While the mania for them waxes and wanes, pirates are an indelible part of the international pop culture landscape. So, too, with the introduction of science fiction literature about space travel, began the tried and true technique of combining various genres, concepts, and story frameworks with outer space. Bodacious Space Pirates offers up just such a delightful fusion, a science fiction pirate adventure story.
During the War of Independence against the Stellar Alliance, the planetary government of Sea of the Morning Star bolstered its military by authorizing civilian vessels as privateers. After the war ended, though, no new letters of marque could be issued. For previously authorized vessels the letters were still valid and could be inherited by direct descendants of the ships’ captains. A valid letter of marque became a valuable commodity to be maintained if at all possible. So when Gonzaemon, captain of the privateer vessel Bentenmaru, dies it falls to his teenage daughter Marika to take the helm or the ship’s letter of marque becomes invalid.
Marika is no stranger to space flight or juggling responsibilities—she already balances working in a maid café with school and participation in the space yachting club. But suddenly having a part-time job as a privateer is a whole new world of responsibility and adventure! With the support of her mother, former space pirate “Blaster” Ririka, the rather colorful crew of the Bentenmaru, fellow privateer heiress Chiaki of the ship Barbaroosa, and her classmates, it’s up to Marika to decide whether she wants to join the pirate life at all and prove she has the guts and skill needed to do it.
Space pirates in anime and manga inevitably call to mind the classic Space Pirate Captain Harlock, but in contrast to its often bleak and deadly one-man war Bodacious Space Pirates offers up a straightforward adventure tale. It reminds me of the wash of SF-themed series of the 90s, which frequently took a lighthearted approach or at least interspersed their seriousness with a larger amount of comic relief. At the same time, the sense of visual design and certain recent trends—like Marika’s initial job working in a maid café—are unmistakably new.
For a show with the word “bodacious” in the title, let alone the original light novel’s title of Miniskirt Pirates, it’s surprising how restrained it can be in some respects. Yes there are maid outfits and Marika wears a fusion of her schoolgirl uniform and pirate gear when working for no real practical reason; there’s also no shortage of cute girls and a few beautiful guys. Yet the directors and animators refrain from abusing the many opportunities for openly leering fanservice (there are a lot of scenes with short school uniform skirts worn in zero G, for instance). There’s a certain fond sincerity in the production that means the characters don’t just feel like objects.
When it comes down to it, Bodacious Space Pirates is just plain fun. It’s colorful and exciting, with a good balance between character drama, comedy, and tense privateer missions. One could perhaps argue that the picture of privateering is sanitized, but the show never pretends to be more than a wish-fulfillment adventure. The kind of wish-fulfillment adventure that, in the West at least, we rarely get to see with a young girl in the lead. Marika doesn’t need to suffer, to lose anything or give it up in order to gain freedom or authority. In the fine tradition of young male heroes across literature and film, an opportunity presents itself and she is free to take it. Recommended.
distributor: Sentai Filmworks