Mouretsu Pirates 17 – Pirates walk a fine line between legal and illegal
May 3, 2012 4 Comments
In the universe of Mouretsu Pirates, Space Pirates constantly walk a very fine line between the legal and the illegal. They do not however stay on that line, frequently meandering backwards and forwards across it depending on the job and of course the necessities that come with maintaining their Letter of Marque. Throughout the series we have seen both sides of being a pirate, with the big, flamboyant displays that are put on for rich space cruise passengers, to the more dirty jobs that require cunning, guile and nerves of steel.
We have also been given two interesting, but opposed views about what it means to be a space pirate, along with ideas towards duty, crew safety and maintaining your place within the current framework that space pirates find themselves. Chiaki suggests that pirates cannot commit any crimes, and in some respects she is correct, space pirates cannot officially commit crimes due to the weight of that Letter of Marque. The Letter of Marque is a means by which galactic institutions such as governments, large conglomerates, and other ruling bodies can maintain control over the space pirates. But giving them a way with which they have a certain element of legitimacy, space pirates can continue to work, while these institutions can have a private, highly trained military force at their disposal.
This is significant due to the nature of being a pirate, or in this case a privateer. They are unpredictable, highly skilled, and unconventional in their methods; people who are not willing to stick to any form of chivalry or other rules of engagement, they are outlaws in effect. The idea of having such unpredictable crews and ships roaming the galaxy picking off choice targets adds an element of anarchy that ruling parties wish to avoid. They wish to maintain their control over their areas of the universe, and in order to do so, rogue elements either need to be destroyed or brought to hell. Similarly for the pirates it is an attractive offer, while they may be highly skilled, having very few safe havens, along with multiple militaries after them cannot be a particularly attractive concept. To the pirates, their Letter of Marque allows them to maintain their current way of life, while at the same time affording them a space in which to live in a (relatively) legitimate manner.
This is not, however, unique to Mouretsu Pirates, for a brief period in European history, pirates were a powerful force, with British pirates plundering Spanish ships and the Spanish Main during the 15th, 16th, and even 17th centuries. However, early on they were dangerous, not only to the Spanish colonies and ships, also to the British, and French, indiscriminately pillaging and looting. During the Tudor period (England), and in particular under Queen Elizabeth I, there was the notion of harnessing the knowledge and power of these pirates. By giving the captains official titles and often places within the royal court, along with orders from the crown, Elizabeth successfully harnessed this potentially devastating force for her own ends.
There are similar parallels to Mouretsu Pirates, with space pirates having to give up a certain amount of freedom in order to maintain their way of life, and also avoid being wiped out. To Chiaki, this is what it means to be a pirate, and to her, the Letter of Marque is absolute, therefore anything that poses a potential threat to maintaining your place within this society is dangerous and must be avoided at all costs. Her objection to kidnapping Jenny Dolittle comes from this point of view, but it also shows that while Chiaki may have grown up on a pirate ship, she has not inherited the outlook on life that her father, and perhaps many other pirates have.
Chiaki is therefore constrained within the confines of the Letter of Marque, she cannot see or think about any other way of life, and so the idea of doing something illegal is alien to her. And it could be argued that this was the original purpose of imposing the Letter of Marque as a necessity to maintain the life of a pirate. Chiaki, while skilled, has grown up in a softer environment than many older pirates, and can only see the rules and regulations in front of her. Furthermore, she lacks the adventurer’s spirit that the original pirates had, and instead has become someone who stays within the boundaries that have been set out for her.
Marika on the other hand is different, and while she knows the power of the Letter of Marque, along with the necessity of having one, she is not constrained by that power. Marika has not been brought up as a pirate, and while Ririka was once a feared pirate throughout the stars, with everyone knowing the name ‘Blaster Ririka’, she chose to abandon that way of life to raise her daughter. However, Ririka never lost her spirit, and in a sense was always an imposing figure for everyone around her, including her daughter Marika.
She has taught Marika about honour, about looking out for her crew, but above all, about following her feelings and intuition, what Ririka has imparted to her daughter is in a sense the very essence of what it means to be a space pirate. Marika is therefore not constrained by the Letter of Marque in the same way that Chiaki is, and while she understands the necessity of owning one, she also sees it as merely another tool with which space pirates can live. This is the attitude that makes Marika such a fascinating and unpredictable character to watch.
To Marika, the idea of going against the Hugh and Dolittle fleet is not something to be scarred of, but is instead exciting, she relishes in the chance to get in on the action. Marika decides right away to help Jenny, and when Jenny ends up escaping and boarding the Bentenmaru it is almost obvious that Marika will continue to aid her. What makes Marika such a brilliant pirate captain is her ability to assess the situation, and while there may be safer options, there are also more interesting choices available. It is her ability to think outside of the box known as the Letter of Marque that sets her aside from Chiaki, someone who is too conventional.
Marika’s discussion with Show from the insurance agency demonstrates her strong will, her ability to negotiate, but also her willingness to work within the grey area of the law, being both illegal and legal at the same time. She may have the safety of the crew and her ship to worry about, but the possibility to engage in some real piracy, along with a potentially highly rewarding prize is enough for Marika to choose the more dangerous option.
That is what Mouretsu Pirates has brought us, two characters with opposing views as to what it means to be a pirate. Chiaki, while intelligent and brilliant at what she does, is also quite dull, lacking any real flair, with no ambitions, and sticking so rigidly to the laws surrounding the Letter of Marque that it almost hurts. Marika on the other hand can be viewed as more of a free spirit, willing to try something new, risk a little for a greater reward. She understands why a Letter of Marque is needed, but doesn’t feel constrained by it, instead choosing to do things her own way, regardless of their legality.
This is one of the fascinating elements of Mouretsu Pirates, as a series it has shown us the fine line that pirates must tread in order to maintain their legitimacy. But, it has also demonstrated how some pirates take this too seriously and become little more than travelling performers, unwilling to try something new or dangerous. On the other hand we have pirates like Marika and her crew who can, and do undertake shadier work in full knowledge that what they are doing may not be quite legal, but pays well. Marika is a great character and makes an excellent captain because she understands the tricky position that space pirates are in, and yet, is still willing to push things a little and be the pirate that we know she should be.