Alternative titles: Hai-Furi
Anime original by Production IMS
Streaming on Funimation
A far too large group of hopelessly inexperienced and under-qualified girls go straight floating on a boat on the deep blue sea.
Aqua’s verdict: Girls und Boten
Aw shit, get your towels ready, it’s about to go down. Everybody in the place, hit the fucking deck, it’s time for yet another show about boats. And because girls being boats is so 2015, we’re back to girls just sailing boats. Without any qualifications, apparently. High School Fleet is set in a bizarre world where, upon enrolling in boat school, all students immediately get sent out to the open sea, left to fend for themselves. This being the anime it is, the biggest airhead of the bunch naturally gets to wear the captain’s hat, despite having no qualifications whatsoever, and before you can ponder the failings of this post-apocalyptic Japan’s department of education, Mike and her shipmates are tossing around technobabble like the best of them. Something tells me they didn’t exactly think this one through.
You see, if High School Fleet were actually about a bunch of marine school graduates being assigned to the same ship in wartime and having to learn how to work together as a team, it might have actually been interesting. Unfortunately, as such a premise would not feature high school girls being insufferably nice to each other in any capacity, what we’re left with is a slapdash potpourri of boring clichés and poorly executed attempts to make High School Fleet look like far more than it actually is. And what it actually is, is Girls und Panzer with boats. Or rather something that tries to be Girls und Panzer with boats without realizing that Girls und Panzer worked because it played on the sheer ridiculousness of combining two things that shouldn’t work together in any possible situation, in stead shamelessly ripping off the formula to cash in on occidental nerd-dom’s newfound inexplicable obsession with gunboats and all the wonderfully boring technical details associated with them. Thanks, Kantai Collection.
Yes, if there is anything I hate more than military technobabble, it’s military technobabble being spouted by indistinguishable cardboard cutouts. When I look at ensemble slice-of-life shows like High School Fleet, I can’t help but think what the point of it all is. Why bother making up such an elaborate setting when you staunchly refuse to have it be relevant in the show proper in any meaningful way? Why fill up your cast with over two dozen interchangeable cuties who can count themselves amongst the luckiest if they get a single identifiable character trait? Is there any fan out there waiting to add Blonde Deck Hand With Pigtails to his harem of waifus, or draw doujinshi of her making out with Boatswain Wearing Pink Jumper? And is there actually anyone out there who’d willingly ditch Kantai Collection in favour of this?
High School Fleet constantly stumbles over itself as it tries to answer these questions and figure out what it is, and unsurprisingly ends up being nothing at all. The setting is just… there, the jokes are non-existent, the characters far from endearing enough to justify its complete lack of plot, and any excitement that may stem from the mutiny subplot stunted by High School Fleet‘s unwavering dedication to having its heroines act as generically cute as humanly possible. People who enjoy the simple pleasure of seeing cute girls do any given activity in a familiarly cute way probably won’t mind High School Fleet in the slightest, yet those demanding a bit more meat on their relaxing sweetness are better off giving Flying Witch a go, while those passionate about boats will… Well, no one’s really passionate about boats, no?