Ship Girls

Since 2013 there have been three anime that featured cute girls doing cute things, with ships: Arpeggio of Blue Steel, Kantai Collection, and High School Fleet. Well, cute things is probably a misnomer. They are all more concerned with drama than with moe.

What’s interesting about them is the differences in the way they portray the girls, and the ships. To start with, Arpeggio and KanColle are both concerned with girls who are part of their ships, while HSF is a more conventional girls on ships anime.

High School Fleet is just what the name says. High school girls from the Yokosuka Girls’ Marine High School go to sea on the destroyer Harekaze (Clear Wind) as part of their education. BTW, there’s an alternate reading of hare as meaning cleared of suspicion. This is symbolically important since the ship and crew are almost immediately charged with mutiny, and every ship they see attacks them. After many trials and tribulations, they demonstrate that the erratic actions of many of the ships is due to a virus, rescue their friends on the battleship Musashi, and win the day.

Harekaze sorties!

The training ships are based on WWII designs (although there are more modern designs in the real fleet), and the girls serve as normal watch-standers and ship-handlers.

Arpeggio of Blue Steel Earth is invaded by the Fleet of Fog, alien naval forces with extremely advanced weapons mounted on ships with the outward forms of WWII combatants. A rogue FoF submarine, the I-401, captained by a rogue human, is charged with sneaking a new superweapon across the Pacific to the US. It succeeds, with the help of other FoF defectors, including (finally) the battleship Yamato. Crow’s World has a good series on it.

Fleet destroyer takes a hit

In Arpeggio, the FoF ships are embodiments of the concept of each class of ship. They are controlled either by low level AI’s (minor combatants) or by high-level mental models — AI’s that have taken human form, the better to understand human reasoning. This leaves them open to over-empathizing with humans.

Kantai Collection In an alternate timeline, girls (who are embodiments of WWII ships) fight a grotesque enemy in the form of the ships of the Abyssal Fleet. The battles parallel those of WWII (W island, MI base) and the girls are vaguely aware of the outcomes on our timeline — will the battle of MI be a disaster?. In the end they avoid the Abyssal’s attempt at an ambush, and everyone returns safely, with the help of the battleship Yamato.

Combat-ready Hagikaze

The ships in KanColle are not really ships. They are girls who embody the soul of the WWII ship. The girls carry strap-on versions of the weapons suites their spirit ships mounted.

One way to understand the different approaches is to create a table. I like tables.

Real Girls Imaginary Girls
Real Ships HS Fleet Arpeggio
Imaginary Ships KanColle

So, KanColle is about imaginary girls, who can roller-blade across the water, and Arpeggio is about imaginary girls, created from computer core processors and nanomaterial sand. But Arpeggio has real ships, that take real damage, while KanColle has imaginary ship attributes attached to the imaginary girls.

High School Fleet, meanwhile, has real girls on real ships, worried about real things like showers and shopping.

The one cell that’s empty is Real Girls on Imaginary Ships. A show that filled that cell wouldn’t have to be as ship-free as KanColle. It could be a standard anime young girls are the only ones who can call these ships into existence. Think of it as a mecha show, but with ships.

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2 Responses to “Ship Girls”

  1. terranceacrow Says:

    Thanks for the mention!

    After your reading your post, now I want to see Real Girls on Imaginary ships!

  2. Azur Lane, first impressions | FoundOnWeb Says:

    […] girl/ship relation doesn’t fill in the empty cell in my Ship Girls analysis (real girls/imaginary ships). Like Arpeggio of Blue Steel, they really are real ships. Unlike Arpeggio, they disappear into a […]

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