Bodacious Space Priates!

Bodacious Space Pirates is a 2012 anime series by Satelight. based on the light novel series Miniskirt Pirates by Sasamoto Yūichi. With director Tatsuo Sato from Nadesico fame(!) at the helm, Bodacious is a special little anime that I feel never got the foothold with anime fans that it deserves. Recently, I had the pleasure of picking up Sentai's 2020 Blu-Ray for an awesome discount on their site! Rewatching the series this way was a joy; it was even better than I remembered. Yes, I said remembered...

Bodacious was one of the first anime I had the pleasure of watching live, as episodes were released, with other folks commenting in and discussing weekly. The year before, I was watching Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger from the beginning as it aired, another series I dearly love, and Gundam AGE was still on at this time. We'll talk about that some day, I promise. You may have deduced this already, but all this was happening to me on 4chan's /m/ board as a teen. In 2010 (or so), on Anime News Network (this streaming aspect of ANN became HIDIVE later), I just so happened to have watched Space Pirate Captain Harlock, having heard it was an amazing classic. It was, by the way! But more importantly, my love for space piracy was at an all time high, and then Bodacious took it into maximum overdrive!

This show has always thrown people for a bit of a loop, because it's not the wild, action packed, blast 'em up moe anime that it looks like. Despite the name and amazingly energetic, flashy opening, Bodacious somewhat famously takes its sweet time establishing characters and the setting. Lead heroine Marika Kato does not become captain of the Bentenmaru or put on the pirate outfit until the sixth episode! For a twenty six episode series, that's a pretty long time! It was an unusual creative choice then and now, but I would argue that it does make that sixth episode even more fun. In general, Bodacious is unconventional, teetering on being outright subversive at times.

Turns out, Bodacious is really about the struggle of entering the workforce, making professional relationships, and navigating all that while you're still growing up. Even when you like your job, it's pretty tough! On this revisit, this aspect of the series was more clear to me than ever, and it's that perspective that puts the storytelling in place. Why else have such a long prologue, with Marika in the school's Yacht Club learning about electronic warfare and space sailing? How about episode 14, which features Marika having to meet the insurance company (the representative of which will become a regular character) and scout a temporary crew for the Bentenmaru? Yes, really!

In this way, the series has a remarkable sense of reality to it. Maybe too much at times. Pirates in this world are actually quite legal, due to helping out in a galactic independence war. Pirates who supported the colonies (against their governing body) were issued a Letter of Marque (like in real life) that legalized them as privateers. These letters were never revoked, and their legality was honored after both sides got absorbed into the Galactic Empire. So, pirates work as any for-hire company might. This is explained in much more amusing detail in the series itself, and repeated a few times in case it's confusing.

These aspects of the setting may amuse you, or take the drama and tension out of being, well, pirates. I have seen comments to both effects over time, but I love it, of course! I do remember a lot of "What is this even about?", "Is that a bad thing?" and similar comments from 4chan. Bodacious does have a hard time with full-on drama every now and then.

For example, in the Golden Ghost Ship arc, the crew of the Bentenmaru butt heads with the forces of the independent system Serenity with opposing princesses on either side. They meet up at a sort of archive of their civilization, and the royal family, at the center of which lies an artificial womb(!!). Everyone's pointing guns at each other, and... the rest is resolved off camera and recapped to a character who was knocked out. What?! I feel it's to show that Marika has a commitment to safety and not fighting (something mentioned once or twice in the arc), but still, goodness gracious!

I'm inclined to believe this is a stylistic choice as opposed to some kind of writing flaw, because stuff like that happens a few times. That was the worst example, for sure. Moments like these can still be tough pills to swallow for anyone getting a grip on the series. It's not helped by the fact that a fair amount of action in Bodacious is digital. It seems nobody can talk about this series without mentioning electronic warfare, and I am no exception. Is this realistic for a far future setting where hacking and jamming are major aspects of life? Totally! Is it always engaging for the audience? That's probably going to come down to taste.

Don't be mistaken, though! This is not a dry, hard sci-fi type of show either. I'll be honest, I'm totally in love with Marika Kato. She's hard working, clever, smart, and it's fun to watch her be challenged by all this stuff. It would be wrong to not mention her somewhat yuri-ish relationship with Chiaki-chan. The dynamic between these two is completely adorable! Chiaki is a classic tsundere in every way, and she's Marika's biggest supporting character who isn't a member of the Bentenmaru or her actual mom. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Random aside, Marika's mother, Ririka, is one of the coolest moms in anime, and she never comes up in the conversation. Uh, not that I'd know that or anything! But seriously, check out Ririka in her pirating days!

As far as cuteness and fun goes, nothing beats the arc where the entire Yacht club from school fills in as the Bentenmaru's crew. You'd be forgiven for thinking this was the entire premise of the show. It's a blast to watch a rowdy gang of young ladies get some pirating done at Marika's command, while the regular crew is hopelessly watching from the hospital. It's another thing that pays off massively from that elongated opening, getting a taste for how the girls all sail together leaves a smile on your face when it's time for the real thing.

Also notable in that arc is... YURI!

Yuri patriots will almost certainly be able to point to earlier kisses in TV anime; it's unfortunately not my field of expertise! What I will say is that I was very pleasantly surprised by this in 2012, I love how the girls erupt into cheers and shouts! There's no ambiguity about this romance between Jenny and Rin in Bodacious! And they're both girls! Yippee!

Speaking of girls shouting, let's talk a bit about the cast. On the Japanese side of things, Marika Kato was a relatively early role for actress Komatsu Mikako, whose voice I came to be very fond of. Around the same time, she was playing Kotori in Yu-Gi-Oh ZEXAL, and went on to be fairly prolific. Kana Hanazawa played Chiaki-chan, a well known actress already at this point for roles in things like Angel Beats and Oreimo. On the English side, the venerable Luci Christian brings the perfect voice for Marika. You'll hear lots of familiar voices like Monica Rial, Chris Patton, and Greg Ayres.

For this viewing, I decided to watch the English dub, having never heard it before at all. Overall, I would say it's very good! My only nitpick is the use of Japanese honorifics. Yes, this is one of those things that can come down to personal preference. It seems like around this time, keeping honorifics was the style. K-On's English dub drove me nuts! It was definitely a tricky situation for Bodacious, as there's a running gag with calling Chiaki "chan" against her wishes. It takes a lot of wit and writing skill to work around this kind of thing, but it takes a lot of acting skill to make the honorifics sound natural in English, which they just don't to my ear. Still, take your pick if you're ready to watch the series!

Speaking of writing quirks, one of the catchphrases in the series is: "Kaizoku no jikan da!"
This is something I feel never sounded quite as fun in English as it does to hear in Japanese. I don't speak Japanese, I do imagine it could sound a liiiittle silly to a native speaker, but I love it. Something a bit stiff, but funny, would be "It's pirate time!". The English dub tries out "It's time for piracy!" which is...okay. This Australian trailer went with "It's time for the pirates!" as a subtitle. Anyone got any good ideas for this one?

Bodacious Space Pirates, the TV series, is a unique gem, and a fantastic watch if you heed my notes about the style and vibe of the show. They save some big action for the finale, so look forward to that! There is a little more to the franchise, though, for the English world...

Abyss of Hyperspace

At the conclusion of the TV series, a Bodacious film was announced! To be honest, I have no memory of this announcement, and didn't watch the movie when it eventually dropped in early 2014. I have no idea why I didn't, because I do remember the small push it got when it was licensed afterwards.

Sporting a swanky new artstyle, Abyss of Hyperspace is basically an extra arc in movie form. This is either damning for something that's supposed to be cinematic or praiseworthy for matching the style. I unfortunately found myself learning a little bit towards the former, but it's not something you would want to skip if you liked the show.

Sato returned as director for the film, and a gag from Nadesico makes an appearance! The story this time is that a young boy named Kanata enlists the help of Marika and the Bentenmaru to solve the mystery behind his father's disappearance. It's perfectly good and well done, but Marika and company don't feature as strongly in the story as you'd imagine. They're there, but the movie even ends with Marika saying something like "Well, that was an adventure, back to high school!" as if nothing important happened, which is so anti-climatic it's flat-out funny. While again, I find this kind of thing rather amusing and cheeky in the TV series, here it doesn't quite play the same.

The dynamic here is inverted from the show, intentionally so. Kanata is the one who has been tasked with deciding his future after the disappearance of his father. This kind of decision has already happened to Marika, so she plays a mentorship role and we see her through his eyes. It's cute, but it puts the regular cast in a bit of a dimmer light in the process.

One of the biggest sore points for anime viewers is the absence of the TV series' biggest hanging story thread. This is the biggest spoiler for the entire series, so hover at your own risk! At the end of the TV series, it's revealed that Marika Kato's father is actually alive and pirating for the Galactic Empire. His supposed death is the event that kicks off the series and allows Marika to become captain of the Bentenmaru in the first place! Marika is never made aware of this, and it's only brought up in the film in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it joke, when Princess Gruier almost lets it slip. Needless to say, this is somewhat disappointing. I don't think it was out of the question to expect to see this unfold. I imagine this is some kind of light-novel material that was never adapted, and perhaps they were saving it for that. I have no way to confirm that, since no one has done any proper translating of these novels. Damn!

All that said, Abyss of Hyperspace does feature all the hallmarks you've come to expect if you watched the TV series. The computer hacking and information is more computer-y than ever, including a Marika-shaped virus and an amusingly decent explanation of what malware is, courtesy of Rin. The Bentenmaru's alarms will blare, and Marika makes a few appearances at her high school. Schnitzer got a weird redesign for the film, but he's not in it a whole lot, so it's okay. Wait, that's not okay, Schnitzer is awesome!! He's that huge cyborg in the armor and cloak.

Somewhat interestingly, this film got a manga adaptation! Well, that's fairly standard, but this adaptation got released in English by Seven Seas in 2015! The timing was odd, because the Sentai Filmworks Blu-Ray wouldn't come out here until mid-2016. This strikes me as not ideal, I love manga and all, but the timing could have been better. A two volume manga adaptation of a film that follows a TV series seems like the exact kind of thing nobody would bother localizing and releasing to bookstores. It's a perfectly fine, straightforward adaptation of the film, with very pretty artwork. Funnily enough, Marika's father does make an appearance in this manga version at the very end, but it's still as a joke.

With that though, I've touched upon everything that exists in English for Bodacious. But I desperately want more, so what's left?

Someone Please Translate The Light Novels

There are twelve volumes of Miniskirt Pirates by Sasamoto Yūichi. I want to read these! What the hell!? I can't! Someone was attempting an MTL (ew), but I would love to see a full, real human translation. According to that linked Reddit post, the anime covers the first three books (or so, volume 4 is apparently the arc where the school girls run the pirate ship), so that's a lot of story that's unknown to us! I would kill to read these. If any licensors are reading this, I will gladly double dip or do free advertising. With my amazingly popular website, sales will increase! PLEASE!

There's also a follow up series that began as recently as 2019, and had a second volume in 2021. Super Miniskirt Pirates might be a continuation of the story from those first twelve books. I'm not sure. Information about this in English is scarce, but it seems like a refreshed branding more than anything else.

Who exactly could pick up Miniskirt Pirates? Well, I suppose J-Novel Club would be the best bet. I can't say that it seems likely any time soon, but I can hope and pray!

In the English version of the Abyss manga, Director Sato had some interesting comments.

"To tell the truth, I had the option to either make a second TV series or a film. I thought a movie would be better in the sense that i could bring out the epic scale of becoming a Bodacious Space Pirate, so I opted for a film."

That was about ten years ago, so is there any hope remaining for another anime series? Well, for the tenth anniversary of the broadcast, there was a gorgeous new Blu-Ray box set in Japan. This kind of thing is pretty expensive to produce and release, so that gives me some hope that someone, either at Satelight or wherever, has some faith in this franchise.

...and that's all I can reasonably cover here! Everything else is out of my reach. Congratulations, you now know everything I know about the Bodacious Space Priates series! Hopefully my passion for all this came across, and you'll check out the anime. ♡

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Now... it's time for some piracy! ♡

- James