Impressions: Bodacious Space Pirates: Abyss of Hyperspace


It's pirating time!

I firmly believe that Satelight's scifi space opera, Bodacious Space Pirates, is a series that deserves a better name. Even the original novel's title (Miniskirt Space Pirates) betrays the actual content of the show. Hell, I was more than ready to write this franchise off entirely because the title screamed raunchy. The only reason I gave it a shot was because Tatsuo Sato's involvement. Many of you are probably most familiar with him from his work on the fantastic Martian Successor Nadesico series and film.

I'm glad I gave Bodacious Space Pirates a fair shot, because it ended up being one of my favorite TV anime from 2012. Just the right mix of great characters and scifi edge, BSP was a show that played its subject matter completely straight. It took the time to flesh out its world and cast rather than focus on action, resulting in a wonderfully epic coming of age tale.

While it's not the sequel TV series I find myself craving, Bodacious Space Pirates: Abyss of Hyperspace does give fans yet another chance to dive back into the strange universe of legal pirating. 

Does this new film soar through the depths of space, or sink into the deep dark void?

Bodacious Space Pirates: Abyss of Hyperspace
Studio: Satelight
Release Date: 2/22/14

Things have been better for the Bentenmaru and her crew of pirates. Mysterious attacks have been crippling pirate ships traveling through Hyper Space, preventing them from completing deliveries and following through on business contracts. With the risk of cargo loss growing more and more with every attack, external delivery services have been rising in popularity. It's becoming increasingly difficult for legal space pirates to find steady work, and the Bentenmaru is no exception. Fortunately, captain Marika Kato has more than a little bit of experience under her belt when it comes to trouble.

A job request comes in from Jenny Dolittle, the former president of the Hakuoh Academy Yacht club and current head of a major space shipping company. The request? To attack a cruise ship, pirate the hell out of it, and exit in as flashy a way as possible. Marika takes the offer and briefly flips through the passenger records, only to find a familiar name on the list. With the promise of adventure on the horizon, the Bentenmaru blasts off to its next job.

If fans come into Abyss of Hyperspace in search of a story that continues the plot threads laid out in the final arc of the Bodacious Space Pirates TV series, I imagine they'll come away feeling let down. This film doesn't touch on any unresolved issues, instead opting to tell an original story that doesn't require a high barrier of entry. Anybody even remotely familiar with the franchise can jump into Abyss of Hyperspace and still be able to follow what transpires. That isn't to say that the movie is completely unrelated to everything that came before; this new adventure takes place after the conclusion of the TV series. What this means is that Marika has settled into her role as captain of the Bentenmaru, exuding the sort of confidence that is expected to come with that position. 

The story revolves around a mysterious young boy named Kanata Mugen, and the important information he inherited from his genius father. In a franchise mostly inhabited by female characters, it's interesting to see a younger boy thrown into the mix. I'm typically put-off by movie-only child characters, but Kanata's presence makes for a nice change of pace, allowing Marika and the rest of the cast to interact in new ways. Grunhilde in particular benefits from his addition, primarily due to their closeness in age. Some of my favorite moments in the film are their scenes together.

Despite its brief run time (93 minutes), Abyss of Hyperspace finds space to give almost everyone in the cast their due diligence. The students of Hakuoh Academy have a large role to play in the narrative, a surprise considering how they were mostly absent from the last arc of the TV series. The crew members of the Bentenmaru also get plenty of screen time, with the finale being a standout moment in particular. If anything, the one character that gets the shaft is poor Chiaki, who spends most of the film in transit. To be fair, her scenes are among the funniest, but it's unfortunate that she doesn't get to do a whole lot until the climax. 

The reason Abyss of Hyperspace has so much time to give to its characters is rather simple: there's very little action to be found here. Much like the TV series and the original novels, the film is a largely dialogue driven affair, with the focus being on fairly hard science fiction rather than big action scenes. Despite the jump to film, director Tatsuo Sato stays true to his direction on the show, undoubtedly one of the reasons why Abyss of Hyperspace feels like such a loaded feature. I must admit, however, that I was disappointed by how abrupt the ending was. It appropriately felt like the ending of a story arc, but with no continuation in sight, I was instead left wanting more in the worst of ways.

Satelight's animation work here is competent, but in no way will it impress anybody. It looks like a marginally better produced episode of the TV series, and the CG models continue to be off-putting in how much they standout against the 2D animation. That being said, the updated character designs are fantastic, exuding an air of maturity that reflects how far the cast has come. Marika benefits from this the most with a less rounded jawline. She looks older and more experienced, helping to sell how commanding she is throughout the film.

If nothing else, Abyss of Hyperspace serves to remind of just how well-written the original Bodacious Space Pirates TV anime truly was. It featured a fun cast, a fleshed out universe, and a sense of innocent adventure that so many shows often miss the mark on. While certainly no cinematic revelation, Abyss of Hyperspace impresses in similar ways, and leaves one hoping for at least one more chance to dive back into that world. If you're a fan of Bodacious Space Pirates, there's no doubt in my mind you'll have a great time with this latest entry in the franchise.

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Elliot Gay
Elliot GayContributor   gamer profile

Elliot is an associate editor for Japanator and can be found contributing to Destructoid on occasion. He lives in Japan and can be found on Twitter @RyougaSaotome. more + disclosures



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