An epic yuri romance in the carefully reconstructed WW2 setting... not! The story follows the adventures of a Japanese battleship, the crew of which consists solely of girls for some reason. This is pure fan-service and the historical details could perhaps be questioned, but as long as you like ships, tough girls and comedy, you're still gonna enjoy it.
Kurogane Pukapuka Tai is a sometimes-comic yuri unwanted harem story with the uncommonly serious setting of an Imperial Japanese Navy commerce-raiding heavy cruiser in 1943. For some unexplained reason, the ship, the Unebi, is crewed entirely by women except for its old zen master-like Captain, who rarely speaks. This being a yuri story, so far only one of the women has turned out to be heterosexual. They meet unexplained large numbers of other female-crewed ships on both sides, too, again with a suspicious lack of heterosexuality.
Despite that, the story is pretty good so far, much better than I generally expect from a
series like this, in which it's generally just an excuse to get the women naked all the time. Not that that doesn't happen, either. The historical setting, except for the all-women lesbian antics, is surprisingly plausible, being based on real events although the ships themselves are wholly fictional. The creator is clearly a military geek who knows his stuff. Of course, implausible stuff happens for story reasons, but the creator obviously knows it. I'm hoping that as the series continues the storyline manages to be the serious foil to the rest of the goings-on, to give things some depth; it's already taken steps in that direction.
The art is pretty damn good and gets better. In the first chapter, the ship is often illustrated with photos of a plastic model the creator made of it, but this stops pretty quick. The characters are all easily distinguishable and sharply drawn, the perspectives good, the linework sharp and the shading competent. Again, hoping the improvement continues! Action sequences are pretty clear, which is unfortunately something rare in manga in my experience.
Characters? Definitely to begin with, many are cut from stereotypical cloth, but well put together - the stereotypes just help the reader know something of the character instantly. Heroine Commander Kuki is in many respects a typical shonen action hero type, but gender flipped and devastatingly, boyishly cute - which she's completely unaware of, of course. The only thing that defeats her is the sexual advances of the more confident girls who are after her, which leave her all flustered and helpless - again, SO shonen-hero-like. Her XO, Mamiya, resembles e.g. Motoko of Love Hina; a ludicrously capable swordswoman with long black traditional hair, fairly reserved most of the time except for her complete obsession with Kuki, in whose defense she'll endure and defeat anything. Many of the others fall down similarly stereotypical lines, but I like that none of them is weak and none are without their weaknesses or tender moments, either; they seem reasonably well-rounded characters.
In my opinion, though, the dark-horse standouts of the cast are the crew of the Unebi's seaplane, tiny, cute and hyperactive pilot Kurushima and tall, reserved navigator/gunner Nojima, who bonded over their both feeling freakish about their size and whose mutually caring relationship is very real and sweet.
I've enjoyed this series a whole lot so far, and am anxious for more. It helps the enjoyment if you're a military history nerd who still doesn't mind the girls getting in the way of the military hardware, though! Noticeably, in series like this, there are often tables of vital statistics about the girls (measurements, blood type, and all kinds of other stuff); not here. In this series, the stats panels are about the ships and planes, which should tell you a lot.