「嵐の砲撃戦」 (Arashi no Hougekisen)
“Battle in the Storm”
I’m conflicted. On one hand, I’m in love with Marika. Week in and week out, watching her blossom into a mature and competent pirate captain has been nothing short of amazing. And on the other hand, there’s Chiaki. Words can’t really describe why a tsundere meganekko cosplaying becomes one of the most adorable things I’ve seen this season. All I know is that I’m a lucky man to even have this choice to make in the first place!
I think the scales tip in favor of Marika this week, especially since it was her splendid idea to dress up yet another girl in the iconic outfit. Instead of Princess Gruier this time around, it’s Chiaki who uses her father’s ship to impersonate the Bentenmaru and her captain so that Marika can slip away on her mission. And boy is Chiaki a sight for sore eyes – as I’m sure she was for the crew and passengers that were the target of her piracy too. Her “level of adorableness” to “amount of screen time” ratio was off the charts this week – just watching the short scene with Chiaki’s initial denial of enjoyment and her subsequent acknowledgement complete with poses in the mirror already has made this episode a winner in my book.
Being adorable is only half the battle though, because the real star of this episode was once again Marika, who is both cute and clever. Although the underage captain is restricted to an eight-hour workday, courtesy of Misa and the other adults still being a bit overprotective of Marika, she is now a space pirate captain, first and foremost. If anyone is still put off by the pacing of the preceding episodes, I think they are well worth sitting through because the meticulous progression of Marika’s development is simply quite refreshing in today’s age of single-cour series. Seeing her transform from a slightly ditzy high school student who merely moonlights as a space pirate captain into one who makes decisions with an amount of conviction that would make many other anime protagonists blush with envy has been a thoroughly enjoyable journey every step of the way.
We’ve already known for a while now that our Mahou Kaizoku Shoujo naturally has many of the talents needed to be a pirate ship captain, but it has never been more evident of how good of a fit she truly is in her new position. Marika may be unorthodox with her tactics, but I think it’s her diligent preparation and studying that have enabled these tactics to be successful in every skirmish we’ve seen so far and also what contributes to her calm demeanor throughout each crisis. Every one of her decisions and orders is made with a conviction that both exudes coolness and inspires confidence, and my opinion of Marika swung wildly between Gruier’s admiration at Marika’s composure and San-Daime’s shivering from just how plain cool Marika is. One tactical decision that best showcases Marika’s abilities and temperament is when she decided to turn around, attack the group that was forcing her into the Serenity Defense Force’s pincher movement, and then escape, leaving behind chaff to deflect any counterattacks. It was a daring and unexpected move that wound up being successful, but it placed the Bentenmaru in a lot of avoidable danger when it flew so close to the enemy during anti-ship combat. I think she made this decision because she knew that they had to maximize the damage of the shotgun-spread style beam firing so that the enemy’s sensors would be taken out and leave the ships unable to pursue. It is said that the captain has to be the most level-headed person on a ship because their attitude is contagious and can affect the crew’s morale, and it appears that this quality comes naturally for Marika as she remained composed and professional throughout the ordeal.
It’ll be interesting to see how Marika deals with all the new information that she’s learned about the mysterious circumstances surrounding the golden ghost ship. I have been most impressed with how quickly her grasp of political and negotiation strategy has improved, and it’ll be very interesting to see how she’ll interact with the other princess that is shown the preview. Like Gruier’s biometric data hints to, the Serenity royal family is shaping up to be quite an enigma, and one that is beginning to appear to be the center of this conflict. My best guess is that something on the ghost ship guarantees Serenity’s future independence, but right now, the possibilities are still too open to go past pure conjecture.
Besides Marika, the other winner in this episode was the setting of space itself and the romantic atmosphere it creates. Mouretsu Pirates has brilliantly managed to inject a much needed breath of fresh air into space travel by adding in stylistic maritime touches that hearken back to a romantic time when wooden pirate ships plied the seas in search of plunder and treasure. Just like the seafaring vessels of yesteryear groan and creak with every wave, so does the Bentenmaru – and to further the illusion that it’s an oceangoing ship, the fusion blasts that flutter along its hull reminded me of the white spray of waves lapping the side of a ship, only much more hazardous. Every good story set at sea needs a hearty storm too, and while we haven’t had any thunder or lightning yet, the thick stardust and rough gravity waves were enough to make Luka and Kane earn their pay. To cap it all off, I simply love that fact that the Bentenmaru is steered with a traditional wooden ship’s wheel. All of these touches have combined to bring a bit of the romanticism back into the space opera genre. I am constantly reminded that sometimes, as powerful as the Bentenmaru is – it is still only a ship, fighting the will of the ocean, or in this case, the will of the cosmos.