It is hard to explain the fascination we have with pirates in literature and film. In reality, they were not really romantic people, and their "adventures" more often ended in disease and death than anything else. No sane person would ever truly wish to consort with real pirates. They were undeniably brutal people who lived undeniably brutal lives. To say the least, they were not exactly what you would expect from the inspiration of so much romantic attention.
Despite the inconsistencies between historic truth and fiction, the fascination with pirates still exists. We see in their exploits a kind of freedom and nonchalance that represents the fulfillment of an inner urge to see what lies over the next hill. The fact that they were also criminals, welcome in no port and embraced by no country, infuses them with an even greater share of this mystique. They were the outlaws of the ocean, battling waves and wind; making their fortune under the bright sun and salt-scented air. The deep blue of the sea and the glittering greens of tropical islands were their natural habitat, just as the deserts and plains of North America belong almost exclusively to the cowboys and vaqueros.
It would seem that space is our new sea. It is the next horizon to conquer. And as such, it is filled with the same kind of mystique and romantic draw that the ocean once held. It is no accident that "space pirates" is a theme that has seen plenty of use in science fiction. Mixing the debonair flair of the romanticized pirate with the natural mystery of the empty blackness of space speaks to an innate sense of adventure and wonder that resides in even the most timid of souls. Mourestu Pirates (Bodacious Space Pirates being it's English title) takes on this theme with the daring and high-spirited romping that it requires; and the result is an unexpectedly clean-cut gem of the science-fiction genre.
(((In the interest of historic accuracy, we should first clear up a misconception. There were "legal" pirates. Privateers, they were called, and they were basically sailors who were employed by one specific government to plunder the ships of another hostile government. Letters of Marque were issued by many European nations before and during what has become known as the Golden Age of Piracy. With these letters in possession, pirates did have some official backing. The show deals extensively with this specific aspect of piracy, as all the pirates in Mouretsu Pirates are basically privateers.)))
As to the show itself, is hard to pin down exactly why it works so well. The idea of a high-school girl becoming a pirate captain may seem silly, and it is a bit, but it makes sense in the context of the actual story. I usually shy away from summaries in my reviews, so I won't try to explain the exact situation, but suffice it to say that it is not so simple as: high-school girl by day, pirate by night. They do a fine job at melding the aspects of the main character's life so that school and piracy are, to her, intrinsically connected. One great pleasure I did have was in the opening arc, how they displayed the relevance of her involvement with her school's yacht club, a plot-line that continues throughout the show. Her skill at managing and captaining a ship is well founded, and unlike many other shows in the "suddenly thrust into a position of power" genre, she goes through a process of learning and becoming better throughout the story. It is always with some annoyance for me when the main character, with no experience whatsoever, leaps into a mastery of some new craft. Mouretsu Pirates avoids this pitfall deftly by both giving her ample experience with space-ships and by slowing down her development and limiting the scope of her earlier successes.
One thing I always look for in science-fiction is how much science we are given. Perhaps it would be more accurate to call it pseudo-science. Whatever we call it, there is a strange habit in most people of throwing any story involving space or technology into one wide genre. Many famous works of "science-fiction", such as the well-known Star Wars saga, are more fantasy than classic science-fiction. By this, I mean that the technology utilized by the protagonists and antagonists is just a setting in which these more fantastical works take place. Little attention is paid to giving some establishing basis for the way things work. Mouretsu Pirates doesn't go out of it's way to define every technological existence or breakthrough, but it does give ample focus to them. This adds to the flavor of the world and gives it a more realistic feeling. Some might be turned off by this, and expect things to just work without explanation, but I appreciate it when a piece of art in the science-fiction genre actually gives some focus to the scientific aspect rather than ignoring it.
One scene in particular, where the protagonist is on a cruise with her yacht club, stands out as a fine example of using exposition correctly and efficiently. Details are given in a realistic, conversational manner. Rarely do we have characters simply explaining things, more often we are expected to pick up on context clues and use prior revelations to make conclusions as to what is possible and what is going on. This kind of trust in one's audience is refreshing. I don't want ten minute speeches from one character to another explaining how the ship's guidance system works, I would rather figure it out on my own by listening to two characters who are already familiar with it speak on the subject. There are few: "As you well know..." moments in the show and the lack is definitely something to be noted with pleasure.
Another point of praise is that in this story with a female main character and a pretty wide female cast, none of the women feel objectified. They stand on their own, and the kind of mindless "fan-service" that one would expect is conspicuously absent. The result is that I respect the characters for their cunning, skill, and grace; not for their physical assets. This is not to say that there is not a kind of cuteness or that the show is entirely void of presenting attractive characters, but it is tastefully done. We don't get zero-g bosom bounces in this anime, and not once was there a hint of accidental nudity. In the place of such tropes was solid characterization and fresh situations. The females are independent, intelligent, and can stand on their own in the world of piracy; and most importantly: they are females, not bundles of masculinity and bravado who's only claims to femininity are giant boobs and sultry attitudes.
The pacing of the story is another high-point. Some might be turned off by the slow pace in the beginning, but I for one found it to be quite charming. The time is used wisely in setting up both the world and the characters, and is a nice contrast to other stories which jump right into the action without giving you a compass or map with which to guide yourself through the maelstrom. (shameless puns intended)
I don't know if I would go so far as to call it a flaw, but one minor issue with the show is that it never really coalesces into a specific story-line. It's not exactly slice-of-life, but it definitely hasn't formed a core, overall plot beyond that of becoming a pirate captain. The show feels like an introduction to a wider, more expansive tale. One that I am very interested in seeing. With the attention given to the set-up and introduction, I can only assume that the story itself will be handled with the same technical mastery. The direction and writing are solid, the story coherent, and the final execution shows a deep competence in all aspects. Rare indeed is the show that hits all cylinders, and Mouretsu Pirates is definitely a shining example of what a competent staff can do with the right resources.
As for the other, non-story aspects: all of it is very well done. The VA's fit the characters and give good performances. The music is an appropriate mixture of boisterous exultations and grandiose orchestrations; and the art-work is both clean and colorful. The general designs of the space-ships are beautiful in a utilitarian way, adding further to the realism of the overall story. The character design was original and attractive, with a wide variety of looks and outfits creating an assorted cast of easily recognizable characters.
At it's heart, Mouretsu Pirates aims to be a teenage girl's swashbuckling romp through space, and it succeeds at hitting the mark every time. I am surprised that I had never really heard much about it before this, and in fact kind of just stumbled upon it while looking for something else. I am very, very glad that I didn't pass it over. It is not a diamond in the rough, but rather an already cut, glittering jewel just waiting to be discovered and enjoyed. I would recommend this show to everyone who has even the slightest interest in science fiction, and to general audiences as well.
"It's time for some piracy!"
Story: 9/10 -The premise may seem silly, but the execution pays close attention to establishing a very realistic scenario. The setting is incredibly interesting and the development of the plot-lines is well-paced.
Art: 10/10 -Beautiful in both it's simplicity and it's originality.
Sound: 10/10 -Everything you would expect from an anime about space pirates. Great soundtrack, great VA's, interesting sound effects.
Character: 9/10 -The cast is broad and likable, the development of the main character is visible and logical, and the characters are original. Minor characters don't go through as much development or deepening, but it does not detract much from the overall story-line.
Enjoyment: 9/10 -It works and it works well. If you absolutely HAVE to have action every single episode, than you might be disappointed. Otherwise, the show is surprisingly accessible and thoroughly enjoyable.
Overall: 9/10 -One of the better decisions I've made in a long time was taking the chance on this anime. Give it a shot, and I almost guarantee that you won't be disappointed.