Marika’s fleet arrives in the area of space where the Golden Ghost Ship appeared to face not one but three Grand Crosses. Coorie leads an EW attack, with all other EW techs working in synch. With the fleet fully cooperative and coordinated, they can focus their attacks on the enemy without risk of hitting each other. The two escort grand crosses are eventually blown up, and Marika leads a boarding party to the lead Grand Cross. All three ships were fully automated, with Quartz Christie the only one aboard. After exchanging a few words, Christie escapes and activates the self-destruct. Victorious, Marika sets a course back to Sea of Morningstar to continue her studies and cafe job, determined to continue being a high school girl pirate.
The Grand Cross-type battleships were built up as formidable, perhaps indomitable force to be reckoned with, and the episode wisely raises the stakes by introducing a fleet of three rather than one against Marika’s fleet of ten ships. Numbers make the difference though, as it’s really one spoiled brat (Christie) with three very expensive and flashy toys up against thousands of dedicated pirates hungry for glory; with centuries of combined experience. The battle is the highlight of the series, featuring lots of stuff getting blown up, and Coorie working keyboards with both hands and feet. Christie never had a chance, though she didn’t go quietly. We were a little amused when she told Marika she “won’t run and hide”, right before running and hiding, but someone like her would never allow herself to be a prisoner.
Who would have thought the young, earnest, but sometimes scatterbrained and often overstretched high school freshman Marika Kato would become the first pirate in more than a century to lead a coordinated pirate fleet against a foe? And not only lead the fleet to battle, but lead it to victory? Looking back to the first episode, not us…and yet here we are. She did it. And she did it without flunking out of school or losing her part-time maid cafe job, two things that were then, and remain now, crucial parts of her life. She’d be the first to admit she couldn’t have done anything without all of the help from her amazing crew and loving friends and family, be they involved in her daily life or working in the background. So ends an immensely enjoyable sci-fi pirate series with a lot of heart, easy-to-like cast, and above-average production values.
The real Luca returns from vacation, and Quartz Christie also returns, where the pirates encircle her with guns. Marika agrees to engage her in a fair fight, which she plans to win. Ironbeard butts in, announcing he is there to retrieve Christie on orders from the queen. Ironbeard’s entourage includes the real Kane (his younger twin brother had been filling in for him) and Ririka, who is back to her “Blaster” role. After a huge feast, Marika challenges Christie to a battle, and Christie assents.
It’s all going to come down to one huge battle between Christie, with technologically-advanced Grand Cross, and Marika, with her band of plucky “frontier” pirates. Who will prevail? We’re guessing Marika, but that isn’t decided here. This week, like any good penultimate episode, gets everyone caught up, checks in on nearly everyone, and basically does the housekeeping that will allow the finale to flow unfettered by loose ends. This episode was a buffet of light and tasty hors d’ouvres.
Lberally peppered throughout the episode were fun little moments. Christie trying to avoid the spotlight (literally); a group of EW techs fawning over Coorie in non-hot mode; Chiaki reacting to her singing voice being transmitted across piratedom. While guys like Ironbeard remain mysterious, at least his motives aren’t: he’s there to fetch Christie, whom we imagine to be some kind of priviliged loose cannon who ran away from home to play with her awesome new toy. That being said, Marika challenged Christie to a fight, and he can’t interfere any more than Christie can refuse. So it’s on like Donkey Kong.
Thanks to some creative evasive maneuvers, the Bentenmaru is able to just escape the Grand Cross’ clutches and jumps to the Pirates’ Nest. Coorie dolls herself up to get preferential treatment from the maintenance unit, and the ship undergoes repairs. Marika meets with Barbalusa, who believes they’ll be lucky if ten pirate ships make it there. Marika is also confronted by Quartz Christie, captain of the Grand Cross, who states the reason for her actions, then vanishes. Misa discovers Luca has been replaced by an android, there are two Kanes, and Ririka is a secretly member of the crew of the Parabellum.
This episode was full of surprises large and small. We had no idea how the Bentenmaru was going to get away from the Grand Cross, but it turns out all they needed was to look the bully in the eye, sock it in the nose, and run like hell; guile, in other words. Other pirate captains tried battling it conventionally, and they were all destroyed. Marika keeps the Bentenmaru moving, makes multiple feints, uses her weapons as a diversion, and jumps out as soon as they’re able. Even then, the ship takes heavy damage. A sustained one-on-one duel with the Grand Cross is untenable.
It was also a nice surprise to see Coorie out of her baggy clothes and nerd glasses, it turns out she’s quite the hottie! But more surprising is the fact that Luca seems to have been replaced by an friggin’ android at some point (with no explanation of where the real one is), and even more confusing, there are apparently two Kanes, one of which may be another android, but both of which are up to something. Finally, the twist at episode’s end was something we were hoping for: Ririka did not in fact retire and go on vacation. Far from it; she’s back on the job, now working for Ironbeard. The Parabellum helped Marika out before, perhaps it will again, but we’re curious as to why Ririka didn’t tell her daughter the truth. Perhaps she didn’t want her to worry?
Captain Ironbeard introduces himself as master of the Galactic Empire pirate ship Parabellum. With a large light and weapons show, they scare off the pirate hunters, whose ship Ironbeard calls the Grand Cross. After evacuating and tending to the crew of the Big Catch, the Bentenmaru returns home, where Chiaki suggests they seek out the “Legendary Chef” who brought the pirates together long ago, and could again. They find his son, whom Marika knew from the times Ririka brought her to his restaurant as a reward. He activates the old-timey comms systems that all pirates keep aboard for such an occurance. As they prepare to head for the rendezvous, the Grand Cross appears again before the Bentenmaru.
With the exception of the first episode or so when Marika is being introduced to the pirate world, the series has focused more on the characters and their immediate exploits rather than the history of piracy itself. What we’ve known is that the pirates fought the empire in a war of independance, and Marika’s world (and the Serenitys’ too) were the benefactors. We’ve also known that the empire has traditionally allowed pirates to operate as long as their letters of marque are in order. With an imperial pirate hunter on the loose, all bets are off, and swift action is needed if the pirates’ way of life is to survive.
This week gave us new glimpses into the heroic, revolutionary past, when whole messes of larger-than-life pirates formed armadas that fought for their freedom…and because it was fun and exciting, no doubt. Marika and Chiaki determine the only thing to do is to call all the pirates back together and face their nemesis en force. The Parabellum, meanwhile, plays a cryptic role this week; clearly saving the Bentenmaru, only to vanish shortly thereafter…though we’ve probably not seen the last of them.
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?
The representatives of the Hakuoh Academy, led by Lynn, arrive at the space station in orbit of Calmwind, where the dinghy race will be held. They recieve a most unfriendly record, and Lynn recalls when she was a middle schooler, the Yacht Club at the time employed her hacking skills to change the race route, causing all but two of the 142 entries to crash. The memory of the fiasco is still fresh in the minds of the rival teams and of the chairwoman. When Marika arrives with the Bentenmaru to provide security and the chairomwan learns Marika is a student at Hakuoh, she suspects more treachery afoot.
When the race commences and the dinghies enter the atmosphere, a gunship from the Bisque company opens fire on them. Marika draws them away from the other pilots, winning the chairwoman’s trust, and the Bentenmaru risks atmospheric flight to deal with Bisque. Ai helps the pirates by telling them which winds are coming, so the gunship will glide into the line of fire. Before their ship goes down, Bisque launch an EM ulse that knocks out Ai’s electronics, but she opens her canopy and finishes the race, navigating by the stars above.
We can’t get enough of races done right, and Moretsu Pirate’s version puts a novel spin by making it a race of dinghies with limited propellant in which the race pilots must make use of the planet’s unique atmospheric properties to succeed. Add to that a couple of different palls: the one cast by a past Hakuoh Yacht Club’s deviousness, and the one cast by jealous parties who want to put the young pirate Marika Kato out of comission. And for good measure, the sun Calmwind orbits decides to unleash a massive solar flare in the middle of the race. There’s a lot going on here, but it’s all under control.
There’s a lot to like, too: Hakuoh’s desire to clear their name by flying a clean race; the intriguing physics of the dinghies free-falling from orbit in a gorgeous waterfall-like cascade; the surprise high-risk appearance of the space-only Bentenmaru in a very tricky planetary atmosphere. We also like Ai Hoshimiya in this episode. She’s a smart cookie who knows how to use the stars to navigate – like mariners of yore – and a seemingly inocuous scene of her buying a book of Calmwind’s constellations proves crucial to her being able to finish the race. We also like how she didn’t win; realistically she just wasn’t going to be able to overcome a total lack of avionics and make up the time lost helping the Bentenmaru. Chiaki won. And, for one glorious moment, Ai wasn’t wearing that stupid roast turkey hat…though unfortunately it seems she has spares.
The Yacht Club decides to enter an unpowered dinghy race called the 19th Nebula Cup, and have two weeks to prepare. They learn that Hakuoh had been suspended from the cup five years after foul play. Kane volunteers to whip them into shape with tough simulations and a windsurf competition at the beach which will decide which three club members will represent Hakuoh at the race. Natalia, Grunhilde, and Ai win, which the latter just beating Marika, who had pirating duties anyway.
When Marika observes how enthusiastic and passionate Ai is about All Things Yachty (that just sounds wrong…), it doesn’t take long for her to wonder to herself: why did I join Yacht Club? Beause she liked yachts? When she sees a spaceship rising in the sky, then blasting away into orbit, it comes to her: she joined so she could get to space. Mind you, this was before she knew she was destined to get there anyway. Marika’s energies may not be focused like a laser on one specialty like Ai, but she’s definitely gotten what she wanted from joining the club, and then some; even if she wasn’t a pirate captainess.
About that status: while the episode focused on competitive windsurfing and leaving nothing to the imagination vis-a-vis Kane’s physique (seriously dude, cover up for the young ladies), peeking out from the episode’s periphery were little reminders that Marika’s life is far more complicated than any of her fellow club-mates: there are invisible powers protecting her as she clubs and pirates away. There’s a “treaty” in place, that will be honored…until Marika graduates, and then she’s on her own. The Serenity princesses may also have complicated lives, but they have a whole military at their disposal; Marika just has her pirate crew and the yacht club, which may not be enough against all the foes that potentially await her…but probably will be, because everything always works out in the end!
The Yacht Club begins a thorough cleaning of the Odette II while an exhausted Marika cleans the Bentenmaru on her own. Grunhilde is concerned that her sister Gruier has gotten too close to Marika. While spacing on, Marika loses her father’s ring. When the Bentenmaru crew is discharged and returns to the ship, it is locked down. Grunhilde arrives with the rest of the Yacht Club and the ring, and expertly starts up the ship, impressing the regular crew. When Marika sets the ring down on the desk in her quarters, it reveals the secret recipe to Kato pot-au-feu.
There’s not much to say about this week’s episode. It contained pleasant enough sci-fi slice-of-life, but contained a whole lot of needless worrying on Grunhilde Serenity’s part, had a needless red herring in Marika losing the extremely important ring, and tried to say something about the bond between Marika, her father, and the Serenity sisters, which is a stretch in our opinion. Sure, her dad gave Gruier his ring, but we feel like there was more pragmatism in that then sentimentality. A princess would make a powerful ally for Marika when she came of age and took over from her father.
The ‘bond’ stuff just seemed a little heavy-handed…and we don’t appreciate Gruier shoving huge bags of junk food in front of Marika’s face…is she trying to gorge her into an early grave? What we did like was how Marika was finally portrayed as being worn out and losing her edge as a result. After everything she’s been through, a couple days of sleep and relaxation are a good idea, even though she didn’t really get that. We also like that the Bentenmaru crew is finally out of quarantine and can take their rightful places aboard ship. We have nothing against the Yacht Club, but it’s composed of an awful lot of people, many of whom are extraneous.
Robert Dolittle leads a huge fleet and bombards the Bentenmaru with laser fire. As Ai evades the attacks, Marika, Jenny, Chiaki, and the Serenity sisters hatch a plan. The Bentenmaru escapes from the Dolittle fleet, intercepts Jenny’s fiance’s ship, and hacks into interstellar broadcasting, recording live coverage of his unsavory dallying in revolutionary movements. Uncle Robert shows up, but thanks to Marika’s quarantined crew, they have more than enough dirt on the company to have him arrested for corruption and weapons trafficking. Her normal crew tests negative for illness, and Marika and her amateur crew return home triumphant.
The Dolittle arc comes to a sudden, action-packed, rousing, sometimes ridiculous conclusion, but unfortunately it did so in a way that very often stretched and strained credulity, coming off as a bit over-neat and tidy. Let’s start at the beginning: the threat of Doolittle’s fleet is all too-easily brushed aside. One of the cooler little moments in the episode is when we see first-year helmsgirl Ai’s legs shaking as she evades the attacks – this is new territory for her. But her piloting is a little too perfect, as are the FTL girl’s engineering skills and Lynn’s apparently limitless hacking abilities. There’s no doubt these are extremely bright and talented girls, but the Doolittle fleet comes of as pathetically inept.
Then there’s the extremely complicated plan to get Jenny out of her fix. It involves boarding the Glorious Krooph, which just happens to be flying around nearby. Never mind the fact that the crew boards her in that stupid cosplay again (though we have to admit we did enjoy priestess Chiaki with her taped-up gun and disgusted outburst) but there’s a friggin’ army on that ship, not tourists, and they let themselves get captured by a handful of high schoolers? Again the bad guys are just too stupid for words. Broadcasting their raid live to expose Krooph and Dolittle certainly tied those guys’ hands somewhat, but again, how in the hell was Lynn able to do that…and who was making the realtime titles and graphics? This episode was fun, but things were wrapped up too easily and neatly, and the Yacht Club students were simply way too perfect.
Lynn asks Marika to take on a mission to board a liner and ‘kidnap’ Jenny Dolittle, who is being forced into an arranged marriage by her uncle so he can make his son the heir to the massive Hugh-Dolittle company. Marika agrees, but Jenny arrives aboard a state-of-the-art spacecraft before they get started. Lynn and Jenny reveal they’re in a relationship, and Jenny requests asylum, which Marika grants. Jenny’s uncle tries to pressure Harold Lloyd to make Marika give her up, but Marika is able to negotiate a deal with Show that will work out for everyone, which he agrees to. Not long afterward, the Hugh Dolittle fleet opens fire on the Bentenmaru, which jumps away in retreat.
For Marika Kato, an awful lot can happen in a day. One minute you’re assembling a subsitute amateur crew of novices who work out how to operate the ship and pull off a standard pirating job by the skin of their teeth; the next, you’re in quite a bit more potential trouble, taking on a job that places you, your ship, and the insurance company that covers you in a very powerful interstellar corporation’s crosshairs. We can only salute this episode for it’s sheer scope, ambition, and for sweating the details.
We love how the initial plan – which really sounds like how the episode will unfold – is suddenly and totally subverted by, of all things, the client herself, Jenny. Despite her looks she’s no damsel in distress; she can take care of herself, and when she sees and opportunity, she takes the initiative. Justice is on Jenny’s side: her uncle has no right to push her out of the picture by marrying her off, but it’s interesting how there’s more to this than business. Lynn didn’t just do it out of a sense of duty to her former captain, but out of love for her; love Jenny reciprocates. Marika can hardly stand by while two friends’ hearts are at risk of being torn from one another.
We have to point out that Marika makes some initially very questionable command decisions (agreeing to a mission that could cost her her license; allowing Jenny’s ship to dock before confirming it’s her) but her utter conviction in making them (there’s a reason she’s the captain, and she’s her father’s daughter), and the way events unfold, everything manages to Come Up Marika. The cost of failure is high, but the cost of success is damned high. All they need to do is protect Jenny from her uncle and his big bad corporate fleet…with rookie high school students manning the helm and FTL drive. The training cruise is over.
With the crew getting more comfortable with the Bentenmaru’s systems, Marika announces their first piracy job: the plundering of the luxury liner Princess Apricot, a regular client. The tactical maneuvers prove tricky, but after a rocky docking, the crew boards the liner dressed in cosplay, initially confusing but ultimately charming the customers, and the mission is a surprising success. When Grunhilde reports seeing Lynn talking to someone over the comms, Marika confronts her. Lynn tells her she has a new mission for the Bentenmaru: the kidnapping of former Yacht Club president Jenny Dolittle.
Moretsu (or mouretsu) translates as ‘bodacious’, which is defined as either “excellent” or “audacious in a way considered admirable.” The normal Bentenmaru crew fits the first definition: they’re pros and they’re excellent at their jobs; so much so, they weathered the changing of captains without breaking a sweat. The Yacht Club fits the second definition: it indeed takes audacity to field a trainee crew for a piracy job meant for the first-string crew, and they do an admirable job.
True to the spirit of this series, the mission doesn’t go off without a hitch. There’s nothing routine about it for these kids; it’s hard both to maneuver the ship into position and to provide the proper combination of entertainment and intimidation for their customers, while maintaining their confidence. Chiaki fills in nicely for Misa as Marika’s right-hand-woman, sweating details like finding the crew quarters and even playing the mom at times. And the episode leads on that Lynn is Up To Something like espionage or treachery, but it turns out she wants the Bentenmaru to assist her in abducting her former president, Jenny. Why, we’ll find out another day.
Using a false image of Kane, the Yacht Club is given clearance to depart from base under the guise of a practice cruise, but their true goal is to intercept the powered-down Bentenmaru, board her, and commence piracy under Marika’s command. The Bentenmaru crew observes from a series of hidden cameras, and through Show, secretly transmits hastily-compiled manuals crucial for the ship’s startup sequence. But the manuals do not include FTL info, so Marika has to go by memory to jump the ship and evade Alliance ships. The Serenity sisters and Chiaki learn about the help Marika’s crew gave her, but decide to keep it a secret.
Is Marika Kato an incredibly bright, resourceful, talented, driven young woman? Darn tootin’. Can she singlehandedly get the Bentenmaru properly started-up and running without the aid of her crew? In a word, no. But that’s okay. Marika needs help from both friends, family, and classmates, whether she knows it or not. Otherwise she wouldn’t need a crew at all. The series has done a good job keeping her out of Amazing Flawless Perfect Girl territory. This is the future, after all; even if her crew is quarrantined, the technology exists for them to give her quite a bit of assistance from afar; as well as keep an eye on her progress. Misa told her they wouldn’t be around to bail her out, but she really meant they wouldn’t be able to help her as much as if they were free.
The Yacht Club girls ooh and aah as a group of high school amateur spacefarers are expected to do, and seem more than up to the challenge of operating the ship once they learn how. The hiccups in the process – a girl accidentally firing the ship’s laser cannons; stalling the engines on the first go – aptly illustrated that there was a learning curve. The Serenity sisters stow away yet again (thanks to Chiaki, interestingly enough), and their contribution consists of pumping up the club’s blood sugar with a bevy of decadent desserts (perhaps the reason Chiaki helped them). A little silly, perhaps, but not offensively so. And of course, most importantly, no one was killed!
Marika leaves the bio-container delivery to her crew so she can catch up on her studies, but they open prematurely, infecting her whole crew with flu-like symptons and forcing them into mandatory isolation for up to a month. It falls to Marika to confer with their insurance agent Show, who gives Marika three choices: pray for her crew’s recovery, rescue them before they’re well, or assemble a new crew. If the Bentenmaru is out of action for a month, their license will be revoked, so she choses the third option. Gruier follows her in disguise, and after fashioning a disguise for Marika, they attempt to find new crew members with no success. Chiaki and her father Kenjo meet up with her, warning her not to pick random sailors, but to turn to people she can trust who were right under her nose all along: the yacht club, who are ready and willing to step in to help her.
Moretsu Pirates is about Marika leading the Bentenmaru and its gallant crew on piraty adventures, no? Well, what if you take the crew out of the equation, eh? This episode (or “sailing”) explores this, while introducing Marika to yet another of the less glamorous but still necessary aspects of her job: the business side. It’s a great concept that’s well-executed, thanks to help from Gruier, now a main character, and Chiaki, who suggests the most obvious course of action for Marika to take: recruit the Yacht Club. They have the skill and personality she desires in a crew, but unlike random sailors, she can trust them, too. It’s not surprising that the club president (and former hacker) Lynn Lambretta jumps at the chance to do some piracy; she’s always had that rebellious streak.
Would the academy really be okay with a bunch of minors turning to piracy so willy-nilly? We don’t know, but we do know the Yacht Club was the first thing we thought of when Marika told Ririka she needed to find a temp crew. That she didn’t arrive at that conclusion immediately shows that she’s still not perfect when it comes to running her ship and her business, and she still depends on friends like Chiaki and her dad to steer her to the right decision. While we hope the regular crew gets well soon, we’re looking forward to seeing what Marika and the Yacht Club crew can do in their stead.