Moretsu Pirates – 13

Marika is awarded a medal for her services to Gruier and makes the news, turning her into a local celebrity on Morningstar. The Gruier sisters return there to enroll at the middle school and join the Yacht Club, of which Lynn is now president. Gruier gives Marika the ring she used to stow away; a ring that was Marika’s father’s. She has both Serenity sisters over for dinner. Now that Marika is well-settled into her role as Bentenmaru’s captain, Ririka quits her job and looks to return to space.

This was an impresively-executed slice-of-life episode. It was calm and quiet respite after the high-stakes Serenity arc, and a perfect opportunity to get some character work and make some of the changes we knew were coming to Marika’s life. The producers didn’t waste this opportunity. Not only does Marika have to deal with the fact that she’s now famous, even to mainstream society (not just space pirate circles, that is), but her new position means she can take care of herself, meaning Ririka’s role as her doting mother is coming to an end.

In this regard, Marika is almost like royalty herself. Ririka stepped down as a pirate in order to make sure her daughter got the childhood and upbringing she deserved, while grooming her for command should she choose to take it when her father passed. This was the plan all along – including letting her make the choice herself – it just came sooner due to her father’s sudden demise. We for one am glad she chose both. School, yacht club, pirate captain – it’s a lot to juggle, but she’s certainly comporting herself well so far, and its been a joy to watch. That Ririka seems to be returning to space should make things interesting too.

Rating: 4

Moretsu Pirates – 12

Thanks to technical prowess, elbow grease, and Gruier’s access codes, the crew of the Bentenmaru gain access to the interior of the Golden Ghost Ship. Gruier and Marika are accompanied by Misa, Hyakume, Schnitzer, and a tactical team. They pass by a huge central city, vast empty repositories of long-sold artifacts, a gene bank every animal in the Serenity kingdom preserved in stasis, and finally, the “Rose Spring”, an artificial womb where the members of the Serenity Royal family are born.

When Serenity forces under Grunhilde arrive, a standoff ensues, in which Gruier reveals she’s come to destroy the Rose Spring, as she believes Serenity no longer needs royalty, while Grunhilde is there to retrieve it. As the sisters bandy words, Marika and Schnitzer exchange gestures with Yotof and Catherine. Both princesses are sedated. When Gruier awakens, the situation has been resolved peacefully due to prior plans made by both sides. The last infant is born from the Rose Spring before it drys up, and the Ghost Ship returns to Serenity space, where the two princesses reconcile.

The reveal of the Ghost Ship was awesome enough, this episode really took the grandeur and wonder to the next level by showing us the ship’s amazing contents. The away team glided gracefully from wonder to wonder; we’re duly impressed with the sheer scale and complexity of the thing. But perhaps even more impressive was the fact that the characters didn’t shrink to insignificance in the face of such mindblowing vastness. Marika is upbeat, encouraging, and above all helpful to Gruier, who is no longer merely a client, but a friend.

The episode is alive with awesome character moments, many of them Schnitzer’s, who almost steals the show by not wearing a spacesuit (because he’s awesome like that, hoisting open doors, and even flashing a frikkin’ smile! Hyakume totally geeks out on a mechanical display. But above all, the pirate crew proves they’re the real deal, and their talents haven’t been dullled in the least by the usual contracted entertainments they carry out. The wordless exchange while the princesses was a perfect example of this, and, along with the totally unexpected ending, proved that this series is willing and able to go the extra mile in delivering a smart story without compromising. Also, a baby was born! Not a bad day’s work, really.

Rating: 4

Moretsu Pirates – 11

Coorie confirms the identity of the Serenity battleship: it’s the Queen Serendipity, the flagship. The Bentenmaru observes the Serenity fleet as it prepares to lure the Golden Ghost Ship. Marika orders an FTL jump into the space-time quake, and the ship endures gravity rings and massive shock waves. At the end of the ordeal, they finally find the massive ghost ship. The Queen Serendipity hails Gruier by name; it’s her younger sister Grunhilde, who insists Gruier withdraw at once, presumably so she can destroy the ship. Gruier refuses, and the Bentenmaru docks within the ghost ship before the fleet gets there. The ghost ship re-enters subspace and prepares to make an FTL jump with the Bentenmaru inside her.

It’s out of the frying pan and into…a larger, meaner frying pan this week, as the danger gets kicked up to 11. After flying through one hell of an astronomical gauntlet, the Bentenmaru emerges in a clearing and the Golden Ghost Ship gets a regal reveal that’s full of awe. The damn thing is 24 kilometers long and made of gold, after all! Gruier finds herself at odds with her sister, whom she believes is being manipulated. Their conversation isn’t exactly cordial, and it’s a strong moment for Gruier, who’d been a little mousey up to this point. We came away from this episode liking her a lot more.

While the space gauntlet, princess face-off and ghost ship reveals were the main set pieces this week, this episode has a lot more to offfer. Marika continues to progress as a fine pirate captain when she has Gruier leave the bridge to suit up while she reiterates to her crew that their safety, and that of the ship, is her top priority. “If things get bad, we run,” she says – they’ll help Gruier as much as they can, but they aren’t about to die for her. Kane also exhibits some boss flying skills by performing a backwards combat landing into the ghost ship hangar, leading to Marika’s line of the week: “We got smacked in the butt!”

Rating: 4

Moretsu Pirates – 10

As Chiaki continues normal pirating activities posing as Marika, Marika, Gruier and the Bentenmaru enter a stormy corner of space where the ghost ship was last seen and explore. They discover a Serenity surveillance buoy network and Coorie hacks into it. Using it, they discover a massive spacial anomoly that is most likely the ghost ship, but a large fleet of Serenity warships are also in the vicinity. Marika orders them to intercept the smallest of the fleet’s three squadrons and successfully disable their sensors. Gruier offers to make them stand down, but it would give up the game too early in Marika’s judgement. Her plan is to stay silent, shadow the fleet, and swoop in when they find the ghost ship.

Funny; a minor can command a pirate ship into ion storms, but she can’t legally work more than eight hours a day. In any case, our confusion about Gruier joining the yacht club was cleared up, leaving us feeling quite foolish in retrospect: it’s supposed to be a secret that she and Marika are off in search of the ghost ship. Thus, as far as anyone’s concerned, Marika is pillaging cruise ships, Gruier is on a practice cruise with the club, and Bob’s theoretically yer uncle. We like the subterfuge…and it seems Chiaki likes Maria’s pirate uniform – after a couple minor alterations.

Our concerns of the series getting too “comfortable” in the Tau Ceti system were also put to rest, as we join the Bentenmaru deep in remote, stormy “seas” being pelted by cosmic debris. Marika shows she’s her father’s daughter once again by taking charge, making quick decisions on the fly, and sticking to them. Her daring charge on the two Corbacks was a great little maneuver, and denying Gruier’s request to clear up the “misunderstanding” with their opponents was a good decision. The Bentenmaru can observe the fleet’s search, thus hastening its eventual discovery.

Rating: 3.5

Moretsu Pirates – 09

Princess Gruier orders the Serenity ships to stand down, and the Bentenmaru docks with the Corback they were chasing, which bears a royal chaimberlain who provides the princess with a parcel that contains the chip that contains the info on the Serenity Golden Ghost Ship. Back at the Yacht Club, Chiaki tells Marika that other pirates, including her father, have been contracted to find the ship and eliminate anyone in their way. After the club makes Gruier an honorary member of the Yacht Club, she and Marika rejoin the Bentenmaru, which has extrapolated the likely path of the ghost ship, and they set off in search of it.

Not a lot actually happened, and some of it didn’t make much sense. Why was a ship fulfilling the wishes of the princess being pursued and even fired upon by her own defense forces? Why did she have to dress up as a pirate to tell them off? Why did Gruier need the Yacht Club member for their “attendence faking” skills when she’s not a real student anyway? Unless, of course, the king/queen of Serenity aren’t on board with their daughter’s plan…but we know nothing about Serenity’s motives; only Gruier’s.

Finally, knowing there’s something of a race to find this ghost ship, why did Marika go back home at all? Perhaps so she and the crew could have a nice meal at a messy restaurant run by a most surly chef. We’d be a little more forgiving of the dawdling this week, as the series typically does dawdling very well, but this was the second episode in a row of building up. We’re ready to go explore that ghost ship now. Bottom line: pleasant enough episode; we were just hoping for a little more progress.

Rating: 3

Moretsu Pirates – 08

The stowaway turns out to be Princess Gruier of the old and powerful Serenity royal family. She boarded the Bentenmaru of her own accord to request that they investigate the legendary Golden Ghost Ship. When media reports the princess is missing, Marika decides to enroll her at her school on Morningstar, limiting her enemies’ moves. A sudden job hits, in which the Bentenmaru must intercept an escort ship from Serenity carrying palace records relating to the ghost ship. When it arrives, it appears damaged, and is being pursued by a battleship and four other escorts – also Serenity affiliated.

Whether she’s there by her own will or not, the whole “Princess stowaway” premise was very well represented in the annals of Star Trek. Members of royalty often tend to act spoiled and aloof to their reluctant spacefaring hosts. Princess Gruier may be a downright silly-looking character, but she’s very polite, once she learns Marika is indeed the father of the captain she sought out. It seems a bit rash for a young princess to sneak aboard a pirate ship to make such a seemingly odd request, but perhaps we can chalk it up to no one in Serenity taking her seriously.

Of course, the events in the closing moments of the episode, like those last week, will likely have the biggest effect on where the story will go next week. We’ve got apparent Serenity-on-Serenity battle, and a Bentenmaru that will need to take a side. For now though, the main crew is formerly introduced in the guise of Gruier meeting them. They’re a most colorful group. With all these sudden royal circumstances, Marika’s pirate captain training has already burst out of its cruise ship-raiding mold.

Rating: 3.5

Moretsu Pirates – 07

Now that she’s a pirate captain, Marika is working twice as hard and her grades at schol are dropping. Still, she refuses to drop out, and vows to do better. The Bentenmaru’s next mission is to plunder the Frigard Liner Symphony Angel, which is being accompanied three escort ships, necessitating ship-to-ship combat. After bearing the Bentenmaru’s teeth, the fleet surrenders, and the mission is successful. While unwinding in her cabin, Marika is called back to the bridge with news that they have a stowaway – a small child who managed to hack the ship’s security systems.

This week’s teaser is played straight at first, but as the situation gets more and more dire, it’s clear it’s only a bad dream. But the dream does present the theme of the episode: can Marika handle everything on her plate? Of course, that’s kind of the theme of the whole series. With both of Marika’s lives now established, this episode could delve a bit into the workaday. We even see her back at the maid cafe with Mami, where Chiaki also stops by for another parfait. The mission is fairly elementary – pains are taken to make it clear the Bentenmaru doesn’t simply choose who to board and raid – they have a contact with a client to provide an entertainment to the crews of these liners.

These conceits may seem to kill the peril of this series, but we don’t think the peril is the point. We’re out in space, and many wars have been fought, and now most everything seems to be pretty nice and peaceful. There also seems to be quite a bit of wealth out there, and the wealthier people get, the more elaborate their entertainments become. It isn’t enough to go on an intergalactic cruse, oh no…you have to be attacked by pirates! It’s all in good fun, but that doesn’t mean the crew ofthe Bentenmaru don’t take their job very seriously, and demand that Marika do the same. Now she’s facing an unexpected new challenge: a stowaway kid.

Rating: 3.5

Moretsu Pirates 06

Marika is swept away from a relaxing day on the beach to sign all the necessary paperwork to recieve her letter of marque. Once she does, she has less than fifty days until it requires renewal, so she’s taken offworld to start her pirate training immediately. Aboard the Bentenmaru, she gets vigorous training and simulations in all the skills necessary for a captain, as well as little jobs (like laser-mopping). Chiaki joins her as a “propellant.” Marika launches her first raid as captain, taking the luxury liner Apricot Princess, and has to sword-duel with Kane, who infiltrated the ship beforehand. The first mission is a success, but she still has a long way to go.

Now this is what we thought we were getting into from the start. The excitement and glamour of astro-swashbuckling! Don’t get us wrong, the initial arc was very entertaining and a good way to introduce us to this world along with Marika, and it went a long way towards legitimizing Marika’s ability to take command of a ship. This week she blasts through more theoretical and practical training and takes the reins of her ship. Her first raid is a rousing one, and a testament to how good her crew is. Lest we forget, the Bentenmaru was responsible for stalking the Odette II the last couple weeks. These are pros, and it shows. The raid goes off without a hitch.

About that raid: these are vicious bloodthirsty pirates. In fact, since pirates are intentionally so secretive and rare in the Galactic Empire many still belive they’re only a myth, so it’s actually an honor and an event to be boarded and robbed – and insurance takes care of the monetary losses! We also like the element of theatre and stagecraft inherent in this raid: it isn’t by any means a no-nonsense smash-and-grab, oh no. Their victims are rich cultured people who deserve a professional but artistic raid and a good show, and they get a sword fight ended with Marika “killing” Kane with a bullet – just so they know she means business. Pirates are all about reputation. They’ve gotta act the part, ridiculous outfits, swords, hearty guffaws – all of it.

Rating: 4

Moretsu Pirates – 05

Marika has the Odette II shorten its course, and their opponent begins hacking their dummy systems. When Lynn launches a counter-cyberattack on the ship – called the ‘Lightning 11’ – it shuts down all its systems and starts firing shots from a beam cannon at the Odette II. Seeing that they’re using their eyeballs to target, Marika has the ships sail’s concentrate the sunlight of Tau Ceti into one massive beam of their own, which blinds them. Reinforcements arrive: the Bentenmaru, Stellar navy escorts and a second pirate ship, the Barbalusa, which Chiaki announces his her father’s ship. Her cruise successful, Marika agrees to become captain of the Bentenmaru.

Marika proves herself to everyone that she’s skipper material by making confident decisions, sticking with them, and thinking outside the box to defeat her foe, whom she and the yacht club believed was a legitimate threat. While there’s a bit of space battle eye candy in this episode, we witness the lion’s share of the  battle from the bridge, on console readouts and schematics and alarms. The ship is alive with activity, and the reports and commands fly rapidly. It’s all about the procedure, the process, and the details – the real nitty-gritty of running a ship under duress. Weapons finally come into the equation, but the electronic warfare and solar sails werewhat proved decisive. Great use of strategy, tactics, and resourcefulness.

We now also learn that Chiaki Kurihara isn’t just someone Marika met by chance who’ll serve under her command on the Bentenmaru. No, Chiaki is also a pirate’s daughter (though hers is still alive); which makes her and Marika potential allies, rivals, even foes, depending on what paths they take. And  so concludes the five-episode arc in which Marika shows not only her observers but herself that She Can Do This, and in which she makes her decision to take her father’s chair, was very well-orchestrated, and offered what we hope will only be a taste of the adventures to come. Next week we board the Bentenmaru and meet the rest of her crew. Should be fun.

Rating: 4

Moretsu Pirates – 04

As the Odette II’s practice cruise around Tau Ceti continues, Marika and Chiaki detect what they believe to be an enemy masquerading as the ghost ship Alcyon, lost more than a century ago. Marika informs the crew that she’s a candidate for the captaincy of a pirate ship, which is why the enemy is targeting them. Jenny already knows who she is, but agrees with the plan to take the fight to the ghost ship rather than ask adults for help and risk a ban on future cruises. Marika draws up the battle plan, which Dolittle approves. Only Kane and Misa know the truth: this is all an elaborate test of Marika’s skills.

Sometimes the chops required of successfully commanding a ship are naturally inhereted by one’s offspring, and that certainly seems to be the case with Marika Kato. She’s picking up on things at a strong and steady clip, impressing her pirate observers and fellow Yacht Club members alike. But the series doesn’t forget that this is still a training ship full of students, with no battle experience, so this impending battle won’t put the Odette II in mortal peril, the crew believes that’s exactly what they’ll be in, and act accordingly. This is for all the marbles: if they fail, they know they’ll risk having the Odette II taken away.

The episode is full of preparation and urgency, and we’re starting to learn a little more about some of the huge group of students. Important ones like Jenny and Lynn are touched upon, and the latter’s hacking abilities are integral to Marika’s plan. We like how ships can fool one another depending on the scan thrown at them, how basic analytical methods are used by Marika and the crew, and especially how Marika draws up both a strategy and specific tactics despite not being quite certain of the distinction between the two. This is seat-of-the-pants spacefaring; learning as she goes the conventions and pitfalls of space combat. Next week, we’ll see how she and the Odette II do against the pirates’ faux attack.

Rating: 3.5

Moretsu Pirates – 03

The electronic attack is resolved when the Odette II’s auto-defense system kicks in, redistributes power, and trips the ship’s breakers. The Yacht Club returns to the planet surface to take their final exams, then return to the Odette II for their practice cruise. The ship is successfully launched out of spacedock, but when they try to deploy the masts, a yard gets caught, requiring an EVA and some elbow grease to fix. Marika, Kane, and Chiaki, and four others suit up and leave the ship, successfully untangle the masts and unfurl the sails.

When Marika ultimately makes the decision to become a real pirate, it will set a lot of things into motion, and she (and by extension those around her) will no longer be protected by the non-aggression pact on the Sea of Morningstar. It’s not even clear if that pact extends into space, but the fact remains, it’s a big choice and she’ll have to be ready when she makes it. This episode really drove home the point that even if she doesn’t claim her birthright, she still leads a pretty awesome life…but is it enough? The episode also did a really good job laying out all the procedures required to launch a starship. The students comport themselves well, while also showing their age and relative inmaturity while changing into their spacesuits for instance, much to Kane’s chagrin.

While we’re at it, the Odette II is a really cool-looking ship, and  a more realistic, novel design than the sillier “galleons in space” of Treasure Planet or Rogue Galaxy. It’s cool that it’s a ship that sails the stars using solar wind and thermal radiation.We’re no scientist, so we’re not looking for ironcclad physics, but there’s nothing offensively far-fetched to pick at. The spacewalk scene ably captures the sheer awe and majesty of the inky black vastness, while cheerfully twinkling stars lessen the foreboding. Marika is a little scared (we’d be worried if she wasn’t), but she’s pumped-up and excited too.

Rating: 4

Moretsu Pirates – 02

Rescued by Chiaki from the numerous groups that meant to kidnap her or do her harm, Marika meets up with her mother, who takes her to an isolated space graveyard to try out weapons. She and Chiaki then head up into orbit with the Yacht Club to start up their ship, the Odette II, for a practice cruise under Mr. Kane’s supervision, which Marika finds suspicious. While sitting on the bridge, Marika notices Chiaki working vigorously at her terminal. It turns out another ship in the port is waging electronic warfare on the Odette II’s systems. Chiaki suggests they cut the cable to kill the network, but Marika decides they should fight back, despite their dubious skills.

Last week we were a bit surprised Ririka never told her daughter that both she and her father were pirates, and that Marika was the heir to her dad’s ship. This week, she explains: she was going to tell her when she graduated, assuming her dad would still be alive. That makes sense: let her have a more-or-less normal high school life. The thing is, this series’ idea of a normal high school life includes a club that has their own frikkin’ spaceship. We especially love how this spaceship has such a long and illustrious history, from a prototype to a transport to an explorer, and even served as a pirate ship during the revolutions. One nitpick: how exactly do miniskirts not cause mayhem in zero gravity…?

In any case, this episode introduced Marika to a little more of her pirate future (the mother-daughter gun session was pretty cute) and got her into space, where she immediately starts to assert herself with the e-warfare incident. She and Chiaki look like they’ll work well together, even if Chiaki may harbor a little envy towards Marika. We’re just glad they’re letting Marika dip her toes in the pool with this practice cruise rather than immediately heaving her into the deep end. She’s definitely not quite ready to take command of the Bentenmaru, but she’s getting there.

Rating: 4

Moretsu Pirates – 01

In the distant future, on a frontier planet called the Sea of the Morningstar, diligent high schooler Marika Kato lives a fairly ordinary life, until two friends of her mother Ririkia arrive one night and tell her she is the heir to the captain’s chair of the pirate ship Bentenmaru. While mulling over the decision, she goes back school, where she meets transfer student Chiakai Kurihara. While at her job as a cafe maid, a large group of strange people are there watching Marika. Kurihara saves her from an assassination attempt and they flee the cafe.

Moretsu (Bodacious) Pirates makes a very good opening argument into why we should – and will – watch it. It immediately and efficiently sets up a whole universe, from a quick history lesson, to a very comfy seaside city setting with just the right blend of traditional and futuristic details. A school yacht club where the yachts fly into orbit? An automatic chalkboard? Why not! Also, young Marika, while good at most everything she does, doesn’t come off as arrogant or annoying. Seiyu Mikako Komatsu (only her eighth role) does a good job with inoffensive voice acting alongside standbys like Kana Hanazawa (who plays the raven-haired four-eyes Kurihara) and Chiaki Omigawa (Marika’s friend Mami).

It’s a great start to a coming-of-age story too: since Marika does everything she sets her mind to well, there’s no reason to believe she won’t turn out to be a great captain. But can such a goody-two-shoes become a good pirate? Most people on her planet only think of pirates as a bunch of stories, legends and ancient history (much like in real life). Of course, pirates probably like it that way. But they’re real…and interestingly enough, they’re legal too (like privateers). With the stage set, Marika is about to embark on one hell of an adventure, and we can’t wait to see what happens.

Rating: 4