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!