Mouretsu Pirates 26 – Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho!
July 4, 2012 Leave a comment
And thus ends Mouretsu Pirates, a series that started off slowly all those weeks ago but gradually built up into one of the best of the year with fascinating characters and an excellent story. It has been a long time since there was a space opera that had such an excellent and importantly consistent case of characters. The finale answered many questions that had been building up over the course of the series, while still keeping several important ones unanswered, possibly to allow for other series in the near future. Marika was a brilliant lead character, someone who was both brilliant while retaining a certain element of naivety and obliviousness that made her such a joy to watch. Ultimately it was a series about her discovery of what it means to be a pirate and how it has impacted on her and her friends lives.
Over the course of the series we have seen multiple sides to the people we know as space pirates; they are outlaws, smugglers, but also performers, they hold the ability to be a significant power in the galaxy and perhaps universe, which is why they are feared. The Letter of Marque is the clearest indication that the greater powers in the galaxy wish to control and harness the power of these space pirates. Ultimately many pirates have succumbed to the easy life of a travelling performer, preferring to stage the performances for the benefit of rich cruise passengers rather than attempt something more dangerous, something only a true pirate may even consider. We have seen how Marika and the Bentenmaru are bound in by the Letter of Marque to carry out specific tasks and jobs every month to maintain they legal position within the Umi no Akeboshi star system, and yet there was always something different about Marika. She knew about and fully understands the power of the Letter of Marque, but ultimately she is not controlled by it, simply using it as a convenient way to allow her and the Bentenmaru freedom to do what they wanted.
Quartz Christie claims that because so many pirates have forgotten or lost the essential elements of piracy that they are no longer needed, thus justifying her mission to hunt and eradicate them. Marika naturally disagrees and challenges her to a duel of such, pitting the Bentenmaru and an entire fleet of pirate ships against the supposedly vastly superior Grand Cross. What is so fascinating about Marika is that she sees the true power of space pirates, and is capable of bringing them together in a way that no one has ever manages before. Quartz Christie sees them as vermin and so underestimates them, viewing them as vastly inferior and possibly not worth her time. Marika sees how with the right motivation and encouragement space pirates could truly rule space with overwhelming force and cunning. One of her greatest strengths is her ability to manipulate the hearts and minds of pirates, making them band together under her command without even thinking about it.
In doing so she shows Quartz Christie, along with the other pirates that they have the ability to break away from the Letter of Marque and act on their own. The Bentenmaru commands the fleet from afar, showing them The Grand Cross attack patterns and luring Quartz Christie in only to face obliteration, it is a brilliant move showing Marika tactical mastery and her ability to command the hearts and minds of others. But more than this, Marika is capable of making tactical decisions throughout any fight, while also trusting the other pirates. As she says, she is betting on the experience that the Bentenmaru and the other pirates have collected to put her plan into action. Marika has been capable of seeing what Quartz Christie is blind to, and in doing so has commanded what may be one of the most dangerous fleets in the galaxy (although perhaps she and many of the other pirates do not truly realise this at first).
But at the same time, to say that the ostentatious displays and general showing off that takes place during these performances is to miss the point entirely. What is a space pirate if they aren’t flashy or exciting, as Hyakume suggests, pirates are simply a group of people firing lasers and missiles, only with more style. Marika recognises the importance of theatrics and uses it to her advantage, choosing to boards The Grand Cross rather than simply blow it up from afar. Partly this is because she wishes to continue her conversation with Quartz Christie, and also to show her the true power of the people that Christie originally looked down upon. That another captain is willing to let Marika use his ship as a ramming vessel further demonstrates her capability at commanding others.
The question about what it means to be a pirate has been asked on multiple occasions throughout this series, and on every occasion a different reason and meaning has been given. At first we see how Marika simply gives an answer that includes the Letter of Marque, but not she knows different, or perhaps believes different. To her, the Letter of Marque is no longer needed and that she is a pirate simply because she is Katou Marika, and similarly, she is Katou Marika precisely because she is a pirate. Such an answer is as simple as it is complex, demonstrating that you don’t always need such a clear answer to a question that never really existed in the first place. Her attitude has now spread to Chiaki who has been forced to reassess her view of what it means to be a true space pirate.
Originally we see Chiaki as someone who is inescapably bound to the Letter of Marque, believing that you cannot go against its conditions and are therefore only able to pull off specified jobs. Marika has shown her a different side to being a pirate, and in doing so has demonstrated to Chiaki that she can make her own decisions regardless of the consequences as long as she carries through with them to the very end. At first Chiaki appears to think that Marika is completely mad, or perhaps oblivious to her duties as a space pirate, this becomes ever clearer during the Jenny Dolittle arc when Chiaki believes that to recue Jenny is too dangerous. But now she truly believes in Marika’s ability and the future that she sees – Chiaki has thus changed and become someone who will follow Marika and be a part of whatever journey she wishes to take.
Such a change helps to demonstrate the ability of pirates to adapt and to change regardless their situation, by believing in Marika and in essence rejecting the Letter of Marque, Chiaki is betting on the true power of the space pirates. Chiaki’s father Kenjou Kurihara asks her what she wishes to do, and whether or not she will go with Marika. In essence this is the culmination of all the time Marika and Chiaki have spent together, as if Chiaki’s father was deliberately showing her that there was more to piracy than simply following the Letter of Marque. The answer seems clear although nothing is said, Chiaki must now follow Marika to truly discover what it means to be a pirate, and that by staying on the Barbalusa, she may once again fall into the simply, but deadly pattern of piracy as performance.
It has now become clear that Ironbeard is Gonzaemon Katou, Marika’s father, but also now a pirate of the Galactic Empire. His reasons for appearing dead remain a mystery, although it is perhaps because he wished to look for something that his current way of life had been lacking. Although as Ririka suggests it could be that he is just a terrible parent and doesn’t really understand how to show is love for Marika, despite clearly being near for her quite a while. In the end however, we see that Marika is truly the daughter of Gonzaemon and Ririka; she has the flair for the dramatic that Gonzaemon demonstrates during their first encounter, while also having the strong will of Ririka.
It is fascinating to see how he is linked with Gruier, but it also makes sense, her knowledge of the Bentenmaru along with knowing about Marika’s father and mother always suggested a deeper connection between them. Once Marika is established as pirate it looks as if she will wield a tremendous amount of power, not only because of the Bentenmaru, but because of the friends and relationships that she has built up over the course of the series. Seeing the yacht club apparently coming to rescue Marika in the Odette II, complete with brilliant costumes courtesy of Mami once again shows us how many people Marika has around her. The idea of having a future business leader, an elite hacker and even two princesses all coming to her aid shows that people need to take Marika seriously.
The ending itself is quite apt, once again showing that while Marika may now know of the power that she can wield as a space pirate, she is not bound by it. Her wish to graduate from high school with her friends shows that she is not bound to being a space pirate in the same way that she is not bound by the Letter of Marque. Ultimately her true power lies in her ability to adapt, and to change her view of what is necessary depending on the situation. The only real criticism I have about Mouretsu Pirates oddly involves this final arc, which happened to be the most exciting. While it was a spectacular final arc, it felt a little short and could have been significantly longer, perhaps taking the place on the yacht race. Every one of the arcs were important in character progression, but a couple of the arcs in the second half of the series didn’t feel as if they really progressed the story, which is why this final part did feel a little rushed. On the bright side, a Mouretsu Pirates film has been announced and there are also rumours of a second season to air during the winter 2013 season, although these are as yet unconfirmed. I feel that this series was an excellent introduction to the Mouretsu universe, but I now what to see Marika, perhaps a little older and as a true pirate, hopefully this will happen because there is clearly other stories to tell about the ongoing voyages of the star ship Bentenmaru.