You folks ready for some space adventures? It’s been altogether too long since we checked in on the travels of Marika and her fearless crew, so today we’re returning to Bodacious Space Pirates, as our team at last sets off in search of the golden ghost ship of Serenity!
I know, I know, I’ve been saying that for like three straight episodes now. Well, the thing about Bodacious Space Pirates is that, in spite of its preposterous title and plentiful high school girls, it hews about as close to “hard scifi” as you’re likely to get in anime. Ships aren’t propelled by hopes and dreams in this show; they’re propelled by fuel you must purchase, and protected by defense systems you must maintain, and afforded freedom of movement by licenses that must be procured and renewed.
Through conveying the intersection of future space travel and bureaucracy in all its alleged glory, Bodacious Space Pirates emphasizes the true and ever-present danger of space, as well as the magnitude of Marika’s new responsibilities. This also means that the crew can’t simply fly off in search of destiny, and conveniently find it right after the ad break – they must plan, and prepare, and choose their moment. Fortunately, I think Marika actually has chosen her moment, and that in fact this precise pre-episode moment is the moment she’s chosen. So to make a long story short, let’s actually set off in search now, and find that glorious golden ghost ship!
As usual, our cold open features the narrator explaining some larger element of this show’s worldbuilding, in this case detailing the Sea of the Morningstar’s frontier history, and how that led into its revolution and the introduction of Letters of Marque. This in turn led to their victory over the Stellar Alliance over one hundred years ago
“Avoid direct exposition when possible” is a useful truism in writing, but like all such simple writing directives, it’s not a hard rule. Inexperienced writers frequently use exposition as a crutch or a shorthand – they’re eager to tell you their cool ideas, so they force their casts to awkwardly explain those ideas to each other. But while experienced writers try to avoid clumsiness like that, exposition is still frequently inevitable to convey certain kinds or volumes of information. For Bodacious Space Pirates, with its complex interstellar politics and hard scifi approach to drama, the cold opens are an ideal resource for exposition: divorced from the episode proper, they can be treated as a sort of “narrator’s corner,” and avoid the need for cast members to overtly, awkwardly explain things they all know to each other
We open on a ship’s clean white bridge, a stark contrast with the shadowy Bentenmaru. The style strongly implies this is an official, government vessel
“There hasn’t been a female pirate since Blaster Ririka.” The Bentenmaru’s own bridge has other women on it, so I assume they mean female pirate captain?
But it turns out they’re actually being boarded by Chiaki’s ship! Oh man, I’m delighted to meet her pirate queen persona
Oh right, she’s actually pretending to be Marika at the moment. I guess that explains the fakeout at the end of the OP, where she took Marika’s usual place – she’s providing a smokescreen for the Bentenmaru’s secret mission
The shots of the Bentenmaru in this electric storm actually look quite nice. I’m consistently impressed by the fluidity of this show’s CG integration, particularly for its time
The ship sends out probes, which the bridge regretfully acknowledges they won’t be getting back. Another hard scifi flourish – probes and missiles are expensive, you can’t just deploy them carelessly!
Gruier offers the cryptic line “if it’s needed, the ghost ship will come to me”
Marika has boundless confidence and maturity, but also a casual, personable nature that makes it easy for her to connect with others. She’s able to enjoy her meal in spite of this wild situation, and even comforts Gruier, by drawing a parallel between how each of them are protected by others. Normally it’d be hard to sell a high schooler as a possible pirate captain, but Marika actually possesses the correct combination of iron self-assurance, intelligence, and amiability to pull it off
I like how their personal quarters include creaking wooden cross beams, just to give them that authentic ship-at-sea feel
A nice discussion between Marika and Coorie, the electronic warfare specialist. At times, this show’s grounded approach to science fiction makes it feel close to a mundane office drama
Apparently there’s something special about the royal family’s bloodline. Gruier’s biometric data was able to unlock the ghost ship’s systems, even though those systems were established before she was born
“Fast decision. That’s how a captain should act.” Marika really is perfect for this role. She trusts and relies on her subordinates without ego, but is also capable of bold, decisive choices
Love these sequences of the Bentenmaru weathering the storm. The dimmed, uneven lighting both amplifies the sense of danger, and also helps better integrate the Bentenmaru into the composition
Marika’s cool is further exemplified through how she maintains confidence even as other members of the bridge begin to sweat
She actually looks excited for battle, as they’re scanned by enemy radar. She is growing into this job at lightning speed
Oh my god, I love it. They frame her donning the captain’s uniform with all the splendor and glitter of a magical girl transformation
The show neatly conveys the intelligence of their opponents through their use of radar. By splitting up their fleet and scanning from multiple different locations, they’re able to create a cross field of radar that essentially triangulates the Bentenmaru
And in return, Marika must demonstrate not just equal intelligence, but also ingenuity and courage. Rather than attempting to escape their pursuers, she plans to dive right towards them, and destroy their scanning capacities before they have a chance to respond
Gruier asks them to actually contact the attacking Serenity ships, in part because she presumably doesn’t want to believe that Serenity is undergoing a coup, and that being a member of the royal family doesn’t inherently protect her. None of the other Bentenmaru bridge members are particularly eager to correct her misconception, but Marika has already gained her trust, and can speak to her as a friend
“The Bentenmaru is a pirate ship. We must consider the enemy’s logic. You’re not supposed to be on this ship – that information is a powerful bargaining chip, one we must keep in reserve.” Marika speaks to her firmly but without condescension, gently explaining how the terms of Gruier’s relationship with Serenity ships has fundamentally changed. Neither fawning on her as a princess nor dismissing her as a little girl – Marika strikes the perfect tone with Gruier, offering her the respect of equals that she clearly desires
And so, after an episode that saw Gruier thrown far beyond her comfort zone, Marika ultimately rebuilds her confidence in the operation. Gruier’s having to grow up extremely quickly as well!
In the bowels of an electrical space storm, the Bentenmaru bravely exchanges fire with a military fleet, its crew barely escaping with their lives! Actually, in spite of this episode featuring a genuine space battle, the focus here was clearly on how both Marika and Gruier adjust to genuine mission conditions. For Gruier, this was a difficult process – the clear risks of all their choices, the idea that everyone else was working for her sake, and the painful acknowledgment that Serenity forces were no longer necessarily “her” forces were all tough to stomach in their own ways. But fortunately, Marika continued to rise to every challenge before her, and even took the time to make sure Gruier was holding it together as well. Marika is rapidly evolving into a terrifying space pirate!