"O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done, / The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won."
From the beginning of her time aboard the pirate ship Bentenmaru in Bodacious Space Pirates, Marika Kato's unspoken identity has been that of the former captain's daughter. She's been learning her assumed duties as captain as she goes, much the way a toddler does, with the danger of gut instinct tempered by the ever-watchful aid that comes from the invisible arms of her guardians. That kind of mothered growth is dangerous in terms of coming to command respect. To turn her guiding family into her faithful crew, to burst out of her role as their intern and command the respect of a proper captain, Marika must prove her growth beyond any possible expectations.
Luck has always been on Marika's side, but so have good intuition, quick thinking, and a capable crew. These are what accelerate her rapid acclimation to the captain’s chair. But for this Snapshot, what is important is how the show depicts that first instance where the crew puts their full, unfettered faith in Marika as their commander. To accomplish this crucial show-don’t-tell moment with any sense of believability, the child-captain’s evolution incorporates a few crucial baby steps.
Marika has to be someone the crew would be willing to put their trust into. As the daughter of the previous captain, that problem’s easily solved. Marika has to display some modicum of talent for the job despite her lack of training. Her willingness to make a decision and stick with it is bolstered by her problem solving skills and decisiveness, an inherent personality trait which is something the crew could never teach. Much like a baby bird pushed out of the nest to fly or go splat, Marika must prove her pirate skills without the safety of her phenomenal crew’s support. This is what episodes 14–19 deliver via Marika’s search for and then command over a substitute crew. Lastly, Marika must conquer the unconquerable. Luckily for her, adversity shows up in the form of a threat which none other of the existing captains seems to be able to face.
The result of all of the above is this month’s Snapshot. The Bentenmaru ends its 26-episode journey with a brief series of portraits of its exhausted and excited crew turning to look at Marika with no other intent but to follow. There will be no more plans for tests or guidance; the crew is looking to Marika to see where she will take them next. She has earned their respect and fulfilled the image of captain.
Snapshots is a monthly column in which one of our writers describes and analyzes a particular moment from an anime, manga, or video game. Last month's Snapshot was late, so July has TWO Snapshots! To read previous entries, click here.