High School Fleet: Musashi and the Harekaze

High School Fleet: Musashi and the Harekaze

As befits an anime entitled High School Fleet, warships take center stage. Two ships dominate the series, the battleship Musashi and the destroyer Harekaze.

Musashi is modeled both in name and appearance after the Japanese World War II era battleship Musashi. The Musashi and her sister ship Yamato were the largest battleships ever constructed, the result of a shipbuilding philosophy that viewed battleships as the key to naval superiority. Like the more famous Yamato, Musashi was named for an old Japanese province that once encompassed modern day Tokyo. The Musashi was designed to be capable of engaging multiple targets at once and be more than the equal of any other battleship in existence. This battleship philosophy would be proven wrong during the war as the aircraft carrier emerged as the most powerful ship on the seas. The Musashi was never involved in the kind of decisive battleship versus battleship combat envisioned by Japanese war planners and was sunk by American aircraft during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

Musashi steaming in formation in episode 01 of High School Fleet

Figuring prominently in shots of the Musashi is the golden disc set into the bow. The crest is a variation of the Imperial Seal of Japan (菊の御紋 kikunogomon), the emblem of the Japanese Emperor and Imperial Family. Historically only the largest ships in the old Imperial Navy were allowed to carry the Imperial crest. Similar to the placement of the Imperial seal on army equipment, the Imperial Crest served both as a point of pride and as a reminder that the ship was the direct property of the Emperor and the crew were to conduct themselves accordingly.

As the Musashi and her sister ship Yamato were the only two vessels of their class, it is likely the battleship with the blue color scheme seen in the opening minutes of the first episode is the analogue for the Yamato. However, the Musashi and Yamato have a little known third sister ship: the Shinano (信濃). Historically, the Shinano was refitted into an aircraft carrier after Japan’s devastating losses at the Battle of Midway and sunk shortly into her maiden voyage. In Haifuri, a throwaway line indicates the Shinano is operational as a Yamato class battleship.

On the other hand the main ship of the series, the destroyer Harekaze (晴風, Clear Wind?), has no direct historical analogue. The official web site for the series describes the ship as a Kagero class destroyer, a class that served in the Japanese navy during World War II. Nineteen Kagero class ships were produced, with only one surviving the war. As seen in the first episode the Harekaze is equipped with torpedo launchers. Torpedo salvos from extreme range was a common tactic of the Imperial Navy during the war, particularly given the technical sophistication and range of the Japanese Class 93 Long Lance torpedo.

As befits the main ship of a series, there is more than meets the eye in the Harekaze. The official website makes mention of special test equipment installed on the ship and at one point in the first episode Torpedo Officer Mei Irizaki notes the Harekaze is a “high pressure” ship. This is a comment on the steam boilers that power the ship but perhaps also a reference to the three experimental high pressure boilers installed on the Shimakaze. The Shimakaze was the fastest destroyer of the war. Although terrifically fast, clocking a top speed of 40 knots, the ship proved too technically difficult to mass produce and thus remained the only vessel of her class. The Harekaze is listed as having a top speed of 37 knots, faster than the historical Kagero class but a little short of Shimakaze’s top speed. Mei further echoes the similarities by continuing on to state the Harekaze has speed but also faults.

Harekaze steaming towards a rendezvous.

By way of comparison, the Musashi displaced 72,800 tons and was over 860 feet long. A Kagero class destroyer was 2500 tons and 388 feet long.

It is worth noting both the Harekaze, Musashi and other vessels crewed by students are obviously World War II era designs, while the ships crewed by instructors follow more modern design sensibilities. The purely fictional Sarushima appears to combine the lines of modern Zumbalt class destroyers with the rear deck of a helicopter carrier or amphibious landing ship. The Toumai High instructors in episode 5 appear to be onboard modern Japanese navy Kongo or Atago class destroyers.

References

  • http://www.hai-furi.com/ships/
  • Battleship Musashi: The Making and Sinking of the World’s Biggest Battleship by Yoshimura Akira.
  • Warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1869–1945 by Hansgeorg Jentschura, Dieter Jung and Peter Mickel.

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