Moretsu Pirates Episode 3

"Are you scared?" "Yes."

This episode is telling. It cements in no uncertain terms what the series values above all else, and in turn the audience has a crystal clear understanding if they will enjoy this or not. Given my affinity with astronomy and the universe at large at a very young age, it taps into a primordial fascination I’ve had with the sheer vastness and the profundity of the isolation of space. Unfortunately, that’s not to say that this particular episode had some issues that aren’t worth addressing. That first episode was a promise, the second episode was a lesson, and in more ways than one this third episode was a test.

This episode tests the patience of those who’ve bought into enjoying and identifying with Marika’s character with the presence of the scenes in school and the maid cafe since at this point they are a bit redundant. Patiences are tested further still for those who haven’t bought into enjoying Marika’s character, and they won’t be convinced otherwise by this point by more of the same scenes that attempt to invoke their allegiance through winsome smiles and hijinks similar to what we’ve seen already.

I don’t know what alternative to offer (and may be presumptuous of me to do so anyway), since some of these scenes are not only meant to illuminate Marika’s self-awareness of her own tendency toward flightiness, but also to affirm the importance of her current relationships and to establish a bit more of Chiaki Omigawa’s character, Endou Mami.

I suppose the necessity of these scenes will be contingent on the importance of Omigawa’s character later in the plot. As for Marika and her development, the second half of the episode returned to that economy of writing that I admired in the previous episodes. Though there was a moment, the first in the series, where I found myself putting up my guard and reengaging my disbelief. During the initial phases of the girls’ first space cruise, a problem arose with one of the masts of the ship and Kane MacDougal thought this to be an excellent opportunity to test the girls’ practical abilities in spacefaring. It was the preparation for this practical exam that had me rolling my eyes for a moment, since up until now the series had done a pretty good job of avoiding anime’s more puerile habits regarding sexuality (outside of Misa Grandwood’s revealing outfits in a school setting). The “skinship” session in the locker room and the subsequent loving gazes on the bodies of our teenage heroines had me disconcerted for a bit, and for a fleeting moment I had wondered whether I should scale back my enthusiasm for this show. The result of this particular test of my patience would be known after the setup of our teacher listening in on the girls horsing around, and both the nature of the show and his character would be illuminated just a little more by his response. So what happens?

"I have to take a half dozen of 'these' outside?"

He responds in probably the most appropriate way I could have imagined: exasperation. Visual sight gags and perverted responses eschewed, I let out a large laugh that may have startled my viewing partner. I think it may have been a slightly pent-up nervousness that probably wasn’t warranted in any case, but it is what it is, and I’m glad for the show to have taken the direction it did. With my disbelief successfully suspended once again, I let the rest of the episode wash over me as I traveled outside with the girls on their spacewalk.

The spacewalk scene was the strongest moment of the episode, as it not only allowed for the research the author made to be showed off, but also for the director’s talent to be highlighted as it was packaged and presented extremely well. There was more attention paid to the responsibility of adhering to proper protocols with the fastening of the suits and helmets and locking hair into place (the teacher’s unintentionally amusing hair hypocrisy notwithstanding), and even more loving detail given to the minutest points such as the helmets’ auto-darkening in the light. The mood of the scene was deftly handled as there was palpable tension during the depressurization, and a real sense of jitteryness amongst the girls. The audience can assume that nothing was going to happen to anyone this early in the narrative, but still managed to convey that something could go wrong if someone didn’t adhere properly to protocol.

There’s a danger if the show tacks to realism as it has, since it opens itself up to a different avenue of criticism in the accuracy of the details presented. For instance, the doors opening shouldn’t have made any sound after the room was fully depressurized and there’s no apparent explanation for the girls’ fine motor movements while spacewalking. Are they wearing magnets on their boots or are they relying on the ambient gravity of the craft (an incredibly risky move)? Are there any pressurized jets of air that come from the suits? But that would need years of training to master that I can’t quite see the girls learning in the few short years of club activity in highschool. Also when you’re in deep space, stars do not twinkle since that is a function of the starlight passing through various gasses in the atmosphere. The only things that could simulate that effect in deep space are pulsars and quasars, and even then the pulsing would most likely not occur in a spectrum that is visible to the human eye but rather spectra such as x-ray or gamma ray.

But man, oh man, is it ever pretty.

I suppose some of this can be had on faith however, since the artistic license taken with some of the science resulted in a scene that evoked a wonderful sense of awe. After asserting her ability to decide on actions and delegate responsibilities during this impromptu practical exam, Marika has a moment where she is almost overcome by the sheer size of the universe before her. Take a moment and watch this please:

Everyone is just a dot in space. After being instructed in the responsibility that comes with power, Marika internalizes the humility that comes with knowing that you don’t ultimately matter in the universal scale of things. Everyone is just a dot, and the pretense and grandstanding and positioning in all of human history amount to nothing in the void of space. This scares her, but she does not wilt. If anything, this realization also steels her, since it serves as a profound reminder to treasure that which she holds dear, since there’s very little else in the entirety of the cosmos. She passes her teacher’s test, humbled and emboldened. When will we see the audacity awaken within her to complement this newly bold nature?

"However, I'm looking forward to it."

Addendum

16 Comments

Filed under Episodics, Moretsu Pirates

16 responses to “Moretsu Pirates Episode 3

  1. Wooo nice episode lots of great moments, and yeah the whole skinship scene I saw that coming a mile away! After all when you have so many girls around there are bound to be a few girls that scream oh wow suddenly I have to touch someone. Thankfully that scene was short and it could have been a lot worse! But I imagine some would feel it was a cheap shot to keep the guys watching.

    The space walk was strange! I thought the same thing like where are the jet packs? And magnetic boots? Will someone float away? I guess they wanted to be quick about them getting out in space? I did enjoy watching Kane in this episode as he took his teaching role serious and explained the rules of space and their suits. So I guess Kane was impressed by Marika’s response to his question? I would probably say the same thing! Well not the tiny dot in space…more like wow…space…and then id pass out lololol.

    Hopefully this series doesn’t fall into we need at least one or two fan service shots to keep people watching! Because that might kill the series for a few people who want to avoid random fan service every episode…at least things did not go the DxD way…all dem topless shots xD

    • It’s true, it could have been a lot worse, and that’s what makes me pretty thankful that it wasn’t

      Like zhai2nan2 said below, some of these things aren’t explained, so there are elements that we kinda take on faith. This makes it more like Space Opera than Science Fiction. Think of the difference between Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Star Wars had ships and lasers and droids and lightsabers, but doesn’t try to hard to explain HOW they work, they just did. Whereas 2001 spent a lot of time making sure that the space station was accurate and the physics an all that.

      So yeah, there are cool moments where they pay attention to details that you never see in other shows like the safety aspect, but they don’t go into it too hard either.

  2. ‘There’s a danger if the show tacks to realism as it has, since it opens itself up to a different avenue of criticism in the accuracy of the details presented. For instance, the doors opening shouldn’t have made any sound after the room was fully depressurized and there’s no apparent explanation for the girls’ fine motor movements while spacewalking. Are they wearing magnets on their boots or are they relying on the ambient gravity of the craft (an incredibly risky move)? Are there any pressurized jets of air that come from the suits?’

    Ambient gravity wouldn’t be strong enough. Unfortunately, I fear this series is not really hard sci-fi like Planetes.

    I bet the whole series will play out without explaining the nature of the technology. However, they have starflight, so they could have ten or twenty different kinds of technology that we can’t foresee with our limited 21st century knowledge.

    It’s a very watchable show, it’s more realistic than Jewel Pet Tinkle, but it’s future fantasy space opera, not hard sci-fi.

    • Yeah, I figured the gravity wouldn’t work since it is the weakest of the four forces (or interactions, is what I think they’re called) so that seems like it takes a page from the ol’ Hollywood Magic school of science application.

      I’m not the most well versed in Arthur C. Clarke, but I am familiar with his quote about the idea that future technology and magic being indistinguishable from a current context. It’s a bit of a weak justification in this case, but I suppose the text can be stretched to account for it if it proves to be too much of a dissonance for some of the audience. Then again, even in the hardest scifi there’s an amount of disbelief to be suspended because the improbability of the scenarios described would be the only factor preventing it from becoming reality. I suppose that’s where the fiction in science comes in, and where the magic resides. Even if it’s just an issue of resources and will.

      So yeah, I guess I can’t label Pirates something like hard scifi, but I can’t dismiss it either because the attention to the minutiae of certain things is so far and above a lot of other examples in the medium.

      Thanks for commenting!

      • As an engineer, the technical details always interest me. Some details they did get right:
        -The auto-shading masks. If you look at our astronauts, they use gold screens to protect their eyes. Otherwise, goodbye retinas!
        -The function of the solar sails, and the explanation of a slow voyage are accurate enough. The solar sail uses the pressure of photons hitting microscopically thin sheets of metal to drive an object forward, much like a traditional sailing ship. It isn’t fast, but at least the sun never sets in space.

  3. Haha wow, you are a genius. Your part about the critiques of the realism are exactly what my friend and I talked about after this episode, too. The sounds in space (particularly those after the mast finished rising), their movements in space in relation to the ship, and even the twinkling stars despite being well outside the planet’s atmosphere. You’ve got a keen eye for this type of scientific detail.

    I appreciate you bringing these up thought because I noticed one commonality between those three ‘errors’ and the rest of the technical/scientific detail of the anime. These are all mistakes on the director’s behalf rather than the creator/author. These aren’t errors in storytelling or content but rather in how the story was presented to us through art, animation, and sound. I’m fine with the anime making details at this level because I doubt the director did as much research, planning, and whatnot as the creator/author did and that, to me, is better than having it be the other way around. As long as the story and storytelling stay at the level of sci-fi we’re seeing, I’ll be satisfied.

    Also really liked to see your connection of the Pale Blue Dot to Marika’s first glimpse of space. I wonder if that scene was inspired by those words if they wanted to generate something with a similar concept but from Marika’s perspective. I think we’re both really happy with how that scene went and how that is what concluded this episode.

    • Well, I’m not the end-all authority on scifi, I just happen to have a casual interest in it. I will admit to being a bit of an astronomy dork when I was in elementary school so it’s been fun to revisit some of these topics that I used to be a lot more intimately familiar with.

      You bring up a really excellent point in considering the source of inaccuracy in the show, and one that I’m frankly a bit glad for. Hard(ish) scifi is all well and good, but I think some of the creative decisions made on the part of the adapters in this case were spot on in creating that sense of awe and wonder that more austere works would probably be unable to evoke. Crusader and Executive Otaku over at THAT do a good job of illuminating the romance of space travel. All of this is meant to hearken back to the romance embedded in the Age of Discovery (minus the pretty bad political implications of the day) what with the emphasis of being out in the unknown, amongst the stars, unfamiliar sights and sounds, the isolation of being out to sea. That sense of isolation I think is key, because that’s where man is alone with his thoughts, and can come across some pretty profound realizations about himself and the world around him.

      And yes, I do believe Carl Sagan was intentionally invoked at the end there. The writers could have used any number of synonyms to carry across the same idea: point, fleck, spot, etc., but they specifically used the word dot. The end card “Everyone is just a dot in space” sealed it for me. That’s exactly Dr. Sagan’s wording in his speech about the fragility of the planet, and no one can go to far in expounding on astronomy without coming across Sagan’s words and ideas.

      It was my favorite moment of the episode, and one that lingered with me as the end song began to play. I loved that moment.

      • Yeah, I figured the director/animators aren’t into the level of detail the author/creator was but is doing their best to recreate it. I don’t mind there were those errors in the spacewalk segment since 1) it was able to effectively demonstrate the scene both in storytelling and visually and 2) each could be passed off as an improvement artistically or visually. I mean, I’d rather see people float through space than walk step by step across the surface of a vessel and twinkling stars do seem more mystifying or romantic than solid ones. It’s just fun to nerd out sometimes about science when an anime is this devoted to science/technology/engineering/etc. Also, thanks for the link to THAT. Haven’t read that article and will do so soon.

        And yeah, the ending scene reminded me of the Pale Blue Dot when I first saw it. Sounds like it had a greater effect on you than it did for me but the entire scene felt magical. Really happy they did something like this so early on showing off both Marika’s fear and excitement for a simultaneous event. You can’t help but wonder if she hasn’t been feeling both fear and excitement throughout the anime once she learned her parents were space pirates and she was chosen to succeed her father as the next Captain of a legendary space pirate ship.

  4. Thank you for including the video for Dr. Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot. We are of the same mind when we viewed the mentioned scene in Pirates. I was thinking the same thing. I often think of the Pale Blue Dot. Like you surmise, it makes me feel a little small, but it all makes me feel a little privileged to be where I am, in the time I exist.

    Now, where we might not be of like minds. Fanservice. As Fosh say, it could have been worse. No offense to Fosh, but I find this to be a false equivalency. Now, the fanservice in Pirates is, no argument, nothing compared to say, High School Double D. But both shows must needs be viewed in the context of the story they are trying to tell.

    Another argument can be made, and it is also false. It’s anime, if you were expecting dancing and singing mice, perhaps you should switch over to the Disney Channel. That sarcasm is for display only; not aimed at anyone in particular.

    Instead, I’m an A=A kinda person. What is the thing in it’s context? What are the storytellers adding to the narrative by including, say, a shot of Marika’ bare belly? It’s a worthwhile question to ask.

    • In regards to the fanservice, I’m a bit (make that a great deal) more tolerant than David in regards to fanservice in anime. In this situation, I think it’s best to look at the context within the series and I feel that the fanservice in this series was handled well, and also managed to add something to the narrative.

      The main scene that David brought up was the locker-room hijinks, which have become a staple in anime due to the fact that apparently a group of girls changing will always want to feel each other up (actually, they’re incredibly self-conscious and want nothing to do with one another, but we’re not talking about reality here ^ ^). I had no problem with this scene, mainly because I’ve seen it occur in so many other series before, and thought to myself, if it’s a one-off, or only occurs once an episode, I’m okay with that. They have to throw in the male gaze/fantasy somewhere in there, after all.

      However, immediately following this scene, we see Kane’s response of “Ugh, I have to take a bunch of these with me into space?”

      While watching this I immediately burst out laughing and then clapped. Why? Because this is the appropriate response that one in Kane’s position should have. Typically, in anime, we would see the young, handsome, male teacher get inordinately shy, nervous, and sexually distracted by all of these teenage girls groping each other and giggling, so this was what I was expecting. What Pirates gave me as a viewer was so much more than that. Yes, they threw the typical fanservice scene in there, but then used it to subtly and humorously develop one of the main male characters.

      Personally, I think that’s fabulous.

    • The way sexual fanservice affects me is directly proportional to how much I invest myself in a particular production, since I’m not terribly attracted or titillated by two dimensional representations of women. It’s a distraction to me at it’s most innocuous, and a poor commentary on sexuality at it’s most insidious. I’m not against animated nudity or representations or commentary of sexuality in anime, it’s just in most times it’s done in a way that I find pretty distasteful.

      Ultimately, I found the scene in Pirates to be completely innocuous, but before the punchline by the teacher I was worried for a moment that there would be a prolonged emphasis and gaze on the girls’ bodies. When there wasn’t and it panned away in a moment, I was relieved, because honestly I don’t think I trust anime to be deft enough to be so casual of sexuality without it souring the whole tone and mood. For instance, after immensely enjoying the first two episodes of Hanasaku Iroha, I immediately dropped it after the third episode when I saw how poorly it dealt with kidnap and played sexual assault for laughs, and focused conspicuously on Nako’s body and her wet clothing.

      But neither do I think I’m prudish about this in general, since I’m a big fan of what you’d consider ecchi. Dororon Enma-kun was one of my favorite shows last year, and I also really like Ben-to, and am a big fan of Sora no Otoshimono. But I think what happened with those is that there wasn’t a lot of initial investment from me up front, so I didn’t set expectations terribly high, and on the same token I was susceptible to being impressed by other things they had to offer like action and comedy.

      So yeah, if A=A, then of course it is important to ask what something is meant in context. I still think the cries of “ECCHI!” in the background pushed the boundary of taste just a little bit, I can see why focusing on Marika’s body would be appropriate in a sense, since it’s part of the overall build up to the preparations for the spacewalk.

  5. Well you pretty much covered most of what I thought during this episode. Yes, it’s slow moving, but if you’re into ship operations (“there is no sexual content, only long descriptions of the ships” keeps coming back into my head to make me laugh) there’s enough to keep you happy.

    I think you’re right that Pirates is going to have a tough go of it if Sato is going to tread on the border of realism and fun, because you give people enough realism and they want it all. Pre-flight checks, safety preparations, silence while in space, great — but you better not have the proverbial Harlock’s jolly roger flapping in the space breeze (“proverbial” because I don’t expect anything that egregious). The hacking defense scene is another perfect example: the fundamentals of a cyber-attack are treated with respect, but it’s still the same old flying fingers and bleepy-bloops.

    I can’t think of too many stories that offer only a taste of hard sci-fi amidst what is essentially a fun-times adventure show.

    Which brings me to the guts of the whole series: this is fun-time adventure, and remember that all these characters doing pre-flight checks are seifuku-wearing schoolgirls. I can only take solace in knowing that Sato is a master of fun, and will do it well.

    The fanservice moment you mentioned was cool, I didn’t breathe an audible sigh of relief or anything but I was glad that it moved on without the requisite blushes etc. But that is fanservice in a nutshell, in the old-school sense. Those spacesuit ass-shots are not essential to the plot, they don’t affect the outcome of the scene, and they aren’t given too much screen time, because they’re just a visual bonus. Fanservice. The term gets misused these days, but that is exactly what it means.

    Anyway, fun times, I enjoy your posts even if I just wrote a huge comment that will deprive me of a blog post of my own this week.

    • Man, you are welcome to waste even more words here in the future. I’m the most terrible for prompt replies to comments, but I like to think that I put some thought into them at least.

      “There is no sexual content, only long descriptions of the ships” is so fantastic, and a hilariously dry way to comment on the general focus of this series it seems like. And yeah, I was really into astronomy and the workings at NASA when I was a kid, so stuff like this is really nostalgic for me.

      To be fair to the show, honestly I think the only fictional representation of hacking that seemed to “get it” was David Fincher’s The Social Network. I can’t reasonably expect an author to know the ins and outs of coding and still be a decent author, because honestly, if an author knows how to code really well, why not just be a programmer? That’s some way steadier income right there.

      But yeah, I think that’s why I opened up the post the way I did, because it definitely reaffirmed what the series is going to focus on and be about. And that’s not necessarily a one for one portrayal of what spaceflight is like, but rather a more romantic idea of what the travel is like, similar to stories set during the Age of Discovery try to evoke.

      But about that fanservice, after a conversation with Emily (who also started on anime before I did with Sailor Moon in the 90s) I learned that fanservice doesn’t bother her as much as it does me. And I think that it has something to do with the fact that I came into anime whole hog during the Adult Swim/Toonami era, and by that point on I feel whenever you see breast jiggles on a girl it’s usually accompanied by sound effects and an emphasized gaze and probably dialogue surrounding the event. In short, the presence of fanservice in newer shows seems to color the overall tone and mood an entire production. We’ve seen it in a lot of these light novel adaptations like Oreimo or Haganai, despite whatever cleverness from the dialogue and characterization, it’s almost as if the fanservice is the point. And, well, that doesn’t do much for someone like me. So in the end, it was just preliminary nervousness on my part when I heard “ECCHI!” in the background, as you well know that that was something that really dragged on Fractale when it tried so desperately to be taken seriously with it’s themes on isolation.

      So, yeah. Anime. It’s weird, isn’t it? Feel free to waste even more words here in the future, I appreciate every comment I get even if it takes me a while to respond. It’s because I want to make sure that all of my responses are thoughtful and measured and I sometimes balk because I’m not the most disciplined guy around.

  6. Have you seen Planetes? If you find wonder in space and space exploration, that would be right up your alley, especially with its very hard retro-futuristic scifi. And the scifi aspect isn’t even the most compelling part of it, it’s the way the characters develop, in a slow, deliberate style that is all too rare in anime. Highly recommended.

    • I’ve seen three episodes of it, and yes I really liked what I saw. I’m stalled on it at the moment, but I think I’m going to revisit it with Emily once we’re through a few of our other shows on our backlog.

  7. The part about the girls just drifting along in the spacewalk really bothered me too, as they didn’t have anything to propel them like the pressurized air packs that even Gundam has.

    What irked me the most was the fact that he’s letting inexperienced girls go out on an actual spacewalk, seeing as how dangerous it is without any experience. They had a mechanical emergency, but if he really planned ahead he should have had them practice back at the space station. The girls aren’t even that experienced in a zero gravity environment. And they should at least have some lifeline to hold onto, a slight misstep can send one of them floating off into space forever. Maybe through some luck the teacher can save her, but what if two of them float off, or more.

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