Mouretsu Pirates – 06 Review
I like how it’s assumed that the best way to deal with bad situations is to laugh about them. It’s like turning something into a comedy will make a “OMG, we’re gonna die!”-situation less severe. I can really see how that can work out.
Mouretsu Pirates 06 – Being Robbed By Pirates Is High-Class-Entertainment
So Marika hasn’t beaten the Kobayashi Maru test obviously. Sad state of affairs, really. A normal protagonist of a shounen-series would beat the crap out of whole fleets of enemies with flimsy explanations like having shitloads of courage to spend. Obviously this series isn’t that dramatic at this point but this week any issues with the pacing are excused because Marika has to go through the bureaucracy of getting her Letter of Marquee as new captain of the Bentenmaru. And that kind of stuff always takes time – just like in the real world. Also, what’s just like in the real world is making Piracy a real job. That’s just the kind of honest work any child should aspire to do. Robbing rich people while giving a good show. It’s just like a musical – but without singing. That’s why there’s a cyborg on board of the Bentenmaru, not because he’s strong or anything, no, he’s there because he looks good on stage. Being a pirate means being an actor for the people who seek real hardcore entertainment. Because in the future meeting criminals is an event full of entertainment. And that’s a notion surely everyone can empathize with.
After snatching Marika away from her everyday life she undergoes the many tedious challenges of bureaucracy to get her Letter of Marquee. Having become the captain of the Bentenmaru now officially she starts her training. While having a hard time with many of the things she has to do during the training she shows some talent for what it’s expected of her to do. At some point Kurihara joins her and they both continue the training together. In a history-lesson the setting is explained as two sides fighting a war with one side using the pirates as support but then a third party intervenes and wins the war all by itself conquering both sides of the conflict. The episode ends with the first successful act of piracy done by Marika which ended up being more a kind of stage-performance with a bit of stealing.
It always bothers me to see this kind of eye-patch on characters. One only wears those after shortly leaving the hospital, after that there are usually better solutions to cover up that one eye.
This series is at its best when it’s just fun. It’s strange but to me Mouretsu Pirates is a slice-of-life-series at this point. You have Marika and she tries to become a pirate-captain BUT there’s no swashbuckling, no insane stunts, no space-battles (well, not very dramatic ones anyway, it’s not Gundam) and the characters don’t break down crying over the horrors of war. Mouretsu Pirates doesn’t really care about drama. It cares about atmosphere, mood and characterization. And these are Slice-of-Life-values. Action isn’t what you will get watching this series. It’s an enjoyable ride but it’s not a rollercoaster.
And I still think this series has pacing-issues. If there’s one thing this series is still doing wrong, it’s the pacing. All these episodes developed slowly but that’s not the real problem. It’s that what between the real action-events happens isn’t that memorable. The characters are fine, the dialogues are fine, the plot’s fine even if a bit slow but this show is doing nothing wrong except that there’s nothing for me to call it a great series until now. And that’s why it’s Slice-of-Life for me at this point, this series has no ambitions, it just goes with the flow of the story. If you look at Natsume (one of the best series this season by the way despite the fact that it didn’t really need a fourth season) and his quest to deal with his grandma’s social issues, you see him progressing on an episodic basis but there’s no rush to it. There’s not a Damocles-sword hanging over him which forces him to goddamn hurry up. He takes his time dealing with this issue and he doesn’t run around screaming for trouble to find him so that he can rush into the next adventure. That’s kinda what Mouretsu Pirates is doing, I think. Marika wants to be a pirate but that doesn’t mean she wants to get dead-drunk with suspicious individuals after robbing innocent people. She wants to be a pirate because it seems like fun. And with ‘fun’ I mean the kind which leaves your innocence intact. It’s playful and naïve. And it does a good job of conveying that feeling.
Especially this episode handled this really well by turning piracy into a show. It’s a good way to concentrate on the good-natured optimism this series has. But that brings me to the setting which I still don’t like. Okay, it’s interesting to make it kind-of vague what exactly pirates are in this setting but I don’t think this is a series which wants to explore these shades of grey. This series should take a stand on this point. Either pirates are existing just for show now since they are a thing of the past or they are a class of criminals which somehow ended up being an accepted nuisance. It’s a simple question this series has to answer and it’s: “Is what pirates are doing wrong?” And to me this Letter of Marquee seems like a cop-out to that answer. So what if they are officially acknowledged by the state, they are still robbing innocent people! And yeah, insurance-companies of the ships apparently cover any damage done by the pirates but so what? If someone steals something from me and the insurance pays for it, I still won’t say that it’s okay for a person to steal something from me in the first place! I would like to see a dialogue where Marika says something like “I want to be a pirate!” and someone else says “No! You’re a thief. You’re robbing people. That’s what you do. You know what a pirate really is? A thief.”. And it makes sense how it comes about as a historical development but the reality of what it means in the present should be more. It’s something like a state having a standing army. It’s war-time and the state spends this huge amount of money on this standing army because they need it. But ten years later, the war is long over – but the state is still spending huge amounts of money on this. And since it’s peace-time at some point someone just has to have the great idea to reduce the money they’re spending on the military if there’s no impeding war in the near future. And that’s what should have happened to the pirates and the Letter of Marquee. In war-time – yes, we need those pirates as extra soldiers. In peace-time though? The state is practically acknowledging the existence of criminals. Someone goes to the state and asks them whether it’s okay for them to steal. That’s what this basically is. How realistic does it sound to hear a dialogue going like this: “Hey, you can’t steal from this person!” and then “It’s okay, I’m a pirate.”. In the review of the first episode I had this nagging feeling about the setting and it’s still there. Noobmage pointed out that there are historical events which are similar to this. But looking at the present… Are pirates legal now because they were made legal at some point in the past? No, obviously not. And that’s because pirates are made legal when it’s necessary. The Mouretsu Pirates setting shows no reason why it’s necessary to have legal pirates at that point. So the whole issue of having legal pirates still irks me.
Comedy isn’t the series’ strongest point but it always has these little moments of light-hearted fun which make the episodes enjoyable despite the fact that this series offers no real high-tension drama so far.
But the story itself of the episode was nicely written with the way Marika went through the registration and then started her training. Usually you have these teenagers thrown into the cold water. All kinds of mayhem happen and after everything has settled down the protagonist is thrown into the strange fantasy-world filled with generic tropes. This series actually bothers with having a learning-curve. Marika is far more active than your typical shounen-protagonist in the way she enters the stage. Marika’s talents are also nicely presented as something which surprises everyone but isn’t blown out of proportion by becoming a deus ex machina plot-device. Marika’s characterization is really a well done presentation of what it means when you’re good at something. It’s nothing miraculous like Shounen-series would usually like to have it. She’s talented but she isn’t the best thing since sliced bread without her noticing until the fateful Day X. The characters in Mouretsu Pirates are all very restrained that way. There are no exuberant antics like in Mawaru Penguindrum or Utena to distinguish the characters, even Rinne no Lagrange has catchphrases for some characters to make them stand out. This series concentrates more on a certain aspect of mood. There’s always this single emotional side of each character’s behavior that stands out. With Kurihara it’s this serious attitude while hiding her emotions and with Marika you have her cheerful energetic behavior. Mouretsu Pirates does a good job or portraying the surface of the characters that way. Of course for the second half I would like them to go deeper as well instead of just making a good job of polishing the surface. Background-stuff, flashbacks and whatnot, that’s what this series still needs. Simply so that it’s not just a personality but also one with a past although I guess that’s not something you can expect to get at this point with the slow pacing of this series.
One of the best episodes so far this one concentrated on the good-natured fun this series is. This isn’t serious drama and there isn’t much action involved but just seeing the characters enjoying themselves while Marika progresses to become a good pirate-captain is entertaining enough. On the downside I still have some bad feelings about the logic of the setting and the pacing is better in this episodes but still nowhere what I would call ‘normal’.