What They Say:
Most families have a skeleton or two in the closet, but Marika is understandably shocked to learn that what her family has been hiding is a skull and crossbones! While the revelation that her late father was a space pirate would have been earthshaking enough for most teenage girls, discovering that he was the captain of the notorious pirate ship Benten Maru will change Marika’s life forever. You see, pirating is a family business, and she’s just inherited the position of captain – and her father’s former crew is quite intent on making sure Marika accepts the job!
What’s a girl to do? Well, if you’re a high school student whose prior total naval experience has been working at the space yacht club, there’s really only one moral dilemma that has to be resolved: are pirates allowed to wear really short mini-skirts?
For this viewing, I listened to the English language track, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. A 2.0 Japanese language track is also available, as are English subtitles. The sound quality was fine with no major issues other than the fact that I had quite a hard time hearing Misa, who is a low talker. Other than that, I had no problems with the dubbing.
Each episode is presented in 16:9 aspect ratio, and it’s a damn pretty show. Like most anime these days, it mixes traditional 2-D animation with computer graphics, and maybe it’s just my age showing, but I find that the two don’t mesh too well. Aesthetically, both are of high quality, but they just don’t fit, making me wish that the show would pick just one (preferably 2-D) and stick with it. That’s a subjective matter, though, and has nothing to do with the actual quality of the show.
Bodacious Space Pirates: The Complete Collection comes packaged in a standard DVD case. The show’s twenty-six episodes are spread over five discs, with discs one through five housed in a center inset and disc six clipped to the inside of the back cover.
The front of the case features pretty much every character in the show, with Marika and Chiaki taking center stage. The Hakuoh Academy Yacht Club’s starship occupies the upper righthand corner, while the Bentenmaru zooms in the center just behind the two girls. Its crew stands in the upper lefthand corner, and under them are Gruier and Grunhilde Serenity along with their retinue. The girls of the Hakuoh Academy Yacht Club stand at the very bottom, looking ready for some action.
The spine is black, which makes the title’s pink and white font really pop. Marika, in her pirate getup, stands at the bottom.
The back cover follows the standard format for 90% of anime. The show’s synopsis takes up most of the real estate, but also included are a large picture of the protagonist, screenshots from the show, cast and crew credits, and DVD specifications.
It’s a bit of a crowded setup, visually, but it fits the show, as it’s a mix of many different anime genres. Like the show, it not only makes it work, but it’s enjoyable to see.
The menus follow the same basic format. The episode listings are positioned on the lefthand side along with the “Languages” and “Special Features” options. This is set against a white background with faint black crosses. The selection icon is a skull and crossbones, which I thought was a nice touch. The righthand side of the screen shows Marika and one or more of the characters set against a starfield backdrop. The series’ OP plays on a loop, and thankfully, it’s almost the entire song, so that makes it repeating less maddening than if it were on a five second loop.
This collection comes with the standard extras: clean OP/ED, and Sentai trailers. Nothing really to write home about.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
It’s difficult to pinpoint why I enjoyed Bodacious Space Pirates so much. The show is an odd mix of space opera, pirate adventure, school comedy, and cute-girls-doing-cute-things. By all rights, these elements should not work together, but somehow, someway they do. In fact, not only do they work together, but they combined to make a show that’s visually arresting, charming, and just plain fun to watch.
Based on the light novel series Miniskirt Pirates, Bodacious Space Pirates takes place centuries in the future in a galaxy far away from our own. Space travel has become commonplace, and pirating has become legal. One hundred years ago, two star systems engaged in a war. One system decided to use pirates as soldiers and instituted the letter of marque, a document that allows pirate ships to operate legally as long as they follow certain rules. Now the war is over, but the pirates remain, doing odd jobs and putting on shows for luxury cruise liners.
When the show begins, the protagonist, Marika Kato, lives the life of an ordinary teenage girl. She goes to high school, works part time at a retro café, and serves as a member of her school’s yacht club. Her life turns upside down when she learns that her father—whom she never met—died and was the captain of the space pirate ship Bentenmaru. Two of the ship’s crew, Kane and Misa, bring her the unfortunate news and an offer to take her father’s place as captain. It turns out that the letter of marque can be inherited, and Marika has thirty days to decide whether she wants to take it up, or let it go to someone else. She struggles with the decision, and Kane and Misa take jobs at her school in order to guide and keep an eye on her. Marika eventually decides to take the position, and from then on her life becomes a rollercoaster.
Even though it takes quite a bit of time and energy learning how to be a proper space pirate captain, Marika holds on to her other life. She attends high school, works at the café, and still helps with the yacht club. This is where the convergence of so many genres comes into play. Despite her efforts to keep these aspects of her life separate, they often bleed together in new and interesting ways. For example, Kane served as her homeroom teacher and faculty sponsor for the yacht club, and the yacht club ends up piloting the Bentenmaru for a mission. Seeing characters from different story types in new and unfamiliar situations provides a great deal of the show’s charm, but that’s not the end-all be-all of Bodacious Space Pirates. This is a show that fires on all cylinders, and barrels forward at such a pace that you aren’t left with time to parse and analyze—only enjoy.
That being said, one cannot overlook the strength of the show’s characters. Marika in particular is preternaturally endearing. I feel a bit like a dirty old man here, but I admit that I was crushing on her a little. Her personality is so upbeat and infectious that it’s hard not to. This charm overrides everything else. In terms of character, Marika is pretty two-dimensional. While she struggles with her newfound captaincy, she is also supernaturally adept at it, making the right decisions on instinct as much as intellect. Typically, having a character be good at everything she tries spells death for a story, but it works here for reasons I can’t quite discern.
Adding to the show’s charm is its appealing aesthetic design. The animators and designers paid attention to the little details, and it shows. The series mixes futuristic space-age designs with nautical embellishes more at home in the golden age of pirates. Marika and the Bentenmaru crew carry pocket watches with them, which, when opened, project a holographic display that includes messages, the time, and weather reports—the standard information we see on our cell phones now. It’s a small detail, but it makes the world seem rich and interesting, and it’s a product that I wish existed here and now.
The show also treats space as having three dimensions, which as a space nut, I particularly enjoyed. When the characters pull up maps, they take the form of holographic spheres with X, Y, and Z axes. This also plays a role in the combat the Bentenmaru engages in and Marika’s strategies. Again, it’s not a huge deal, but world building lies in details both large and small, and this show understands that.
The show is also interesting because of its structure. It’s not quite episodic and not quite serial, but somewhere in between. Most of the storylines fall under four-episode arcs, and while the events of the arcs influence what occurs later, they do feel like standalone stories—snippets from Marika’s life. There isn’t an overarching storyline other than her gaining competency in her role as captain, and I found that refreshing. It matches the show’s general lighthearted tone.
I adored Bodacious Space Pirates. In many ways, it’s a show that should not work. It mixes and matches various genres and features characters that should be flat and uninteresting, but come off as completely charming and engaging. The world building, the tone, the stories, and the characters all come together to make a show that features familiar tropes, but uses them to create something unique. Dr. Josh gives this one an…
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: October 7th, 2015
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Panasonic Viera TH42PX50U 42” Plasma HDTV, Sony BPD-S3050 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection