High School Fleet
by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 7 of
High School Fleet ?
When it rains, it pours. Or, in the case of this episode of High School Fleet, it dumps torrential rain and a thunderstorm on your head without warning. The Harekaze has plenty of its own problems to deal with as it continues to pursue the Musashi, but a trip into stormy waters makes things worse by conjuring up some bad memories for Akeno. There's not much time to dwell on the past though, as a civilian ship runs into trouble and asks the Harekaze to help them evacuate. Mashiro heads over to the stricken ship with the rescue team, leaving Akeno to face the unpleasant prospect of waiting on the Harekaze's bridge while her crew takes on a dangerous situation without her.
The rescue mission adds a little variety to the series by offering us something besides big ships lobbing shells and torpedoes at one another. Even if it's just a minor change to the usual formula, it helps alleviate the feeling of “been there, done that” that often creeps into shows halfway through the season. Characters get to step outside of their usual roles, which allows us to see sides of their personalities that have gone unnoticed otherwise. The one major downside is that the animation just kind of cruises along without any big action scenes to show off. For whatever this episode may lack in terms of explosive impact, it makes up for it by freshening things up with a detour from the main storyline.
As an attempt at character development, Akeno's freakout during the storm is probably more dramatic than it needs to be. It's good for a main character to have a few weaknesses, but she doesn't necessarily have to scream her head off every time she sees a little lightning. At least the show takes advantage of the opportunity to delve into Akeno's backstory a little further. We now have some extra insight into why she wants to join the Blue Mermaids, along with a better explanation for her habit of charging headlong into the fray whenever someone on her crew is in danger.
That extra context is immediately put to use as Akeno and Mashiro reverse their usual roles during the rescue mission. Now that we know why Akeno has that “must save everyone immediately” instinct, we can understand just how much she hates standing around on the bridge when the rescue team loses track of Mashiro. On the other end of the exchange, facing the dangers of the sinking ship allows Mashiro to acknowledge that Akeno is pretty brave to willingly put herself in similar situations. Even if it's clear from the beginning that nobody's going to get seriously hurt, there's still some dramatic tension to be found in this episode because the characters themselves are emotionally invested in the outcome. If you can't sell the idea of the cast being in physical danger, the next best thing is to have the plot tie in to their personal fears and ambitions.
As far as High School Fleet's story is concerned, this is a relatively self-contained episode with very few long-term consequences. It's much more successful as a temporary break from the show's normal routine and an opportunity to develop the relationship between two of the main characters. The rescue mission presses all of the right emotional buttons, and it looks like Akeno and Mashiro may finally understand each other well enough to work together. With all that taken care of, the series should be all set to jump back into the search for the Musashi next week.
Paul Jensen is a freelance writer and editor. You can follow more of his anime-related ramblings on Twitter.
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