Mouretsu Pirates – 05 Review
I think in this case one may argue whether that opponent was “surprisingly primitive” or whether the girls weren’t rather surprisingly clever.
Mouretsu Pirates 05 – A Glimpse Of Excitement
So, five episodes and Marika decides to become a Space-Pirate-Captain? Gee, who’d have expected that… And Kurihara is also space-pirate, another ‘surprise’! And did anybody doubt that these evil bastards would lose the fight? Well, I guess, before anyone could even consider it Mouretsu Pirates made it its single task to explain to the audience why they will lose. I always think that elaborate plans are better as surprises after the fact instead of having them spoil the fun by being explained beforehand. But I guess this is a series that takes its lessons rather seriously as surely the narrator at the start of the next episode will remind us.
Following the plan they formed last episode the girls lie in wait for the opponent-ship to start its electronic warfare. Like expected they try to take over the ship’s systems but don’t realize that it’s just a dummy. After they’ve taken over the dummy they consider the Odette II incapacitated and send a message whether it needs any help. Instead the girls hack the opponent-ship and take over their systems but before they can do anything the opponent-ship shuts off their computers and start shooting. While they are under fire the girls realize that the opponent-ship is aiming with their bare eyes which is the reason why they haven’t hit the Odette yet. Marika quickly comes up with a plan. Using the solar-sails she reflects the light of the Tau-star and blinds the opponent-ship. That’s when reinforcements appear, under them the Barbulsa and Kurihara reveals that she’s the daughter of that ship’s captain. Safely back at home Marika tells her mother that she decided to take the position as captain of the Bentenmaru.
In a series with normal pacing she probably would’ve said that in the first episode – instead of the fifth…
Like Rinne no Lagrange Mouretsu Pirates took rather long to get where it’s supposed to be. The question is of course whether a five-episode-introduction was a good move or not. And there’s no easy answer to that because even if you weren’t bored by the developments, it still lacked any sort of clear tension that made you cheer for the characters. What actually made these episodes so charming was the attention to details in terms of tech and procedure, the restrained mood of the plot (lack of fanservice for example) and the characters. And I have to admit even when I wasn’t exactly thrilled watching any of the five episodes they were still greatly enjoyable.
This episode was the best one of the five ones, I think, with the way it brought plot-development and setting together. In the beginning there was simply no plot and at every point of time I assumed things would become a little more dramatic now, the tension ended instead with the solution to the problem. I didn’t really like the way the five episodes were also restrained in handling tension. It’s clear that the point of these five episodes was to show off Marika’s competence and to help her make the decision whether she would like being a space-pirate-captain or not. That means there are two sides to this introduction: The first one is the presentation of a character, the second one is a character-development. It’s one of these things that’s rather hard to pull off because on one hand you want to describe the status quo of the character’s virtues and flaws but on the other hand the plot already wanted her to develop so that she can make some decision. So of course there needed to be a struggle to be a catalyst for the character-development.
I think one of the greatest flaws of the first five episodes was the way the “struggle” was handled. It’s rather unconventional how this series presented it as it concentrated on ‘realism’ (not the hard-sci-if-kind, though, just the ambition to seem that way). And this ‘realism’-aspect wanted to tell us that ‘reality’ isn’t popcorn-action. And it wanted to tell that the audience very badly. First of all you’ve got these “Previously on Mouretsu Pirates”-sequences in the beginning which try to justify last week’s episode. It is good in the way it had made clear that this series wants to go for a rather restrained atmosphere. On the other hand, though, in episode 5 it started to sound a little bit defensive for me as if it were saying “Okay, we know you wanted space-pirates playing Star Wars but here’s why our version is so much more awesome.” since it became a little preachy how it always comes back to this “You think this is boring, well, bad luck… this is reality.”. And I think being a little bit more conventional would’ve made these five episodes more entertaining than obsession over talking everything out and explaining every step along the way.
I have to admit that at that point I had this nightmare of the opponent turning tail and fleeing once again if it meets just the tiniest bit of resistance. These five episodes certainly taught me never to expect things to get as dramatic as they could get in this series.
One of the things that made it less conventional was the way ‘evil’ was handled. The struggle that would lead to the desired development of Marika was a battle in this case. It was a rather subdued battle of course which is in accordance with the desire of the series to have a restrained atmosphere. So it didn’t need to be a duel with guns blazing and that’s not what was so unconventional about it. It was the fact that the opponents were pretty much faceless. Having a faceless opponent isn’t bad, actually it’s a good way to make things even more exciting like for example in Spielberg’s Jaws where the shark wasn’t visible until the second half of the movie. It’s a basic rule of filmmaking that what you don’t see is more terrifying than what you do see. So, okay, the series keeps the villains faceless but the thing is, though, it’s not because it wanted to create more tension that way. It was again this obsession with appearing to be realistic that apparently drove the series to concentrate on Marika’s ship and how it works with all people involved. So it was all about Marika being on her ship with her clubmates and dealing with this other ship that was trying to attack them. In my opinion critical moments always should be either quiet or chaotic, it’s either the tension of not knowing what will happen next or the tension of multiple things happening at once. Now the series wants to be restrained therefore one would probably think that the former kind will be more appropriate. But this series actually went for neither of them.
I said before that this introduction was also about presenting the status quo of Marika’s virtues and flaws but also about her making a decision. Now here’s the part where this series didn’t work for me: There was never any doubt she would gonna be the anticipated space-pirate-captain. You could point at the synopsis and say “No surprise in that regard.” but what irked me about bringing the two intentions together was the way there never was any real development. Marika was the ‘real deal’ right from the beginning and it’s interesting to see a character who’s talented and knows that she’s talented. But she had to make a decision, remember? So where was the conflict? What stopped her from just agreeing in the first place. Imagine you’re good at playing a piano and someone offers you a good piano for free – why wouldn’t you wanna take it? And that’s the part that simply was missing: What did Marika leave behind by deciding to become a space-pirate-captain? Her character fits the profile of being a pirate-captain but why wouldn’t she wanna be that?
So there’s no question character-wise why she wouldn’t wanna be a space-pirate-captain and that brings me back to the lack of tension in these five episodes. The danger of the job is an issue, one has to admit so introducing a threat to the main-chara seems like a sound plan to show off how Marika comes to a decision. But the opponent is completely faceless and the danger isn’t really there. It feels more like it got ‘explained away’ by having Marika come up with clever plans and everyone discussing everything. That’s nice and all but I think a change of point-of-view to the villains would’ve helped to show how she tricked them and would’ve helped to not make the villains look like idiots. Of course there’s the childish option of introducing goofballs as generic villains that are too ridiculous to be worthy opponents but it’s enough showing off pirates who underestimated this ship manned by girls and two teachers, I think. The point is that the villains as an object of tension weren’t really present because they were outsmarted and because they were visually basically non-existent.
What these five episodes made entertaining, though, were the characters. There’s nothing forced about the way they act and you don’t have these typical goofy moments just to make things look more moe, cute and stuff. When the girls talk with each other there are no antics thrown into the mix and the characters act like they have a personality instead of having a writer behind them waiting to insert the next fanservice-joke. The series may be a bit too much when it comes to explaining stuff but this shows off that someone actually cared about the plot making sense (unlike what the writers of Guilty Crown aspire to apparently). The reaction to the explanation that the opponent-ship relied on aiming with their bare eyes was the kind actually every sci-fi-series should have when it comes to antiquated methods. Technology makes a lot of stuff superfluous and everybody would frown if someone would think that “having dinner” and “hunting in a forest” are connected by necessity because now we have supermarkets. The series handled aiming the ship’s weapons with your bare eyes the same way.
The episode finished the introduction of the series on a great note with the most entertaining episode up to date. In this episode there was actually interesting plot-development and since the introduction ended now one can hope there will be more space-piracy to be seen in the future. The characters were entertaining as always and while the episode still relied a bit too much on explaining things, it showed that it cared about having a rational plot. The only thing that had held back this episode was the strange way the villains got handled and how they weren’t very effectively used.