I had difficulty with last week’s episode. Nothing difficult in enjoying it, but rather in knowing what to write about. That episode marked the official entrance of Princess Gruier Serenity (Gruelle? Gruyère?) and thus the transitioning of the plot from mostly introduction and characterization, to that of the beginnings of galactic political intrigue. It’s nothing that I wasn’t invested in, but what I’m most grabbed by in episodic analysis is subtext.
To that end, there was little for me to grab a hold of regarding the Princess’s characterization and subtext. My suspicion was that Gruier, while not intentionally obfuscating information, was not completely forthcoming either. She answered questions that were directed at her, and gave measured responses, but there was a sense of political expediency to everything. In other words, I couldn’t get a bead on her and was left with the superficial enjoyment of seeing her antics with the girls of Hakuoh Academy. What this did manage to communicate; however, was that the Princess herself doesn’t seem to be completely in the loop with regards to the political situation in her home system. If her surprised reaction to the ongoing skirmish between Serenity battleships was any indication.
There was notable shock in the Princess’s demeanor on seeing Serenity ships firing upon each other, and it was only through Marika’s quick and decisive thinking that the situation was able to resolve itself. Marika leveraged the Princess’s presence to the Bentenmaru’s advantage, and negotiated her way into an audience with the battleship that was being pursued.
The encounter on the docking bridge with the Chamberlain proved to be incredibly layered and filled with a lot of incidental information. There was the surface appearance of a dress being delivered to the Princess, obfuscating the real intent to deliver pertinent information for Gruier’s search. There was the surface appearance of the Chamberlain and the bodyguard appearing as servant and maid, over the very real capability underneath. This caused Schnitzer to react by setting aside the weapons that the crew brought along for surface appearances, in order to arm themselves with what they considered their real weapons.
And then there was the verbal exchange between Gruier and Yotof the Chamberlain. The Princess was enthusiastic in her reception and greeting, only to be tamped down by Yotof’s proclamation that nothing has happened at the palace. It’s very possible that this is a veiled message meant to appear innocuous, hiding another intent beneath. How much was communicated there? Is she being kept in the dark? Is she keeping others in the dark still? There’s a lot of tension between intention and appearances in the show, and this theme is continued in the interactions here.
Appearance and intention are at odds with each other many times in Moretsu, and the contrast is played for drama and dramatic irony as often as it is for humor in Marika’s case. The conversation between Chiaki and Marika in the Yacht Club’s room was an example of this tension being played for dramatic irony. It showcased a trading of information between the two pirate girls, but also subtly communicated a warning of potential future conflict between them over this job. Due to the differing origins of their orders, they may come into conflict over the golden ghost ship; however, this conversation was just as much an affirmation of their relationship in spite of whatever conflicts are in their immediate future.
This dissonance was played for more light-hearted moments as well, with Endou Mami’s assertions that the Yacht Club was filled with “talented” individuals, obviously alluding to their extralegal capabilities. Before Marika had a chance to correct this assertion, Chiaki confirmed it outright by saying that high school girls don’t typically win at electronic warfare in their first cruise outing and that if anyone needed something, well, illegal, the Yacht Club would be the organization to beseech. What really tickled me was the following imagery that had two contrasting ideas in it. You see a group of girls in high school uniforms with their cute jackets and their red ribbons, but those are still uniforms. What the shot is also trying to communicate simultaneously, is a portrait of a group of hardened soldiers/warriors. They’re in a disciplined line-up and there is a clear chain of command with Dolittle at the top.
There was progress in Marika’s actions as captain. She made clear decisions regarding the Bentenmaru‘s protocol during the initial skirmish encounter, not backing down and quickly leveraging the assets available to her advantage. There was progress in Gruier’s character as well. She was more forthcoming about information regarding the job within her interactions with Marika throughout, and was more willing to display a sort of vulnerability in her reaching out and asking others for help. This trust that the Princess was giving to the crew was responded to by Marika in another scene that highlighted the Captain’s growing confidence and assertiveness. Marika met Gruier’s outreach with clarity, and honesty. She and her crew will do all in their power to meet the Princess’s demands, but even the sincerest intentions can fail. In the dingy intimacy and claustrophobic safety of a secluded underground diner, lots were cast in each others’ favors. They may not succeed, but you can still believe anyway.