Overall rating for the TV anime: 6/10
I pretty much got what I expected. It was fun and cute, but there was room for improvement. It felt like this anime 'played it safe' in a lot of respects. Aside from the naval setting and the sometimes-strange plot, it was a fairly stereotypical moe show. I actually would have liked to have seen the maritime theme embraced more than it was. Meaning, a greater emphasis on naval operations, naval warfare, and general seamanship (I realize this is an unrealistic expectation for anime). As opposed to tropey character interactions that we've already seen play out in countless other settings. Due to its setting, High School Fleet had a chance to be truly unique. This chance was somewhat squandered. I also think that this show would have really benefited from a higher animation budget. There was tons of opportunity here for gorgeous visuals that would have enhanced the viewing experience, but this wasn't fully capitalized upon.
I'm not sure if it had any effect on this anime production, but apparently the studio went bankrupt not long after it aired (the movie was made by a different studio). Maybe there's a story behind that.
I'll also include my opinion of the two OVA episodes: they were bad. The plot was bad and they didn't even take place on the ships, which removed a significant driver of my enjoyment of the show. The OVAs were considerably worse than the TV anime, in my opinion (OVA rating: 4/10). I wouldn't recommend watching them unless you adored the TV anime.
As for the 2020 movie, here are my comments on it:
- the same crude jarring CGI is used to animate the ships, unfortunately. In fact, the visuals in general are barely a step above the TV anime, which is disappointing. As I already said, this anime could benefit a lot from better visuals.
- again, not enough focus on the maritime theme of the show. Not nearly enough cool battleship content. To my stark disappointment, the first ~50 (FIFTY) minutes of the movie did not have a single battleship scene (so, basically half the runtime). High School Fleet continues to squander its potential by not focusing on the things that make it unique and entertaining. It still continues to be "Generic School Anime but Sometimes On a Boat This Time" (which unfortunately isn't unexpected).
- again, another ridiculously bad plot that feels like it came out of a grade-school creative writing class. Literally the kind of thing I'd expect in a one-star movie. Not that I care that much about the plot anyway. Please just show me some cool battleship stuff and accompanying gap moe; at this point I don't even care what storyline you need to justify it.
- when the battle scenes did finally arrive, they were pretty underwhelming, particularly for a movie. Sound effects were alright but could have been better. I was also disappointed by the lack of any ship-vs-ship skirmishes.
- the sense of novelty that kept me interested in the TV anime has since worn out. I've already seen 14 episodes of this anime, and the movie isn't really bringing anything new to the table.
- the characters are still just as cute as they were during the TV series. This is one thing that High School Fleet consistently does an okay job of.
- overall I simply didn't enjoy the movie as much as the TV series. Spending ~half the screentime onshore was a major reason for this. It's called High School FLEET, okay?! FLEET. As in, on ships at sea in the flipping water! That's all I'm asking for!
My overall rating for the 2020 movie: 4/10
Rin and Tama are the cutest!!
There's another thing I want to say about modern anime more generally, even though this review might not be the best place for it, and I'm probably stating the obvious anyway. A lot of modern 'moe' CGDCT shows will add a theme to their story or change the setting or do something to try to distinguish themselves from all the other similar shows. So many of these anime will, in concept, have a totally unique and interesting theme that could make for a memorable show. Upon implementation though, the show will squander this unique potential by deferring to the same tired formulaic CGDCT material — the same tired character interactions, the same stale comedy, the same character types and tropes. High School Fleet is yet another example of this (and hardly the most egregious). It doesn't fully commit to the elements that make it unique, and instead plays it safe, so what you end up with is Generic School Anime (sometimes on a boat this time!). Admittedly, High School Fleet has a unique plot (and unfortunately it's quite bad), so it's not even an ideal example of this phenomenon.