Roving Thoughts archives


A theory about why piracy is still there in Moretsu Pirates (as of episode 7)

(There are spoilers here.)

By the end of episode 7 of Pirates, it's become obvious that the 'privateering' that the eponymous pirates are doing is in fact pretty much a stage show, admittedly a stage show that is sometimes conducted with live ammunition. This is rather odd, as noted by omonomono in Mouretsu Pirates Are Like Maid Cafe Maids. I was recently struck with a theory for why the privateers are still around in this odd way.

First, I'll run down some things that we know about the setting:

  • the war for independence that spawned the privateers didn't come to a conclusion; it was suppressed by both sides being forcefully absorbed by (and into) the Galactic Empire.
  • the privateers weren't shut down when this happened because the Galactic Empire respects each system's rights to self rule; the privateers fall under this clause (as long as they are privateers with a Letter of Marque instead of pirates).
  • there is a bunch of bureaucracy and restrictions on the privateers, but at the same time there also seems to be a lot of assistance and good will from the government to the privateers.
  • the Bentenmaru is said to be vastly more powerful than three escort warships combined.

My theory is that the privateers, or more exactly their ships, are a legal end run around limitations that the Galactic Empire imposes on the size and power of the Colony Federation's local naval forces (if it's even allowed to have any). Through the privateers, the Colony Federation has effectively managed to retain a bunch of battleships with a significant amount of firepower and keep them outside the authority of the Galactic Empire.

(This is not enough firepower to stop the Galactic Empire if the GE wants to put a big enough fleet together, but it may be enough firepower to make a difference in a lesser situation. And options are always good, especially when the Colony Federation probably doesn't really like having effectively lost their war for independence by being taken over by a third party.)

The Galactic Empire couldn't take the privateers over because they're private ships, not government forces, and they couldn't forbid them because as privateers they're a legitimate exercise of self rule. I'm guessing that the Galactic Empire can forbid issuing Letters of Marque to new ships and insist on a whole series of rules for keeping the privateer status valid in the hopes that it will winnow down the number of privateer ships over time. Meanwhile the local government is all for the privateer ships; it can't disobey the Galactic Empire or break its rules outright (because that would give the Galactic Empire the excuse it needs to shut down the privateers), but it can give the privateers all sorts of assistance in fulfilling those rules.

The privateering shows that the Bentenmaru puts on function as a way to funnel money to the privateers to keep the ships in operation and crewed and to satisfy the Galactic Empire's requirements for continuing the Letters of Marque. It also helps keep the privateers in something approximating fighting condition for genuine battles. (It may also make privateers seem romantically cool, instead of something that you might lobby the Galactic Empire to put a stop to somehow.)

This also sort of explains the Odette II, which we are told is one of the original seven pirate ships and is still being maintained in something approaching fighting condition. The government can't own the Odette II outright because then the Galactic Empire could take it away, but it can arrange for it to be owned by a school yacht club, maintained properly, and regularly taken out on cruises by a bunch of interesting people who could make up a scratch crew if it became necessary (drawing both from current club members and from past graduates). This is not as good as the Odette II still being in active service as a privateer but it's a lot better than being completely decommissioned.

(I suspect that when the Odette II stopped being a privateer, its ownership carefully never passed through government hands. I would not be surprised if it was owned by the school yacht club instead of the school itself as extra insulation.)

anime/PiratesTheory written at 21:38:45; Add Comment


Saying something brief about Black ★ Rock Shooter

Black ★ Rock Shooter (and that's the last time I am adding the ★ character to its title) is technically part of the winter 2012 season; it just started a month or so after everything else.

I thought that the Black Rock Shooter OVA had decently nice action but was otherwise mostly incomprehensible. The first episode of the TV series reduces the action and makes it less comprehensible (and more random) while swapping out everything else for relatively pedestrian drama (admittedly with a crazy person or two). In light of my trimming this season I've so far seen no reason to watch any more of it. If it had kept the quality of action of the OVA I would have watched it for the action alone, but it didn't.

(This is the sort of thing that almost fits in a Tweet, but not quite.)

anime/BlackRockShooterBrief written at 17:28:35; Add Comment


Trimming the fat, Winter 2012 edition

Due to some things that do not fit into the margins of this blog, watching anime in general has recently stopped being as casual and enjoyable a thing as it used to be. Because of this I'm strongly considering trimming the list of shows I'm watching down to things that I seriously enjoy, as opposed to stuff that's just okay. So I've decided to make a list (or two). Because of what this is, there is a lot of picking on negative aspects of shows that have both good and bad sides.

(I have not yet decided to do this and circumstances may change. But just writing it down makes it more likely.)


  • Moretsu Pirates: I saw someone do an 'I saw/I expected/I got' picture series for this where the 'I got' was Hunt for Red October. As it happens, I like that approach.

  • Nisemonogatari, despite the excessive cleverness it is starting to go places.

  • Ano Natsu de Matteru, an enjoyable change of pace and it's avoiding things that make me wince. In fact, the more I see of it the better it gets.

  • Rinne no Lagrange, because it's entertainingly silly so far.

  • Inu x Boku SS: I'm enjoying this much more than I expected, even after I gave into temptation and read manga scanslations. In some ways, knowing what's going on and what's coming has made it more interesting, not less.

    (Apparently this is the season where I enjoy romance shows.)

This is probably still too many shows.

Kind of teetering on the edge:

  • Aquarion EVOL: Redoing the original Aquarion's over the top attacks doesn't make this interesting by itself. On the other hand it is consistently crazy. On the third hand it's 26 episodes.

  • Senki Zesshou Symphogear: Too cheap and too generic. The angst fails to be interesting and the doom hangs over the entire thing. On the other hand, every time I watch an episode it's just good enough to make me interested in the next one, and Evirus rates it as his top show this season (you have to follow his syndication feed to see this, the ratings aren't in his actual article except maybe by implication).

    (As I put it on Twitter, I'm not sure if Symphogear is deliberately camp or just cheaply animated.)

On the chopping block with some degree of certainty:

  • High School DxD: I was ignoring the unrelenting fanservice (yes, it was hard) and watching this for the straightforward mindless shounen entertainment and to see what sort of crazy thing they'd do next. However the show just finished its first major arc, so now is a good time to stop.

    (I agree with Evirus's summary of it; he and I just disagree about the merits of its generic shounen fighting part. I'm basically uninterested in the fanservice harem comedy bits.)

  • Brave 10: Too generic. Would be decent brainless watching if I was more up for anime watching in general.

  • Shana III: I'm a terrible completist so I really want to see the finale of the Shana franchise, but I have to admit that I haven't really been enjoying it all that much and I'm several episodes behind already.

  • Guilty Crown: fails to be sufficiently entertaining. I watched part of episode 14 and found myself more irritated with the characters and situation than anything else. There are cool bits, but the density of them isn't high enough.

    (It's probably a bad sign that it seems more interesting to read people's episode summaries than to actually watch the episodes. And reactions to recent episodes make it sound like it has gotten worse and worse.)

  • Last Exile: Fam: I am just finding this too cliched and sometimes ridiculous, and Fam herself is a goof. I've already been watching it only in bursts.

I don't know if I'd have the willpower to actually drop the shows that I carried over from last season, especially Shana III. Every time I read someone saying that Shana III has done something interesting this episode, my resistance to watching it goes down a bit more.

I started writing this a few weeks ago but sat on it while I mulled things over slowly and actually started following through on some bits. On the other hand, every time I take another pass at this it seems that my opinion's changed a bit. I am sometimes an eternal optimist who finds it very hard to give up entirely on shows, even when I should.

(So it's time to just post this, not endlessly edit and re-edit it. I can always change my mind about shows later.)

anime/TrimmingWinter2012 written at 23:32:56; Add Comment


Why the fleet battles in Last Exile - Fam have no drama for me

One of the things that Last Exile - Fam, The Silver Wing features relatively prominently is fleet battles with those flying battleships. Unfortunately I find them essentially completely free of drama, which robs the whole thing of a lot of the point.

The direct reason that I find them mostly free of drama is that in an earlier clash with the Silvius, it's been solidly established that the fleet gunners of the Ades Federation have all of the accuracy of Imperial Stormtroopers; despite outnumbering the Silvius many to one and having it dead to rights, they failed to score any really meaningful hits. When you know that one side can't shoot straight, it's hard to take battles involving them very seriously.

The deeper reason is what this demonstrates about the fleet battles themselves: the outcomes of the fleet battles are arbitrary. What happens in a battle and what the outcome is is based purely on what the scriptwriters need, not on any internal logic of the setting and forces involved. If Ades needs to be strong and beat people up, it will; if it needs to be weak or lose, it will. One day Ades can shoot straight and is terribly dangerous, the next day not so much. An outnumbered ship may or may not escape or may or may not be harmed, and there's nothing about the scenario that will let me predict that. Clever twists are guaranteed to materialize when necessary, generally out of nothing. Improbable events will happen as required. This arbitrary nature of outcomes and lack of logic has robbed the fleet battles of most any drama or tension for me; what happens will happen and that's just it, so there's no point in doing anything more than maybe enjoying the scenery.

(It's not quite deus ex machina outcomes, but it's close. A few times it's literally been that when Guild members show up.)

anime/LastExileFamBattles written at 19:19:06; Add Comment

The problem of interpretation: what I indirectly learned from Alien Nine

(There are spoilers here for Alien Nine.)

Once upon a time there was an anime called Alien Nine, which was a four episode OVA series about three gradeschool girls who are 'volunteered' to be their school's alien control officers. Especially it's the story of Yuri Otani, who really hates everything involved with the job; she hates the symbiotic Borg that now lives on top of her head, she hates the dangerous alien animals that they have to fight (and ideally capture alive, and then the girls have to tend to them too), and so on. Although it looks cute and has perky songs, Alien Nine is in many ways an almost unrelentingly brutal series; for all the pastel colours, these are sixth graders being forced into significant danger and the show does not pull its punches. Yuri doesn't deal well with the situation at all while the other two girls hide their own secrets which the series peels back over time.

The series builds to a crescendo of character tension and explosions, reaching its height at the end of the fourth OVA episode. The ending of the show has one of the girls rollerskating faster and faster through the school corridors, then the show cuts to the other two girls reacting in sudden alarm; they burst outside to find the first girl's body lying on the ground. Cue the end credits. That's it, that's the end of the fourth and last episode. When you watch the anime, this is a huge 'wait, what? what just happened?' moment.

Once upon a time I read an analysis of the Alien Nine OVA which ran down all of these events and came up with a solid, convincing explanation of what was going on and what happened (I think it was this one); the short version is that the first girl snapped and ran out of reasons to live. It's frankly a great explanation and makes perfect sense all through.

There is only one problem with this beautiful interpretation of Alien Nine: it's wrong. Alien Nine was a manga before it was an OVA series, and the OVA series is very faithful to the manga. Too faithful, because the OVA series ends abruptly halfway into a manga storyline, and of course the manga storyline continues on to explain what happened to the first girl. And what's going on is nothing like what the analysis came up with from the OVAs.

Reading the analysis (even the first time around) was a very salutory bucket of cold water to me, because by the time I encountered this analysis I'd already read enough of the manga to know it was beautiful, convincing, and incorrect. I of course already knew that our interpretations of anime are filtered through our own views and we may be reading things into an anime that aren't there, but this was the first time I saw it so very vividly happen before my eyes. And it's not as if the interpretation is wrong, in a sense; everything that the person writing it saw in Alien Nine really is there, either in fact or if looked at from the right angle. It's just almost certainly not what the actual creators of the anime intended to be there.

I am far from immune to the problem of interpretation myself, and ever since then I've tried to bear this in mind. What I see in an anime may be far from what the creators put there, especially with the cultural and translation gaps. In the worst case, I may be basing my flights of fancy on a translation nuance or mistake that's not even present in the original Japanese.

(I don't know why Alien Nine was only a four episode OVA and ended in such a bad place. Possibly it was planned for more episodes but didn't sell well enough.)

anime/InterpretationProblem written at 17:53:43; Add Comment


Noise in space: handwaving Moretsu Pirates some

Via Author, lolikitsune tweets:

watched Mouretsu Space Pirates 3: noise in space. SEEMS LIKE THE SUCCESSOR TO STARSHIP OPERATORS IS NOT HERE YET

I like handwaving, so let me make an excuse for Pirates here. Actually, two of them. The first excuse is that a certain amount of noise might come through contact with the hull and thus with hull vibrations caused by the various machinery operating. But that's probably not good enough.

The second excuse is that everyone was in what we're told are very automated spacesuits, in an environment with fairly smart computers. People notice and react to sound cues. Thus, there is a good case for generating entirely artificial in-suit noises that correspond to important things going on in the outside world, things like airlock doors opening or potentially dangerous mechanisms in operation that you should steer clear of. So far all of the noises in space we've heard in Pirates have been noises from the ship itself, things that could plausibly be faked in the suits for this reason.

(By the way, I understand why shows love their sliding airlocks but I think it's a stupid design. As I picked up long ago from reading Heinlein juveniles, in theory the safest airlock door is one that opens inwards because then it's essentially impossible to accidentally open it until the inside has been depressurized. If the inside is still under pressure, you have many pounds per square inch holding the door very firmly closed. But inwards-opening doors would not make for good staging and good scenes, so we have the kind of sliding ones that we see in Pirates. This has been your digression of the day.)

anime/NoiseInSpace written at 21:43:00; Add Comment

More on why the Moretsu Pirates zero-G problems annoy me

In response to my entry on zero-G in Pirates, Author noted that problems with zero-G are pervasive and pointed to an example in Rocket Girls (and noted that he's learned not to be bothered by it).

For me, Pirates is different from something like Rocket Girls in two ways. First and most important is that the zero-G mistakes in Pirates are so obvious that I've actually noticed them. I am not an alert watcher for technical details; I'm generally happy to get carried away without worrying about the small things (and the zero-G issues in Pirates are a small thing). It takes a fair amount to make me go 'wait, what?' while I'm actually watching the show. Zero-G in Pirates managed.

(I never noticed the zero-G issues in Rocket Girls, for example.)

Second, using zero-G is an actual setting choice in Pirates. Something like Rocket Girls intrinsically requires zero-G; you cannot have a modern era show in space with helpful artificial gravity. But artificial gravity is a common cliche in future space settings and Pirates could have used it without anyone blinking. When an anime does something through choice instead of need I generally hold it to a higher standard.

(For example, if an anime includes a generic camera I will ignore unrealities about it that would irritate me if the anime is clearly trying to show a specific camera but getting it wrong. You could phrase this as 'if you're going to put in details, get them right'.)

PS: note that Author is in fact more technically correct about the situation than I am. He's using the correct technical term 'microgravity', where I've gone for the slightly inaccurate pop culture label 'zero-G'.

anime/PiratesZeroGProblemsII written at 19:07:32; Add Comment


My issue with the zero-G sequences in Moretsu Pirates

Pirates has made the unusual decision to not use artificial gravity in the sole spaceship that we've seen; instead all of the areas of the ship we've seen so far have been in zero G. (It's possible that part of the living quarters have gravity from spin, but the bridge and main ship areas don't.)

Unfortunately there is one bit of how Pirates is handling the zero G sequences that gets to me. It's not how everyone's skirts are apparently nailed down (yes, the schoolgirls are still wearing their uniform skirts in zero G); as noted, this is not that sort of show, and I'm perfectly willing to accept that.

What gets to me is how people maneuver in zero G. Pirates has repeatedly had people floating still in the air, not in contact with anything, and then had them just start moving again without pushing off anything or otherwise having some source of thrust. Sometimes people have stopped in midair (not coasted to a stop, just stopped). It's as if Pirates is treating people in zero G just like people walking along the ground, except they can coast and float and move in any direction.

(Unfortunately this isn't the kind of thing that can be illustrated without an animation clip of some sort.)

Pirates doesn't do this all of the time; a lot of the time people do push off things and stop themselves on things. But not always, and the exceptions make me twitch. I wish that Pirates would either commit wholesale to real zero G or just give up and give the ship artificial gravity.

(Perhaps the clearest example of this happens during parts of the spacewalk in the third episode. I'd try to handwave that as their suit backpacks having some sort of maneuvering thrusters if it wasn't for all of the other times this happens.)

anime/PiratesZeroGProblems written at 17:19:16; Add Comment

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