Mouretsu Pirates 16 – Piracy as performance
April 25, 2012 3 Comments
It has become abundantly that piracy in the Mouretsu Pirates universe has two distinct sides. On the one hand we have piracy as a performance, with pirate ships and crews employed to fulfil the role of an in ship performance, giving many people a chance to see something new and exciting. On the other hand, however, pirates are on the fringes of lawful society, taking jobs that may be illegal, dangerous and potential life threatening. That they can exist within these two opposing worlds shows the versatility and adaptability of those that call themselves pirates.There is an element of the travelling performer to pirates in this series, perhaps even a circus, complete with costumes bright lights and all manner of tricks. While circuses and other forms of travelling performers may be commonplace now, there was a time during the early part of the 20th century, and even stretching back into the 19th century, when they were the pinnacle of the exotic. It was a chance to see all manner of weird and wonderful performers, miraculous and dangerous stunts and acrobatics, along with exotic animals from all over the world. The stunts, the exotic people and animals, along with the energy, music and colours added up to create a spectacle that for many watching may have seemed to be eerie or otherworldly.
Pirating in Mouretsu Pirates can be viewed as an extension of this idea that certain travelling performers and attractions bring you an element of exoticism, it is the idea of the carnivalesque in these performances that draw people in. Pirates are scarce, and to be able to see a pirate up close, perhaps even have one rob you of your valuables can perhaps be best viewed as a life experience. Like the people involved in the circus during the late 19th and early 20th century, they are rogues, living outside of normal society, often with a lifestyle that has been highly romanticised by stories and word of mouth. That the shipping companies fully cover the effects of piracy in their insurance further suggests that this is considered a once in a lifetime opportunity for many. It might be akin to going on a safari, or even backpacking across the world, you are seeing new things, and yet still maintain an element of familiarity since you never really leave the company of other people in similar situations to yourself.
But, like all good performances, it is planned meticulously, and while there is an element of the anarchic in what happens, it is never left to get out of control. Everyone needs to know what role they will be playing, dress and act accordingly, but also, the way this performance is presented is important. However, this performance can be further seen as a live act, one where the audience may be aware of certain elements, but does not know where the actors may appear and what the performance fully entails.
The audiences reactions is therefore paramount to pulling off a successful performance, if you lose them, your act is a failure and all notions of the exotic and otherworldly charm of pirates may be lost forever. The act of piracy can therefore be viewed as a tightly choreographed performance between two different groups, with each fully understanding what the other is doing and acting accordingly. The audience may know that this is some sort of performance, and yet they are not certain, but their cooperation with the pirates is essential to pull it off. So, while elements of the performance may be highly choreographed, there is also an element of improvisation, with the pirate crew working off of the audiences energy, changing their performance to suit the mood.
The crew of the Bentenmaru have had a lot of practice in pulling off a flashy show with guns blazing and swords held aloft, they are masters of the theatre in a sense. Their theatrics brings back ideas of the frontier, the lawless areas of space, ideas of surviving on your wits and your weapons. They can create a notion of being attacked by outlaws, people who would be willing to kill if it meant getting hold of more loot, and yet have a delicate touch. Their performances with swords and guns have earned them a reputation for wonderfully deft swordsmanship, rugged charm, and exoticism that may be lacking from many peoples lives. It is this dangerous romanticism that helps to create what is the myth of the pirate, and while the reality of running a ship is completely different, it is necessary to maintain this illusion, it is their image as pirates that is important, not the reality.
The yacht club lack this, and yet they put on a performance that still maintains the exotic charm of piracy. However, instead of the circus, this performance is more akin to that of a fairground, or even children’s play. The people on board the space liner are amused, bemused and enraptured by the performance that unfolds before them. For many this may be their only chance to see a pirate, and the idea of teenagers as pirates may further add to the mythos of what it means to space pirate in their imaginations. That their costumes don’t match Marika’s adds to the otherworldly quality of this performance, it is cute, yet dangerous, childish, alluring, but also fascinating. The Yacht Club are parodying the Bentenmaru’s performance, there is still the exoticisms, along with the carnivalesque, but they are for entirely different reasons,and while the audiences reaction may be different, there is still an element of wonder and awe present.
And through all this we have Marika, the ringmaster, the conductor, the producer, she is the person at the centre of this performance, and yet also in the shadows. Her planning and leadership pull this performance off, and while her performers are grabbing everyone’s attention Marika, along with Chiaki are making sure that everything is going smoothly. Without these people in the shadows making sure everything is going smoothly it would not be possible to pull off these shows and things may even devolve into anarchy, this destroying any legitimacy the pirates have. The passengers can only really maintain their calm because they know that they wont get hurt, despite the idea that pirates are outlaws and dangerous, it is this curious balance that helps to maintain the performances throughout.
Pirates have managed to maintain their position by adapting to the times, and they have gained legitimacy through these performances. But, there is an element of smoke and mirrors within these performances that allow the pirates to maintain legitimacy, while also still living on the margins of society and the law. Their jobs entertaining passengers aboard spaces cruise ships give them a public face, nut in the shadows they are carrying out more dangerous, perhaps even clandestine missions. They are very much like the circus’ of the past, providing entertainment, while living on the margins of society. No one truly knows who they are, no one necessarily cares, they go where they like, arriving with a big fanfare, but disappearing into the night leaving only memories of colour, noise and something that is beautiful, yet dangerous.
This ability to come and go as they please make pirates dangerous, that there presence is also almost intangible, like seas mist further creates an air of danger around them. The Letter of Marque is a means of controlling piracy and pirates, and while it does give them legitimacy, it also ties them into these performances. And yet, in order to maintain the freedom that pirates have come to live with and love, they must maintain their place within the boundaries or society. But, as we see at the end of this episode, pirates walk a very fine line between the legitimate and illegal, meandering between the two as they see fit. That The Bentenmaru can move from providing entertainment for the Princess Apricot, right into a request to kidnap Jenny Dolittle further underlines this precarious position that pirates have in the universe of Mouretsu Pirates.