High School Fleet
by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 12 of
High School Fleet ?
Did anyone expect High School Fleet to do anything besides go out with guns blazing? It's the end of the season, so of course this show is going to make room for one last big battle. With the Musashi on course to wreak all kinds of havoc in the harbor, the Harekaze makes a last-ditch effort to slow the big battleship down. The attack doesn't stop the Musashi, but it does buy enough time for help to arrive. The Admiral Spee and a handful of other school ships make their big entrance, evening the odds and allowing the Harekaze's crew to board the Musashi. As the battle comes to an end, Akeno finally reunites with Moka. With the crisis finally over and the girls back on dry land, the badly damaged Harekaze sinks to the bottom of the harbor.
Last week's episode devoted a lot of effort to building anticipation for this last big action sequence, and the good news is that High School Fleet is able to deliver on its promises here. Everything about the battle with the Musashi feels like it's been turned up a notch higher than usual. The extra ships give the scene a feeling of increased scale, and having the Harekaze's crew scramble to deal with damage to the ship lends some extra intensity to the action. The animation and visual direction also step things up a bit, delivering what may be the best-looking action scene of the series. It feels like the show is throwing everything it has at this last episode, and the results are certainly exciting to watch.
As far as the plot goes, this episode checks all the usual boxes for a season finale. We get the heroic charge into harm's way with everyone doing their best, the last-minute assistance from the supporting cast, and the tearful reunion between the heroine and her best friend. While High School Fleet is definitely doing things by the book, it's doing them well. The characters are able to add just enough personality to the mix to keep things entertaining, and the episode moves from one plot point to the next at a brisk, smooth pace. Emotional high points like Mina's return to action and Akeno's run up to the Musashi's bridge are used to good effect, providing a personal side to the action without feeling too cheesy or overplayed. Following a well-established formula can be a good thing as long as the execution is solid, and High School Fleet manages to do just that.
If there's one point where the show deviates from the usual “good guys win” script, it's right at the end, as the girls watch their ship sink after making it back to the harbor. It's not a completely unreasonable thing to have happened (they did ram a humongous battleship after all), but it does seem to come out of nowhere narratively. If the Harekaze had to sink at some point, I would've expected it to happen as part of the plan to board the Musashi, with the characters making a dramatic leap from one ship to the other. While this feels like a less natural way to do things, it is at least effective in providing a poignant end to the series. I suppose you could interpret it as the Harekaze going to rest after finishing its mission, though someone's going to have a heck of a time clearing that shipwreck out of the harbor.
Even with a somewhat unconventional final scene, this episode makes for a strong end to the series. It does everything it needs to do, and it gives High School Fleet a chance to play to its strengths. The characters add drama and levity to the action where appropriate, and the story holds together reasonably well. For a show that stakes its fortune on anime girls blowing things up with a big ship, I'd call that a win.
High School Fleet has been a little too inconsistent to work for a broad audience, and its attempt to tell a serious story within the “girls with big guns” niche has sometimes been at odds with its need to be cute and entertaining. As a genre series, however, I think it's been pretty successful. It has a nerdy charm along the same lines as its landlubber cousin Girls und Panzer, and its eye for detail has produced some very enjoyable action scenes. Ending on a strong note always helps, and the show's world is big enough to make room for some kind of sequel down the road.
Paul Jensen is a freelance writer and editor. You can follow more of his anime-related ramblings on Twitter.
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