“When the common soldiers are too strong and their officers too weak, the result is insubordination. When the officers are too strong and the common soldiers too weak, the result is collapse.” —Sun Tzu
Spring 2016’s High School Fleet! (Hai-Furi for brevity) was on my watchlist initially owing to the concept of exploring life in a world where dramatic tectonic activity submerged large portions of the world, leading humanity to create ocean-borne cities and a defense task force known as the Blue Mermaids to defend these installations. Akeno Misaki is an aspiring Blue Mermaid, and was assigned to be the captain for the destroyer Harekaze, a Kagerō-class destroyer (as per the official documentation, although historically, none of the Kagerō-class destroyers were named Harekaze). However, the vessel suffers from engine difficulties en route to the girls’ first class, and as a result, they are shelled by the Sarushima, an instructor vessel. After their attempts to communicate fail, the Harekaze is forced to launch a training torpedo and retreat, resulting in the Hazukaze being reported as having mutinied. For an anime whose promotional materials and first act presented the air of a series where naval warfare would be secondary to interpersonal interactions, Hai-Furi surprises viewers when the stakes are elevated with the girls’ instructors firing live ammunition at them for seemingly being late in the first episode. Thus, viewers immediately get the sense that Hai-Furi will be more serious than initial impressions, and with Girls und Panzer’s technical advisor and scriptwriter, Suzuki Takaaki and Yoshida Reiko, respectively, as staff, it’s apparent that Hai-Furi is likely to feature a substantial technical component. Without the safety features present in Girls und Panzer, the naval aspects of Hai-Furi imply that death could be a real factor, leaving characters to confront the realities associated with naval warfare.
Because attempting to determine Hai-Furi’s central thematic element one episode in would be considered folly by all individuals with the slightest familiarity with literary discussion, this first-episode talk will deal primarily with the projected consequences of Akeno’s actions and its implications on what subsequent episodes will deal with. While audiences will immediately be aware that Akeno issued the order on the basis of self-defence and moreover, opted to use a nonlethal approach, they are immediately aware that her actions are appropriate. However, their instructor has reported this as an instance of the naval equivalent of fragging (a term coined during the Vietnam War, referring to the deliberate or attempted killing of a fellow solider, such as a superior officer), and Command has branded the Harekaze as traitors. Following military process, the offenders can expect to be court-martialled, and as such, someone will need to bring them in. In Hai-Furi, it is not difficult to imagine that Akeno’s friend, Moeka China (captain of the Musashi), will be tasked with handling the Harekaze. Only armed with one episode’s of knowledge, it is not unreasonable to speculate that the next few episodes will deal with the Harekaze’s crew learning more about how to operate their vessel under Akeno’s command and in the process, grow closer together. This could set up for a final confrontation against the Musashi. While such a turn of events is plausible, the blue-on-blue would serve to undermine the Blue Mermaid’s mission statement (to serve and protect). Thus, after one episode, my curiosity is definitely elevated, and it will be quite interesting to see what directions Hai-Furi takes, as well as whether or not there are any surprises in store for audiences as the anime progresses.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Hai-Furi is an anime where the old co-exist with the new, and here, Akeno rides a jet-ski to her first day of classes under skies of deep blue. While I found the texture and lighting detail somewhat on the low end, especially with respect to water details, Hai-Furi is generally quite smooth with respect to animation and the incorporation of CG with hand-drawn elements is reasonably-handled.
- Akeno and Mashiro meet for the first time after the two collide, and Mashiro slips on a banana peel, falling into the water. Complaints have been levelled at this seen for being extraneous, and while I’ve not seen the banana peel joke in anime with any frequency such that I can recall an example off the top of my head, the Mythbusters have shown that banana peels are not guaranteed to cause people to slip even if they can be slippery on a smooth surface (and the concrete pier, assuming it has the same coefficient of friction as concrete in reality, is presumably not smooth).
- As one of the more surprising anime of the Spring 2016 season, there’s been no shortage of discussion about Hai-furi elsewhere, and one of the points that I will immediately note is the universal discrepancy in Akeno’s ship’s name. Spellings of the name give it as either Harukaze or Harekaze; there is a large difference, as the former is given as 春風 (lit. “Spring Wind”) and the latter would equate to 晴風 (lit. “Sunny wind”) in English. The official documentation gives 晴風, so Harekaze is what I’ll stick with.
- Official documentation states that the Harekaze is part of the Kagerō-class destroyers, although no Harekaze was ever documented as a Kagerō-class (the Harekaze-class was commissioned after World War Two). The Kagerō-class consisted of nineteen destroyers that were built in the 1930s as improvements to the Asashio class. Sporting six 5-inch guns and eight torpedo tubes, the destroyers had a maximum surface speed of 35.5 knots (roughly 65km/h). During the course of the Second World War, eighteen of the nineteen Kagerō-class destroyers were lost in combat.
- Akeno and Moeka share a moment together after the entrance ceremony, and it turns out that Mocha’s been made captain of the Musashi, the Yamato’s sister ship that was sunk during the Battle of Layte Gulf in October 1944. There is a noticeable absence of aircraft carriers in Hai-Furi, which feels illogical considering the sort of utility aircraft carriers can play in contemporary warfare. Having what are essentially ocean-borne landing strips would be a supremely useful utility in a world where landmass has been submerged, so the lack of carriers is puzzling.
- Such a screenshot typifies the sort of atmosphere one could reasonably expect from Hai-Furi, although it’s a poorly kept secret that Hai-Furi is anything but conventional. Given that Hai-Furi is looking to visit a route more at home in a Tom Clancy novel, the expectations are that there will be a particular focus on naval tactics of the WWII-era, given that aircraft carriers have been absent so far.
- My indolent propensities means that rather than counting all of the people in this image, I applied a computer visions technique to count the characters in this screenshot, yielding thirty-one characters. Like Girls und Panzer, there are a lot of characters to remember, but Hai-Furi gives no clear indicator of who’s who just yet. It is possible that the anime could take a Girls und Panzer approach and make each and every individual memorable by means of a defining characteristic (although admittedly, I still don’t know the names of all the Girls und Panzer characters from memory at present).
- Here, Akeno asks her instructor as to whether or not she’s truly qualified of being a captain, to which the latter responds that it is satisfactory to follow whatever vision that Akeno’s got for what an ideal captain is like. Akeno’s reply mirrors Sun Tzu’s definition of a good commander: one who treats their subordinates as family, rewarding them and disciplining them as appropriate to ensure good cohesion.
- Mashiro was stated to have top-tier grades and is the deputy captain of the Harekaze, greatly resembling Strike Witches The Movie‘s Shizuka Hattori in manner and appearance (although Mashiro’s look of disgust here is legendary). Shizuka was bemoaned for being an uninteresting character, but I completely digress with that assessment: she was present to illustrate how Yoshika’s background as a civilian led her to carry out actions that, while in direct violation of military protocol, nonetheless contributed to the 501st’s successes.
- I’ll be watching Hai-Furi to see just how faithfully the anime reproduces battleship doctrine: prior to the aircraft carrier’s success in WWII, battleships were meant to project power. Such vessels are typified by large calibre guns and heavy armour, travelling in a battlegroup where escort ships would serve to act as reconnaissance units to locate the enemy. Once an enemy was found, the battleship would engage the enemy’s vessels and battleships in combat.
- As a psychological weapon, battleships were only really effective up until the Battle of Midway, where it was shown that aircraft carriers, with their ability to project over-the-horizon force, would be the new capital ship during the remainder of and following World War Two. For me, the one engagement that illustrated the battleship’s obsolescence was during Operation Ten-Go: in April 1945, the Yamato, Japan’s mightiest battleship, was sunk by sustained attack from carrier-launched bombers and torpedo aircraft rather than another battleship.
- While Mashiro gripes about her bad luck, I’m going to do a quick detour and shoot down a theory that erroneously states that a love triangle is brewing in Hai-Furi. For that, we look no further than Girls und Panzer, where the cast developed an iron-clad friendship with one another that remains quite far removed from yuri; given that Suzuki Takaaki and Yoshida Reiko are on board, the probability that a love triangle and dispute arising over such a love triangle will materialise in Hai-Furi is infinitesimally small (but, non-zero, since the manga may go down this route).
- Seemingly for their tardiness, one of the instructors opens fire on the Harekaze without provocation, leading Akeno to order the Harekaze to take evasive maneuvers while attempting to communicate with their instructor. In the post mentioned above, I further remark that none of Mike, Moka or Shiro (and their English equivalents, “Spot”, “Mocha” and “White”) fall into the top hundred most popular names for cats in either English or more common Japanese cat names.
- Mashiro attempts to stop the bombardment via negotiations, although the lack of a response from their instructor, plus the different aura the instructor is projecting, give the impression that something else is amiss. Whatever this is will likely be left as something to be answered in an upcoming episode. Continuing from the previous bullet, I counter-argue that the the girls’ nicknames are not likely to be intentionally inspired by popular names for cats, and that even if this held true, it would have no correlation with the purported love triangle that is almost never to become a part of the main narrative in Hai-Furi. So, the names are unlikely to have any relevance on the overall narrative, and it’s prudent to dispel such notions before they become widely accepted (again, unless the manga does otherwise, in which case, I will eat my hat).
- The near-misses from the Sarushima only manage to jostle around the Harekaze, but some of the crew sustain minor injuries, and in the galley, the rice cooker sustains some superficial damage: although the mood is decidedly more serious at this point, the inclusion of such a moment may be to rein in the atmosphere somewhat by injecting some humour into the mix. Fortunately, it appears that only the surface is dented, and provided the cooker’s hull is not compromised, it will continue to function.
- A live round misses the Harekaze by a narrow margin, and the girls speculate that the vessel firing on them, the Sarushima, is shooting to kill. An Independence-class littoral combat vessel (of the same type seen in Battlefield 4‘s Suez mission), ships of this class have a maximum speed of 44 knots (roughly 81 km/h) and are intended to patrol the littoral zone and is typically outfitted with a Bofors 57 mm gun. In Hai-Furi, however, they are inconsistently depicted as a consequence of shortfalls in animation. During its engagement with the Harekaze, the Sarushima is shown with the Mark 45, a five-inch gun with a firing rate of 20 RPM against the Bofors’ 200 RPM.
- Concluding that the Harekaze needs to buy some time to continue radioing in to stop the bombardment, Akeno gives the order to fire an exercise torpedo at the Sarushima. Her decisiveness and resolve, in spite of a seemingly easy-going and klutzy aspects, is a familiar combination: right before the bombardment begins, she’s seen feeding Isoroku, a cat whose manner resembles that of Garfield and whose namesake was an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy.
- I’ve heard discussion stating that it’s impossible for a training torpedo, lacking a warhead, to punch through an Independence-class’ hull and cause said vessel to list on account lacking the kinetic energy to do so, suggesting the damage might be staged. The Independence-class is stated to have a lightweight aluminium construction of reduced durability in reality, but without confirmation of the exact numbers, computing whether or not the Sarushima could have sustained such damage in a quantitative manner is an exercise in futility.
- In the engine room, the staff there begin stripping down as temperatures rise, so I’ve captured that moment here to fulfill my fanservice quota. On a more serious note, I am well aware of the fact that military-moé anime tend to draw a clientèle who are rather quick to point out the most minor of errors in all manner of discussions. I respect adherence to factual accuracy (in part accounting for why this post took forever to write), but nonetheless, I am still human and therefore, susceptible to error. As such, I appreciate those who take the time to point out the errors in my writing and will fix them on short order, but also remark that etiquette should not be forgotten.
- Girls und Panzer illustrated a shot of Ooarai’s vast 7.6 kilometer-long carrier near the first episode’s closing, and Hai-Furi seems to be following in its stead; this here screenshot and the following moments illustrate the dramatic extent rising sea levels have had on civilisation, to the extent where vast floating cities have been constructed. Now that this beast of a first episode review is done (totalling 2573 words), I’ll be resuming regular programming shortly. At present, I’m wondering whether or not I should write about She and Her Cat: Everything Flows or the second Aria The Avvenire OVA first.
Introducing a narrative element into Hai-Furi that completely defies expectations was a risky manoeuver on Hai-Furi’s part, but by and large, it has definitely succeeded in capturing the audience’s interest: discussions and speculations have taken off, exploring an incredibly vast range of possibilities. One element stands out: insofar, there have been no complaints that Akeno bears a direct resemblance to Girls und Panzer’s Miho Nishizumi and Strike Witches’ Yoshika Miyafuji: in fact, Akeno has been praised for being a decisive, strategic-thinking commander whose desire to work well with others and protect the seas adds additional weight to her character. This reception is likely fuelled by the fact that Akeno’s character is a familiar and comforting one, especially in the face of adversity of this calibre; audiences have a stronger reassurance that Akeno will be able to find some way of extricating the Harekaze from their current situation because if she resembles Miho and Yoshika, then she’ll likely have a few aces to play. This is why the generic protagonist is not necessarily a detractor from an anime, and with this in mind, Hai-Furi has definitely surprised and impressed most viewers, myself included. This is a series that could be worth writing about on an episodic basis, and whether or not this becomes a reality will largely be determined by whether or not the next episode continues to deliver, as well as whether or not there is sufficient reader interest (i.e. comments from readers that result in interesting discussion).