A hell of a lot of fun in Moretsu Pirates 21, one of those episodes where a lot of things could happen and they do–all at once.
First they have to set it all up. Hakou’s dinghy team arrives to the obvious fear and consternation of the other participants and the Chairwoman, who remembers all too well what happened six years ago, the event that put Hakou on suspension. Turns out it was Lynn’s doing, though she was unaware of the carnage she helped cause at the “13th Tournament Nightmare,” as it is known today. Frankly, if I knew I was with a team with such a bad reputation I would swagger a little more, but swagger isn’t their style, alas. The chairwoman is convinced that they’re up to no good again, and when she learns Marika will be observing in a dinghy of her own, she’s convinced. And there’s that evil faction who’s out to get Marika because she’s a pirate, with their own plans. Oh, Chiaki’s around, too, because it wouldn’t be as much fun without her. As I said, a lot of potential for fun here.
The beginning of the race is beautiful to watch. We see much of it via Ai, who has no ulterior motive except racing her dinghy, even if all the other teams are dead-set on beating her and the other Hakou contestants, you know why. The actual course, we’re told, is much rougher this year partly out of spite, which doesn’t make much sense since all the other contestants have to endure it, too. But the race itself is soon overshadowed when the craziness happens.
First, the chairwoman in her own dinghy trying to take Marika down, nearly taking out some of the actual contestants in the process. If that wasn’t enough for Marika, the evil people show up moments later and start firing–on everybody. This being the sort of show it is, we don’t see any innocent people getting hit, but still, imagine being in a race and having some goon shoot at you because you MIGHT be their target! But Marika learns who they’re after. Against the advice of the Bentenmaru Marika does the decent (and near-suicidal) thing and gets the goons’ attention, and while they’re firing at her, the chairwoman reenters the fray, and THEN … out of nowhere … Well … I should add that these scenes are directed and animated superbly. The whole thing is a delight, one thing after another, help from unexpected places, and in the end it returns to Ai, her computers are down but she can navigate by the stars, like every good sailor, the wind blowing away her cute hat. The joy of sailing gets the last word. This might have been the best episode yet.
Space Brothers 9 is filler, a chance for Mutta to look around at where he is now, prepare for what’s coming next, and find new things to doubt himself for. First comes the finding of Hibito’s will, but after some odd reflection it’s clear there’s nothing he didn’t know already about astronauts dying. Even his parents (who for once have a good scene) laugh it off. There follows a number of silly scenes while we wait for something to happen. Some snark about his brother from astronauts who didn’t pass … mostly ignored. Reflection from Kenji about his daughter growing up while he’s absent, heading to Mars … Mutta can sympathize, but he’s not in that position. It’s Serika’s goal to work on the ISS on a cure for the illness that killed her father that finally gets to him. Serika has a reason to be in space, Mutta feels that he doesn’t. And so the third exam will begin and Mutta has something new to dwell upon. We’re set for the next story arc.
AKB0048 5 is also filler. The girls have been training hard and now get their monthly day off. It’s a little opportunity to watch the girls at leisure, but the fun of the episode is learning more about the utter weirdness of the AKB0048 operation, oh, and to introduce the official members to us. The more normal members, like Yuuko and Yukirin, divulge odd facts to their underlings, like no one is supposed to inquire as to the chief of the organization, known only as the belly-button stealing Sensei-Sensei, or that the center performer role was removed after the performers kept vanishing. On the far scale of the weirdness is Tomochin, one of a long line of Tomochins in AKB0048, almost clone-like, who marry men who resemble them and even slavishly learn the family bad habits. So Tomochin is officially the creepiest one of the group. Oh, Sae is apparently little more than a sidekick and Mayuyu is hungry all the time. Nothing else to the episode except Nagisa tries to bond with Chieri again.
Shining Hearts Shiawase no Pan 7 has Rick pondering a lot of things, but not the one you’d think. Madera prompts him to go visit Xiao Mei about whatever is making his baking skills slip (Kagura, she of the perpetual coma, won’t even wake up for it anymore!), as if she knows what Xiao’s side job is. Maybe she does, she seems to know everything else. Xiao doesn’t bother to keep it a secret from Rick when he arrives, so the series has passed on one potential story, I guess, in favor of another. Neither does it occur to Rick to turn her in, even before he sees she’s basically doing a Robin Hood. No, what Rick ponders is whether he truly is (or should be) a swordsman or a baker, never once entertaining the possibility that he could be both. He’s open about his difficulties to his friends, but they don’t offer that answer either. So he makes his unnecessary either-or decision and gets back to baking. This is after many scenes, mind you, and me muttering for the show to get on with it and stop with closeups of each character giggling or frowning. FINALLY, at the very end, a huge, monstrous, unexpected mass of plot development happens, and the previews have Rick hanging out with sinister people. Oh did you know that not only Rick, but every harem girl in the series washed ashore? Did the island’s entire population?