At the same time, it’s also a failure as a “Cute Girls Doing Cute Thing” show, in that there’s not enough levity or enthusiasm to make this “K-On! on Boats” for example. Not being much of a fan of “Cute Girls Doing Cute Things” shows to begin with, perhaps I’m not the best judge in this respect, but the constant reminder of the pseudo-serious issues at play sort of kept me from feeling as if the characters enjoyed what they were doing.
This all changed with episode 10, a straight-up filler episode dedicated to an equator-crossing festival. Nothing of much consequence happened during the course of the episode, but the important part is pretty much every character had a good time. It’s tautological, but in order for a “Cute Girls Doing Cute Things” show to succeed, it needs (a) cute girls who (b) do cute things. Regardless of how you feel about Haifuri’s success or lack thereof with regard to the first point, I think you have to agree it wasn’t doing too hot on the second part.
I think there’s a fundamental difference in the way people appreciate “Cute Girls Doing Cute Things” sort of stories, based on my own observation (warning: anecdote). One way is summed as “I enjoy happy people by observing and sharing in their happiness.” Alternatively, it’s more like “I enjoy watching people doing what they do.”
To that end, I disagree with Evirus completely on the point about Haifuri lacking levity or enthusiasm. It’s pretty much on par with Girls und Panzer, except in that story there is the levity of an afterschool activity, and not a life-and-death activity (save certain plot points later on). There is the attitude of students participating in an after-school club. In Haifuri, these kids, well, are doing actual school. Some people take their extracurricular activities seriously, but others do the opposite–the average is somewhere in between. It is not the case when it comes to what we are suppose to do in school, where our collectively-institutionalized souls feel the weight of coursework in the girls’ high sea adventures as assumed as Blumers-in-training.
In that sense Evirus is right on in terms of the core difference; one is about tea and pet turtles, the other is a class that lasts all season long. It actually sounds daunting.
However I think the other school of thought, which is to say, we have a bunch of high school girls acting out the fantasy of some military otaku, as they operate some older-than-your-grandma warships while shooting huge ordinances. (Nerd fantasies always have large ordinances, right?) The routine and spectacle aspects of the concept of girls-on-warships are collectively taken into the character’s weekly activities. In that sense it’s no different than K-ON or Bakuon or whatever-on-whatever-else. The Cute Girls are merely a vehicle. [Is there a meta genre of plot vehicle made up of meta of actual vehicles, kind of like Mad Max where the automobiles are actually driving the plot points?] The thematic points Haifuri drove through the latter half of the series are blow-by-blow by the book, as the matsuri episode sort of marks its climax as a CGDCT narrative. It never wanted to be K-ON, but a story about juxtaposing two contrary things while catering to the Admirals and military nerds out there. The unnatural circumstances are part of what is enjoyable, along with all that tension (as part of the unnatural circumstances).
I mean, ever wonder why there is no token otaku on the Harukaze? And why were there all these yakuza film impersonation going on? Because Haifuri is not about girls on a boat; it’s about girls in a war film. The conceit is precisely about silly young women acting out a story typically reserved for craggy older men as sailors. I guess in such a setup they could playfully make fun of equally troped yakuza flicks. It just wouldn’t work if Mii-chan and Koro-chan were the same actors as the films they portrayed.
Is this why the Fleet Admiral is a fat cat? Or why the girls get nicknames reserved for cats, too? I have no idea. But was Koro-chan funny? Yeah? Guess what.
Maybe it’s a mistake to say Haifuri is CGDCT, because it’s Cute Girls Re-Enacting a WWII Flick, which is actually a comical thing to do, not per se a cute thing. I think that’s kind of cute, but if it fails to make you laugh then the problem is wholly elsewhere. Maybe they were all just Re-enacting the movie Battleship, which would describe the sweet-sour reactions some may have with Haifuri.
PS. Things on the high seas happen both very slowly and all at once. There’s a great deal of lag between some events in Haifuri and they really didn’t exploit those opportunities for the more mundane things. I thought that was the one aspect they could’ve played out more, but I guess not if they want to mimic a more movie-like experience.