The Story so far...
The episode starts with Hyakume trying to analyze gynoid Luca, as Kane, Misa, and Marika look on. However, try as he may, Hyakume found that analyzing Luca was an impossible task, as it reformatted itself as it was shut down after getting shot by Misa. Knowing about Marika's concern about the real Luca, Misa explained to Marika that Luca was a pirate, and that she knew that such things were going to happen. That is, until the real Luca showed up on their doorstep, two heavy bags filled with stuff slung across both of her shoulders. It is then revealed that Luca -- the real one -- went on a personal vacation, taking home a boatload of Hawaiian-style shirts for Marika. The scene shifts to somewhere near the docks, where Luca thanks Kane for letting her see Blaster Ririka in action, which may be the reason Luca went on a vacation from the Bentenmaru in the first place. Meanwhile, over at the restaurant of the legendary chef's son, Marika and Misa meet with Chiaki and Kenjo, discussing how Quartz Christie appeared in the conference hall, with Marika expressing how she felt that Quartz was very much like a pirate. At that poiint, one of Kenjo's men enters, announcing the appearance of a mysterious woman in the Conference hall. At the conference hall, Quartz Christie sits calmly as crews from various pirates surround her, their guns trained upon her. Marika and Kenjo, accompanied by Misa and Chiaki respectively, arrive shortly after to confront Quartz, with Marika taking note of the Cape and the golden skull draped on Quartz's left shoulder. Before a fight ever broke out, the chef appears, accompanied by three enormous assistants, announcing that no violence is allowed at the Pirates' nest. One of the pirates, displeased with the presence of Quartz in the Pirates' nest, points out that Marika is the only girl that has become a pirate recently. The chef then points out that Quartz is a pirate that is officially recognized by the Galactic empire. Kenjo then steps forward, confronting Quartz's arrival at the Pirates' nest, to which Quartz answers by stating that as the pilot of the Mobile battleship Grand Cross, her goal is to hunt down pirates -- an answer that prompted many of the lesser crewmen to aim their guns at her. Marika, hoping to break the tension in the hall, declares that she will challenge Quartz to a fair fight -- a proposal that the unnamed captain did not like one bit. Before the other captain could stab Quartz with his saber, however, Ironbeard, the captain of the Parabellum, whose gold skull Marika recognizes, appears, proceeding to tell Quartz that he comes with orders from the Queen to fetch her. Marika proceeds to confront Ironbeard, demanding to know who he is.
In the second half of the episode, Ironbeard answers Marika's question with a rather cryptic question of his own. Back at Sea of the Morningstar, Mami and the other girls talk about Marika, and of how Gruier reported to them about the young captain's arrival at the Pirates' nest. The girls then decide that they will hold the fort for Marika until she comes back. Shifting back to the Pirates' nest, the chef has served a sumptuous feast for all the pirates in attendance, which impresses Marika greatly. At the hallway leading away from the conference hall, Ironbeard and Quartz talk to each other as they head back to their respective spacecraft, when the young, unnamed captain ambushes them, along with a handful of his crew. Before he could fire his blaster, a laser bolt hits his blaster, forcing him to drop the blaster as it melts from the extreme heat. It is at that moment that Ririka, having donned a skintight suit and wielding a blaster, emerges from the shadows, telling the unnamed captain's crew members to stand down. Before one other crew member could pick her off, Kane emerges from behind and knocks him out with a well placed chop to the neck. In the next scene, more secrets are revealed, as Misa discovers that the Kane that's been riding with them is actually a twin of the real Kane. She then proposes charging the Parabellum for the unpaid servitude of the younger brother, and docking the real Kane's pay as punishment. As for why the younger brother was sent in, Ironbeard reveals that he wanted to know what the pirates will choose, as they have the choice to hold on to the Letters of Marque and remain pirates for hire, or to become true pirates. He then tells Misa and Kane of how he has seen a spark in Marika's eyes, a spark which pleases him, without telling the viewer directly what the spark meant to him. Misa then gives Ririka a friendly jab, of how it is tough for her to have such a daughter, to which Ririka explains that it was mostly on Marika. Toward the end of the episode, the chef sends out a signal to the pirates about the time and place of the challenge against Quartz Christie, in the form of a song sang by both Marika and Chiaki (Much to the embarrassment of Chiaki). With the song continuing to play, the pirates start to sail, with Marika taking the lead.
In the beginning of the episode, I must confess that the appearance of the real Luca as the tension builds, fueled by the mysteries surrounding the gynoid Luca, was somewhat jarring and anti-climactic, even though it was rather amusing. I felt that one of the biggest flaws of the episode is the non-revelation of the source of the gynoid Luca, leaving viewers to guess whether the gynoid came from Quartz, or if it was a stand-in Luca planted herself, while Luca went on her vacation. It is a mystery that would remained unanswered at this point, given that the focus toward the end of the series (or season, in case a season 2 might be announced down the line) is on the impending battle between Quartz Christie, and the frontier pirates, led by the Bentenmaru. Despite the flaws, however, the episode maintains a mix of tension that may lead to action, along with humorous moments, which, for the most part, seemed to mesh. Overall, this episode is a solid episode, and sets up the final episode very well. How will the final fight turn out? Tune in for the nail-biting series finale next week. Same Marika time. Same Marika channel.