Moretsu Pirates – 22

As Marika prepares for final exams and to take over for Lynn as Yacht Club President, the Bentenmaru crew brief her on the emergence of a fierce pirate hunter. With only 20 days remaining on their present pirating license, Marika arranges an escort mission where their client is another pirate ship, the Big Catch under Captain Stone. En route to their destination, a mysterious and immensely fast, agile, and powerful white ship ambushes them, making mincemeat out of the Big Catch. Another, even larger ship jumps into the battle, with its apparent pirate captain announcing “The Time Has Come.”

While a stock-taking easing back into the piracy tub would have been welcome, we got a little something extra this week, as we not only get a heavily Bentenmaru-focused episode, but one that presents a new and formidable threat. But that doesn’t mean stock isn’t taken before the big-time adversary reveal. Marika’s future is starting to appear over the horizon, and it’s up to her to form what that future is. As Kane pointedly puts to her while chaffeuring her up to space for the umpteenth time, she can either keep being a space tourist who commutes to the Bentenmaru, or start “living like a real sailor”, like her father and the Bentenmaru crew.

But in the meantime, there’s an obstacle to Marika surviving the day: some particularly ruthless pirate hunters led by…the narrator??? In the cold open, when we see a ship nearly identical to the Bentenmaru have its ass handed to it, we knew the Bentenmaru would be in for a rough ride. When the Big Catch, one of the oldest and toughest pirate ships, meets a similar end, well, let’s just say shooting probably won’t solve things…nor will cosplay. We wonder if Marika’s cleverness will be able to get through to these unyielding hunters, or if they’ll hear nothing but the bleating of their prey before they make the killing blow. As for “The Time Has Come”, well, that could mean any number of things…but for now, it seems to mean the time has come to end all pirates. Killjoys…can’t they see the whimsical charm of piracy?

Rating: 4

Sket Dance – 60

In the first half Himeko auditions and wins the role of new Pelocan girl, but she gets extremely nervous on the day of the shoot, injures the mascots so Bossun and Switch have to participate, and due to time and budget constraints, the final commercial is a horrible farce in which her face is covered by a demon mask. In the second half, practice exams loom, and desperate to pass and avoid extra lessons, Himeko and Bossun agree to study together with Switch. They do it at Himeko’s house, where her mother, initially friendly and charming, snaps when she sees them goofing off and forces them to study till dawn, resulting in high grades for everyone.

Himeko has always been a fun and entertaining character, but when she’s on the spot to advertise something so near and dear to her, she kind of falls apart. Speaking for the candy she loves seemed like a good idea at the time, but even in the club room she hesitates to follow through with auditioning. Switch and Bossun prod her to do it, but her instincts were correct; the commercial that’s ultimately produced is so terrible, no one has any words and the show simply cuts to commercial without comment. It really was that bad; but at least once they got into it they had fun, right?

After appearing in a commercial that may end up ruining Pelocan Corp., Bossun starts to stress out about exams, as does Himeko, who describes herself as an idiot. The two of them can’t focus when studying alone, so Yagi and Kura suggest they study as a group to stay on point. But since these three spend so much time with each other doing nothing, the initial discomfort evaporates and the ‘studying’ part of the study session devolved into lounging around snacking and reading manga (including Kimi ni Todoke!) That is, until Himeko’s mother “Oniyome” puts a stop to it right quick. We learn she’s truly her mother’s daughter, only preferring an ice hockey stick over field. It gives us hope that despite Himeko’s tomboyish tendencies, there’s a man out there to slap shots off of.

Rating: 3.5

Accel World – 09

Scarlet Rain AKA Kozuki Yuniko AKA Niko meets with Kuroyukihime, Haru and Taku at Haru’s place under a truce. After confirming their real identities, she reveals why she infiltrated Haru and sought him out: she needs Silver Crow’s wings to defeat the Armor of Catastrophe AKA Chrome Disaster. Everyone direct links with Kuroyukihime and watches her memory of the battle in which the fourth Chrome Disaster was destroyed. However, there is now a fifth incarnation of the brutal loose cannon within Niko’s own Red Legion. She must deliver the Judgement Blow to “regulate” him, but due to his leaping ability, she wants to borrow Haru to do so, in exchange for the Reds conceding territory inSuginami. Hime agrees. Jealous of Niko staying with Haru, she sleeps over as well, and Haru contemplates Taku’s warning not to forget that Niko is the enemy.

If the last episode was the powerful introduction of Kozuki Yuniko as someone who is not to be trifled with despite her petite stature and innocent facade, and someone who takes an instant loathing to Haru due to an accidental groping, this week was the inevitable clash of Niko and Hime, who fight throughout the episode for the attention of the lovable squishy Teddy Bear that is Arita Haruyuki. As Chiyu is absent this week, Taku can only sit back and endure the heated tug-of-war over his roly-poly friend and colleague. But if we had to choose between “endure” and “enjoy” when describing th competition, we actually think we’d hew closer to the latter. In short, it wasn’t that bad.

Part of this is that there is a reason Niko’s around: she’s got a problem, and Haru is the best avatar for the job. We’re also treated to a past battle in which Hime and other Kings of Pure Color united to take down an unstable, chaotic element that threatened everything they’d fought for. Haru shudders to think what kind of person lurks beneath the reincarnating hate armor. Combined with Niko telling Haru how real life can “fade away” if one spends too much time in the Accelerated World (which you have to do in order to rise to Level 10), it builds a case that there’s a monster within every linker, even him. The real life interactions between Niko, Haru and Hime were well-played and helped flesh her out as a real person who likes to play video games and cook food for friends, and not just a slogan-spewing, scenery-chewing villainess. If they can spend a civil night together, they can work together to solve Niko’s problem…before it becomes everyone else’s.

Rating: 7 (Very Good)