In July 2015, I’d gone on holiday with my best friend, and on a whim, I bought part one of Bodacious Space Pirates. The title was unusual to pique my interest and it was only £5 so I figured that an impulse buy was justified. If you’d have told me then that it was one of the most LGBT and feminist friendly anime that I’ve ever watched, I would have laughed in your face.
For a series based on a manga called “Miniskirt Space Pirates”; the expectations weren’t high to say the least. While I was comforted slightly by the age rating on the DVD, previous experience had taught me to expect the worst- poorly executed fanservice and no real plot substance. But I was pleasantly surprised on both counts.
Bodacious Space Pirates, or Mouretsu Uchuu Kaizoku, is the story of Marika Katou, a young girl balancing life as a high school student and waitress simultaneously. She learns that her estranged father, Gonzaemon, had died on duty as a space pirate and it turns her life upside down. According to the Letter of Marque, a pirate’s licence, only the next of kin is allowed to take over the ship. So Marika decides to become captain of the Bentenmaru, so the Letter stays valid. The only problem is- will she be able to educate herself in the ways of piracy at the same time as getting an education?
The best thing about this series is that it doesn’t try too hard. A lot of series attempt to be appealing by shoehorning awkward fanservice in where it doesn’t belong. Because of this, it’s no secret that I’m not a massive fan of harem-type anime because the genre is incredibly guilty of going overboard on the sexy. But an advantage of the cast being largely female is that the chance of that is lower, and there’s more of a focus on friendship instead of romance. Bodacious Space Pirates could have easily gone down the sexy schoolgirl route, but instead it’s an innocent adventure. I can’t recall any upskirt shots, even in anti-grav.
This series’ strength lies in its women. From high school students, to pirates, to hackers and CEOs, they interact with each other perfectly. The majority of problems are solved by girls supporting each other and the rest are solved through the belief that they are capable enough to figure it out themselves. Through hard work and dedication, they prove themselves time and time again, especially in the case of Captain Marika, who doesn’t win every time but tries her hardest regardless. One of the best character developments is seeing Chiaki Kurihara, the aloof tsundere, opening herself up to the girls of Hakuoh Academy.
And one of the most refreshing things of the series is the fact that not only is there only one confirmed relationship, but it’s between two girls. Keeping up the lack of sexualisation, both Jenny and Lynn (or Rin depending on your translation) are portrayed so well, with the overused idea of their relationship being ‘risqué’ or ‘inappropriate’ kept well away. The cast are understandably surprised, but they move on quickly. Rather than playing it for laughs, it is taken very seriously, and one of the driving motivations for an entire plotline.
While I initially watched Bodacious Space Pirates in the English dub, I would definitely recommend watching the sub instead. The English cast aren’t bad, especially as they include names like Greg Ayres and Monica Rial, but after the honeymoon period had ended and I started to look at the series critically, I realised that the quality had started to slip. This is especially in the case of Chiaki, as the emotion didn’t always show through. It is difficult with her character archetype, the type which acts indifferent, but sometimes it came across more monotone than anything else.
That being said, it’s a minor superficial detail. The anime itself is an enjoyable mixture of tropes, combining sci-fi and high school drama. For those looking for the classic beach episode, don’t worry – despite the space setting, they haven’t left it out, complete with training montage. Extra-curricular clubs are as prominent as ever, with the Hakuoh Yacht Club taking centre stage for several episodes. And like, most high school anime, there’s nothing like some healthy competition between rival schools. Mix in some political intrigue, the business aspect of piracy, and a couple of very unsubtle Sailor Moon references, and you have something for everyone.
To be completely honest, ‘lesbian space pirates’ were the only three words I needed to fall in love. I was lucky enough that the series followed through on its promises, surpassing my expectations and giving me everything I could have asked for.