As a result of tectonic shifting, most of Japan sunk into the ocean. Over the century since then, cities along the coast and even on floating platforms have begun to emerge. As Japan became more and more oceanic, an all-female group of – effectively – coastguards was established known as the Blue Mermaids. The Blue Mermaids protect Japan’s watery territory, and as a result of their prosperity, most young women aspire to one day be a member of their elite ranks.
Included in such are our protagonist Akeno Misaki and her dearest friend Moeka China. They enroll in Yokosuka Girls’ Marine High School to join the Blue Mermaids. To their surprise, Akeno and Moeka are both made captains of their own respective vessels in the training fleet. What starts off as a routine marine training trip for the school fleet quickly goes awry as the Harekaze, Akeno’s ship, is late getting to the rendezvous point and suddenly her teacher’s ship fires upon her…
The show primarily follows Akeno and her crew in the events that follow that inexplicable attack. Of course, that is not the only strange thing to happen on their journey. The show has 2 parallel story arcs, which intertwine and are dependent upon one another, but are still separate. The first of which is definitely the most prominent as it was the primary motivation for the Harekaze’s journey. This story is pretty simple on its own, and essentially provides a stage for the girls on the ship to grow.
For the most part, we’re dealing with pretty standard slice of life fare. The girls have a washing day, hold a festival, and so on. The other half of the show is woefully unexplored, and goes into a darker, more mysterious space. It is so truly unfortunate that they chose not to explore the mysteries of that arc, but perhaps that is intended to be the tease for a future arc. I will say that it was very clever the way they intertwined the two stories, making them reliant upon each other but building separately.
The characters start off very one-dimensional, but over time they do experience some noticeable growth and development. As is always the norm, our protagonist shows the greatest growth, with the other characters often getting left behind, so to speak. The one impressive thing I want to point out is that you do, gradually, get to come to know most of this show’s rather large cast. All too frequently, even major characters can get lost in the shuffle in anime with large casts, but High School Fleet does avoid that to a degree. If the characters were stronger, this would be a great boon for it. Fortunately, the show doesn’t ask much of its cast and relies more on the naval battles and silly humour to keep things moving.
Best of all, the naval battles are actually quite interesting and, thankfully, fairly frequent. You get a lot of little battles and skirmishes between the various ships. I won’t try to claim it’s factually accurate, but it’s still a lot of fun to watch. And it is during these scenes that you actually get to see the characters in their element. Each of the characters have a role to play in the ship, and you get to see the interactions between the different areas in a simple, yet intriguing way. It reminds me a bit of a slightly toned down version of Arpeggio of Blue Steel in that regard.
The show’s art direction is pretty standard, although there are some rather gorgeous vistas to be seen among some of the show’s scenes. The ocean is always a beautiful subject, so I always love when shows do it justice. Additionally, the show’s soundtrack is fantastic. The music always keeps the mood right, and the opening song ‘High Free Spirits’ by Trysail is one of my favourite songs of the season. Now, that may not sound like it’s saying much, but this season has been amazing for music, so that really is high praise.
Overall, I have mixed opinions here. I am very disappointed that so little time was focused on the more interesting underlying mystery of the show… I have so many unanswered questions, and it’s hard to feel satisfied with the outcome given those questions. But, at the same time, it was an entertaining slice of life anime with a good dose of naval warfare and that’s a combination that is rare enough to make High School Fleet stand out to me. It is certainly nowhere near as good as Arpeggio of Blue Steel was, but at the same time it is incomparably better than the KanColle anime. Just on the good side of mediocrity is where this show lives.