The opening narrations for these episodes are important. They bring the audience up to speed while simultaneously fleshing out more of the world and speaking to the themes of the forthcoming episode. The tone of this week’s introduction had me confused for a while. It took a much more bombastic approach than what we’ve seen prior, speaking to a bold and assertive Marika that’s perhaps a bit too enthusiastic about her role. I had it down as an allusion to a style of introduction long past that I had not seen and accepted it for that. It wasn’t until the end card had been revealed, which echoed a line that Misa Grandwood had given, that I had finally understood what this week was meditating on:
The dangers of pride, and hubris.
Marika is near her limit. She’s taken on responsibilities as the fledgling captain of the Bentenmaru, while retaining her status as a student and her position at the maid café. She insists she can do it, and will not entertain the idea of giving any of it up. This, of course, is easily understood as she’s been painted as a diligent person who sees everything through to the end. This is a lesson she’s taken to heart and is not easily discarded. However, we never examined the motivation behind what pushes her to overachieve. Who better than the character described as the “most grounded” to explain this for us?
Chiaki visits the Lamp House to see Marika (despite what she says) but has a conversation and a stroll with Mami instead. It’s here that the audience learns that the reason why Marika is so diligent and well-regarded by her peers is that she lives in the constant self-imposed shadow of her mother, Ririka. Ririka is a large presence, one that I was aware of forty-five seconds from the moment she came onto the screen. We haven’t quite seen this before, but it turns out that much of what motivates Marika is a combination of admiration and insecurity, both directed towards her mother. This is why Marika asked Schnitzer about Ririka last week, and what she was like as a captain. The response he gave in return turned out to be exactly what Marika needed to hear, even if the audience didn’t know that yet.
“You went pirating with Blaster Ririka, right?”
“Yeah, just like this.”
“What was my mother like?”
“Why does it matter? You’re your own person. And Ririka is Ririka. Concentrate on the task at hand.”
“Yeah, you’re right. That’s why I came to space.”
This can initially be interpreted as a daughter who wishes to know more about her mother, and it wouldn’t be wrong, but this is also the inquiring of someone who is somewhat afraid of the legacy they have to live up to. Mami describes Marika’s perception of her mother as being that of a large mountain, one that she doesn’t necessarily want to climb, but to stand proudly next to as another mountain. This aspiration mixed with a bit of intimidation is what drives Marika to not only continue her pirating, but also carry on her studies while holding on to her part-time job at the maid café. It’s getting hard on her, but she’s too prideful to admit that this may not be tenable. Though the truth outs in the quivering of her eyes.
Sometimes, trying harder isn’t enough, but when confronted with that piece of wisdom, Marika’s reaction is especially telling. She emphasizes that whether or not her ability to try hard is enough, is contingent on her own decision. Which is one that she will make, and on her own. The insinuation that she may not be able to handle the new burdens placed on her is a personal affront to her sense of self and her sense of pride, and she refuses to back down or reconsider her limitations.
What Moretsu has to say about this is revealed in the fantasy/dream sequence after the opening credits. Why would the captain herself go out on a potentially dangerous reconnaissance mission? Marika delegates responsibilities and duties to the crew members as she flies out on this mission, but she is still very much the crux of this fantasy. There’s beautiful orchestration, impactful dialogue, gorgeous visuals, and an overall very bombastic nature that is over the top relative to how Moretsu has carried itself so far. She takes the initiative on her own to complete the objective of the mission, and remarks that if she doesn’t return soon, the Bentenmaru would be in danger without her. What does she get for her troubles?
She’s ambushed, presumably shot down, and wakes up in an embarrassingly compromised situation after homeroom had ended.
It’s a danger to those who’ve taken to the infinite possibilities placed before them without disorientation. The sudden desire to do anything and everything possible is a very real outcome, as is the burnout associated with not knowing your limits should you continue. Marika has yet to internalize this, as she still acts in a fairly prideful way through to the end of the episode. During the conflict with the Symphony Angel, Marika had known that the battle was staged and that the shots being fired were part of an “optional service package”. Knowing this, she casually remarks that perhaps she should order the alarms be shut off for which she was chided rather swiftly by Misa Grandwood. After all, staged or not, an attack is still an attack.
This growing lapse in protocol, with increasingly ostentatious performances (including some rather gaudy makeup), and a growing reliance on herself above all others are warning signs of a hubristic outlook on her situation and circumstance that she’s come to. She puts everything on herself, believing that she is capable of it regardless of her own limitations, pointedly not asking or relying on anyone else for help. The danger in this, is that rather than respect and authority coming, occurring naturally to her as she acclimates and learns about everything around her, she’ll try to force the situation and possibly cull resentment in its stead.
How can Marika address these emerging problems within her regarding her growing pride and hubris? How will this affect and be affected by the sudden presence of galactic royalty? If Gruelle Serenity has had any kind of traditional upbringing that befits noble status, then her personality will be infused with pride and that will color how she approaches everything as well. But most pertinent of all, how will Marika react and adapt as the theater she performs in suddenly changes from that of dinner entertainment to galactic politics? We can only wait and see…
Space awaits you, Marika.