What They Say:
Most teenage boys have enough trouble just dealing with the pressures of school and dating, but 15-year-old Aoi Mitsukuni’s life becomes exponentially more complicated when his mom returns from a long “business trip.” He discovers that not only is his beautiful mother actually an alien, but she’s the notorious Space Pirate Mito to boot! To make matters worse, the girl Aoi likes at school is actually a secret Galactic Patrol agent attempting to find and arrest his mother. No one ever said being a teenager in love was easy!
For this viewing, I listened to the English language track for the first thirteen episodes. The second thirteen episodes were only available in Japanese, so I listened to that and read the English subtitles. As with everything else in this set, I enjoyed the first thirteen more than the second. Both language tracks are in Dolby Digital 2.0, and for the most part, it was fine; however, I had the worst time understanding Shin, the soft-spoken shapeshifting android. It wasn’t bad enough to make me turn on the subtitles, but it does make me wish that they were able to better normalize the track volumes.
Space Pirate Mito originally aired in 1999, so viewers more accustomed to today’s slicker anime style may find the style and video quality here offputting. I loved it, though, being an old-school anime fan. The episodes are presented in 1080i/p in 4:3 aspect ratio, and to my eyes, it looks fine. Keep in mind, though, that my eyes aren’t great and I never notice things like framerate.
Space Pirate Mito comes packaged in a standard Amaray DVD case. The twenty-six episodes are spread over six discs. Discs one and six rest inside the case, while discs two through five rest in center insets.
The front cover features pretty much everyone in the show. Mito in her true form (she looks like an eight-year-old girl when outside of her battle suit), jumps out at the viewer in the center of the image. Her son Aoi sits underneath her, right on top of the show’s title. Flanking stage left are Sabu, Mito in her battle suit (looking like a beautiful adult woman), and various members of Mito’s crew who weren’t important enough to warrant names. Flanking stage right are Shin and the series’ antagonists, Masatsuki, Mutsuki, Ranban, and a bunch of no-name flunkies. This is all set against a very pretty stellar backdrop.
The spine features the show’s title and chibi Mito (for lack of a better label), striking the same pose as on the front against a backdrop of various shades of purple.
The back cover is interesting because it eschews the standard back cover formula. There are no screenshots or cast and crew credits. Instead, the back cover shows the series’ synopsis and is dominated by a picture of Mito and her battle suit, sitting victorious over a heap of Ranban’s foot soldiers.
The packaging is both function and aesthetically pleasing. I like that it’s kind of quirky and full of fun energy, because it mirrors the quirky and fun nature of the show.
The menus follow the same basic format: they feature a character shot (typically Mito) and to the left of the character rests the show’s title in an orange circle. In the circle, underneath the title, are the “Play All,” “Episodes,” and “Extras” options along with the disc’s number. The show’s OP plays on a five-second loop, and it will drive you mad if you leave the DVD on the menu for any length of time. Other than that, it’s a good setup that’s nice to look at and functional.
This set features some pretty decent extras: TV commercials, promotional video, clean OP/ED, and special, short bonus episodes.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Space Pirate Mito was one of those titles that had been sitting in the review queue for some time. I mainly picked it because it was old school and because I like to pick up the random sets that others either miss or have no interest in reviewing. Sometimes I uncover diamonds in the rough, and sometimes I see why the shows were passed over. I’m pleased to say that Mito was a diamond in the rough.
Although Mito is the titular character, this show is more about her son, Aoi. Aoi believes that he’s a typical Earth boy. He lives in Japan by himself because his father died, and he believes that his mother is in New York, working as a fashion model. Actually, his mother is much farther away, in outer space, captaining a space pirate ship and fighting against the evil Galactic Patrol lead by the nefarious Ranban.
As you can see, when it comes to Mito, Aoi’s perceptions of her are almost entirely wrong. This extends even to what he thinks she looks like. The mother he sees is tall and beautiful, but this is a charade. In actuality, what he interacts with is his mother in her battle suit. You see, Mito is an alien, and although she is a fully-developed woman capable of bearing children, she looks like a prepubescent girl. Before Aoi was born, Mito crash landed on Earth. She stayed with Aoi’s father, and the two began a romance. However, Mito couldn’t stay, because she was being hunted by the Galactic Patrol, so even though they had a child, she left him to be raised by his father, stopping by only occasionally when it was safe. The show never goes into how her true appearance factored into Mito and her husband consummating their marriage, and I’m just as glad to not think about it.
While their life isn’t idyllic, Aoi is safe and Mito tries to stay satisfied with the brief moments she has with her son. This changes when Aoi is fifteen. Mito races home after a battle with Ranban so she and Aoi can clean his father’s grave on the anniversary of his death. Unfortunately, two Galactic Patrol agents, brother and sister Masatsuki and Mutsuki, follow her and attack the two at the grave. Mito’s battle suit becomes damaged in the fight and Aoi sees his mother as she truly is for the first time. He faints.
His attitude doesn’t improve much when he awakens. He refuses to call Mito “Mom,” and his attitude towards her is chilly. Mito decides to stay with her son (much to the dismay of her senior officers, Sabu and Shin) in order to protect him from Ranban and to make up for lost time. Masatsuki and Mutsuki also stay. Masatsuki remains with their ship and occasionally pops his head out to attack Aoi and/or Mito. Mutsuki pretends to be a human girl and joins Aoi’s class in order to gather information on the boy and his mother. Masatsuki constantly overextends himself in his zeal to capture Mito. His father was a member of the Galactic Patrol who left in shame, and the boy makes it his life’s mission to redeem the family name. Mutsuki doesn’t share his drive, and soon becomes conflicted as she develops feelings for the boy.
The family drama inflates to galactic proportions as Ranban brings the brunt of the Galactic Patrol to Earth to capture Mito. He desires a key that will unlock a weapon of unimaginable power, and he believes that Aoi may know something about it.
Without going into too much detail, that’s pretty much the summary of the first thirteen episodes. They comprise a self-contained arc, as does the second thirteen. The first story ends with Aoi tapping into his alien heritage and become intersex. It seems that Mito’s race starts out as neither male nor female (which may make me calling Aoi “intersex” inaccurate, but it’s the only term I can think of). They choose their gender when they come of age, and Aoi becomes female, much to his consternation. Aoi also becomes the queen of the galaxy.
This status change to female and queen doesn’t sit too well with Aoi. Nor does it sit well with some galactic citizens. A group of zealots perform a ritual that awakens the first galactic queen, and she embarks on a reign of terror to regain her physical body and her throne. The conflict grows more complicated when she comes to the conclusion that Aoi is the reincarnation of her former husband. She tries to bring out the soul of her husband while at the same time destroying everything Aoi knows and loves. I won’t spoil the ending, but it gets pretty emotional.
Anime is an acquired taste. As a genre, it is riddled with inconsistent plots and characters, sudden shifts in tone, and an attitude of “let’s throw it against the wall and see what sticks” that either works or just makes a mess. I love the genre because it does things that other cannot. I accept the inconsistencies and sudden shifts when the story is fun and unique and possesses a clear sense of premise. Space Pirate Mito is a weird show, but it’s also a fun show full of wild, positive energy and surprisingly touching moments. In terms of plot and character, it’s more consistent than some, but it does go off on some wild tangents that only work because, well, it’s anime.
I figured that I would enjoy this series on at least a superficial level because of my love of old-school anime (although calling something that came out in 1999 “old school” just doesn’t sound right, even though it’s accurate), but I was completely taken in by this series. I had a blast watching it—especially the first half.
In fact, the second half left me cold. I thought at first that it was because it was sub-only, but it’s more than that. For all its faults, the first half of Space Pirate Mito was more or less consistent. I felt like the plot, the characters, and the tone came together wonderfully there, but I didn’t feel that way with the second half. It’s bleaker than the first, more broody and angsty, and a great deal of the fun silliness that I enjoyed went by the wayside. To its benefit, I will say that the second half did touch me, unexpectedly. There’s one particular scene where the first queen contemplates going off to another universe. She expresses sadness because she will go there alone and will likely remain alone throughout eternity. I felt for her in that moment and could almost feel the weight of her decision. It surprised me greatly and speaks to the quality of the anime. However, it wasn’t enough to make me enjoy it as much as I did the first half.
When I rewatch this show (and I definitely will), I imagine that I will stop when episode thirteen ends. While the second half of the season had its high points, it just didn’t come together for me. I was a little disappointed when I saw that only the first half had an English dub, but now that I’ve seen the entire series, I don’t really have a problem with that anymore.
Space Pirate Mito took me completely by surprise. It was a title I picked up with no expectations or foreknowledge of, and it won me over in the first five minutes. It’s big and silly and stupid in some places, but it’s all grounded in the relationship between a mother and her child. That keeps the silliness from going too far and derailing the narrative and makes this a universal, relatable story despite the space pirates, battle suits, androids, and whatnot. Dr. Josh gives this an…
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, TV commercials, promotional video, clean OP/ED, and special, short bonus episodes
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Lucky Penny
Release Date:November 4th, 2014
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Panasonic Viera TH42PX50U 42” Plasma HDTV, Sony BPD-S3050 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection