Bodacious Space Pirates Part One (Episodes 1-13) (Cert 12)
2 Discs (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 301 minutes approx.
In the near future where space travel is now an everyday occurrence, Mariko Kato is an industrious schoolgirl who divides her time between the school yacht club and her part time job in a retro maid café. Out of the blue she is approached by two strangers, Kane McDougal and Misa Grandwood, claiming to be subordinates of her recently deceased father. They reveal to Mariko that her parents were both space pirates and as the descendent of the late captain, Mariko is requested to take over the control of his space pirate ship the Bentenmaru.
As if the long running behemoth that is One Piece wasn’t enough, Bodacious Space Pirates comes along to shatter the alter the perception of the pirate for good. Forget Long John Silver or Captain Jack Sparrow the new pirate is a cute girl and her high seas are the vast depths of outer space! And it’s actually not as bad as you may think. Created by Yūichi Sasamoto in a series of light novels entitled Miniskirt Space Pirates, this adaptation from Tatsuo Satō, helmer of Martian Successor Nadesico, is less about exploiting the fairer sex for a cheap fan service thrill and is more intent on delivering some light hearted and eventful sci-fi hijinks.
Mariko is literally thrown in the deep end by Kane, Misa, her mother and an ancient decree called the Letter Of Marque, the inheritance law of which was passed by after an intergalactic war which also made pirating legal – which must take the fun out of things but there you go. To keep the pressure up, Kane and Misa arrive at Mariko’s school as the new teacher and medic respectively along with uptight transfer student Chiaki Kurihara. During an unusually busy shift at the maid café which is packed with ominous black suited government agents, al looking to kidnap Mariko, but Chiaki shows up in time to rescue here. An embargo on approaching Mariko is swiftly put in place and after a heart to heart with Ririko, Mariko is still unsure about a career in piracy.
Satō has no intention of wasting the twenty six episodes at his disposal so we jump straight into Mariko’s training sessions, held under the pretence of a yacht club exercise by Kane, the club’s advisor. Mariko is forced to use her guile and inherited pirate intuition against mock dilemmas, resulting in her agreeing to follow in her father’s footsteps and become the new captain of the Bentenmaru. Setting sail across the seven…er, galaxies, her eclectic crew include Kane and Misa, along with giant cyborg Schnitzer, psychic navigator Luca, excitable radar expert Hyakume, engineer San-Diame and bespectacled, snack eating computer tactician Coorie. While all entertaining in their own way, they are strictly support acts thus any connection with the audience is denied. The same applies to the numerous members of the yacht club but suffice to say, the usual anime girly tropes are well represented.
The frosty Chiaki also works alongside Mariko but she has an agenda of her own which is revealed later on, initially proving fortuitous to Mariko in the only major story arc in this set. A young stowaway on the Bentenmaru turns out to be Gruier Serenity, the Seventh Princess of the Serenity Royal Family. She requests that Mariko and crew help her locate the Golden Ghost ship, drawing them into a volatile political and personal feud with other members of the Serenity family.
With such a preposterous concept, an abundance of storylines and a cast of characters given little chance to develop, this show sounds like a recipe for disaster. But it works. Much like its hyperactive leading lady, the show is bristling with energy and there is nary a moment where something isn’t happening. The early episodes detailing the faux training sessions make feel a little protracted since they are largely limited to one location and few cast members but this is a temporary issue. Once things kick off we are treated to everything from space battles to heated political arguments and some good natured thrown in for good measure. There are still many layers of intrigue that thus far remain unexplored, such as why Mariko refers to her own mother as “Ririko-san” and if Chaiki’s secret will affect things, which hopefully will be addressed in due course.
Admittedly so much of the show’s premise needs to be taken with a huge pinch of salt, not in the least having an inexperienced highschool girl giving orders on a pirate ship – even if it is in her DNA and she does seem to have an innate ability and sharp tactical mind to pull it off. All of this and she still has to go to school and work her café job too! However Mariko is one of the most engaging and instantly likeable anime protagonists seen in a long time. She should be annoying but she emanates such a personable charm and natural charisma that the viewer can’t help but warm to her from the onset. Unlike other anime heroines Mariko is literally your average teen girl – she just happens to have space pirates for parents.
Such a high concept demands top notch visuals and Satelight don’t let us down. The battles scenes are stupendous and smoothly animated and while the CG spacecraft may occasionally clash with the 2D artwork but on the whole the look and overall designs are fantastic. This would have been quite the treat to watch on Blu-ray (hint hint). Also kudos to MVM for one of the quicker turnarounds for a UK release, as the final episode aired in Japan in June 2012!
Even with niggles that might irritate the picky among us Bodacious Space Pirates has a lot going for it. Despite some familiarities its energy and earnestness is refreshing and for sheer, unadulterated entertainment it delivers it in spades and Mariko’s enthusiasm is infectious. So, avast me hearties and set sail for the nearest DVD retailer now!
Japanese Language with English Subtitles
Disc 2 only:
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Ratings – ****
Man In Black