I remain convinced that this is fundamentally a children’s story. Note that I am NOT calling it a kodomo anime. For one thing it was broadcast late at night which among other things allowed it to include a kissing scene.
(The scene was between two girls but from a Japanese standpoint it’s the unhygienic lip action that is really problematic.)
Also it lacks the high-minded educational content or the Important Lesson of the Week typical of kodomo anime. This is just for fun and clearly aimed at viewers who are old enough to pick out their own entertainment.
What is childlike about it is the total innocence of the world view. This is a world where it is never necessary to make painful choices. (You can be a pirate AND stay in school.) It is a world where bad things just don’t happen to good people. (A space ship is destroyed in a battle, but the entire crew survives with nothing worse that bruises.) It is a world where good intentions always produce a good result if backed by sufficient enthusiasm.
This is not true of all anime, or even of anime that we think of as children’s stories. For example in Card Captor Sakura the characters must deal with things like the death of a loved one, rejection by a love interest or the need to give up something they value to preserve something that is even more important. The difference is that CCS is a story about growing up, while Bodacious Space Pirates is more like a child’s fantasy about growing up, gaining power without losing anything.
So if this is a children’s fantasy, why have so many grown men spent so much time watching it raptly and debating the fine points in their blogs? Basically because it is so well done. The production values are high and the writing is good enough that you can convince yourself that it makes sense. Like its heroine the show exudes such energy and enthusiasm that it tends to overwhelm any objections.
We need to avoid the mistake of assuming that because something is a children’s show it must be bad. Yes, we have all seen lots of children’s shows and most of them were indeed very bad. This is because they don’t have to be good. Young children are not discriminating critics. They will watch all sorts of crap and enjoy it. That being the case, the producer of a children’s show has little incentive to invest the time, effort and money needed to make it good.
However there are always a few people with the opportunity, talent and innocent child-like enthusiasm needed to make a show that can be enjoyed by adults as well as children. I think this is what we have here.
Just to quibble about another misconception: Pete writes:
I know the answer: the anime is an adventure for little girls, and it is not supposed to be a game of guessing who survives to the ending credits.
Well no, this is not really a story for girls. If this were a shoujo anime you can be sure that Marika would have a boyfriend or a suitor, or at least a handsome but hostile boy who would gradually come to appreciate her good qualities.
The publishers of shounen manga and the producers of shounen anime long ago realized that teenaged boys would watch a story with a strong female main character as long as she was pretty and nonthreatening. As a bonus such stories can also attract a crossover audience of girls. And the easiest way to make Marika nonthreatening is for her not to have any sort of love interest. Showing her fighting with a boyfriend might disturb young male viewers and would in any case be inconsistent with the innocent tone of the show.