parts, resuming with the second post to a special series for the blogging community I’m a part of. This time around, I feel no melancholy despite coming off the energy that is Hai-Furi: The Movie – Road to Berlin has proven remarkable in its own right, giving me a chance to research and explore World War Two materials to ensure my posts are fun for readers. Finally, I also have some excellent news from 343 Industries: Halo 4 will be joining The Master Chief Collection on November 17, finishing off things off and bringing a year-long journey through Halo to a strong close. I am very excited about Halo 4‘s campaign and will be writing about that once I’ve completed it.

Overall, Hai-Furi: The Movie is a solid film that incorporates the elements that made the TV series enjoyable and learnings from what had made the TV series less appealing. The end result is a compelling movie that strikes a fine balance between everyday life as a student of Yokosuka Girls’ Marine High School and the perils that the girls find themselves in as a result of events unfolding in a specific manner. In spite of these perils, viewers can be confident that Akeno and Mashiro are capable of handling things, along with their reliable (if somewhat excitable) classmates. Together with A-1 Pictures’ high production values, Hai-Furi: The Movie looks and sounds excellent, being a straight upgrade over its predecessor; the end product is a visual and aural spectacle worthy of the silver screen. Combat occurs at a much larger scale than anything in the TV series, and the artwork and animation are of a generally superior quality. Taken together, Hai-Furi: The Movie is a film that is well-worth watching for folks who’ve seen Hai-Furi‘s TV series; the film is an excellent continuation that addresses the faults and inconsistencies in the original to demonstrate that as a whole, the premise and characters of Hai-Furi can work. Folks who enjoyed and did not enjoy the original Hai-Furi series alike will find that in Hai-Furi: The Movie, a more solid story and improved world-building is present, providing a much more comprehensive and satisfying experience all around. While this film may have required a ten-month wait from its theatrical première to its home release, it would appear that said wait was worth it: rumours abound that when the film hit theatres back in January, it was supposedly in an unfinished state, but having now seen the film for myself, there isn’t anything that looks glaringly incomplete. Assuming the rumours to hold true, folks who watch the home release version will have therefore been able to get the best possible experience, and with this experience, the implications are positive: that Hai-Furi‘s premise and characters are more than sufficiently well-written as to accommodate future adventures if there is demand for it. Personally, I would not object to more Hai-Furi, especially having now seen what is possible in a world that still remains very much unexplored.

4 responses to “High School Fleet: The Movie- An Anime Film Review, Reflection and Full Recommendation

  1. Pingback: Review - film Haifuri (High School Fleet) - Les Confins du Monde

  2. Plymouth Pinoy December 13, 2020 at 16:57

    Thank you for a great post about Hai-Furi the Movie. I enjoyed it very much as well.

    I believe there are a number of clues that point to Sue’s nationality being Filipino:

    1. Her real name, as stated in your post is “Susan Reyes”, which is a very plausible name for a Filipino.
    2. Her skill is “Palo Sebo” (bamboo climbing) which is a popular game during fiestas in the Philippines.
    3. Her favorite words “If someone throws stones at you, throw back bread” is a translation of a Tagalog saying, “Kapag binato ka ng bato, batuhin mo ng tinapay.”
    4. Her birthday is June 12, which is Independence Day in the Philippines.
    All of the above is from her character page on the official website.
    5. There are over a thousand Filipinos working in (real-life) Yokosuka. Her Papa is probably one of them.

    The four Yamato-class battleships in the film are the Yamato, Musashi, Shinano and the Kii. In actual history, only two Yamato-class battleships were commissioned (IJN Yamato and IJN Musashi). The IJN Shinano was originally laid down as a Yamato-class battleship, but her partially completed hull was converted to an aircraft carrier. The Shinano was sunk by the submarine USS Archerfish on 28 November 1944, just 10 days after commissioning, while sailing from Yokosuka to Kure.

    A fourth Yamato class battleship was being constructed but was broken up before being named. Known as Warship 111, some sources have assigned it the name Kii, after Kii Province.

    Like

    • infinitezenith December 16, 2020 at 21:22

      I appreciate the insights. I had an inkling that Sue was from the Philippines: a lot of folks I know from there are friendly and quick to strike up a conversation, just like Sue is. The point of having her come from abroad was probably a narrative decision intended to really give the sense that the Blue Mermaids are dealing with things from beyond Japan’s boarders, as well.

      As for the different Yamato class, their shine time in the film was primarily in shelling the sea fort, and I feel that they definitely could’ve had a larger role, considering the amount of promotion they got early on!

      Like

  3. Pingback: Jon’s Creator Showcase December 2020 – Submission Round Up – Two Happy Cats

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