Review for Bodacious Space Pirates Abyss of Hyperspace Movie
I went on quite the DVD import spree this Christmas, putting down some money on all those titles that I wanted to be released on Region B Blu-ray, but never were, and now that Sentai are phasing out DVD manufacturing for their titles, it makes sense to get them while they are still there to get. It’s worth noting that Amazon have already placed a one copy limit on some Sentai DVD purchases to discourage resellers. Of all the titles that I expected to eventually get a Region B Blu-ray release, this Bodacious Space Pirates movie was at the top of the list, after all, the television series has seen Blu-ray releases in the US, Australia, and the UK. But when it came down to it, neither Hanabee nor MVM apparently showed interest in the movie.
The Bodacious Space Pirates series told the story of Marika Kato, a high school girl on the planet Sea of the Morningstar who inherits a pirate ship called the Bentenmaru from her father, the crew to go with it, and the obligation to fulfil the duties of a pirate that will maintain their letter of marque. It isn’t too hard when such duties include ‘playing’ pirate to entertain cruise line passengers but things got a lot more serious when she encountered the princesses of Serenity.
The movie catches up to Marika just as she’s about to start her next year at school. Her biggest concerns are recruiting more members for the School Yachting Club, as well as her work on the Bentenmaru. However, piracy work appears to be drying up of late, as there is trouble in hyperspace. Previously safe and well travelled trade routes are now becoming hazardous to shipping, to the point where her friend Chiaki’s pirate ship Barbaroosa is badly damaged. It’s a mystery as to what’s causing it, but a mystery that might be solved when the crew of the Bentenmaru get their next job, transporting a young boy named Kanata Mugen to his ultimate destination. But it isn’t going to be the easiest of missions, as the contrary Kanata doesn’t trust the pirates, while he’s being pursued himself. He’s on a journey to reclaim his father’s legacy, a legacy he’s not comfortable with, and it all has something to do with what his father was working on when he disappeared. You can begin to understand Kanata’s frustrations, as his father was Dr. Mugen, a famous hyperspace diver.
The Bodacious Space Pirates movie gets a 1.78:1 anamorphic NTSC transfer, progressively encoded on this disc. The image is clear and sharp, with strong consistent colours. Compression is light, but noticeable when scaled up on an HD panel. But generally this is a very watchable film. The character designs are on a par with the television series, the animation a tad more fluid, but I have to admit to being a little disappointed with the world designs, which are either rather simplistic where new, or simply reuse the locations and settings established in the series. The real effort has gone into animating Hyperspace, where much of the action takes place, and there’s a lot of CG imagination and splendour here. In the series, Hyperspace was just a route from A to B. In the movie it is the destination.
You have the choice between Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround English and Japanese with optional subtitles and a signs only track. The audio is fine, the surround really put to use to convey the film’s action sequences, and the series music getting a five channel remix certainly brings a smile to the face. The dialogue is clear, and the subtitles are accurately timed and free of typos. The original language was my selected option, but what I sampled of the dub didn’t sound too bad, an immediate improvement over the series.
The disc presents the film with a static menu, a jacket picture, and a translated English credit reel after the film ends.
The only extras are some Japanese promos, the textless credits, and trailers for Medaka Box, Log Horizon Season 2, Wake Up, Girls!, and Wolf Girl & Black Prince.
It’s a Naruto movie! The early Naruto standalone features had a set template. Naruto would encounter the movie’s guest star, someone who he would initially find obnoxious and antithetical. The mission would be to escort that guest star somewhere, where they are expected to fulfil their destiny, and over the course of that journey, Naruto would find that he had quite a bit in common with that guest star. And over the course of the journey, the guest star would lose his or her cynicism, would grow by knowing Naruto, so when that final destiny fulfilling moment arrived, they would have the necessary emotional tools to deal with the challenge. It’s a template that the first few Naruto features followed to the letter, and now it seems that Bodacious Space Pirates: Abyss of Hyperspace has lifted that template and simply replaced the characters and the setting. This isn’t a bad thing, as the template is pretty enjoyable, while the nuances make it different enough to be watchable.
Kanata Mugen’s dad got rich exploring Hyperspace and salvaging wrecks, an exploitative living that Kanata didn’t agree with, and now that his father has vanished, he’s left feeling cynical about the whole thing. It doesn’t help that people are after him for his father’s legacy, and he’s on the run, along with a robotic parrot that keeps on repeating the same seven nonsensical words. He’s not sure that he even wants the legacy, so when these pirates show up to ‘rescue’ him, he thinks that they are just as mercenary as the people after him. After all, they are just doing it for the money. He begins to thaw when Marika takes him back to her school, and introduces him to her friends, and eventually they go on an adventure on the Bentenmaru to find his father’s legacy, buried in the deepest levels of hyperspace.
Bodacious Space Pirates transfers the nautical theme to a space setting, with the pirate ships steered by wheels, space equating to the seven oceans. In this movie, Hyperspace, the medium by which ships travel faster than light, is equated to underwater, and the deeper you dive, the stranger hyperspace gets, the greater the pressure that is exerted on ship’s hulls. There’s a point past which ships cannot dive, and it’s below this point that Kanata will find his father’s legacy.
If you’re familiar with the Bodacious Space Pirates series, then you’ll love the film, as it captures the feel of the show with ease, it gets the characters right, the sense of fun about the whole thing, and of course the lack of peril that suffused the show. Bodacious Space Pirates was never the greatest show when it came to drama and suspense, and the movie maintains that sense of ease. The story is entertaining too, even if it does follow the Naruto template too closely for comfort. But Abyss of Hyperspace isn’t without its issues, the biggest being that it’s just too short. This sort of story would have been developed over several episodes in the series run, but here it’s crammed into 90 minutes, and that means that other than a few prominent characters, the rest of the cast are merely present as cameos, there’s just not a lot for them to do in the story other than to pop up and tick the fan boxes on a character checklist.
The second thing is that this is a standalone feature, which takes place in the storyline and vernacular of the series, but doesn’t grow any of the characters or advances their stories. That’s a shame as the series ended on an open note, with several plot lines left hanging, and the crew of the Bentenmaru poised to venture into greater territory than the sphere in which they had been operating. Bodacious Space Pirates is a story that is ripe, indeed demands a continuation. The movie isn’t that continuation. It is a lot of fun though, and this DVD will suffice until that far off day when a Region B Blu-ray appears. I can still hope, right?