Review for Bodacious Space Pirates Collection
You’d think that double-dipping to Blu-ray would be a simple matter. Having discovered the value of progressive transfers and native frame-rates, as well as minimal compression, I find that I’m eager to source all of my favourite anime shows on Blu-ray even if they are just scaled-up from SD masters. Only I find myself spending more time than is reasonable at Blu-ray.com as well as the dedicated anime websites, researching and comparing, seeking out fan opinion. Take Bodacious Space Pirates for instance, a show that I fell in love with when I first saw it streamed, a love affair that deepened when I reviewed the DVDs. In the UK, that was released subsequently on Blu-ray, and it should have been a simple matter to upgrade then and there. Only the Blu-rays released in the West were somewhat disappointing 1080i interlaced affairs, while at the same time Sentai in the US (the start of the anime adaptation chain) announced that when they got around to a complete collection for Bodacious Space Pirates, they would re-master it.
I decided to wait, to see what Sentai would do, and whether that new transfer would make its way around the world the same way that the initial release did. Sure enough, when it was eventually released, the Sentai complete collection of Bodacious Space Pirates now came on 3 discs, not 4, and the previously interlaced transfer was now presented as genuinely progressive at 1080p as it should have been in the first place. It was now just a matter of watching and waiting to see if the new transfer would be Region B compatible. And while I was waiting, MVM released their complete collection of Bodacious Space Pirates on Blu-ray, which just like the Australian version simply repackaged the four interlaced discs. I then happened across a review of the new transfer, which while it made no mention of the region coding, was less than complementary about the visuals. At which point I realised that a pirate in the hand was worth two in bush... or something. This then is a review of the MVM release of the Bodacious Space Pirates Collection on Blu-ray. I’ve already dissected the series for its DVD release, and you can click on those reviews to read more. This review will look more at the technical qualities of the Blu-ray discs.
Bodacious Space Pirates Part 1 DVD Review
Bodacious Space Pirates Part 2 DVD Review
Bodacious Space Pirates begins on the planet Sea of the Morningstar around Tau Ceti. In the future, mankind has colonised outer space, spreading across the stars, and as with any such expansion there came a fraught period of confrontation and consolidation. When Sea of the Morningstar became a target for a fledgling kingdom of worlds, they naturally raised a military to stop them. To bolster their ranks, they issued Letters of Marque, recruiting pirates to their banner as privateers, legal pirates. And then along came the Galactic Empire, absorbed the lot and put a stop to all that nonsense. But after the conflict the pirates remained in business, passing down the letters of marque from generation to generation.
100 years later this is all ancient history, especially for high school girl Marika Kato, whose sole concerns amount to passing her exams, doing her part time job, and partaking of her school’s yacht club, which affords her the chance to go into space. It turns out that how she performs in the yacht club is of interest to certain people. When a knock on her door reveals her new homeroom teacher and the new school nurse, she learns that they aren’t who they appear to be. They’re actually the medic and helmsman of the pirate ship Bentenmaru. What’s more, her mother Ririka also used to be a pirate. And the father that she never knew was actually the captain of the Bentenmaru. He’s just died, and since she’s his sole offspring, and since the captaincy of a pirate ship can only be passed down through family lines, they’re here to offer her the job. And time’s running out. If they don’t engage in some legal piracy soon, they’ll forever lose their Letter of Marque.
Marika soon learns that while piracy and captaining a space ship may be unexpected challenges, by far her toughest test is to somehow keep her life as a high school student and her life as a pirate captain separate. And events soon conspire to make such a separation impossible.
26 episodes of Bodacious Space Pirates are presented across four Blu-ray discs as follows.
01. Pirates Coming Through
02. My Power, The Power of Pirates
03. The Odette II Leaves Port
04. The Final Battle is at Midnight
05. Marika Makes a Decision
06. Marika’s First Day at Work
07. The Peace Does Not Last
08. The Princess and the Pirate
09. A Beautiful Launch
10. Battle in the Storm
11. Wanderer of Light
12. A Return from Eternity
13. Marika Sends an Invitation
14. Marika Goes Recruiting
15. Smuggling, Leaving Port, and a Leap
16. The Hakuoh Pirates’ First Job
17. A Surprising Client
18. We’ll Have Juice at the After Party
19. The Bonds Among the Four
20. The Captain Rides the Waves
21. Final Battle at the Nebula Cup
22. Pirate Hunting
23. Head for the Pirates’ Nest
24. The Wounded Benten
25. The Pirates’ Council Begins
26. There Go the Pirates
There is most definitely an upgrade when it comes to the visuals, the 1.78:1 widescreen transfer may be at 1080i 60Hz, but you do get the added richness of colour, the better line definition and higher detail of an HD presentation. Having said that, the animation lacks the smoothness that you’d expect from a progressive transfer, and it’s notable that other interlaced titles like Cowboy Bebop can deliver smooth animation, which makes the slight stuttering effect in pans and scrolls all the more disappointing. This is easy to put to the back of the mind though, as given a few minutes exposure the brain soon compensates. What you can’t compensate for, and what isn’t excused by the interlaced treatment are the signs of aliasing (stair-stepping particularly on CG elements, and also noticeable on the BSP logo during the eyecatches), and signs of macroblocking on large expanses of similar shades, as well as the ever present digital banding, to a much greater degree than normal for a Blu-ray anime presentation. Better than DVD it may be, but it’s not good enough for Blu-ray, and from what I’ve read, Sentai’s progressive re-master makes little difference.
It’s a shame that the BD couldn’t be better, as it’s a quality animation from studio SATELIGHT, with familiar, but memorable and well animated character designs, and future world designs that really bring across the atmosphere of the show. Most impressive are the spaceships and vehicle technology, brought to life with CGI that blends in seamlessly with the 2D animation. On top of that, space is beautiful in this show, and we get nebulae, planets and stars and all sorts of astronomical phenomena that take the breath away.
You get the option of DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo English and Japanese, with translated subtitles and a signs only track to go with the English dub. This time I knew where my bread was buttered, and only checked the English track to make sure it existed, otherwise I stuck to the original language audio. The subtitles are in Sentai’s usual large yellow font, and this second time around, I noticed one or two instances that could have used a little proofreading, and a rare missing subtitle here or there. They are timed well and usually free of typos, but once in a while a translation makes you scratch your head, Shocker instead of Shochu for instance. It’s when you switch to the English dub audio that you realise that the subtitles are merely the English dub script, and the reason the dub is so bad is because it’s pretty much a translation of the Japanese audio, with just a few tweaks to fit, rather than a proper, colloquial adaptation.
The Japanese cast are well suited to their roles, and the action is conveyed with impact but without overwhelming the dialogue. Bodacious Space Pirates gets a music soundtrack that does full justice to the premise, giving it the full pirate. Mandolins, accordions and violins make their presence felt, and the show has a very piratical and nautical feel without ever becoming a parody. It also has a couple of great theme songs to go with it. Bodacious Space Pirates gets one of the best music soundtracks an anime has seen in quite a while, one which may not see a lot of play in a CD player but suits the show down to a tee. The benefits of the Blu-ray are twofold, you get the lossless HD audio to appreciate, which certainly sounds fuller than the DVD, but best of all, there’s no PAL speed-up, so you get the audio with the correct pitch from the off.
The discs present their contents with static menus and each episode is followed by a translated English language white text on black credit scroll.
Disc 2 has the basic extras, the first set of textless credits, although the textless ending has an audio glitch near the end.
You’ll also find interlaced HD trailers for Dream Eater Merry, Inu x Boku SS, and Mysterious Girlfriend X, as well as a progressive HD trailer for ef: a tale of memories.
Disc 4 has the second set of textless credits, including two versions of the textless ending.
You’ll also find interlaced HD trailers for Kids on the Slope, Inu x Boku SS, and Mysterious Girlfriend X, as well as a progressive HD trailer for Hiiro no Kakera – The Tamayori Princess Saga.
This is my third time watching Bodacious Space Pirates, and the shine is beginning to fade, at least when it comes to the start of the show. This time around I really felt as if the show took too long to get to the point, to get Marika at the helm of the Bentenmaru, and off on her adventures. The first four episodes are entertaining, and of course they do the all-important job of introducing the characters and defining the universe, but I couldn’t help but feel that they belaboured the point a bit too much. Of course once the preliminaries are out of the way, Marika formally inducted as a part-time pirate captain, then the good stuff begins, and it’s one fun story after the other, with the high point coming with the yacht club race, featuring my favourite supporting character, Ai Hoshimiya. The conclusion is a bit of an anti-climax, and deliberately open-ended (I do hope that we someday get the Bodacious Space Pirates Movie in the UK), but the series is still almost as much fun as I remember, and next time, hopefully with more of a gap between viewings, I’ll appreciate it as much as I did the first time.
The actual disappointment comes with the Blu-rays, which are good, but not good enough. You do get the added detail, and richer colour that comes with high definition, but the interlaced format is not as smooth as a progressive transfer would have been, and it isn’t even as smooth as other interlaced releases such as Siren’s re-master of Mawaru Penguindrum, or All the Anime’s Cowboy Bebop. But the higher detail and better colour of HD fails to mask flaws such as compression artefacts, aliasing, and egregious digital banding (all three complaints which I have heard applied to Sentai’s progressive re-master), and in the end the Bodacious Space Pirates Blu-ray seems more of a halfway house between DVD and Blu-ray rather than the genuine article. I am glad I have it instead of the DVD though, as at least the audio is at the correct pitch and the video at the original (if interlaced) frame rate.