Mon. Dec 6th, 2021

At long last, the moment has finally arrived. From its very first episode, Bodacious Space Pirates has been promising an absurd mixture of high schoolers and space derring-do, echoing the heady and largely anime-specific combination exemplified by titans like Girls und Panzer, or like a dozen different ‘80s cybercrime OVAs. “Cute girls and scifi stuff” might stand as anime’s most enduring promise – directors across anime history have noted the necessity of “mecha and moe,” whether they’re lauding this trend or raging against it.

Rather than an absurdist stretch, Bodacious Space Pirates is actually one of the more grounded examples of the form. Frequently, it’s just sort of a default anime assumption that everyone is going to be young, beautiful, and wildly out of their depth, with only the occasional Evangelion wondering why this is the state of affairs. But Space Pirates’ own characters are surprised and amused by its improbable turns, lending the show a sense of realistic weight and self-effacing humor that amplify its distinct appeal. Space Pirates never indulges in the pandering its title might imply; it is as respectful of its female characters as it is of its hard scifi mechanics, drawing deadpan comedy out of the contrast between its concept and execution. The show’s straight-faced tonal contradictions are never more prominent or hilarious than when Marika is leading the yacht club to glory, so I’m eager to see her new crew board the Bentenmaru. Let’s get to the action!

Episode 15

“After the war for independence, and annexation by the Galactic Empire, the times move onward, from stormy seas to calm. Pirates and insurance companies are now joined at the hip.” Bodacious Space Pirates’ grounded, matter-of-fact approach to the mechanics of space flight are echoed by its long view of conflict and history. This is not a story about one desperate struggle to change the fate of the universe – this is a story about time, commerce, and individuals as they actually interact with each other. All of this show’s characters are cogs in the greater machine that is interstellar commerce, and when the shifting of politics demands new forms of commercial interaction, the various professional classes reorient themselves to suit them. While narratives tend to prioritize the power of individualism, as they’re most frequently stories of individual achievement, Bodacious Space Pirates positions itself as something more like a documentary of a moment in time, accepting the limitations of individual agency versus the larger forces of commercial convenience

Plus cute girls! As I said, the show delights in its tonal contradictions

A distinctive new design for the hospital ship. It looks like a sleek combination of a catamaran and an old-fashioned steam vessel

The main crew are doing their best to stay occupied during their isolation. It’s quite charming seeing these normally stylish, self-assured pirates fiddling with their hobbies in their hospital gowns

The Sea of the Morningstar’s relay station also has a lovely design. Its solar panels evoke the sense of a line of flags along the top of a harbor

The girls have programmed up a fake Kane McDougal to get them through security checkpoints. Lynn already asserting herself as their new hacker-president

“You should join the yacht club.” “The port’s fine for me.” Mami takes her role as Marika’s grounding rock very seriously

The Odette II’s transition to solar sails unfurled looks great. I’m persistently impressed by how well this show’s CG holds up – of course, it helps that the show is limiting its CG to the things CG is actually good at, like a hard-lined spaceship contrasted against the void of space. It gets a lot iffier when CG is used for organic objects, or placed in the same frame as traditionally animated objects

They’ve got a whole plan for sneaking out and boarding the Bentenmaru. I suppose it makes sense that a bunch of high schoolers aren’t legally allowed to sub in as space pirates, though I personally wasn’t going to question it

They learn a couple princesses have stowed away, unsurprisingly

Apparently Chiaki helped them stow aboard, reasoning that “the more crew, the better.” It’s a clear point of contrast between their two perspectives: Marika is an expert manager of people who tends to respect the perspectives of everyone, whereas Chiaki is willing to disregard the perspectives of others in order to pursue what she deems the logical choice

“We want our fellow students still running this thing in a hundred years.” Yep, Marika is considerate to a fault, which is part of what makes her such an effortless leader. It’s hard not to believe in someone so earnest and selfless

Goofy hat girl is almost flung off into the cold abyss of space, but is fortunately caught in time. A victory for goofy hat girl

I appreciate this moment where the crew turns back, and admires the view of their planet in the distance. Given the preponderance of scifi narratives in popular culture, it can become easy to take for granted the inherent grandeur and magic of space travel. Moments like this remind us of the fundamental excitement of simply existing in space, while also aligning us with the feelings of the cast

I recall a critic I like once mentioned how the best writers and artists of Superman are those who can make you feel how incredible it is just to see a man who can fly. If you can capture the exhilaration of the fundamentals, you don’t really need to dazzle with novelty

The original crew learn of the crisis they face, and how Marika plans to resolve it

Love this shot of the whole crew suspiciously peering at Marika’s operation. An excellent Kane face, among others

“I don’t know how long this deception will hold, but I don’t want to worry them.” Adorable that Marika thinks she has to hide the hard realities of this job from her literal professional pirate crew, who’ve already figured out her deception. But that’s Marika for you, and that’s part of why they follow her

The rest of the crew are rightfully worried, since the Bentenmaru has been custom-modified and possesses no manual

Clever trick in this reaction shot, where everyone except Misa is supposed to be reacting with shock. However, Misa’s non-shocked face would disrupt the tonal intent of this visual punchline, and so they deliberately hide her face behind one of the other heads

The crew decides to create a manual for the Bentenmaru. Even from this far away, Marika can still spur them out of their slump – but as soon as the rest leave the room, Misa allows herself to look intensely worried. Misa is definitely the rock of the team, acting strong for everyone’s sake

I like the stocky, clearly utility-oriented look of the Odette II’s boarding craft. It very much feels like a hand-me-down the school was gifted at some point in the past

Marika takes a moment to reflect on the empty bridge. The Bentenmaru just doesn’t feel the same without its crew

The original crew are rightfully terrified to see a bunch of high schoolers fiddling with their stations, a fear that’s immediately validated by one girl pushing the most angry-looking button she can find

“Worrying won’t help, either. So let’s try!” Marika’s confidence is generally an asset, but it might get everyone killed today. This is certainly another crucial test as captain, though – she’s always had a professional crew to depend on, but today, she’s the most experienced member of the bridge

This episode’s core conflict is so damn good. The crew’s got this delicate apparatus that they’re watching on a monitor as a group of kittens approach in slow motion, determined to destroy everything

Gruier rallies the disappointed class with delicious sweets. I appreciate the detail of Chiaki going particularly wild in the back, given her weakness for parfaits

In order to avoid admitting they know what’s happening, and thereby damage Marika’s pride and confidence, the main crew send their ship manual to Show, who claims he “just found the manual in some old files.” A smart choice by Misa; they may have accepted Marika as their captain, but the process of sculpting her into the captain she needs to be is still ongoing. Having Marika successfully conduct this operation while believing she hasn’t received any help from her main crew will make for an excellent boost to her sense of pride and self-sufficiency

“Now let’s do an FTL jump!” The whole crew shivers in terror

They learn a military vessel is approaching, likely investigating that goddamn laser they fired. So now Marika’s true test arrives: with no documentation of FTL jumps and a ship on their tail, can she navigate the execution of this jump all by herself? The team helped her a great deal, but Marika must reach the rest of the way

Though much of the process is automatic, they still have to contend with the engines, which are old and finicky. A practiced pilot who’s accustomed to the ship’s quirks would likely find the Bentenmaru’s issues charming; for the yacht club, it’s a headache they don’t need

Chiaki and the princesses discover the crew’s deception, but decide not to tell Marika, for the same reasons. They are her crewmates too at this point, and just as dedicated to watching her succeed

And Done

The Bentenmaru takes flight once again! This was precisely the episode I was hoping for, made even more amusing by the terror and commentary of the Bentenmaru’s usual crew. The main crew tend to exude an effortless confidence at all times, so it was delightful to see them panicking and tumbling over each other, determined to save their ship from its own captain. And as expected, seeing the yacht club bring their cavalier attitude to the Bentenmaru’s bridge was a delight, as they proved they at least have the talent for piracy, if not the temperament. This was pure, copious payoff, reveling in this show’s most distinctive qualities, and setting us on the course for some terrific upcoming episodes. I’m eager to see Crew #2 in action!

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By admin