Shelf Life Bodacious Space Pirates: Abyss of Hyperspace
by Paul Jensen,
Memorial Day weekend carries a little extra significance for strange folks like me who follow motor racing. The Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix are both held on Sunday, which means I can watch two of the most famous races in the world back to back. Think of it as finishing a Cowboy Bebop marathon and then immediately starting Kill la Kill. It's a silly amount of TV to watch in one day, but it's also pretty awesome. Now that this latest episode of "Paul uses the intro to talk about something completely unrelated to anime" is over, welcome to Shelf Life.
Jump to this week's review:
Bodacious Space Pirates: Abyss of Hyperspace
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Shelf Life Reviews
Bodacious Space Pirates: Abyss of Hyperspace
Nothing this week.
Nothing this week.
With a title like Bodacious Space Pirates: Abyss of Hyperspace, you'd be forgiven for thinking we had another fanservice-y show lined up for this week's review. The good news (or bad, if you like fanservice-y shows) is that it's something else entirely.
Impossibly spunky teenage heroine Marika is back in action for the movie, and she's still somehow splitting her time between managing her high school's space yacht club and working as the captain of the pirate ship Bentenmaru. Times have gotten tough with strange accidents befalling ships in hyperspace, but the pirates are still able to find work here and there. One of her crew's mostly harmless “staged piracy” gigs takes an unexpected turn when they end up saving a boy from a group of bad guys in suits. The boy turns out to be the son of Dr. Mugen, a famous scientist who disappeared while exploring the depths of hyperspace. Since Marika has a family connection to the scientist through her own father, she agrees to help the boy evade his pursuers and track down his dad's final invention.
If you've already watched the TV series (and you'll need to in order to understand what's going on), it won't come as much of a surprise that Abyss of Hyperspace doesn't always play by the usual sci-fi action rules. It plods along at a relaxed pace, and it almost seems to go out of its way to include as few action scenes as possible. In situations where you might expect a gunfight or a lengthy car chase, this movie has a tendency to substitute a computer hacking scene or a quick and clever escape. It's an approach that constantly tests the limits of the audience's attention span, but it also leaves room for plenty of character development. Even minor characters like the Bentenmaru crew and the yacht club members come across as pleasant and reasonably well-rounded people, and that makes it fun to just sit back and inhabit the film's world for a while.
On the few occasions where it does decide to crank up the volume, Abyss of Hyperspace delivers some eye-catching and exciting moments. The colorful hyperspace environments are easy on the eyes and make for a nice visual contrast with the usual planets and fields of stars. The CG spaceships tend to look more passable than spectacular, but they feature some cool mechanical design and give off a convincing sense of mass as they dodge and weave around one another. The movie looks good in general, with distinctive character designs and solid background art. The electronic warfare scene is a definite visual highlight, as it substitutes adorable character animations for the usual lines of gibberish code and close-ups of computer hardware.
Abyss of Hyperspace's biggest weakness is easily its cast of villains, partially because we don't see much of them until late in the film. For a long time, all we get is a faceless corporation and some generic henchmen in suits and sunglasses. One of the baddies has an interesting connection to Dr. Mugen's legacy, but she's never given a chance to grow beyond her role as the bad guys' designated minion-in-chief. The one new character worth paying attention to is Kanata, who gradually evolves beyond his “generic anime kid” origins. He offers an enjoyable take on the “boy discovers parent's legacy” story, and his interactions with princesses Gruier and Hilde produce some interesting conversations. Marika still has a tendency to steal the show whenever she's on screen, though the majority of the series' recurring characters make at least a cameo appearance. Most of the characters' personalities carry over reasonably well to the dub, though the decision to keep the Japanese honorifics does occasionally make the English dialogue sound kind of unnatural.
All of this would probably add up to a rental rating if Abyss of Hyperspace didn't have the same natural charm that made Bodacious Space Pirates memorable. With the exception of Space Brothers and a few other “hard sci-fi” titles, you'll be hard-pressed to find a franchise more in love with the idea of space travel than this one. The simple act of getting into a ship and flying from one planet to another is treated with a sense of wonder that most shows either gloss over or ignore entirely. Traveling faster than light is presented as an exciting and dangerous process, instead of just being used as a convenient way of moving from one location to the next. It feels kind of like an old-fashioned high seas adventure story, and the idea of diving deep into hyperspace offers some pretty clear connections to deep-sea exploration. If you enjoy that sort of “into the unknown” storyline, then this is an easy recommendation to make.
Abyss of Hyperspace occupies the same niche as the Bodacious Space Pirates TV series, which is either good or bad depending on whether or not you enjoy its particular style. This definitely isn't the go-to franchise if you're looking for quick pacing and frequent action, but it's good at doing its own thing. For character-driven science fiction with an abundance of positive energy, look no further.
That wraps up this weeks' review section, ye scurvy dogs. Thanks for reading!
This week's shelves are from Brian:
"Here are some pictures of my collection.
I've been collecting anime since the late 90's. I just purchased some new shelves to accommodate my ever expanding collection, so it seemed like a good time to share. While mostly anime, you will notice some live action stuff mixed in. I also have a number of Laserdiscs (and a working player!) and a fair number of NIS America premium editions. Many of the singles (like my UY DVD's) have been put in 4 DVD cases to save space.
Thanks for letting me share!"
I'm pretty sure "Laserdisc" is the coolest name ever given to a media format. Awesome collection, thanks for sharing!
If you've got a collection of your own that you'd like to show off, send me your photos at [email protected]!
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