Sunday, February 10, 2013
Before I first watched this show (writing this review after re-watching it), I didn't have high hopes for it- it was, after all, adapted from a light novel series called Mini-Skirt Pirates. I tried the first episode and found it free of service, starring well-written female characters. I felt like the sky had opened, a haze of golden light surrounding me as angel choruses sang. It was so... utterly unlike what I expected. I really prefer to re-watch two cour shows before reviewing them, if I liked them enough- but another purpose for re-watching this show was to see if I would feel any differently about it, already knowing what it's like going into it.
Anyway, the actual show takes place well into the future, when mankind has colonized space. Our protagonist, a high schooler named Katou Marika, lives on a planet that is part of the frontier alliance that gained independence from the Galactic Empire a hundred years prior. Key to the frontier alliance's independence was the help of "pirates"- really licensed privateers- who fought on its behalf. Since the war of independence, the frontier alliance's pirates have been able to continue operating legally by renewing their letters of marquee.
Marika, told that her dad died years ago, has always lived with her mom. One day she learns that her father was a pirate captain who only recently died, leaving his space ship, the Bentenmaru, to her. It also turns out Marika's mom Ririka used to be a famous space pirate in her own right. (Btw, if Mouretsu Pirates ever gets a spin-off series focusing on Ririka's days pirating as Blaster Ririka, I will absolutely watch it. Even as a non-pirate, she's awesome.)
Refreshingly, Marika isn't pressured into inheriting her father's position as captain of the Bentenmaru. (You know how it usually is in anime. "Teenager! You must take on this new responsibility, or ______!") She can do it if she wants to, and if she doesn't, it's fine. But she decides that she does want to, so she starts easing into her duties as captain with help from the Bentenmaru's crew members. Even though pirating, in Mouretsu's setting, is a field traditionally dominated by men, no trouble is made because of Marika's gender- it's her age and her need to juggle high school with her captain duties that causes most of her stumbling blocks. (She could drop out of high school to work full-time sooner but, understandably, doesn't want to.) But she's a good learner and proves to be a capable thinker and leader, so she ends up owning her new role.
Marika does part of her training alongside someone who's in a similar position- Chiaki, the daughter of another pirate captain. Chiaki is prickly, but does warm up to and develop a soft spot for Marika. Guess who I ship Marika with? ^_^
In addition to Chiaki and the Bentenmaru's crew, you have Marika's friends from school- mostly other girls who belong to her school's Yacht Club, which is basically the best club ever. (Its members learn how to pilot spacecraft.) The Yacht Club members play a major role when Marika's crew is required to be quarantined for a month after falling ill and she needs to carry out at least one pirating mission during that time to keep her letter of marquee from expiring. During that span of episodes, we get our two episode yuri arc, which I hyperventilated over when the first part of it aired. Jenny and Lynn ftw. ^__^
The first arc of this series after the first two introductory episodes, the three episode cyber warfare arc, is slow. Things pick up with Marika's first real pirating mission, which introduces would-be Yacht Club member Princess Gruier Serenity, whose character design is a neat homage to Sailor Moon's Usagi.
The pirating missions continue, interspersed with Marika's school life, in a fairly easygoing manner that I know won't appeal to everyone. And I get it- I initially expected the show to develop at a more breakneck pace after Marika started pirating, and did feel that, after the cyber warfare arc, it got a little slow between Marika's missions (exempting the Nebula Cup storyline, which was great)- but for what Mouretsu Pirates is actually going for (feel-good fun), it works for me, especially since this series has such a charming cast.
Conversely, some people who were fine with the pacing of most of the show didn't care for the slight change of mood- and more noticeable quickening of pace- in the final arc. Which I understand, although I enjoyed the final arc- and really enjoyed its resolution. In the final arc, Marika and the other pirates have to deal with a Galactic Empire ship that's taking them out ship by ship. This series resolves the pirate-hunting storyline well enough to not make the wait for the upcoming Mouretsu Pirates movie painful, but leaves enough dangling (like the reveal about Marika's father) to make me look forward to the movie. It also, quite wonderfully, affirms that Jenny and Lynn will still be together in college, after Lynn graduates.
In short, this is a fun show with a strong cast, including a very likeable female lead, some smartly written sci-fi (I like that the characters rely on strategy as much as- if not more than- sheer firepower to achieve what they want), and a lack of male gazey-ness. And yuri! Highly recommended.
Mouretsu Pirates is available streaming on Crunchyroll.