Mouretsu Pirates 25 – A bit like Phantom of the Opera, only with better looking masks and more pirates
June 27, 2012 Leave a comment
One of the central questions of this series has been what it means to be a space pirate; it is a question that has come up on multiple occasions, and asked by a variety of different people. For the most part the answer has been somewhat simplistic in nature, often pertaining to possessing a Letter of Marque, and thus being part of what has become an elaborate web of official business within various solar systems. Essentially to many people the entire world of a space pirate revolves around this piece of paper, and as such they must obey its commands as if it were a sentient being. But of course this is wrong, pirates come in all shapes and sizes, and many of them are not bound by the Letter of Marque, but instead by their own rules.
There are those as we learn who are bound to the Galactic Empire, and are in a sense a more powerful breed of pirate, one with access to vast quantities of exceptional technology and information. There is an astounding ignorance amongst many pirates who hold a Letter of Marque when it comes to the Galactic Empire. We see many of them apparently believing that they are one of a select few in the universe who can have the title of pirate, and are a law unto their own. This attitude is exemplified in the appearance of Quartz Christie once again, only this time sporting a cloak with a skull clasp denoting her position as a pirate of the Galactic Empire. Her arrogance is only matched by that of the other pirate captains, seemingly suggesting that she is above everyone else in the room, as if it is beneath her to even be in the same place as those who only pretend to be pirates.
There is an element of truth in this attitude however, since the Letter of Marque has arguably outlived its usefulness, and has instead become something that chains pirates instead of helping them. Initially we learn that this simple piece of paper was used to sign on privateers, giving them a chance to continue their current lifestyle of pillaging and looting, while also giving them a certain amount of protection. In exchange they became something of a highly mobile private army, with the ability to attack from anywhere at any time using their skills as pirates. Such a deal was clearly advantageous at the time, with both parties profiting and gaining something important. However, as time has passed we have seen a gradual change in the pirates, a shift from their old attitude to a new one that embraces the opportunities that this Letter of Marque gave them.
Many have become entrepreneurs, using their skills as pirates, along with the protection that the Letter of Marque provides to start up their own businesses. At the same time many have become simple performers, and much like a circus, they move from place to place, giving people in search of a thrill the chance to see a space pirate in the flesh. The power of the space pirates has therefore been stunted, chained to the Letter of Marque that controls their every move. We have seen this ourselves when Marika must undertake at least one ‘pirate mission’ while her crew is in quarantine in order to maintain her Letter of Marque. Instead of using this new tool to their advantage, pirates have instead become controlled by it and keep a tight schedule so that they do not lose such an item. In a sense as Quartz Christie and Ironbeard suggest, space pirates have lost something essential, and have become a shadow of their former selves.
Quartz Christie uses this attitude and set of ideals to justify her pirate hunt, suggesting that as they are no longer true pirates they have no place in this universe any longer. To her those who possess a Letter of Marque lack the essence of being a proper pirate and are no more than vermin, only fit to be exterminated. In part she is correct, many pirates have lost something essential, rather than be brave adventurers, they are little more than travelling performers who have the title of pirate, rather than the soul of one. We see pirates such as Stone, the brash young pirate who decides to threaten Christie and then attempt to ambush her and Ironbeard, despite their being a no killing rule in the Pirates Nest. As a pirate he is stupid, acting only on instinct and emotions, unable to see that those he is attempting to kill are superior to him in terms of skill and brainpower.
Marika is different, she is a new, or perhaps an old breed of pirate, one who recognises the power that the Letter of Marque has, but uses it instead of being bound by it. She knows what is necessary to maintain her ‘licence’, but at the same time is able to take on jobs and tasks that are illegal, pitting her against intergalactic fleets and adversaries who may consider vastly superior. She is a fascinating character, someone who can appear to be oblivious or perhaps naïve at times, all the while calculating and plotting behind the scenes. On numerous occasions her plans have been kept until the last minute, surprising everyone, both her crew and foes. What is interesting however is her presence, and her ability to command others no matter who they are. She knows full well the power that Quartz Christie and The Grand Cross hold, but rather than try to ambush her, she instead lays down a challenge, drawing Christie from her comfort zone. Not only that, she also sees that Quartz Christie was deliberately trying to goad the other pirates, forcing them into a confrontation that they had no hope of winning.
Such pirates were headstrong and foolish, going by emotions rather than thinking things through properly. Quartz Christie is surprised by Marika’s ability to command others, as if she is seeing someone capable of commanding an army for the first time. And yet in her own mind she is still the superior, one with a vastly more powerful ship, along with having the backing of the Galactic Empire, while she may see Marika as an equal, she still views her as inferior by being in possession of a Letter of Marque. Of course at the same time, both Quartz Christie and Ironbeard are no less bound by their duties to the Galactic empire than the others are bound by their Letter of Marque. Ironbeard has been ordered by ‘The Queen’ to bring her back, thus demonstrating that while they may be slightly more piratical in some respects, these Galactic Empire pirates are more like a private army that the pirates with a Letter of Marque ever were. It is instead a case of the importance you place on such items and ideas that matters, making sure that they do not define who you are, and instead use them to your advantage
Marika’s ability to plan everything through, all the while maintaining this front of the innocent high school girl who is almost playing at being a pirate is as fascinating as it is scary. She completely derails peoples thought patterns, pushing away ideas such as who will command the pirate fleet and instead focussing on who should be in charge of electronic warfare. In a sense it is a case of smoke and mirrors, with Marika distracting the pirates with ideas such as electronic warfare, mentioning that the Bentenmaru is the only ship who has fought The Grand Cross rather than having them argue about who is to be the leader. This in itself already shows us that Marika has assumed the role of commander, suggesting rather than ordering, giving people room to move and put the idea in their heads that they are in command of what is happening. It is this unassuming nature of Marika and the Bentenmaru itself that makes it so dangerous – she is deliberately not mentioning anything to do with command and tactics, instead keeping her plan to herself until it is needed.
We have also learned something useful about the position of the Galactic Empire, along with the current position that pirates have in this universe. According to Ironbeard a monumental event is about to take place, one that will test their resolve and change the way they think. They will have to choose according to him, whether they become true pirates, or stay as pirates for hire, travelling performers who will forever be bound by their Letter of Marque. What is so interesting about his arrival however, is the appearance of not only Ririka, who is apparently acting as a bodyguard, but also Kane’s twin brother, who was apparently acting in his place. It is not yet certain why Kane was switching places with his twin, and also why Ironbeard took such an interest in Marika, but it must tie into who she is and what he sees her achieving. At the moment it appears that Ironbeard truly is Marika’s father, and far from being dead, instead took up what must be his true position as a pirate of the Galactic Empire.
Ririka’s part in all of this remains a bit of a mystery, although it appears as if she is simply teaming up with Ironbeard once again to see what will happen with the future of space pirates. Between them they may have been observing Marika to see who she has become and what sort of future she will create with her own hands. The startling change in her personality and ability to command has clearly come as a bit of a shock to them, although it clearly was not unexpected. It will be interesting to see how this all ends and whether or not any questions will be answered. If nothing else I would like to know the significance of Ironbeard and Ririka being together, including why and how Misa knows them both and of course Kane’s involvement in all of this. The only real complaint about all of this is that it has come incredibly late, and a little rushed. Such an arc could have taken up half of the series rather than five episodes, with the characters and their place in the story fleshed out more.