The Light Novel Miniskirt Space Pirates, Volume 3 Cosplay Minarai Kaizoku (ミニスカ宇宙海賊 3 コスプレ見習海賊) may have been even more enjoyable than the two arcs it covers in the anime. It’s a very close race, at the very least.
If you’re reading Okazu, then this was the novel you were waiting for. Are Jenny and Lynn as overtly a couple in the book as they were in the anime? I won’t keep you waiting. Yes, they are. ^_^ Having established this important fact, we can now look at the plot, which is once again similar to the anime.
The professional crew of the Bentenmaru have come down with an influenza-like disease carried by improperly shipped cat-monkeys. This would be merely an inconvenience, but the Bentenmaru’s Letter of Marque can only be maintained if the ship is properly hired to conduct piracy within a certain period of time. The crew is quarantined for a month, but the ship needs to do something within the next two weeks. Marika and Gruier take to the pirate’s hangouts to find a replacement crew (where they meet Chiaki’s dad, Captain of the Barbarossa*) only to find the perfect crew waiting for them at home in the form of the Hakuoh Academy Yacht Club. The girls jump right in and the adventure begins.
The first hurdle is the boarding and robbery of the cruise ship the Princess Apricot. This ship is a repeat customer, so things go relatively smoothly. And the cute girl pirates in cosplay goes over well – they are asked back almost immediately.
Having assured the Letter of Marque will be renewed, Lynn hires the Bentenmaru to rescue Jenny from an unwanted marriage. Jenny, of course, needs no rescuing, but arrives on her own, with a stolen vehicle. She and Lynn are reunited – with a kiss, in front of the crew. Jenny hires the Bentenmaru to safely escort her to Space University after negotiating a contract with the Bentenmaru’s agency. Their agent Sho explains to the pro crew (as they reset settings altered, customized and hacked by the apprentice pirates) that the new crew acquitted themselves well on all three jobs.
Looking back, I’m really torn, now, to say which was better. Jenny and Lynn’s story gets more detail in the anime – all to the good, as we see them win the situation by making good decisions and using their brains. Also Jenny is set up as a business leader who will clearly own the universe soon enough. Also, I like the anime addition of Mami’s interest in clothing design as an excuse for the cosplay. (Mami was an important addition – she provides “Marika the school girl” with society, before she becomes “Captain Marika”. Mami remains her friend and supporter throughout.)
The novel has the cosplay scene pared down, but it sets up (and really, can only have existed to set up) Lynn wearing a knight’s costume to Jenny’s wedding dress. For once, there are extended scenes about the repair, navigation, piloting and equipment aboard the space ships – and I had to smile, because my Dad is an old-school sci-fi fan. Most of what I read as a kid was books that were 300 pages of that kind of ship fetishtry, with 20 pages of plot thrown in. ^_^
I also like that the novel presumes that Marika and the rest are going to figure things out. Not that they are instantly competent, but that we’re not lingering over their incompetence as a fetish. They figure it out – and move on. On the other side of that, we’re not given quite as much time to watch Jenny negotiate the stuffing out of her Uncle, it’s all handled with minimum fuss.
I can’t honestly think of another series in which the female characters are allowed full agency so completely. They are fully, completely competent, self-empowered and present.
Overall – 9
Anime and manga, this series still impresses the heck out of me. It’s a really tough call which is better.
The next book is wholly original – I wonder if I’ll be able to make heads or tail of it. ^_^; I’m not going to even have a chance to start it for months, so don’t hold your breath. I hope to pick it up when I’m in Japan next fall.
* Yes, I know the ship name is transliterated as the Barbalusa. It should be the Barbarossa. :-p