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Bodacious Space Pirates (2012)

Marika Kato was a typical high-school girl living on the planet Sea of The Morning Star sometime in the far flung future. That was until she discovered that her father was a space pirate- 'was' being the operative word, as he had recently passed away. If that wasn't enough to take in, she quickly learns that tradition dictates that the captain-ship of the space-faring vessel the Bentenmaru be passed down to the captain's offspring. In other words- she has inherited a space pirate ship.

Bodacious Space Pirates follows Marika as she learns to adapt to her new role (we don't think it's too big a spoiler to reveal she accepts the job) while simultaneously trying to finish high-school and keep up her grades.

It's true that most fiction about pirates- of the space-faring or the more traditional yarr-me-hearties kind- doesn't feature much in the way of actual piracy. This is at least partially because it's much harder to warm to a character when they do terrible things. Here you do get to see the crew of the Bentenmaru make actual raids. In a neat twist, in the world of the series piracy is actually a legitimate career path, with pirates being licensed by the government. Their raids on space cruise liners are essentially a tourist attraction, with anything stolen being covered by insurance. This can probably explain why the space-pirates dress like their historical equivalent- even though it makes no logical sense to do so.

The series is something of an odd mix, but has plenty of charm to spare. It blends Marika's space adventures with a much more down-to-earth (or down-to-Morning-Star) slice-of-life style series. Unfolding over 26 episodes, it has a very relaxed pace, taking it's time before Marika finally settles into her new life. The laid-back feel even extends into space, where most of the adventures are essentially hi-jinx, and only very rarely does it come to life-or-death stakes.

The pace will undoubtedly be just a tad too relaxed for some (it can seem they spend more time drinking tea than space-pirating) but if you can go with it, it's a hugely likeable sweet-natured series.

The show features a large cast, with both the pirate crew and Marika's school friends playing a big part. They are all well-defined and distinctive and most of them get a chance to have their time in the spotlight. There's a lot of time spent on relationships between female characters, and this is one anime that comfortably passes the Bechdel test. These relationships are not of a romantic persuasion- with one notable exception. While the character designs are cute- and varied, there's also a notable, -and refreshing- lack of sexualisation on display. Those who enjoy anime primarily for the eye-candy will find plenty here, but this is a show that doesn't resort to panty-flashes or in-your-face gratuitous boob-shots to keep the audience engaged. Thankfully.

Action is pretty sparse, but this is probably a good thing as it is probably the biggest weak-spot. Production studio Satelight's 2D animation looks great throughout, but the 3D CG used for the space combat scenes lack weight and look out of place as part of the series as a whole.

Rounding out the experience, it comes with a well-done dub by Sentai Filmworks (fun fact: Marika share's an English voice-actor with One Piece's Nami) that suits the mood of the show just perfectly.

Unsubstantial it may be, but while it last Bodacious Space Pirates is a fun ride indeed. Hop onboard and you won't be disappointed.

BODACIOUS SPACE PIRATES is available on DVD and Blu-ray from SENTAI (US) and MVM (UK)  and is streaming on CRUNCHYROLL and HULU (US)