In recent years, anime has been packed with militarized moe, with shows like Girls Und Panzer, Archipelago of Blue Steal, and Strike Witches. This past spring brought us an addition to this catalogue of cuteness with High School Fleet. We follow the sometimes perilous high seas adventure as these girls from the Yokosuka Girls’ Marine High School work toward their dreams to become members of the Blue Mermaids, an international coast guard on a mission to secure the shipping lanes of the world. Of course we know this adventure isn't going to be all smooth sailing. As they embark on their maiden voyage in command of their own cruiser, a mysterious virus turns friend to foe and cruiser verses battle ship. We know leaders are forged out of the rawest of recruits in the crucible of combat. We present you Honey's Anime Top 10 leaders in High School Fleet.
10. Machiko Noma
Michiko is a tall bespectacled girl who spends most of her time in the crow’s nest keeping a lookout with her eagle-like vision. She isn’t just talented at being a lookout, she is very adept at semaphore. Michiko easily balances herself on the yardarm of the mast and quickly communicates any message with flag signals.
Her vital work in the crow’s nest identifying distant ships and raising the alarm for incoming torpedoes is responsible for saving her ship, the Harekaze, on numerous occasions. She is also adept at close-quarters combat and volunteered to be a member of the raiding/rescue party boarding the German school ship Graf Spee. Her strength and ability to stay focused makes her an idol and leader to many of the other girls on the ship.
9. Rin Shiretoko
Rin is the helmsman of the Harekaze and will openly admit that her strongest ability is the ability to run away. Her skill at scurrying fits her mouse-like appearance. She is short, even amongst the other girls, and wears a pair of twin tails held in place by two daisy barrettes. Rin explains she spent her childhood running away and her desire to break that cycle by becoming a Blue Mermaid.
Rin is one of the first characters to embrace Akeno as captain and trust her command. She also faces her fears on many occasions by fighting her flight instinct and staying at her post to navigate the Harekaze through each battle. She proves her leadership and her growth as a character when she, the meekest of the crew, stands up and agrees to Akeno’s plan to stop the ship Hiei from infecting the Chuuk Lagoon with the mind-altering virus.
8. Moeka China
Moeka is the captain of the Musashi and by all descriptions she’s extremely competent as she commands the school’s massive battleship. She is taller than her childhood friend and our lead protagonist Captain Akeno. She even looks like a leader, wearing a high-collared naval officer’s uniform instead of the school uniform like Akeno and the Harekaze crew.
The crew of the Musashi is one of the first to fall victim to the virus which we really can’t lay at the feet of its captain. We can give her credit for her actions after the infection spread to the rest of the crew. She was able to seal off the bridge and keep the infected crew from taking over the ship completely. Meoka was also directed a shipboard campaign to sabotage the Musashi and limit its combat abilities for days until they are rescued. A leader is someone who doesn’t give up even when all seems lost and finds a way to rally until help arrives.
7. Kuroki Hiromi
Kuroki is the assistant engineer of the Harekaze. She has a mature air about her despite her actions to the contrary. She is a long-time schoolmate of Chief Engineer Maron and trusts her abilities completely. She is athletic and brave, going into hand to hand combat with confidence.
Kuroki does have a few personality drawbacks, though. She doesn’t want accept the command of Akeno. She believes that deputy-captain Mashiro Munetani is the one most fitted for command. We are led to believe that her faith in the deputy-captain comes from the Munetani name, a name with a pedigree amongst the Blue Mermaids. You’d imagine with traits like that she wouldn’t be on a list of leaders. Kuroki is on the list because she is willing to speak her mind and call out the captain when she comes up with a plan. She speaks truth to power (or at least what she sees as truth), but is willing to obey the chain of command. She’s a leader because she refuses to follow blindly.
6. Kouko Nosa
Kouko is the secretary of the Harekaze and is responsible for all the administrative functions onboard the ship, e.g. the ship’s log, inventory and requisitioning of supplies, all the way down to knowing the stats for the number of sheets of toilet paper the average girl uses per day. She is also responsible for being one of the chief strategists onboard. She is a bit of a bookworm and sometimes confuses fiction and reality, often quoting gangster movies.
In effect, she is also the intelligence officer onboard the Harekaze. Kouko has the responsibility to research each of their opponents and find a weakness they can exploit. The greatest difficulty in this task is that they only want to disable the enemy ship and not hurt the crew, which is only acting under control of the infection. Kouko is the third in command which means the crew looks to her for advice, advice which she only gives out upon careful research. We know that being prepared is a key part of leadership.
5. Mei irizaki
Mei is the torpedo officer aboard the Harekaze and she is like a torpedo herself. She is short and runs at full speed and explodes (with enthusiasm) when she hits her target. Mei is a fan of battle. She loves the sound of a torpedo running in the water toward its target -- as long as the target isn’t her.
Mei is one of those characters that lead by example and does what she can to bring levity to serious situations. Her enthusiasm may be a little dark, in that she wants to blow stuff up. She shows leadership as the member of the crew who rallies the troops for battle when they are feeling scared as they approach the edge of conflict.
4. Maron Yanagiwara
Maron is the chief engineer of the Harekaze. She shoulders the responsibility for keeping the boat afloat. She is filled with enthusiasm for festivals and anything that might increase the morale of the crew. They had just barely finished their battle with the Graf Spee before she suggested that they have a crossing the line party, a naval tradition to mark the crossing of the equator.
Maron has the title chief in front of her name, and like many in the military that comes with a load of responsibility. She is responsible for holding the Harekaze together as she fights much larger and better-equipped ships. She treats the engine as her child and puts her blood, sweat and tears into it to keep it running. She has many “captain she can’t take much more of this!” moments. As the chief, Maron sets an example by doing what needs to be done by pushing herself and the engine to the limits. She a leader, always finding a way to carry out her orders.
3. Mashiro Muetani
Mashiro is the XO (executive officer) or second-in-command of the Harekaze. Despite being born to become a Blue Mermaid, being extremely intelligent and acing all of her classes, the XO is one of the most unlucky people in the world. Mashiro is one of those people that if there is a stone in the road to trip on she will find it. The most concrete example is why she is onboard the Harekaze despite being near the top of her class: She filled out the bubble sheet for her officer’s exam one column off the whole way down the page.
Mashiro proves what she has to be a leader many times over by being the perfect XO. She speaks candidly to her captain when she disagrees with her, never forgetting the chain of command. Despite disagreeing with her captain’s actions of repeatedly going on away missions, she takes command of the bridge during a multitude of combat engagements. She is the rock for the crew, and captain, to lean on when things seem tough by bringing a calm center to the bridge even during a storm.
2. Wilhelmina Branschweig Ingenohi Frideburg (Mi)
Mi is the XO of the Graf Spee, a vessel with the German-based Wihelmshaven Naval High School. Mi was rescued by the crew of the Harekaze after she abandoned the Graf Spee when it became infected with the virus. She is a little quick to anger, no doubt because of the loss of her own shipmates to the virus.
She becomes the de facto tactical officer aboard the Harekaze. Wilhelmina carries an air of authority with her and has complete confidence in her abilities. She is the kind of leader who when she issues an order you feel compelled to obey. For example, when she bursts onto the bridge during the sub incident and orders a crew she just met to make the ship go dark, saving them from being targeted by torpedoes.
1. Akeno Misaki
Akeno is the captain of the Harekaze. She has dreamed of joining the Blue Mermaids ever since she was rescued from a sinking ship. Akeno is not a star pupil at the high school having only barely passed the entrance exam. She apparently proved herself in class to warrant her command of the Harekaze. She has a deep need to take action to help people.
Akeno is the kind of captain, the kind of leader who will never ask the crew to do what she wouldn’t be willing to do. She proves that time and time again (much to the dismay of her XO) as she leaves the ship for rescue missions and combat. She also becomes the father figure for her crew, a person who will never give up or surrender and will see them through the darkest hours and figure out a way to win. Akeno is the number one leader because she is always looking forward; she sees obstacles to her goals as problems to be solved, not deterrents. Most of all, she trusts her crewmates to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. She understands that a crew is a family that will fail or succeed together, and nothing makes a leader like understanding you lead others, you can’t do everything yourself.
A leader isn’t always the lead character and in this anime we have the exception and the proof of the rule with many fine examples of leadership. We also know there is a lot to love about this series. The large cast lets each of us find our own best girl. The adventure’s naval battles complete with broadsides, the collection of a crew of underdogs, and the light yuri romance are all great assets that draw us to this fun adventure. As fans of anime, we really don’t need any help looking past the improbable idea of a group of young high school girls commanding a cruiser equipped with live ammunition -- because this is anime and anything is possible.