If the first episode was a promise, then this second one was a lesson. If there was anything in particular that stood out this week, is this show’s emphasis on the idea of responsibility. It pervaded every pore of every scene in this episode, and as if to emphasize that the deftness of the storytelling in the first week was no fluke, proceeded to inform characterization, plot, and dialogue all at once.
There were two remarkable scenes this week and let’s talk about this first one for a moment. After the helter skelter of the maid cafe shootout (wow that is an absurd statement), Ririka sees to it that her daughter is adequately prepared to make the decision that she is inevitably going to make. Her daughter is on the cusp of making a pretty life-altering decision so she does what any sensible mother does, she teaches her daughter about gun safety. There is silliness inherent in the premise of mother teaching daughter about tank-busting rifled super lasers, but the scene was played completely straight and worked wonderfully for it.
For instance, there was attention paid not only to the destructive power of the weapons, but also the soft power of connotation and intention. The moment a trigger is pulled, it’s not just a round but a consequence that spills forth. This is an action that must be followed through all the way to the end, and Marika takes it completely to heart. Ririka explains that 90% of the battle is decided before a trigger is ever pulled, because the threat of the soft power of a weapon on someone’s life is enough. If that trigger is ever pulled, someone will die. Friend, enemy, self, regardless of who, a life will be extinguished. That is important to remember, and remarkably sobering to see elucidated in no uncertain terms. That is wonderful.
This nighttime lesson reflects tenets that Ririka holds dear, ones of freedom, choice, and responsibility. This is what she terms the Power of the Pirate. There’s interesting philosophy in Ririka’s belief that being a soldier or policeman absolves you of some of this responsibility if one is following orders, but for a pirate the decision is entirely their own. There is freedom in that power to choose, but the price of it is the burden of responsibility. That choice is where that power lies, and just like in the gun safety lesson, it’s not just a decision that spills forth from the choices we make, but also a consequence. It is a lesson given all the due gravitas it deserves.
The other scene that caught my attention was the introduction of the school’s yacht club, and their pre-flight checklist. It may seem like something inconsequential to anyone outside of aviation, but the pre-flight checklist is an essential element in air safety. It’s been in use for at least 70 years and has been instrumental is saving countless lives. Of course what contrasts this scene with the preceding one on weapons safety was the fun and whimsy that permeated it. The girls take their duties very seriously, but can barely contain their excitement as well when shouting out their duties and adhering to proper protocols while flying about in situational gravity. All told, the show devotes nearly five minutes to showing the effort that goes into the proper preparations that any craft needs to undergo before takeoff, highlighting the responsibility that a crew has to their ship and by extension to each other. How often do you see this in anime outside of the hardest science fiction? There is some loving detail paid attention to the minutest technological details, which betrays where some of the priorities of the author lie.
The scene dealing with electronic warfare was science fiction of a softer kind, but was meant to show off certain aspects about Marika’s character and her developing chemistry with Chiaki. She admits clearly and without reservation that she is no expert on electronic warfare, but she displays a willingness to learn and understand and sets out to defend the ship on principle. For Marika, the idea is to make the best decision that you can, and to believe in it. That, is something learned from her mother earlier in the episode during the safety lesson. To be a captain requires a certain decisiveness, but also a fortitude to see your decision and its consequence to the very end. If anything, it surprised Chiaki to see this coming from Marika, and opened an avenue to her commanding with authority.
Pleasantly surprised by a discussion of responsibility & the will to power in my moe, moe, space pirates show. Marika's mom is smart & hot.—
Shane Trammell (@blackholeheart) January 15, 2012
And I love that Marika's response to the hacking attempt is basically "if someone takes a swing at you, you must swing back", atta girl!—
Shane Trammell (@blackholeheart) January 15, 2012
I want to take a step back and revisit a scene between Marika and her mother. My partner and I casually remarked on Marika’s habit of calling her mother by her name as opposed to something more intimate. I may have subconsciously surmised that this was perhaps because of strict discipline that Ririka would have enacted on the household, but Emperor J brought up something really interesting. He’s right, the mannerisms between Marika and Ririka do in fact betray a distance between them. During the beginning of the conversation, while there isn’t necessarily any tension, there is a coolness and almost a professionality, to their relationship. They are adhering to the roles that they have been assigned to, without necessarily any warmth. Their interaction wasn’t hostile or anything of the sort, but hardly befitting that of a loving mother and daughter. They don’t look at each other, they are physically closed off from each other, and the composition of the shot emphasizes this with the framing of Ririka’s head in the steering wheel which isolates her from her daughter. To Marika, Ririka may not necessarily resemble something like that of a mother, but more of an abstract figure with authority after having learned the truth about her mother’s past. In fact, the very first question asked was whether or not she should be at work instead…
But then, something kind of amazing happens. They have a conversation, and they are honest with each other. They ask questions of each other, reach out to each other, answer each other. They reciprocate. They begin to connect. The camera sees this as well, as Ririka is no longer isolated by the steering wheel and the physical distance between them diminishes slowly. Through the hard questions being asked, and the frank answers being given, the audience sees a relationship that is being repaired in real time after a rift that had occurred as a consequence from withholding information. There’s a trend seen in wide swathes of anime that talk about the idea of girls being harder to raise than boys, with a tangentially related phenomenon of there not being many recent examples of strong mothers, but this scene managed to put to bed a few of those concerns in a little under two minutes by using both dialogue and visual composition to show to the audience the patching up of a relationship that had momentarily come under strain. It culminates in a tightly framed moment of sincere affection and genuine warmth, bathed in the soft glow of the sunset.
The final lesson to be taken from this? The importance of clear and honest communication. This is a responsibility in and of itself, one that not many people adhere to. Ririka is doing a fine job of both rearing a daughter, and grooming a captain.