To be blunt, I don’t really have all that much to say about this series. It’s unusual to be both so conflicted and so ambivalent at the same time, yet I am here. I like the fact that the show seems more interested in scene-setting and character building than explosions and panty-shots, but the problem for me is that in the slow-paced narrative we’ve seen so far, I don’t really see all that much happening on the character front either. It feels to me as if all the characters – except perhaps Kane – have been pretty much stagnant since the first episode. As in, I like them well enough – but they don’t really pop.
I wonder whether there’s a bit of an identity crisis here. You give the series the name this one has and fill it with a cast consisting almost entirely of teenage girls – and then you go with a cerebral, distant style where Marika smiles a lot and nothing that happens really seems all that important. I like wistful stories, but I don’t think Mouretsu Pirates knows what kind of story it wants to be – or at the least, it doesn’t want to tell us yet. It’s a series about teenaged girls and pirates with no pirate activity, so fanservice, no yuri and do danger whatsoever. The closest thing we’ve come to action is a feeble attempt by a cargo ship to attack the Odette II’s computers and a glitch with the “sail” that took the entire second act to fix.
I’m a sci-fi geek, and I did enjoy the stuff aboard the Odette II during the training mission. The notion of “sailing the solar wind” is as old as science-fiction itself and the metaphor of the spacecraft as a sailing vessel on the lonely seas is a tired and overused one, but it always packs a certain poetic elegance – and it doesn’t hurt that Satelight has done a stunning job with the scenes in space. They look fantastic and indeed, the series generally does. I think the notion of Kane overseeing a band of 16 year-old girls and trying to get them to act like astronauts is an interesting one, and I appreciate that the show doesn’t go over the top with the silliness of it – in fact, it (and Kane) treat the problem rather calmly and seriously. But as with everything else about Mouretsu Pirates, I’m just not sure what point it’s trying to make.
It’s obvious that even with two cours things are going to have to come to a head fairly soon, and Marika is going to have to make a (patently obvious) decision about whether to accept the Captaincy of the Bentenmaru. I suspect even then this is going to be a different sort of show, one that relies more on gentle humor and subtlety than bombast, and that’s fine. But right now it feels as if the description was Raiders of the Lost Ark but the product is Settlers of Catan. If you’re going to go the route of slow, character-driven drama you need some intense character drama. If you’re going for screwball comedy, you have to be funny. Just what is Mouretsu Pirates trying to be?